I just returned from an incredible 7 day Tanzanian safari experience, and once again I have ADS to thank for it!
I should begin by saying that I have been on safari with ADS 4 times in the past, and have had some pretty amazing experiences. Each time I have gone in the past, I have traveled with various groups of friends, most of whom had never been on safari before we went together, so getting to see the wonders of Africa fresh and new each time through their eyes was always so enlightening, creating experiences I will most certainly remember for a life time.
So then, just how does one go on safari for the 5th time with ADS and make it any better than the previous 4? Well, you change it up a little and you decide to go on a solo safari, of course!
ADS already spoils you when it comes to going in a small group, because even in a group you are still going on a gloriously “private” safari experience. But I have to say, now that I have done it, there really, truly is NOTHING quite like going on an African safari solo!
After meeting up with my AMAZINGLY gifted guide Raphael, once he knew my safari experience history, we were off on a mission to seek out my wish list, to include things I really – somewhat selfishly – wanted to see! As much as I always appreciate and am in awe when it comes to viewing ALL of the incredibly diverse animal population in Tanzania, it seems I also have a deeply personal love for the big cats, the elusive leopard in particular, and any and all “babies.” And of course experiencing the thrill that comes from witnessing the great migration was also on top of my wish list as well! So seeking these things out became our main priority. And dare I say, thanks to Raphael, I was not to be disappointed!
We saw incredible sightings of elephant, hippo, and crocodile – behavioral interactions, and of course we witnessed several various sections of the incredible great migration! Some of my BEST video settings were of zebra and wildebeest herds on the move – a seemingly endless stream – galloping wildly across the savanna, plowing through various watering holes and other bodies of water – we were immersed in the sights and sounds that simply mesmerize those who are lucky enough to witness it in person. So amazing….
And when it came to leopards – in total we saw no less than 9, and most were very close to us. Happily, three sightings were “extremely” close, as close as one can get, in that they were in trees right next to our vehicle! I was amazed! And of these sightings, my favorite had to be the morning we enjoyed viewing three in ONE tree – a male, a female, and a cub – with a kill! We just sat back and watched them interact in the early morning light. They were RIGHT next to us… I think I can honestly say it was one of my favorite safari sightings of all time, and I got some incredible pictures!
Lions were also aplenty, so many I lost count over time, and so we also had some incredibly memorable sightings of them as well. I think my favorite was when we were with three beautiful young and healthy males who moved from the damp morning grass to stand on the bare boulders of the kopjes, looking off into the light of the rising sun, as a stiff early morning breeze blew their manes back away from their faces/eyes! They were so majestic!
We also experienced a few more magical moments, such as when a gorgeous dark-maned male followed and mated with a somewhat reluctant female (Let’s just say he had to follow her for a ways before she would finally submit!), three VERY playful two to three month old cubs playing all around – and over – their very patient mother, and then there was the day we watched as fourteen LITTLE baby cubs followed one of three lionesses in the tall grass to a site close to their kill, where the other two mothers patiently waited. Yes, these three mothers had fourteen little ones shared amongst them! And dare I say, between the way these little ones both looked and sounded as they tried to keep up with the mother lioness, they were simply precious!
As I take the time necessary to review my nearly 5000 pictures (thanks to today’s technology!), and then to reflect over my nearly 1000 favorites, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have gotten the shots that I did – and one thought keeps coming back to mind: if there is ANYTHING that I have learned from my past safari experiences over the years, it’s that the most memorable and remarkable sightings of leopards, lions and most other carnivores almost always tends to happen sometime between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM.
So I think I can safely say that if you truly want to enjoy the pleasure of viewing “active” animals throughout the Serengeti, leaving before the break of dawn is imperative.
It is also just as important that later in the day one makes every effort to drive far away from the lodge locations and from other safari vehicles (especially for mid-day cheetah sightings). It seems most other company drivers tend to leave the lodges with their groups after breakfast and then hang out in the same general vicinity, due to what I can only assume are their companies’ limited mileage allowances. (Which ADS happily does NOT have!)
As an example of why I say this, for the leopard male, mother and cub, even though we were in the central Serengeti area, it was around 0630/0700, and we were the ONLY ones there. I can only attribute this to the fact that we had left the lodge in the dark – around 6:00 – which was as early as we were allowed by the lodge to leave (we were dependent upon them for our boxed breakfasts/lunches).
When we finally decided to leave the leopard family of three, (around 0830) the cub had climbed down and was hidden away in the grass, the male had moved to another tree farther away (taking the kill with him!), and the female was sleeping, apparently ready to rest for the day. The entire time we were there with them, they were active and alert, and we had been completely alone with them the entire time…which made the experience oh, so much more special! Truly, it was simply amazing…
And all of the mid-day cheetahs we saw with their cubs and gazelle kills were very far away from the central area crowds. Again, for most sightings we were the only ones there! I believe we saw over 10 cheetah total, and they were always “right there” next to us.
And the BEAUTIFUL male lions on the boulders? It was just us, the early morning light, and the lions! We ate our breakfast while just sitting back and relaxing in our vehicle, just watching them interact.
I could go on and on, but the one common theme that ran throughout all of these “special” sightings – every single time it was just “us and the animals.” The TRUE benefits of ultra-early departures and eating boxed breakfasts and lunches!
I also feel I should mention that one of the reasons I have always loved my ADS driver guides is because not only are they always willing to leave at O-dark-thirty in the AM, they also highly ENCOURAGE it! And truth be told, I’d much rather eat my breakfast with a lion or a leopard than with a tourist!
So in closing, I would have to say that this was probably the most uniquely “satisfying” safari experience I personally have EVER had, only because now, with all of my past safari experiences under my belt, my guide and I were able to go out in search of things that were a little harder to seek out, but yet were sightings that I personally hoped to see! And this trip really did seem to be “all about the migration, the big cats, and the precious little babies!”
I simply LOVE the green season – rich colors and very healthy animals, to include lots of little ones – it truly is my favorite time of year!
Asante Sana to all for helping make this safari happen for me – but especially to Dawn Anderson, Michael Wishner, and to EVERYONE at ADS on the ground in Arusha, for blessing me with a true SOLO African Safari trip of a lifetime! It could NOT have been better!
Safari Dates: March 31, 2017 to April 8, 2017