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 led 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.

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

Manager of Guest Services

Angela Jenkins

Manager of Guest Services

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.

Carolyn Hardy

Senior Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Carolyn Hardy

Senior 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.

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!

Halee Mahoney

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Halee Mahoney

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

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

What is your favorite part about your job?
I enjoy being able to share my love for Tanzania every day.

The best thing I’ve ever done is trek Kilimanjaro

My favorite food is anything Thai, the spicier the better!

What do you like doing in your free time?
Not many people know I have a green thumb, so I really enjoy taking care of my houseplants.

Everyone tells me I am very organized and a great planner

Matthew Blaney

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

Matthew Blaney

Safari & Kilimanjaro Consultant

What do you do?
I work with our guests going over the details of our trips and helping them decide which Safari or Kilimanjaro itinerary will be the best option for them.

What is your favorite part about your job?
I get to spend my day talking to people about different places they’ve traveled to and where they want to visit in the future.

The best thing I’ve ever done is going on a 500-mile road trip from Trondheim to Bergen in Norway, exploring all the fjords along the way.

What is your favorite place?
Talkeetna, Alaska.  It has a better view of Mt. McKinley than anywhere else.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I like to plan my own travel adventures around the world.

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.

Fiona Sullivan

Trip Manager

Fiona Sullivan

Trip Manager

What do you do?
As a Trip Manager, I help guests plan and prepare for their Tanzanian adventure. I answer questions about our treks and safaris and help guests get ready for their journey of a lifetime.

What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of my job is getting to share in the excitement with our guests. We get to hear and share such amazing stories.

The best thing I’ve ever done is worked on a vineyard in Dugenta, Italy.

My favorite food is from Cascais, on the coast of Portugal. The cuisine there is unmatched.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I like to hike with my dog Ted, cook very ambitious meals in my very small kitchen, and go to used bookstores.

Everyone tells me I should open a vintage clothing store.

Cat Yoder

Trip Manager

Cat Yoder

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?
My favorite part of my job is getting to share in the excitement with our guests. We get to hear and share such amazing stories. Even though I’m at home, I get to experience a little piece of travel and of Tanzania every day through our wonderful guests!

The best thing I’ve ever done is: study abroad in Japan. It was a life-changing experience that awakened my love for travel and gave me my first insights into how incredibly different and fascinating other cultures can be, and how much we can learn from them.

The best meal I ever had was: at a little local restaurant next to a stream outside of Dubrovnik, Croatia. We were served a giant grilled fish (fresh from the stream, of course) with an enormous charcuterie board filled with local cheeses, olives, and cured meats. And we can’t forget the freshly baked bread with a home-made olive oil! I still think about this meal daily.

What do you like doing in your free time?
When I’m not preparing guests for mind-blowing Tanzanian adventures, I am a volunteer at a community center that works to educate and organize our neighbors around local issues. I use what little time I have left to draw or, more likely, watch some Netflix.

Everyone tells me: I’d make a great tour guide. I love showing friends around the city when they visit!

 

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!

  • Steve Bird
  • Peter Cardasis
  • Penny Churchill
  • Bill Crawford
  • Jane Davis
  • Debbie Deakin
  • Richard Fichera
  • Rick Frankle
  • John Huizinga
  • Iterny Joseph
  • Zoe Kazemi-Dunn
  • Mark LaChey
  • Sally Lake
  • Marion Martin
  • Barb McFadden
  • Don Mercado
  • Andy Phillips
  • Phil Reiff
  • Danny Stevenson
  • Glenda Toppe
  • Margaret Wells