Discover Kenya’s rich wildlife and its diverse cultures with Rupi Mangat, a third generation local and a leading Kenyan travel writer who lives in this tropical paradise on the Equator. Kenya is the epicenter of big game – lions, leopards and cheetahs; elephants and rhino; and mighty raptors that soar the skies.
Imagine waking up every day to a saffron sun rising over the savannah plains teeming with wildlife. Kenya’s tapestry of sweeping grasslands, arid plains and lush swamps with snow-topped mountains is home to spectacular wildlife.
November is one of the most exciting months to be on safari and watch the land turn lush and green with the start of the short rains after the long dry spell. Typically the days are interspersed with spells of showers followed by hours of sunshine for the wildlife (and us) to soak in. It’s also the time to watch the tail end of the annual migration of a million-plus wildebeest march back into the neighboring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Welcome to Elsa’s country, the lioness of Born Free fame. Be awed by the beauty of the land she lived in, the rivers and golden plains in the wake of the granite-peaked Mount Kenya. Relish in her wilderness surrounded by Africa’s big game – the elephants and rhinos; the big cats and the rare, including the birds and baobabs and so much more.
We’ll meet Mary Wykstra, a dynamic cheetah researcher, who’ll give you the inside story of the big cats and the African Wild Dog that nearly became extinct a few decades ago. Click here to discover more about this rare canine!
This specially curated safari is for you to be awed by Africa’s big game in the 21st century. All camps are luxurious with en suite baths and toilets, spas, swimming pools and gourmet meals. This safari is for people who love nature, want to see big and small game, birds and plants while also enjoying the finer things in life. Camel and horse riding and drifting in balloons are optional and can be arranged at your request.
Rupi is a travel writer with a particular concentration on wildlife conservation and sustainability. She’s 3rd generation Kenyan who’s been on safari countless times since she started writing professionally in 1998. She works with the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya as the editor of Komba, the magazine to promote wildlife conservation amongst schoolchildren. With her strong connections with conservation not-for-profits like the East African Wild Life Society, Nature Kenya, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (to name a few), we’ll be given an insiders view of the amazing and often challenging world of today’s wildlife.
Fly into Nairobi the capital city of Kenya. You’ll be met at the airport by our representative who will guide you through arrival via a fast track and drive you to your hotel, the Villa Rosa Kempinski. The Villa Rosa Kempinski, overlooking Nairobi’s skyline, lavish and soaked in tropical sunlight, has played host to Barack Obama, Lupita Ny’ongo and many more.
The day is at leisure for you to relax, unwind and recover from jet-lag. The hotel is a few minutes’ drive from the central business district if you’d like to explore. Nairobi is a fast-paced city. The core of the city centre boasts early colonial architecture and modern high-rise towers. You can pop into the Nairobi National Museum with it galleries dedicated to prehistory, ornithology, ethnography and the making of modern Kenya. A guided walking tour can be arranged if you want to see city life or the museum.
Otherwise, spoil yourself in the hotel spa. We’ll meet for cocktails and dinner in the evening at 7 p.m. at the Tambourin Restaurant (not included in the price) with lively chats about your exciting safari before calling it a night.
Today the adventure begins. It’s an early start to the day. After a hearty breakfast, we’ll fly to Meru National Park northeast of Nairobi. This is Born Free country, home of Elsa the lioness’s epic true-life story. It’s a 45-minute flight over Nairobi National Park, and Africa’s second highest massif, Mount Kenya, the 3-million year old extinct volcano topped with snow on the Equator! Nairobi National Park is the only wildlife park in a capital city and is home to Nairobi’s original inhabitants: the black rhinos, big cats and plains game like the Maasai giraffes.
We’ll be collected from the airstrip and driven to Elsa’s Kopje overlooking the vast plains of Meru that Joy Adamson aptly called the Garden of Eden, and where she released Elsa into the wilderness. Although Elsa lived from 1956 to 1961, this amazing lioness made history as the first wild cat to return to the wild and still make contact with humans (the Adamsons) after her release. Elsa went on to have cubs – another remarkable event with a wild lion – which the Adamson’s closely documented. This set a benchmark for wildlife conservation in Africa; before then, it was believed that human-raised wild animals could never survive in the wild.
