Africa and the African safari – a trip of a lifetime in a world much different from our own.
To many people, an African Safari vacation is near the top of their bucket list; something some dream of their entire lives, but often feel it may just be that – a dream.
Canadian couple Wes and Esther Friesen had the dream of Africa and realized very quickly after visiting an information session in British Columbia, their dream could very well be a reality; they just had to meet the right people and the right Safaris company. How amazing would it be? The opportunity to view the animals in their natural habitat, enjoy the company of the local people, and embrace the culture of Africa…it was now within their sights and they started saving immediately.
Wes and Esther Friesen, both 55-years of age have a zest for life and a passion for travel. Together they have two children, a daughter-in-law, and a beautiful granddaughter. On average, the Friesens travel 2-3 times a year and have been to more than 30 countries. Wes’s ideal vacation is “going to beautiful, interesting places to see and experience the culture of the people, with a mix of activity and relaxation with my wife, family or good friends.” They describe themselves as adventurous, curious, and social travelers; meaning the ideal vacation for them has many layers and several components. Esther, a retired travel agent, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Canadian missionary parents, who always had a natural fondness for travel. She believes growing up around different vibrant cultures was where her appetite for travelling began. She enjoys warm vacations, preferably near water, with the opportunity for active adventures and exploring. Esther is the planner of the two and is quite cautious when choosing a new destination. Wes is always up for discovering somewhere new, somewhere exciting, and somewhere with breathtaking views. When travelling, the two agree on a few “must haves”, which include: a comfortable bed, a clean room/washroom, a common area to relax, and good internet connection to ensure they can stay on top of their business back home.
Wes and Darryl, one of the owners of Dashir Lodge & Safaris, grew up together. They went to the same high school, played on the same basketball team, and golfed many times together as teenagers. Many years have passed since then, but as fate would have it, one day as Wes was checking his email, he received an alumni letter from his old high school. The feature for this letter just happened to be his old chum, Darryl Peters. While Wes read through the article, he only became more excited as he realized his old friend had made his dream of owning an African Safari vacation destination into reality. Wes and his wife thought maybe it was time they pursued one of their dreams and attended a showcase information event for Dashir Lodge and Safaris. At the event, the two friends rekindled their friendship and began planning Wes and Esther’s trip of a lifetime, to Africa.
While they initially became interested in Dashir Lodge and Safaris because of their personal connection, Esther ultimately chose the African Safari destination because it was exactly what they were looking for in an African Safari destination. It was safe, offered a lot of activities that piqued their interest, and it was accessible. Esther always wanted to share her African roots with Wes, however, the Democratic Republic of Congo didn’t feel very welcoming with the high crime rates. In Tanzania, the Dashir Lodge and Safaris owners personally vetted each guide or vendor they recommended to the couple for activities and shopping, which offered the couple piece of mind. The location of Dashir Lodge was also ideal, as it provided scenic views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru and was only 45 minutes from the airport. Esther said the Lodge was “close enough to get to many activities but far enough away that it felt private.” While relaxing at the African resort or laying by the pool is a good plan for any day, the couple enjoyed the fact they could take advantage of the many day trips and options, Dashir has to offer. Here are a few great adventures they enjoyed:
Walking Tour of Kikwe Village
A short 30-minute walk to Kikwe Village will open your heart to embrace the community around you. This half-day adventure took Wes and Esther to the village where most of Dashir’s staff live, toured the small town, and the local school. They ended the day with drinks at a local eatery; there’s no better way to embrace the local culture than to break bread together.
Mount Kilimanjaro Hike and Picnic
A hike that you would not want to forget your camera. This activity took an hour drive to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, then a beautiful scenic hike to explore the caves and waterfall. Throughout the hike, you will be greeted by the friendly villagers as you pass by their towns. When you get to the waterfall, you are invited to sit down, enjoy the view and munch on the lunch packed specifically for you by Dashir.
A shopping trip to Arusha
The duo wanted to grab some precious souvenirs from the main city, so Darryl and Shirley recommended shops they knew where the couple would be treated fairly to pick up local art and precious gemstones.
