Meet Our

Founders

Judi Wineland

Co-Founder

Judi Wineland

Co-Founder

Judi began traveling the world in 1969 as a singer and guitarist with the USO. Tours through Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Vietnam sparked a travel passion.

Judi turned that passion into a budding business, becoming the first female entrepreneur in the adventure travel industry and the leader of the East Coast’s only adventure travel company.

Judi met Rick Thomson while traveling through East Africa in 1979, when he was the guide on her safari. They worked for different companies at the time but decided less than two years later to co-found their own organization.

Their mission: build a safari company with people on the ground in Tanzania – a company dedicated to sustainable practices, cultural enrichment and a peerless drive for quality adventuring. In early 1981, Thomson Safaris Ltd. was formed.

With Judi’s network and entrepreneurial experience, she helped develop the then-unknown and off-the-map country of Tanzania as an enticing destination for travelers.

Excellence and a unique Tanzanian experience set Thomson Safaris apart, and the company’s mission to give back lead Judi to co-found FoTZC (Focus on Tanzanian Communities) in 1996. Dedicated to community-led initiatives in education, women’s empowerment, and health in remote Northern Tanzania, FoTZC is Thomson Safaris’ proud philanthropic arm.

FoTZC has increased access to clean water for thousands of local Tanzanians through borehole projects and has provided thousands more with medical support with the Sukenya Medical Dispensary.

Rick Thomson

Co-Founder

Rick Thomson

Co-Founder

Rick began guiding Tanzania safaris in 1979. Having completed a London to Nairobi overland expedition that same year, he stayed on in Kenya and guided trips around the Kenyan National Parks, meeting Judi Wineland along the way.

Many travelers chose Kenya at the time, but the stories of the famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater lured him to Tanzania.  Convinced the country was a missed opportunity for travelers, Rick eagerly partnered with Judi to create a company with Tanzania at its heart.

Rick is Thomson Safaris’ field operations perfectionist. His early background as a mechanic fueled a love for precision, and the technical mindset necessary to select, build or modify top-of-the-line equipment to suit the unique needs of safari use. His tenure as a guide provided the knowledge to construct excellent itineraries and understand all facets of a safari operation.

Rick has customized Land Rover Defender vehicles for carrying guests on rigorous safari tracks while providing for the needs of wildlife viewing and photography.  An early adopter of LED lighting, he helped create and build solar-powered LED lighting for Thomson Camps.  Noisy generators were no longer required due to the LED efficiency and sustainability. From tent design to unique refrigeration solutions, each piece of the safari experience is the product of Rick’s studious endeavor to create the highest quality Tanzanian adventure.

Safari Trip Planners

Ina Steinhilber

President

Ina Steinhilber

President

What do you do?

I manage the company, which includes an always-interesting mix of responsibilities. Fostering a productive, engaged, fun and collaborative work environment is key because without a great team, who enjoy what they do and care about quality, we’re nothing! I set budgets and policies, and keep a close eye on financials, on marketing and on guest feedback. I make sure that we provide an excellent experience to our guests and do so with integrity.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I love hearing or reading guest feedback.  It’s a genuine thrill when someone comes back from a trip and tells us how wonderful – often life-changing! – the experience was. It’s humbling, satisfying and fun!  And it’s why we do what we do every day.

I was born in a little farm town in southern Germany that has castles on every hillside, wildflowers in every field, and red geraniums in every window-box. Best of all:  the pretzels! It’s still a magical place to me, even though I’ve been an American for over a decade now.

The best meal I ever had was: Bread from the baker; tomatoes from the farmer; cheese from the cheesemonger; wine from the vineyard; and peaches right off the tree. Consumed with the aid of a Swiss Army knife. And eaten under an olive tree, in the outskirts of Rome.

Everyone tells me I’m crazy to ride my bike in the city, but I can’t resist! Boston drivers aren’t exactly known for respecting the rules of the road, which is challenging, but I love commuting by bike, starting and ending every day with a little exercise and always being in forward motion.

Sarah Jacobs

Guest Liaison & Office Administrator

Sarah Jacobs

Guest Liaison & Office Administrator

What do you do?

