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Tanzania Migration Safari

February 12, 2015

From January 14 to 25, 2015, 24 alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Alabama took part in a Tanzania Migration Safari. Our group became fast friends, and the experiences were incredibly rewarding! Rather than hear only from me, I asked our travelers to share their high points also. Enjoy our stories. We look forward to having you join us on your own personal journey to Tanzania in the future!

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Kikoti tented camp. I think I have died and gone to heaven. This was my first thought when I saw our new home for the next two nights. We have become our own Robinson Crusoes. The ring-necked dove is serenading us along with countless other birds. The sun is shining through the clouds. The vegetation is lush. We can see the Serengeti for miles. We hear the call of “Jambo” as our neighbors’ luggage is being delivered. I don’t want to go anyplace else. This is it. — Sheri Hicks

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Of course the trip was filled with great animal sightings, beautiful scenery, wonderful guides, and great fellow travelers. But, to pick one experience, I will select the Ngorongoro Crater experience. First we had a spectacular view from the crater rim of the entire crater floor — a beautiful expanse of green and blue dotted with animals. The height of the rim and the morning mist gave all of it a surreal feeling and was very exciting. Then we descended down into the crater through beautiful acacia trees and a sighting of two elephants to finally join all the animals on the crater floor. It felt like an experience between Jurassic Park and Shangri-La. Really unforgettable! Jambo! — Chuck Loesch

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When planning this trip, Chuck and I debated taking the hot-air balloon ride. We are both a little acrophobic, and it was expensive. But, we have passed up opportunities in other parts of the world and decided now was the time. That morning, in the pre-dawn chill, huddling together, we watched the preparations. The balloons were rolled out, air was blown in, and the fire torch lit. We received instructions, crawled into our baskets two by two, and snapped ourselves in. Scrunched together on our backs with just our heads poking out, we became enveloped in the noise and the heat. My anxiety rose, doubting our decision to do this. I said a quick prayer. Then the Jeep gently pulled the basket upright, and we began to be lifted up. In seconds my apprehension turned to elation. — Jill Ernst ’67

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On reflecting about a most memorable experience, I believe that at the top of the list was the sudden realization of the beginning of the cycle of life in the gathering of thousands upon thousands of animals for a magnificent migration, which only the strong would survive. Then on seeing the geological excavation at Olduvai, it was as if today's migration was evidence of life's continuation on the layers of millions of years. Of course, I was like a wide-eyed child when we saw the lions and their casual assurance in sleep and watching, the giraffes in their grace, and the elephants in their challenge of our invasion into their mud-bath fun. The people of Tanzania, their flowing walk and lilting language, and the variance in their lifestyle choices were all special. I hope that they will be able to retain the wildness of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti. — Jean Lazarus (University of Alabama)

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What I found most memorable about our African safari was what remained constant from day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute:

  • The beauty of the land and its animals and people — unchanged over tens of thousands of years.
  • Tanzania — biblical in scope and feel.
  • Our African adventure, a religious and spiritual experience rivaling anything I had experienced before.

— Robert Kapsis ’65

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The Tanzanian Migration Safari was the best trip we have ever taken. All aspects of the trip exceeded our expectations, including guides, accommodations, animal sightings, food, and cultural experiences. In addition, the camaraderie with our fellow travelers was an unexpected delight. My most memorable experiences were seeing elephants, giraffes, black rhinoceroses, cape buffalo, hippopotamuses, lions, and other animals crossing the road in the immediate vicinity of our vehicles. Truly outstanding! — Larry Rambo ’72, MA’74

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This was truly a trip of a lifetime for me. Having the opportunity to see the extent of nature's animals as up close and personal as we did was awe inspiring. Witnessing the migration of so many animals across such a wide space of grazing land proved what a small part we really are in the world. Having the opportunity to see so much with other wonderful people made the experience even more special. After seeing so many animals, it is difficult to really say which is my favorite. Seeing all of them in their natural habitats, mingling with each other, made all of them special. The whole experience from beginning to end will forever remain in my heart and mind.

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As someone once said, "Much of the joy of travel is in the telling," and boy, do we ever have a lot to tell our family and friends.

