Memories of a lifetime!

Today I have not gotten out of my pj’s and all I have done it sit at the computer, finishing up the blog and looking at photos. Looking at each picture brings back the memories of that day, that actual moment. It’s going to take a little while to readjust. Other than Rich, who do I say Jambo to or Avante? Back to hello and thank you for me I guess.

As I reflect back to the beginning I have to thank Rich for sharing this experience with me. Though I now realize I could have gone alone if I had too, I’m so glad I didn’t. You are a great travel partner – 12,000 air miles and 1200 driven miles – and I’m so glad we can laugh and share these memories together with the rest of our friends and family.

For anyone thinking about planning to take a similar trip, I would be doing you a injustice if I did not recommend African Dream Safari as your tour company and Ally as your guide. From the very first contact with Dawn it has been an amazing process and a great company to work with. I can’t imagine having experienced this with anyone else.

I have fallen in love with Africa all over again. Now, not just the animals, but the culture, the people…everything! I WILL go back one day. As of now, when Aiden graduates from high school sounds like a good goal to set.

I will end with this quote:

“But when, fifty years from now, a lion walks into the red dawn and roars resoundingly, it will mean something to people and quicken their hearts whether they are Africans or Europeans, or whether they speak English, German, Russian or Swahili. They will stand in quiet awe as, for the first time in their lives, they watch twenty thousand zebras wander across the endless plains.” Bernhard Grzimek, 1959

I stand in quiet awe…



Day 9 – Last Day of Safari (Lake Manyara/Arusha/Kilimanjaro)

And so it is…last morning in Africa! Great night sleep and it’s so chilly in the tent, neither Rich or I wanted to get up. Breakfast and goodbyes at 7:30 and we’re in route to Arusha by 8:00am. It’s cool here this morning so the tops are still on the jeep. Driving out I’ve come to terms with leaving and looking forward to a little shopping along the way.

Stopped by a t-shirt shop and another souvenir shop – pretty much got all we were looking for with the exception of that special gift Rich was looking for for Linda. Rich and I both dressed for the long flight home, completely forgetting we had one last driveq through Lake Manyara National Park (a much smaller park) on the way. Ally took the tops back off so we could enjoy our last drive. Park here is much greener because it has under water springs. But that also means it is very wooded so a little more difficult to see the animals.

Lots of monkeys (which are so adorable) and the normal grazing animals. Ally said though there ARE lions here, he hasn’t seen them in 2 years…and I can see why. We stopped by a lunch area there in the park to eat before continuing our drive in to Arusha. What’s in our lunch boxes everyday is always a surprise…Edward sent us left over farewell cake for our last lunch!

MSafari, the security guard that works the gate at the Mt. Meru hotel was there when we drove through today. It was good to see him again and he remembered to ask for his photo I promised to send him. I’ll have it framed and sent through Dawn at ADS. Martius and Timan were waiting at the front of the hotel as we pulled in. I appreciate them both so much for what they did to get me a camera. Both went way beyond for me.

As we all sat and talked about the week it was time to settle up with Ally and say our goodbyes. I thought I was ok until I hugged him good-bye. I don’t know if he fully understands how much this trip has meant to me and how big of a part he played in it being so memorable. Rich and I will never forget you Ally! God bless you and your family.

We had a day room there at the hotel for a few hours; to freshen up and get some lunch before we leave for the airport. Did a little more shopping there in the gift shop and waited for Martius and Timan to pick us back up. Have to admit that on our drive, we actually saw Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first time. The mountain we took pictures of day 1 (which we thought was Kilimanjaro) was actually Mt. Meru. It’s difficult to see it because the peak is normally in the clouds, but we caught just the right angle so the highest peak was visible. Was able to get photos of the snow on the peaks, which was amazing.

They got us to the airport 2.5 hours early, but that’s ok. Allowed us to get through customs, etc. with time to spare. Rich was able to find that special gift for Linda and I picked up a few more things. Good thing we decided to check our luggage this time. Our souvenir bag is getting heavy! Funny story is that they made Rich fill out some declaration form to get through customs, but not me? Not sure why. Rich said it was because I batted my eyes…LOL! I think it was because the customs officer I had didn’t want to mess with it. Who knows. I was also pretty sure Rich was going to have to completely uncloth to get through security…LOL. Provided a great deal of entertainment for not only me, but a few others in the waiting area…LOL! Sorry Rich, it was funny.

1st flight went to Del Sar which is South of Arusha. That one stop added two hours to our already lengthy flight to Amsterdam. So 9.5 hours later we arrived in Amsterdam. Three hour layover there allowed us to see parts of the airport we didn’t get to see when we came through the first time. At that airport, each gate has their own security check point verse one area for the entire airport. Also allowed me to pick up some flower bulbs (Tulips are famous in Amsterdam). Thought if I plant them, every year when they bloom, I will be reminded of this adventure. Rich and I both slept off and on, watched a couple of movies (including Born Free…:)), taught Rich how to play Sudoku and counted down the hours until we would be home. Once we started the journey I couldn’t wait to get there.

Quick stop through Detroit and a short 1-hour flight home. We were in the last seat on the plane so the last people off. Dave picked us up and we were at moms by 5:00. Had to stop by to see my boy and take him his goodies. His favorite gift was the two small pieces of lava rock I picked up at the park before we left (sorry Ally, I know I wasn’t supposed to do that). He said “cool MiMi…thanks”. He had his Tanzania bracelet (like mine) around his ankle. Not sure what he ended up taking to school today for show and tell but I’m sure he took something. Plenty of hot water and water pressure here at home. I actually lost 4lbs during the week, which is unbelievable since all I felt like we did was eat, but I’ll take it. Once last funny story is about my step counter on my phone. Mid way through the 2nd day of our Safari, my achievement sound went off letting me know I had reached my goal of 10,000 steps. Walked 5.23 miles…lol! I guess the jarring of the jeep counted as steps for me. Plus climbing up and down looking out the top must have counted for something.

