Putting Down Roots: Why I Work for Thomson Safaris

Written by Lewis Crary, Safari and Kilimanjaro Consultant

thomson staffer lewis with guides seph and ojukwuLewis with guides Ojukwu and Seph in 2023

In 2011, the summer between my junior and senior year of college was around the corner. I’d convinced myself I was a card-carrying adult, even though I was cruelly forced to spend eight more weeks under my parents’ roof. I needed out.

I needed a plan.

I was finishing up my bachelor’s in animal behavior and thought, “Maybe I could use this degree to my advantage” (worryingly, this was the first time the thought had occurred to me).

I was living in Boston and, astoundingly, there was a brick-and-mortar safari business in a nearby suburb I biked by on occasion–Thomson Safaris. It turns out this operator toured guests through Tanzania—the very country I’d studied abroad in during my junior year. I sent off an email and to my surprise, I was invited in to discuss my scholastic experience in Tanzania. I did.

lewis studying animal behavior in tanzaniaLewis in Tanzania during his junior year abroad

When my obliging audience of Thomson employees filed out of the conference room, founders Rick and Judi asked me to stay behind a minute, which meant my presentation either went very well or very similar to my presentations in the past (that is, terribly). They told me they’d recently established a conservation project in the Eastern Serengeti and needed someone with animal science training to document the wildlife presence there.

Put me in coach!


Science in the Serengeti

That summer was unlike anything I’d experienced. I was thrust back into a familiar Tanzanian environment but with unfamiliar responsibility. Each morning, I ate breakfast with a local Maasai teenager, Ema (who now works for the government in conservation) and headed out to map and inventory the Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge.

lewis conducting census at eastern nature refugeLewis conducting research in Eastern Serengeti

I’d explored hundreds of square miles armed with my rangefinder, a notepad and little communication ability beyond animal impressions. I walked, counted zebras and antelope and walked some more through sundrenched plains and riverine forests. Work didn’t seem as bad as adults made it out to be. The animal life was sparse, I concluded, but if the land was protected, the soil left undisturbed and the trees allowed to return, it had potential.


12 Years Later…

Fast forward to 2023, and I’m crossing the tarmac at Kilimanjaro International Airport, passport in hand. The night air cuts through my post-flight grogginess, and my skin tingles with anticipation. This marks my third stint in Tanzania (now with a Master’s in International Sustainable Tourism), but my first as a full-fledged safari and Kilimanjaro consultant for Thomson Safaris. I’m more excited than ever, maybe because I know what lays in store (or I think I do.)

airstrip in eastern serengeti

walking safari with maasai in eastern serengeti

The next day, I arrived at the Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge, the very same place where I conducted my animal census work 12 years earlier. It wasn’t the property I remembered. The once lifeless fields were now lush, dotted with diverse, flowering bushes and thorny acacias. Zebras and muscular eland chewed beneath their shade. A watering hole glistened 100 feet from camp, where baboons hurled verbal abuse at thirsty, unaffected giraffes.

waterhole at thomson nyumba camp in serengeti

And then, the elephants.

Visible from our tents where I’d just tossed my duffle strode an armada of slow-moving giants—calves, juveniles and a long-tusked matriarch. I couldn’t believe the transformation. This land was now an Eden enriched by the presence of these discerning pachyderms.

elephant herd feeding on acacia leaves

thomson nyumba tent in eastern serengeti

The Eastern Serengeti Ecosystem was a success story. A story our guests support by traveling with Thomson. A story they’re a part of. This ethos of participation made every moment of my safari feel richer, and helped me form even stronger memories of Tanzania–memories that have stuck around long after the adventure ended.


The Thomson Difference

I’m a firm believer in the Thomson Safaris approach to business. Thomson Safaris doesn’t preside over countless vacation packages spanning the globe or even a continent. They’ve chosen one beautiful country and have never stopped investing in its people and its wildlife.

All my fellow safari and Kilimanjaro consultants have been to Tanzania and can speak to every single aspect of Thomson’s mission, itineraries and sustainability initiatives. This culture of sincere understanding and love for Tanzania permeates the office in Boston and in Arusha. It’s our job to bring guests the same elation and pride I felt when I saw that elephant family strolling unbothered through the trees.

sunset silhouettes rover and wildlife on safari


If you’re safari-curious and want to explore what’s possible, get in touch with us today!