A Heritage Trip to East Africa

Written by Thomson Safaris

family safari in tanzania with thomson safaris
The Baileys – Nicole, Eric, Amara and Kai – were traveling to East Africa for a very special reason.

“The primary and initial purpose of the whole trip was to reunite Amara with her birth mom, who I located and reconnected with last November in order to plan this year’s trip,” Nicole, Amara’s mother, explained.

Amara was born in Ethiopia and adopted when she was 5 months old. Kai, an 8-year-old boy born in the Marshall Islands, was adopted as a baby, too.

Nicole and Eric promised both their children they would take a “heritage trip” to explore their birth regions when they each turned 10. Amara had been learning about Ethiopia and her cultural heritage all her life. With her 10th birthday right around the corner, it was time to get hands-on experience as a family.

But First… Another Part of East Africa

wildlife viewing with thomson safaris

Tanzania would be their first destination. Nicole and Eric have always wanted to experience a safari – particularly a visit to Ngorongoro Crater – and the heritage trip was a perfect opportunity to do it all.

So first, an exploration of some of the broader culture and wildlife in East Africa. Here are a few of their memorable moments.

Animals in Such Close Proximity

Families of giraffes, elephants and monkeys and countless wildebeests, warthogs, lions and crocodiles – the Baileys saw a lot within just the first few hours in the Serengeti.

topi antelope in serengeti

massive crocodile in serengeti tanzania

giraffe in serengeti tanzania

“What’s unique about the Serengeti is the density of animals,” Eric writes. “Our guide would drive the Land Rover into a new area and we would be surrounded by animals in every direction. It’s incredible to see all of these animals grazing and living in close proximity.”

Lions in the Serengeti

lions in serengeti tanzania

Just before leaving the Serengeti, the Baileys experienced their favorite wildlife moment – a close encounter with a male and female lion.

lions close to tourist in serengeti

“Just 10-15 feet off the road sat a female and male lion. It was a bit uncomfortable how close they were. But the animals just sat there and watched us,” Eric writes. “We whispered to each other and I think all of our hearts were racing wondering what they would do and also with excitement to see these beautiful creatures. We’ve been talking about that experience ever since.”

serengeti lions photo by thomson safaris guests

“Our close encounter with the male & female lions on the side of the road was definitely a highlight for all of us,” Nicole said. “We had seen lots of other animals fairly close up, but certainly didn’t expect such an intimate viewing of a male lion.”

Soccer, Archery, Visiting a Village and Seeing a School

children practicing archery at camp during family safari

We often tell guests they may enjoy a day at camp instead of going out for wildlife viewing; it’s a great way to relax and learn more about the local people. The Baileys did just that on their third day.

“Amara and Kai played some games, learned a Swahili song, played soccer with the staff and practiced some archery,” Eric writes.

They visited a group of women making baskets and jewelry and grinding sorghum flour, which Amara and Kai tried themselves.

grinding flour in tanzania village

And a few days later, they visited a public school in Karatu.

“It was a primary school with children in the same grades and ages that Amara and Kai are in,” Eric writes. “They seemed to take it all in and noticed many differences with their own experience in school.”

visiting school on a family safari in tanzania

Happy Birthday at Gibb’s Farm

The Bailey’s stayed at Gibb’s Farm while exploring Ngorongoro Crater. Their final night was Amara’s birthday, so the staff prepared a special celebration for her

The next day, the family enjoyed a few hours of wildlife viewing and boarded a plane to Ethiopia. We followed up afterward to get their thoughts on the adventure.


“I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa:  I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, and I’ve traveled to Mali, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. I love each of those countries for different reasons, but I think Tanzania has just risen to the top of my list.”

“It represents quintessential Africa in my mind:  lots of animals, dramatic scenery, historical/archeological sites, the intriguing Maasai culture, the friendly Swahili language, and the warm, welcoming Tanzanians. Plus, I felt relatively safe there. I will highly recommend it to others.”


On to Ethiopia

kids in ethopia

With the safari behind them, it was time to fly into Ethiopia and meet Amara’s birth mother.

Two days after Thanksgiving, the family spent 24 hours with her. They communicated through a translator and went to a traditional restaurant to enjoy music, dancing and a communal plate of Ethiopian food – that year’s special Thanksgiving dinner.

traditional dancers in ethiopia

Eric reflected on the smiles around the table and the special connection Nicole and Amara’s birth mother seemed to share.

“It was hard to say goodbye not knowing when we will see each other again,” he writes. “It has been a very special and memorable trip – all planned by Nicole and supported by the rest of us.”

The Next Adventure

It’s been a busy holiday season for the Baileys. The family is moving to Singapore as part of a special project Eric is leading for work.

We wish them a happy holiday season, safe travels and thank them for choosing us for a small part of this incredibly special journey.