Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Traveler taking a selfie with with local kids during a community visit to the Mukundusi Village in Tanzania.

Traveler Jeannie Mullen snapped a selfie with kids in Makundusi Village in Tanzania.

I just returned from a trip to East Africa planned by Cherri and the terrific travel specialists on her team. I had a big birthday in 2023 and decided to plan a blow-out trip for myself to celebrate that important milestone. The trip took place over both Christmas and New Year’s, so there were the holidays to celebrate as well. More than 12 months prior to my departure, Cherri (via WP website) and I started a conversation about the best way to approach the planning. After several detailed discussions, and with her intimate knowledge of East Africa, she planned a really well-balanced itinerary that allowed me to see multiple aspects of the Serengeti in both Tanzania and Kenya, which included private reserves and conservancies as well as national parks. Being a solo traveler, I requested private guides and a more intimate experience away from large families that would be traveling over the holidays also. At some point in the planning, I realized that Uganda was in the general vicinity and I asked them to add a leg to the trip that would allow me to do a little gorilla trekking before returning home. By this time, the itinerary had stretched to a full month. Between Cherri, Katie and Yaqana, they delivered in spades. I cannot remember a trip that had so many logistics that went off as smoothly as these. Cherri’s team and their local contacts have their ground games down pat.

As for the quality of the trip itself, I was blown away. The lodges and their phenomenal staffs, the wildlife, the guides, the available local activities, the holiday and birthday celebrations along with numerous personal touches…

Lodges/Staff: A common thread throughout the entire trip was the quality of staff and level of service at each lodge. I cannot say enough about the locals that I met and the recurring personal interactions I had. It really appealed to me as well that the lodges train and employ local residents. The can-do spirits, the obvious pride in their work, their countries and local tribes was impossible to miss. The lodges and cottage/tent accommodations (and their diverse locations) were well chosen also. Standouts included Gibbs Farm, Namiri Plains (my favorite!) Singita Faru Faru at Grumeti Reserve, &Beyond at Ngorongoro Crater, each in Tanzania, and Sirikoi (also a huge favorite) at Lewa Conservancy in Kenya. Each different in their own way and very reflective of their respective locations, terrain and wildlife…every bit of it felt VERY East Africa. And, since tight weight restrictions on all of the small regional planes used between lodges required economizing on packed clothing, the complimentary daily laundry service at each lodge was a godsend.

Wildlife: Heading into the trip, I didn’t know if the game viewing was going to be as impressive during the winter holidays as it is at other times of the year. Happily, it was everywhere in abundance. The itinerary that Cherri and Katie put together ensured that I saw everything there was to see. Some locations, while they had most all of the wildlife, had for example, larger quantities of lions than elephants or rhinos. But in the end, I had seen it all. We started out in big cat country in the Serengeti and on the drive from the airstrip to Namiri Plains lodge, I saw lions, leopards and cheetah (which I was told is not the norm right off the bat). Quite by chance, I saw each of the five or six lion prides in very different locations over four-and-a-half days at Namiri Plains. And there were also enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra. In addition to the Big Five that is so often touted, I also learned about and spotted the Little Five and…the Ugly Five. Who knew!? It was also at a time of year when a lot of “courting” was going on, so the animal behavior was of great interest…young males vying for dominance over other young males, males making moves to change the long-held leadership of a particular pride, courtship rituals undertaken with gusto, and lots of newborns and juveniles everywhere you looked. Everyone was in the family way. While I saw elephants everywhere, they were in particularly large and mobile herds at Ambosili in Kenya. At Lewa conservancy in Kenya, there were large numbers of rhinos, which I hadn’t seen a lot of up to that point. Also at Lewa (above the equator) were different types of zebras (grevy), giraffe (reticulated), and rhinos (white) than I had seen in Tanzania, as well as the elusive Kudu. In Uganda, there were numerous and large families of gorillas that included lots of newborns. Taken together, it was nonstop and invigorating viewing which also made for some great photo opportunities.

Guides: A guide makes or breaks a safari. And I had some great guides. Cherri and company really came through in this regard. And because this was a solo trip, I had lots of private one-on-one opportunities to plumb their knowledge and experience and to do the specific things that I wanted to do in the time that I wanted to do them. A big shout-out to Blassy (in Arusha, Manyara, Kleins Gate in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania), Moinga at Namiri Plains and JP at Singita Faru Faru/Grumeti Reserve in Serengeti, Tanzania, Patrick at Amboseli, Onesmus at Sirikoi/Lewa Conservancy (both in Kenya) and Petrus at Bwindi in Uganda. They were knowledgeable, personable, great dinner companions, story tellers and conversationalists. To a person, these gentlemen made my trip.

Additional activities: Normally I schedule every day of a trip down to the minute. Since this trip was so long (and as I get older!) I left some time open in the itinerary in the event that I just needed to chill here and there. Doing so enabled me to schedule some additional, non-game-viewing activities at each location, which really enriched my overall experience. Highlights included: following bushmen on a game hunt (and taste-testing the grilled results!) in Tanzania, participating in an anti-poaching demonstration (I played the poacher and hid out in the bush) at Sirikoi in Kenya, multiple community/village visits, garden tours at Gibbs Farm and Sirikoi, and a visit to an inspiring women’s organization (Ride 4 A Woman) in Uganda.


