|These pages describe my first trip to east Africa in 2000. I have since returned (2001) and included Kenya in this second trip. I again went with Thomson Safaris and had an excellent experience. I was much happier with the photographs from this second trip, having learned a lot from the experience the first time around.
My wife (Diana) and I had talked about going to east Africa numerous times over the years but it was always more fantasy than reality. Finding two or more weeks when we could all take off from work and school just never seemed feasible. Early in 2000, however, we received a flyer from Diana's alumni association for a Tanzanian safari and decided the time was right.
I spent a couple of weeks surfing the net looking for options, recommendations, etc. and came across Thomson Safaris website. The itinerary of their Serengeti Wildlife Safari matched the flyer from the alumni association word for word, so I assume they contract with Thomson. The newsgroup comments on Thomson were also very positive, so we took the next step and asked for references (also all quite positive).
One of Thomson's new safaris, the Ultimate Tanganyika Safari, looked particularly interesting since it included a trip to Mahale to see chimps, in addition to the traditional plains wildlife. We also discovered that Thomson offers custom private safaris, which had its appeal to us. Working with Rick and Judi at Thomson's office in Cambridge, MA, we came up with an itinerary very similar to the Ultimate Tanganyika Safari. We added a couple nights in Amsterdam to help us get over our jet-lag before heading to Africa (Tanzania is ten hours earlier than Seattle), and added a day in Ngorongoro Crater since this looked like it might be one of the more interesting spots.
Since we had a party of seven (Diana and myself and our two kids, and Diana's sister and her husband and son), the price of the private safari was approximately the same as Thomson's standard package. But because it was a private safari, we had a lot more flexibility as to what we did and when.
Thomson provided us with two vehicles with drivers (Mohammad and Abraham) and a guide (Charles). Each vehicle was a Land Rover with three rows of two seats and a roof that could be raised for game viewing and photography. These vehicles were at least as roomy as any we saw in the parks during our safari, but they did feel crowded when there were more than two of us trying to take photos at the same time.
The drivers and guide met us at the airport when we arrived and stayed with us for the first eleven days. Diana's sister and her family had to be back a little earlier for school so they didn't join us in Mahale. Charles flew back with them to Arusha while we took a charter flight to Lake Tanganyika and Mahale Park. On our return to Arusha, Charles met us at Arusha airport and made sure we got on the KLM flight out of Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam.
Overall, the trip was fantastic. We saw a tremendous variety of wildlife, the people we met were very friendly, and the accommodations and food ranged from good to excellent. The trip went very smoothly - hats off to Thomson for planning and implementing a great adventure.
Thanks to my son Scott for helping me scan all the photos!
Journal - these pages provide a day by day journal of our adventures, with photographs. Hopefully, this will give you a good idea of what it's like to go on safari.
Photographing on Safari - if you're planning to go on a safari and are serious about photography, here are some tips that might help.
Lodges - we stayed at some fabulous lodges in Africa. Here you'll find a summary of each lodge including some photos.
Random Tidbits - here are some random comments about weather, bugs, laundry, food, etc.
Favorite Photos - this is a gallery of my favorite photographs, culled from the ~4000 shots I took during our trip.
Contact me at jay (at) velotech.com