Thomson Safaris’ staffer, Gabriela traveled to Tanzania in March. Read about her experiences joining a family safari for wildlife viewing in Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park.
I love animals. It was apparent as early as pre-school when my class awarded me with the “animal lover” award. Other awards given out that day included “best sharer” and “most creative,” but I knew I got the best one. It was a dream of mine to become a veterinarian some day and be the person they called in for a lion’s broken tooth at the San Diego Zoo, despite my extreme cat allergy. Lions have different dander, right?
In any case, fast forward 20-something years and I’m still passionate about animals (don’t tell the other staffers, but the office dogs like me the best)! ; -) When I began working at Thomson Safaris, I realized my dream of traveling to Africa and seeing all the animals I had grown up fawning over was coming closer to fruition.
I joined a Tanzania Family Safari and traveled with a family from San Francisco; a couple and their eight-year-old daughter. The four of us had a huge Land Rover and Arthur, our stellar guide, all to ourselves. Arthur was amazing: with over 10 years of guiding experience behind him, this man could spot a leopard in a tree from seemingly impossible distances. He was also a wealth of knowledge about Tanzania’s wildlife, history, politics, healthcare system, educational system, and tribes. He kept everyone engaged, including our youngest traveler, and always had a fun and interesting tidbit to add to any conversation.
I should also note Arthur (more than) accommodated my request to see an elephant! I told him it was an animal I have always dreamed of seeing in person; in fact, I sometimes watch the live feed from San Diego Zoo just to catch glimpses of the population they have in captivity. When we found our first elephant, it was less than 10 feet from me…it was magical! I never realized it before, but elephants are surprisingly quiet. It took all my self-restraint to not reach out and touch them.
The endpoint of our hike through Arusha National Park was this waterfall – it seemed to come up out of nowhere! It was great to cool off in the mist and have a quick rest in this gorgeous little alcove.
Breathtaking. I could have sat in this spot for hours, watching this lone elephant make his way down the riverbed. The landscape and sky made for a dramatic background to this majestic creature’s journey.
Charge! In Tarangire National Park, this lone, male elephant was in charge of the road. He made us stop and go around while he maintained his slow, steady trek. He was absolutely MASSIVE.
I wish I could have stayed at Gibb’s Farm forever! This view was stunning. There’s certainly something to be said for sipping a glass of wine overlooking acres upon acres of coffee plants in the most lush and verdant setting imaginable.
This baby hyena was exploring on his own while his parents looked on from a good distance away. He was very curious about our vehicle and stopped to let me catch a few good photos.
“WOW” is all can say about my hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. Getting up before sunrise was well worth it for this amazing experience. We saw hyenas, zebras, and even a cheetah before our Serengeti bush breakfast.
These young elephants were very interested in us. They kept raising their noses in the air to check us out, almost as if they were asking “Hey! What’cha doing here?” I had no idea an elephant could be so tiny!
Our nature walk at Thomson Safaris’ Private Nature Refuge was a great way to spend the afternoon. Our Maasai guide led us across amazing landscapes where we learned a great deal about the flora and fauna in the area.
This little jackal was catching a late afternoon drink in the Serengeti.
My Nyumba: my home away from home at Thomson Safaris’ Private Nature Refuge. I truly loved this area and everything about it. My tent was more luxurious than some hotels I’ve stayed in and the staff was INCREDIBLE.
There were so many giraffes at Thomson Safaris’ Private Nature Refuge during our morning hike; what you don’t see in the photo is another 30 or so giraffes grazing around me. While on this hike, we also passed by wildebeest, zebras, and dik-diks.
I was very excited to join a family safari and have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the dynamics behind a family trip versus one of our scheduled adult itineraries. Oftentimes people call in and ask if family trips are “too kiddie” for teenagers and adults: the answer is “no way!” Everyone had an amazing time on this trip. For our young traveler, there was always an option for familiar/kid-friendly meal in the event she wasn’t up for trying a new dish. The camp staff went above and beyond to play games with her and keep her involved, but we all ended up joining in to play Frisbee and board games until the sun set.
One of the most common questions I get from guests is “When is the best time to be on safari?” and now I truly understand why everyone thinks that their safari was the best safari! I was there in March, at the end of the green season. The landscape was stunning. There were baby animals EVERYWHERE. There were a couple of hotter days (I love the heat, so I was happy), but driving around with the roof popped up was ideal. The nights were perfect and by the third night I was used to the sounds of hyenas calling to each other across the plains and got some of the best sleep I’ve had in ages. You truly are sleeping out in the middle of the bush!
Tanzania is an amazing country and I cannot wait to go back. The people, the wildlife, and the sheer awesomeness of the landscape will leave you with a desperate need to return. Two weeks wasn’t enough… and I didn’t even get to southern Tanzania yet!