1) Birthday: Even tho my significant birthday was in September, this holiday trip was a gift to myself to celebrate that occasion. Apparently I included that info in my pre-trip questionnaire. Over a period of 30 days, I had no fewer than three separate birthday acknowledgements from lodge personnel. I’m pretty sure that upon arrival, I found a bottle of something chilled in my room at each and every lodge. At Tawi I was presented with a birthday cake in my tent and serenaded by the housekeeping and butler staff. At &Beyond Crater Lodge, on my last morning at breakfast, I was presented with a gorgeous birthday cake surrounded by rose petals (on the table and around the table on the floor) and was serenaded by the entire kitchen and wait staff in three different languages. At House of Waine, I was presented with a bottle of chilled champagne upon arrival and my bed was decorated with a lovely birthday wish spelled out in palm fronds. I feel as though I may be leaving something out, but these are the ones that are coming to mind as I write.

2) Holidays: I was at Singita Faru Faru Lodge / Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I opted out of the Christmas Eve festivities when I elected to stay in to get some much-needed rest. But I didn’t miss out on a great food presentation…they brought a taste of everything to my room for dinner. On Christmas Day, at the end of the morning game drive, we had a lovely surprise brunch outdoors in the bush complete with champagne, flowers and a lovely brunch bbq. On New Year’s Eve I was at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania. The exact plans for the evening were all very hush-hush during the day and leading up to sundown, but in the end, they revealed a phenomenal pre-dinner event at the lodge with Maasai tribesmen and women…at the conclusion of a tribal dance ritual at the north lodge, we all followed their torch-lit procession (singing, chanting and dancing the entire way) down to the south lodge where the Maasai then put on a spectacular dance demonstration which told the story of their customs and rituals (I had invited Blassy to join me for the festivities and as we sat together enjoying the demonstration, he explained to me what I was seeing). At the conclusion of the Maasai demonstration, the lodge put on a terrific New Year’s Eve dinner. It was all pretty grand.

As an indication of my level of satisfaction with this trip, I have already told Cherri/Katie that I will be in touch within the next several weeks to plan Africa 2.0.

Traveler gets close to a tusker on safari in Tanzania.

Diane Boas gets close to a tusker on safari in Tanzania.

Cherri’s deputy Katie McDonough planned a perfect two-week itinerary for us in Tanzania.

We stayed in a range of unique accommodations from luxury camps to tents to a historic farm property. Each was beautiful, comfortable, served incredible, often organic and locally grown food and was managed by the most welcoming and gracious people that we have encountered on any trip.

Each day on safari day we saw a multitude of beautiful and fascinating animals including the big five: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffalo, and Rhinoceros, the little five, and even what the guides call the ugly five (you’ll have to see for yourself to decide if you agree). We witnessed the wildebeest migration when thousands of animals surge across the Mara River as well as a multitude of other animals hunting, mating, grooming, sleeping and playing. Every day we witnessed something extraordinary.

The guides were extremely knowledgeable regarding animal behavior, the local geography and horticulture, and regional history. They were genuinely warm and accommodating, always ensuring that we could have a special experience while remaining within our individual comfort zones.

I can recommend Cherri’s team without hesitation.

Just back from a 12-day trip to Madagascar to see the lemurs. Our 3rd time using Cherri’s office for Africa, and as always, appreciated all they do. Madagascar is extremely poor, and road conditions and travel can be quite something—we asked to minimize as much as possible while maximizing our opportunities to see the lemurs and enjoy the best of Madagascar. Elise chose 4 great properties—Maison Gallieni in Antananarivo, Mantadia Lodge, Anjajavy Lodge and Tsara Komba Lodge. Also arranging a private driver, and then shared charter flight and a private charter flight to lessen road travel and scheduled flights (a few people we had spoken to had lost luggage and cancelled flights with the national carrier). We loved all the lemur sightings and felt that we were given premium villas at 2 of the lodges. Most of all, we felt safe, and looked after and had great activities to fulfill our wishes! Surprisingly, food and beverage was extremely good at all our locations and the snorkeling around Nosy Be (Tsara Komba Lodge) was outstanding—especially the whale sharks where Elise had organized a private excursion, which is really the way to do it.

We had an incredible stay in Africa. We started with 3 nights at Lolebezi, which is what dreams are made of. The room was STUNNING, the staff was kind and attentive, and the game drives were incredible (Elijah’s night spotting was next-level!!!). We were fortunate to meet the owner during our stay—an incredibly impressive woman dedicated to supporting her Zambian community in all ways. We then spent 2 nights at Thorntree, which was the right amount of time. Game drives are limited, but we saw the white Rhinos (a mother with her baby) and visited the Victoria Falls with our wonderful guides, Claudia and Navy. We then moved on to 4 nights at Somalisa. Somalisa was a bit more rustic than our other camps (no AC, no hairdryers, no Wifi), but it was so special. We had the most incredible time on our drives (Dophas provided excellent sightings and jokes for days) and another wonderful experience with the staff, led by our amazing host, Sydney. Thandie is the definition of service with a smile. It was hot during the day, which made being in the room uncomfortable (though the temps were perfect for sleeping). But this allowed me to sit at the little pool next to the elephant watering hole, where there was just enough shade/breeze to doze off while watching elephants, including baby elephants, giraffes and other animals come to drink. From there we moved on to Cape Town. We organized a lot of it on our own, but Cherri’s office connected us with a wonderful guide, Chantell McBain-Charles, who organized 2 days for us—one in wine country and the other in Western Cape. Unfortunately, I came down with food poisoning and was bed-ridden for one of these days—Chantell graciously squeezed as much as she could into our remaining day, and we had a wonderful and informative time. I cannot recommend Chantell enough. This was our first trip to Africa, but certainly won’t be our last.

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