By SYDNEY BRASON A trip to Africa ranks at the top of many buckets lists, and many travelers assume that South Africa is the ideal safari spot. Instead, consider Kenya, which offers an immersion into tribal culture and easy access to some of the most prominent game parks, making it the quintessential destination for a safari.
Many unique and luxurious camps located throughout Kenya are popular spots to splurge on a high-end safari trip, providing elegant and upscale alternatives to “roughing it” in other locales. And, amidst breathtaking landscape and wildlife, Kenya epitomizes Africa’s indigenous culture.
Check out the reasons why your dream vacation should be in Kenya, and answers for why to go, where to stay, and what to do to get the most out of your African safari.
Why Northeast Africa?
Kenya encompasses savannah, lake lands and the Great Rift Valley where you can find herds of majestic zebras, nonchalant elephants, prides of lions, and sly tree-lounging leopards. Lavish camping lodges are positioned against backdrops of endless golden savannah and snowcapped mountains, adding to the allure of the game parks.
The capital city of Nairobi is a starting point for a safari trip to the Maasai Mara Reserve and Samburu National Park. Maasai Mara in particular is distinct from other major game parks in Africa, as it is home to the “big 5,” the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. The Maasai, a spirited tribe with deep roots in their territories, are the native inhabitants. A symbol of Kenyan culture, they are a nomadic tribe living along the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania with a distinct society and dress style. They continue to live their traditional way of life despite Western cultural influences, and take pride in their rituals and ceremonies. Experiencing the culture of the Maasai tribe is one of the many unique highlights of this trip.
Where to stay: Giraffe Manor
Flying into the capital of Nairobi is the most popular way to begin. Located in the close by suburb of Lang’ata, Giraffe Manor is considered to be one of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings. The appeal of this hotel dates back to the 1930s, when European visitors flocked to East Africa to go on safari. With its awe-inspiring facade, elegant interior design, lush green gardens, and sunny terraces and courtyards, the hotel is straight out of a movie setting.
This exclusive boutique hotel is set on 12 acres of private land with 140 acres of indigenous forest where a herd of Rothschild giraffes’ roam the property. Accommodating 25 guests, the Manor also serves as a sanctuary run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. During your stay, you can feed the majestic Rothschild giraffes while relaxing on the terrace and watching the sunset. The giraffes will even accompany you during your breakfast, poking their heads through the windows in search of a treat. This luxurious colonial-era mansion is the perfect first stop on your travels through Kenya.
From Nairobi, you can fly from a private airport directly to the Samburu Airstrip, where you’re greeted by male warriors from the Samburu tribe, a semi-nomadic tribal people. They are the resident employees of Saruni Samburu, a safari lodge located atop a red rock cliff in the private Kalama Conservancy just north of the Samburu National Reserve.
This lodge has six open-air, eco-chic villas, which provide spectacular views of Mount Kenya. During your stay here you will embark on twice-daily game drives in safari jeeps guided by a Samburu warrior through the Kalama Conservation, Buffalo Springs, and Samburu National Park. You can also visit a local village, accompanied by your guide, to watch native dances and spend time with families of the Samburu tribe. Ok piece needs to be under 1000 words; cutting here and there
After a few days, at the Samburu National Reserve fly to the fabled golden grass plains of the Maasai Mara. Spend two or three nights at the Mara Plains camp. Upon arrival, you will walk across a wooden bridge over a river, through a forest lined with flat-topped acacia trees, the symbolic tree of East Africa. Once across the bridge, you will discover the seven elevated tents and main camp area that make up the Mara Plains lodge.
This camp takes “tenting” to another level. Good Decorated with large wooden doors, rich leathers, copper and brass accents and deep red and purple tones reminiscent of colonial influences and Kenya’s Swahili and Maasai roots, the tents complement the mystique and beauty of the East African savannah. Run by National Geographic Explorers’ Dereck and Beverly Joubert, this safari lodge is a gateway to a safari experience unlike any other. In what way Here you will also embark on daily game drives throughout the lush grass plains of the Maasai Mara, and return to delicious meals prepared by world renowned chefs.
From Mara Plains, take a scenic road transfer through the plains of the Maasai Mara to legendary guide Calvin Cottar’s private Homestead. Bordered between two game reserves, this 1920s safari camp with tents is the perfect spot to experience the migration season.
Built by hand using indigenous and eco-friendly materials, the privacy of this hilltop home is combined with dedicated staff, award-winning guides, and breathtaking views of the savannah plains. Guests can enjoy privately guided game drives, bush walks, swimming and fishing. This 10,000 square foot home has 5 stylish bedroom suites, a large fire-lit living room, and a dining room complete with stunning views of the Olderikesi Hills.
An exclusive aspect of this safari lodge is the opportunity to spend time with Calvin Cottar, one of East Africa’s most renowned private guides, escorts guests on game drives each day, sharing remarkable stories about his experiences. Cottar’s family has been running safaris in Kenya for 90 years, and as an African wildlife activist his goal is to ensure the future survival of the local people and land.