November 14, 2012
Distinguished Harvard professor, loving husband and father, inspiring teacher, generous friend, renowned researcher and champion of science, Dr. Farish Jenkins was all of these things and more. His passing is a great loss to the many people he touched and inspired over the course of his lifetime.
We came to know Farish through his life-long interest in Tanzania; we were honored to plan nine of his adventures to Tanzania, trips he so ably led for Harvard Museum of Natural History. His 10th Thomson trip had been planned for this coming January.
For those of us who had the privilege to befriend him, work with him or simply observe in awe as he effortlessly held a room enthralled with his incomparable intellect and consummate charm, he will be greatly missed. For his many contributions to science, he will be acknowledged and praised by generations to come. For his inspiration to countless students, fellow scientists, and friends he will be remembered as a masterful and generous mentor. For his charm, grace, kindness and elegance, he set a new standard for the word gentleman.
While we are saddened by this loss, we are also grateful to have known such a brilliant man. And what discussion of Farish Jenkins would be complete without mentioning the hat? No one, but no one, wore a hat like Farish. Here’s to you, Farish! We tip our hats to you!
Our most heartfelt sympathies go out to his beloved wife and family and all those who were privileged to know this truly remarkable man.
November 12, 2012
Thomson Safaris’ guests, Lori and Mark made a memorable safari experience truly unforgettable. Read the story of their Maasai wedding vow renewal ceremony below.
Lori’s desire to visit Africa was realized when she was a young girl; over the years, her connection and passion for Africa’s wildlife and people grew more intense. “I’ve been listening to Lori talk about Africa for all 20 years of our marriage,” joked her husband, Mark. So for their 20th wedding anniversary, Mark surprised Lori with a Tanzanian safari, which they would enjoy the following year. For Lori, the surprises didn’t stop there!
Over the course of the next year, Mark secretly made detailed plans with our staff and the local Maasai community for a very special event on the eve of their 21st anniversary – a wedding vow renewal ceremony, Maasai-style. Mark was very diligent to make the ceremony as authentic as possible. “We are in their home, we are their guests and I wanted the ceremony to be authentic and true to their culture,” he said. The events of the ceremony and the traditional garments they were to wear were crafted well ahead of their visit to Tanzania.
On the day of the ceremony, the Thomson staff told all of the guests at the Nyumba camp they were invited to a local wedding. “I thought we hit the jackpot,” said Lori. “How lucky are we to experience something unplanned like this? So few people get this kind opportunity!” Lori immediately, and very excitedly, told Mark that she wanted to get to the ceremony site early to sit in the front row. Mark, who was instructed to keep Lori in their tent until preparations were finalized, searched for excuses to stall her. “Maybe you want to freshen up first…? Why do you want to sit in the front row, we don’t even know these people…? I don’t want to be the first ones there…” Mark kept struggling with reasons to keep Lori from leaving the tent.
Fortunately Mark was able to divert Lori’s frustration with his unsubstantiated excuses when he heard Maasai chanting in the distance; this was his signal the ceremony was beginning. He was finally able to reveal his plans to his very shocked wife, “The wedding that we are going to…it is not for a local member of the Maasai village, it is for us. We are getting re-married in a traditional Maasai wedding ceremony.” Lori was overwhelmed with emotion. “I had no idea what was going to happen next and I wanted to be present in the moment and take it all in,” she said.
A group of chanting Maasai warriors approached their tent and collected Mark and Lori to prepare them for the ceremony. Lori was escorted to a group of eight women who dressed her in the wedding garments they made for her, which included a dress and a beaded headpiece. “The garments and the jewelry were elaborate and so beautiful, we were touched by the amount of time and work they must have put into making them for us. It really meant a lot to us.”
There was a flurry of activity encircling Lori; Mark could barely make out what was happening through the blur of the women’s hands as they prepared her for the ceremony. He was able to see a special moment as young girls smiled proudly as they adorned Lori’s ears with beautiful beaded earrings they had made for her. He will never forget Lori’s face, in the midst of the excitement, beaming with pure emotion.
Maasai women dressing Lori in traditional wedding garments they made for the ceremony.
Johnson translated the ceremony from Maa to English.
Mark and Lori with their guide, Robert, their son, Adam and Ellie, Mark`s mom. The ceremony was a surprise to the whole family!
The ceremony included blessings from Maasai elders and a heartfelt exchange of vows between the couple.
The couple described it as a true cultural exchange with the Maasai. “We learned about their culture but they also learned about our culture."
The ceremony began when a group of chanting Maasai came to collect Mark and Lori to prepare them for the event.
