Advisory Board

Meet the Thomson Advisory Board! These enthusiastic past travelers help us fine-tune our trips to make your safari experiences even more unforgettable. They also help us spread the word about Thomson's life-changing safaris. We're so grateful for their input, and we're proud to have them as part of the Thomson family!

Matthew Belk

Born in Richmond, VA; I now live in Alpharetta, GA

Something unexpected:

I need 15 more hours to qualify for my private pilot’s license. 

Most memorable meal: 

Dinner al fresco on a small terrace at a trattoria in Cinque Terra, Italy. Fresh fish served with views of the Mediterranean Sea. 

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I’d choose: 

Australia. Botswana and the Okavango Delta a very close second.      

Paige Benigno

Born in Chestnut Hill, PA; I now live in Locust, NJ

Something unexpected: 

I'm an equestrian and have a horse I ride 5 days a week

Most memorable meal:

La Tour d'Argent in Paris. Expected a touristy experience but it wasn't, it was so special.  We even got a private tour of their wine cellar at the end of our meal!

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Egypt if safety wasn't a concern. Russia would be my second choice. 

Lee Ann Carvalho

Born in Newburyport, MA; I now live in Nashua, NH (for 22 years)

Global travel: 

I've been to about 70 countries. I was in Yugoslavia and East Germany but they do not exist anymore...

Most memorable meal:

At a BP gas station in Adana, Turkey; the shish kebab and the long flat loaves of bread with different spreads were all amazing!

Something unexpected:

I worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the nuclear compartments of submarines scanning for radiation.

Justin Christian

Born in Elk Grove Village, IL and I currently live in Boston

Something unexpected:

I enjoy cuckoo clocks and have two of them in my apartment

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

Southeast Asia or Germany

Most memorable meal:

At our resort on Zanzibar, the hotel staff set up a special honeymoon dinner for my wife and me on the beach. A small band sang for us while we ate.

Nicole L. Cicogna

Born and raised in the Bronx, NYC

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

New Zealand and Australia

How many countries have you been to?

I left North America for the first time last year, but I've now been to 7 countries.

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Life-changing

Keith Coulter

Born in Philadelphia, PA and I now live in Storrs, CT

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Nepal (bucket list) with stop-off in Kauai (Hanalei, please) on the way back

Something unexpected: 

I can ride a unicycle. This often pays off when travelling through the toll booths on the Mass Pike because they only charge me for one axle.

Most memorable meal: 

Lunch at a B&B in Kaikoura, New Zealand. The ambience was unbelievable. Orchids on our plates. Fantastic wine. Very relaxed. Beautiful scenery.

June Cunningham

Born in Detroit and I have always lived within 30 miles of where I was born

Global travel:

My last count of countries visited is 185 (Editor's note - Amazing!)

Something unexpected: 

I may look like a grandmother who sits in her rocking chair and knits. No...I do amazing things: shark cage diving, white rhino expeditions on foot, zip lining, I sit with grizzly bears 2 ft from my boots, etc. 

Most memorable meal:

Eating Guinea pig in Peru

Michelle Doherty

I'm a local girl. I've lived in Watertown, MA (also home to Thomson Safaris) my whole life.

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Hands down to Volcanes National Park in Rwanda to see the gorillas and where Diane Fosse did her work!

Something unexpected: 

I love to travel for pleasure but hate traveling for work!

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Life-changing and perspective-altering (ok, maybe that's 4)

Michael Edwards

Born in Colorado and I currently live in the Denver metro area

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

Tanzania! We only saw a small portion of the country, the wildlife preserves/parks and the people on our amazing trip last year. And a stop in Rwanda to see the great apes.

Most memorable meal:

Breakfast with the family under a lone, umbrella-like Acacia tree in the middle of the tall Serengeti grasslands after a sunrise balloon trip

Something unexpected:

I've been on two trips in the Pacific Ocean in a two-person research mini-sub. One trip was to ~180' deep, the second ~740'. The trips were in conjunction with a study of California rock fish.

Ruth Fogler

Born in Grosse Point, MI, grew up in Brooklyn and I now live in Orrington, ME

Something unexpected:

I am a retired Emergency Physician who loves to play jazz piano and bird watch

Two words that best describe my safari experience:

Game changer

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

India to see tigers, elephants and birds

Kathy Gaines

Born in Newton, MA and I now live in Hudson, NH

Something unexpected:

I have been on 11 safaris with Thomson and hope to live there in the near future 

Global travel:

I have been to 6 countries and have lived in England and Italy

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Carefree and exciting

Chuck Kabat

From Detroit and I now live in the Boston suburb of Dedham, MA

Most memorable meal: 

Field lunch in the Serengeti - a delicious meal freshly prepared by our crew. The food, location and opportunity to share this with my family and outstanding guide Caz make this a highlight not only of our trip, but of my life!

Something unexpected: 

I find peace in tinkering and gardening around my home, my own small corner of the world, a patch of earth I can protect and nurture for my family, community and self.

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

The Great Barrier Reef – similar to Ngorongoro Crater, there are places on our earth that need to be experienced in person.

Colleen Kill

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  I now live in Southern California in Simi Valley.

