Question: What happens when you bring together a 5-year-old, a 77-year-old, a few lions, a herd of elephants and eight more family members in a foreign country across the globe?
Answer: The “trip of a lifetime.”
While a wildlife safari may not be a complete novelty for Margaret (Peg) Bassion, her latest safari shared with family was truly one-of-a-kind. Bassion, her husband, their adult children, spouses, and grandchildren enjoyed the wonders of Tanzania on a safari this past June, matching shirts and all.
As aforementioned, Peg and Ken Bassion are no strangers to safari. Their first of five safaris was back in 1984, when the Bassion children were just 7 and 9, which is just about the age that their grandchildren are now. To keep the nostalgia alive, Peg even saved her (now adult) children’s safari shirts and hats, so the grandkids could wear them on their recent multi-generational adventure.
While the wildlife has remained fairly constant for Peg and Ken over the years, the accommodations have definitely improved. Peg recalls going on safari when her children were little, doing it the “rough” way, which consisted of camping out in Kenya in pup tents and driving themselves around in a big van.
35 years later, Peg chose Thomson Safaris to guide her family on the adventure of a lifetime.
Celebrating both Peg and Ken’s 50th wedding anniversary and Peg’s 75th birthday, the entire Bassion family touched down in Arusha, and almost instantly, wildlife viewing commenced. The family of 10 were taken on safari in Arusha National Park when they arrived:
“We surprised a herd of elephants about to cross the road…They were trumpeting and flapping their ears. We started the trip off with a bang,” Bassion said. “They put on quite a show for us, it was a lot of fun.”
The family continued on to Serengeti National Park, where the excitement continued.
“We saw a lot more wildlife than I had seen on other safaris…lots of lions! We saw lions in trees, lions on the ground, lions walking around. We saw cheetahs and leopards up close,” Bassion exclaimed. “The only leopard I had ever seen before was hiding in a tree, but this time around we saw leopards up close and personal.”
One of the reasons why Thomson guests often see more of an abundance of wildlife in comparison to other tour operators is the guides. All guides are local to Tanzania and have a minimum of 10 years’ experience in the field, which makes them experts at both wildlife spotting and Tanzanian knowledge.
“I can’t say enough about the guides and their sensitivity to our needs. The level of respect for Ken and me – they called us Bibi and Babu,” Peg recalled. “They always made sure we were comfortable…They were really sincerely respectful and nice to us. They have a culture of respecting elders. Instead of feeling discarded, they were just really respectful.”
“Bibi” and “Babu”: “Grandma” and “Grandpa” in Swahili
While it is to be expected that the adults on safari were simply enthralled by their experience – maintaining the attention of young children is sometimes not so easy. But, not on a Thomson Family Safari, Peg explained:
“It was so awesome for me to see how excited they were, the four little cousins together. And to have this experience together. They were so engaged!”
“When we got back to camp after the wildlife viewing, the Rafiki, Frank would have them out playing soccer and we could sit and just relax,” Peg said. “The kids were having fun and entertained. It was really helpful.”
“Rafiki”: Swahili word for “friend”
Wondering what Rafiki is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! On family safaris with Thomson that have eight or more guests, a Rafiki is provided to be a friend and guide for the children. Rafikis work with Thomson guides to enhance the overall trip experience and engage the children in their new surroundings.
“For Thomson to come up with that idea, having time to help with the kids, really gave the adults time to feel like they were on vacation, too,” Peg said.
The Bassions described themselves as “outdoorsy people” who love nature and animals – so of course, the abundance of wildlife was a highlight of their trip. But, something unique to the family were the cultural experiences in Tanzania.
The four grandchildren were connected with similar aged pen pals in a local Maasai community that they communicated with prior to the trip. Once in Tanzania, the Bassions were able to put faces to names as they met their pen pals in real life!
“We loved that we had an interpreter when we had our Maasai activities. He was great…My daughter brought picture storybooks and we all sat around with our pen pals in a circle and she read the stories to the kids. And the Maasai translated for her.”
Personal, local moments like this are unique and made possible by Thomson’s relationship with the Maasai community – these experiences create memories that span far beyond photographs.
“It was the trip of a lifetime. And the fact that we could share it with my son, his wife, my daughter, her husband and the four granddaughters – It was just perfect,” Peg said. “I said that if I died the next day, I would’ve died the happiest I’d ever been in my life. It was perfect in every single respect. And I thank Thomson for that.”