As Guest Liaison & Office Administrator I have the dual role of being the first point of contact for our guests while also keeping the office running smoothly for our staff.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is talking to the people that are bursting with excitement for their trip! I know that feeling well and it always brings me back to hear other people’s enthusiasm.

The best meal I ever had was: Duck confit with potato puree and roasted leeks at Gibb’s Farm. Everything I ate in Tanzania was amazing, but this will go down as my favorite meal of all time.

What do you like doing in your free time? In my free time I am an actor, improvisor, and semi-pro kitten snuggler.

What’s your dream travel experience? I would love to someday travel to Scotland to perform in and experience the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world!

Megan Murphy

Guest Relations

Megan Murphy

Guest Relations

What do you do?

My love of travel has led me to nearly 100 countries, including hiking through remote areas of Tanzania’s Maasailand with Thomson. I work with guests after they’ve returned from their trips, ensuring their excellent feedback and beautiful photos are shared in our marketing materials.

I also manage our Advisory Boards – enthusiastic guests whose trips were so life-changing, they’re willing to go the extra mile to help promote Thomson and offer us valuable feedback.

Why do you like what you do?

Working with guests whose lives have been forever impacted by the beauty of Tanzania is incredibly satisfying. I love sharing their stories as I want everyone to experience firsthand what our clients and I have. When you hear “this was the best experience of my life” daily, you know you have a great job!

The best thing I’ve ever done: Traveled to Spain at age 13 for six weeks as a very curious exchange student. That was the beginning of my interest in world travel and my love for the Spanish-speaking world.

Best meal I’ve ever had: Sitting at a table on a beautiful beach in Bali with sand underfoot, I ate the freshest seafood mixed with the tangy, bright flavors of Indonesian cuisine on my honeymoon.

Everyone tells me: I look familiar. Like someone either they know or they recognize from TV, but they can’t quite put their finger on it.

Kristina Jackson

Senior Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Kristina Jackson

Senior Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

What do you do?

I manage the entire sales cycle for scheduled safaris and Kilimanjaro treks, while leading and nurturing sales team prospecting and closing performance.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I love working with my guests. I have always been a people person, and most of the fun about my job is learning about others to help create a trip they’ll always remember.

I was born in Columbia, Maryland

The best thing I’ve ever done is: Hike the Inca Trail

What do you like doing in your free time? On any day of the week you can find me playing in a soccer league, cooking a meal with friends (with wine), or doing something outdoors

Read about Kristina’s Kilimanjaro trek and safari here.

Hillary Camara

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Hillary Camara

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

What do you do?
I am a Safari and Kilimanjaro Consultant. I work with guests to plan their safari and Kilimanjaro trips.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Working with guests to create their bucket list trip to Africa.

I was born in Westport, MA.

The best thing I’ve ever done is: Adopt my kittens

What do you like doing in your free time? Drink wine, knit and plan my own vacations.

Read about Hillary’s trekking safari here.

Carolyn Hardy

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Carolyn Hardy

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

What do you do?

I am a Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant! I assist guests in the planning process of their safari and Kilimanjaro trips. From deciding between the different itineraries to walking through flight routes, I’m here to make planning a bucket list adventure – fun, not stressful!

Why do you like what you do?

I get to talk about safaris every day! Some of the most common questions our guests ask are about weather conditions, and what they’ll see in each park. So when I’m answering those questions, I get to relive my whole safari experience while also helping them with important decisions.

Everyone tells me I should write a book or open a bakery. I’m working on it. 😊

My favorite season is autumn – not for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but because all of New England is washed in shades of amber and spice. Everything smells like cinnamon and apples, and you hear the leaves crunch under each step. The entire season just wraps you in a blanket. *happy sigh*

What do you like doing in your free time?
Bake! I’ve taken some cake decorating classes so I can start making sure the things I make look good as well as taste good. I don’t have too big of a sweet tooth myself, but I like when other people enjoy what I make!

Read about Carolyn’s safari here.

