Last fall the Shanus and Treiber family took the type of safari everyone wants to take: a multi- country journey to see the best of East Africa. They hit Kenya, Tanzania, and Victoria Falls. They saw rare wildlife moments including camouflaged leopards and elephants lying down. They trekked through some of Africa’s most stunning landscape including Victoria Falls and the Ngorongoro Crater. And, they lucked out when they had top, perennially booked-out lodges practically to themselves (this is unheard of!). Straight from those who went on it, this was a trip that really was as good in real life as it looks on paper.
We asked Sarene and Harold and their travel companions, daughter Abby and son-in-law Dan, to share how a spark— “I want to go on safari”—became reality. Their candid responses demystify what to expect when working with a safari expert and how it will transform your experience on the ground.
We loved collaborating with you on your recent family vacation in Kenya, Tanzania and Victoria Falls! What was your motivation behind this trip?
We love having time with our kids away from the daily routine and experiencing new things together. None of us had been to these places and we had all heard amazing things from friends, not to mention books and articles we’d read on the area. When we were deciding whether to go to South or East Africa, we landed on the East because we heard the safaris and landscapes were unmatched.
What was the highlight moment for each of you on the trip?
Harold: Seeing the big cats, lions, cheetahs and leopards. I felt particularly lucky to get the shot of the leopard. If you turned away for a second you had a hard time finding it again, it blended into the surroundings so well. It was a fabulous trip and sharing it with the family was particularly meaningful.
Sarene: Seeing the mother animals with their babies, elephants, lions, gazelles, warthogs to name a few. Also, all of the family time in the car riding around a beautiful landscape as a family watching animal Families. We also loved our safari guides.
Abby: The stay at Richard’s Camp due to our wonderful guide and hosts, the more casual environment of the camp and the perfection of Masai Mara as a place to go on safari.
Dan: I was amazed by the giraffes and elephants in particular, and how the trees are shaped so specifically with flat tops because of how the giraffes eat the leaves from the top and the bottom!
One of the biggest reasons people work with us is they are time-starved and confused or overwhelmed by the chaos of conflicting reviews. How did working with an expert help you sift through the craziness? Did it change your trip-planning experience?
In the past we have largely planned our own trips. We decided to use a travel planner because we did not know a lot about Africa and needed advice. Plus, we heard it’s a place that can use insider knowledge. We picked Absolute Travel based on the recommendation of a friend. When we got in touch with Absolute Travel, they quickly put us in touch with Daniela, who is on the ground in Africa. This was very appealing to us!
Working with Daniela allowed us to make changes to our plans much more easily and to consider various options when laid out by an expert. We are good researchers but it was easier to have guidance on what to consider. She was able to present options to us and vary them to meet our schedule and budget. Additionally, in a country like Tanzania with a lot of policies and taxes around travel, having an agent to maneuver these components was incredibly helpful.
We loved getting suggestions from Daniela then being able to look them up and consider the various options. We were very happy not to deal with arranging all of the flights within Africa, not to mention other needed guides and transportation per location (eg. you need a guide to enter Ngorongoro Crater).
There were many interests (history, photography) and energy levels (Abby is a marathoner and her and her husband, Daniel, biked half of their honeymoon!). How did Daniela’s expertise come into play to ensure everyone was happy?
Sarene: Besides planning different activities for the two couples at the end of the trip, Daniela was able to suggest camps where we could tailor the daily activities to our needs and desires. So Abby and Dan were able to take one or two hikes without Harold and I, for example.
Was there a particular moment on the trip you hope to never forget?
Sarene and Harold: Sitting together as a family watching the sunset over the natural landscape, either from the Savannah or from a sandbar in Lake Burundi.
Abby and Dan: Our final night at Richard’s Camp as the only guests was incredibly special because we’d gotten to know the location and staff.
Is there anything that you included on the trip you wouldn’t have thought of if you were planning the trip on your own?
Sarene and Harold: The guided tour hike of Victoria falls and the cruise on the Zambezi river. Daniela also suggested historic hotels including in Victoria Falls which we might not have picked and which were right up Sarene’s alley. The camps, which we loved, were also the suggestions of Daniela’s and we might not have found them without her. She also suggested the timing of our trip. Without her input, we might not have spent as long on safari at two camps as we did, but we were very happy that we did.
Abby and Dan: The trek through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the end of the trip was really incredible.
Any travel advice for your friends or family?
Plan way in advance so you can consider different options without time pressure. Get a luggage scale but do not panic about the weight limits they are quite feasible!
Wildlife photography by Harold Treiber. See more exciting photos from their journey on Facebook.
Meet a Safari Expert: Daniela Bonanno
Have a story to tell?
Based in Cape Town, Daniela is Absolute Travel’s eyes and ears on the ground in Africa. Having lived in New York City for 19 years and then at Singita in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, she knows exactly what you want from a private safari and is always one step ahead of the rest when it comes to uncovering amazing safari experiences. She is also the go-to expert for family safari in Africa. With her husband and 7 year-old daughter, Vesper, she’s tested every kids club from South Africa to the Seychelles and will share her (and Vesper’s!) honest take on how to plan a family safari that will keep everyone happy.
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