Few people know more about the safari world than our co-founder Marcia Gordon. If there were a Ph.D. in African Travel, we would refer to Marcia as 'Dr. Gordon.' During her eleven years in Kenya, she had three children, built a house, contributed to her family's safari business, earned her pilot's license, studied traditional medicine, and expanded her encyclopedic, first-hand knowledge of properties throughout the region. We asked her to share her absolute favorite experiences and accommodation in Kenya in one itinerary.
This itinerary includes everything from a boutique hotel situated on a coffee plantation in Nairobi to Elephant Watch, a remarkable camp built on the sands of the Ewaso Nyiro River under the shade of towering Acacia trees and onto Sarara Camp in the North of Kenya, near the famous singing wells, where men pass water buckets from one to the other from the bottom to the top, with the last man pouring the water into troughs for the livestock to drink. Then, a drive south into Laikipia gets you to Ol Malo, another intimate camp with quirky mud and thatch homes with expansive windows looking over a terrace and the plains below. Lastly, head to Mara Nyika for some serious wildlife viewing with placement along the banks of the Olare Orok River, assuring that nights are never silent and birds are plentiful.
15 Days/ 14 Nights
Day 1: Arrival in Nairobi. Overnight Karen Blixen Cottages
What could be better than hanging out in what was once the headquarters for Karen’s coffee plantation? In addition to the hotel’s covered restaurants and lounges, there is dining next to the pool and in the lovely Tamambo Restaurant, located in another part of the extensive garden. It’s a short drive from KOBE TOUGH Bead and Leather factory and the Langata Link shops.
Bonus: It’s just a few minutes from the Nairobi International Airport
Days 2, 3, 4: Overnight Elephant Watch
Built by Oria Douglas Hamilton near to the Elephant Watch headquarters this spot in Samburu is special. Everything about this Elephant Watch Camp built on the sands of the Ewaso Nyiri river under the shade of towering Acacia trees is stunningly beautiful with a simple elegance that pulls you back to nature and your roots. Meals are served next to the river under the shade of bird-laden trees. Your local Samburu guides grew up here and were trained here. They know almost every elephant and its family by name and can regale you with elephant history and stories. Here you can begin to feel centered once again. In addition to marvelous walks and game drives, a stop at the research center to learn the latest about migration paths and ways to mitigate human-wildlife conflict is a must. Three days go all too quickly in this idyllic paradise.
Day 5, 6, 7: Overnight Sarara Camp
Sarara Camp is one of the few places where the unique tradition of the singing wells can be witnessed. Stories deep with platforms for men to stand on, passing buckets of water from one to the other from the bottom to the top, with the last man pouring the water into troughs for the livestock to drink. Each man has his own song, which his livestock know, and they will only come to the trough when they hear their song. It is a very complex social system that has evolved over hundreds of years. It is also the home of the delightful Ann—the first female Samburu guide. But all the staff are delightful, from the local area, and are happy to share their life experiences, customs, and traditions with you. Sarara is also where you can visit Retiti from, the local and very successful local elephant orphanage. In addition to a very healthy elephant population, this area gives the best chances to see kudu and wild dogs. The setting is gorgeous, and the living is out in the open air.
Days 8, 9, 10: Overnight Ol Malo
A drive south into Laikipia gets us to Ol Malo, another intimate camp. Instead of tents, you’ll stay in quirky mud and thatch homes with expansive windows looking over a terrace and the plains below. The main attraction here is the amazing Francombe family and the staff that has been with them for years. Horseback riding, visits to the community, hikes, and camel safaris are all on the agenda. But the star attraction is the optional full-day helicopter excursion to Lake Turkana, with plenty of thrilling stops. What an amazing way to get an idea of the different tribes in the north and the incredible conditions under which they survive. At Ol Malo, each family member has a role to make all guests feel like they are truly pampered family guests, not clients.
Note: Ask for the crocodile room where you can bathe in the belly of a huge stone croc made by Andrew Francombe.
Days 11, 12, 13: Overnight Mara Nyika
Now it’s time for some serious wildlife viewing at Mara Nyika. Dereck and Beverly Joubert understand wildlife; studying and photographing it has been their life’s work. The elegance and understated luxury of the camp always supports the wildlife experience, not a substitute. Net walls allow the breeze and sounds of the bush to whisper through. Its placement along the banks of the Olare Orok River ensures that nights are never silent and birds are plentiful. After the quality of our guides and the richness of the surroundings for wildlife viewing, some of the biggest thrills will come from the cameras, and binoculars lent to us.
Day 14: Departure. Fly home via Nairobi International Airport
Price is $18,700-$24,000 per person sharing.