Crawled into bed, missing my hot water bottle…LOL! Sure could have used it last night. I’m not sure how I slept. Dave said I woke up a couple times, looked around like I wasn’t sure where I was and laid back down. Up at 6:30 which would be 3:30pm in Africa. Not sure how long it will take me to get back on track. Atleast I’m home.








Day 8 – Safari (Ngorongoro Crater)

Early morning drive – up and on our way at 6:00, breakfast and lunch boxes in hand. As we descended into the crater we discovered a wonderful spot to watch the sunrise. Absolutely breathtaking! Today has already started out to be an emotional day for me. The fact this is the last day of what I have wished for my entire life will soon be over. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to hold back the tears. I know it’s going to be an amazing day!

Around the the floor of the crater so early in the morning, it felt as though we just melted into this land. Animals galore! As we made a turn, we came up on what has become my highlight of the trip. There, walking down the road right towards us was the most amazing pride, 21 strong. 5 lioness’, several young adult lions and a ton of young cubs. There were several jeeps behind them but we were the only one on our side as they made there way right to where we were. What an amazing pride it was! THIS is the dream! We watched as they all walked right by.

We continued through the day seeing one amazing site after another. We had lunch at a favorite lunch spot overlooking a hippo pool (not to be mistaken with the other hippo pools we have visited). This one was clean and a very peaceful site. Today Ally got chairs out for us to sit and enjoy our surroundings. All week I have captured pictures of the most amazing birds I have ever seen and today did not disappoint. Even though we aren’t supposed to feed them you could tell that not all visitors follow the rules (not me, everyone else…lol) because they swarm around waiting for the least little crumb. There is one particular bird that Ally told us was very aggressive so to be careful if they were flying overhead, they would swoop down and attack. We ate looking in the sky.

Leaving lunch there was a report of lions starting to hunt so we drove in that direction. From where we were we could see a large herd of buffalo heading towards the river and a couple of lions beginning to circle. Their strategy this time was completely different then what we witnessed while they were hunting zebras. It wasn’t so much creating a perimeter, this time is was more like a bait and chase tactic. While other lions were hidden along the river bed, 2 lions would charge the buffalo, encouraging them to chase them – which they did. Back and forth several times. Each time the buffalo would chase the lions back a little closer to the rivers edge. After about 30 minutes, I guess the lions figured out the buffalo were never going to get close enough, so they gave up. Have to give it to the buffalo, when they were threatened, the entire herd came to the defense. We waited for a bit to see if the lions were going to regroup, but it appeared they were in no hurry as we watched them cross the riverbed. A few jeeps also crossed over to the other side of the river so we decided to follow and there, the perfect end to the last full day; the pride from earlier in the morning, 21 strong, laying along the river, enjoying the sun and each other. We sat for over an hour watching the cubs run and chase each other. They jumped on the adults and played just like normal household kittens. As we sat there watching, the weather began to change and within 10 minutes we saw the first rain we have seen since we arrived in Africa. Not a lot but enough to close the tops and to make our way back to the main road so we would have no access issues getting out. There you have it, the perfect ending.

As we drove back to the camp the reality of the day hit me again and I could not hold back the overwhelming feeling that my lifelong dream had been fulfilled beyond any expectation I could imagine and was coming to an end. I sat in the backseat by myself on the way back reflecting on everything over the past 9 days. As we arrived at the camp I couldn’t even speak with Edward about the events of the day. I don’t even know how to explain to anyone what I feeling. Rich was gracious enough to give me a little time to myself.

Showers were most welcomed tonight. Washed my hair for the long trip home tomorrow, and set beside the fire to let it dry as we waited for dinner. As we finished dinner, Edward brought us a farewell cake. Zipped in by 9, packed and ready to head out in the morning. What a nice ending to a wonderful day.








Day 7 – Safari (South Serengeti/Matiti & Olduviai Gorge-Crater)

Breakfast at the lodge, pictures with the staff and we’re off on our drive to Ngorongoro Crater. The plan for the day is to visit a Maasai Village and I can’t wait. From what we have been told, the climate there is much different then what we have experienced so far. Nights and early morning is cool to cold with hot temperatures during the day. May finally wear my Northface that I lugged all the way here.

Along our drive we began to see many herds and villages of the Maasai people. It’s amazing to see these small children watching over big herds in the fields – the amount of commitment and responsibilities these children carry is amazing. Most kids in the states at this age can’t even make their beds.

As we pulled up at the village we were greeted by our guide for the day along with all the men and women of the tribe. They immediately began to sing and chant and perform their ritual dance for us. The pride of the Maasai men is how high they can jump – I’ll try to post my video so you can see how amazing. I was asked to join the women as they danced and chanted. One woman was holding my hands as she smiled at me. She finally told me I needed to jump with her…lol! I don’t think I got the full idea of what I was supposed to be doing, but it was fun anyway. Rich caught my pitiful attempt to participate on video.

After the dance, we were escorted inside the village for a glance into their world. There small huts are built around the perimeter of the camp. Inside the perimeter is a clump of trees and a small garden area. Their herds are kept in the center of the village at night to keep them protected from the predators. The Maasai are the only tribe allowed to reside inside the park because they are farmers. They are not allowed to hunt or kill the wildlife – they are only allowed to protect themselves. AND, their protection comes from spears, clubs and knives, no guns. It’s hard to image. Our right to bare arms here is for protection from eachother – sad!

Each hut is constructed by the “women”…yes, the women do all the work guys! It takes about 3 weeks to construct one hut. Inside are two bedrooms (if you want to call them bedrooms). There are two beds, one big one for the children and one small one for the parents. In between the beds is a small firepit (the kitchen). The majority of their cooking is done outside, but small fires are built inside for the smoke to help keep the bugs away. Let me mention here that we really had NO issues with bugs the entire trip. Used the mosquito wipes the first day but that was it. Tsetse flies and just regular flies were the only ones that seemed to be around. The regular flies here are very pesty though, they don’t just buzz around and go about their business, these guys just continue to land on and pester you. Anyway, back to the huts…did I mention that the total height is only about 4.5-5′ tall? Just to get inside, I had to duck to fit. I can’t imagine these tall Maasai men getting in and out of here. Inside I sat on the childrens bed while our guide explained the running of the home. There was a small window on the side and this adorable little boy stuck his head in during our tour. I think Rich got a picture of him just in time.

