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Traveler’s Corner: African Bucket List Trip

May 20, 2021  By: Gretchen

After her mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer, Melinda, her mother Cat, husband Adam and his mother Andrea moved up their African dream trip timeline to take an East African safari. They are long-time travelers – including enjoying adventures in Egypt and Italy – and travel has always been a source of bonding. They found planning a safari during a pandemic interesting but knew it would be the perfect escape from lockdown. They had to adjust their plans a few times as circumstances changed, but they were able to work with their Journey Specialist Diana to make updates to their plans as needed. They also wanted to be ‘all in’ for the trip and were willing spend the right amount of money to get the experiences they wanted.

group by camp sign

The group had always wanted to go on safari, and with many reminders that life is short and precious, they wanted to travel once borders reopened in late 2020. They jumped right into planning their trip with Africa Adventure Consultants before departing on a three-week journey in Tanzania in December 2020. Their safari had them adventuring through Tanzania’s famed Northern Circuit, as well as the island of Zanzibar.


According to Melinda, each place they stayed had its own magic. In just their first few days in Tanzania, they went horseback riding, saw abundant plains game and even saw tree-climbing lions in Lake Manyara National Park.

“We saw SO MUCH the first few days we couldn’t believe it!” – Melinda Templeton-Duffy
mother and daughter in hot air balloon

Some of the highlights of their family safari include:

  • Their guide Ayub. A 20-year veteran guide, he ‘became family’ during their trip. He shared his history and family stories. They have taken to calling each other siblings and have stayed in touch post-safari. They were incredibly impressed with his respect and love for the environment, as well as his expertise on animals and their behavior.
  • Being on safari in East Africa with few other tourists. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • They took a few days off from safari around New Year’s to spend time at Gibb’s Farm, which they described as ‘magical.’ They celebrated, sat by the pool, had a roaring fire in the living room, took advantage of the wonderful spa treatments and enjoyed the excellent food.
  • The Serengeti – they had never experienced nature at its most majestic. The starry skies, the stories in camp and watching the animals, including the chance to see a cheetah make a kill.
  • Taking a hot air balloon safari over the Serengeti Plains.
  • Olakira – their favorite camp. Fantastic game drives in the Serengeti, stories by the fire at night and dinner under the acacias all made for wonderful memories. They loved the staff singing, dancing and hanging out. The blissful combination of nature, beauty and being in the place where life started was transformational.
cheetah cubs

On the group’s last full day, they had seen all of their ‘wish list’ animals except for a cheetah. Their guide Ayub then made it happen! While in the vehicle, they approached four cheetahs – a mother and three juveniles that were 2-3 months old. They watched them play as the group ate breakfast in the vehicle. It was obvious that the cats were getting hungry – mother cheetahs have not only the challenge of needing to make the kill, but also to keep the cubs safe from predators. As they began to watch the hunt from a respectful distance, Melinda described it as a ‘delicate dance and balance,’ and that it was incredibly suspenseful. Eventually, the mother cheetah was able to kill a Thompson’s gazelle to feed her brood. The travelers felt like they were very privileged to be able to spend as much time with this cheetah family as they wished and that by doing so, they were rewarded with an incredible experience.

“Leaving Olakira Camp today was hard. The team there is pure gold and I left a bit of my heart in the southern Serengeti.” – Melinda Templeton-Duffy

Melinda had some good advice for first-time travelers to Africa. She suggests…

  • Stay flexible. Save the money to do it right. Don’t cut corners. Don’t plan it yourself. I’m an expert at travel planning and prep – this is not the trip to plan yourself. You will not get the caliber of trip that AAC planned.
  • Spend as much time on safari/in the Serengeti as possible.
  • Don’t pack too much! We could have brought less and could have gotten away with things I already had rather than purchasing new clothes. Laundry services are available in most camps.
  • Don’t try to do too many things. To get the real magic and beauty of a place, go and stay and experience. Do fewer things and stay longer.

We think this is all great advice! If you would like to start planning your dream safari, contact a Journey Specialist to get started.

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