The ceremony was held around the fire at the camp and began with four elders giving their blessings. Mark presented a photo from their wedding day, which was almost exactly 21 years prior, and began reciting his renewal vows. As Mark’s vows were being translated into Maa, he watched the translator’s eyes widen — this was a bit of culture shock! “In the Maasai culture, the bride and groom don’t really speak to one another during the ceremony,” Mark explained, “so for Maasai guests to hear us sharing emotional and heartfelt words and deep expressions of love for one another was completely foreign to them.”
This was one of the many moments the couple describes as a true cultural exchange with the Maasai. “We learned about their culture but they also learned about our culture. The last thing we wanted was this to feel like a show they put on for their American guests. The Maasai were so warm and welcoming and they really seemed to embrace and genuinely engage in the whole experience.”
The Maasai were as moved by the experience as Mark and Lori. “We are honored to bless this wedding and host you people from America,” said one traditional elder and spiritual leader. “Any of your family or friends or anyone is welcome to have a beautiful celebration like this one with the Maasai of our village.”
Since they’ve returned home, Lori and Mark are still relishing in the experience. “It was the convergence of a meaningful and spiritual place with a deeply emotional moment,” said Lori, “It was the perfect combination to make this experience a once in a lifetime event for which I will forever be grateful. I was so blown away with my husband conceiving of this idea and planning every last detail, and pulling it off without a hitch. Honestly, I have no idea how he did it. I am also so appreciative of the Thomson staff and their willingness to help plan this event and create such a unique memory for us. They were amazing. Asante Sana!”
October 19, 2012
Molly summits Kilimanjaro! Fulfilling the wishes of a 7-year old girl and raising awareness of genetic disease, HHT.
Go to a prom, go on a safari (at Six Flags theme park), go to a father/daughter dance: these were some of the items on 7-year-old Molly Dunne’s bucket list. Tragically, she didn’t have the opportunity to fulfill these simple wishes. After collapsing on her first day of kindergarten in September 2010, she had a long, difficult battle with pulmonary hypertension and the rare genetic disease, Hereditary Hemorraghic Telangiectasia (HHT), which eventually claimed her life in May 2012.
In her honor – and in order to raise awareness of this preventable disease – people have been taking a photo of themselves with Molly’s picture in various places around the world. Now Molly has been to a prom, visited an aquarium and been to the state fair, all of which were items on her bucket list. Her photo has traveled across the US, Europe and has even landed in the hands of host Mario Lopez on the television set of Extra.
Thomson Safaris’ guest, Dr. Scott Olitsky, raised money on two Kilimanjaro climbs for HHT and brought Molly’s story to our attention. When he asked if we could take Molly’s photo to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, we were more than honored to do so.
Thomson Safaris’ staffer, Rachel, with a photo of Molly at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Kristen Dunne, Molly’s mom, said, “I received the pictures of Molly at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was thrilled beyond belief to see that! Molly was one tough cookie and I know she would have loved to have been able to do that some day. Thank you so much to everyone involved in getting her up there. Thanks so much for wanting to share Molly’s story. It makes me smile and keeps me going every day knowing that Molly continues to make a difference.”
Join in and support Kristen Dunne’s initiative to make miracles come true for Molly while raising awareness for HHT, a genetic condition that causes malformations in blood vessels. She adds, “We want to get the word out to hopefully help prevent another family having to go through what we’ve been through.”
October 6, 2012
Is the grass always greener on the other side? For the wildebeests, it is. Drawn by instincts, weather patterns and their appetites, the giant herds of the Great Migration make a continuous circuit around the Serengeti ecosystem in search of food – which is, literally – green grass.
The circuit follows a general pattern each year, however given the nature of nature, there are always variations making the exact location of the herds unpredictable from year to year. For instance, this autumn, the migration crossed the Mara River almost a month earlier than prior years due to an unusual and ample amount of rainfall during the dry season in the northern Serengeti.
The sheer numbers of the Great Migration make it a sight to see however there are a few events throughout the year that safari enthusiasts with good timing are lucky to witness such as newly-born wildebeest calves in March and the annual wildebeest rut in May. The suspenseful and dynamic Mara River crossings in July and October often get top billing and have been dubbed “nature’s greatest show on earth.”
Many of our guests are returning from Tanzania now after witnessing this year’s early river crossing. North & South Safari guests, Paul & Kirsten Kesicki, said, “We had an incredible time in Tanzania. We were very fortunate to see a couple of hundred thousand wildebeest cross the Mara River on our first day in the Northern Serengeti! That is something we will never forget. We were very pleased with the itinerary and the whole Thomson experience.”
Vance Miller, who recently returned from a custom, private safari, commented, “The wildebeest migration was in full swing. We were able to witness three Mara river crossings in a single day.”
The video above was shot by Thomson Safaris’ guest, Keeley Keenahan, and shows the organized chaos of a river crossing where thousands of wildebeests struggle to fight the strong currents, avoid crocodiles and hope to make it to the green grasses on the other side.
