Safari Information

My 5 minutes of fame.

That's me on TV! My 5 minutes of fame.  
Great Day Houston had a Father's Day segment and I was asked to share how being on Safari would be an amazing Father's Day gift. Debra Duncan, the host was really easy to chat with and asked a few spontaneous questions such as shopping for Tanzanite in Tanzania and how Africa gets a bad reputation. I wish I had more time; I was having a blast chatting with her and sharing about Safaris in Tanzania.

So if you want my autograph, I am happy to oblige. :) Or get me back on TV. I am up for talking Safaris in Tanzania.  

Slow Travel on Safari.

If lucky, one of the feelings you will experience on Safari is the slow pace. A wonderful feeling, really!

There is a sense of routine that forms on Safari.  Since the staff will take care of everything for you, it allows the luxury of this relaxed, laid back feeling to sink in so you can really take in the incredible, natural surroundings. For example, you have your day planned by your guide and Safari lodge [thanks to all the planning you and I will do before you get to the ground], you are 'driven around' in your Safari vehicle, meals taken care off, activities arranged, etc. You can allow yourself to surrender in these wonderful places. You are detoxing from the hustle bustle of your day-to-day.

 Dip in Lake Tanganyika, after a trek to see the chimps. Photo taken by Julien Polet, the manager of Greystoke Mahale at the time. 

Dip in Lake Tanganyika, after a trek to see the chimps. Photo taken by Julien Polet, the manager of Greystoke Mahale at the time. 

Three ways to enhance that for yourself.

Take time to enjoy the park.
To really get the feel of the park or a corner of the park, make sure to settle in. Unpack your bags and spend at least 2 nights in each of our lovely lodges so you can really sink in that vastness of the terrain you have the privilege to explore. Most of the parks in Tanzania and other countries in Africa are huge. Give yourself time to dig deep into the park and you too will start feeling like you are 'at home'.

Decompressing takes time; stay at least 8-9 days.
I may not be too far from the truth when I say our lives are on the run. Whether you are a family with young or adult kids, a couple, or even retired, we travel to escape. The first few days on Safari, you are still getting in the groove of how to relax ... or at least that is what most of us feel. Then we slowly start putting the phone away longer and are not craving for wi-fi. Your body is learning to relax. The game drives start become more enjoyable; you are decompressing. One of the reasons you are taking a Safari right?  

Friendships.
The longer you spend time with your guide, the lodge crew, the other travelers you will meet on Safari, your family and friends, the deeper the connections that will start to form. So much fun if you can open up and chat with your Safari mates.

One of my favorite things on Safari is to chat with the guide and lodge crew. Tanzania has over 100 tribes and each one has an amazing story to tell. My Lost in Translation blog post came from my time chatting with these knowledgable guides. I still keep in touch with many of them. They have taught me a lot.

My Tanzania with Mefi Safaris have been that - amazing experiences which have created lifelong friendships because we have had 10+ days together and we continue to travel together.

 Evening game drive in Ruaha. You can't help but appreciate the vastness, the silence, the unknown. 

Evening game drive in Ruaha. You can't help but appreciate the vastness, the silence, the unknown. 

The #traveldeeper hashtag - that's what we want you to achieve. If you can afford to give yourself the time and depth of slow travel, do it!

I look forward to being on Safari [or any trip] so I can slow down the pace of life.
Ready to enjoy some slow travel time on Safari? We can make it happen.

Trekking Tips for Mahale Mountains from Greystoke.

I have rubbed shoulders with chimps. Yup, I rubbing shoulders with no other than a male chimp called Christmas, who lightly whacked me with a twig [no harm was done] - what an unforgettable present. 

sally_and_i.jpg

To successfully hike the mountains, I have some tips for you [in no particular order] especially for amateur hikers like me. Tips collected from personal experience and collected from other experienced hikers. Rain and sleek or dry, these should come in handy. 

// Wicking clothing.
It is hot and humid in the mountains. Having moisture-wicking clothing was more comfortable but on the day I did not wear that fabric, I was drenched. Not a deal killer for me but if you are sensitive to sweating, definitely look into moisture-wicking clothing - you can use it for your Safari as well. 

// Raincoat. 
Greystoke Mahale provides a poncho but for a smaller person like me, I found myself tripping on the way up and down the mountain. Having my own rain jacket would have been more comfortable. I do have to say that the poncho did cover my camera packed back-pack when it was raining hard so if you do take a raincoat, see if it will cover you and your back-pack. Or stick with the poncho.

// Gaiters.
When Sally said she was getting this, I was not 100% convinced I should get the gaiters but I am glad I did. It kept my socks very dry. Which leads me to then next must item ...

