My apologies, I have been totally blog negligent! I arrived mid-January and my hair has been on fire ever since!
Every time I think, tonight or this weekend I will set aside some time, a “once in a lifetime” opportunity steals me away.
Being fair, I would start this with my November time in Cambodia, instead I will work backwards and sometimes hop around. So I hope the stories and photos are entertaining enough to keep your attention!
Yesterday I jumped back into work after 10 days with a group of friends from home. They were mostly Minnesotans and mostly virgin safarians. My friend Annie and I planned a cultur/wild life/FAME tour, with no opportunity for boredom or hunger. To my surprise, my friends are Rockstar shoppers. Tanzanian economist are, no doubt researching the seismic blip in the economy during their stay. I’m most proud of their support to the women when we visited 4 different tribes. They did not hesitate to overpay for bling in exchange for smiles.
Annie Birch “Bebe” Aurora Africa. It’s the way to experience – not just see – Africa!
So, what’s up with this tour?
Some arrived early to the beautiful Rivertrees lodge to hang out with different species of monkeys, mitigate jet lag, and imbibe in fantastic wood fired pizza. The Finch and Swanson parties did their jet lag mitigating with silver backed apes in Rwanda and joined up with us on night three.
Monkeys everywhere finding their way to your roof for a most unique wake up call!
Jet lag was challenged with a visit to a coffee farm and lunch/shopping at …… (Rivertrees gift shop was already empty). The following day we did a walking safari in Arusha national park with some “so dam cute” giraffe and an introduction to warthogs. I didn’t want to spoil their eagerness to take giraffe photos with the idea that these little darlings would pepper every landscape, competing for our attention with the show off Zebra!
Mom and baby twiga (giraffe in Swahili)!
All together now, we headed toward Karatu with our first stop at a Masai Boma. As in past years, Ruben was our guide with a peak into life on the boma, a bit of shopping with the women and a delicious lunch at Isotok.
I’ll take two of these😁
Fortified we headed to MEGA shopping at the African Gallery to give friends, Nish and Puneet, an opportunity to show off (and send off) their amazing collection of tanzanite, art, and African ware.
Finally we settled in to Baghayo lodge for a cool dip in the pool, farm to table eating, and delightful suites. Up early the next day for a walk to the wonderful FAME (Foundation for African Medicine and Education) where I spend 3 months each year. Check out the 6 minute video!
Tours were led by superstars Prosper and Saidi with an open arms welcome from all staff who had been hearing about the Minnesota group since I arrived in January. Three sessions gave staff an opportunity to mix with medical experts in our group, for intimate discussions about post-surgery care, pediatrics and data management.
Prosper showing off our maternity center!
After a walk back to Baghayo and a dip in the pool, we donned our finest and went off to a party at Annie’s garden house where everything was orchestrated by the beautiful Pascalina. The guest list included some of the finest ambassadors from FAME and I was very proud of their ability to mingle and make lifelong friends for FAME. A lovely dinner back at the ranch topped off the day.
Hanging at Annie’s with FAME ambassadors!
The group departed early the following morning for the incredible Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO world heritage site. I had new employee orientation sessions back at FAME so (my mini-me) Prosper spent the day charming the group. They quickly learned that wild life would be plentiful in Tanzania. The day was filled with the usual suspects and the rare black rhino.
Annie worked her travel magic and our bags appeared at The Plantation Lodge, just when you think things can’t get more beautiful. And the dinner was a heads up on just how great a farm to table meal can be. Once again staff and accommodations were superb AND the gift shop is still being restocked.
A new day where we split up into 3 groups. One group did the elephant hike north of Gibbs Farm. Another spent the day at the amazing Rifte Valley Children’s Village. My group choose the 5 AM departure for lake Eyasi to hunt with the Hadzabe. Emmanuel found a babou tree on the river to serve a late breakfast spread before we headed to our visit with the Black Smiths and then on to the styling Datoga women!
That night the group enjoyed another amazing meal, discovered the wine cellar and competed over who had the most fabulous day.
Who knew the wine cellar was below the bar?
Sorry to miss our last Plantation meal, I headed back to Karatu for the annual FAME party. Aside from William telling me that they postponed the party until I could attend, I would never miss this opportunity to dance with my peeps at FAME. Yes dance, there is little sitting – only fabulous outfits, dancing and warm hearted speeches in Swahili!
Dancing away the night!
The following morning the Finch/Swanson party departed for Zanzibar with the wonderful Ram amid great appreciation for their humor, perspective and shopping skill.
That left THE WOMEN! We headed to Indutu for a fabulous Serengeti adventure. Eleven women meant two trucks with our guides continuing the adventure with. Now they were able to show off their experience and education in wild life management. We had the animal finder and stand up comedian Emmanuel and the serene and lovely Comfort! And the glue to our enjoyment Bebe Birch. It was as if they had called ahead to discuss with the animals what we should see to be completely charmed. It was a bush bonanza!
Emmanuel, Comfort, and Bebe
Our home in the bush was magical. Six days before our arrival the team set up our camp and served our every need. How the chef managed the fabulous soups in a kitchen tent was a mystery. Pre-dinner drinks were around a fire and – of course – a full moon. Our lion pride visited after dark, following days of animal entertainment while zebra welcomed us home. If it seems that I exaggerate….I don’t. It was everything I wished – for my friends to fall madly in love with my second home, the beautiful Tanzania and its people.