Mount Meru Waterfall Hike
A hike to an undisturbed, peaceful waterfall with lush green surroundings.
Local Church Service
There is no better way to engulf yourself in a community then to celebrate and pray with them. The twosome couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate in a weekly Church service with the community.
Dinner at a staff member’s home
This was the most memorable of the 6 day trips for the Friesen’s. The Canadian tourists were invited to Sous Chef Joyce and her family’s home to share a meal together. The experience allowed both the guests, Joyce, and her family to exchange pleasantries and stories about their very different walks of life. “You are given a taste of local culture, in a very personal way.” Esther described the opportunity as a once in a lifetime chance to see the way a local lived their life, how they furnished their home, what type of food they stored in their kitchen, and how they interacted with their family. The experience was sincere, unique, and broke down the professional barriers between guest and staff to just people sharing around a table.
Dashir Lodge and Safaris is very welcoming and comfortable, well decorated and full of life. Esther recalls “there is so much laughter that goes on there, there is a sense of joy”. The two owners are complete opposites: Darryl is the planner and more calculated, while Shirley is the party, keeps every moment fun. “They truly cared about our experience”- Esther. Every meal is prepared in-house using local ingredients; so local that most of it comes from Dashir’s own garden. You can expect meals made with love from the hands of Head Chef Shirley. The menu varies, but you can expect a good mix of Canadian and local dishes. The couple highly recommends the Thai Coconut Curry dish. At dessert every evening, Darryl would join the group to discuss the next day’s activities, checking in to make sure they were still up for it, and discuss the details. He truly considered the couple’s input and ensured they had all the tools to feel confident in their decisions and to truly enjoy every moment of their time at Dashir and in Africa.
Up next for the
couple was the 8-day Safari adventure. Dashir has 2 safari jeeps that each seat
up to 6 people, giving the couple an intimate African Safari experience rather
than a large group tour that can become overwhelming.
Before the trip the couple could customize their Safari package by choosing different options, they picked:
Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Serengeti
An opportunity for a bird’s eye view of the Serengeti to watch the synchronized movements of the wildlife below. As they soared through the air, sometimes caressing the trees below, they watched the sunrise and the park come to life. The hot air balloon ride was followed by an English breakfast accompanied by champagne. Wes and Esther explained the cost did seem high, but the experience was priceless.
The opportunity to see a Large Game Migration
For Wes, his highlight was watching the Wildebeest migration across the Mara River. Considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world (by National Geographic), this was the opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime. He was so taken aback by the experience he could barely describe it in words.
Wes and Esther worked with Darryl to create the best Safari itinerary to complete their vision. They noted there were accommodations on the Safari for all budgets and that they chose the mid-range options; a mix of tented and lodge structures along the way. This gave them a private washroom, comfortable beds, and walkie talkies to communicate with the other guests after they retired to their rooms. While an 8-day Safari package may seem like a long time, when you’re having fun and taking in so many breathtaking experiences, time flies by. The couple had decided to take an 8-day roundtrip by car, however, they did say looking back they would have opted to take the same 8-day trip one way and fly back to Dashir Lodge on the last day. If they had chosen that option, which was offered to them, they would have enjoyed more game viewing, longer days, and it would have felt less rushed.
After their Safari trip, Wes and Esther both agreed they would have loved additional downtime to enjoy the pool and time to reflect on their whirlwind vacation before coming home. When asked why people should consider Dashir Lodge and Safaris, their answer was simple:
“The Lodge is a very nice place to relax and do a number of day trips from that allows you to safely travel in an African country and experience the people and culture of Africa. Owners Shirley and Darryl aren’t just a couple of people who are benefitting from tourism in Tanzania, they are a Canadian couple that understand the needs of Canadian travelers. They have a genuine passion for the community and the adventure they are living. They are living the dream and bringing an entire community with them”.
Esther said “the fact that they had started this Lodge from scratch and had left their Canadian home and family to take on this adventure tugged at my heartstrings. I think there might be a little something in each of us that wishes we would have the guts to do something like that.”
“What really made Dashir Lodge and Safaris special was Darryl and Shirley.” Wes explains, “they were genuine, loving, caring people who make you feel at home.”