As we left the hut we visited the kindergarten school. My heart was overwhelmed by these small children who sang for us. They ranged from the tiniest little girl, maybe 2, up to age 6. At age 7 they can begin school, however it is a boarding school due to the distance from the village. These people are committed to an education for their children. They are taught the basics (including english) here at their village to prepare them for school. As I sat on their tiny bench beside the most adorable little boy, I was already starting to think of ways to help these children learn. I wish I had brought paper, pens, colors, whatever with me that I could have left for them. But I was too worried about my 33lb limit. What could I have left at home to have brought supplies for these kids? I’ll know next time.

We did a little shopping before we left. I would rather give my money to this group then in a store. It was funny how they negotiate. We picked out our stuff, they put it in a pile and we were surrounded my men and women discussing in Swahili how much they wanted. It’s definitely not like shopping in the states, or even in Mexico (my only experience outside the US). After negotiations were over, we loaded our goods, climbed back in the jeep and on to the crater.

The topography on the trip to the crater is very different then the other parts of the Serengeti. Green and lush as we made the climb to the top rim. As we made a turn, Ally said “Debbie, do you trust me? Close your eyes!” I did, as we have learned to count on him over the past days of the Safari. As we turned the corner he said to open them and I got my first glimpse into the crater. OMG! I was blown away! The beauty is indescribable.

We began our decent down as soon as we reached the floor of the crater the animals were everywhere. Roaming freely among eachother. We saw 8 Rhinos (including babies) that we have driven for hours previously to see. Ally said that seeing that many was really remarkable. You name it, we was it. A Thompson Gazelle was laying just beside the road giving birth…we were so excited, until we discovered the baby was still born. She was unable to actually deliver it. We watched her as she tried and tried then finally got up and walked back into the herd. We didn’t see what ever happen to her…:(

We saw a couple different prides of lions. All looking so very healthy. We saw an elephant and Ally pointed out he had a “5th” leg. Have to say that one went right over my head until I looked closer. OMG! I was embarrassed actually taking a photo, but couldn’t resist. Nature, right?

We began our drive back up to the Rim to our home for the next three days, Lion’s Paw! We were greeted again with juice and a wet rag to wipe the grime from our face and hands. I had no idea how dirty I could actually get…lol! Edward is the manager at this camp, a member of the Maasai tribe himself. He showed us around the camp and explained the rules. Our tent is great with an amazing view. We even have a heater inside the tent, which seems unreal to me with the climate we have had up to this point. We are free to walk the camp area during the day, but will need an escort at dark. The view from the reception tent is amazing so I decided to sit there for awhile and blog while Rich unpacked and got the first shower. Did I mention that we have the place to ourselves again?

Edward joined me for a little while and we talked about his life there. He is married with two children, a little girl 4 (yes, the first daughter in our ADS group) and a 2 week old son. He lives there at the camp for sometimes 2 months at a time then goes home for a couple of weeks. It takes him two days to get home because he lives in the northern part of Tanzania; a ride to Arusha then a ride on the only bus that travels to his village. I can’t imagine living this life.

The camp here is so cozy with an amazing view. Sort of gives you the feeling of “Gorillas in the Midst” without the gorillas. I can definitely tell it’s going to get cool here – I’m so thankful we have the heater. I decided NOT to wash my hair tonight because it’s late, no hair dryers and I can’t imagine how cold it is going to get. Dinner was great, conversation was good, 8:30 and we’re off to the tent for the night and it’s FREEZING!!! Thank goodness we did not unzip any sections of the tent, and they had even closed the front while we enjoyed dinner. The heater was on and the hot water bottles were in place! OMG! Tucked under 15lbs of blankets and a hot water bottle…best night sleep I’ve had since we got here!











Day 6 – Safari (Lemuta, Nasera Rock, Angata Kiti & Olkarien)

The rest of the night was uneventful, except that my phone battery died and I had not scheduled a wake up call for this morning. And it’s an early morning, breakfast at 6:30 – leave at 7. I remembered I had the cell phone given to us by ADS when we arrived (which when I turned it on, had 6 missed calls…oops). So, at 1:30 my time, I message Krysta to ask her to call me on that phone with a wake up call (incoming calls are free). She tried to call, but no international service on her phone; mom tried to call and was dialing too many “1’s” so Linda called to make sure we were up. Nice start to the morning for Rich.

Great breakfast as normal and we’re off. Drive this morning started with a drive around the lake looking for wild dogs which had been spotted earlier. No luck – so we set off on our next adventure, to what appeared (once again) to no where. Ally said, you see those mountains off in the horizon? We are heading on the other side. We are traveling to the breeding spot of most all vulchers in the Serengeti. We will have a guided walking tour by a Maasai leader when we get there. Should be fun.

There were times during our drive that Ally turned off the main dirt road…lol…just head in a direction with no roads. We would drive, and drive and drive and then all of a sudden there would be another dirt rod, just like he knew it was going to be there. We laughed because at one of those roads, not a soul in sight, we noticed Ally look to the left and right to make sure there wasn’t another car coming…LOL! I don’t get it. Anyway, along the way we saw many Maasai people and their villages, carrying water, watching their hers, etc. It is so hard to imagine this culture still lives this way. As we got closer to our destination, Ally called another drive to get the cell number to one of the Maasai in the area. What? They have cell phones out here? No electricity, no running water, no vehicles, etc but they have cell phones? Shot, we can’t even get cell service in parts of the US. While we waited, a Maasai Warrior and his son approached us from the field so Ally asked if he would give us the tour, which he graciously agreed.