Have questions about the migration? Learn more here!
September 10, 2012
The trek was such an incredible experience… It’s difficult to put it into words, but I think the term journey describes it best. Each day was unique, with ever-changing views, climate zones, different terrain and difficulty, and, of course, the altitude made things even more interesting.
The Western Approach Route provided the most gorgeous views, from dense rainforest with Colobus monkeys and the rolling grasslands of the Shira Plateau, to the barren, moon-like landscapes of the alpine desert and the glaciers near the summit. My favorite site on the mountain was definitely Crater Camp. It felt so remote and untouched, and I could literally walk out of my tent, cross the soft black sands and touch a glacier… I’ve never been anywhere like that before!
But there is no way our group would have made it to the summit without our extraordinary team of guides, porters, and camp crew. I was blown away by all the support we received from them… our guides kept us on schedule and performed daily medical checks; our chef kept us well-fed with the most amazing meals (pumpkin soup, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, lasagna, etc); and our porters picked out the best camps sites, set up our tents (directly in front of Lava Tower and with views of Mawenzi from Barafu), helped carry our bags, and even welcomed us into camp with a song. You could tell they were proud to work for Thomson and that they loved their new all-weather climbing uniforms (the only ones on the mountain).
Looking back, picking the longer route and properly training were two of the best decisions I made. Even on this longer climb the altitude made simple things so much more difficult (like getting out of breath while packing your sleeping bag away or even the slower hiking pace), so at least being in good shape meant that I could focus on getting to the summit and enjoying the journey along the way!
The first glimpse of the mountain from the road
Me with resident giraffe during a game walk at Ndarakwai
Trekking through the rain forest
As we gain altitude, and the vegetation thins, we`re rewarded with stunning views
Enjoying Shira 2 Camp
Our dining tent on the way to Karanga - great food and a great view!
Giant groundsels in the Barranco Valley
Feeling good after scaling the Barranco Wall!
A light snow fell through the night at Lava Tower Camp
Headed to the summit with Mawenzi Peak in the background
I made it to the summit!
Lamik, my personal porter, overlooking the crater in his stylish Thomson gear
A view of glaciers from my tent in Crater Camp. This was my favorite campsite on the mountain, I`ve never seen anything like this before!
Last glimpses of the summit from our descent through the rainforest
My first animal sighting on safari - zebras in Tarangire National Park
I saw so many elephants in Tarangire
A visit to a Maasai boma
A hippo pool in the Serengeti - they`re a noisy bunch!
Soaring above the plains of the Serengeti in a hot-air balloon at dawn
Giraffe in Serengeti National Park
After the climb, I celebrated my summit success with a spectacular wildlife safari to Tarangire, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti, staying in our Nyumba campsites and the beautiful Gibb’s Farm. As with the trek, the guides, camp crew and food were fabulous, and I was completely stunned with just how much wildlife I saw… elephants, lions, wildebeest, zebra, flamingo, buffalo, hippo, ostrich, etc. I got to see the sunrise over the Serengeti from the hot air balloon, and even I walked up to a group of giraffe at Ndarakwai Ranch – how cool is that??
The list goes on and on, and there’s so much more I could say about my trip! I’d love to share more of my experience with you, answer your questions, and help you plan your own once-in-a-lifetime journey, so do feel free email me or call 800-235-0289.
|Post 4: Kilimanjaro Packing Tips|
September 4, 2012
The Great Migration is one of nature’s greatest spectacles – thousands of hoofed animals driven by instinct and weather patterns make an annual circuit around the Serengeti in search of food. Nothing stops them, not even the perils of the Mara River with its powerful currents and hungry crocodiles hidden stealthily beneath the water’s surface plotting their attacks.
If you are lucky to witness a river crossing, you will expect to see usual players: wildebeests, zebras and crocodiles. What about another resident of the river, the hippo? Although they don’t have top billing in the grand river crossing production, don’t discount these giant vegetarians; they are considered one of the most deadly animals in Africa and could prove to be a formidable opponent of the crocodile. If they wanted to make a splash, they certainly could!
Hippos are known as one of the most aggressive mammals. You wouldn’t expect these massive creatures, with their razor sharp tusks, to perform random acts of kindness but in a few, rare documented occasions; hippos have acted as river crossing guards during the Great Migration. One hippo was sighted nudging a zebra foal across the strong currents to the safety of the river bank, another tried to revive a young impala after being attacked by a crocodile, and one of our guests, Keeley Kennahan, witnessed a hippo make several attempts to interfere with a crocodile who had a wildebeest in its jaws.
No one is certain as to why hippos have these benevolent tendencies but when they do, they certainly take steal the show!