THE THINKING PERSON'S SAFARI
Or Guns, Germs and Steel in Tanzania*
The Thinking Person’s Safari in Tanzania, takes you to all the spectacular places of the classic wildlife safari in and around Serengeti National Park. But it also takes you on a million year journey from our own human origins at sites like Olduvai Gorge, where you can trace the evolution of our ancestors from australopithecine, to modern Homo sapiens and contemporary Tanzania. You will visit with the indigenous peoples of the country, Bantus, Nilotes, Cushites and the last gatherer hunter peoples of East Africa. You will travel the Serengeti; enter the caldera of Ngorongoro crater and walk among the Maasai. You will spend time with Tanzanians from all walks of life; in their homesteads, schools and clinics as they balance tradition with the demands of 21st century life.
*Reference to the book, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond.
Dear Friend and Fellow Explorer,
I invite you to join me on safari in Tanzania for two remarkable weeks where you will breathe the African air, sleep under African stars and experience the rhythms of nature and the traditional cultures of East Africa. While on safari I will provide you with short presentations, tales and anecdotes that will illuminate how guns, germs and steel has transformed and preserved so much of traditional and contemporary Africa. (Before and after our safari I can also provide you with a wealth of articles, books, documentaries and films to enhance your insight into this fascinating cradle of humanity).
All of us are the direct descendants of a small group of fully human, hunter-gatherer homo sapiens who left East Africa a mere 50,000 years ago to populate the rest of the world. Our ancestors began their journey in and around Africa’s Great Rift Valley which includes the Serengeti game park of Tanzania, having learnt to gather its plants and hunt the wild animals that we still see there today-elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and the millions of wildebeest whose annual migration is without exaggeration, one of the living natural wonders of the world.
When you visit the Serengeti you see what our world looked like when it was young, sometime during the Pleistocene, before the last age, when emerging bands of humankind were a mere dot on the landscape. We will travel the Serengeti, explore Ngorongoro crater and camp under the stars. We will also walk among the Maasai, a group of Nilotic speaking cattle pastoralists who are known for their fierce traditionalism. We will visit the descendants of the people who built the lost city of Engaruka-speakers of an Ethiopian language who came there from the northern highlands, thousands of years ago. We will spend time with Bantu speaking villagers and may hear the African origins of American popular music.
Having explored Olduvai Gorge of National Geographic fame, a site where Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the remains of our pre human australopithecine ancestors, we will be welcomed by the Hadza, descendants of our fully human ancestors, a tribe who has never left the area, and who continues to live nearby, as hunter-gatherers. Remarkably, we will end this “thinking person’s safari” in the place where we all began.
Please join me, as this trip will be limited to a maximum of 12 people and space is limited.
Don’t hesitate to contact me or Thomson Safaris for specific questions or to register
27 August 2017 - Depart North America
28 August 2017 - Arrival into Arusha
Upon arrival into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), we will be warmly welcomed by Thomson Safaris staff, who will transfer us to our comfortable lodge.
Accommodations: Mount Meru Hotel / Mount Meru Game Lodge
29 August 2017 - Eastern Serengeti Private Nature Refuge
Northern Tanzania is a relatively small area, so it only takes a brief scenic flight to bring us to a dramatic new world of cultural difference and natural beauty. Take in breathtaking views of Lake Natron, one of the many rift valley lakes, and the Maasai “Mountain of God”, Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that is sacred to the Maasai and features in their traditional myths and tales. After meeting our guides and completing a safari briefing, we will enjoy a satisfying lunch at camp.
After meeting our guides and completing a safari briefing, we will enjoy a satisfying lunch at camp. So many Maasai still roam the plains of northern Tanzania with their herds of cattle, maintaining their traditions while adapting to new ways of life. Following lunch, immerse yourself in the domestic round of the Maasai by visiting a boma, which is a settlement of circular mud-and-dung Maasai homes. Learn more about their extraordinary pastoral tradition as we tour the boma and take in the scenes of village life as it has been lived for centuries. Later, those interested can stretch their legs on a brief but scenic walk (a luxury not available in the national parks). A local wildlife scout will accompany us on this walk, pointing out nearby wildlife.
