To Africa With Love, Care of a Tauck Tour Director

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 4/10/2013
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Africa, Travel

Eric Croft with childMeet Tauck Director Eric Croft, and his 89-year-old mother, Annie, ambassadors of transcontinental caring. Home for both is Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, a small town with a big role in the historic Atlantic fishing industry and in the life of several famous tall ships. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Eric loves sharing life on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean with Tauck guests (on our Canadian Maritimes journey), but he also loves sharing the world of the Serengeti and Masai Mara in eastern Africa (on Kenya and Tanzania: A Classic Safari). He’s one of the fortunate few human beings who regularly experience daily life at dual ends of the Earth.

You’ll find Annie, however, comfortably situated back in Lunenberg, retired after a working life running a dairy farm with her husband and raising five kids. Today the “Kids” include a teacher, sea captain, veterinarian, farmer and we’re proud to say, a Tauck Director!

These days Annie may have considerably more time on her hands than she did back on the farm, but then again she’s never been one to let them stand idle. She’s “always” knit according to Eric – who along with his siblings learned how to make a quilt and bake a loaf of bread – life skills taught by Annie, just in case.

It’s been “six fantastic years of travel to Africa with Tauck,” says Eric, where he accompanies guests on safari for unforgettable up-close views of wildlife, sweeping savannah and endless plains – not to mention stays in amazing safari lodges and at the legendary Mt. Kenya Safari Club. But it is also in eastern Africa that Eric has found his heartstrings tugged by a force of a different kind.

Tanzanian SchoolEric has been smitten by the children he’s met at a Tanzanian school and a Kenyan orphanage. The school is located in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Center, an area near the famed Ngorongoro Crater, where grasslands, swamps and lakes attract migrating buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinoceros. The area has also long been home to the nomadic Maasai, who raise cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep. The orphanage lies outside Nanyuki, a market town that provides supplies to the region’s ranches, game parks and conservancies and is a base for Mt. Kenya climbers.

When on tour here, Eric shares the school and orphanage with Tauck guests, encouraging them not to “stand around and look, but to talk with the kids, take their photos, look at their drawings – to interact.” And when this happens, as it unfailingly does, “the kids just swell you up!” says Eric.

The school is a place for those children fortunate enough to have a sponsor who supports their studies, while the orphanage provides a home to kids who are not so lucky and whose needs can be basic: utensils, school supplies, an occasional mattress... Eric visits about every two weeks, often showing up with what he last heard was in need or with a welcome surprise – like the water gauge to measure rainfall sent by his brother’s Canadian students.

Eric with his MomBut it is the little things that sometimes bring the biggest smiles, which is where Annie comes into play. She’s been supplying Eric with hand-knit teddy bears “since day one.” And whenever Eric visits, in Ngorongoro or Nanyuki, he brings along a teddy or two to randomly give away. Dozens of Annie’s teddies have brightened a child’s day in Kenya or Tanzania.

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