Day 1: Hello Kenya
On arrival, you are whisked away in a private transfer from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the city’s prettiest residential suburb, Karen, an inner-city sanctuary. Family-owned and managed, House of Waine has been lovingly converted from a private manor residence into an 11-bedroomed boutique hotel.
Exuding old-world charm and regal sophistication, its interiors feature colonial-era antiques and artwork, grand chandeliers and Persian carpets. Each suite is air-conditioned and individually decorated with a king-sized bed dressed in the finest percale linen, and picture perfect views over the 2½-acre indigenous garden. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as the hotel’s grand swimming pool on a hot afternoon, and its spacious lounge areas invite you to relax and unwind after your long haul flight.
House of Waine is a perfect spot for you to acclimatize and if time allows, visit the Karen Blixen Museum or the giraffe centre. Enjoy your first night in Africa sipping sundowners in the hotel gardens followed by a silver-service feast in the formal dining room.
Day 2-4: Meru National Park
After breakfast, you head to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport for your flight to Meru National Park, where you spend three nights at Elsa’s Kopje. This stunning safari lodge is situated atop Mughwango Hill and comprises nine open-fronted cottages with private decks built directly into the rocky crags. The lodge’s award-winning eco design means it blends almost seamlessly into the hill. Its open bar, lounge and dining room provide magnificent views of Mount Kenya and the Meru plains, which stretch below teeming with wildlife.
Elsa’s Kopje offers an unusually rich range of activities including fishing and rafting on the Tana River, indulgent treatments at the lodge spa, guided nature walks and night drives. A day trip to the palm-fringed springs and sandy beaches of the Tana River is highly recommended. Eat a picnic lunch in the shade of giant baobabs or sip a cold drink as you fish for catfish, tilapia or barbel. The lodge even offers cultural visits to the local Tharaka community, which is an authentic opportunity to meet local Kenyans and see something of the rural lifestyle.
However you choose to spend your days at Elsa’s Kopje one thing is certain: this quiet, peaceful place and its wild beauty will touch your heart.
Days 5-7: Shaba National Park
After breakfast, a short flight transfers you to Shaba National Reserve, where you spend three nights at Joy’s Camp. Built on the site of George and Joy Adamson’s original canvas home, the site overlooks a collection of natural springs that are the perennial water source for game in this arid wilderness. With only 10 walk-in tents, Joy’s Camp is intimate and furnished in a sumptuous Bedouin-Somali style. The whole camp overlooks a large spring, providing rewarding view from the comfort of your private balcony or any of the communal sitting areas.
Starkly beautiful, Shaba’s landscape is dotted with rocky hills, huge acacia trees and natural springs with little swamps around them. The area is bordered by the Bodich and Shaba mountains, which glow amber in the evening light. This is not Big 5 country, but it is a birder’s paradise, with sightings to rival any safari destination in Kenya. Plains game is plentiful and rare species include desert Beisa Oryx, reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra. Spend your mornings exploring the plains by 4x4 or take a guided hike to Penny’s Ridge, made famous by Joy and Martin Clark’s work with Penny the leopard. Another recommended walk meanders along the Ewaso Nyiro river gorge where sunbathing crocodiles line the muddy banks and the birdlife is plentiful.
This camp offers some quirky, charming touches. Feeling inspired to paint? Paints, paper and an easel will be supplied. There is plenty of history in this area and a visit to the Joy Adamson Museum is inspiring and thought provoking. If you are lucky, you may be able to take a guided tour to the Nakuprat Gotu community, traditional nomad who are not always near enough for a visit. An early morning trip to ‘Penny’s Drop’ – a stunning spring-fed waterfall is highly recommended. You can also take a day trip to the Magado Crater, where local women mine the natural saltpans. For utter rest and relaxation, simply slip into the cool of the camp’s pool or indulge in a treatment from the resident wellness therapist.
Days 8-10: Extraordinary Masai Mara
After breakfast, a scenic flight whisks you to the Mara North Conservancy, bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve. Your home for the next two nights is Elephant Pepper Camp, an intimate tented camp set in the shade of mature trees. Authentic and remote, this camp balances comfort, eco-sensitive design and elegant simplicity. Service is superb and the guides are among the best in the Mara area.
The camp’s tread-lightly philosophy extends through its semi-permanent canvas structure and high-tech solar-powered lighting to a long and successful partnership with the local Masai community. With only eight en suite guest tents, the atmosphere is intimate and guests come together over sundowners before dinner. Each spacious tent offers plenty of comfort for rest and relaxation, especially the hammock on the private verandah with its endless views over the vast Mara plains. Timeless Raj-campaign furniture, teak dressers, polished antiques and delicate lanterns complete the opulent furnishings.
If you visit between July and October, you may witness the Great Migration, which is one of Africa’s bucket list spectacles. Early morning game drives make the most of the abundant wildlife attractions – this is Big 5 country. In migration season, thousands of wildebeest and zebra move north in the Mara from the arid Serengeti plains, searching for fresh grazing. Wherever you find big, healthy herds of plains game, predators are sure to be close by. The migration is a time of high drama, and nothing quite as dramatic as the life-and-death struggles of the Mara River crossings when as the herds brave crocodile infested rivers to reach the abundant savannah plains. Make the most of this incredible game viewing experience with a picnic lunch.
In addition to day and night drive, you can explore the Conservancy on guided nature walks and take a cultural tour to the home of one of your Masai guides. The Masai live in semi-permanent manyattas made from cattle dung, mud and grasses. However you choose to spend your days, coming home to owner Stefano Cheli’s traditional Italian cooking is one of the many joys of Elephant Pepper Camp. Cheli’s authentic family recipes, passed down from his mother, inspire his traditional pastas, osso bucco and organic salads. The cuisine, ambience and superb game viewing make this camp the perfect climax for your Kenya safari.
Day 11: Farewell to Kenya
After a generous breakfast, you head back to Nairobi to being your journey home. As your flight passes over the spectacular landscape of the Great Rift Valley, you recall the sights and sounds of your African adventure: a sunset cocktail sipped in House of Waine’s exquisite gardens, fishing for talipa on the palm-fringed banks of the Tana River, breakfast at Penny’s Drop, and the great plains of the Mara brimming with tens of thousands of migrating zebra. As your plane departs Nairobi, you leave little of your soul in this wild and beautiful place.
Listed below are hotels/lodges/resorts that the safari tour operator can accomodate for you.