June 18, 2013
If you have browsed though the latest J. Crew catalog – and looked beyond the chinos and tunics – you might have noticed some familiar golden grasses and stately acacia trees. Where are they? Tanzania, of course!
The catalog was photographed at Ndarakwai Ranch, one of our favorite places to stay in Tanzania. In fact, for close to a decade, trekkers on our unique Western Approach Route and recently pioneered Grand Traverse have been raving about their stay at Ndarakwai; they agree it is the perfect place to relax, regroup and acclimatize before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ndarakwai was not always camera-ready, however. Nearly 20 years ago – before conservator and Ndarakwai owner, Peter Jones established the property – the land was nearly decimated due to rampant poaching and unregulated tree cutting. Peter Jones’ conservation efforts to restore the ranch’s health have been profound; today, the ranch supports a variety of species such as elephant, zebra, eland, giraffe, wildebeest, gerenuk, lesser kudu, cheetah and lion.
In addition to the eco-friendly accommodations, absolutely stunning views, and the opportunity for wildlife viewing, our guests love getting their hiking boots primed on guided nature walks through this exclusive property. Western Approach trekkers, Dave and Amy said:
“What they’ve done and are currently doing at Ndarakwai Ranch is awesome. We were especially impressed with our walking guide who wouldn’t give up until we had seen some elephants up close.”
J.Crew shot their men’s catalog on-location in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Another great destination! Stone Town offers a unique perspective of Tanzania and an opportunity to soak in local culture – as well as some sunshine – after a safari or Kilimanjaro trek.
May 21, 2013
During a girls’ night out, longtime friends, Deb and Emily decided to tick an item off their bucket lists and made a pact to summit Mount Kilimanjaro together. Over the course of the next year, they prepared and trained for their January 2013 trek with us. Emily was especially enthusiastic about the trek; she yearned to return to East Africa, where she spent her childhood and where her dreams of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro were born.
Unfortunately, only one of the women was able to climb Kilimanjaro. On December 20th, just two and half weeks before the start of their trek, life took an unpredictable turn of events – Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of boarding a plane for Tanzania, she was in the hospital recovering from a bilateral mastectomy. As the ever-positive Emily put it, “A greater power had me training for a different mountain.”
From her hospital bed, Emily cheered Deb on as she followed the daily trek schedule and vicariously climbed alongside her friend. Little did she know, Deb created a large cardboard cutout of her friend so that Emily, in one way or another, would trek Kilimanjaro. In a sincere and heartfelt display of friendship, Deb literally carried her friend up the mountain to bring Emily’s goal to fruition. Later, the friends dubbed the cardboard cutout “Flat Emily” after the popular children’s book, Flat Stanley.
Deb embraced the journey of carrying her cardboard companion by taking photos of “Flat Emily” everywhere: on the airplane, at the trailhead, in the sleeping tents, and with her Thomson Safaris porters. When Deb finally had Uhuru Peak in her sights, however, she became very emotional, “It affected me in a way that I did not expect. Our assistant guide, Abeli, asked if I was OK. I said that Emily was the one who should have been there, not me; she was the one who wanted it the most. He simply said, ‘It’s best to be quiet now,’ as he walked me to the summit.”
Dinner with trekking group at Ndarakwai Ranch
Deb carrying Flat Emily through the alpine desert of Kilimanjaro
Guide carrying Flat Emily through the rainforest
Flat Emily at the gate (and properly outfitted with a Buff)
The porters pitched in too!
Flat Emily at camp
Deb summits Mount Kilimanjaro with Flat Emily
Deb presents Emily with "Flat Emily" and a photo album of their Kilimanjaro trek
Upon returning from the Kilimanjaro, Deb compiled all of the images from her trek and surprised Emily with a photo album. On its pages, Emily could see that she (or her likeness, anyway) had, indeed, experienced every step of the trek alongside Deb. Emily was also touched to learn that everyone in Deb’s trekking group, including porters and guides, contributed to Emily’s dream and took a turn carrying “Flat Emily” up towards the summit.
Emily keeps the album Deb so thoughtfully created on her coffee table. She adds, “I was moved to tears. It was (and is) the most thoughtful, sacrificial gift I have ever received. I am humbled at the forethought and planning this amazing woman did to bless me through the valley.” She adds, “True friends will not only walk that extra mile for you but complete strangers become friends when they are willing to share the dream and carry the weight of a “Flat Emily” to the Roof of Africa.”
Since her treatment began, Emily’s bright spirit and strength have not wavered. She shares, “The last few months have been a roller coaster, I have spectacular days, followed by days that are an effort just to complete general tasks. ‘Chemo brain’ is the worst of it – thank God for spellcheck and my Garmin [GPS], otherwise I truly would be in a pickle! However, I’m now considering plans to trek Kilimanjaro for my 50th birthday, as long as there are no other lumps – pun intended – on the road to 2015.”
May 15, 2013
Thinking about going on an African safari? Your trip will deliver memories to cherish for a lifetime. As you begin planning your African adventure, take a look at the following eco-friendly and socially responsible travel tips to help you become more familiar with local customs and to help you tread lightly on the land during your visit. Safari njema!
Feel free to add your comments section below, and make sure to share these tips with fellow travelers on Facebook and Twitter!
March 26, 2013
Mountaineer, Vanessa O’Brien attempts an Explorer’s Grand Slam
after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro
On March 10, Vanessa summited Mount Kilimanjaro with us, which was the final climb of her Seven Summits challenge (the Seven Summits is a mountaineering challenge to reach the highest peaks of each continent). There have been about 50 women in history to have successfully climbed the Seven Summits and Vanessa is the first woman to have done it in the span of 10 months (she smashed the record which was previously held at 12 months.)
