Video Blogging Tanzania’s Incredible National Parks and My Safari Experience

For this year’s extended winter trip I found a great price on airfare from Copenhagen to Dar Es Salaam.  Even though I was a bit unsure on what the weather would be like (would it be rainy? Did I need to watch out for malaria? Had I already missed the flamingos and the great migration?) I did a little added research and then decided to go for it. Initially I was torn – should I try and use one of the local budget airlines to jump down to South Africa or up to Kenya? Or should I just give it a go and stick to an extended safari and then some beach time in Zanzibar. Ultimately I opted for around 23 days in Zanzibar and Tanzania in mid-late December.

My final schedule took me CPH -> Istanbul -> Dar -> Kilimanjaro Airport. From there it was onto a local bus which continued on to Arusha where I had a quick overnight. Then I met up with Stewart from Fed Tours and Safaris, the Safari Company I had chosen to do a collaboration with based, in part, on existing recommendations by fellow photographer Mikkel Beiter.  With Stewart and our cook William I spent the next 9 days on an incredible safari experience. The safari took us from Arusha to Tarangire National Park, then from there across country and past numerous Maasai Maasai weekly markets and along the Great Rift Valley up to Lake Natron where we overnighted.  After searching for Flamingos and a spectacular sunrise which included a swim in a series of waterfalls, it was onward to the Serengeti’s small and remote North Gate. From there we spent 4 days in a campground in the very heart of the Serengeti before heading to Ngorongoro Crater to camp on the rim, looking out over the crater before spending our final morning driving Ngorongoro National Park where we looped back to Arusha. From Arusha I spent a day relaxing then caught a flight Arusha -> Stone Town in Zanzibar where I spent the remaining 11 or so days.

What you’ll find in the following videos are my raw, un-cut, un-edited vlogs taken each day in real time as I progressed through my Tanzania experience. In total there are 26 videos, most of which are less than 2 minutes which I’ve compiled in chronological order in the attached playlist. Towards the end you’ll find reflections and some added safari advice.  I’ll also be adding additional posts which will include a more polished wrap-up of the incredible sights, animals and experiences I had during the trip.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pick a safari and safari destination, I’ve prepared this extensive write-up on must know things to do. Issues viewing or loading this video?  Jump over to YouTube for the full playlist [here].

*Disclaimer* As part of my safari preparation, I chose Fed Safaris based on their reputation for excellence. Once selected, I received compensation/sponsored rates in exchange for documenting my real, unfiltered, and completely independent experiences during the 9 day safari experience.  

Cambodia in 20 Instagram Photos

I’m currently hard at work sorting through the 4,000+ images I snapped during my visit to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. However, while the final “National Geographic Standard” shots are starting to go up on flickr (view them here) I’ve been posting Instagram edits taken during the trip. For those that follow my photography, for Instagram I post unique images, a blend of dSLR and iPhone 6 captured shots and/or HDR edits of the photos you’d see on flickr in a more true-to-life format. So, without further delay, here are 15 of my favorite Instagram shots from Cambodia.


An old Cambodian gentleman resting in front of Aangkor Wat.

A photo posted by Alex Berger (@virtualwayfarer) on

Open Roads and Changing Aspen – Weekly Travel Photo

With one arm resting half-in, half-out of the diver’s side window of  our white Chevy Crew Cab pickup truck the wind raced over my skin, cooling it, while tugging gently at my arm hairs. A periodic errant gust would collide with my skin before diverting inward to tickle my face and fill my ears with the sound of the fresh black tarmac whizzing by beneath rugged truck tires. My eyes locked forward on the road, one hand on the wheel casually navigating the high mountain two-lane highway that threaded through the passes near Silverton in south-western Colorado.

Absolute Control – Weekly Travel Photo

Heads turned upwards towards the sky, we watched as three airplanes flew in formation above us. They cut across the airspace over Copenhagen before lazily looping back around for a second pass.  This time we looked on with baited breath as a small dot separated from the lead aircraft and plunged towards us. A few brief seconds passed before the familiar sight of a precision parachute blossomed behind the dot which was quickly taking the shape of a man.  After enjoying a few lazy spirals he positioned himself roughly over the portion of the Norrebro lakes which had been transformed into a wet-water splashdown zone replete with white targeting buoy and two lines of floating landing zone markers.