// Waterproof hiking shoes  - if you can.
I had Columbia Peakfreak hiking shoes and I could not have been more comfortable. They gave me traction, kept my feet dry and kept me blister free. I wore mine with Smart Wool socks. Happy hiker here.

// Camera solution.
A fellow trekker could not use his lens because of moisture. Make sure you have a water proof protection / backpack for your camera on the climb - he had it around his neck, and making sure you have a good seal for your lens + camera. Have a back-up as well if you can. 

Another personal note - I lost my lens cap on the mountains and some chimp is playing with that. In the fluster of climbing up fast, setting up the camera quickly, etc., I dropped my lens cap and realized too late. Note to self - secure your lens cap with a cord. 

// Camera Tip.
Learn your camera. Have it set for the quick shooting in low light and definitely know your settings if you are planning on using manual. The camp manager and guides like Butati at the camp were helpful with suggestions. It is dark, humid, and the chimps can be 5 ft. away to 50 ft. so what type of lens to carry is the million dollar question.  I had my 70-300 mm lens and used my iPhone for the close-ups.

// Other trekking notes.
- Energy bars and sweet bananas were provided by Greystoke Mahale - they really helped with giving the group a nice boost on the trek.
- Bring extra cash. There were other people besides our guides who took care of us like the trekkers who start early to find the chimps and Tanzanian government rangers.
- Self care items like for blisters, scratches from the forest, balm for the hard trek. 

trek_two_group.jpg

Anything else we can add to these tips?
Besides these few tips, do make sure you are fit to make this trek. It can be long and steep up the mountain, and you truly want to enjoy the whole experience.

And let me tell you, it has been one of the best experiences of my life!

Lost in Translation.

On Safari, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your guide, your new friend. This person comes from a different culture, different background, does not know you, your personality yet he will work hard to show you a great time. That is his goal and our repeat clients are a testament to how hard they work to make it happen.

Be open and patient with things that can get lost in translation.

africansafari

My guide Makubi from Dunia Camp in Central Serengeti was telling me his Wakuria tribe culture was not to look in the eye when talking. That is a sign of aggression. He would never do that in his village with his elders or peers. In our western culture, if you don’t look in the eye when talking, you are rude. The dilemma. He adapted.

Reuben is a Maasai. A proud warrior whose Maasai blanket [his tribal clothing] would peek from his sleeve. He said wearing the clothing reminded him of his heritage. He would sit with us for dinner and share some good stories of his people, wildlife, Tanzania, etc. When we were served polenta with our lamp chop, he would be polite and have small bites but I have a feeling after our meal, he would head to the kitchen and prepare his own local food.

They go through lots of training so they can understand our western sensibility and adapt for our comfort. To be fair, be open to a different culture. Don’t get offended with what may not translate to our culture.  Talk. You will learn from your new friend when on Safari.

Isn’t that part of the adventure of traveling to another place?

A Typical Day on Safari.

Everyday is a different day on Safari. No agendas; just you and your Safari guide making plans on what to see, where to go, how long to be out, and more. Here are guidelines to navigate your day on an African Safari.

Serengeti breakfast Tanzania

Morning.
For the most part, I'd say on Safari, waking up early should be the norm even if you are not a morning person. Why? Sunrise. This time of the day is truly glowing. 

Your wake-up call can be any where from 6:00 am onwards.

1. You can decide to have breakfast at the lodge. Enjoy coffee in your room, then head to the main area. Majority of the Safari lodges in the national parks have a deck looking out at the park. Enjoy the sunrise while eating breakfast.  
2. Start around 6:30 am and go out looking for wildlife in the early morning, when the sun is lighting up the African soil. Have breakfast around 8:30 -9:00 am [or when your stomach calls for food] in the middle of the national park. This should be your choice at least once or twice in each national park.

serengeti safari tanzania

Afternoon.
Depending when you have started, you will have two choices. 

1. Stay out for lunch in the parks. If you have stayed in for breakfast, go out and stay out for a bit longer. There are many picnic spot your guide will take you or in some cases, you will eat in the car while watching the rhino crawl or in the middle of the Wildebeest Migration.
You can come back to the Safari lodge at your own leisure for your afternoon siesta.

2. Come back for lunch at the Safari lodge. If you have been out from early morning, this can be an option. And if you want, squeeze in an outdoor shower when the sun is out. 

sundowner, tarangire, tanzania

Late afternoon / Evening.

Around 3:30 - 4:00 pm, you will be heading out again if you have been in the Safari Lodge. Go out to capture the evening golden hour. If you've had enough for the day, stay back. There are no rules. 

You will be out and about until 6:30 pm, stretching it to 7:00 pm before you have to return back. Many a rush drive back have been had as you want to soak in every last light on Safari.
Also, this is the time for sundowners. The time you park your vehicle, enjoy a drink while watching the glorious sunset in Africa. You will pinch yourself, you are on Safari.

story time tarangire

Night-time.