  • Watching a hippo lumbering from one pond to another.
  • Seeing a cheetah stalking impala.
  • Enjoying tea and coffee on the deck of our tent as the sun rose on the Serengeti.
  • Watching the French Land Rover plunge into the muck and then seeing “Fast Eddie” and our guides pull it out.
  • Enjoying the company of our fellow travelers, especially the ’Bama Girls.
  • Knowing that no matter which Land Cruiser we rode in, we would have an eagle-eyed, personable, and knowledgeable guide.
  • Seeing up close the power and size of lionesses.
  • Every single giraffe ... so large and graceful.
  • Understanding the social closeness and family ties of the elephant herds.
  • The way that Tanzanians enjoy their lives.

— Page and Dick Sute (University of Alabama)

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My trip to Tanzania has been a dream of mine since age 10. Poring through National Geographic magazines, I was both fascinated and intrigued with the Serengeti and the people who made up this diverse population and resided in this country. What I didn’t expect was my dream to come to life in the most unimaginable way — but that is exactly what happened.

From all the animals we observed close up on safari in the beautiful Serengeti, to the children we met in a small fishing village on Lake Victoria, each day was filled with unique experiences never to be forgotten. From our astonishing accommodations to the delicious meals we were served by the gracious staff, we were welcomed at each lodge with warmth and genuine hospitality.

Our guides’ boundless energy, enthusiasm, and humor, along with sharing more knowledge than we could possibly comprehend, made this trip unforgettable. Their tenacious effort to make sure we saw all that we could in a safe, yet first-hand experience is a true testament to their dedication as professional guides.

At the end of any vacation, I’m always ready to come home. This trip was different. I didn’t want it to end and was sad when our journey to Tanzania was over. It was a powerful, life-changing experience in so many positive ways. My husband and I are already talking about returning to this beautiful, amazing country. — Peggy Miller

Watching the animals in the African wild was unforgettable. Being there among them, albeit in the safety of a safari vehicle, was thrilling. And to top it off, my favorite animal — the elusive cheetah — made a stunning appearance lazing atop a termite mound. That is what I went to see! Yet what really took me by surprise was the warmth and hospitality of the people of Tanzania. I felt welcomed and, in a strange way, at home. I trust I will become a better person because of this experience. — Wilbur Raml ’64

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I enjoyed seeing the many different kinds of animals and landscapes. One of my favorite experiences was visiting a Maasai village and participating in their tribal dance. Another was the hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti followed by a champagne toast and breakfast in the wild. This was one of the best trips ever, and I would go back again. Our guide and drivers were very professional and knowledgeable. Lodgings were first rate. And I enjoyed sharing our experiences with our fellow travelers. — Alice Raml

Although you can take a ton of pictures of the animals and landscape, you cannot capture the essence of Tanzania and the demeanor of its people: friendly, smiling, joking, and happy. You may leave Tanzania, but it will never leave you! — Rick Knutsen and Jean Savelle

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Who can forget the sweeping panoramas of the African landcape? After several weeks back in New York, I’m still experiencing a blissful state of “Afriphoria!” Sheri has asked us to share a highlight — a special moment. I believe I experienced a 12-day high!

I was lulled by the peaceful coexistence of so many wondrous creatures grazing in harmony, yet jarred by a baboon’s aggression toward an innocent child left alone in a parked vehicle. I was dazzled by the natural ease of our guides, who seemed to navigate the earth’s most treacherous potholes effortlessly, at the same time carrying on a radio litany in Swahili, then switching to near-perfect English to explain in exquisite detail how the acacia trees chemically defend themselves from the appetites of browsing giraffes. These incredible and learned four men never seemed to tire, their shirts never seemed to wrinkle, and their smiles never dimmed. I continue to marvel at the richness of their knowledge and goodwill.

The regal bearing of the Maasai tending their flocks, the carefree lion asleep on its back with paws raised skyward like our late golden retriever, the ridiculous snorting hippos, the 37 giraffes in a lineup facing the sun to regulate body temperature, and elephants of all sizes rolling around in a mud puddle … These were awesome to witness. But it was the ancient baobab tree standing on the horizon, a forest of umbrella acacias gracing the highlands, and the changing colors of the Serengeti grasses … to behold the eternal rhythms of the earth in those distant vistas where the sky meets the earth — these were transcendent.

I am so grateful to have shared this trip with such extraordinary traveling companions — a truly brilliant band of Homo sapiens sapiens! — Susan Kapsis ’65

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