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.