Going on safari, I knew I was going to see beautiful and unique things. I’ve spent the last six months describing that beauty to guests on the phone, so I was excited to finally absorb it all firsthand. The golden grasses, endless plains, colorful sunsets – I was prepared to see it all.
But I wasn’t prepared for Tanzania to thrill each of my other senses as well. There was so much more to the classic safari experience than seeing beautiful sights, but let’s start there.
WHAT I SAW
The plains weren’t just endless and golden. In every direction, I was gazing into an oil painting. The grasses glowed in the sunshine. Broad green brush strokes faded into the blonde waves. Families of giraffe and silhouettes of acacia trees stood juxtaposed against a cloudless sky.
At night, the sky was not just filled with stars – it was covered. A burst of color swept over the tree line – violet, pink, teal, silver. The milky way. Not in the planetarium, not through a telescope, but right there in my line of vision.
WHAT I TASTED
I was nervous about the food before my safari. All my colleagues assured me the food was delicious and flavorful, but I’m a picky eater. Regardless, I vowed to at least try everything– and I’m glad I did.
Otherwise, I would have missed out on juicy papaya and cheese omelets in the morning and steak salad with ice cream for lunch! Each dinner started with a soup so flavorful and spiced so delicately, it was somehow both simple and complex. From comforting sweet potato and pumpkin to the new green banana and beef, every meal was smooth and exciting. My only regret is not eating more and convincing the chef to give me the recipe.
WHAT I HEARD
As we drove through the Woodlands of Lake Manyara, we were just about to head back to the park gate when we came across a lone male elephant. He was strolling slowly, dragging his trunk along the ground, before stopping at a bush for a snack. Our guide turned the vehicle off so we could sit in peace and quiet, observing his meal time. And then he flapped his ears. It was like shaking out a beach towel or a flag waving in the wind – gentle and soft. The detail of the wrinkles around his eyes, and the curl of his trunk you could capture in a picture – but the serene swish of his ears struck the entire group. We weren’t dreaming. This animal was real, right in front of us, just snacking and staying cool.
WHAT I SMELLED
As much as I wanted to stay snug in my bed at Gibb’s Farm until the last possible moment, I also wanted to soak in every bit of the cottage while I had the chance. So, on both mornings I woke up before the wakeup call. I put on my slippers and bathrobe and grabbed an extra blanket from the trunk. When the staff arrived with coffee, I poured myself a cup, wrapped myself in a blanket, and sat on my private verandah to watch the day break. The freshly roasted coffee swirled around me, mixing with the crisp dew on the grass. This was a completely new experience, and yet something about the simplicity of the dew and the complexity of the coffee triggered a sense of nostalgia. Like this was the exact place and the exact moment I’d wanted to come back to.
WHAT I FELT
When we arrived at our first camp in the Eastern Serengeti the entire staff was standing outside, smiling, waving, and eagerly waiting for us to join them. Throughout our stay, they put so much thought and care into the simplest details. At night, I’d slip under the covers to find the sheets already warm and cozy from the hot water bottle they placed there. Around the camp fire, they brought out blankets and snacks before I could even ask. When we returned from each of our game drives, they were waiting by the vehicles to greet us with high fives and hugs. Not just with the warmth of the blankets and the endless offerings of food, but with their genuine attitudes and friendship, I felt as though I’d come home to family and friends after a long absence.