Keith Sandler

Customer Service Manager

Keith Sandler

Customer Service Manager

What do you do?

As Customer Service Manager, I support our Trip Managers as they provide world-class service to our guests. I work with my team to improve documentation and processes, address any high-level concerns of our guests, and confer with each Trip Manager to ensure any potential issues are taken care of with little to no impact to our guests’ experiences.

Why do you like what you do?

I love supporting and being a part of a great team committed to excellence – both Thomson overall and the Prep Team specifically. I really enjoy crafting clear messaging and fitting different logistical pieces together to show guests our commitment to their experience.

The best thing I’ve ever done is:

Becoming a father.  It’s the most challenging and rewarding experience, and it never ends.  It’s amazing to me that a single aspect of my life can incorporate everything I’ve learned and experienced while also allowing me to teach, learn and grow as a person every day.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I’m a huge nerd and play a ton of tabletop games. Reading, writing and drawing are other simple luxuries for me. I like to cook simple but flavorful dishes that I can enjoy with my kids and friends. I’m always listening to music, and I’m the world’s worst guitar player.

What’s your dream travel experience?

While I’m super excited to go on safari and hopefully bring my kids one day, what I’m really looking forward to right now is taking my kids to Walt Disney World and sharing the magic I felt when my parents brought my brother and me as kids.

Erin Knerr

Trip Manager

Erin Knerr

Trip Manager

What do you do?

I’m a Trip Manager here at Thomson. I help guests get excited about their upcoming adventure out in the bush or trekking on a mountain in Tanzania, all the while making sure they have the right number of socks.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is that I get to talk to guests upon their return.  This allows me to relive their trip with them.  I get to hear all the wonder and new-found love for a country that has come to steal a piece of my soul and everyone else who visits.

The best thing I’ve ever done is: Climb Kilimanjaro.  This is something that was never really on my bucket list because, well, I never thought it would be possible.  But not only did I get to trek, I summited with some amazing people!

Everyone tells me I need to bake more shoo fly pie!  I grew up in PA Dutch country and this a very common treat.  Not many people outside this area knows about it.  But I’ve made it for the office and it has been a big hit ever since.

What do you like doing in your free time? Reading.  I’m a book junkie.  I have bookshelves overflowing with books but that doesn’t stop me from wandering around every bookstore I pass.  Used bookstores are even harder to pass by, and I typically leave with a new adventure in hand.

Heather Johnson

Prep Team Support

Heather Johnson

Prep Team Support

What do you do?

I take care of the guests from the moment they book a trip to the day they travel, providing pre-departure support for guests, their families and the travel agents.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of working at Thomson is that my fellow officemates understand the need for travel and adventure.

I was born in Jamestown, NY

The best thing I’ve ever done is:  I traveled to Peru and had the opportunity to mountain bike in a remote location with permission of the local villages. It was the first time the local people had allowed anyone to mountain bike on their land.

What do you like doing in your free time?  In my free time I like to hike, mountain bike, road bike or just spend time outside.

Suzanne Friedman

Trip Manager

Suzanne Friedman

Trip Manager

What do you do?

As a Trip Manager, I help you prepare for your adventure of a lifetime! You can ask me for information on how to apply for your Tanzanian visa, what to pack for your safari or Kilimanjaro trek, what to expect from your accommodations, etc. I am here to answer any questions you have, from what outlets are available to how much money to bring for souvenirs!

Why do you like what you do?

A trip to Tanzania is unlike any other, so I love how we can provide our guests with a unique and life-changing experience. I work with a team-oriented staff with a shared passion for travel. What’s not to like?

The best thing I’ve ever done is: Snorkel in Silfra, a rift formed in the divergent tectonic boundary between the North American and Eurasian plate. Silfra is located at Thingvellir National Park in Iceland. I highly recommend!

My favorite movie is Roman Holiday

What do you like doing in your free time? I like to play ice hockey and golf; sing, play guitar, and write songs; watch movies; and travel of course!

Brittany Silva

Trip Manager

Brittany Silva

Trip Manager

What do you do?
As a member of the Prep Team at Thomson Safaris, I answer questions about our safari and trekking destinations in Tanzania and arrange pre-departure materials to help guests get ready for the journey of a lifetime.