Sculpted into the kopjes of Mughwano Hill, Elsa’s Kopje is on the original site of the Adamson’s camp where they raised and released orphan lions. We’ll enjoy a game drive en route in our custom-made safari cruisers driven by an expert driver accompanies by a wildlife guide.
The 870-square-kilometer Meru enjoys dramatic vistas. The western flanks show Mount Kenya and the long range of Nyambene Hills that act as the water towers for the park’s 14 rivers including River Tana, Kenya’s longest, that course through Kenya’s arid lands. No wonder Joy Adamson called it the Garden of Eden.
We’ll enjoy a lovely lunch overlooking Elsa’s country with the occasional herd of elephants browsing below…..or maybe even a cat slinking through the grass.
Meru is a great conservation success story. Between 1980 and 1990, at the height of the ivory trade, Meru’s 3,000 elephants were nearly wiped out and many wildlife rangers were killed by poachers. The international community and the Kenyan government stepped in, staffed the rangers and embarked on a re-stocking program to return Meru to its former glory.
In 1999, with peace restored, Elsa’s Kopje opened its doors to visitors. Amongst them was Virginia McKenna, the lead actress who played Joy Adamson in the film ‘Born Free’ along with her husband Bill Tavers as George. McKenna is the founder of the Born Free Foundation.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll embark on a game drive in search of big game like Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s zebra, Reticulated giraffes, crocs and hippos, lions and elephants, plus the rich birdlife before returning to camp at sunset.
After cocktails, we’ll dine under the stars and exchange the day’s highlights and hear more about the Adamsons’ legacy.
The animals are most active before the sun becomes too hot and lethargy sets in, so we’ll rise early and set out for our morning game drive as the sun rises. The lionesses would rather hunt when it’s cooler but being opportunistic the hunt is on if the prey is easy. Did you know that lions do not have sweat glands; if we get close enough, you can hear them panting!
By 9 a.m. we’ll be back at the lodge for breakfast. Take time to relax, swim, read a book, take a nap, and enjoy the grounds, discovering its many rare plants including the baobab that is the world’s largest succulent.
The afternoon game drive will have us visit Elsa’s resting place with a poem by Joy etched on the tomb stone. Until recently, the grave was a secret venue. We’ll also visit Pippa, the cheetah’s resting place, the spotted sphinx that Joy also returned to the wild after collecting her from The Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.
We’ll return to the lodge by sunset for a refresh, cocktail and another gourmet feast. Meru’s resident naturalist will be on hand to answer any questions about this endlessly fascinating world. before retiring to bed. A nightcap by the fire pit is a nice way to end the day.
We’ll enjoy another early morning game drive to catch the animals in the golden light before breakfast. Then we’ll depart to the airstrip for a short flight to Laikipia, a land of high plains and rolling hills straddling the Equator between the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya on the eastern edge of Great Rift Valley. Have your cameras ready; if it’s clear, we’ll have panoramic views of Mt. Kenya. This volcanic mountain is Kenya’s tallest at 17,057 feet (5,199 meters). When the first explorers reported sighting the snow-capped mountains on and near the equator, they were ridiculed – who had ever heard of snow on the equator?
Laikipia is special – a 56,000-square-km matrix of cattle ranches and wildlife conservancies that’s home to the Phoenix pack of 30 African wild dogs. It’s an amazing story of a sole female who survived a fatal outbreak that wiped out the African Wild Dogs. She went on to mate with an African Wild Dog wandering in from Samburu in the north. And voila! Today, there are two-dozen adults and dozen pups. (In the first half of the 20th century, there were 500,000).
In addition to Wild Dogs, Laikipa is rich in wildlife only found north of the Equator and adapted to life in the arid lands such as the Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, gerenuk and Somali ostrich. These species have adapted to life without water, surviving just on morning dew. Laikipa’s wildlife is zealously guarded by her residents – the local tribes’ people, the ranchers, and the farmers. Also present are some 7,000 elephants, 250 lions, nearly 40% of Kenya’s black rhino, and the last two survivors of the Northern white rhino – the mother-daughter duo Najin and Fatu.
In case that’s not enough, this ancient land was also home to our ancestor, Homo erectus. Evidence of their presence was discovered from hand axes dating from between 500,000 to 1.5 million years ago. More recently, rock art has been discovered from some 2,000 years ago.
