Great Escapes: Your guide to a super lit African safari adventure
It's time to big or stay home.
If you’ve been dreaming of taking an African safari, now may be the time for you to check it off your bucket list. Start in Kenya and experience an adventure of a lifetime that includes some of the country’s most wondrous national parks that are indeed luxurious, but still ideal for a first time expedition.
Remember, good things are worth working for, so be prepared to handle some business before you leave home. There are passport, visa and vaccination requirements. Information at eVisa Passport Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can help you get started. Pack light because you’ll be plane hopping between safari locations, but don’t forget the essentials like insect repellent, sunscreen, shades, a hat and light colored clothing.
Your adventure awaits. Ready, set, go!
Sunset in the bush
Your memories of camping may be from that no frills tent you slept in as a kid. Things have definitely changed in the world of adulting. Expect a big-time upgrade at the all-inclusive resort Loisaba Tented Camp in Laikipia, Kenya with its high ceilings, polished wood floors, gourmet cuisine, stylish African décor and infinity pool.
If you’re adventurous, ask for one of the beds where you can sleep under the stars on a platform. You can fish, mountain bike, horseback ride, take a guided bush walk, or a camel trek where you’ll get Instagrammable moments and bragging rights, for sure.
Whether at night or during the day, the game drive is the absolute best. You’ll have the awe of a 5 year-old, getting excited about giraffes, elephants, zebras and dik diks that look like Bambi. You’ll learn to love the “African massage” otherwise known as the bumpty-bump of driving on the local rugged terrain. Enjoy the perfect ending to a safari by watching a sunset in the bush while enjoying Sundowners (light bites) and sipping on a Tusker (local beer), champagne, gin and tonic, or Dawa, a classic vodka-doused Kenyan cocktail.
Experience wildlife up, close, and personal
You’ll love the rooms at the Elsa’s Kopje Meru camp which are sculpted into the Mughwango Hill and above the site where George Adamson’s original camp was located when he and his wife, Joy decided to raise orphan lions (as is depicted in the movie Born Free about Adamson and Elsa the lion, for which the camp is named).
Game is plentiful. You may even spot a leopard and her baby sleeping in a tree. You’ll never forget watching a pride of lions roam by a dry river.
Also, unforgettable is the outrageously tasty Kenyan food at Elsa’s. Look out for the monkeys though, who will swoop down from a tree and swipe some bread from your table. Do visit the rhino sanctuary and don’t miss the opportunity to meet children at a local school. Their smiles will steal your heart.
Proving family matters
You might think that by the time you make it to your third camp that the thrill will be gone. Think again. The symphony of sounds at night, the grunting of a buffalo, animals quarreling, the heavy breathing of “something” is intriguing, scary, and unforgettable all at once.
Each camp is different, in vibe, type of game, and flora and fauna, but there is something so special at the Sand River Masai Mara. Its idyllic location on the banks of the Sand River in the Masai Mara National Reserve are part of the allure.
A visit there can also include a trip to a nearby Masai village. You’ll be welcomed with soul-stirring songs and dance. Someone will take you into their home for a brief visit where you can learn and watch traditions such as starting a fire from rubbing sticks together. The massive market is a chance to bring home mementos to share as well as an opportunity to help out local artisans.
Spice up your life
Wind down your African adventure with a stop in beautiful Zanzibar, the spice island off the coast of Tanzania. Kilindi Zanzibar is an uber luxe, intimate resort with lush tropical gardens.
“Rooms” are domed pavilions with sweeping ocean views, each with a private plunge pool and terrace. Arrange to have a private dinner on the beach or pamper yourself at the spa. The massage therapists here are some of the best you’ll find.
Snorkel, dive, deep sea fish, jet ski or sit back and set sail on a catamaran. Once rested, take a trip to Stone Town. The shops, architecture, city market and sites like the Sultan’s Palace Museum capture your attention while the historic Slave Market where an Anglican Church sits in the shadow of memorials of a horrific past that will break your heart.
WARNING! Don’t be surprised if you feel emotional as you begin to pack to return home. This is the kind of journey that will transform you and ultimately, make you want to start another safari adventure in neighboring African nations.
Sheryl Nance-Nash is Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, small business and general business. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Money, DailyFinance.com, More.com, Newsday, Crain’s New York Business, thefastertimes.com, and many others.