Cochran & Barros Safari
Cochran & Barros Families
Two families tell the tale of 15 days in the wilds of Tanzania. They lunched next to curious elephants, watched lion cubs at play, spotted a sneaky leopard, and much more.
Q: You just got back from a family trip to Tanzania—welcome home!
How did you decide where to go?
A: REBECCA: Our daughters, Kensey and Gabi, just graduated from high school and we knew we wanted to do a safari with the two families. We were choosing between a combination of South Africa and Botswana or Tanzania. Sandy talked us through the options of both and we decided given our time constraints and the Great Migration that Tanzania was the right choice.
CELENE: This summer was going to be filled with special celebrations, such as my husband’s 60th birthday and my daughter’s graduation from high school. We wanted it to be a memorable time, and what better way to do it if not with a dream-come-true vacation to Africa? My adventure-thirsty family enjoys the ocean with activities such as sailing and scuba diving, and the mountains with skiing. Now it was time to explore the savannah and be a visitor the backyard of the big animals' homes.
Q: Judging by your photos, it looks like you didn't need to pack binoculars. Tell us about your favorite moments while on safari.
A: REBECCA: We were amazed at how close we were able to get to many of the animals both while driving and at the various places we stayed. When we pulled into the first lodge, a herd of zebra were grazing in the front lawn. We stayed at a tented camp next and had elephants tromping through camp every day. On safari we had many close encounters, but my favorite would probably be on the last day when we saw four young lions at a zebra kill. The lionesses had already fed and were lying nearby and now it was the little ones' turn to feed. It was amazing to watch.
"We heard two male lions calling to each other two nights in a row. The next morning, we found their prints just outside of our bungalow."
CELENE: Tarangire is known for the largest concentration of elephants and that fame was proven true during our visit. In all of our drives, even the night safari, we saw families of elephants crossing our way. But we will never forget coming back to camp for lunch to find four elephants having their own lunch just yards away from the deck. We helped ourselves to some wine and sat admiring the huge–and almost friendly–animals for over one hour. Almost scary at first, we became comfortable with their company just as they were comfortable with ours. Absolutely gorgeous!
Our family also enjoyed the search for the leopard. It was with great thrill that we spotted the four legs hanging from a tree branch. It was even more exciting and mesmerizing when we found the dead baby buffalo way up on a tree, where the leopard had stored it for a future meal. The babies were another favorite, especially the lion cubs, estimated to be three weeks old; or the baby elephant, very likely in its first week of life.
Q: If you had to pick the best part of your adventure, what would it be?
A: REBECCA: Learning about the animals–their social structures, habitats, and physical traits–was such a treat. The guides were so knowledgeable and the combination of driving and walking safaris really helped us see the larger picture. We even got to see some of the purely nocturnal animals on one night game drive.
CELENE: The three camps each had their own personality and their own way to delight our stay. The staff was welcoming, the chefs were meticulous with the food, the guides were very knowledge and taught us the valuable lesson of patience. We learned a lot from all drives, day and night; from sitting and waiting in order to observe actions and behaviors; from smelling and looking for clues to follow tracks; to listening to see what animals came for a visit. In the lodge we were surprised with a warm bath waiting upon our return with rose petals all around it. I still miss being woken up before dawn with a friendly voice and fresh coffee every day.
"It is impossible to pick one best part. I think we had the best adventure of our life with all parts working really well together."
Q: What was the kids' favorite part of the trip?
A: REBECCA: Amazingly, the tent camp with the bucket showers and no running water was their favorite. They loved playing cards in the common room during our downtime and hanging around the campfire before dinner.
CELENE: The drives, no question about it. I never saw my kids (actually young adults) get up and get ready so fast at 5:30 AM to hop on the truck and go out looking for cheetahs and lions. While I realize I have a deep passion for pictures, my kids were thrilled to have their own chance to grab the camera and register the moment with another dozen shots of the same lion cub doing different cute stuff. They wanted to make those moments last forever in photo-form.
Q: What’s next on your family bucket list?
A: REBECCA: Patagonia! We want to white water raft, hike, and ride horses through the countryside.
CELENE: Gorillas. We cannot wait to return to Africa and explore a bit more of that fantastic, friendly, and welcoming continent. Congo and Rwanda are on the bucket list.
"Sandy Cunningham took the time to understand our expectations and desires, and designed a trip that fulfilled our dreams the best possible way. After having this first experience and evaluating the entire trip, I have to say, with all my heart, that I would not change a thing."
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