When Shutter Tours first embarked on our adventure to Africa, I had no expectations as to what it would be like. Back in early 2014 I participated in an adventure trade show in Seattle. The show was so big that we parked our bus inside the venue and marketed our local Seattle tours. A needed a bit of a break and decided to wander the show to see what other vendors were there and ran into Hellen from Maasai Magic. As a photographer I enjoyed the photos she had on her display and not being one to be afraid of asking questions, we talked at length about what they do in offering trips to Tanzania. Thinking there might be some way to a partnership with them, she suggested I hop on a plane and join them on a “Fam” trip. Anyone that knows me will agree that once I say yes to travel, I am on my way. Six months later I was on a plane to Amsterdam, with my ultimate destination to fly to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. How exciting I thought, being in Africa and flying into the airport named for the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
Fast forward to today, and I’m less than two months away from taking my sixth trip to Tanzania and partnering again with Maasai Magic Safaris and bringing guests on yet another amazing lifetime trip.
The continent of Africa and the country of Tanzania can seem like a scary place for some people, but from my experience, it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever traveled to. The people are warm and gracious and also seem to have a love of life that is missing in western society.
So this is point number one.
1. You, Will, Change Your Opinion About Africa and the African People.
You will cast aside your thoughts of little children with distended stomachs and all the visions from late-night television commercials. Tanzanians are very educated and even value education more than westerners it seems. In the travel industry, you don’t just show up and become a tour guide for safari, it takes years to achieve that goal. Most workers have a four-year degree in the hotels and they all speak English.
From the time Tanzanians start high school, all lessons and homework are in English, even though Swahili is their natural language. The value of education is refreshing and is not a have to, but want to.
The economic pressure we experience is not as apparent as well. Happiness comes from interactions with family and friends and not accumulation.
2. The adventure will be way better than you thought
Our customers have made comments like “Trip of a lifetime” and there is no doubt that this trip will be top of your all-time favorites. I always say that travel is an appreciating asset and you will talk about this trip for years afterward. Having been on safari multiple times, I find it hard to find one adventure that was the best, they were all fantastic.
3. Every day will have a wow moment
I have had so many great moments with guests, but here are a few that stick out in my mind.
- That time our guest Christa got scared because she thought the lions were chasing us in the vehicle at night, but they were merely attracted to the tail lights of the safari vehicle.
- The double rainbow in the Northern Serengeti on our last day.
- Or how about that moment that a 12 foot Python was crossing the road and had a belly full of a recently consumed Dik Dik?
- The visit to the Hadzabe tribe where we learned to make fire and eat after they hunted or the visit to the Datoga and Makonde tribes to watch them make jewelry and wood carvings.
- Flying over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon and seeing the joy on my daughter Amanda’s face as we silently drifted in the morning wind.
Every day is a new experience that you will not soon forget.
4. You’ll get to address your fears of wild animals
I hate snakes, never saw a snake in Tanzania until my fifth trip. The first trip I would do a complete sweep of the place I was staying, on the off chance that one somehow made it into the tent or room.
Hyenas will be close to camp while you’re watching “Bush TV”, or sitting around the campfire, enjoying a Kilimanjaro Beer or having a glass of wine. You can shine your flashlight into the darkness and see the reflections of Hyena eyes with nothing between you and them but grasses and trees. One year we counted over ten sets of eyeballs reflecting in the dark.
Now I am fine, but sometimes your fear will take over and that’s something you have to wrestle with. Overcoming that is a wonderful feeling.
5. You never realized how much you’ll embrace other cultures
You’ll miss the people you met along the way. The children that run out to the road as your vehicles pass them by, hoping you’ll give them candy. Or the family that cooks an authentic meal for you at our visit to Mto wa Mbu village. Everyone is so welcoming and they are just as curious about us as we are about them.
6. The food and accommodations are way better than you expected
In Swahili, they say “Hakuna Naficy Yauatcha Kula” which translates into I’m full. Learn this phrase, because of the amount of food they feed you in amazing. I have skipped meals while on safari as I just cannot eat anymore. Also, keep in mind there is no “Bushmeat” served, it’s beef, chicken and vegetarian options made by wonderful chefs each night.
7. Going to the zoo will never feel the same
I have only been to the zoo once since my travels to Tanzania and it was nice to get close to Elephants and Giraffes again, but it’s just not the same when you see them in the wild.
8. An African safari will be one of the most memorable trips of a lifetime
I like pretty and captivating places, but at the end of the day, I want experiences and conversations that I’m talking about for years to come. A Safari is that most memorable experience that you will share with friends and family for generations.
9. Seeing animals roam free as nature intended without interruption of man is exhilarating.
Our last trip there was an estimated 700,000 Wildebeest migrating in the Northern Serengeti and there are times we could just sit for hours as we watch them run by. Elephants and their interactions are amazing to watch and a Cheetah that needs to hunt for a meal so its babies won’t go without food. These are experiences that live on for a lifetime.
10. You’ll want to come back
The smell of the African dirt lifts your spirit. The laughter of the children, a roar of a lion or the warm touch of the wind as it caresses the grass where baby lions are playing. All the memories will pull you back, long after your visit.
Once Africa gets into your soul, it will never let you go.