There are some people who come into your life and remain in your heart forever.
Those are the sentiments shared by all who ever met Phanuel Saimon, longtime guide for Thomson Safaris, loving father, and friend to so many. His colleagues and friends in the Boston and Arusha offices were devastated to learn of his sudden passing in June 2016 at the age of 47. He is survived by his wife, along with three children, aged 21, 17, and 11.
Phanuel started working at Thomson in 1994. During his many years as a safari guide, he was able to touch the lives of people from all corners of the world, not only opening their eyes to the treasures of Tanzania, but also becoming a friend.
Upon hearing the sad news, staff members and former guests shared loving messages in honor of Phanuel. Many also asked if there was anything they could do to help his wife and children.
We’ve included some of those messages here, and we hope you will join us in honoring his memory by making a gift today to help support his family.
“We will all remember Phanuel as a kind and gentle guide who cared deeply about making sure his safari guests were happy, well informed and educated about the wildlife and peoples of Tanzania. He loved his work, and hundreds and hundreds of safari guests loved having him as their guide. Our visits to Tanzania, our lunches at the staff canteen, and the time spent in the bush will seem emptier without his presence.”
– Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland, Co-founders, Thomson Safaris
“It was impossible not to like Phanuel! One flash of that shy smile, and you immediately felt you were in the presence of a trusted friend. Warm, humble, gentle, kind – these adjectives came up over and over again in our guest evaluations and accurately reflected who he was. He will be dearly missed by so many…”
– Ina Steinhilber, General Manager, Thomson Safaris
Phanuel and guide Mustapha, 2014
“Phanuel was amazing. He was one of the kindest, most genuine, open, and caring people I have ever met. He loved his kids dearly and visited them at school every chance he got. He had a smile that could light up a room and a laugh that put everyone at ease. We have lost a gem. Truly.”
– Eliza Hatch, Operations Manager, Thomson Safaris
“Phanuel was kind, welcoming, and he was a fantastic guide. But most of all, he was a gentle soul. He always made things seem effortless and easy – hakuna matata! And that smile…his smile could light up the entire Ngorongoro Crater.”
– Ali Riley, Senior Designer, Thomson Safaris
Tickle attack by guests Joselyn and Rosa, 2006
“I had heard of Phanuel’s legendary smile and kindness for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 when I was able to finally experience it for myself while out on safari. I met Phanuel outside the camp at Kogakuria (he was leading another group that was traveling parallel to mine) and was greeted with a huge smile and big hug. It all became immediately clear to me why people loved him so much. He will be dearly missed.”
– Andrew Doherty, Accounts Manager, Thomson Safaris
“After just touching down in Tanzania for my safari, I met Phanuel. He greeted me at the airport with a big, welcoming smile and I immediately felt at ease with him. I was nearly bursting with excitement just to be there, and having Phanuel as my first impression of the staff was such a gift. I’ve read a lot of guest feedback about Phanuel since then and it’s clear he had a wonderful way of making you feel instantly comfortable. You just knew you were going to have such a fun learning experience with him at the helm.”
– Megan Murphy, Guest Relations, Thomson Safaris
Phanuel with Coulter family, 2014
“I am absolutely positive you hear this same song after every customer spends time with Phanuel. In all the tours over all the years, I have never met a guy like him. The guy is a prince. From the moment he shook our hands, we knew life was going to be great. His knowledge from years of service with the company he loves so darn much, his love of his job, and his professionalism made it really special. I knew we were safe as long as Phanuel was at the wheel. He actually puts off a vibe that is calming and really makes the trip special. What a guy. Can’t say enough. I wish he was my next door neighbor.”
– Jim Coker, Thomson guest
“Phanuel is a MAJOR asset to Thomson. He was engaging, friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive. He knew just when to lead and also when to step back and let us enjoy with him in the background. By the end of the trip, he felt less like a guide and more like a member of our group (albeit a much more knowledgeable one!) I cannot imagine wanting more from a guide.”
– Jeremy Z., Thomson guest
“Phanuel’s knowledge of the entire spectrum of areas visited was impressive. He was highly professional, patient, well-mannered, and clearly enjoyed his job. He related terrifically – sharing exciting and enjoyable stories about prior safaris. It was great to hear about his daughter’s progress in school.”
– Art and Louise W., Thomson guest
“So sad to hear this. He made my safari in February special and took good care of me as I was traveling alone.”
– Kathy Trent, Thomson guest
Phanuel with Museum of Science trip leaders Ken Pauley and Lucy, and guide Samson, 2010
“Phanuel was a wonderful guide and gentle presence. 17 years later, his effect is still keenly felt, half way across the world. He will not be forgotten.”
– Jane Meyer, Thomson guest
“We are saddened to hear of his passing… we shared special moments with him on our two safaris with him. We were hoping to see him again on our next trip… He truly enjoyed his time sharing his country with us and we will never forget him…”
– Lee Ann Carvalho, Thomson guest
Phanuel with Simonson family and guide John Urio, 2014
“Phanuel was my guide last summer, and he was a professional and caring host. He was an amazing man and a gifted guide. He was polished, professional and extremely knowledgeable. He could not be stumped with any questions of what we were seeing, and he handled our anxiousness of “can you get closer?” and “will we see this animal?” with calmness and humor. He kept us on track to make sure we were able to have a full and memorable trip. He will be missed. Thank you for having him on your team, he was an amazing guide and a good person.”
– Shelby Elliott, former Thomson guest