Accommodations: Eastern Serengeti Private Nyumba Camp (BLD)
30 August 2017 - Eastern Serengeti Private Nature Refuge
Enjoy a light breakfast before heading out on a morning hike. The terrain will be fairly mild, but make sure that you’ve got comfortable shoes with good traction. Being out on the plains on foot at this time of day is magical and gives you a taste of a day in the life of a Maasai herdsman or shepherdess.
Although the Maasai are fiercely traditional, they also know that the future of their people depends on education and a mastery of written English and Kiswahili. This morning we will visit a local school in a Maasai village. As we meet with teachers and students and tour the school grounds, we will learn more about the role of education in contemporary Maasai life and of their hopes for the future.
Traditional African elders are often master storytellers and Maasai elder Nekaaki Kioki is one of the most celebrated. A feisty grandmother, she knows hundreds of Maasai folktales and recites them in a truly dramatic fashion. Travelers usually gather around the campfire to listen to her tell tales, which are translated into English. This is how our own, non-literate ancestors once listened to the tales of Beowulf in Northern Europe or the tales of brave Ulysses, long before Europeans discovered the New World.
Africa is diurnal. It is a different place by day and by night. At night, a whole new world of wildlife emerges and nature sounds different. So take to the plains and wilds after dark for a night drive. Night drives offer thrills and possible sightings of nocturnal creatures, such as spring hares, aardvarks, and porcupines. More than anything, the night drive offers an adventure that old African hands such as the Swedish aristocratic big game hunter, Bror Blixen, husband of Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa) once treasured during times past, and that few travelers who come to Tanzania have the chance to experience.
Accommodations: Eastern Serengeti Private Nyumba Camp (BLD)
31 August 2017 - Serengeti National Park
On our way out of the Eastern Serengeti, we’ll meet members of the Enjipai Women’s Group, which was formed by a small group of Maasai women with a great entrepreneurial spirit. They paired their skills as artisans and homemakers with their desire to help their families, as well as the community in general. Enjoy spectacular wildlife viewing during the journey to our next Nyumba camp inside the Serengeti. Big cats often spend these hours dozing on the kopjes that dot the plains, or lounging along a tree branch, while antelope and other animals graze.
Just under two thousand years ago, a group of African villagers in the highlands of West Africa combined iron smelting with a cluster of food plants that included plantains and bananas that had originated in Indonesia and that had somehow found their way to West Africa.
This created a population explosion whic triggered wave upon wave of migration to the south and east of the continent and whom scholars called “Bantu speakers.” These tribes now make up over 90% of Tanzania’s population. The Bantu tribes have maintained an advanced musical culture. Wherever you travel in Bantu Africa there are drums, music and dance. American and African American popular music-Blues, Jazz, Rock, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues has maintained much of the nature and structure of Bantu music which it inherited from the slaves brought from West Africa to the Americas. It was one of those strange cultural phenomenon where the culture of the oppressed have overtaken the culture of the oppressors.
Accommodations: Northern Serengeti Nyumba Camp (BLD)
1 September 2017 - Serengeti National Park
At the turn of the 19th century there were few elephants left in Serengeti as they had been killed off for the ivory trade that provided Europe with its white piano keys and billiard balls. Then during the British colonial period, big game hunters began to decimate its lions. Just before this happened in the 1880s cattle born Rinderpest struck East Africa and in two years 95, percent of the buffalo and wildebeest in the region had died. Rinderpest is a “germ” (actually a virus) that entered the Serengeti via cattle that the Italians had brought to Ethiopia from India. As a result of Rinderpest, East Africans such as the Maasai were starving and without cattle and thus put themselves under the authority of the colonizing British and Germans.
