One family of travelers explores the culture and wildlife of Kenya while on safari in Africa.
It was the sheer number of animals that took our breath away in Kenya. There was something new at every bend in the road—a baby giraffe racing around a stand of trees like a frisky colt, a parade of 50 zebras walking single file at twilight, a drowsy leopard draped over the branch of a sausage tree, lethargic after consuming its lunch which was dangling in pieces from a nearby branch.
A Wealth of Wildlife on Safari
Huge families of elephants, many with tiny babies ambling alongside, headed to a river to drink, while a group of baboons some thirty-strong watched from the shore. Waterbuck, wildebeest, impala, and gazelles dotted the rolling hills as far as the eye could see.
Families of industrious warthogs kept the grass trimmed at a small golf course we drove past—there was no need to bother with lawn mowers thanks to their voracious appetites and sizable families. Stealthy baboons sitting around on the greens waited for stray golf balls to land near them to scoop up and take home to their treasure stash.
While the animals are certainly Kenya's biggest draw, the nomadic people who share the land with the animals are just as compelling. We visited a Samburu manyatta or small settlement, near the game parks in the northern part of the country. The Samburu people are related to the Masai and have lived virtually the same way for thousands of years. Tall, thin, and elegantly wrapped in red cloaks and elaborate bead necklaces and headpieces, they're dependent on cattle for their way of life. Their diet consists exclusively of milk, meat, and blood, their homes are made of branches covered in dried cow dung, and cow dung provides fuel for their cooking. My 13-year-old daughter Madeleine was horrified to hear that Samburu girls are married between the ages of 14 and 18 to anyone who can pay the bride price of—you guessed it—cows.
Customize your Mix of Culture & Wildlife on Safari
When you go on safari, you can tailor your visit to your interests and budget, since many companies offer an a la carte approach to their trips. If you're feeling flush, you can stay in fancy first class lodges and fly between game reserves. If you're pinching pennies, opt to be driven between the different regions and stay in more simple tent accommodations; they're spacious and comfortable and most have en suite facilities.
You can concentrate your game drives in just one area, or you can travel throughout the entire country — north to the exotic Shaba-Samburu area, southwest to the vast Masai-Mara, south to Amboseli National Reserve or west toward the legendary Great Rift Valley or hippo-and bird-filled Lake Naivasha.
Safari Trip Planning Details
ATTENTION: In December 2010, the U.S. State Department issued a warning concerning travel to Kenya, due to ongoing security concerns. For updated travel advisories, please visit Travel.state.gov.
We toured with United Touring Company, UTc who have been running safaris and excursions in a variety of price ranges for the last 50 years throughout Kenya and the rest of the African continent. This year, their family trips are offered in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe only. They guarantee window seats and roof hatch access in all their vehicles, so even the smallest traveler can get an unobstructed view of the animals.
For more information, contact your travel agent or United Touring Company, UTc, a part of Thebes Tour Group, online or through their offices in South Africa, the United Kingdom and France.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.