This Travel Company Specializes in Photographic Safaris

Pittsburgher Jen Marcus fell in love with the wilds of Africa while on safari with her parents three years ago. The disruptions of the pandemic nudged her into turning travel dreams into reality: she founded SafariSmiths, a travel company specializing in organizing photographic safaris for experienced (and freshman) world travelers.

Bucket List Safari

My journey in the safari industry began three years ago with a trip to Southern Africa with my parents. I immediately caught the safari bug, booking a second trip seven months later with a private photographic safari guide that I had met in South Africa. We visited Tanzania to see the annual Great Wildebeest Migration in the Northern Serengeti. Then it was on to Rwanda and Uganda four months later to trek with the gorillas and the chimpanzees. I was hooked on safari and yearned to visit more wild places and continue to hone my photography skills.

When the pandemic shut down the world in March 2020, I decided to start my own photographic safari company called SafariSmiths with my safari guide from South Africa. It was a strange time to start a travel company, but it turned out to be a blessing because we had the opportunity to explore many places without the crowds. One country that did not shut down during COVID was Tanzania, so we decided to explore as much as we could during 2020 and 2021. Then in 2022, we spent significant time exploring Kenya.

We wanted our safari company to be different. Our passion is wildlife and the conservation required to protect the wildlife. Working with the local communities is essential because human-wildlife conflict is a real problem. Protection of the animals by focusing on the people in the communities is what makes the safari industry possible.

A safari changes the way you see the world. Many of us grew up going to the zoo, where you know you will see a variety of animals at any given time. When you are on safari, nothing is guaranteed, and that is part of the fun! Searching the wide-open plains of the Serengeti to see what it has to offer that particular day, you might come across a lion hunting or den site with hyena pups, or a large herd of zebra. Whatever you find will be unique in that moment. Every day is different, which makes going on a safari special.

Planning a safari is hard work, but going on a safari changes the way you see the world. Sure, you can look at websites and read articles and plan your own safari, but to ensure that everything runs smoothly from time of year to visit and transfers between lodges, to the particular amenities that you find is important. You need someone who has traveled in the areas that you are interested in. That is the basis of SafariSmith — to create well-crafted safaris based on our experiences.

There are a lot of exciting things happening in the safari industry. Safari companies are very focused on sustainability at their camps. One of my favorite camps in Tanzania is Asilia Africa’s Sayari Camp in the Northern Serengeti. Recently they have switched the entire camp to solar power and have installed the first-ever solar-powered brewery in the bush. They brew four different types of beer on-site as well as filter their own water. It is amazing to be in the middle of the Serengeti, drinking beer made right there!

Food is an important part of the safari adventure. On morning drives, you will be treated to breakfast in the bush. Having a coffee while watching the Nile crocodiles in the Mara River is an amazing experience. Back at camp, you are treated to the most amazing food, often local dishes that will have your mouth watering.

Going on a safari is a travel experience on the bucket list of many people. As the world slowly opens again for travel, a safari is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with few people around. The COVID pandemic is changing the way that people want to travel. They are looking for more intimate experiences that combine unique travel with purposeful efforts to support the conservation of those places.

Story and Photography by Jen Marcus

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