Margaret and I wanted a big celebration for our 25th wedding anniversary and we eventually settled on a ten day Tanzania Safari created by Africa Dream Safaris; we wanted luxury as well as game drives and so ADS selected the most stunning lodges for our trip – there were no issues with altering the trip to make it exactly how we wanted it, but what we didn’t realize is that the whole trip would be far better than we’d even imagined!
Although our trip officially started at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, for us it began with a flight from Arusha to the north west Serengeti – and even on this flight we saw Zebra and Ostrich on the edge of the runway!
Russell, our ADS driver, met us when we landed, and drove us to our first lodging at Bushtops Serengeti. But this first drive was through the beautiful Serengeti, seeing Zebra, Giraffe, Hippos, Wildebeest, Buffalo, and even Lions; so even before we’d “arrived” we’d had an amazing drive.
Our second days drive took us temporarily into Kenya and offered our first views of Elephants. At first we saw one Elephant in the distance; then later a family group very active just yards away!
Throughout our Safari, this kept occurring – we’d see a great view of animals, and later a better view, and then even better still. Multiple times our view went from needing the provided binoculars, to being so close that a phone camera took National Geographic quality photos!
On our third day we transferred from the North East Serengeti to Central, at the Elewana Pioneer camp. Here our lodging was more tented but still very luxurious with king size bed, private shower, electric lighting – the camp offered very fast internet too, giving a chance to share our experience with friends and family.
The transfer drive was amazing as we drove through typical Serengeti plains, to more forested areas, hilly areas – and all the time seeing a constant variety of animals including our first Leopard, again just a few feet from the road. We were stunned too by the sight of eight Lions in a tree.
Another day, another drive – our first Cheetahs, Baboons trying to chase a Leopard from it’s tree, a pride of 16 Lions, and Elephants on top of rocks!
Our next lodge was Singita Faru Faru in the private Grumeti reserve, which forced us to separate from Russell and the ADS vehicle, and switch to the lodges transport. This change meant sharing the vehicle with other people, being unable to stand for the best views; but instead the vehicle was able to go off the roads which gave our very closest views of animals. In the Grumeti reserve we also took an interesting walking tour, and an early morning balloon ride which included flying over a herd of more than 100 Elephants.
From Grumeti we flew to Manyara and met back with Russell who drove us to our last lodging at the incredible Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. We clearly had saved the best for last as this lodge has amazing cottage style rooms, constant friendship from the staff, and spectacular views of the crater!
Our drive into the Ngorongoro Crater was exhilarating and once again there were game views almost everywhere. We saw our only Black Rhino view here, rather too distant for good photos but with a calf to make the view more special. Also here we saw our only kill – a “cackle” of Hyena trapped and drowned a lost Buffalo calf but then a nearby Lion pride moved in and took over the kill, dragging it from the water.
Our final day driving from Ngorongoro back to Arusha detoured through the Lake Manyara Park for final views of Zebra, Buffalo, Elephants, Baboons, as well as hundreds of Pelicans.
Other than the end of the trip, there really were no negatives. We’d been concerned before we left USA about insects / bites, about how distant our views would be, about weather / temperature. None of these were an issue.
Insects were almost non-existent on the game drives and lodgings, except at Singita Faru Faru where they were very noticeable at dinner – the choice was lights that attracted them, or darkness with no way to see what you were eating! For some reason many flying insects also got into our room, though the net around our bed kept them from being too annoying.
Temperatures were perfect; during the hot day time the canopy of our ADS vehicle kept us shaded – at night because our Lodgings were all 4,000-5,000 feet altitude, temperatures dropped to very comfortable low 60s or even 50s. On our early morning drive at the Grumeti reserve we definitely needed the provided blankets.
As for the views, almost all animals were seen at least some of the time less than 50 feet from the vehicle – and some views were much closer. I was very pleased with my Nikon Coolpix P900 camera with it’s 2000mm equivalent maximum zoom, but I was also very pleased with the video and photos I was able to take from my iPhone, sometimes.
Our two days at the Singita lodging gave us a flavor of what Safari trips are like from companies other than ADS. With ADS, Russell was our personal driver and guide; he took us where and when we wanted and was a constant friend, providing a major enhancement to our vacation.
We would have been less thrilled with having to share our drives, obey set times and have less control over our days. Additionally, the experience of driving rather than flying from one lodging to another seemed to be a significant benefit in being able to see the changing terrain from one part of Serengeti to another.
Thank you Michael and Africa Dream Safaris for creating our special trip, and Russell for making it so wonderful!
Here’s a slideshow view of all the photos on this page:
Safari videos are:
Driving in the Serengeti
Video Safari (created from videos recorded during the Safari)
Photo Safari (created from photos taken during the Safari)
Grumeti balloon flight
Manyara National Park