Mark Madola

—King of Finest Custom Safaris
and Kilimanjaro Treks

How Shrike’s Mark Madola Went from a Local Birder to Tanzania's Finest Custom Safari & Kilimanjaro Trek Operator

Based on the conversation between Mark and Bob Chizek—After Bob's Family Safari to Tanzania in June 2013

Bob Chizek and his wife Nancy and family booked a Tanzania Safari in 2013. The service provided by Shrike was outstanding and Bob and Mark—the founder of Shrike became friends. After finishing the safari, the Chizek family met Mark to give thanks for organizing such an exceptional African safari that left their hearts full... 

Listen to What Robert Chizek is Saying About His Family Safari Experience with Shrike Safaris


Bob Chizek

Owner at Chizek Builders

“Quantum is a reliable and professional company that applies high technology and creates exclusive programs for the clients. We highly appreciate this approach and will definitely continue our fruitful cooperation with them.”

Bob Chizek—opened the friendly conversation with Mark.

Besides, what does “Shrike” mean? I’m also curious to know more about you... Mark, if it’s not too personal, I’d like to hear about your life, your background, your family and where you’ve come from, and everything...  

From Humble Beginnings


"Sure. To look where it all began for me, I got my start when I was 12 years old. I grew up in Tanzania in the town of Magu about an hour drive from Mwanza city. From the very humble beginnings, raised by a single parent mother, and got a first International guest, our late friend Christina Breman—a Dutch woman who came to Tanzania as a missionary and became the best friend of my mother, Margie in the early 1990s. At my young age, Christina and her friends used to visit our home and spent her time with my mother and me; we're teaching her our local culture, and introducing her to our neighbors and friends. Visiting the open market was one of her favorite experiences and she was always eager to learn more and more about Tanzania... the rest is a story, Bob. 

Mark Responded

Mark continued...

In 2005, I headed to college and started to do a degree in tourism. Then, I was working for tour companies at the time as a freelance tour guide for both Tanzania safaris and Kilimanjaro treks, it was a part—time job to fund my way through College. I’ll never forget, I was on the call with my cousin Alex Magaga, a founding member of Standing Voice—an international non-governmental organization based in Tanzania and the UK, they fight for the rights of persons with albinism in Africa... 
And then Alex said, oh, look, I want you to organize a custom luxury safari for one of our esteemed donors, Dean, and his wife Clare—[Dean is the owner of a roofing company in the UK]. Do you guys do that? Me being the ambitious safari guide, I was like, yeah, I can help you with that. Wrapped up that call, got off, went, and spoke to one of the tour operators—Mr. Josh who was the owner of Exotic Expeditions at that time, and was like, look, I just told my cousin that we can manage to organize the custom luxury safari for Dean. However, I just came to realize that this tour operator didn’t even know what the high—end luxury guests need at that time he was organizing trips for the budget to mid-range travelers, and he said, well, you're a safari guide and you better figure it out—I trust you, Mark.
I managed to organize Dean's safari—I managed to expertly craft his itinerary and professionally guided him, and the safari turned out to be A—Once—In—A—Lifetime—Experience. And I really went deep and researched custom, attention to detail, and luxury safaris and Kilimanjaro treks, and basically started running this service within that company that I started working for.

Introducing the World of Shrike

It was over a summer break at the college and I spent most of my time on the field to learn more about my country Tanzania—her people [as we have more than 120 tribes in Tanzania], her beautiful landscape, her wildlife ecology. And, on July 7, 2007, the biggest thing happened to Shrike...


On Saturday, July 7, 2007, I traveled deep into nature to learn more about bird species, their habitats, and living patterns. Around mid-day, the sun became so intense that I sought respite in a cool and damp cave.
While resting, I noticed a small bird that appeared to be dancing. It was hopping around the cave, from one side to the other, and I found myself transfixed watching its graceful movements. I was mesmerized by the way the bird moved, her simple coloring, and the easy way she glided across the damp rock.
​This bird was a member of the Shrike species. At this moment, I made it my mission to create a safari company that could not only do a lot better than what this company I was working for but also would allow other persons to get inspired by the small acts of nature, just as I had been on this day. It was in a cool, breezy cave, watching the beauty and simplicity of nature, that the idea for Shrike Safaris was born.

Bob Chizek Responded

Yeah, wow. Amazing... You are already a very successful guy with a family that loves you and with the people that meet you who feel a high level of respect for you. That respect comes from, in part your passion for Tanzania, your dedication to the environment, your confidence with your guiding skills, and, this is a big one (at least for me) your personal values, family values, Christian values, and just plain and simple life values. Your calm and reassuring nature also helps to build people's respect and confidence. What steps did you go through and how far have you grown up after establishing Shrike..?

There are no limits when you are surrounded by people who believe in you, or by people whose expectations are not set by the short—sighted attitudes of society, or by people who help to open doors of opportunity, not close them...

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Shrike, Took—off...


The same month I decided to establish Shrike Safaris. I share the idea with some of my friends and relatives and I started hosting guests... my marketing strategy was based on the word—of—mouth by satisfied customers. Thanks to my Swiss friend, Nick who did his best to make sure he recommends Shrike and me to all his friends... Then, I started hosting a few new guests, and by the end of that summer break, my schedule was a little bit tight, and thought, look, why should I go back to the college and learn how to operate safaris and treks when I’ve got guests on my hands right now...