The Almost Brave Warthog – Weekly Travel Photo

Warthog Meets Elephant - Chobe Safari
The banks of the Chobe River in Botswana were home to a rather amusing series of events.  As we floated along and watched things transpire, we watched curiously as a rather bold warthog casually strutted in the general direction of what I believe was a young male elephant.  Full of swagger and strut the warthog marched right up in the general direction of the elephant, who at first ignored the approach and then as the warthog neared, turned a more attentive eye.  After a brief pause and standoff in which the two stared each other down, the elephant’s ears flared out and the warthog did a shockingly quick 180 before setting an energized pace for a hasty retreat.

The Polar Bear Throat Hold – Weekly Travel Photo

Wild Polar Bears in Churchill

Playing, fighting or somewhere in between?  That’s the question I found myself pondering repeatedly over the three days I spent on the frozen Canadian tundra just outside of the remote town of Churchill in central Canada.  Over the 72 hours we shared with the polar bears they put on great displays of physical strength while balancing them with awe inspiring shows of laziness and apathy that left me reminded of my cat, Riven. The bears periodically assumed a standing position for battles that tested their strength and allowed them to feel each other out in a mostly friendly atmosphere as they lounged along the partially frozen shores of Hudson Bay waiting….waiting…waiting for the temperature to drop and for the bay to freeze over completely. Once the waters freeze solid suddenly a frozen wonderland of snacks, treats, and fishing holes emerges which the the bears will explore during the winter’s cold, dark months.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

An Adult Learns to Ski in the Austrian Alps

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

Growing up I never felt a strong desire to find a large hill, scale it, and then throw myself down the side at a high rate of speed. As a general matter of practice, I considered this a sign of sound judgment and a firm contributor to the fact that I’ve never broken a major bone. So, it was with some trepidation that at the age of 27 I finally decided to find some of the tallest peaks in Europe, only to launch myself down the side of them. To add to the excitement, we added snow to the hill, 5 foot long skis, two poles, and boots that reminded me more of an astronaut’s footwear than something of a terrestrial nature.

When the Tyrol tourism board reached out to me and invited me to ski the Austrian Alps near the small ski town of Obergurgl butterflies erupted in my stomach and my palms began to sweat. I thought to myself – skiing is something that people learn when they’re kids. It’s not just the art of an expensive and complicated sport, it’s the corresponding culture that goes with it. A culture with all sorts of convoluted rules, social protocols and what I’ve always perceived as an aloof arrogance that disdainfully discourages flatlanders who failed to spend their childhood making an annual pilgrimage to steep mountain peaks.

Obergurgl - The Austrian Alps

After swallowing deeply I fired off a response e-mail. What the hell, I’d cross my fingers, close my eyes and give it a go. After all, how often do you get to say you learned to ski in the Austrian Alps? I’m glad I did and hope that this post helps convince those of you who –like me – may be latecomers to skiing and ski culture to press forward and give it a go. It’s worth it. It really, really is.

As the trip approached I nervously attempted to research “skiing for beginners” which largely generated the same advice I’d gotten from friends on Facebook: “Pizza and French Fries”. This enigmatic response was repeated over and over, time and time again. Each time it came without any explanation and seemed like completely random babbling. They might as well have been saying, “Dog Moonwalk” or “Penguin Aardvark Buffalo”. It was my first run in with the enigmatic ski culture I dreaded. Eventually I found a similarly enigmatic explanation that said something about the Pizza and French Fries signifying ski positions for beginners. Assuming it must be somewhat important, but still making little/no sense I filed it away next to “Don’t eat the yellow snow”.

Obergurgl - The Austrian Alps

The flight to Austria was uneventful. Though excited for the landing at Innsbruck’s famous airport, I arrived just after dark and missed the dramatic descent into the valley that I’m told leaves some nervous travelers clutching their arm rests. The 45 minute drive to Obergurgl was pleasant, if not overly eventful given night had settled over the valley completely. My late night arrival meant that the following morning when I awoke in a comfy bed at the Hotel Josl, and stepped outside I was met by breathtaking views of soaring alpine mountains. The air was surprisingly warm, crisp, clear, and the town was covered in a fresh layer of gorgeous white powder.

I followed someone cryptic directions to the ski rental shop, where I swallowed my pride and admitted I had no clue what I needed and asked them to outfit me properly. The guys there were super helpful and jumped to the task explaining what they were doing and what I should be watching out for/feeling for. Before long I was booted up in a pair of vibrantly colored moonboots, and handed two skis, two ski poles, and perhaps most importantly for me a helmet. Luckily I had a pair of waterproof gloves, but given that I wear glasses I had opted to skip a pair of sleek ski-goggles. I figured short of keeping snow out of my eyes during the inevitable faceplant into the snow, I wasn’t likely to be flying down the hillside at significant enough speed to need eye protection. As I slowly worked on my ski-boot gait, and clunked out of the ski shop I felt I looked the part, even if I still had no idea what I was doing. I was making progress and who knew – perhaps I’d make it through the day with my dignity largely intact.