Because of the epidemic and overhunting, by the dawn of the 20th century, the Serengeti had lost more than half of its wildlife and was relatively empty. As the British started to apply the lessons of modern biology and ecology to their African possessions, they began to realize that the Serengeti was the home to one of the last migrations of wild animals in the world.
In 1940 it was declared a national park and over the last seventy years, with proper management it has bounced back to its once prehistoric vigor. The Serengeti has become the poster child of modern conservation biology and is jokingly referred to by many conservation scientists as “Pleistocene Park.”
Accommodations: Northern Serengeti Nyumba Camp (BLD)
2 September 2017 - Serengeti National Park
Today’s Serengeti, Tanzania's second-largest national park, covers nearly 6,000 square miles of grassland plains, savannah, kopjes, hills, woodlands, and riverine forests. The Grumeti, Mbalageti, and Mara river systems serve as critical water sources and are often excellent sites for wildlife viewing. Beyond the heralded migration of wildebeest and zebra, the Serengeti is best known for its big predators, including cheetah and leopard, as well as large prides of lions and clans of hyenas.
Other commonly seen animals include gazelle, buffalo, giraffe, topi, hartebeest, ostrich, and jackal, but it is the full diversity of wildlife and habitats that you will truly find amazing. The greater Serengeti ecosystem actually covers the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and numerous surrounding wildlife-protected lands that combine for a total of almost 17,000 square miles, which is larger than the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island put together. Once upon a time, even North America resembled the Serengeti with its buffalo herds that dominated its unsettled Western frontier. Serengeti is one of the last places on earth where these prehistoric migrations continue, having changed little since the time before the last ice age.
*Those with advance reservations will have the opportunity to view the Serengeti from a truly unique vantage point: floating high above in a hot-air balloon. You’ll head to the launch site before daybreak, beginning your ascent just as the sun starts to rise over the stunning plains below. After a breathtaking flight, you’ll be greeted with champagne and a full English breakfast, after which you’ll rejoin the group. For those who opt not to take the balloon excursion, there is much to discover within arm's reach of camp; learn how to identify animal footprints and bird calls with our guide. For the remainder of the day, spend more time seeking out wildlife and exploring the Serengeti's rich landscapes.
Accommodations: Central Serengeti Nyumba (BLD)
3 September 2017 - Ngorongoro Conservation Area
As we follow the meandering path out of Serengeti National Park, take we will make a short stop at Olduvai Gorge, a deep ravine and site of fossilized remains of animals and hominids that date as far back as two million years. Take a specially arranged tour of the excavation site with an archeologist. A brief lecture and small museum tour are also included. Olduvai is also a perfect site from which to understand the new field of “Cognitive Archaeology” through which we can understand the prehistoric nature of our own psychological structure. Olduvai is a place where you can witness the “evolution of the mind” as cognitive scientists have developed new models for the evolution of mind which are linked with the artifacts that are found on site.
Until the industrial revolution and its electrical lights, humans were hard wired to wake at dawn and sleep at night and on rare occasions sit up, watch and navigate by the stars and planets. Here the stars and planets look as if they are an arms width away and you can get reconnect with a time when day was light and night was dark and the animals of the forest and plains could be heard all around.
Accommodations: Ngorongoro Nyumba Camp (BLD)
4 September 2017 - Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro is the extinct volcano whose ancient lava provided the Serengeti with its rich soil. So in a sense “Serengeti is the gift of Ngorongoro.” Spend a day in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a habitat rich in culture and teeming with wildlife. Sometimes there are more than 30,000 animals in and around the crater, including black rhino, cheetah, lion, hyena, eland, and numerous antelope. On the floor of the crater, the alkaline Lake Magadi serves as an important water source and nearby, the small Lerai Forest with its yellow fever acacia trees, provides shade and shelter for wildlife. We may see baboons, vervet monkeys, and even elephants in its thicket. Thorny bush, grasslands, hippo pools and a second small lake are also found on the floor. You’ll soon see why Ngorongoro is considered to be among the world’s great wonders.
