By Emily G. Peters
So many think of visiting Africa as an impossibility. Yet for Pasadena local Sarah Culhane, access to the continent is a birthright—and one that she’s eager to share with others.
Born in Kenya and educated in South Africa, Culhane came to the U.S. after a short time working as an architect. Not wanting to be stuck behind a desk, she moved away from the corporate world and began importing South African handmade tribal rugs and ceramics.
“I found myself taking groups of friends back to Africa with me,” said Culhane. After three trips and a mass of happy travelers throwing more business her way, she officially founded SafariBiz in 2009. It was a natural career progression.
“I grew up going on safari with my family,” said Culhane. “I had an innate understanding of what it entailed, and wanted to give people the same kind of experience that I had had myself.”
As a boutique travel operator, Culhane is a specialist in both Africa and her clients themselves, focusing on groups, families and couples. Travelers can embark upon adventures like gorilla trekking in Uganda to sunning in Mozambique to an early morning canoe ride on the Zambezi river. Whether it’s the urban hum of Cape Town or the near-spiritual solitude of Namibia’s sand dunes, Culhane excels at forging connections between her clients and the continent.
“No two trips are identical,” said Culhane. “Each is shaped by each client’s budget, interests and pace—their unique travel style.”
With contacts all over Africa and having visited innumerable camps, lodges and hotels, Culhane’s profound knowledge comes in handy for first- (and second, and third) time travelers.
“If you were a foreigner coming to the United States and were trying to decide between the east and west coasts, you’d definitely want to connect with someone who can give you a sense of both. That’s why you speak to a specialist.”
Her enthusiasm for Africa is infectious. Her office bursts with the colors, textiles and images of its many countries and wildlife. Of particular joy for her was seeing the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest, zebra and other animals cross rivers and plains in pursuit of grazing land.
“Only during certain times of the year do you see this event,” said Culhane. “Watching the wildebeest cross back into the Mara River was one of the most amazing and moving experiences in my life.”
For Culhane, her goal is to educate and inspire more people about the beauty of the continent and all it holds for travelers.
“There are so many different parts of Africa. Most don’t even know where to begin planning. That’s where SafariBiz comes in,” she said. And while Culhane recognizes that it’s a long flight, she holds to an adage that’s come true for many of her own travelers: “You never go to Africa just once.”