Snowshoe Hike - Obergurgl, Austria

The mid-March weather was incredible. The temperature was floating between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius and the sun was out. In a rolling ramble of uncoordinated, lanky, awkwardness I balanced my skis, and tried to keep my helmet from falling off my head while occasionally dropping my ski poles and doing the bizarre clip-clop, clunk-amble which passed for a walk while in my ski boots. Though I felt like a Giraffe walking amongst swans, no one else seemed to pay my awkwardness much mind as I made my way to the Obergurgl Ski School to meet with the private instructor the tourism folks had set up for me.

My instructor arrived a few minutes later, a 23 year old guy from Berlin, he’d been skiing for years and was eager to work with me. He quickly showed me how to carry my skis and ski poles over one should and balanced by one hand, so that I could walk more than 15 feet without dropping a pole or ski. This trick restored some semblance of elegance to my stride.

I anticipated spending the two days I had allocated on some sort of flat space, with a winch that would drag me, flailing back and forth, across a flat snow surface. So, it was with some trepidation that before putting my skis on for the first time, we made our way directly to a very long, very gentle slope. After a 5 minute intro to how to get the skis on (and off) we began to practice going straight and how to stop. It was amazing how sliding at two miles an hour left me feeling like I was racing out of control at 60.

Years before I had spent some time picking up rollerblading. At the time I’d mastered a few tricks -the highlight of which was how to skate backwards. Unfortunately, I’d never truly mastered the fine art of stopping. My first two hours on the ski slope left me fairly confident that I’d have a similar challenge while skiing.

That said, I was amazed at how quickly things came together. It quickly became clear that the biggest challenge wasn’t the skiing itself, it was overcoming the mental obstacles that popped up. I quickly learned what I needed to do to make myself turn, to pause, to stop, and to slow down. It was just that once that light sense of panic started to kick in, the adrenaline surge overwhelmed reason and left me trying to respond how I would if I was walking down a hill in hiking boots.

Despite these challenges, the first hour of our session was actually quite easy. I believe I fell down once, if that, and the moments of terror were extremely brief and fairly mild in the grand scheme of things. Until, that is, my guide expressed his satisfaction with how well I was doing and proposed we head to the bunny slope. My face went white. We had already progressed in one hour beyond what I had expected would take me the full two days.

The training hill itself looked like mount Everest to me and was similarly strewn with the mangled corpses of fallen skiers. Well, perhaps not really, but there were more than a few nasty wipeouts to be seen as my fellow students gave the hill their best.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

Luckily, as it turned out, there was a small path that wound down the backside and was specifically designed as a transition for folks at my level. Unfortunately for me and my dignity, about 90% of the folks sharing the hill with me were freshly out of diapers on skis shorter than my forearms. The downside was that the tiny tykes were quite often better than I was. The upside was that I didn’t have to worry about an audience of judgmental adults that I was about to sacrifice my dignity in front of, and I also had the petty pleasure of learning at an exponentially faster pace. So, while yes, I was competing with 6 year olds – at least it wasn’t nearly the traumatizing experience I had envisioned.

I survived the first three runs down the beginner route, though I lost control and ended up in a heap on two of the three. Surprisingly crashing wasn’t nearly as bad an experience as I expected. That knowledge helped me push forward, and before long I was less concerned with falling and more concerned with the burning agony in my thighs as I tried to stop myself using the “snow plow” – basically forming the V-shaped blade of a snow plow with my skis to stop myself.

After the third run my guide smiled, patted me on the back and said he was impressed. That I was an incredibly fast learner, didn’t show much fear which was a huge help, and that it was time to graduate to the third and final part of the learning slope.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

I was out of my comfort zone. I was also fairly confident I was going to die. Impaled on my skis or in a tangled heap with my maimed and bloodied instructor who I’d run down at speed. But, he seemed confident and hadn’t led me astray. So, off we went. Three minutes later I found myself making a slow zig-zag down the slope hands in the air, or on my knees as I used my body weight to turn. Then, something magical happened. I suddenly learned and “felt” how I could turn back into the mountain to slow and/or stop myself. It makes perfect sense of course. Going down a mountain? Turn into/back up the mountain to decrease your speed or stop. Yet, in the fog of nerves and adrenaline during the first few hours, it had totally escaped me.