We walked all the way around the rock formation but we were not able to climb to the top. There are no steps of with a clear path to the top and it looked like a snake bite or lion attack waiting to happen. We were satisfied with just the education and the interaction with the Maasai. Most Warriors do not like you to take their photos, but he agreed. One you can even see he is on his cell phone (so very funny). After I took the picture he asked Ally to see if I had a pen and I just laughed cause I thought he was making some sort of joke about autographing the photo but in reality, he asked for a pen for his son. I was elated and couldn’t wait to give him my ADS pen. This little guy was about Aidens age and was just adorable. Hard for me to comprehend how something so little to us could be so important for someone else. As we began our long drive back to camp, I was once again reminded why we put our trust in Ally. He once again delivered a remarkable experience. Back to camp for a quick lunch and a siesta before our evening drive. We were all tired from the morning drive and Rich and Ally would be fine with taking the rest of the afternoon off, but not me. I’m sure there’s something out there for us to encounter.

Lunch, a nap and an exciting walk to the tent. Today their were two more buffalo in front of our camp and we watched as the Massai tried to scare them off (threw stones, hit them with the rods) but they weren’t budging. Looks like this is their favorite spot. I video taped their efforts but I’m not sure our escort much appreciated it. He stopped and posed at me with that look…like, REALLY?

Excitement over and we’re off again. I set a goal for ourselves and it was to find a big male. Rich said I was dreaming since we hadn’t seen male in a couple of days. I believe, I believe! Had a sighting of the Wild dogs we had looked for this morning. “Wild” is a great name for them. Their coat is crazy looking and based on what I have read and have been told, they are fierce hunters. They are very rare to see so I feel lucky we ran across them. Another check in my book.

Just as we were wrapping up for the day, we ran across a pride with not 1, but 2 big males. They had come from a recent kill and were fat and happy. The males were laying on their backs with feet in the air like big cuddly kitties. Funny how the “King of the Jungle” can be so soft as the same time. Goal met and then some!

Dinner tonight was wonderful as usual. Goodbyes said since Joyce and Paul will not be here in the morning. It has been another great experience but looking forward to the crater and to Lion’s Paw. Walk back to the tent was among buffalo again, but we have become used to their company.





Day 5 – Safari (Ndutu Woodlands & Great Migration)

Early start this morning. Up and at breakfast at 6:00 and meeting Ally at 6:30 to start the day. There is a story I want to share but have been waiting to see how it all turned out first. You know me, Ms organized and all. Packed for a few weeks, even unpacked and washed my clothes and repacked them. Took pictures of MOST EVERYTHING I was putting in my bag. But what did I forgot? What was the most important thing NOT to forget? The charger for my camera batteries. OMG! I had purchased a third battery just the day before I left, just to make sure I never ran out. Put in on the charger right beside my bed and I completely left home without it. It wasn’t until we were leaving Arusha for the airport to fly to the Seregeti that I discovered I didn’t have it. Saying I was devistated doesn’t even come close. Even though Rich had his camera, it just wasn’t the same. My lifetime dream and I was going to miss capturing ever minute. So I started talking to Ally about it and since there are multiple flights to the nearby airport where we would be staying, I asked if he thought ADS (my Safari company) would be willing to buy one and send it on a flight over and I would pay them when I get back to Arusha. He explained what happened and told them I needed a charger, etc. Thank the lord, they agreed. So Timan, one of the welcoming ADS employees, went and bought me one and put it on a plane so we could pick it up the next day (remember the day we went back to the airport and the presidents were flying in?) Well, that’s why we were there. I was so elated…I was saved. So flight arrives, Ally walks out to meet the pilot and he comes back with a small package in his hand…yeah! But it looked a little small to me. Opened it up and what they sent me was another battery, not the charger. Can you believe it? Now I have two completely dead batteries and one with only 3 notches left on the one left in my camera and no way to charge any of them. Ally called them right away and Timan then went to 5 different locations in Arusha and no one carried just the charger. Really? It’s a Nikon? Who doesn’t sell just a charger AND why can’t a Nikon battery recharge through your computer like most other devices? I was once again devistated :(. Then I got the grand idea to just buy another camera, it would come with the charger and I’ll just sell it but when/how would I get it? They once again agreed…I so love this company…bought me a camera and put it on the first flight out this morning. And to beat it all, the airstrip is only like a few minutes from where we are staying so it was convenient enough. Plane lands and pilot comes out with Nikon box in his hand as he steps off the plane…hands it to Ally as I am screaming thank you and he told me to take lots of beautiful pictures. So now, 2 of the three batteries are charged and I am set to go. I have beaten myself up about this so much. Of all the stupid things I brought that I didn’t need, how could I do that? Ally told me that’s when we are reminded we are all but human…no one is perfect. So, if anyone is in search of a Nikon…lol! Ok, enough of that story.

So we left the camp this morning and drove down to the lake, just to catch the sunrise over the lake. What a sight to see. Rich has commented several times that there has been a full moon here every night, how is that possible? We drove around the lake and saw remnants of the many animals that have lost there lifes around this water. Sort of sad when you think about it…coming to just get a drink of water…lifes n necessity … and your life is cut short. As we went on around the lake we saw a Cheetah, just walking along the edge of the water. She kept looking at animals on the other side, probably wondering how she was going to get over there. Then, she just laid down and enjoyed the breeze. Sat and watched her for a while than went on our way. Lots of other adventures to take.

Again, I can’t begin to tell you how dusty it is. Rich said he has sneezed more in these 5 days then he has in months. Just like yesterday, Ally turns onto this isolated road that honestly looks like it’s going no where, but who are we to question him, right? We drove FOREVER, only seeing Gazelles, Zebras and a few Wildebeest here and there. He told us we were driving to see some herds of Wildebeest…ok, better be worth it. And OMG…once again our socks were blown off. It wasn’t a just a herd of Wildebeest, this was seeing them in full migration. They estimate there are between 2-5 million here in Africa. Pretty sure we saw at least 4 million of them today. They went from as far as you could see left and as far as you could see right, just all walking in the same direction. It looked like everyone other one also had a new baby. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Any picture or video we have taken can not truly capture the moment.

