Ask anyone who has been there, and they will tell you, Tanzania is a very big place. It has Mt. Kilimanjaro which is Africa’s tallest mountain and one of the largest and most diverse populations in the world. Consisting of 49 million people, 120 tribes and over 126 different languages. This vast landscape has come to epitomise what it means to be in Africa.
So, who better to show you this impressive and endless country but a Tanzanian borne native whose life’s work has been to show the best of this colourful land? Enter, Ombeni (Ben) Pallangyo, President and CEO of Ombeni African Safaris and Founder and Chairman of The Ombeni Foundation.
Ben has spent many years working in the tourism industry and has helped shaped what it looks like today in Tanzania. Working his way up through leading tour companies in East Africa, he is a man of principle who leads with impeccable expertise and professionalism. These attributes have propelled him to the front of his industry, as well as his experience in tourism, wildlife, hotel management and the culinary arts. Enabling him to become one of the leading tour operators in East Africa.
“We continue to lead the best and most memorable trips to Tanzania and beyond,” he says, “Working with a range of people from couples to larger family groups, government officials, corporate executives and adventure seekers.”
The Secret. Experience and Small Details.
Ben knows the value of creating an experience that will last a lifetime. Indeed, by setting this as his standard it means his safaris and tours have a greater impact.
“Ombeni African Safaris is award-winning for a reason, because we take people out to explore Africa’s back-of-beyond,” Ben says, “As an African born company working with a remarkable team of African experts, we understand this land fully and are able to get the best out of her for our clients.”
And it is a combination of this experience and creativity that has put them ahead of their competitors. For example, Ombeni African Safaris are not going to just pile you into a jeep and drive you around a national parking pointing at animals as you zoom past. Perish the thought. Instead, Ben has created packages that involve many opportunities to sit down and appreciate the value of the views and the dignity of this magnificent land.
“You awaken to the root of Mount Kilimanjaro with the sun just cresting over her peaks,” Ben describes, “Then before anything else the day starts with the aroma of coffee Robusta and Arabica from the farms of the Ombeni family. The African landscape and everything in it has had a long time to grow and colour itself, sometimes the best way to appreciate it is to sit down and watch and get lost in the mythos of it all.”
The distinctive tours are set about to allow guests to choose their own style to explore Tanzania and Africa at large. Always with careful considerations to the small details to ensure personal safety, security and comfort. Looking after these details may be as simple as providing all guests with an itinerary for the following day’s activities the night before. Or ensuring that there is adequate water available for guests, or mosquito repellant. Ben reveals that some of these little details can make all the difference:
“We started catering our guests with ornithologist-tested and approved binoculars,” he says, “Because people wanted to watch the twirling pink flamingoes as they dance. Normal binoculars did not do them justice and it is too beautiful for visitor to miss.”
One thing that can be guaranteed with Ben and his high-energy approach to business is that you will get a personalized safari with a difference.
“We encourage our guests to explore Africa the Ombeni Safari way,” Ben says, adding, “And if they don’t want to then they’re on the wrong tour. The moment the safari begins we are turning safari dreams into reality and crafting golden memories for our guests. This takes creativity and innovation.”
He goes on to explain that relying fully on his team is part of the success of the business. By allowing his staff the freedom to personalize any itinerary so that it fits perfectly with the client is essential to helping them fully immerse themselves in the African culture in a way that is unique to each of them.
“Who wants to go on an ‘ordinary safari’?” he asks with distaste.
In fact, there is a list of things that make Ombeni African Safaris truly outstanding. A reminder of how even little things can have a major impact on a person’s ability to really enjoy themselves.
For example, while the safaris can be made with large and small groups the Land Cruisers are never crowded. While there are enough seats for eight people, they only take five per vehicle allowing everyone to have a window seat for a better view.
“We believe people want to be immersed in nature and not in fellow tourists,” Ben says, “And that for a personalized tour you need to go somewhere unique.”
This last part is particularly interesting as thanks to the team’s experience in Africa as well as family ties, there are parts of the continent that are open to them that are not open to other companies. Offering their guests an extremely unique safari experience.
Drinks and meals are included and there is no need for tipping. This will come as a relief to many a safari traveler who has discovered at the last minute that they’re expected to tip the guides. Ben will not have this.
“Hidden costs are not something that we embrace,” he says firmly, “Nor do we believe in assigning the responsibility to our travelers. The guides do not go without however as we sort it quietly and professionally.”
There are ways to see nature and then there are ways to really see it. A hot air balloon safari ride at sunrise is a vehicle for seeing it in a way you will never, ever forget.
“Imagine a morning fog covering the Serengeti like a blanket with the sun peaking just above the horizon as a peaceful quiet surrounds you,” Ben describes, “Your pilot lets the fires blaze into the expanse of the hot air balloon above, and then…you’re aloft for your unpredictable hot air balloon Safari ride.”
Here, with an eagle eye view of the perfect landscape, time stands still as Africa’s Great Migration happens below. Involving white-bearded wildebeest moving in their thousands they darken the Serengeti like a flood, and this vantage point is the best way to appreciate the sheer scale of these animals’ movements. The morning trip ends with a champagne breakfast in the bush and is a great way to start the day.
Double Occupancy: $1600
Single Supplement: $1,000
The Importance of Giving Back
Ben explains that Ombeni Safaris is committed to responsible travel while investing in Africa and leaving it a better place for future generations. This includes working in a sustainable fashion, thinking in a nature-friendly way and setting an example.
“We have to think and act now to preserve the natural world we have for future generations,” he says, “And we are continually working out new ideas for Green Africa.”
The Ombeni Foundation
The Ombeni Foundation is a non-profit, mission-based organization dedicated to supporting and providing for the needs of the people in the village of Mount Meru Tanzania and others. Ben set it up to support multiple projects to ensure the population meets basic human needs such as shelter, food, medical support and school and sporting supplies.
Never Far from Home
Ben now lives in Madison, WI, but is still close to his cultural and familial roots in his home land. He explains that all of his life and accomplishments sprout from the roots he set up there and he aims to give back to the village that raised him.
“I feel blessed with opportunities, resources and associations in America that have put me in a position for the benefit of my native people,” he says, “You can’t take your good fortunes for granted and you must always remember where you come from.”
PRICE: See website for full packages.