By Dave & Deb Bouskill, on April 1, 2014

An epic safari in Kenya

An African safari is a dream trip for many people, but sometimes it can be overwhelming when trying to decide how to plan. Africa is a big continent and there are many places that a person can view big game. How do you choose? One of the best places to start is Kenya. It’s where our safari vacation began. And it’s a great place for visitors to step into history where early colonials gathered, epic stories were written, and a country was born.

The Norfolk Fairmont Hotel is a stepping-off point for safaris in Kenya and has been the gathering place in Nairobi since 1904, just five years after the city was founded. We had the chance to relax and enjoy the hotel’s tranquility before and after our safari. It was a great introduction to the country. Just a short walk from Nairobi‘s city center, the Norfolk Fairmont is convenient to vibrant nightlife, making it easy to get back for drinks at the Cin Cin Wine Bar before retiring to your luxury room overlooking the gardens.

Viewfinder Tip: When in Nairobi go to the Thorn Tree Cafe for a meal. This famous meeting post is a spot where travelers used to leave notes pinned to a tree.

But we’re here to talk about safaris. The big game-hunting days are over in Kenya and now tourists come armed with long lenses and binoculars to hunt for snapshots of the most magnificent creatures on the planet.

Masai Mara

The first stop that should be on anyone’s list when going on safari in Kenya is the Masai Mara National Reserve. It is on these plains that the Great Migration happens each year; 2 million animals of different species migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara every July to October. Along the way, they face dangerous predators. Wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, topi, elands, and zebras are among the animals that take part in this spectacle.

But you don’t have to visit the Masai Mara during the migration to enjoy the reserve. It is home to one of the densest big cat populations in Africa. And no matter what time of year, you’ll have a chance of seeing all of the major African wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos, a.k.a. The Big Five.

Lake Nakuru

If you have your heart set on seeing a rhino, Lake Nakuru National Park is the place to go. People have been coming to Nakuru for decades to witness the millions of flamingos who gather on these waters to feast on an abundance of algae. In recent years, the park also has become a place to spy endangered white and black rhinoceros. Due to the threat of poachers, Nakuru is one of the only fenced parks in Kenya. The fence is not so much to restrict the movement of animals, but to keep hunters out. The poachers kill the rhinos to sell their horns on the black market.

Amboseli National Park

Straddling the border of Tanzania, Amboseli National Park offers the most spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Amboseli also is famous for its elephant population. Imagine watching a herd of elephants grazing in front of the picture-perfect backdrop of the snow-capped Kilimanjaro! While Mount Kilimanjaro was covered in clouds during our visit, we couldn’t help but reminisce about our time climbing the highest freestanding mountain on Earth during an earlier trip to Africa. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to see it not once, but twice, in our lifetimes.

Selenkay Conservancy

A safari may be about the wildlife, but travel also is about making friends with the local community. It was at the Selenkay Conservancy that we had our most special moments in Africa. This is a place where the Maasai people live as they have for centuries, a place where they welcome guests into their homes to get a glimpse of life on the African Savanna.

On our visit to the Selenkay Maasai Village, we met Leonard, a Maasai man who started the Selenkay Maasai Camp to help local villagers earn a living. Today the camp is home to a proud and strong community of people who are balancing modern-world conveniences with cultural values and ancient traditions. Visiting a Maasai village on a safari itinerary can acquaint you with the warmth and generosity of an entire people. That experience is hard to rival.

So start planning your African safari. Step out of the ordinary and step into a vacation that’s extraordinary.

Where on Earth have you had your best wildlife encounters?