Headed back towards the camp for lunch and a little siesta before we hit a late afternoon drive. Ran across another pride of lions just chilling under a tree. This group has a couple younger adolescent lions, but still no cubs to be seen. Still have 5 days for that. Back at camp had a great lunch, recharged all of our stuff, Rich took a nap and I am finishing the 1st 1/2 of the 5th day here. Maybe I can keep up now.

Part 2 of 5th day. Our afternoon drive was all the way around the lake. The terrain here is more like I pictured Africa would be. We saw a zebra and a baby zebra who had died of what appeared to be natural causes. So very sad. We then spotted a leopard laying in a tree. It was amazing to see how he was holding himself up there. A few monkeys, lots of birds and the norm, zebra & giraffes. Back at camp at 6 with an hour to get ready for dinner.

Shower was much needed tonight because of all the dust. Dinner tonight was exceptional. Learned tonight that in Tanzania, a man can have as many wives as he wants…Rich thought that was ok, me not so much! Glad to hear Ally say that was not for him, he could not split his heart. You are a good man Ally!

As we were being escorted back to the tent tonight, two different warriors led the way – both with flashlights. I know there were buffalo spotted on camp today. As we turned the corner to our tent they spotted two buffalo right in front of our tent. I was video taping the entire walk back so I caught it all. They went into the bushes to flush them out but we never actually saw them leave. From there on, all escorts tonight were by golf cart.

Rich was finally able to reach Linda this evening by phone, but we continue to have problems with the internet connections here. Limited at best. Posting pictures is a problem but Ill try. Will try to post day 4 and 5 tomorrow. We are starting at 7 tomorrow. I’m going to try and sleep tonight.



Day 4 – Safari (Simba Kopjes, Naabi Hill, Gol Kopjes & The Triangle)

We had a little extra time this morning as we needed to wrap things up at the Seronera Sametu Camp, say our good-byes and begin our long drive to Ngorongoro. Had a great breakfast to start the day, just like always. This crew has been so amazing – it’s hard to imagine what the next one will be like. I left this morning with the GoPro on my head, first time using it so we’ll see how it turns out. I know it won’t show distance but I’m hoping to at least give you an idea of what it’s truly like here.

1st stop was back at the visitors center for fuel in the jeep. I can’t wait to see how many total miles we travel. The drive to Ngorongoro was crazy. It’s like a road with heavy, heavy loose gravel that you thought at any moment it was going to throw us off the road. Ally actually said that this road has taken out many of drivers, but after 9 years, he’s an expert. In addition to the loose gravel, they are either with widening the road or just adding more gravel but one side of the road was piled up so you could really only drive on one side of the road – was interesting when a vehicle came from the other direction. We drove 109 miles on that one road just to get to the entrance to the Ngorongoro side of the park. We stopped for lunch at the information center where Rich and I were able to climb up to the top of a cliff to see the park. It was a spectacular view and well worth the climb.

As we entered the park it was very evident that the topography on this side of the Serengeti was completely different then where we have been. Everything would be greener if it weren’t so dry. The dust is unbelievable and so thick! We are in the dry season here now, well for only a few more weeks. Dry season is when all the babies are born which is one of the reasons I chose this time to schedule the trip. After seeing the roads here, I am SOOOO thankful we chose the dry season. During the rainy season, some of the roads become unpassable and many get stuck. Ally told us that in the evenings at the camps they are always looking around to see who isn’t back encase they need to go find them. No thank you! I’ll take the dust of getting stuck next to the hippo pool anytime…lol

So inside the park, Ally turned onto a road that ran straight through the middle of what looked like a crop field of soy bean that has already been harvested. Dry and barren but it went on forever, you could see no end. There appeared to even be very few animals; a few gazelles here and there but that’s about it. Both Rich and I thought he had lost his mind. Asked where we were going and he said out to those rocks straight ahead…way in the horizon. Rich said, that’s got to be another 50 miles. But Ally said I want to show you something…so we trucked on! And oh how happy I am we made that trip. Just around the 1st rock formation, laying right on the top looking over the plain was the most beautiful lioness. This was the picture I was waiting for. The one I have envisioned all my life. She gracefully came down off the rock and up onto another formation and we could tell she had a litter somewhere. We followed her until she returned to her spot in hopes that we would get a glimpse of the babies, but no such luck. Around another rock formation we spotted another female, sitting right in the sun, panting very hard until she just laid down. Not sure why she didn’t move out of the sun into the shade but we left he snoozing. The drive there was sooo worth it and I told Ally I would not question his judgement again. As we got back into the park area it wasn’t long before there was a pride of young lioness and two young males. We were told they were probably all siblings. Just behind them was the kill they were sleeping off…a young zebra. The flies were unreal and it was not a pleasant site seeing the entire back half of the zebra missing but we were able to actually see where the puncture marks were made in the neck to intentionally bring her down…:(

We continued on to our second camp…well if you want to call it a camp. It’s like a resort in the middle on no where with no air conditioning…lol! This camp is call Lake Maserek Tented Camp and it sits on the side of Lake Maserek. As we pulled in we were greeted by a Maasai Warrior (dressed in full robe attire – included a spear) who escorted us to the reception area. Juice, a wet rag and the rules of the camp and we’re off…again escorted by a Maasai Warrior. One of the rules here is you NEVER leave your tent without an escort because the hippos graze in the grass and brush all around the camp. This is going to be exciting. The tents here are on elevated decks, I’m sure to give you the view of the lake. We have an enclosed patio this time so we can sit outside and still be enclosed. We also have an outside shower…yep! It’s really nice. I told Rich I was having mixed emotions about this place. Though it is super nice, it’s not the true bush feeling like our previous camp. BUT it’s nice to see two different sides of a safari. I’m sure we’ll find a way to enjoy ourselves.

