First-time Traveler is Moved to Help After African Adventure
The goal for every Wanderful Tanzania safari is that our guests have a superb once-in-a-lifetime adventure during their stay in Africa. We are always delighted to learn when someone takes away memories that are so impactful, they feel they must return. Such was the case with first-time traveler Sue Wittoroff. We were honored to be able to speak to her the day before she flew off again to do volunteer work for the people in Tanzania she first encountered through our safari. Learn about Sue’s moving experience during this Q&A.
Traveling with Susie
WT: What’s the appeal of taking a safari with Susie?
Sue Wittoroff (SW): Susie is a dear friend of my wife, Lauren, so we really wanted to do this safari over the last few years. I love the outdoors and nature and have always wanted to go to Africa. This trip was the perfect opportunity because I trusted Susie with my life. [We were hesitant because] it was uncomfortable to think about going to a place that the media makes out to be unsafe. [People would ask us], “Why are you going to Africa? Isn’t it unsafe?” We’d say, “We’re going with Susie, so everything’s going to be good.” And that’s how it turned out! It was safe, and everybody took care of us so well. Tanzania is such a friendly country, and the people are so wonderful. We never felt like we were in danger in any way. It was the right decision and [the trip] met all our hopes and dreams. And even if Susie isn’t along for the trip, the team on the ground is so helpful I’d encourage anyone to consider the safari.
WT: Once you decided to leave for Africa, what was the one thing you wanted to see?
SW: We wanted to observe animals over a long period of time . . . being able to see elephants at a watering hole and just sit there to watch them play, throw mud on each other, and see the baby fall and the other elephants help it. Those types of experiences [where we] had the time to experience [the animal’s] social structure and learn more about them. [For example], being able to watch the lions for 20 or 30 minutes as they changed positions, wandered around . . . you figure out a little bit more about how they live and what they’re like.
WT: There are places in the U.S. where you can go to see a rhino or a pride of lions in captivity, but even if you stand there for 20 minutes, you’re not going to get a sense of their social structure. Additionally, many safari companies have their guides on strict time limits. So, when you’re in Africa, you may get 15 minutes before you have to move on. We just don’t do that; we let things unfold at the pace the clients want to see them. With Wanderful Tanzania, you can watch a mama lion with her babies as she teaches them to hunt over a three-day period.
SW: I’ve always been an avid birder. . . so it was phenomenal to be able to see all the different kinds of fantastic birds. Of course, we have beautiful birds here in the United States, but there are some really amazing and large birds in Africa. We saw the secretary bird and a grey crowned crane with a snake in its mouth. There were so many different colors, shadings, and markings.
WT: Felix is our resident ornithologist. He is amazing; he could be driving the truck, navigating potholes, watching for a lion, and then a bird will fly by 200 yards to the left. Someone will ask, “What’s that?” With one quick glance, he can tell you what it is and everything about it.
Addressing the what ifs
WT: How do you put your mind at ease when thinking about the what ifs of traveling, such as getting sick or encountering bad weather?
SW: [I recognize that] a lot of those types of things can happen when you’re at home. Thus, if you prepare properly with good travel insurance and research, you’ll learn everything will work out. It may take longer, and it will most likely be different than what you’re used to dealing with. Stay calm and ask for help; if something unexpected happens, there’s always a way for things to work out. You’re investing in the experience, and you never know when things will be different than you’d expect. You can be pleasantly surprised when you see how things operate differently in another part of the world. Embrace where you are and expect it to be a unique experience.
WT: What didn’t you imagine when you envisioned a safari?
SW: Flush toilets! I was expecting squatty potties and a more rustic safari camp. The tents were amazing and so safe. There was running water in our tent, so we could go to the bathroom and shower. Plus, when we landed at the airport and loaded into the safari vehicles, we were probably a mile and a half [into the drive], and we saw a bunch of hippos in a pond. Boom, suddenly, we were in the middle of this active living, breathing park. Animals were everywhere; I was fascinated by how quickly we saw a leopard and we saw lions. I was really blown away.
Unique qualities of a Wanderful Tanzania safari
WT: What makes Wanderful Tanzania so special compared to other safari companies?
SW: The guides, Simon and Felix, were fantastic; you could ask them any question, and they would answer it. We felt like they were there for us completely. For example, when we forgot our water bottle in the truck, and they’d already taken it away for the day, they returned just to bring the water bottle back to us. And we never felt unsafe. They knew when it wasn’t okay to get out of the truck or when we needed to roll up the windows because baboons were in the area. They carefully explained everything, so we understood.
WT: Did you find Wanderful Tanzania exposed you to the local people and allowed you to foster friendships you may not have experienced with another safari company?
SW: Meeting the tribes was terrific; the Hadza people were just phenomenal. Just walking into that village, I felt the love from them. We had so much fun laughing together, learning about them, and getting our faces painted. And the hugs! Oh, the way they hugged you, you really felt the love you were getting from them, and you wanted to give your love back. It was phenomenal. In the Datoga tribe, [we met] that little girl and someone in our group handed out coloring paper and crayons. The girl had never used crayons before, so I sat on her on my lap and helped her figure out how to open the box and color. For those parents to trust me to play with their daughter was so nice. They were very proud. I will carry that in my heart forever.
We’d meet and talk with the staff and dinner because they aren’t rushed around like waiters or waitresses in America. We had such a good time at dinner, and we met [a young man named] Goodluck. [Since returning], we’ve been chatting on WhatsApp every day or two to find out how he’s doing and what’s going on. We’ve developed this wonderful friendship; he’s an amazing young man.
Wanting to return
Q: What prompted your return to Africa, and how did you discover what the Tanzanian people needed?
SW: While traveling to Tanzania and interacting with the people, I felt very cared for. Their situation is so different than ours; I really felt this was a place where maybe I could help make things a little bit better for these wonderful people who gave so much to me during my safari experience. I got home, did a bunch of research, and decided to pull the trigger. I bought my ticket, got a list of needs from the non-government agencies (NGOs), did some fundraising, and I’m checking two 50-pound bags full of supplies and filling half of my carry-on.
WT: The two NGOs Sue is helping are:
Beyond Child Smile: Their focus is on education and refurbishing schools. Education is free for all Tanzanian children, but the schools don’t get the maintenance they need. The school Sue will visit has a toilet building, but there’s no water, and they must carry buckets to flush the toilets. Sue will help put in a water line and retile it so it can be more hygienic.
Golden Aya: Promotes self-sustainability through education. They do a very intensive STEM-based after-school program to teach kids how to put things together. Sue is taking Lego blocks so that they can build things. She also has kits that have little motors, so they figure out how movement happens. Additionally, she will help in the elementary school because teachers have about 50 kids in the classroom. They don’t have enough textbooks, so five kids might be using one textbook.
Book your safari in Tanzania
Wanderful Tanzania takes small groups on incredible East African safaris several times each year. We are happy to create a private safari and send you off with a group if you wish, but the factor differentiating us from other safari companies is the option of “Safari with Susie.” The founder of Wanderful Tanzania will travel with you and personally lead the trip from beginning to end. If you have any trepidation, she is there to provide peace of mind and ensure the adventure you imagine.
With more than two decades of experience, the WT team is eager to help you turn your safari dreams into reality. We are dedicated to delivering an experience you (and your travel companions) will remember forever. Contact us to get more information or book your safari in Tanzania today.