My husband I just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Tanzania. We have been on 2 prior safaris to South Africa (Kruger National Park) and Botswana and Zambia including Victoria Falls. While we thoroughly enjoyed those safaris, this latest one to East Africa far exceeded our expectations.
We started making our arrangements with Ellie Hill, www.thesafarispecialist.com in February. She worked with us to create a custom trip that fit our needs. This included choosing the parks to visit, the length of time at each park and the fabulous accommodations. She answered all of our questions promptly, provided us with a detailed itinerary and met with us just before our trip. We had no worries as we approached our departure date as Ellie was very reassuring about the details. She followed up with us while on our journey to make sure everything was going well. We can’t thank her enough for her attention to details, her reassurances and of course the fabulous accommodations and most important of all, our guide, Julius, who accompanied us throughout our 11-day safari.
When we arrived in Kilimanjaro, our driver/guide, Julius, was there to meet us and take us to the Arusha Coffee Lodge. We had an immediate bond with him. The Arusha Coffee Lodge was beautiful and the food wonderful. We only wished we could have had a little more time to enjoy their lovely gardens.
We stayed at the new Mpingo Ridge Lemala Tented Lodge in Tarangire, The Lemala Ngorngoro, Kubu Kubu in the Central Serengeti and Kuria Hills Lemala in the Northern Serengeti. It is hard to pick a favorite as each were beautifully designed to fit seamlessly into the landscape around them. The staff at each location were so welcoming and went above and beyond to ensure we were comfortable and safe. The food and service throughout the entire trip was outstanding.
We were so impressed with our guide, Julius, who was always searching for animals, spotting the best viewpoints and anticipating their moves. We saw so many different species including all of the “Big Five” and more. My favorites are the Elephants and big cats and we saw so many, my heart was overjoyed. Julius understood my excitement for all the babies and was always maneuvering the land cruiser to get it positioned in the best possible light for them. Since we had the truck to ourselves, we were able to jump around from seat to seat whenever it was needed. So much fun!
Some of the highlights for us included watching a Leopard for 2 hrs hunt for his breakfast. There was a Reedbuck sleeping in the grass and we watched him stalk it but, alas, missed out on a meal when the Reedbuck flew just as he was pouncing. Another highlight was seeing the Great Migration and 3 river crossings. This was an amazing experience and one we will never forget. On our final day, Ellie had suggested we do the balloon ride. What a fantastic way to end our trip. There’s nothing like seeing the wildebeest and zebra from 1000 ft racing across the vast Serengeti.
We can’t thank Ellie enough for her guidance, expertise and knowledge of this wonderful area and for making this truly a trip of a lifetime!
Karen & Michael Winnick
Just WOW! We just got back from a 10 day, 4 camp safari, coordinated by Ellie - The Safari Specialist. Based locally, I was able to meet with Ellie to create the best options for us. She was always available to answer questions and provided insight so that we were properly prepared! She checked in on us during our trip which was so sweet! It was comforting to know she was looking out for us. Ellie - thank you for a trip of a lifetime! Your personal recommendations were perfect!!
Randy & I thoroughly enjoyed the Safari – it exceeded our expectations in so many ways. The foundation of the safari was the itinerary you put together and it was perfect – we wouldn’t have done anything different. We loved, loved the Lemala Nanyukie & Mpino Ridge accommodations. The location, the comfort, the people, the food were all exceptional at both lodges! The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge – the brown water was very unappealing, but the location was exceptional and I believe to keep the cost down this property was chosen over the Lemala just inside the crater? The rooms were clean and the view was amazing – food was good and the staff were very nice. The Lemala Mara was an ideal location and great staff,
The wildlife we saw every day was so breath-taking and magical – we feel so fortunate that we went to Tanzania and to their different national parks, each one was unique and special; from the elephants, giraffes, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, ostriches, gazelles, impalas and all the various smaller animals – “oh my!” We also were so excited to see two wildebeest crossings – what a sight! And even watching the wildebeests congregating – such an unimaginable event to witness.
Finally, but most important, Stephan & Raphael were so delightful – such sincere individuals and so knowledgeable. They worked very had to make sure we had the absolute best safari experience possible. After spending all those days with Stephan, we became very sentimental saying goodbye and I still do thinking about how comfortable we were with him – he was extremely professional and patient and an excellent safari guide We wish them stability and success in their careers.
If I have any friends, clients or business associates who express an interest in a Safari, I’d recommend them to go through you if you’re interested in working with others in Hawaii.
I just wanted to thank you for working with us to plan a fabulous vacation for us!
Everything worked out perfectly!
Our drivers were knowledgeable and concerned about our vacation and our well being. Loved them. And miss them...