This is the first time we have had the opportunity to communicate outside our little world in three days. Internet service is up and I was able to finally post the first three days of our trip. I facebook messaged Krysta and she said they were starting to get worried and if they hadn’t heard anything today they were going to call the office…lol! I’m pretty sure we let everyone know we had NO IDEA what our availability was going to be. Krysta called Linda to tell her to check her email, Rich was going to contact her.

Shower was exceptional after all the dust of the day plus the outdoor feeling was really neat. Dave, I think we should build one. Dinner at 7:00 and we had to call the front desk for an escort. Dinner was great. Our little waitress is just the cutest thing. Ally and Rich couldn’t stop smiling at her. Staff here is great, just not as personal as the last camp. Ally told us that just a few months ago, one of the Maasai Warriors was actually attacked and speared by a buffalo, just outside the reception tent. Oh great! Even the Maasai aren’t safe.

Time to call it a night so our warrior escorted us to the tent. Let me tell you, it was a little different feeling in the dark. I’m going to video tape tomorrow so you can get the true affect. All zipped in, Rich is asleep, I just finished posting our blog and am facebooking with Krysta when I heard the strangest noise. Sounded like chewing! And it was. Got my trusty night vision goggles out and sure enough, right in front of our tent, grazing on the grass were two hippos. They were chewing so loudly I could hear it all the way inside. I came outside and tried to video tape so you could hear what I heard, but the only thing you can hear on the tape are the birds, which seem to chirp, or whatever the sound is the birds make here, all night. I tried to wake Rich up so he could witness it and he was OUT. He finally woke up and I said “Rich, do you hear that? and he said what? I told him about the hippos and he said ok and was back asleep just about as quick. I facebooked Krysta (10:30pm here) so she could experience it with me. In the back ground again tonight was the rumbling of lions. I am in love with this place!





Day 3 – Safari (Moru Kopjes & Gong Rock)

Breakfast at the camp this morning before leaving at 7:30. We are heading South today in search of the Black Rhino. It was quite the drive so Ally drove with a purpose today so we could get there, search then begin the long drive back. Driving with a purpose here has a whole new meaning for me…lol!

There is a Black Rhino project here where the monitor the species to help from extension. Poaching here is still a huge problem so there are rangers in this area who live on top of the cliffs to help protect them. We learned that often poachers are just killed here because too many have been arrested but go back to poaching when they get out so it’s easier to just eliminate them. Something to be said for repeat offenders of violent crimes in the states. Visited the Rhino information center to learn about their history. A great guide full of knowledge and passion for these animals. You would have to love it to live way out here. You sure can’t just run down the street for milk if you forgot it on your way home.

No luck in spotting a Rhino today though. Since there are only 23 monitored animals on these planes, and they mostly graze alone, there was no telling where they were. The trip however gave us the opportunity to see the Kopjes, which are forms of rocks like none I have ever seen. There are many difference Kopjes, named for the tribe that lived there many centuries ago. This is Massai country. When in Arusha, we saw many of the Massai tribe which are easy to spot as the men still wear the red draped clothes as their daily attire. Would have been something to see these people still living upon on these rocks. There was one particular area where steps have been built so that you can climb to the top. Ally said he normally would not allow us to climb there unless there were other vehicles around because it has been known to have lions up there. But we all agreed we were game to try it. I know…wreckless right? Ally led the way making lots of noise to scare anything that might have been visiting the area. A few remnants of lions were present but no lions to be found. Let me say how glad we are we made that decision. What an amazing site from up there.

Back in the jeep and off to a lunch spot for a packed lunches. Arrived a favorite spot by many and were told we couldn’t be here because the President of Germany and the President of Tanzania would be visiting there soon. They were already setting up a huge spread for them by the Zebra refreshment company…lol! So we left in search of a new lunch spot.

Now for the excitement of the day. On our way to find a new spot we ran across a pride of lions laying in the shade of a huge tree not far from the road. It was an amazing site. 10 juvenile cubs in all and 7 lionesses (we never did see the males) however it was the same pride we saw yesterday, noted by one with a monitoring collar and one with a huge gash in her nose. Within a few minutes, one of the females raised her head and they all looked in one direction towards a herd of zebras who were making their way across the road into the area of the lions. In a split second 5 of the lionesses each rose and moved with grace to do their particular job. Can you believe this? A kill is just about to happen right in front of us. I didn’t think I wanted to see this at all until I watched how these amazing animals worked together with patience and purpose to feed their family. In a matter of maybe 15 minutes, they had completely formed a parameter around the herd and were waiting for their opportunity. In a split second one lioness made a move and the herd scattered, charged, ran…you name it. One of the lioness had to lay down in the road to keep from getting trampled. In that split second their opportunity was lost…they got away! We have a video of the whole thing and believe it or not it was sad. I hate to see the zebra loose it’s life but it was such an amazing thing to watch. Ally put it well, the lion laid down because no one wanted to die that day. They all made it back to the tree with the cubs to rest from their big chase.

We needed to make a trip back to the airstrip anyway (I’ll mention in a future post why) so decided to just have lunch at the airport. Now, keep in mind, without thinking, when were going to the same airstrip where both Presidents were expected in shortly. A guard at the entrance just let us on in, we parked and walked to the small building with our lunch boxes. We laughed because you can’t even get within 5 miles of the airports at home when our president is flying in. Tons of safari vehicles lined up to meet their arrival. A few armed guards and mostly people like us standing around with cameras. There was no concern to be standing along the strip for a photo op so I took it. Now, I have no idea who the president of Germany even is but figured it would be a great moment for Ally to have photos of “his” president. Planes landed and I snapped pictures of anyone coming off the plan. Ended up with great pictures of the German president but the Tanzania president was not there. Only the Interior ministers were there to meet him. Fun adventure to this trip, even though our original trip to the airstrip was not a success :(

Before heading back to camp we saw another Leopard in a tree. It’s so funny to see how they just chill and are so uninterested in us.

