Experience majestic Tanzania with its abundant wildlife, game preserves, national parks and vast wilderness areas.
Take an authentic African Safari with experienced trip leader, Ombeni Emanuel, who will guide you through the Serengeti National Park - a safari mecca populated by the "big five" game in view of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the Serengeti plains. Interact with tribal members and students through Ombeni's humanitarian foundation.
Hosted by Madison Magazine Editor Karen Lincoln Michel, Senior Writer Doug Moe and trip leader Ombeni Emanuel
15 day all-inclusive luxury package scheduled for February 2018
shuttles, airfare, lodging, meals, trip insurance, tax and more
$11,000 per person
To read a detailed itinerary of this trip click here
Visit ombeniafricansafaris.com for more information
Fall in love with Africa on an Ombeni African Safari with Madison’s own Ben Emanuel as your guide. Co-hosted by Madison Magazine Editor Karen Lincoln Michel and Senior Writer Doug Moe.
There’s a rhythm to Africa that pulses through the veins of the men, women and beasts born there, forever bonding them as one. Ombeni Pallangyo—Ben Emanuel, as he’s known in America—has a hard time putting this primal harmony into words, but he swears he can hear his home continent’s drumbeat the instant the wheels touch down at Kilimanjaro International Airport. Now, people he has brought with him on an official Ombeni African Safari tour say they can hear and feel it, too.
“My tours are very personal because we have family, often my own family, running operations. And we really get to know our customers so closely they become like family, too,” says 31-year-old Ben, who started his company at 19 years old, after graduating from Nairobi Institute with tourism, hotel management and linguistics degrees. Fate led him to become a permanent resident of Wisconsin after meeting his future wife, Jessi, an American-born wildlife biology student studying abroad. Their paths crossed at the Tanzanian-Indian Restaurant Ben was managing, a place called Vama (which translates to ‘beautiful lady’). But you never fully appreciate home until you leave it—and Ben’s love for Africa only grew after leaving in 2007. So has his business, along with a desire to share his successes with the villagers he left behind.
“Now everyone we bring on our tours falls in love with Africa, too,” says Ben, who, in addition to his safari company, started Ombeni Foundation to support the children of his native Mount Meru. (The Ombeni Foundation board is chaired by Wisconsin Public Radio host and Edgewood College professor Jonathan Overby, who Ben calls his mentor. In April 2015, Overby was elevated to chief status in Ben’s home village tribe of Wameru. Overby also serves as education consultant for Songoro School in Arusha). Through the years, Ben has provided school supplies, fresh drinking water, shoes, food and medical support to thousands of villagers, and this summer he’ll launch the first-ever computer lab at the same government grade school where his own journey began on bare feet, running seven miles to school each day through the farms and foothills of Mount Meru.
“But I feel that I can do a lot more,” he says. So for February 2018, Ben has partnered with Madison Magazine to lead a small group of readers on a specially curated, customized, premier 15-day safari expedition through Tanzania. The trip promises not only unparalleled, culturally responsible access to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but an opportunity to give back to the villagers, bushmen and tribes Ben considers family, and proceeds from the Madison Magazine trip will go toward purchasing a school bus the travelers will present themselves to the schoolchildren while on their trip.
“We heard so much positive feedback from people and organizations we respect, that have worked with Ombeni African Safaris in the past,” says Madison Magazine publisher Mike Kornemann. “The chance to experience Africa with a native Tanzanian, especially one as passionate, committed and connected as Ben—and to help the children of his village on top of it all—seems truly the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The 15-day trip kicks off at Kilimanjaro International Airport, where cold beverages await guests in the private, customized Toyota Land Cruiser bound for the luxurious Arumeru River Lodge in equatorial Arusha. After a gourmet meal and a good night’s rest, the group will depart for the first of four national parks they’ll explore throughout safari: Tarangire National Park.
“It’s a really unique park famous for its elephants, where we’ll see them playing in the river and giving birth to their babies,” says Ben. Guests will experience two different accommodations in Tarangire, one luxury tent and one luxury safari lodge, and live up-close-and-personal among the vast herds of buffalo, lions, cheetahs and leopards. Tarangire is also known for its cartoon-like Baobab trees, many of which are more than a thousand years old, and whose fruits produce the creamy Amarula drink. Rise before dawn to catch the natural hunt of nocturnal predators, and enjoy picnic lunches and open-air sunset dinners provided by top-notch chefs.