The accommodations could not have been better! Lemala is definitely the place to stay. The food was absolutely delicious and so accommodating to our wants and needs! There was never a moment when we left hungry!
Since leaving the safari, have been talking to various people and have recommended you and the group that you book. Already my friends have been asking about the safari. They are not planning to go any time soon my but would love to have the experience that we did!
You truly made the vacation a very memorable one!!!!
Thank you so much, Ellie!!!
Cheryl & Henry - Hawaii
My wife and I recently took a 10 day safari in Tanzania that was arranged by Ellie Hill, the Safari Specialist. The trip was fabulous, everything went perfectly from the moment we arrived until our departure.
The entire staff that took care of us across the several camps we stayed at provided cheerful helpful service. The Guide that was arranged for us, Godwin, was the best guide we have experienced in several years of travel. For example, he arranged several sundowners when we least expected it. His eye was exceptional, he would spot animals such as lions and leopards that although they were right before us, we could not see them due to their camouflage. He was patient beyond words, in helping us locate an animal that we did not see right away.
If you are considering an African Safari you should talk to Ms. Hill.
Ellie was a pleasure to work with, very professional, thorough and responsive. About 7 months out, we let her know our interests, our budget, our timeframe, and she quickly pulled together an itinerary for Tanzania that included safari in the crater and Serengeti, chimp trekking at Mahale and finishing at the beach. After some minor tweaking, we had a very solid game plan, really great accommodations and all details (bush flights, transfers, etc.) worked out. The trip not only went off without a hitch, but it exceeded our wildest expectations. We lucked out with timing, as the migration literally arrived the day we got to north Serengeti, we saw multiple river crossings (including a lion kill on the Bolongonja and croc kills on the Mara), saw chimps (babies!) both days at Mahale without having to trek for hours, and even caught the “micro blood moon eclipse” while on Mnemba Island.
All our accommodations, guides and logistics were top notch, effortlessly planned and executed by Ellie in conjunction with Nomad Tanzania, and it was the trip of a lifetime (at least so far!). Our thanks and kudos to Ellie and Safari Specialist for a job well done, and I would highly recommend her to anyone looking to pull together such a logistically challenging, but incredibly rewarding, trip!
Larry Kass - Louisville KY
Family of 4 - July 2018
Ngorongoro - Serengeti - Mahale - Zanzibar
We cannot thank you enough for all of the help you provided our family while we planned and executed our family Photography Safari. Throughout the 10 month planning process, you guided us to the resorts that best suited our needs as a family of 6, arranged all transportation upon arrival to Tanzania and were gracious with your time at each of our meetings. With your experience, you knew just when we needed to be marking things off our “to do” list while we planned. With each question we had for you, (vaccinations, luggage restrictions, packing lists, and even tips on traveling with children) I appreciated a prompt and thorough response. As we approached the trip, I left the US without any questions or concerns about our logistics.
As soon as we arrived in country, Delight was at the Kilimanjaro airport ready to greet us after our long journey. From the moment we landed, we were well taken care of, first by Delight, getting us to Arusha Coffee Lodge. Your in-country partner, Mike, was very informative and graciously showed us the Arusha Cultural Center. It was the perfect way to rest from our flight and prepare for the photography safari.
I am not sure if I have the words to appropriately describe how wonderful our photography safari was. Simply put, all of my highest expectations were met by our driver, Chandy, the beauty of the country of Tanzania, the majesty of the animals and the lovely accommodations.
After our 9 day safari, I felt as though our family had gotten a special opportunity to experience all that Tanzania has to offer. We stayed at the Treetops in Tarangire, The Ngorangoro Crater Lodge, The Pioneer Camp in the Serengeti and the Four Seasons Serengeti. It is hard to pick a favorite as each were beautifully designed to fit seamlessly into the landscape around them. The staff at each location were so welcoming and went above and beyond to ensure our time at each were comfortable and fun. We all felt safe and well cared for. The food throughout the entire trip was outstanding. As a former Four Seasons employee, the Serengeti Lodge did not disappoint. It is everything a Four Seasons traveler comes to expect - the food, the rooms and the people were all perfection. Of course, the Kids Club was a welcome amenity for my young travelers!
From the first day of our safari until we boarded the plane to depart the Serengeti, our driver, Chandy was with us. He tirelessly answered questions, scouted out the best viewing spots of the animals, organized our meals and so much more. Chandy graciously engaged with our young travelers ensuring they never tired of the long jeep drives. The jeep we spent so much time in was large enough to comfortably accommodate 6 people and all of our luggage. Chandy allowed us the time to watch each group of animals as much as we cared to without allowing us to get too much off schedule. Chandy made sure we saw all of the animals we were interested in and many more we had never know about.