My mother and I became the first employees of Shrike, initially as Tanzanian Local Tour Guide and then as CEO. My mother is currently a CFO. I could not have been more prepared for the task, after the experience I had accumulated organizing specifically custom and luxury safaris and Kilimanjaro treks at the company I worked as a freelancer.

I didn’t really think of myself as a good businessman, I’m really too soft, for me, it’s not the money, but, whether I can gain a living and help the people around me while I’m doing that...

Bob Said...

Yeah, that’s amazing, Mark... Well, I have an idea that I hope would help Shrike. Due to the exceptional safari experiences, you have offered us—my family would be happy to assist you to construct a website that reflects the service we have experienced. Would you let my daughters Lisa and Jen design your website? They are both very good at that and have some experience in doing web design. I also think you might benefit from playing up your safari customization ability, there is a lot of discerning travelers in the world that have that interest, and I’ll bet you could catch most of them for a focused custom safari. This would not cost you anything and it might help, if you want to do this Lisa would reach out to you and let you know what she would need, such as some pictures, your vision, etc. Let me know what you think... 

Mark Responded...

Bob, thank you so much for thinking of the Shrike website," Mark responded and continued...

For all these years we have mostly depended on word—of—mouth marketing. While we firmly believe this to be the very best way to market, I have to bow to the changing world so that all people who search for Tanzania safari or Kilimajaro Treks have access to a new Shrike website.
Folks have been hearing about Shrike from other safari—goers or from a reference in a book or where ever and contact us. We then work out a trip tailored to the season, duration, travel style, and any specific interests. Having our own website would be ideal.

​To make the story short—Mark and Bob are hooked..!


Discover The Shrike DNA


Join one of the Shrike Adventures whether a safari and/ or a trek to Mount Kilimanjaro and you’ll notice something very unique; that everyone at Shrike caries the Shrike DNA—We Care, Personally and Deeply... our guests on the adventure are voicing an astonishingly high level of satisfaction with their arrangements—an even greater distinction.

SHRIKE has grown up since our humble beginnings in 2007, but one thing has never changed the "personal touch". Mark—the father of Shrike and who carries the Shrike DNA... always spends time both in the field and in every Shrike office, observing, training, and supervising—no detail is too small to escape his exacting eye—and he is always available to travelers... with Shrike you are always guaranteed with a one—of—a—kind experience that will change your life forever as per our DNA...

SHRIKE has grown up since our humble beginnings in 2007, but one thing has never changed the "personal touch". Mark—the father of Shrike and who carries the Shrike DNA... always spends time both in the field and in every Shrike office, observing, training, and supervising—no detail is too small to escape his exacting eye—and he is always available to travelers... with Shrike you are always guaranteed with a one—of—a—kind experience that will change your life forever as per our DNA...

Walter Miya—the founding member of Shrike



Lorren Hammond

Owner and Head Designer at LLHammond

We had only a few days, a weekend in the rainy season in Tanzania. No problem- Mark James, owner of the excellently reviewed Shrike Safaris, took us himself. We were six people- my wife, in Tanzania for a conference, several of her colleagues, me, and our four-year-old son. He and I were there because he is simply beyond excited by all things BIG CAT [he is like an encyclopedia about them]. The opportunity to take him on safari was impossible to miss. We traveled over 36 hours on four flights to get to Mwanza, Tanzania. His anticipation was at a fever pitch the week leading up to our departure. Everyone in his school, his friends, even utter strangers had to know-- Nicolas was going to Africa!!
On the drive to the Serengeti [pronounced "Siringet" as Mark gently corrected us], I sat up front and had the pleasure of chatting with Mark about his life and safari business. This is a remarkable man! Highly educated in wildlife, he chooses all his drivers from the same school he attended. They stay with him for decades. He even shared the deeply personal experience that inspired him to start his safari company and name it after the African bird Shrike [you'll have to ask him yourself...]
Once we entered the Serengeti ["endless plain" in Swahili], the world fell away. It was as if we entered the cathedral of the sky, and we spoke in hushed tones for a while. The plain stretches impossibly to mountains purple in the distance. Nicolas' anticipation could easily have been disappointed, as you never can be sure you will see big cats. But this is where Shrike's experience and education won the day. Mark spotted two lionesses sleeping in a tree 60 yards away while driving past. None of us could even make them out until he drove quite close. Then another lioness he saw rose from grass nearby and casually walked off while we snapped pictures, amazed. Later, Mark spotted a leopard in a tree by the trail. Leopards are quite rare and reclusive. How did he do this??! A hippo walked around in front of our jeep in the mid-day heat when they all rarely leave the water!
Everything we saw [or would have missed without Mark], he knew many interesting facts about. He showed us, by cupping our hands just right, how the world sounds to those with ears that swivel. He arranged a lunch experience to die for on a hilltop in the middle of the Park—Kirawira Serena Camp. We saw such creatures as one only dreams of. I rode head and shoulders out the roof of the jeep, with my four-year-old boy in my arms, the scented African wind in our hair, father and son together.
We all, not just little Nicolas, left with our hearts full. Mark, my new friend, we are hooked! We will return to Tanzania and Shrike for a five-day trip next time. Assanti!! Thank you!!