Back at camp at 4:30. Showers again at 6. Dinner at 7. Tonight we were joined by all the staff of the camp, except the chef. We had asked them all to join us when we first got there and they said they would on the last night. It was a great meal and a lot of fun. This crew has over exceeded our expectations. It will be hard to top it at the next camp. During our dinner, we were joined by a Hyena, just beside the tent. That just sort of cracks me up. I watched JJ leave the dining tent and walk to the kitchen tent, in the dark, with the Hyena sitting right there. He said, He knows me! They also shared that a few weeks ago a pride brought down a buffalo right in the camp area and stayed there for a solid week. JJ said they had approached him carrying the buckets of water to the tents to get a drink. He just dropped the buckets of water, walked away, let them get their drink and then picked up his buckets and carried on. OMG!!!! I guess there is something to be said for living in this country and feeling comfortable.

Back to the tent to be zipped in at 8:30. We packed, well Rich packed, played a few hands of gin and I caught up on my blog posts. Heard several lions throughout the night. I don’t think I will ever get tired of this. We leave for 2nd camp location tomorrow.


Day 2 – Safari (Seronera, Maasai & Sametu Kopjes)

Still excited from last nights activities, JJ shows up at our tent for our wake-up call at 5:15. Told him all about the night but I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe us. He flashed his light back in that area and there were lots of Impalas which he said would not be there if there had been lions. I’m not sure how far away it actually was but I am 110% sure of what we heard so I’m sticking with it.

Ally brought along picnic breakfast and lunch boxes for our full day in the bush. We started at 6:00, before the sun even rose. As we drove standing out the top of the jeep with the sun coming up, seemed almost surreal! I had waited most of my lifetime for this very moment. Shortly down the road Ally spotted a Cheetah. Let me just tell you, this guy has the best eye-sight I have ever seen. He spots things just like that. We were able to pull right up beside her. It’s amazing how uninterested they seem to be with us. To see her sitting up tall checking out her surroundings was a sight to see. She stretched showing her sleek body – what an awesome creature. We had a later spotting today of a Cheetah and her cubs but they were pretty hidden in the grass so it was harder to see them. A short drive later we are in front of a marsh area with tall grass, sort of looked like a resort area for animals. In the grass we saw the heads of two magnificent male lions. It was almost erie how well they were hidden. Behind them on the rocks along the water laid the rest of the pride. Hard to say how many there were because they were laying very close to each other…amazing spot so we decided to have breakfast there with the lions

After breakfast we went in a different direction and within maybe 30 minutes we were in front of yet another pride of lions. This time they were laying right along the side of the road. Two males just resting trying to stay cool and several lionesses. There were also several juvenile cubs just hanging out. They all kept smelling something in the air and it wasn’t long before they were all up, moving across the road towards something, but what? We never did figure out what they were moving towards and just eventually disappeared.

Next stop was the Serengeti National Park information center. There we had lunch with 100’s of Hyrax. The cutest little animals that look like a cross between a ginny pig and a ground hog. I could sooo have one of these in my home. If you have ever see Born Free (shame on you if you haven’t) Patty was a Hyrax. While I was busy taking pictures of these little cuties, we missed a Green Mamba that was strolling through the landscaped. Sort of glad we missed it. We went through a quick tour by a student going to school for employment in the safari field. Very informative info and a nice touch to the day.

Next we traveled to the Hippo pool! Ally told us we couldn’t leave until we had a photo of one of them yawning. Now close your eyes, image a huge pool of water that does not flow so it gets stagnant anyway, add 100’s of hippos laying in it and you can only imagine the smell, but they were so much fun to watch. Got the picture we needed with no problems. Drove to a second Hippo viewing site in hopes to find a crocodile, but no such luck. On the way however found the cutest spider monkeys. I could watch them for hours.

Throughout the day we have seen all sorts of birds that are amazing to watch and each have their own sort of beauty. On our way back to camp we spotted a leopard in a tree. She was a good ways back from the road, but through the lens and binoculars she was a beauty.

Arrived back at camp at 5:00, lets see, that makes for an 11 hour drive. Loved it but it was also an exhausting day. Both Rich and I got a bit too much sun the first day so it was long sleeves all day today. With the heat and the dust, showers would be a welcomed thing. Again greeted with a wet cloth as we got out the jeep. Same schedule as last night, showers at 6, dinner at 7.

JJ is quite the entertainer. Has has described each meal for us as though it is being prepared from items in the bush (watch for my video). Wish we could take him to the next camp with us but would not want anyone to miss this experience. Ally again joined us for dinner. Meal was good and the conversation even better. We talked a lot about the culture differences between the western countries and theirs. He asked why so many marriages end in our country. Here in Tanzania, a bride is still picked for a man. He told us how his sister-in-law found his wife for him at a wedding. He said ok, without even seeing her and went to visit her family. She was a bit more hesitant, but went on a date with him and another woman and she then agreed. Now they have been married 3 years and have a 1 year old son. Maybe there is something to be said for “finding love” in your spouse instead of marrying for love that then doesn’t last. That’s my insight – I’m not speaking for Rich on that one. He talked about the “bush TV” which was entertaining. In rural parts of Tanzania, there is still no electricity so no TV. Their TV is sitting around the outside fire at night listening to and telling stories. Love the thought of that as we love to sit around our fire pit. Learned he went to college to be a guide but for three years was unable to get a job in that industry. Much like in the US, no one would hire him without experience. So he took a teaching job at the college and learned he was a pretty good teacher – but his heart was still with the animals. 9 years as a guide and his dream is to one day have his own school to restore values to other Tanzanians. It was refreshing to hear of his passion for his country and his culture.

Off to be zipped in for the night. We were both exhausted so you think we would sleep. 9-3 was the best sleep we have gotten since we left. Heard lions in the distance for what must have been every hour on the hour so dosed off and on until our alarm went off for day 3.

Back to the land of electronics – Day 1 – Safari (Seronera, Makoma Hill & Retina)

It’s been three days with no phones, no TV, no internet/email/facebook…no contact with the outside world. Just Rich, myself, Ally and our dream. I wish I could adequately describe the Serengeti. Best way I know to put is 14,760 square miles of raw beauty. I am in awe!