Then it’s on to Manyara National Park and its plethora of baboons, monkeys and climbing tree lions, as well as the thousands of red flamingos splashing in the same rivers and hot springs as the hippos and crocodiles that feed on them.
“Then we head to the Lake Eyasi Luxury Lodge in the Rift Valley, and that’s an experience you don’t forget anytime soon,” says Ben. That’s where you’ll meet the Hadzabe bushmen of Africa, a nomadic tribe that appears from the bush to welcome Ben when he blows his special whistle. Travelers will hike the Rift Valley with the Hadzabes, then feast with them on their traditional meat, fruit and honey diet. “They’re so incredible, and there’s so much to learn from them,” says Ben, adding that in Tanzania alone, there are more than 120 tribes speaking 127 different languages. “Then the next day, we do the same thing and visit with the Wadatoga tribe.”
As the rare African owner of an African safari tour business, Ben has deep and authentic relationships with the locals that can’t be replicated by other companies. He employs only local professionals, each highly educated and well-compensated, ensuring the most unique access and top-notch experience for all of Ben’s guests.
“We know every route forwards and backwards,” says Ben, adding that Tanzania in particular has a strong relationship with the United States, relying heavily on American tourism to fund its conservation initiatives. Factor in Ben’s humanitarian efforts, and it’s no wonder Ben’s tours receive the red carpet treatment everywhere they go.
“I’ve not only studied this natural paradise, I’ve lived it, I’ve eaten it, I speak it,” says Ben. “My team knows Africa better than anybody, and I’m proud to say that. And I’m particularly proud to share it.”
From Manyara, the group heads to Ngorongoro Crater, where every National Geographic episode you’ve ever seen comes to life before your very eyes.
“We call it wildlife theater. Two-thousand feet down in the crater you’ll see the prides of lions, and the last remaining rhinos, which is emotional and devastating,” says Ben, adding that his organization partners with both the Community Conservation Effort Initiative to plant trees and the Big Life Foundation to empower rangers to eliminate poachers. “The numbers of wildebeests and zebras alone is incredible. You could visit this one place and it would be enough.”
But in fact, you’re only a third of the way through the trip at this point. After a stay at the world class Sopa Lodge, the tour departs to Serengeti National Park. “If you spent six months in Serengeti, you wouldn’t see it all,” says Ben, which is why he arranges multiple viewing perspectives, including a hot air balloon tour. The experience is capped off with an in-bush champagne breakfast. “It’s breathtaking. All you see for miles is wildlife,” says Ben. In February, millions of pregnant zebras and wildebeests will be on their way to northern Kenya to avoid Tanzania’s upcoming rainy season. “In the evening you’ll hear the lions roaming and the secret communication between elephants 20 miles apart, called ‘rumbling.’”
From there, it’s a private flight back to Arusha and the fourth national park, as well as shopping the open-air Arusha market. Visit Ben’s family store to secure precious Tanzanite gems, for which Tanzania is known. You’ll meet and celebrate with the Maasai tribe, sipping local wines, feasting on goat barbeque and sharing stories over the sounds of the local bands. Finally, on the last leg of the trip, its true crown jewel: meeting the schoolchildren from Ben’s village of Mount Meru and celebrating with family dinner in his own home.
“Nobody else, no company, brings anybody in this amazing village,” says Ben. “Because I’m the only person who owns a company from this village. Seven-hundred kids and their parents singing and dancing with us. It’s a massive celebration.”
“This is where the local people come together, we make food at home, they all come and eat with us and you feel you are part of a tribe,” says Ben, growing emotional. “You’re part of the culture now.”
Travelers on the flight home often share Ben’s tears, the sounds, sights and smells of Africa still so vivid and real.
“Part of your soul will be left behind as you leave with the memory of a lifetime,” says Ben. “We never say goodbye, but, rather, see you soon.”
For more information please contact Ben Emanuel at firstname.lastname@example.org, 608.316.5343.