What is your favorite part about your job?
I like the satisfaction of providing an incredible adventure to our guests and hearing their excitement about the trip once they return home.

The best thing I’ve ever done is: Go paragliding over the Alps in Interlaken, Switzerland. Best views and coolest selfie I’ve ever taken.

The best meal I ever had was: A home-cooked green curry dish in Koh Samui, Thailand. I love spicy food!

What do you like doing in your free time? I enjoy going to the beach, painting landscapes and wildlife, spending time with my family, and planning new travel adventures.

Andrew Doherty

Manager of Special Interest Travel

Andrew Doherty

Manager of Special Interest Travel

What do you do?

I manage the Special Interest & Affinity Travel team here at Thomson Safaris.  We work with a wide range of organizations offering Tanzanian safaris as means of engaging their clientele, alums and donors.  It’s an exciting role because we have built long-standing relationships with the nation’s top universities and museums.  We also develop cutting-edge itineraries for photography academies, celebrity chefs, and prestigious conservation groups like the African Wildlife Foundation.

I love working for Thomson Safaris because every single aspect of the operation has been sculpted to maximize the guest experience in Tanzania. This gives my teammates and I the confidence to enter into each partnership knowing that we can deliver the goods.

My wife Alisa and I were born in Billerica, Massachusetts and now live in the town of Maynard. We were married in 2016 and have an infant daughter named Oona. We went on safari for our honeymoon when Alisa was 5 months pregnant.  Oona is our little safari baby.

Alisa will agree with me.  The best meal we ever had was the lunch at Gibbs Farm in Karatu.  It’s a smorgasbord of beautiful salads, cured meats, savory quiche, delightful soups, sweet pastries, homemade preserves and it’s laid out in this gorgeous dining room that is flooded with light and color.

When I am not planning safaris, I enjoy bird-watching, fly-fishing, playing ice hockey with my brothers, manning the grill, playing guitar and daydreaming the next family adventure abroad. Most of all, being a new husband and father provides endless enjoyment.

Read about Andrew’s honeymoon safari here.

Angela Jenkins

Special Interest Trip Manager

Angela Jenkins

Special Interest Trip Manager

What do you do?

I’m a Trip Manager in the Special Interest division here at Thomson Safaris. I provide customer service to a variety of guests and to our affinity clients to ensure that they have everything they need to experience an amazing adventure in Tanzania.

Why do you like what you do?

I love travel, hearing other people’s stories about travel and helping people make their dream travel experiences happen. I also love interacting with people from across the globe and from all walks of life.

I was born in Merced, California, but I grew up in Fallbrook – which happens to be the Avocado Capital of the World (our only real claim to fame)!

My favorite animal has always been a tiger, but I’ve come to realize that my spirit animal is really the sloth.

What do you like doing in your free time? All things dog-related. I volunteer weekly at an animal shelter, dog sit, and spend a lot of time with my own dog, Cowie. I love yoga and work a few hours a week at a yoga studio. I’m a big Jeopardy fan. Of course, travel and planning my next travel adventure.

Read about Angela’s safari here.

ADVISORY BOARD

Our guests call their trips life-changing. This devoted group makes them even better by offering invaluable feedback from a guest perspective. They also help spread the word about the incredible country of Tanzania. We’re grateful for their input and proud to call them part of the Thomson family!

  • Colleen Knight
  • Gretchen Shubrooks
  • Alex Schluntz
  • Lynn Sutinen
  • Justin Christian
  • Cheryl Messinger
  • Anna Strout
  • Joe Blau
  • Priscilla Melton
  • Pat Campbell
  • Bob Snyder
  • Denise Arai
  • Michele Bridges
  • Brian Smith
  • Karen Lipker
  • John Huizinga
  • Bill Harris
  • Marsha Gleason
  • John Ansay
  • Randy Finkey
  • Jennifer Zaltman
  • Jim Fisher
  • Laura Orella
  • Katie Maggi
  • Tova Perlow