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Traveler’s Corner: A Milestone Birthday Safari

May 26, 2023  By: Gretchen

Joshua and his husband Timothy planned their most recent safari to celebrate Timothy’s 60th birthday. They wanted to repeat part of their safari 25 years ago – canoeing on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe – and add on many more experiences! The group had a wide-ranging adventure that included Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya in addition to Zimbabwe.

walking safari

After their previous visit to Southern Africa, they wanted to be sure to make time to visit East Africa, and particularly wanted to include gorilla trekking. Joshua invited his brother and his husband, and together they invited a few more friends. Everyone found the time to go and celebrate Timothy’s birthday in grand style!

A highlight of the safari for Joshua was seeing and walking with primates. They had done walking safaris on their earlier trip, but he found walking with and among chimpanzees and gorillas to be quite different and totally amazing, especially with how close humans are to both species.

“…that they share so much of our DNA makes them incredibly fascinating for us to watch and interact with a little bit. Their limbs and hands are amazing to photograph and to watch. They are so different! Chimps are very interactive and dramatic – their vocalizations and histrionics are wonderful to experience. Gorillas are magnificent - they are on a scale that is impressive and overwhelming - they are so beautiful!”
chimpanzee up close

Joshua was hard pressed to choose a favorite between the two species as they are so different, but he conceded that chimpanzees might just edge out gorillas for him.

“…in part because we spent more time with and also because they are so interactive with each other and dramatic. Their social structure is so sophisticated and well documented. I had a book detailing the genealogies of the chimp families – their history and stories are captivating.”
leopard at night

While on safari in Tanzania’s remote and beautiful Ruaha National Park, the group had fantastic predator sightings including finding a leopard in a tree with his kill while on a night drive.

“He was blind in one eye. He was probably 20 feet from us, and we watched him for maybe an hour. It was night, so it was a bit spooky and quite beautiful. One favorite sighting of many. Leopards are so beautiful, and their faces are so incredible - the way they hang in a tree (and relax and feel safe and unguarded) is remarkable!”
cub kissing male lion

They had wonderful lion sightings – “the repeated sightings of big cats was amazing. We spent an hour with two lion cubs that were hanging out on the top of a rock with their mom sleeping below. They were among red flowers – it was so beautiful!” They were also lucky to see serval and genet. “Having the ability to do night drives was incredible and the density of the cat population was overwhelming!” The birthday group also enjoyed watching hyenas and jackals with their young.

birds on riverbank

Joshua, Timothy and their friends also developed a new interest in birds that started with their time on a guided canoe trip just outside of Arusha, Tanzania where they were introduced to approximately 30 different bird species in the area. This interest intensified with their canoe trip in Zimbabwe where they found the local carmine bee eaters along the riverbanks to be spectacular!

game drive with zebras and hot air balloon

Joshua shared a bit of advice for future safari travelers.

  • Take lots of photos! It’s a lot of work to go through them when you return and maybe 1 in 100 is exceptional, but you get some gems! I took a photo whenever something interesting happened.
  • Plan for down time, especially if you’re doing a long safari. Having a break between safaris of a day or two more might be a good thing if you have the time. Guides are so enthusiastic and want you to see so much – the days are long so it’s nice to have a break.
  • Definitely do the ballooning and the fly camping. Both were just wonderful, beautiful experiences.
  • We loved the fact that we spent a minimum of 3-4 nights in each camp – I would not do less than that. Anywhere we did less we wished we had done an extra day.
  • Don’t miss the chimps or gorillas! We did two moderate treks for gorillas – neither was very demanding. Arrange for a porter – people will help you. It’s not that hard but it’s so rewarding!
  • Go canoeing on the Zambezi if you can do it! It’s magical to be on the water. Hippos and crocs are remarkable plus birdlife!! We’re in our 60’s and did it.

Are you ready to plan your own African adventure?

Photos courtesy AAC Livingstone Club member Joshua R.