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Updated: Jun 9

My first experience of Kenya’s vast wilderness, teeming with the world’s wildlife A-listers and framed by the majestic Kilimanjaro, was in a word, unforgettable.

Where I stayed in Nairobi:

This hotel was the bucket list stay of a lifetime, and easily the coolest place I've stayed on a vacation in all my years of travel. Built in the 1930s and set in 12 acres of indigenous forest 12 miles (20 kilometres) from Nairobi city center, Giraffe Manor offers an unparalleled experience with its resident herd of Rothschild Giraffes. It's also home to warthogs, bushbuck and more than 180 bird species. Giraffe Manor is made up of 12 rooms, and the guides bring the giraffes to your doorstep (or window if you're upstairs) every morning so you can have your coffee and feed the giraffes before walking to the main dining room, where you'll get photos like this:

Giraffe Manor will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I'm so grateful I had the rare opportunity to interact with these graceful, gentle giants. The picturesque landscape and the most whimsical, magestic creatures welcoming you to their home was nothing short of absolutely magical and unforgettable. Legit felt like I was in Jumangi *without all the scary parts and poachers lol

Since Giraffe Manor was a bucket list destination for me... and also very expensive...and also books out years in advance... we only stayed one night before getting private road transfer from Giraffe Manor to Wilson Airport (The Safari Collection owns both Giraffe Manor and Sala's Camp in Masai Mara so they arranged all the travel inbetween).

Then we jumped on a scheduled flight from Wilson Airport to Keekorok Airstrip, Mara. The planes are very small and can seat 6 pax.

Starting off the trip like that felt difficult to top, but then again, I had never been on safari...

Where I stayed on Safari:

Its unique location is Sala’s drawcard! I did some research on a few other camps, and Sala's remoteness seemed to offer the most exclusive and abundant game viewing opportunities, not to mention being the first camp to welcome the annual wildebeest migration. This luxury eco-camp hidden in the northern tip of Namunyak Conservancy boasted 850,000 acres (I asked) of dramatic landscape in the heart of Samburuland. Four beautifully appointed (exactly what you'd think 'luxe eco-camp' to be) and spacious tents are nestled in the saddle of a rocky outcrop under the shade of an acacia grove (sounds whimsical, because it is).

In the southern Maasai Mara, Sala’s Camp rests beside the Sand River within an area of indigenous forest looking towards Tanzania. I've heard the wildlife in the Mara is exceptional all year round, but Sala’s is also lucky enough to have the longest migration season of all the Mara properties as it sits in the corridor. I went during COVID (November 2020) so there were only 6 of us staying in a 50-person resort, so the animals were out in droves with no other foot traffic, road traffic or safari groups for miles. Stylish and elegant, this was an extremely special under-canvas safari experience with every tent offering plunge pools, comfortable beds, deep bathtubs and lots of space. I could literally hear the wildlife RIGHT outside of our luxury yurt, and the African decor to the bedding, everything was immaculate. But, what you're really there for is the wildlife on the safari so here's a few of my snaps (photos of the best sunset of my life excluded but seared into my mind):

I was fortunate enough to see the 'Big 5' over the course of 2 days (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo); most of them were video since i didnt want to miss a moment, saved to my Instagram highlight reel labeled 'Kenya'.

You don't even really even need a zoom lens, i shot this with a 35mm from approx 10 yards away. That's how close you get - absolutely breathtaking. I wondered before i went if it would feel like a zoo without bars or cages, but nothing can prepare you for how awe-inspiring it feels being this close to literal beasts, so relaxed and welcoming you as a visitor on their land.

The animals are super comfortable with the guides and vehicles (below). Obviously you arent allowed to jump out, but this was surreal seeing these gorgeous beasts this close.

Our guides were able to spot animals miiiiiles away because their eyes are so trained and their instincts are so atuned to the land. I could see if i used the binoculars and then once we spotted, we were off in the land cruiser to get as close as we could.

Leopard mamma just chillin (which they said was especially odd that she was out during the day like this).

The guides told us this glorious king had just eaten (we drove by a pack of wild hyenas tearing up the carcas of a dead elephant) so we weere able to get super close to this dude chilling in the shade of the brush, which they said was also a rare occurance. Thank you, Universe (and Circle of Life.. queue the Lion King soundtrack).

Things I did:

Safari in Masai Mara.

Obviously safari was the reason for the trip, but hundreds of thousands of visitors pour into Kenya's borders every year, drawn to the savannahs and enigmatic tribal cultures. But sticking solely to the increasingly commercialized tourist landscape sells a visit short. It barely needs mentioning, but a safari should be placed at the top of any Kenya itinerary. Nowhere else on earth is the wonder of the natural world played out in such spectacular fashion.

Hot Air Balloon ride Excursion.

This was a last minute add on to the trip and 1000% worth the 4am early wakeup call. The balloon went up at 6am, and not only were you seeing the savannahs from a hot air balloon, but you could spot the wildlife migrating and grazing from an eagle eye view. The sunrise was breathtaking and truly a moment I won't forget.

Notes about Kenya:

🗣️ Tongues twisted: Kenya’s population boasts a cultural diversity we can’t comprehend in the US. Owing to the many different tribal histories, there are more than 43 languages and dialects spoken in the country.

🎽 Run for hills: Kenya’s track record in marathon racing is legendary. Most of the country’s success stems from a single tribe–the Kalenjin. The mixture of high altitude, natural diet, and mixed terrain mixes with the people’s passion for running to create athletic excellence.

🚼 Our ancestral home: It’s widely assumed that humanity began in East Africa. Kenya may even be the epicenter; the oldest hominid remains on record were discovered there.

🦏 Conservation colossus: Naturally, the biggest draw to Kenya is its stunning wildlife. It takes this seriously: hunting is banned, and it boasts more than 50 nature reserves to protect the animals.


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