Our destination in Laikipa is the Loisaba Tented Camp in the Loisaba Conservancy. We’ll be transferred from the airstrip to the camp with a game drive en route before checking in and enjoying time at the camp and lunch. This afternoon, we’ll embark on another exciting game drive.
We’ll be back just in time for cocktails by the campfire before a sumptuous dinner freshly prepared under the stars of the northern hemisphere. If you’re a star gazer, this is the perfect spot close to the Equator to see the constellations straddling the two hemispheres – including from your bed.
We’ll be entertained by local Samburu dancers with the songs and dances of their ancestors.
The Samburu like the Maasai belong to the Nilotic ethnic group that came into present day Kenya from the north along the Nile some five centuries ago. Interestingly, in addition, the Samburu believe that they hail from Venus the planet.
Enjoy your evening and retire to bed.
Another glorious morning in Africa. Rise and shine for an early morning game drive after a cuppa. You can’t believe how beautiful it is. The landscape is surreal with mountains and rocky insets. Return for breakfast by 9 a.m.
It’s your day to choose from riding on horseback or on camels (extra cost), or patrol with the rangers and their sniffer dogs or simply lounge and savor the wildscape.
Return to camp by lunch.
We’ll be joined by Mary Wykstra, founder of Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, who will give us some insight on the magnificent creatures in the Laikipia landscape and their ongoing research. She’ll join us on the game drive in search of the elusive packs of both dogs and cats.
Return for a starlit dinner followed by a nightcap by the campfire and finally to a peaceful slumber in your bed.
We say goodbye to Laikipia and take a 90-minute flight over the Great Rift Valley to the Maasai Mara. The Rift is the planet’s longest valley on land stretching 6,000km from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique in South-eastern Africa (but best seen in Kenya). The flight then enters the savanna grassland in the mighty Mara that is home to the Big 5 – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard (and cheetah). This is lion country famous for its black manned lions. If you are lucky it’s possible to see all the three big cats – lion, leopard and cheetah – in a day.
The Maasai have co-existed for many years with African wildlife because both the wildlife and the large herds of cattle owned by the Masai need wide spaces to survive.
We’ll be collected from the airstrip and driven to the 1920’s glam Masai Mara Sand River Camp with a short game drive en route. After check-in, relax and enjoy an exquisite lunch before leaving for the afternoon game drive at 3.30 p.m. to return at sunset to the camp.
Take a few minutes to refresh before we meet for cocktails on you first night in the Mara, dubbed one of the seven natural wonders of the modern world.
Dinner will be under the stars with lots of lively exchanges and talks with the resident naturalist about the wonders of the Mara.
Finally it’s lala salama, ‘a peaceful sleep’ in Kiswahili.
This morning you’ll have a choice of a morning game or to treat yourself to a thrilling balloon safari at sunrise with a champagne breakfast on landing. It’s a novel way of game watching catching an eagle’s eye view of the land and life below. (Note: the Balloon safari is an extra charge of $400 USD).
After our magnificent morning, spoil yourself today. Revitalize with a massage in the wild or simply soak in the splendor of the landscape.
For those who wish to see a Maasai village, a visit can be arranged.
Packed with a picnic lunch, we’ll spend the rest of the day in the Mara and return for sundowners by the river that gives the camp its name.
Tonight, we’ll be entertained by Maasai dancers as it’s your last night in the African bush with dinner under the stars before we wish you ‘lala salaama’.
After a sumptuous breakfast in the Mara, we’ll fly back to Nairobi to arrive by midday for your flight home, or onward to Lamu if you’re joining us for the trip extension (see below). For those heading home, we’ll decamp to the Four Points at Sheraton at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to relax while you wait for your return flight home. (You’ll have the option of getting a “day room” at the hotel, or booking a room overnight, depending on when your return flight is. This stay is not included in the trip price).
Saying goodbye to your new friends and this beautiful country will be hard, but you’ll have many wonderful life-long memories to take back home with you.
We hope your African adventure has amazed you. As Joy Adamson said: ‘Wildlife is something which man cannot construct. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. Man can rebuild a pyramid, but he can’t rebuild ecology, or a giraffe.”