Pure cozy. Campfire, Safari stories by the camp manager or staff + dinner.
Some stories that have to be heard like this Maasai warrior telling us about his right of passage by hunting lions. Keep an open mind - it's not all black and white, lots of grey, lots of changes that need to be made, lots of traditional ways that have to alter, lots of cultural stories that need a new course - listen. 

In the end, you decide your travel style. Some clients want to be out all day; they want to soak every minute of being on Safari. Others want to relax a bit more; have all meals or more meals at the lodge and go out on game drive at leisure. 

Whatever your style, you will love your day on Safari. 

Gift Guide for the Safari Goer.

It's that time of year when you when you want to get yourself or your loved one some thoughtful gifts. If you are going on a Safari or a Safari aficionado, here are some ideas that I can personally vouch for. 

Seeking Information - my personal favorites:

  • Beat About The Bush - This field guide tells you a story about the wildlife and birds. Things like 'do elephants have good memories?' to 'why do lions have manes?'. Fun Facts. 
  • Lion Share - David Bygott is one of the most recognized Safari guides. He and his wife wrote this book about the lion prides' saga in Serengeti giving them a human-like voice. 
  • The Birds of East Africa - give birds a chance. Once you start paying attention to birds, you will be hooked. Coo Coo. 
safari photography

Photography:
My favorite hobby.  I have moved on from being a hobbyist to amateur, ahem, and one of my favorite gifts to myself has been my camera.

If you or your partner are looking into buying a DSLR and are new to the camera game, I would recommend:

  • a Canon T7i, a good starter DSLR camera. 
  • If you know you are going to use your camera often, get my current crop body Canon 70D or full body Canon 6D
  • Want the mother-load camera? Then go all out for the Canon 5DMarkIII

And don't forget camera lens. There are so many options out there, but if you can get a zoom lens with at least 300 mm, you will be happy with your photographs.  For my next Tanzania with Mefi Safari, I plan on getting the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens. 

If you want to do a good point and shoot, my client Natalie got the Canon Powershot. She had some great photographs and videos with this compact camera.

The other option is renting camera body and lens. Photo Rental Source is my go to place in Houston and they ship nationwide.

Binoculars:
After a day or two on a game drive, everyone gets into the searching-mode for wildlife and birds with hawk-eyed Safari guides. A professional guide / guide trainer recommended these Vortex binoculars to me. The key to good binoculars he said, to simplify the complicated science behind the machine, is 10x42 and good prism glass. 

 Children of Rift Valley Children's Home. 

Children of Rift Valley Children's Home. 

Organizations we Trust:
These are my personal favorites because I can vouch that your gift will be put to good use. If you are going on Safari, we can arrange a visit or meeting. If you have been to these places or met our contacts on your Safari, hope you agree. 

  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust - they are amazing. From anti-poaching to caring for young elephants; you can donate or foster one or more elephants. My elephant is Ndoto. 
  • Carbon Tanzania - if you go on a Safari with us, you are already contributing to this great organization because all of our partners on the ground [a requirement for us to use them] offset carbon footprint with them. We can always do more. 
  • Rift Valley Children's Home - we stop every time we go to Ngorongoro and continue to be impressed with how happy, loved and smart the kids are here. Kudos to a great team lead by Mama India and Baba Peter. 
  • Honeyguide Foundation - we know Damian Bell and have seen him in action with ranger training. They protect the precious wildlife from human-wildlife conflict - a big issue - to poaching related matter. Wildlife is threatened from all sides - we must do all we can to help save so many species from extinction. 
Gift Guide for Safari

Ethical Shopping:
If you are into sustainable fashion, you will love that when you purchase items from these selected sellers, you are supporting females, like the Maasai ladies in the remote village of Mkuru in Northern Tanzania. 

  • My friend Tati who works with the Maasai ladies above sends beautiful jewelry to her Canadian business partner, Lotusland. I have a few of Tanzania Maasai Women Art pieces and always get complimented as they are so different. Want to buy the jewelry in Tanzania? Save your dollars and we will take you to Tati's store. 
  • Sidai Designs is another company helping the Maasai ladies. You can find their jewelry in beautiful Plantation Lodge, one of our favorite Safari Lodge. 
safari gift guide

Children's Book that my Kids love:

  • Mama Panya's Pancake - we love this book, as you can see, about how sharing takes you much further in friendship. And it's the mother who learns this lesson from her warm son. 
  • Greedy Zebra - Mwenye Hadith, the author has so many great children's books but this one is my favorite. This solves the age old mystery of the zebra stripes. 
  • I am Jane Goodall - A true hero for all wildlife. She started research with chimps on Mahale Mountains and my November 2017 Tanzania with Mefi Safari takes me to her stomping grounds. 

