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NY Designer Cynthia Rowley and Family on Safari in Africa
May 23, 2013 | By: High50
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New horizons: Cynthia and her children at Shifting Sands in Tanzania

I’d always had this romantic image of Karen Blixen in Africa, swatting mozzies with a wildebeest tail, so going to Tanzania for the first time was oddly familiar (and not only because people there really do use wildebeest tails to swat flies).

Our first real glimpse of the Serengeti was of a herd of zebra crossing the makeshift airstrip as our plane bounced and skidded to avoid them. We’d flown from Nairobi on a series of ever-smaller planes, like those Russian stacking dolls, and at the end of it all was a Land Rover waiting to whisk us to a camp comprised of seven tents. And that was it—the tents, the vast Serengeti, and us.

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It was a very dreamy experience—the acacia trees, the vistas, and having to walk to dinner with a guide in the advent of a wandering lion. On our first morning we awoke to a herd of giraffe standing next to the tent.

You imagine everything is more gentle and docile than it actually is, but giraffes have a big kick, and hippos can run 50 miles an hour—and they kill more people than any other animal.

We were told to avoid bright colors to avoid attracting the attention of the animals, but it was also a great way to see the world, shorn of that influence of bright colors and neon. Who needs it when you are breakfasting at 6am under a tree in the Serengeti, just as the animals are waking up?

Night safari in the Rift Valley

There are no rhinos in the Serengeti, and you don’t get to see a lot of elephants, so we moved on to Lake Manyara in the Rift Valley. We got a first-class seat at the daily baboon show from our treehouse cabins.

The big thing there was a night safari, when you get to see the action: animals attacking other animals, the highlight as far as my kids were concerned. The evening started beautifully, with a full moon, but within 15 minutes we were in the midst of the most torrential downpour. The roads were so washed out that we couldn’t leave the camp the next day to visit the Ngorongoro Crater.

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Cynthia outside her tent in the Serengeti

We did eventually make it there and it was another magical place. We got to visit the Oldupai Gorge, where British paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the hominid fossils that changed our understanding of human evolution.

It’s all there, the dawn of human civilization, but so casually, and without any pomp or ceremony. You see a bunch of dinosaur stones just sitting on top of this immense platform, with a plaque on it, and that’s it. You could touch them if you wanted.

I grew up camping. My dad was a schoolteacher so we spent our summers driving across America, sort of a Partridge family scenario but without the musical talent. From the back of my parents’ station wagon, armed with stacks of National Geographic, I imagined a lifetime of exotic adventures and at a young age started my bucket list.

I’ve slowly checked things off, lots of wonders of the world, ancient, natural, and modern, and now the perfect African safari.

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Cynthia, left, and sitting in the Ngorongoro Lodge

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Cynthia’s daughter runs towards the Ngorongoro Crater Reserve. Photo: courtesy of & Beyond Safari

Cynthia Rowley is a fashion designer and co-founder of ExhibitionA.com and CuRious Candy