Oh, I fell of course, but it was only a handful of times. Usually when I started to get a bit cocky, or was distracted by the natural beauty of my surroundings. The feeling though of gliding across the snow silently, picking up speed, and just…floating. It’s magical, unique and definitely addicting.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

As I repeated and mastered the bunny hill over the remainder of our time I excitement and confident grew. I’d been missing out, and the skiing thing? Well, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying or terribly difficult as I had pictured it in my mind. It was physically challenging, but not nearly as extreme as I had envisioned. It was scary and embarrassing to learn – but all new things are, and this was actually far more comfortable than most. In fact, the ski culture I had been so intimated by from the outside was in fact extremely supportive and nurturing.

As the day went on, I enjoyed friendly banter with a number of folks. Many of whom offered compliments and support. For all those years, it quickly became evident that I had pegged skiing all wrong.

…and then the day ended. The following morning, I learned, we wouldn’t be returning to the bunny hill. No, we’d be heading to the blue diamond rout on one of the primary slopes. As my guide broke the news to me, I was shocked. Not only that I’d come so far, so quickly, but also that I’d be facing the long, gradual slopes of the mountain. Slopes filled by experienced skiers, trees, and steep runs that made what I’d done on the bunny hill look like a lazy day lounging in the sun. But, he said I was ready, and if said I was ready – I’d have to get a good night’s sleep, push through my sore muscles, and pray I remembered the day’s lessons.


DAY TWO – The Real Deal

The second day was much the same as the first. The weather was glorious and peaked at 11 degrees Celsius. It quickly became apparently that I was over dressed for the warm weather. Stripping down left me more susceptible to chunks of snow slipping down my shirt and pants during my periodic faceplants, but by and large left me feeling invigorated and more nimble.

The morning started with an introduction to the large ski lifts. I’ve gotta say – getting on, and off, without falling was a proud moment. We even ended up helping some of the other ski instructors who had a small army of munchkins get their kids on, and off the various forms of ski lift. It was fun and helped ease some of the anxiety bunched between my shoulders at the thought of my first few runs down the mountain.

Learning to Ski - Obergurgl, Austria

They went well. Over the course of the day we tried a wide variety of different routes down the mountain. For some he had me race down without ski poles. For others, we did exercises straightening, then bending over and forward, both hands on one knee, and then the other to facilitate turns. Yet others were just about goofing off.

It took me a long time to accept the rules of the road, and that I didn’t have to be constantly working to get out of the way of the better skiers as they came down the slope and zipped past us. Eventually, however, I got used to it. Oh, I still got passed periodically by little kids on their snow boards, or skis but it just became part of the fun. I launched myself forward down the hill trying new things, experimenting with speed, and doing my best to stay upright.

It was awesome and by the end of the morning’s session I felt like I had finally begun to move beyond crawling down the hill, and started to actually ski! As I think back on it, I’m still shocked that I was able to transition from the ski-equivalent of a newborn foal to slightly awkward giraffe in so little time. A large part of that was the benefit and aid of having an excellent ski instructor working with me one-on-one. My 10 years in ballroom and salsa also likely helped with my balance and ability to center myself. That said, skiing in general just wasn’t the terrifying beast I had built it up to be. I’m now hooked, and cannot wait to get back out onto the slopes.

As far as the social side of ski and spa culture? Well, for that you’ll have to stay tuned, or reference my post about my introduction to Austrian spas. Needless to say, they too were far, far more enjoyable and much less embarrassing to figure out than I had feared.

Thinking about learning how to ski but feeling as intimidated as I was? Feel free to ask a question and I’ll do my best to weigh in!

A very special thank you to the Tyrol and Obergurgl Tourism board for their invite to learn how to ski. As well as to the Hotel Josl who put me up, and the Obergurgl Ski School which provided accommodation, food, and an absolutely fantastic guide.

The Lion Cub’s Gaze – Weekly Travel Photo

Lion Cubs Playing at Sunset

This magical moment happened in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park while I was on safari.  We had stumbled onto a group of five lion cubs between the ages of 4-6 months just before sunset. Their mothers were off hunting and the cubs were taking a much-needed break after a day full of exploring and childish antics.  This cub in particular was feeling quite relaxed, though he still kept a close eye on us.  He repeatedly lounged around, rolled onto his back, and then stared at us almost as if inviting us to head over and to give him a tummy scratch.  His gaze was incredible and cut right to my core. Hands down some of my favorite moments from the Safari.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.