With all of this said, it is still not adequate to convey how special this trip was for us. Our 6 year old twins, 11 year old son, myself, my husband and my father in law will remember this trip for many years. It was 2 weeks filled with experiences we will never be able to replicate. Thank you for making this dream trip a reality for my family!
Family of 6 - December 2017
I have been to Africa 3 times and gone on 5 safaris. The safari Ellie The Safari Specialist organized for us was the best in my experience. The trip started with the desire to make my wife's first trip to Africa very special. My own experience and discussions with a dear friend who lived in Africa led to a Safari in Tanzania with an emphasis on the Serengeti. We began planning our trip with an African expert I met in a previous trip. Then Niles, my dog, met Ellie. Niles is a great judge of character and after talking with her personally at a local street fair we decided to work with Ellie
All the good things that happen flowed from that decision.
Travel experts & agents often have boilerplate trips that they promote to you. Ellie worked for us to create a custom trip that fit our needs. This included choosing the parks to visit, length of time at each park, and acommodations. All of the choices were spectacular. Placing us in the bush with privacy, style and comfort. Sights and smells during the day, Bush Melody at night. Great memories.
We ended up visiting the Tarangira National Park, the Ngorongoro crater, and the Serengeti.
She also arrange her favorite guide. He was very knowledgeable, hard working, dedicated to giving us the best experience possible. We had great animals viewing. The big five plus many many other interesting animals. Highlights included lions in a tree and a beautiful baby leopard. He was fun and became a great friend. A guide may be the most important part of the trip. He chooses what you see and in our case we were with him most of the day for 11 straight days. You would be very lucky to find such a wonderful person in a random draw. But he was no random draw with Ellie, he Ellie's friend.
Ellie's suggestion to reserve extra events such as sundowners, hikes and a hot air balloon ride in advance were also important for the trip. The sundowners are drinks and snacks on top of a hill at sundown. A beautiful Grace note in our experience. We also did a night safari, many different animals and different behaviors .We were extremely lucky in the Serengeti to come across the return migration. The plane was full of animals the day off our hot air balloon ride.
Ellie was also responsive and helpful in promptly an accurately all the little questions that came up as the trip neared. This support even continued when we got to Tanzania.
We had a trip of a lifetime made possible by Ellie, her effort, her knowledge. and expertise.
Curt & Vicki Kehr Keller. Texas
Our Tanzania safari was an amazing experience! We booked our safari through Ellie at The Safari Specialist. She was very knowledgeable of all the parks, camps, and guides. Ellie and Helen did a great job of putting together an itinerary that accommodated our 12 days in Tanzania. We safaried in Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti. Each park had an amazing amount of animals. Our guide, Rafael, was an encyclopedia of knowledge regarding the animals, ecosystems, and culture. Rafael always had a smile and knew exactly were the animals would be. We enjoyed daily game drives, 2 guided walks, wonderful food, and breathtaking views. I cannot say enough about the hospitality at the camps we stayed. The staff were very gracious, courteous, and accommodating to all of their guest. I am so glad we booked our trip through Safari Specialist. They had our trip planned from the moment we arrived. We did not have to do one thing, except relax and enjoy the trip!
Stephanie Martin and Mark Goheen TX
"The SAFARI SPECIALIST worked months with our small group to get to know each of us and make this trip the trip of a Lifetime for each of us. Most of us are world travelers and we agreed this was the Five Star trip!
We are four adventuresome middle-aged gals! We spent almost 2 weeks in Tanzania and especially the Serengeti, and would like to share the awesome trip we shared. Finding a starting spot is the hardest because every turn was exciting beyond belief! Our first encounter was with an aggressive baboon that was desperate for our “red bananas”. They are very interesting to watch – from a distance!
Your immediate thought of Africa is wildlife, Elephants, those long-legged Giraffes, Monkeys, Wildebeest migration, Gazelles, Cape Buffalo, Waterbucks, Lions, Cheetahs, Dik Dik, and so many, many more! Also some of the most unusual birds we had ever seen! Our cameras were brimming full with pictures of exotic birds, waterfowl, and the breathtaking multicolored Lilac Breasted Roller, yellow colored Love Birds. It seemed like the birds knew we were coming and they always displayed themselves in the foliage and treetops. Our guide was always ready to stop if we hollered “bird”.
Mentioning our guide, Rafael, he was attentive of all our needs, provided us with information on all the animals, trees, environment, farming, economics, extensive history and culture. We were taken back with all our questions he could answer with no hesitation!