Day 1 – Safari begins

Our trusty ADS welcoming crew, Marthius and Timan, picked us up at 7:15 for the short ride to the Arusha airport.
The ride through town was an adventure in itself and the airport did not disappoint. Small and a bit strange, but
I was so excited I could have cared less. Our guys got us right through security with NO luggage weight issues…
whew hoo and we were set. We took a small 12-seater plane, along with 6 others to an even smaller airstrip in the
Western part of the Serengeti. The strip was paved, but that’s about it (you’ll just have to look at my photos).
Our guide Ally greeted us at the plane and walked us to our home away from home for the next 10 days…an 8 seater
Land Cruiser with the top panels out. As we climbed in, Ally said “As a welcome to Africa, we give you a free
African massage!” And boy did we ever! The roads through the park are either grated gravel or mud with ruts from
the rain. I couldn’t wait to climb up with my head out the top. Off we go…

Little did we know when we left the hotel earlier that day that our safari would begin immediately from departing the plane. Ally asked what our interests were and we both said lions. The more the merrier, the closer the better. I told him if he could make that happen, he would make all my wishes come true. He said “your wish is my command”.

Within 45 minutes, my first wish was met. We pulled up to a huge male lion, standing over a fresh buffalo kill. In the grass beside the road were two lionesses (one still covered in blood from the kill). The big male walked off as did one of the females. The other lioness walked among the cars looking for a little shade and finally even laid down in the road against the side of one of the jeeps. As cars started to move around, she got up and approached the kill to eat. I so wish this post could really give you an idea of what the smell and the sound was actually like. At one time, she was shoulder deep inside the body cavity of this huge buffalo. You could hear the sound of her crushing the bones effortlessly.

Within the next few minutes we were in front of a leopard in a tree. Breathtaking! She gracefully climbed down the tree and made herself out to the road then gradually disappeared into the tall grasses.

Within the next little bit we were in front of a herd of 20+ elephants (lots of babies). They crossed the road right in front of us.

All in all, we had seen 3 of the top 5 in less than 2 hours of our safari.

Later in the day there were an abundance of Giraffes, Wart Hogs, Thompson Gazelles, Impalas, Buffalo, Topi, Birds, Ostrich, Zebra, Hippos, Hardebeest & Hyena and I’m sure I have left something out. On to Seronera Sametu Camp.

Arrived at 4:45 and we were greeted with a wet rag to wipe our face (heavenly!) a glass of fresh squeezed juice and a warm smile from DC and JJ (stands for something but they knew we couldn’t pronounce it let alone remember it). They showed us around the camp, explained the rules, we got a drink and got the schedule for the rest of the evening. Showers at 6 and dinner at 7. Our tent is amazing (see photos), complete with net drapped canopy beds, full bath and a view that would knock your socks off. Having grown up camping and somewhat familiar with tents – this would be my way to camp!

At 6:00 we heard a voice say “Your shower is ready” – as they hand tote hot water to fill the tank for your showers. Nicked named the talking shower…LOL! No hair dryers allowed here so off to dinner at 7 with a wet head but who cares here!

Did I mention that Rich and I are the ONLY ones at this camp for three days? Well, yeah we are. So talk about being catered to. JJ is our (for better terms) personal waiter. If we need it he’s Johnny on the spot. Dinner table is set and we are joined by Ally. Food was great, conversation was great…couldn’t be better until out comes the 4 other staff members with a birthday cake for me and singing happy birthday! I have NO IDEA WHY they thought it was my birthday other then that I had told the sales person I booked the trip through that this was a trip I promised myself I would take before I turned 50. My cake said Happy 50th! They even gave me a necklace made by one of the local tribes (see pictures). How could this day get any better?

Dinner is over and we are off to the tent where we are zipped in until tomorrow morning. They arm us with a walkie talkie if we need anything AND inform us they are not armed!!!! What??? Are you kidding me??? They claim it is not necessary here, that if wild-life comes around (which it always does) they would not bother us unless they are provoked! Plus they actually said…they know us. Ok then…so feeling all secure now, we are zipped in. To our pleasant surprise, during dinner, they had come to our tent, turned the beds down, dropped the mosquito netting AND put a hot water bottle under the blankets. Never seen that before, but what a fabulous touch. It’s now 8:30, no TV…LOL so we played a quick game of Gin before calling it a night.

Under the covers and lights off and within 2 minutes Rich says “a Hyena just passed in front of our tent” (keep in mind the entire front of the tent is open, just netted and zipped closed). I said no way and we both jumped out of our beds and grabbed the night vision goggles Aaron just swore I needed to buy for the trip and sure enough just outside our tent, about 25 feet, was a hyena chomping on some bones. We could see him clearly with the goggles. OMG!!! Are you kidding?

Back to bed all giddy like little kids. I laid there for what seemed like forever listening to the least little sound. Beside me was my flashlight, phone, walkie talkie and the night vision glasses (just in case). Call it nerves, anxious, excited, whatever I couldn’t sleep. Finally dosed off but woke up to what I thought was a moth or something inside the tent of my bed. Tried to find it with the flashlight without waking Rich up. No luck. Back to bed and figured out it was on the outside of my net between the net and tent. Most of the night it was hitting my net but finally fell back asleep. Around 3 am I woke up to the sound of a struggle just to the right of our tent (well it sounded like it was just outside but was probably 1/4 mile or so away). I could hear the lions and just knew they had taken something down. I jumped up to run look out the window in the bathroom but couldn’t see a thing, even with the goggles. The sound only lasted for about 15 seconds and I thought maybe I imagined it. Rich was still sleeping so I couldn’t ask him. Went back to bed and laid there, listening. About 45 minutes later, happened again. Really loud this time. I woke Rich up to see if he heard it but he didn’t. Checked again and nothing. But just as we were going back to get in our beds, there it was again but this time Rich and I both heard it. Couldn’t wait to check in the morning. By now it’s 4:30 – wake-up call at 5:15 for 6:00am drive so we just stayed up. End of day 1.