Accommodations: Ngorongoro Nyumba Camp (BLD)
5 September 2017 - Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley abuts the conservation area, but offers a dramatically different, drier landscape. Be sure to take in the views from the top of the escarpment onto the plains below. It is one of the most beautiful in Tanzania! We will have lunch at our camp and enjoy the surrounding serenity of the wilderness.
This afternoon, we will make our way to a Datoga (Barabaig) village, a Nilotic group of pastoralists distantly related to the Maasai, for a rare glimpse into this pastoralist culture. Meet community members as they go about their daily lives, visiting a typical home and a local blacksmith, who makes the brass jewelry favored by Datoga women, as well as the spear tips prized by men.
Accommodations: Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge (BLD)
6 September 2017 - Great Rift Valley to Ngorongoro Highlands
Early in the morning, we will head into the bush to meet members of the Hadza, one of the world's last bands of hunter-gatherers. They have maintained a lifestyle which was once the basis for all humanity until the agricultural revolution, a mere 12,000 years ago. The Hadza were here before the Bantus, the Nilotes or the Ethiopian Iraqw. They are and remain Tanzania’s “first people.” Cognitive psychologists argued that our basic human nature is still a function of this gatherer-hunter past.
Join the men as they hunt or collect honey, or go gathering with the women. The activity will not be pre-arranged, as it is based solely on the tribe's needs on the given day and which is an expression of the radical egalitarian ethos of almost all hunter gatherers and which evolutionary biologists argue is one of the historical sources of modern democratic and populist movements.
After lunch back at camp, we will later arrive at Karatu, which is one of traditional home areas of the Iraqw people, who migrated into central Tanzania from Ethiopia two thousand years ago. Gibb’s Farm, our home for the next 2 days, artfully blends nature, culture and eco-friendly amenities to provide what is sure to a memorable stay.
Accommodations: Gibb’s Farm (BLD)
7 September 2017 - Ngorongoro Highlands
After breakfast, we will visit a growing market town near Lake Manyara called Mto Wa Mbu, which has attracted scores of people from every tribe from all corners of Tanzania. Archaeologists believe that the lost city of Engaruka, excavated during the 20th century was built by ancestors of the Iraqw some five hundred years ago. This is just one more example of the power of steel bearing agriculturalists who established themselves in the former hunting territories of the ancestors of the Hadza, after having left Ethiopia. Late we will meet Daniel Tewa at his traditional Iraqw home he built by hand. Daniel is a charismatic local historian, storyteller, and respected member of the Iraqw people, and his wife Elizabeth is a renowned craftswomen of the fancifully beaded wedding skirts.
This evening, join your fellow travel companions at the Tembo Fire, an open-air sitting area nestled at the foot of the organic gardens. The tradition of the nightly campfire began as a purely practical measure to ensure that elephants - or "tembo" in Swahili - are not tempted to feast in the gardens at night. Now, with a comfortable seating area and full bar, the Tembo Fire makes a wonderful place for conversation, story- telling or star-gazing.
Afterward, we will dine on a farm-fresh dinner and reflect on our many sights, adventures, and experiences.
Accommodations: Gibb’s Farm (BLD)
8 September 2017 - Arusha
Rise early to take in the delightful chorus of songbirds from your verandah: the twee-wee trill of the yellow-throated long claw, the bell-like boo-boo of the tropical boubou, and the soft warble of the scarlet-chested sunbird. During a special farewell lunch at River House, we will have time to say goodbye to our safari companions and visit the heartwarming Shanga workshop. The Shanga workshop is an art center that employs local people with a diverse range of special needs. This socially conscious business creates new jobs and a sense of purpose for people who had few, if any, employment opportunities elsewhere. As disabled employees learn new skills, are able to become active members of the community and to make contributions to their families' wellbeing. After finishing your shopping, transfer to a day room to freshen up and enjoy a light snack before our evening flights home.
