Nothing would stop 18 eager photographers from going on safari with our partners at McKay Photo Academy. Like so many, they were not sure if their trip, scheduled for March 2021, was going to be possible. The world was full of confusion and closed borders, and Tanzania seemed farther away than ever.
But they read our Standard Operating Procedures, learned what precautions they would take in-country, and figured out how they would receive their covid-19 tests once they arrived. All the pieces were coming together, and their passion for travel was as strong as ever. With sufficient measures in place, the group realized what a unique opportunity they had – to go on safari when almost no one else was, after spending so long, locked away at home. They decided to go.
The result? A completely exclusive and transformational experience.
“This was more than lifechanging for all of us. It charged us. It reignited us. It’s an epic time to go.”
– David McKay of McKay Photo Academy
Here are 12 moments from their safari that make us wish we were in Tanzania now.
More giraffes than you can count! The Serengeti is heavenly right now! 🦒
The sheer scale of the wildlife in the Serengeti is unlike anything in recent memory. Giraffes, rhinos and big cats have been coming out in groups larger than ever before – and our guests were there to meet them.
The McKay group saw at least one hundred giraffes while they were in the Serengeti.
At sunset, after other safari vehicles left the plains, the McKay group saw something unbelievable: a huge herd of elephants lumbering in the nearby grasses. “There were 70 elephants crossing by us in the sunset. It was insane,” David said.
With over 5,000 square miles of treeless plains and millions upon millions of animals, the Serengeti is Tanzania’s prime park for wildlife viewing. The photo below showcases a small slice of the 2 million hooved animals making the annual Great Migration, underneath a stunning and dynamic sky.
Here’s a lovely closeup of one elephant munching on flowers.
This pride of lions was laying out on a kopje to take advantage of the cool breeze.
Safaris are adventurous trips, filled with unexpected delights. Some animals, such as the solitary serval cat, are a rare sight in Tanzania. They tend to dash whenever humans get remotely close to them.
“You don’t always see a serval cat clearly, if you see one at all,” David said.
Imagine David’s surprise when his group had four serval cat sightings on the safari! On one sighting, a serval cat was sitting on the side of the group’s safari vehicle. The cat wasn’t scared of them, but was still nervous. The guides didn’t know why – that was, until little serval cats started popping their heads out of the grass.
Any safarigoer will tell you this is an incredibly special sighting.
At another point, the group found a leopard stalking in a tree – they later discovered the leopard was chomping down on a fresh kill.
One of the most amazing parts of a safari now is the opportunity to have solitude on the plains. The decrease in overall tourism means fewer people in the park, and fewer vehicles competing for prime viewing spots.
However, this solitude comes at a cost. Responsible tourism is the lifeblood for many Tanzanian communities and is a core component of the country’s economy. It provides food, education and resources for conservation efforts.
Guides, travel workers, Maasai villagers and Tanzanians across the country were excited to see travelers again. “There was an energy about the whole thing that was unmistakable,” David said. “This was a victory – for us, for the guides, for the hundreds of people.”
Thomson travelers often visit Maasai in Tanzania to learn about their lives, jobs and families.
For travelers arriving during this time, the people they met left a profound impact. They realized that responsible tourism is a force for good in Tanzania.
“We were part of something special that we’ll be able to share with our grandkids,” David said. “We were part of something bigger than us.”
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