Safari Timeline!

Clients often ask questions about the various planning phases of an African Safari. After all, this is a big trip, and there are some major steps involved in planning!  So when do the major steps occur and in what sequence?

***6 to 12 months prior to travel (up to 2 years or more in some cases):

1) Initial Planning: Contact the friendly staff at Africa Dream Safaris! Our staff of expert consultants, based here in the US for your convenience, are well-traveled and happy to talk you through any questions you may have about getting started. We’ll help you solidify your priorities for the trip, budget and time for travel. We’ll develop a sample itinerary for you and, with your feedback, we’ll customize it to your priorities, schedule and budget. This part may be the most fun step of all! With exception to when you depart for the trip, of course!

2)  Safari booking: Once you have settled on a final itinerary and travel dates, the next step is to make it official! A $500 per person deposit is required to secure your safari reservations. All our safaris are individually customized, and lodging in these remote wilderness areas can and will sell out. So in order to guarantee securing your first choices in accommodations, the early planner has the advantage. Admittedly we do have much more flexibility than a large group package operator and we are often able to make last minute safaris work out too. We’ve had folks book their safari as close as 30 days out, while other folks book their safari over 2 years in advance. That being said, it seems the majority of folks book their safari 6-12 months ahead of time. As much advance notice as possible is always helpful for the holidays and other peak seasons such as summer when most families travel (July-Aug). Keep in mind, once you have finalized your desired safari itinerary with your consultant, it will take an additional 1 – 3 weeks to confirm all your reservations.

3) International Airfare: Most major airlines start selling tickets within 11 months of the proposed travel dates, and most people will book their plane tickets as soon as possible after their safari has been confirmed.

Some people may ask, shouldn’t I book my plane ticket first?  Well, that’s an option too.  But keep in mind all of our safari packages are customized and can only be confirmed upon your booking.  Once the airfare is purchased the travel dates are obviously set, and there is no shifting by a day or two to make the reservations at specific lodges work out. However, if a client’s dates are already set for other reasons, and if they are flexible with regards to specific accommodations, many times clients will go ahead and purchase the airfare first. Especially if fares seem volatile or if they’ve snared a really good airfare deal. Then, if a specific lodge happens to be sold out on a certain date we’d just substitute in a different lodge or shift the order of the lodges to make it work out.  As long as you are somewhat flexible, it always works out.

Worth noting this is a long flight, so important to be as comfortable as possible.  Do you prefer a window or aisle seat?   Try to get your seats assigned at the time of booking your plane ticket. If it’s not possible, find out when the earliest time is to get your seats assigned and mark that date on your calendar.  It’s a good idea to get your seats assigned as soon as they become available for the best selection.

4) Travel insurance: It’s important to note that most travel insurance companies offer guests a more comprehensive policy (ie, coverage for pre-existing conditions) if the guests purchase their travel insurance within a 15 day window of the date they put down a deposit on the trip or purchase their airline ticket, whichever one comes first. Also, in order to qualify for some travel insurance policies, guests must purchase their insurance BEFORE making FINAL payment on the trip.

5) Passport: At the time you book your safari, be certain to obtain a passport or check your current passport and make sure the expiration date is at least 6 months beyond your travel date. Also, make sure you have at least 2 blank pages left in your passport for your Tanzania visa. If you are visiting other African countries on this trip, make sure your passport meets that specific country’s requirements (for example, both Kenya and South Africa also require at least 2 blank pages for a visa, making for a total of 6 blank pages required for a trip that encompasses Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa). Unless you are willing to pay extra for expedited service, you may need several weeks to get your passport renewed.

***3 – 6 months prior to travel:

1)  Dr. Appointment and Vaccinations: Although many vaccinations are still considered effective as long as they obtained within 10 days of travel, but we recommend you don’t wait till the last minute! For a complete discussion about Vaccinations and other heath considerations, please review the information at the following link: Safari Health. Keep in mind your local family doctor may not be familiar with foreign travel, and may not stock some of these vaccinations should you choose to get them in which case we recommend also making an appointment with your local travel clinic. It’s still a good idea to visit with your family doctor about your travel plans and make sure there aren’t any concerns about vaccinations, conflicting medications or travel in general. If you are traveling with prescriptions, liquids or syringes, it is always a good idea to obtain a letter from your doctor showing his authorization that these items have been prescribed to you and are medically necessary.

2) Make any necessary arrangements for house/kid/pet-sitters. Some pet boarding facilities will book up months in advance for holidays! Don’t be left high and dry at the last minute.

***3 months prior to travel:

1)  Safari balance is due no less than 90 days prior to travel.

2)  Make sure your international airline seats assigned.

3)  Start to think about what to pack! If you need to do some shopping for luggage, safari cloths or camera equipment, now is a good time. You can see a comprehensive packing list and suggestions here: What to Bring and here What’s in My Day Pack If you are renting camera equipment, go ahead and make your reservations. We highly recommend Lens Pro To Go for your camera and lens rental needs – not only are they are experts and can assist with recommendations, but they are also fast, friendly, competitively priced and they can ship equipment hassle-free almost anywhere in the US.

***1 month to 2 weeks prior to travel:

1)  Pack! Now is the time to find out if you’ve forgotten anything.