Something unexpected:

Incredibly shy when I was very young, I barely talked and couldn’t attend kindergarten I was so traumatized around kids I didn’t know. I ended up in a sales career, have tons of friends, love to travel and am very outgoing.

Most memorable meal:

At the top of the Tour de Eiffel in Paris at the Jules Verne restaurant overlooking Paris at night. FABULOUS meal (although I had no idea what I was eating because I could not read French.) It was picture perfect.

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

South America and then on to Antarctica

David Kotz

Born in England and I now live in Lyme, NH

Something unexpected: 

I broke my neck while bodysurfing in Fiji

Most memorable meal: 

A relaxed lunch at a vineyard in Portugal that lasted all afternoon

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Either back to Kilimanjaro or to the eastern Himalaya in Nepal and India

Dorothy Linn

Born in Manila, Phillipines and I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

The South Pacific Islands, including Easter Island

Something unexpected: 

I was a child prodigy in concert piano

Most memorable meal: 

Opera theatre dinner in Beijing, China

Cheryl Messinger

Born in Omaha, NE and I now live in Longmont, CO

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

Definitely back to Africa! 

Something unexpected:

I help save abandoned, homeless and feral cats with a local non-profit in Longmont                          

Two words that best describe my safari experience:

Absolutely unforgettable

Jane Moore

Born in Long Beach, CA and I now live in Corona, CA

Global travel:

I've been to 29 countries

Something unexpected: 

If I could do one thing for which I have not been trained/educated, I would be either a bush pilot/doctor or an FBI agent preventing and investigating animal poaching and illegal trade.

Most memorable meal:

Monkey brains in Singapore -- not pleasantly memorable

Debbie Orth

Born in Cincinnati and I now live in South Euclid, OH

Something unexpected:

I am afraid to fly over water. My trip to Tanzania was a feat as I crossed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Now I would fly over water anytime to go back to Tanzania. 

Most memorable meal: 

Hands down at Gibb's Farm in Karatu, Tanzania. The food was amazing.

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Botswana

Leah Ann Root

Born in New Richmond, Wisconsin and I now live in La Quinta, California

Global travel: 

I've been to 41 countries, some multiple times

Most memorable meal: 

How could anything be more memorable than dining with Thomson at one of their camps and having all suddenly go quiet as we listened to the roar of a lion close by!

Something unexpected: 

I would have never expected that our school visit on safari would affect me like it did. I was brought to tears as many children had uniforms that were worn and shoes that did not exactly fit, yet they were all so happy to share their culture, sing, dance and interact with us.  

Pete Rubin

Born in NYC; 25 year resident of Cleveland

Global travel:

I've been to at least 25 countries and all 7 continents

Post-safari adventures: 

Beyond the Northern circuit: Ruaha & Katavi National Parks, Selous Game Reserve, Rwanda gorilla trekking, Mahale chimp trekking and Zanzibar!

Two words that best describe my safari experience:   

 Emotional and Awesome

Alex Schluntz

I was born and currently live in Long Island, NY

Something unexpected: 

I am 19 and my goal is to become a veterinarian. My ultimate dream is to work in Africa and care for species that are at risk due to poaching. 

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

I would love to combine Botswana and Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. I still need to check off Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Congo and Namibia from my African list. 

Most memorable meal:

A homemade pasta and freshly baked bread that my family from Sicily made while admiring the lovely wine fields Italy is known for. 


Eric Shapiro

Born in Brooklyn, NY and I now live in Mashpee on Cape Cod in MA 

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

Antarctica

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Joe and Guy (two of my sons—best traveling companions ever)

Global travel: 

I've been to 64 countries

Gretchen Shubrooks

Born in Minneapolis and I now live in Waban, MA

Most Memorable Meal:

A dumpling restaurant in Xi'an, where we had at least 20 different courses. Most were dumplings and each with a different filling. At the end, a whole fish.

Something unexpected: 

I was 45 before the travel bug hit, before then I'd only been to England once.

Global travel: 

39 and still traveling

Debbie Stowers

Born in Gary, IN and I now live in Pinehurst, NC 

If I could go anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose: 

The rain forests of Borneo

Something unexpected:

I can trumpet like an elephant and my friends say it's almost indistinguishable from the real thing

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Awe-inspiring paradise

Anna Strout

Born in Stoughton, MA and I now live in Cape Elizabeth, ME 

Something unexpected?

I was a competitive powerlifter when I was 19 and 20, setting records in Maine.  My family likes to claim (incorrectly) that I am the strongest woman in Maine.

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

New Zealand

Two words that best describe my safari experience: 

Expansive and fulfilling

Lynn Sutinen

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada and I still live there

If I could travel anywhere all expenses paid, I'd choose:

I would travel all over the world and include Africa to see more of the continent. I would like to see Tanzania in November when everything is green and am planning to go back soon.

Something unexpected: 

People probably would not think I am so adventurous but I am and I like doing things that sometimes have an element of danger (and usually include signing a waiver.)

Two words that best describe my safari experience:

Take your pick: breathtakingly beautiful, awesome wildlife, or although three words, “best trip ever!! as all in our group agreed.