After a week on safari, it’s time for some serious relaxation and restoration. Lamu, the fabled archipelago of islands off the east coast of Kenya, is steeped in history from over 2,000 years of ocean trade with the Orient East. Lamu is THE place to de-stress. We’ll be guided for this portion of the trip by Monika Fauth. Monika arrived in Lamu 20+ years ago and has made it her home ever since. She’s a qualified teacher with the Art of Living organization since 2009.
Our time in Lamu will be focused on bringing happiness from within and to celebrating our sisterhood. The aim is to bridge the gap between cultures, backgrounds and religions, by better understanding ourselves and each other. Monika’s specially crafted Well-Being program teaches powerful techniques to help boost our energy, creativity and confidence, to build our immunity, to improve our mental and physical health, reduce stress and improve sleep.
We’ll also explore the ancient isle of Lamu and her historical Stone Town. We’ll enjoy the sand dunes, snorkeling and swimming in the Indian Ocean, and sailing on the dhows that brought the ancient mariners from the Orient on the monsoon winds.
From Nairobi we’ll fly to Lamu, arriving on Manda Island. We’ll make the short crossing of the Lamu channel to Shela, where we’ll check into our home for the next 3 nights, the Banana House.
After settling in, we’ll enjoy the afternoon on the beach with a swim and stroll enjoying the wide sweep of the Indian Ocean with stories from the past of her ancient Swahili history. A sumptuous Swahili dinner awaits us, full of fresh ocean goodness, tropical fruits and vegetables spiced to enchant the palate.
After dinner, we’ll retire on the roof to to enjoy the star-filled dark sky until sleep calls.
We’ll energize ourselves in the morning, saluting to the rising sun on the beach with a walk and swim. Then we’ll enjoy a healthy breakfast full of tropical fruits and Swahili-cooked eggs and breads.
After breakfast, we’ll have the benefit of a relaxed yoga class with Fred or Kelly, the in-house yoga instructors.
Then you’ll have some time to yourself to enjoy a revitalizing massage, or to read and relax.
After a healthy lunch at Banana House, we’ll learn about a local Banana House project helping to supply disadvantaged women with monthly supplies. Later in the afternoon, we’ll take a short sail to Manda Island for an hour of sound-healing yoga guided by Monika. Then we’ll return in time to rest and relax a bit before dinner.
We’ll end the day with another sumptuous dinner.
Guided by Monika, we’ll start our day with early morning yoga on the beach followed by breakfast.
Around midday, we’ll take another short sail to Stone Town that is steeped in history and rich with Swahili civilization. Accompanied by a local guide, we’ll stroll Stone Town to explore its narrow alleys with its centuries-old carved doors of the East African coast and learn of Stone Town’s fascinating history.
Then we’ll return to Banana House for a healthy lunch. Enjoy the afternoon with an in-house treatment or massage, or just laze around at the pool.
Later in the afternoon, it’s time to board a dhow, the ancient sailing vessels powered by the wind that brought in the ancient mariners from the East, giving rise to the Swahili civilization. We’ll just be sailing near the shore, but we can imagine what it must have been like to make ocean passages.
Dinner will be back at Banana House. After, we’ll create a women’s circle and end the day with an evening meditation.
Guided by Monika, we’ll enjoy an early morning silent walk over the ancient sand dunes and a swim at the beach.
Upon return relish the healthy tropical breakfast flavored with sensual spices followed by an energizing yoga class.
Then you’ll have time to yourself to pack, rest and relax before lunch. This afternoon, we’ll sail back to Manda Island for the flight to Nairobi and onward flight home feeling rested and refreshed.
Lamu trip extension: $1,750 USD
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If you’d like to come, press the Reserve Now button above. You'll be prompted to complete a form with your pertinent details, put down a refundable $250 placeholder deposit, and schedule a time to speak with a GG2P representative. We like to speak with everyone before they embark on their first trip with Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond. This allows you to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have. These are intimate, small group trips; a quick yet personal conversation allows you to get to know how our trips work and make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, we’ll immediately refund your $250 deposit.
If it’s a Go! after your call, we’ll bill you for a non-refundable deposit, usually 35% of the trip’s cost (less the $250 place-holder deposit, if you already paid it) and your place is reserved. At this point, you’re committed to the trip, so we recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you in case your plans change unexpectedly. The balance will be due approximately 2 months before the trip.
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