We just returned from an 8 night, 9 day safari with Safari Infinity as our Tour Operator. This was our first time in Africa, fulfilling a long awaited dream of seeing the beautiful Serengeti and even the Great Migration. This “trip report” is best done by an open letter to the people in Tanzania who made this possible, the people at Safari Infinity, including and especially to our guide, Robert.
Dear Lucia and Simon, Co-Owners of Safari Infinity, and Robert, our driver/guide for our time in Tanzania,
Our trip of a lifetime, our safari in Tanzania, including Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the Central and Northern Serengeti, was a never to be forgotten adventure tailored to us, exactly, thanks to all of you.
From the moment we stepped off the plane we felt we were in good hands, met by your representative who immediately whisked us through the visa process, then helped us navigate through the paperwork when our luggage was, unfortunately, delayed.
Our arrival at the African Tulip Hotel was met with a warm welcome, one of many we were to discover, in your beautiful country. We have traveled to many different countries, but never to Africa, and we were overwhelmed by the joyous welcome we received everywhere we stayed. We had planned an extra couple of nights at the African Tulip in case of flight delays, and to rest from the long flight. That planning proved to be a very good thing, as our luggage (minus our hats and other articles of clothing!) arrived 2 nights later. The hospitality at the African Tulip Hotel was exceptional. The manager is very “hands on,” concerned with all the guests well-being. We felt as if we were, indeed, Very Important People!
From the moment we met you, our guide, Robert, we liked you instantly. Your quiet, laid back demeanor, coupled with your astute sense of humor was a perfect match for us. You infused your knowledge of the local culture with sightseeing, injecting your unique brand of humor, keeping us entertained and wanting to know more. There were few questions (and we had many!) that you could not answer in depth, often pulling the vehicle over so you could more fully explain that in which we had expressed an interest. Later, and especially after our safari had ended, we realized that we saw much more than animals to be checked off a list, which we never really kept.
With you, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the experience of observing wildlife. While others took photos, then left, we sat and had a leisurely boxed lunch while we watched a pride of 17 lions, and the drama that unfolded as a huge dazzle of zebras encroached on the lions' territory, then alerted one another to the lions' presence. We were in no hurry, no schedule to keep, just to enjoy the animals. On another occasion we were part of the magical experience to witness a herd of elephants as the matriarch communicated with sound we, as humans did not hear. The entire herd froze in place for several seconds, listening, then instantly and in perfect synchronization, resumed their activities, reassured that we were not a threat. If we did not have the luxury of time and your encouragement and guidance, we would never have noticed such an amazing event.
You seemed to know when to arrive at the Mara River, just in time to wait discreetly until the crossing began, then positioned us in a spot to watch the crossing of at least 6,000 wildebeest in a spectacular sight that we will never forget. You were as excited as we were to witness such a thrilling event, adding to the pleasure even more. Then, on the same day as the crossing, as if that was not enough, you seemed to find, in the midst of nowhere, 2 cheetah brothers who had just killed a young wildebeest. We all agreed to watch the “whole story,” and stayed to see the cheetahs keep out a watch for each other as the other ate, then once done, to wash each other's faces! Once again, those who stayed to take a few photos, then left, missed the most precious and memorable part of this sighting. Even then, we didn't leave. We waited for the gathering vultures to descend, watching as one of the cheetahs chased the approaching birds, making it very clear that they were not welcome. It was fascinating that the birds were fearful of moving in, even long after the cheetahs had left! When they finally did, it was a sight to see. We saw the whole event, the cycle was complete.
Your attention to detail seemed to be second nature. And, as we have already mentioned, your sense of humor had us laughing more than we have laughed in some time. Who could ask for more?