Let’s talk about our camps! With Safari Specialist, you are guaranteed to have the best camping experience, with tent camping that is “environmentally friendly”. Natives of Africa, provide healthy meals served with enticing appearance and titillating to the taste buds. Meals were always precisely prepared and served hot. All the staff working with the camps are trained, pleasant and willing to offer their services immediately if requested. They also prepared picnic meals for us when in the “bush” every day. Our camps were open and unfenced which ensured us an opportunity to connect with nature every day and night. We enjoyed having “sun downers” at night around the campfires and exchanging sighting stories with other Safari guests.
Everything was perfect! We are recommending the Safari Specialist to everyone we see. Thank you Ellie and Rafael for a Flawless, Pristine, and Superb first Safari.
Susie Burnett, Lisa Hughes, TX. Debbie O’Neill, FL. Cathy Kehoe, CA May 2017
"This was our second trip to Africa and it was the best by far. We used our normal travel agent for the first trip, who had never been to Africa. The second trip we used Ellie, who actually lived in Tanzania, where we had our safari.One of the greatest parts of our trip was our guide, Rafael who was with us for the ten days we were in the bush. Rafael grew up in the bush as part of the Maasai Tribe. He was very familiar with the area and wildlife we were so anxious to see and photograph.
The other major part of a trip to Africa is the camps that you stay in. Since Ellie lived there she had visited most of the camps my wife, two daughters and I stayed in. Until you go to Africa and visit the camps, you can’t imagine how incredible these camps are. They are beautifully decorated and comfortable; they serve delicious meals, and have complete bars and amazing staff. The crown jewel of our trip to Tanzania besides the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, where we managed to see the big five was the Crater Lodge. With its old world British style, it was easily one of the most unique & stunning places we have ever stayed.
We ended our stay in the Tanzania with a tearful goodbye to Rafael, who is a must if you decide to go. From there we winged our way to Zanzibar for a week on the beach. Ellie arranged for us to stay at Kilindi where we were greeted by Dusten and Kaila who managed it, and our private butler, Salim. We had two villas with gorgeous ocean views, two splash pools, amazing bedrooms and this was a first for us, a private open air bathroom and shower. It was awesome.
Ellie, as a gift to our family, arranged for a sunset meal and drinks at a rooftop restaurant overlooking Stone town, as the call to prayer wailed in the background.
Ellie arranged an amazing trip for my family and me, her selection of camps and their locations allowed us to experience the ancient culture of the Maasai, hike down into a crater with an armed escort, float over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon all the while enjoying the assortment of animals we came to see. If you want to scratch that trip to Africa off your bucket list I highly recommend letting Ellie guide you “to your trip of a lifetime”."
- Michael Millen
McKinney, Texas June 2016
"We had Africa on our bucket list but honestly weren't planning anything in the short term. We were so lucky to meet The Safari Specialist by walking into her stand, at Southlake Oktoberfest. After talking to Elllie and seeing her pictures the perspective changed, we had a couple of very professional meeting in which she understood our preferences, Ellie developed the ideal plan; I say this because then it was just a itinerary, now after following all her recommendations I can say all worked perfect it was an unforgettable and incomparable experience.
She really knows her business. We are very thankful and keep going around and around the 100s of amazing pictures."
- JC & Maribel Jimenez Feb 2017
"Our safari to Tanzania was absolutely stunning; from the amazing wildlife and gorgeous wilderness to the wonderful luxury camps we stayed in. Our guide was so much fun and full of knowledge and the whole trip was seamless and beautifully planned by Ellie. We will carry the memories with us for a lifetime and hopefully will be planning another trip to see more of this amazing country that we have fallen in love with – Thank you Ellie!"
Amanda and Tom Wilkins
(Oliver’s Camp, The Highlands, Dunia Camp)
"What a dream come true and priceless experience to share with my parents and children – 3 generations on safari. We saw so many animals and experienced so many wonders of nature together. Tarangire Safari Lodge, Gibb’s Farm and Ewanjan Camp were just perfect, the staff so friendly. So many beautiful moments! Thank you for putting together such a special family trip – I can’t say enough!"
"I loved Tanzania. My favorite part was when the elephant baby stopped and wiggled its trunk at us, then the mommy did a rumbly noise and pushed it away and when the lion did a big yawn and showed us his teeth. Sleeping in a tent was really fun and we made a desk for the school and took it there. I wish I could go back there tomorrow.
Andrew (age 10)
"We have just returned from the most unreal adventure planned for us by Ellie. We started in Tarangire, then Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Mahale Mountains and finished with 5 days on Zanzibar (heaven on Earth). We stayed in incredible camps everywhere – Ngorongoro Crater Lodge was unreal. This was absolutely the way to do it. I am so glad we did not do a group tour and went with a private guide and custom itinerary. Ellie planned the perfect trip for us – it has been on our bucket list for so long and after retiring from teaching we decided to go ahead and do it. I am so glad we found you."
Betty and Bill Mathers