Climbing the Seven Summits is an extraordinary accomplishment but Vanessa is aiming for an even loftier goal – the Explorer’s Grand Slam, which includes the Seven Summits plus the two poles. She has already reached the South Pole and plans on reaching the North Pole next month.
click to enlarge map*Vanessa climbed mainland Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, which was initially on the list of Seven Summits. The highest point in Oceania, however, is New Guinea’s Carstensz Pyramid; a more difficult climb, which replaced Kosciusko as one the Seven Summits in the 1980s. Vanessa covered all the bases and climbed both.
Training, staying healthy and planning the logistics for one major mountain climb is no small task, much less 7+ in rapid succession. When this British-American mountaineer isn’t training near her home on Boston area beaches, where she pulls truck tires through the sand, she’s bagging another summit with no time to waste – she had to make a rapid descent down Mt. McKinley in order to catch her departing flight!
We are proud to have played a part in Vanessa’s expedition; regarding her trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, she commented, “Kilimanjaro is the 4th highest mountain among the Seven Summits. Although one doesn’t need all the alpine equipment to summit Kilimanjaro, as they do for Denali or Elbrus, one must still deploy the discipline of acclimatization to be successful including climbing high, sleeping low over a number of days, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating proper nutrition. Just like any of the other Seven Summits up until one hits the ice, the paths on Kilimanjaro can be steep, uphill, rocky, slippery, muddy and the weather can vary from sunshine to sleet/snow/rain. A climber is a climber and every mountain must be treated with respect.”
Taking a break in Kilimanjaro`s rainforest with Thomson trekking team
Trekking through the rainforest on the Umbwe Route
Celebrating summit success at the gate with Thomson Safaris trekking team
Descending through the rainforest after a successful climb
Scaling the Barranco Wall
In the Barranco Valley
Vanessa O`Brien with Thomson Safaris` trekking team
Vanessa`s Record-Breaking 7th Summit within 10 months!
“Climbing with the Thomson Safaris guides was an absolute pleasure. Prosper and Simon were both extremely knowledgeable about the routes, the wildlife, flora/fauna, the rock and the history of Kilimanjaro. Our group decided to take local Swahili names for our trek/climb and bonded very well with the whole Thomson Safaris’ team from the cook to the porters to Focus, our medical guide that trekked the entire route to the summit with us. We shared a lot of great stories, shot some great video footage, and took some amazing pictures. I couldn’t have wished for a better support team for my ’7th’ summit!”
What’s next for Vanessa? She reached the South Pole in December and is only two weeks away from meeting her final challenge on the North Pole, which will complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam. Only 13 days and counting until she embarks on the exciting conclusion to this record-breaking expedition.
UPDATE: Vanessa O’Brien reached the North Pole on April 16th!
February 25, 2013
We are excited to share the launch of our new website with you – that’s right, Thomson Safaris has a new look! Visit our site and escape to Tanzania via beautiful photographs and videos from our safari and Kilimanjaro guests. We hope you enjoy the site’s new features including Kilimanjaro trekking maps, a photos & videos section and testimonials from Thomson Safaris’ travelers.
Use our new website to book your next safari or Kilimanjaro trek or request a catalog to start planning your adventure to Tanzania!
December 20, 2012
Looking for some last-minute gift ideas for a safari, trekking or travel-enthusiast?
The following 10 items are gifts we have loved receiving or are topping our lists this year…(hint, hint)!
You wouldn’t dream of going to Tanzania without a camera! Be sure to make yourself familiar with all of its features well before your departure. Stay tuned to our blog for safari-specific camera recommendations – coming soon!
Binoculars are a must for safari travelers. We like this pair by Bushnell, Bushnell Legend Ultra HD, for its image clarity, color fidelity and light weight. It also features a rain proof coating for inclement weather.
|Preload a Kindle with Travel Books
The Kindle offers a great way for readers to travel with multiple titles and minimal weight. Gift a Kindle to your favorite traveler; while you’re at it, load it with great books that inspire or educate them about their upcoming travels. Check our reading list to find trekking or safari-specific book suggestions like the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to African Wildlife and Peter Matthiessen‘s The Tree where Man was Born.
|Inreach Smartphone and GPS
Stay in touch with friends and family in remote places! This handy device transforms your smartphone or tablet into a GPS tracking system that not only locates your position but automatically keeps your friends and family up to date on your whereabouts. Learn more!
While an altimeter is not necessary for trekking Kilimanjaro, it sure is nice to watch the reading increase as you gain altitude and strive to reach 19,341′. A great gift for the Kilimanjaro trekker in your life!
|Songs of the Maasai Steppe by Loruvani
Put a soundtrack to the memories of your travels to Tanzania and watch/listen to the video above featuring spiritual and uplifting Maasai and Swahili gospel songs. Proceeds of the sale of this music go directly to the villages of the Maasai singers. Preview and purchase a CD or MP3s here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/loruvani
|Andy Biggs Photography
Iconic photography from Africa makes for a very special gift. You can purchase imagery from professional African wildlife photographer and Thomson trip leader, Andy Biggs. His photos are signed and printed on acid-free fine art papers. Visit Andy’s photo gallery.
Modern Travel Posters
|Map Travel Journal
These handcrafted journals by Kristin Crane can be customized with any map of your choosing. Beautifully assembled, these little pieces of art are sure to be a treat for the traveler on your gift list.
Tried and true, this crank flashlight will always provide illumination without having to worry about batteries. Great for travelers headed to remote destinations.
—–Be sure to check our Dear Santa board on Pinterest for more ideas.