Accommodations: Day Room at Mount Meru Hotel (BLD)
9 September 2017 Arrive home
Please note: Thomson Safaris (TS) will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. Any unforeseeable changes in fees, such as fuel surcharges, increased park fees or other fees that are out of TS control will be the responsibility of the guest. Some conditions (political, climatic, environmental, cultural, or wildlife migrations) may also necessitate changes in the itinerary. TS reserves the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary. We will attempt to notify participants of changes as far in advance as possible. Costs incurred by such changes will be the responsibility of the participant.
What to Expect
The itinerary is specially designed to maximize cultural and wildlife-viewing experience as well as your comfort. There is virtually no bad time to visit Tanzania. Rains in November and April motivate the perpetual movement of animals in search of water (also known as The Great Migration). The climate is typically dry, sunny, and warm. In northern Tanzania, expect temperatures with daytime highs in the 80’s and lows in the 50’s in the evenings and early mornings. Temperatures will be cooler at higher elevations, such as in the Ngorongoro Highlands.
This tour involves exposure to the outdoors and full days of touring. The safari is not overly active, but you should be in good physical condition in order to enjoy it to the fullest. Early morning is the best time for wildlife-viewing and drives may last up to five hours on bumpy, dusty, and occasionally muddy roads. Since your comfort is a priority, these drives are minimized with wildlife viewing and/or cultural stops along the way. Keep Fit Kits are available at every camp for anyone interested in additional exercise.
Recently named one of Travel + Leisure’s 2013 World’s Best in the category of Top Safari Outfitters, Thomson Safaris was selected as the tour operator for this trip because of their extensive expertise in northern Tanzania and award-winning reputation in the adventure travel business. Working exclusively in Tanzania for over 33 years, they are leaders in ethical, sustainable, and responsible tourism.
Thomson Safaris was one of the first safari operators in Tanzania to insist on local, Tanzanian guides. All guides have a minimum of 10 years’ experience in the field. More than just leaders and wildlife experts, they are true ambassadors for Tanzania. In addition to superior wildlife spotting skills, our team of guides offers local insight that can’t be found in guidebooks and they are eager to share their country's treasures with us!
Transportation while on safari
You’ve gone halfway around the world to be on safari; you don’t want to waste a single minute stuck in the mud or unable to cross the river. Luckily, you’ll be traveling in specially customized vehicles. These reliable, rugged vehicles are tough enough for river crossings, wild terrain, and anything that comes our way!
Accommodations have been chosen for their unique African feel, stunning settings, and ideal proximity to attractions. All lodges are comfortable, have electricity and private bathrooms.
The camps, which were designed exclusively by Thomson, are called Nyumbas (Swahili for “home”).
They are eco-friendly mobile camps set on private sites which allow direct access to wildlife. The large walk-in tents come with real beds dressed in deluxe linens. En suite bathrooms include water basins, showers, and self-contained, pump-flush toilets. Due to ecological and conservation issues, none of the camps have fixed plumbing, and they utilize the abundant sunshine to provide solar-powered LED lighting. The camp chef prepares fresh gourmet meals from local ingredients, and restricted diets are easily accommodated with advance notice. Accommodations for your trip include:
Mount Meru Hotel, 1 night (August 27 departure) and day use
The Mount Meru Hotel was recently renovated top to bottom, and the finished product offers reliable modern conveniences, a variety of dining options, a beautiful pool, and a central location.
Mount Meru Game Lodge, 1 night (September 10 departure)
This lodge, nestled in verdant garden where a variety of injured or orphaned animals have been rehabilitated over the years, offers a comfortable combination of African and European charm.
Exclusive Nyumbas, 7 nights
Eastern Serengeti Nyumba - secluded camp set on a private nature refuge providing opportunities for walks and a night game drive, elements not available inside the national parks
Northern Serengeti Nyumba - A beautiful camp strategically situated to maximize wildlife sightings at this time of year.
