A Kenya safari had been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember. Ever since watching the Lion King, I dreamed of witnessing the Great Migration across Masai Mara. Home to Africa’s most iconic parks, game reserves and the famous Big Five, Kenya guarantees both diversity and breathtaking wildlife. When I heard September was an ideal time to witness one of the world’s natural wonders, and COVID rates were low, I jumped on the opportunity to visit!
You never know if a place is going to live up to all the hype. Well…Giraffe Manor certainly does! I felt as though I walked into the film Out of Africa, and I didn’t ever want to leave. Delightful courtyards, green gardens, sunny terraces and an elegant interior make up this boutique property. The best part however are the Rothschild giraffes that freely roam the grounds like they own the place. I was awoken at 6am my first morning by a hungry and sassy giraffe named Kelly. Kelly walked straight up to my porch and wasn’t shy about letting me know she was hungry! It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I also enjoyed eating breakfast with these social giraffes who like to steal your food anytime you’re not paying attention. The food was delicious and the new addition consisting of a bar, additional rooms, and a beautiful pool is a real plus. If you’re hesitating on whether to add this to your itinerary- hesitate no longer, it is absolutely worth it!
I can’t think of a better way to kick-off your safari than staying in a lodge inside Nairobi National Park, which is filled with wildlife! Simply getting there was an adventure. We saw black rhinos and white rhinos, buffalo, giraffes, zebras and lions. In addition to amazing access to wildlife, you will also fall in love with the food. The eggs benedict is to die for! The owner, Anthony Childs, is in the Guinness book of world records for having a record-size spitting cobra. Don’t worry, I saw no snakes at the lodge!
Loisaba Tented Camp & Starbeds
I smile just thinking about this property. Perched on an escarpment, Loisaba Tented Camp offers sweeping views of Laikipia’s mottled landscape all the way to Mt Kenya. We wound up with our own private infinity pool and views for miles. I loved watching the giraffes and elephants grazing below. Spacious tents adorned with Africana furniture make you feel like you are in true Kenya. Our butler couldn’t have been sweeter- writing us handwritten notes each night before going to bed. On our game drives we spotted hippos, giraffes, elephants and finally- a leopard! Crossing off the Big 5 at last. Our guide was determined and clearly very passionate!
We enjoyed Sundowners in the evening and I loved the array of activities. We rode horses, took a safari on camelback, and even considered mountain biking. Sleeping under the stars in Loisaba Star Bed was an experience I will never forget. I can still picture my fantastic outdoor shower with direct views of elephants and giraffes playing at the waterhole nearby. I kept grabbing my binoculars- I didn’t want to miss the spectacle below! Thousands of stars adorned the night sky while I tried to sleep with the sounds of nearby animal noises and roars. Ernest Hemingway once said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and wasn’t happy.” Touché Hemingway, touché.
Black Rhino Trekking & Saruni Samburu
We tested our fate with black rhino trekking- which was both exhilarating and challenging. Spotters sit atop a large rock with binoculars and search for these nearly extinct animals. Once spotted, you start your trek to get closer and catch a glimpse of them. We didn’t have to hike far to see a family together! My favorite part however was getting close to the baby black Rhino and watching it play.
A well-rounded safari trip must include some pampering along the way. Particularly after trekking for black rhino in the hot sun! And why not choose a spot with sweeping 360-degree views, private large villas and a free massage included? Our stay at Saruni Samburu was heavenly, and I savored the views from both pools. I woke up early to take in the sunrise over the “thumb.” This luxury resort is excellent for both families and honeymooners.
As an adventure lover- I fell hard for this property! Perched on treetops overlooking the Mathews Mountain range and surrounded by wildlife roaming freely below you. It is no wonder National Geographic voted this retreat one of the most unique lodges in the world. I couldn’t get enough of the infinity pool and found myself constantly checking the nearby water-hole to count how many giraffes and elephants were drinking below. I lucked out and met new and extraordinary friends that happened to own a helicopter. Never once did a “helicopter safari” cross my mind to add to the itinerary, but here we were gliding over the Seiya River on our way to Lake Logipi! As the helicopter dipped closer to the lake hundreds of flamingos flew away from us. It doesn’t get much cooler than that! By this point on the trip I was longing for some exercise- and fully enjoyed a sunrise hike up the mountain side located just feet away from the lodge.
Retiti Elephant Sanctuary and Singing Wells
Our next stop was Retiti Elephant Sanctuary where we watched the 9am elephant feeding. Witnessing these young orphans all sprint for their milk bottles while caretakers carefully fed them is the cutest thing I have ever seen! They do extraordinary work here and I’m inspired to get more involved. Afterwards, we visited Namunyak Singing Wells- which happens to be the only place on the planet to witness the local Samburu tradition. To keep their cattle nourished, the warriors will dig wells along the riverbed until they reach water. Throughout the process they sing in unison to keep the rhythm of the digging, and then stay in sync while passing the water up to their cattle. I enjoyed learning about the Samburu traditions and felt privileged our guides were so open to share about their culture!
Mara Bushtops Camp
When I heard that Obama and his family had stayed at Mara Bushtops Camp- I knew it had to be special. And it didn’t disappoint! Situated alongside the Masai, this private oasis has everything you can imagine and more. Animals roam freely and the view from your abode goes on for days. Voted “best safari spa in Africa” I didn’t miss my chance to enjoy a massage- and wow it was spectacular! Serenaded with animal noises on all sides plus a spectacular masseuse- it was the perfect way to end a long day out on safari. But my all-time favorite part was the post-safari bubble bath with roses accompanied with the drink of the day that awaited me each afternoon. Honestly- that spoiled me for life. The Masai Mara is full of wildlife. We saw a dozen lions, a cheetah eating a hare, a momma and her baby leopard playing and the great migration of wildebeest and zebras!
We took a hot air balloon ride that was unforgettable. I couldn’t believe how much we spotted from the air- four cheetahs running, thousands of zebras migrating and elephants playing. Witnessing the sunrise over the Masai Mara was well worth the early wake-up call. To top off my already unreal experience – my guide drove me across the border into Tanzania one day to eat lunch, drink a beer and watch more of the wildebeest migration. It was only one afternoon, but it still counts. Country #62 I can’t wait to go back and explore further!
It was tough to leave Kenya, but I know in my heart I’ll be back. I have a long list of things I want to experience next time around. They say East Africa is addicting- once you go you’ll want to return over and over again. Well, they are right! Kenya is beautiful, brave, wild, free, friendly, and unforgettable!