Our Africa Specialist Laura, just returned from the Magical Kenya Trade Expo where she spent 10 days exploring Kenya with our African partners at Governors Camp Collection.
The first words I heard when I touched down in Nairobi, Kenya were, “Karibu! Karibu sana!” – or, “Welcome! You are very welcome!”
Although it was the friendly gate attendants at the airport who first welcomed me, it was a phrase that followed me throughout my 10-day trip in Kenya. The essence of the phrase “You are very welcome here” became one of many examples of the kindness of East Africans.
After an (exhausting) 23 hours of travel, my first night at Ole Sereni (conveniently situated near the airport) was uneventful and full of sleep – until the next morning, when I woke to views out of my bedroom window of Nairobi National Park! Nairobi is the only city in the world that has a national park within its city limits, and while planes fly overhead and skyscrapers loom in the distance, I ate my breakfast gazing out over the hilly plains at a gazelle grazing in the morning mist.
A full day of hotel inspections awaited me, and I won’t bore you with the details, but I had a fabulous time inspecting and enjoying our luxury camps and lodges available in Nairobi National Park and the surrounding area.
Later, I experienced the special baby elephant viewing at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust & Orphanage in Karen, about 30 minutes outside of Nairobi. This late afternoon viewing is only available to those who “adopted” a rescued elephant from the Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage ($50/year) and is limited to 25 people per night, in comparison to the busy public hour from 11am-12pm daily, which is popular for both tourists and school groups. Prior to my trip, I adopted Maktao, a now-2-year-old elephant who was rescued from Tsavo West National Park after being orphaned in the wilderness. Maktao, along with 220+ other elephants, a rhino and a Rothschild giraffe, have been raised by individual keepers at the Orphanage in Karen, before moving on to transition back into the wild after rehabilitation. Graduating elephants are moved to herds in Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, where they are accepted by the elder elephants (most of whom were also rescued and released) and live out the rest of their days in the wild.
A delicious dinner in Karen, an Uber ride back to my hotel, and a quick overnight flew by and then I was off to the bush! My small group of 5 other agents and I took off with our fearless leader and drove north to Lake Naivasha (stopping at Ubuntu, a local nonprofit along the way to purchase some incredible, hand-made shoes) to spend the night at Governors’ Loldia House. Here, we took an afternoon trip into the Mau Eburu Forest with a small group of locals who showed us how they harvest fresh honey from beehives. During our forest drive we also saw a Colobus monkey, zebra, black-backed jackal, and several species of antelope.
The next morning, we relaxed by the pool after a boat ride on Lake Naivasha, where we saw plenty of hippo, fish eagles, naughty vervet monkeys, and local birds, and learned about the fishing community in the area. Then, it was off to the Masai Mara via Governor’s aircraft!
The world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s portion of Serengeti National Park. We spent three wonderful nights at Governors’ Main Camp, with each of our tents overlooking the Mara River, filled with hippos and massive Nile Crocodiles. The pig-like snorting of hippos was a constant reminder that we were in the middle of the bush! The camp is unfenced, and our lunchtime companions consisted of three warthogs grazing in between the outdoor lunch tables.
Over the course of our three nights in the Mara, we had some incredible wildlife sightings. Our first afternoon game drive started off with a bang as we visited the Marsh Pride of lions, currently at nine residents – four adult females and five cubs. Plenty of zebra, antelope, hippo, and hyena rounded out the day’s sightings, with my personal favorite bird, the lilac-breasted roller, and a very old elephant making an appearance. A rain cloud chased us back towards camp in the late afternoon, but not before we chanced on a cheetah sighting! We also saw a family of 20+ hippos in the Mara River; a leopard napping in a tree on the edge of the forest; a hyena carrying the head and spinal cord of a wildebeest as the rest of the pack ripped away at what remained of the mammal; a male lion catching a snooze under the shade of a very small tree; and a young giraffe calf posing graciously for some fabulous photos, before realizing that mom had wandered a bit too far away and taking off after her.
As incredible as our wildlife sightings were, an afternoon visit to Mara Rianda’s Primary School was a highlight of our time in the bush. We were lucky enough to visit on the same day as the school’s benefactor, Richard Long, who began the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust in 2004. In partnership with Governors’ Camp, Richard’s trust supports everything from building classrooms for students and accommodations for teachers to providing solar lighting, sponsorship of students to Secondary School, providing dormitories, installing water purification and washing facilities, constructing a fence around the school, donating books, stationary, teaching materials, and much more. It was a privilege to meet him and his wife, who make a point to visit twice a year. I highly recommend visiting the school. It is a wonderful experience and the children we met were so respectful, engaging and overjoyed to meet us. I enjoyed chatting with one student who wanted to be a physicist. She is 12, and I am pretty sure she can do it.
After a sad goodbye to the bush, and a 1-hour bush plane flight back to Nairobi, I spent three full days meeting over 40 suppliers and partners we work with throughout East Africa. It was an invaluable experience that helps us stay up to date with the best luxury safari products in East Africa. I’ve only been home a week, and I am already looking forward to the next time I get to return to East Africa.
Asante sana (thank you very much), Kenya!
For more pictures from my trips to Africa, follow @lauraslions on Instagram
For more pictures from our destinations around the world, check out @bortonoverseas on Instagram
Sign up for newsletters and announcements from Borton Overseas!Join our Email list