Central Serengeti Nyumba - Centrally located to seasonal wildlife populations, opportunities for cultural interaction, with a spectacular open-air lounge and dining area.
Ngorongoro Nyumba - Located on the eastern edge of the Crater’s rim for the easiest, most exclusive access to the crater floor.
Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge, 1 night
Located near its namesake lake, Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge is a stylish camp from where we will be in close proximity to one of the last remaining hunter/gatherer tribes.
Gibb's Farm, 2 nights
Award-winning, eco-friendly Gibb’s Farm offers a variety of activities, adventures and opportunities to rejuvenate, from guided walks around the extensive grounds of this working coffee estate, to bike tours through the hills of the Ngorongoro highlands, to Maasai-inspired spa treatments.
Accommodations Based on Double Occupancy
Meals as Noted in Itinerary, Inclusive of Restaurant Staff Tips
Beer, Wine, Spirits and Soda at Welcome and Farewell Dinners
All Park Fees
Complete Preparation Materials Including Helpful Tips, Packing List, Trip Expectations, Tipping Guidelines, Etc.
Access to a Personal Safari Consultant by Phone or Email, Five Days a Week
Full-Color, 120-Page Safari Journal
Lectures and Commentary Throughout by Geoffrey Clarfield
Services of Professional Safari Guides and Drivers in Northern Tanzania
Services of Nyumba Camp Staff Including Chef and Waitstaff
Land Transportation in a Customized, 4-Wheel Drive Safari Vehicle
Unlimited Mileage in Safari Vehicles
Village, School, and Cultural Visits as Noted in Itinerary
Guaranteed Window Seating in Safari Vehicles
Scenic Internal Flight(s) as Noted in Itinerary
Guided Walks with a Naturalist, when Available
Complimentary Bottled Drinking Water Throughout Your Safari
Keep Fit Kit at Each Nyumba Camp
$150 per Person Nature Refuge Conservation Fee
Airport Transfers for Delta/KLM Flights on Scheduled Arrival and Departure Days
International round-trip flight to Tanzania; Gratuities for guides, drivers, and camp staff; Airline-imposed fuel surcharges, upgraded seat assignments and excess checked baggage fees; Meals and expenses en route to Tanzania; Fees for passport, visa, or immunizations; Cost of hospitalization or evacuation; Beer, wine, spirits, and soft drinks, laundry, phone, internet, and items of a personal nature.
How to Book
Call Thomson Safaris at 617-923-0426 and refer to “Geoffrey Clarfield’s Tanzania Safari” or complete the form below and submit by mail, email or fax. A non-refundable deposit of $1000US/person can be paid by credit card, or check, payable to Thomson Safaris, secures your space on safari. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure and must be paid in US Dollars in the form of a check, bank check, or wire transfer.
International airfare is not included in the trip price. Thomson Safaris has access to competitively priced business class flights on Delta/KLM Airlines (based on availability). For the best rates in economy class, guests should visit Delta.com or KLM.com and look for routing into and out of Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). Guests are welcome and encouraged to call Thomson Safaris for questions and guidance.
It is highly recommended that you consider purchasing trip insurance which offers comprehensive coverage of expenses in conjunction with cancellation, illness or accident as well as damage or loss of luggage. Information will be promptly sent to you following registration and payment of deposit.
Cancellation and Refunds
Notification of cancellation must be received in writing to Thomson Safaris (either by mail or e-mail). At the time we receive your cancellation, the following per person cancellation penalties apply:
Up to 91 days before departure: $1000 Deposit
90-61 days before departure: 50% of the package price
60-46 days before departure: 65% of the package price
45 days or less before departure: 100% of the package price
Terms and Conditions
A detailed liability statement, concerning, among other things, limitations of Wineland-Thomson Adventures, Inc.’s liability for loss of property, injury, illness or death, will be provided to passengers upon enrollment, along with an information form to sign and return to Thomson Safaris shortly after enrolling on the trip. Each of these forms is also available to prospective travelers upon request.