KeeKee's Big Adventures Family Travel Podcast
KeeKee's Big Adventures Family Travel Podcast
Istanbul & Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation with Travel Mom Brooke

Travel Mom Brooke and her daughters join us to talk about their Africa Safari Vacation, stopover in Istanbul, and some of the great things you can do in their home state of Alaska.

For more family vacation inspiration, check out all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!

Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised here in Alaska as are my girls, Hazel 12, and Estella 9. It’s beautiful in the summer and even in the winter when it’s snowing, it’s breathtaking. We have lots of amazing animals up here.

Writing for children is something that I also do. I have seven books out and four more on the way.

We have some pets too. We have a dog, we have a guinea pig. My kids would love to get a cat like KeeKee, but we have a few allergies in the family.

We just went on a wonderful extended family multi-generational trip with 10 of us to Istanbul and Tanzania with Tauck Tours.


Istanbul Palaces

Istanbul & Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation: Istanbul

We visited Istanbul for three days. If you fly through Istanbul on your way anywhere on Turkish Airlines, you get free night stays in the city. So we were like, well, of course, we’re in Istanbul, this amazing historical place. Why wouldn’t we take that opportunity?

Istanbul is the land of cats. We thought about KeeKee all the time when we were there. We counted over 400 cats. The government takes care of the street animals and gives them shelter and food and takes care of their medical bills.

We took a lot of tours of historical places. We saw three or four mosques. The Blue Mosque was beautiful. We saw amazing palaces on the Bosporus River.

We toured the underground Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath the city. There was water everywhere, and pillars and statues. And we went to some of the markets. The girls loved them and all the candy. And we had some amazing food.

Istanbul Cisterns

Istanbul Cats

Istanbul & Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation: Tanzania

Tanzania was amazing. We mostly did like animal park safaris. We saw a lot of animals…elephants, baby elephants, giraffes and zebras.

We see wildebeests, lots of baboons. We saw the first dik dik that we ever saw. They are adorable. It’s this tiny deer like you could pick it up. It’s the cutest thing ever. And the hotel that we stayed at Tarangiri National Park, they were just all over the place, just lounging.

We saw hyenas and marabou stork. They’re creepy. They look like they belong in Jurassic Park. They’re huge and have these massive beaks. They’re like five feet tall. Um, and they look like they could bite your head off in five seconds, but they’re mostly interested in what you’re having for lunch.

African Safari Vacation

African Safari Vacation

Ngorongoro Crater, which was probably one of the most amazing places to see animals. All the animals are kind of stuck in this crater. They can’t go wander around. And so, you just drive around and the animals are all over the place.

We stayed at a lot of Gran Meliá and the grand Gran Meliá Arusha was our favorite. It was a really nice hotel. The staff was amazing, the layout was beautiful, and the food was so good. And the nice thing when you have kids is you want them to experience the culture and the food too, but sometimes it’s nice to just wake up and there’s Cheerios.

Then probably the craziest place we stayed was in wall tents. They were plumbed so you had your own toilet and shower in them, but you couldn’t lock them which was a problem as the monkeys came inside and made a mess. There was toilet paper on the floor everywhere and they bit Hazel’s body wash open. They dumped our suitcases out.

African Safari Vacation

African Safari Vacation

Istanbul & Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation: Serengeti Hot Air Balloon

We got up at 2am to go on a hot air balloon ride. It was early but we got to see a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t see in the daytime like a hippopotamus out of the water.

That’s one piece of advice. We did not do any nighttime safaris. If you have a chance to do a nighttime safari take it. We saw all these animals that we hadn’t seen during the day because they’re nocturnal like hippos and nighttime cats like leopards. We saw some leopards during the day but they were sleeping in trees way far away.

The hot air balloon ride was really cool. We got to watch the sunrise. We saw Simba and Scar. And they were hunting topi. It’s a super cool animal. It has blue fur and is a mix between a gazelle and a zebra.

It was so quiet. I have a video of it, and you can hear nothing. And suddenly you hear the blast of the fire that’s going up into the hot air balloon, but then that quiets down and then it’s just completely silent. And yet you’re moving at these pretty top speeds because you’re in the air currents.

It’s just like completely peaceful and silent up there. It was beautiful.

African Safari Vacation

African Safari Vacation

Istanbul & Tanzania Africa Safari Vacation: Zanzibar

We stayed in Zanzibar, which is an island in Tanzania, for the last 3 days of our trip. It was hot, about 97 to a hundred degrees most of the time. We had nothing scheduled and at first, we were like, we should go snorkeling. And I think we were so just completely exhausted from our trip that we lounged by the pool. We walked along the beach, we went to the little market that was up along the beach, and that’s the extent of what we did in our three days.

What were your favorite parts of the trip?

Hazel: Probably the hot air balloon over the Serengeti.

Estella: Mine was mostly at the first hotel place that we stayed in Arusha. It was amazing!

Brooke: I am still processing. It was so many cool experiences all in one that I don’t think my brain has even acknowledged that I have done some of those things. You know what I mean? Ngorongoro Crater, which is where they found Lucy, the primate that we know was one of the origins of mankind. So that was pretty epic. I love animals and the animals are amazing. Then in Turkey, we saw human history. I think that for me that added to the trip because I had the natural history and the natural wonders of Africa combined with the human history of Istanbul. I think that wrapped up the trip for me.

African Safari Vacation

African Safari Vacation

Fun Things to Do in Alaska

In the wintertime, you can go skiing, hiking, or snowmobile riding. You can go see the Northern Lights. There’s so much wildlife to see like moose and eagles. Go on a whale watching trip like the one we took out of Seward where we got to see so many killer whales.

And we go see the bears in Katmai National Park every year. Because it’s not accessible by road, and we have a cabin in Bristol Bay, Alaska. And then as we have a small plane, we take the 15-minute flight over to Katmai and Brooks Falls, where the bears congregate to catch the salmon at the top of the falls. So that is a tour that you can take.

Why do you think it’s important to travel with your kids?

I think that kids need to get out of their comfort zone. Like trying new foods like our kids did on this trip. And then, when we were in Tanzania, we went to see some of the local tribes. We danced with them and saw the huts they live in. It was kind of an eye-opener. The life that we live is pretty privileged by comparison. Not to say that they don’t enjoy their lives but it’s very different.

The history of Turkey was pretty fascinating because Hazel was just learning about the Ottoman Empire in school. And the next thing, you know, the tour guide is telling us about this history and it was linking what she had been learning in school to what we’re seeing. And so that’s important because kids are learning from books.

Hazel: Normally social studies is just boring because you just do something off a Google slideshow but then we actually see it. It’s pretty amazing. I think traveling is really cool and you get to experience things that you don’t normally see regularly and experience different things.

Estella: I like the hotels and the animals.

And the kids got to make some new friends too, like Doreena from Bulgaria who they met in Zanzibar.

African Safari Vacation

Next trip your planning or dreaming about?

We’re going to Canada in May to Victoria and Vancouver when the girls get out of school. My husband has never been to Victoria and is a gardening freak. I’ve always wanted to take him to Butchart Gardens because I think it would just blow his mind. And then there is the Empress Hotel where you can have high tea. So we’re going to do that and just do some other fun stuff.

African Safari Vacation


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Thank you for joining us, Brooke!

You can find more about Brooke and her books on her website and Instagram. You can find her books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and more.

For more family vacation inspiration, tune in to all the podcast episodes.  Adventure Awaits!