2)  Call your safari consultant with any last minute questions!

3)  Give a list of Emergency Contact Numbers out to family and/or friends back home (an up to date list will be given to you by your safari consultant approximately 1-2 weeks prior to your departure). You may also wish to give someone you trust a set of keys for your home and a copy of your other important travel documents.

4)  Schedule to stop your mail with your local post office.

***1-2 days prior to travel

1)  Call the airlines to reconfirm your flight or check-in online

2)  Safari Njema! Relax; you are well prepared. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the *journey* to get you to this point. Now it’s time to enjoy the adventure!

The Safari Was Just Breathtaking

The short version is that everyone felt the safari exceeded all of our expectations.

Our flights were all on time, just very long, and our reserved seats were not changed. We all managed to get by with just carry on luggage, so we don’t know if there would have been any issues with checked baggage.

The meet and greet with Mattias went smoothly at both ends. Without ADS’ help to smooth things, the visa process looked like a nightmare for everyone else. The extra day in Arusha was a wise decision. Dinner at Onsea House was wonderful. You should give it a try on your next visit.

The safari itself was just breathtaking in the diversity of the wildlife; the animals, the birds, the vistas, the landscape—all just amazing. Our driver/guide, Michael, was/is a treasure. His knowledge of everything about the Serengeti is encyclopedic. We were lucky to be able to have meals with him at the Lake Masek lodge and he was a wonderful resource to learn about Tanzania and its people. He has excellent language skills and an engaging personality. You are lucky to have him on your team.

All the lodges were great; Ngorongoro Serena, Lake Masek and Mbuzi Mawe. The staffs at each were amazing; friendly and helpful. The Sundowner on our last night at Mbuzi Mawe was a major surprise. We thought the whole camp was invited, so we were astonished to learn that ADS had arranged it just for us. Major bonus points for that.

One heads up for your team regarding the Masai clubs you gave us upon arrival. They were beautiful but they were confiscated in Amsterdam because they were in our carry on bags. So, you should be aware, if you are not already, that they can only come home in checked baggage.

Thank you for all your help in setting up this great adventure for us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again at some point in the future.

Regards,

John M.
Westfield, New Jersey
Safari Dates: April 7, 2017 – April 15, 2017

Taking the Kids on a Journey through Africa They’ll Never Forget

I was fortunate enough to conduct a relatively short safari to the Serengeti with my family this April. Working for ADS, I’ve taken a number of safaris over the years but this was one of my best ones yet. We enjoyed four nights at Seronera Sametu Camp, an outstanding little bush camp that sits right at the edge of the famous Serengeti plains. This area is known as the big cat capital of Africa and I can’t imagine a better wildlife viewing experience anywhere in Africa.

What I love about this area (besides the lion and cheetah viewing) is that due to its unique location at the woodlands-plains boundary, it contains an abundance of species that live in both habitats. From woodlands species such as giraffe, elephant and leopard to plains species such as gazelle, warthog and cheetah, the area contains an incredible diversity of wildlife far from the main tourist areas (we would see no more than one or two other vehicles the entire day).

Now April is arguably one of the best months of the year for wildlife viewing but this area is superb year-round and enjoys low visitor concentrations whether the dry season or green season. It’s also a great idea while staying at Seronera Sametu Camp to book a field talk with the Serengeti Lion Project or Serengeti Cheetah Project. Researchers from each project offer a presentation in the evening at the main lodge tent and then join guests for dinner afterwards.

Here’s a selection of photos from the safari (I’ve include region links where applicable):

Fourteen cubs from the the Maasai Kopjes pride of the Central Serengeti. I’ve never seen so many lion cubs of the same age together! There were only three adult females taking care of all these cubs. It was an incredible sight to behold!

Two adolescent cheetahs at Barafu Kopjes in the Eastern Serengeti. These two cheetahs (brother and and sister) jumped up on our vehicle…see the video here.

Elephants along the Seronera River in the Central Serengeti.

Enjoying the elephant viewing!

 

This huge pride was near the hippo pool in the Simba Kopjes area (Central Serengeti). There were 20 lions total and all with extended bellies (they must have eaten well the night before).

We parked here for several hours just feet from this lion pride.

The wildebeest migration just north of Naabi Hill in the South Serengeti.

Another massive herd of wildebeest in the five hills area just to the west of Sametu Kopjes (East Serengeti).

Male and female lions near Sametu Kopjes. These are two different pairs of courting lions.

S’mores at Sametu Camp

We came across a group of spotted hyenas finishing off a wildebeest kill close to camp.

Leopard along the Seronera River

Looking for leopards…we didn’t have much luck on this trip with leopard sightings.

Large male cheetah at Gol Kopjes in the Eastern Serengeti

Female cheetah with gazelle kill at Gol Kopjes.

Enjoying the sights at the Retina Hippo Pool in the Central Serengeti

We came across this idyllic waterhole out on the eastern plains between Sametu and Gol Kopjes…stunning!

Elephants and Impalas in Seronera Valley

Taking a well earned break from the vehicle for some family friendly activities

Nobody noticed this gazelle leg until later. Was it from a martial eagle or leopard kill? We never found out.

The dab…enough said.

One of the Barafu Cheetahs…beautiful!

Asante Sana!
– The Wishner Family