Don’t Pet the Animals! Thomson Safaris’ Staffer, Gabriela Goes on Safari

Written by Thomson Safaris
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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.

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!