Lucia, I also liked you from the first time we communicated. You were always very patient with my many questions, and seemed, through your emails to be sincerely eager to provide a wonderful trip. When we finally met you and your husband, Simon at our hotel in Arusha, we felt even more confident that we had made the right choice, with your warm and caring personality shining through, and Simon's quiet assurance and knowledge of the business as a former guide, himself. We know you both were the foundation behind our experience, quietly making everything work as it should. You even arranged for extra touches along the way, as we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. What a nice touch! As if that were not enough, you wanted to know all about our safari afterwards, the good and the bad.
We were hard pressed to find any criticism. Hmmm....more variety in the box lunches? That was about all, as I recall.
We saw so many kinds of animals, in such beautiful settings that it would be impossible to detail each event. Flamboyant ostriches doing their “flash dances,” a den of hyenas with their youngsters, a “teen-age” male elephant, trying to scare us with his trumpet and charge (it worked!) and an army of baboons marching down the dirt road to a different location.
One of my concerns in coming to Tanzania in peak season was, of course, the number of other vehicles and people we might encounter. I had expressed this concern to you, Lucia, but you assured me that your guides knew how to get away to areas where other vehicles do not frequent, thus often avoiding the crowds. My desire to experience the Serengeti and to see the migration won out, and we decided, crowds or not, to go to Tanzania. In reality, Robert, you disliked crowds of vehicles as much as we did. Much of the time I forgot we were there in peak season, as we were the only vehicle around, or one of 2 or 3. . The exception was the pride of 17 lions, but after a while, most of those vehicles left to have lunch somewhere else, as you knew they would, leaving us with a front and center, unobstructed view. Even at the crossing of the Mara River we were situated so we felt as if we were only one of just a few vehicles. I still don't know how many were there, as we were right up front. You made sure we always got an early start, so we were witness to many sightings while others were just getting started. After all, we were in Africa, so why waste time sleeping late!
The best decision we made for our safari, besides booking with you, was to take a private safari with our own guide and vehicle. We had a freedom we would never have had with any other type of safari. When we wanted to be quiet, we were quiet (probably not very often, right, Robert?) When we wanted to stay put, we stayed put. We left early and stayed late, or not. It was all up to us.
Staying in tented camps for most of our safari was an excellent choice, and once we got used to the “talking shower” with buckets of just right warm water, we loved them. The sounds of the bush at night were almost hypnotic. On our last night it was appropriate that we were surrounded by what seemed like the entire herd of almost 2 million wildebeest, voicing their trademark, hmmmm, hawwww, sounds all night long. We loved it! And, I suppose it was appropriate that during our flight back to Arusha on one of the take-offs after a stop to pick up passengers the pilot had to brake and start over due to zebra and wildebeest on the air strip. Only in Africa!
One final word about our vehicle. We knew we'd be driven in a Land Cruiser type of vehicle, but when you, Robert, escorted us from our hotel out to the Land Cruiser for the first time and we climbed in, we felt as if you had picked us up in a limo, only better! It was incredibly spacious, and although there were just 2 of us, there were 4 seats altogether. The huge windows were panoramic, creating a feeling of being open when needed, and closed nicely to keep out the dust of the long drives. You had a cooler generously filled with water, soft drinks and even beer, and we had the use of great binoculars as well bean bag supports for our cameras. The top opened up so we could stand, and see out easily, yet we were protected from the midday sun. One of the best things about this Land Cruiser was a bank of electrical plugs for charging our batteries right behind the driver's seat. I could not have imagined how convenient this turned out to be. This was a late model vehicle in pristine condition, so we felt right away that we were traveling in style. Lucia and Simon, you definitely don't skimp on anything, and you especially pay attention to the things that matter!
Lucia, Simon and Robert, we have traveled to many countries over our 70+ years. We've been to Europe, the UK, the South Pacific, and New Zealand, as well as the continental United States and Canada, including Alaska. We can easily say this trip has topped them all. It was one we will never forget. Thank you to all of you for that. Our wonderful safari was enhanced by knowing the people we entrusted were so kind, caring and capable. You represented Tanzania well. Asante. Asante Sana!