It was finally happening. After years of reading books and articles, watching countless documentaries, and even planning unique safari itineraries for my clients, I was here at last. As I emerged from the Nairobi airport, my senses were immediately assaulted by all things Kenyan. The buzz of traffic and sounds of Swahili filled my ears, the brilliant sunshine felt warm on my shoulders, and the constant dust swirling in the air filled my nostrils. Absolutely perfect. With a week of traveling by SkySafari with Elewana ahead, even the jet lag couldn’t dampen my excitement.
My time in Nairobi was short-lived but meaningful, feeling like an excerpt from the film Out of Africa. As I walked around the house and grounds of Karen Blixen’s historic home, which is now a museum to her life and work, I could almost feel the love this extraordinary woman had for Kenya, for its wildlife and natural beauty, and most of all for its people. While not a born native, Blixen connected with this land in a unique way, and it forever left its mark on her. Little did I know that we would soon share much in common.
Before leaving Nairobi, and due to the persistence and influence of my safari guide, I unexpectedly found myself at Giraffe Manor. This small hotel and game reserve is known worldwide for its dedicated work in protecting the endangered Rothschild giraffes and is notoriously exclusive with a 2-year waiting list. In no time at all, I was surrounded by the friendly giants, most notably Ed, the patriarchal male of the herd. Kenyans consider it good luck to be “kissed” by a giraffe, and Ed was happy to oblige by leaving a trail of sticky glue-like residue on my right cheek.
From Nairobi we were off in to the horizon – quite literally, in a small Cessna Grand Caravan. What I expected to be a practical bush plane was in reality a plush and cozy cabin, complete with swiveling leather bucket seats to maximize viewing opportunities while in flight. Now THIS I could get used to.
As we traveled around Kenya by private plane, we were able to take in a great depth of experiences that are inherent to Kenya’s beauty – observing the majestic rhinos in grazing Meru, getting up close and personal with a pride of lions sunbathing on the rocks at Loisaba, waking up to the clamor of baboons on my tent porch one morning, walking through fresh lion paw prints on my way to breakfast in Sand River, and observing the rich tribal heritage thriving in the local villages near the Elephant Pepper Camp.
I’ve always viewed Kenya through a somewhat homogenous lens – wide open vistas filled with lots of wildlife. What I did not expect was the wide range of colors, temperatures, atmospheres, and cultures that span this beautiful place. While the natural beauty is a common thread throughout, the tapestry of this country is more diverse and unique than I had imagined.
I believe that travel changes people – hearts, minds, and spirits – and returning home a bit different is not uncommon for me; but I must say that Kenya was different. This journey has done more than simply change the way I view places or people. In addition to those things, I also felt a sense of belonging, peace, and confidence here that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. Several events drove this feeling home in a personal way…sitting in rigid silence with my heart pounding in my ears as a female elephant charged our Land Rover before sliding to a stop mere feet away, spotting a cheetah cub hiding in the underbrush while waiting for its mother, and sitting around the fire enjoying sundowner each evening to the sound of lions roaring very close by.
Something about this earthy, rustic, and perilous destination heightened my senses, created awareness of my own vulnerability, and made me feel more alive than ever. It was real – everything about it was refreshingly authentic, from the brutal struggle for survival among the wildlife to the meticulous tribal garb worn every day by the locals in remote villages.
Kenya spoke directly to my heart and has carved out a place there where it will forever reside. I have no doubt that I will return to this beautiful land, and that it will always feel like coming home because it now lives within me. If you’ve dreamed of experiencing a safari Africa, I urge you to make Kenya your destination of choice – I promise you won’t regret it.
Are you ready to begin your journey to Kenya? Set up a consultation with Natalie to get started!