During June of this year, 21 Members embarked on the 2022 Kenya Wildlife Safari. Over 9 days, the group spied the Big 5, took a hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara, sipped sundowners, met Massai warriors, and planted trees in a remote forest. Here are trip highlights from an unforgettable adventure.
After welcoming Members at Hemingways Nairobi, our trip was officially green-lighted. The first stop? The Giraffe Sanctuary, which borders the famed Giraffe Manor. We learned the difference between Rothschild and Masai Giraffes while everyone fed the giraffes (and got a big kick out of it). After departing the Sanctuary, various Members visited Karen Blixen’s home (famous author of “Out of Africa”), while others returned to Hemingways for R&R.
Our first afternoon was blessed with blue skies, warm temps, and a special visit to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. During a private, Members-only outing, we enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour and Members adopted their own elephants for the experience. The day was capped with welcome cocktails, a group dinner overlooking the Hemingways estate, and a star-filled sky.
Karibu! (welcome) to Tsavo National Park in the southern part of Kenya, located some 50 miles from the Tanzania Border. We spent three days in this amazing part of the country, where recent (800 years ago) volcanic eruptions carved out hills and soil into a dramatic landscape. Finch Hattons Lodge is known for its luxe “tents” (as close to tents as Lamborghinis are to a Ford Pinto) and gracious service.
Members partook in numerous game drives. We saw a surprising three leopard sightings in addition to elephant, giraffe, zebra, lesser kudo (forest antelope), nile crocks, waterbucks, wildebeest, and numerous birds. Each night we were escorted back to our tents by staff in the event we encountered hippos. We heard them throughout the night, as the camp is located adjacent to a natural, spring-fed pond. Kenya is sensory overload, and the sounds of this magnificent land are certainly part of the allure.
This leg of our trip fell on Father’s Day, and the Club arranged for two surprises: a special brunch and evening sundowners — a sundowner is simply a ‘happy hour’ during sunset over the African Bush. After the first morning game drive, we ventured away from camp to a beautifully set up Bush Breakfast, which featured table seating, fine china, a gourmet meal, and personalized table service. After some down time, massages, and yoga, the evening called for another amazing game drive where we came across our first herd of elephants. Next up was a Father’s Day Sundowner. Seats were set up, drinks and appetizers were served, and Members participated with Maasai Mathew and Isaac in traditional archery and target events.
During our final day at Finch Hattons, some Members went up to the cloud forest of the Chyulu Hills National Forest while others stayed on property for one last sunny morning game drive. Lastly, our final dinner during this portion of the trip was hosted poolside and under starlight. It allowed for the first clear views we had of massive Mount Kilimanjaro, which towers above Tanzania and Kenya.
During this final leg of the Kenya Wilderness Safari, we drove from the Mara bush airport to Olonana Safari Lodge, where we were greeted by local Maasai with traditional rhythmic chants. Maasai means “Speakers of the Maa language,” and you could hear the welcome was genuine.
After lunch, we ventured on a game drive and saw all of the Big Five: herds of elephant, Cape Buffalo, the more elusive Black Rhino (there are only 58 in all of the Masai Mara Reserve), and a solitary leopard. All were incredible yet the real highlight was coming across two lions with massive heads and enormous eyes. We also saw Topi Antelope, Banded Mongooses, a Serval Cat, a Secretary Bird, buffalo, hippos, impalas, and Nile Crocs — an impressive day here.
The following two days were highlighted with increasingly scenic and bountiful game drives, with each day even better than the previous (we even saw a rare cheetah — a real score for the group). We participated in a hot-air balloon ride overlooking the savannah as the sun rose, coasting along treetops and taking in views from the Serengeti to Tanzania. The balloons flew over two rhinos trotting in the morning light. An additional highlight was a visit to the Maasai village, where Members interacted with locals and learned about their history and way of life.
Our final game drive (sigh). We encountered a dizzying number of animals: 22 lions in two prides, jackals, a cheetah, herds of impala, wildebeest, elephant, and gazelle. Back at Olonana, we found their demonstration of LifeStraw very impactful and appreciated Exclusive Resorts’ donation of the LifeStraw filtration device. The donated filtration will provide clean drinking water for up to five years at one of the local schools.
A final dinner celebrated three Member birthdays and we reflected upon how this truly was a Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey. The trip wrapped the next morning by planting trees in the Exclusive Resorts Tree Forest. It was lovely to see the forest growing with each tree planted and hard to believe that just 15 years earlier, it was all livestock chewed grass with nary a tree in sight! We then flew back to Nairobi, where Members enjoyed one last relaxing afternoon at Hemingways prior to departure.
Until next time, Kenya!