Enjoy your gifts or giving them. If you give to any of the organizations above, Asante Sana! Together, we take care of our wildlife, community and planet. 

Wellness Safari.

I was recently interviewed by Travel Weekly about wellness travel trends for 2017.
Here is what I think wellness Safari means when I plan these Safaris for my clients. 

wellness safari

" When I think of wellness that my clients have been craving when on their Safari in Tanzania this year, I think of human connection wellness. We have definitely seen more request for cultural stops. And they are requesting not meeting them the touristy way or quick photo op, but rather to spend a few hours or days, interacting one-on-one, to get an insight into a different world. 

I think the shift is because we see more stories on social media, news and sometimes we make up our minds or we are given opinion that we accept without research but until we see, listen and experience the other side, we really can't judge until we see it for ourselves. Parents have told me they want to open their children's eyes, an investment in their future

We have had a few groups visit the Maasai tribe ladies with a local friend to see them make jewelry or making leather the natural way so they can support their families. Clients have come back saying these stops are eye-openers and the simplified questions 'why do they choose to live like that' answers are more complex because change takes a lot of time, investment and personal desire. 

I like to take kids [and adults of course] to see the one of the last hunter gather tribe, the Hadzabe tribe in remote Lake Eyasi region. These tribe members chose to keep their ancient ways of life in this modern world though wide cracks are forming in their lifestyle. One 16 year old client told me he wishes people would not force change on them as what we perceive as 'backward' is actually a happier earth based lifestyle and we could all learn from them. That is the type of response that is rewarding.

It's these mind changing / human connection wellness Safaris that I am excited to share more in the future. "

tanzania safari

What do you think?
Wouldn't this be a life changing Safari. A peek into another culture and lifestyle. And combine that with amazing wildlife and maybe the traditional wellness - massage - and you have opened your eyes to a whole new world. 

Let's get you on Safari.

Style on Safari.

Let's talk about how to look good and comfortable on Safari?
- Good because shouldn't we always pay attention to how we dress at anytime. And if we think we look good, we feel happy.
- Comfortable because that is just what you need on Safari. You will go from game driving in either a closed or open vehicle with dust flying in to enjoying dinner on arrival at the camp because you stayed out a bit too long enjoying the evening's golden hour. Nothing wrong with that by the way.

These two ladies should know a thing or two about style. They are after all Houston's leading fashion bloggers. Sheree and Natalie are both wearing Kuhl's Rekon Jacket. The jacket is versatile enough that you can wear back home. Sheree is wearing her Kuhl Pants and Natalie is wearing her Prana pants. You get the general idea - no wrinkle pants, pants that dry up quickly and can be zipped open into shorts. Some even have bug repellants. 

Having 2 to 3 such pants is all you need on Safari. Re-wearing is totally acceptable on Safari. 

Style Tips:
- Sheree and Natalie upped their style with a bandana. They wore is around their necks as well as using it as a hair accessory. Always a good idea to have items that work in multiple ways. 
- Buying local jewelry. Sheree and Natalie got to shop at the Tanzania Maasai Women Arts's shop on our Tanzania with Mefi Safari. You too can do that before you head out on Safari. The lodges in Arusha will have local accessories in their gift shop. Or bring your own from home.

My buddy Carlos with his friend John and our amazing guide Ayoub.
Keep it neutral to distract bugs who love blue and black - though I am guilty of wearing those colors. Neutral colors also let you blend in with the environment. Keep it comfortable. Look for breathable clothing especially if you are going during the hot months.
Dri-fit clothes really do feel good when you are sitting in the vehicle for many hours under the sun. They can transition easily to evening wear by the campfire and dining tent.  

Style Tips:
- Up your game with a belt but only if you like. You decide how you want to be comfortable. 
- Important accessory here is hat. Not only does it look good, it is a necessity to protect yourself from the African sun. Baseball cap is just fine. 

I had such a great time planning this family Safari. We surprised Yanni for his 17th birthday in Serengeti. What a lucky kid! 

Style Tips:
- Good shoes. Not only is the ground uneven in some spot but there are twigs, tall grass, tiny creatures - who are much needed by the eco-system, crawling around ++. Up your game with some good hiking shoes that will take you beyond a Safari. Not a fan of those, even your daily sneakers will do.
- It does get cool in the morning and evenings. Scarfs not only keep you warm, but also add some glam. Men, get a vest or fleece jacket with good neck coverage.

Not into style. No worries. You're on Safari. Nobody cares how you dress.
*Just wear closed shoes though. 

Now let's get you on a Journey To Africa Safari.