I have so many updates from Tanzania I don’t really know where to begin. The animals, the people, the National Parks, the culture… so much to say on all. I’m going to start with the food, as it’s definitely what set this safari apart from most…
For those who don’t know, I’ve been selling safaris through my company Your Time Travels. You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to go on these safaris but it was important to me that if someone is, they’ll have a great safari with plenty of food options. I feel so fortunate to have found local guides that care about making this issue a priority (most don’t…).
When my local guides invited me to Tanzania so I could experience first-hand what I’ve been selling, I couldn’t wait to see for myself what it was like to be a vegan on safari (along with my husband, who’s vegetarian).
First day on safari, I’m just getting out of the jeep as we arrived at the entrance to Tarangire National Park. Our amazing guide, Camillus (I will do a separate post completely dedicated to him), is explaining something to me and my husband and a woman taps me on the shoulder.
She says she’s sorry to interrupt but she recognizes me from my website and she found out about my company one week after she had already booked her safari. Her and her husband are from New Zealand and they’re both vegan. She said as soon as she found out about my services she called the company she booked with to cancel her trip so she could rebook it with me. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let her. First day in Africa and someone recognized me?! I’m lucky if my own family recognizes me Didn’t see that coming, the power of the internet…
We got to talking and she said her and her husband had been having a horrible time with the food. Their guides barely attempted to accommodate them. She said once they took her money, they didn’t care anymore about her food preferences (this is not the first time I’ve heard this…). Their packed lunches weren’t vegan and they both ended up getting a bad case of food poisoning (they believe there was egg in the empanada they were given for their packed lunch and it had been sitting out in the sun for hours). Throwing up for four days straight, what a way to ruin a safari…
I’m not sure how I lucked out so well with the local guides I use but I’m incredibly grateful. It all started when I took a business class with a woman from Tanzania named Immaculate who was working in the tourism business in the U.S. We kept in touch and became good friends. She eventually moved back to Tanzania and joined a small local company there to help grow their safari business by coordinating with U.S. travel agents.
Working with her company has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I told her I had vegan clients, they didn’t just brush it off or suddenly fail to return my emails, like so many other local operators had… Her and her partners took it VERY seriously. In a country where meat is the foundation of every single meal and eating it is deeply embedded in their culture, I knew I was asking for a lot but they were more than happy to deliver. From the very first vegan clients I sent them they have gone above and beyond.
Below are some of the things we do for our vegan/vegetarian clients that I got to experience first-hand on this safari:
- My guides speak to each hotel restaurant ahead of time to make sure there are sufficient food options and if there aren’t, they have the chefs prepare special meals. One hotel made us the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had in my life. They weren’t your typical veggie burgers, they were made from potatoes and fresh veggies and they were outrageously delicious. Because our guides took the time to speak to each hotel we had several chefs come out to meet us while we ate to make sure we were happy with what they prepared! Sometimes they came with extra dishes just in case. We kinda felt like royalty…
- They make sure the packed lunches prepared by hotels (to eat when you’re out all day in the national parks) are vegan even if that means the chef has to create special dishes not available to anyone else. This sounds like a simple thing but trust me, getting a chef in Tanzania to prepare things with no meat, cheese or eggs is tricky…
- More importantly, my guides don’t just rely on the hotel’s packed safari lunches, they purchase fresh ingredients from local markets so they can cut up veggie and fruit salads for lunch everyday. Avocados, cucumbers, green peppers, papaya, mango, oranges, pineapple, lime, you name it. We were so full every day off of the fresh fruit and veggies that we didn’t really even eat our packed lunches. But as Camillus kept saying, me and my husband don’t eat enough
- If you’re staying in a mobile camp or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, you will have a private chef who will only make food catered to you (these are the only times when you don’t rely on the hotels for food).
- My guides buy our clients vegan wine when I request it.
I got to spend a lot of time with Immaculate and the company owners while we were in Tanzania. I could never put into words how wonderful these men were. They were joyful, happy, motivated, sincere, funny, and incredibly smart business owners. They spoke to me about Robert Kiyosaki, why they never want to be like the huge local safari companies who churn out safaris like a factory with unknowledgeable and extremely underpaid guides and dissatisfied clients, and why they love that I sell vegan safaris (who knew!). Then we brainstormed on how we’re going to create group yoga safaris.
It’s funny how the people you meet along the way can change your life in unexpected ways. Taking a business class with my now friend Immaculate introduced me to local guides in Tanzania who decided to go the extra mile for me and my clients, even when I was just starting out and they had no reason to pay me any mind. I hope to bring them an abundance of business because they deserve it; they are some of the hardest working, most knowledgeable, and most gracious people I’ve worked with since going into business for myself. I am so proud to be associated with them.
I took over 2,000 photos while on safari (gasp!). The below photos focus mainly on the food since that’s the topic of today’s blog.
Tomorrow I’ll post a bunch of my top safari photos here but I’ll be posting way more on Gentle Living’s Facebook page so feel free to check them out there.
We saw so many animals it was unreal. A lion even walked over to our truck to lie in the shade of our vehicle after it was done eating – we actually made eye contact! And we seemed to keep bumping into herds of elephants that appeared out of nowhere. Even when other guides were having no success spotting animals some days, we managed to encounter them all. My husband came up with a theory: the animals sense that we don’t eat them, so they feel safe coming near us. Works for me