Jomo Kenyatta is well known for his service as Kenya’s first president (1963-1978). However, he was also a noted African political figure, a vanguard in the fight for African independence, and a respected anthropologist. After pursuing studies at Moscow University and University College, London, Kenyatta published the classic text “Facing Mount Kenya, which was a groundbreaking ethnography and historical text of the Agikuyu people.
Accordingly, this safari focuses on the cultural sights and scenes that make Kenya a cultural beacon in Eastern Africa (intermixed with heavy doses of wildlife, of course.) The trip starts at the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi. The museum has a significant collection of tribal craft, many of Joyce Adamson’s paintings, a section about Kenya’s fauna and flora and of course, lots of information about Kenya’s history.
After an overnight at one of Nairobi’s premier hotels, the safari moves on to Nyeri. Nyeri was originally a garrison which burgeoned into a trading center for European settlers who produced cattle, wheat and coffee. Nyeri was the center of the Mau Mau resistance which helped Kenya obtain its independence. Further, Nairobi is the gateway to the lush and gorgeous Aberdare National Forest, and provides spectacular view of Mount Kenya. This destination combines culture and wildlife like no other in Kenya.
Then it is on to Samburu. Samburu National Reserve is home to the dignified Samburu people, nomads and relatives of the Maasai. Samburu is home to wildlife species rarely found elsewhere, including Grevy ‘s zebra, gerenuk gazelle, oryx, reticulated giraffe and the Somali ostrich.
The next stop is gorgeous Lake Nakuru, an ornithological paradise. Lake Nakuru is a very shallow strongly alkaline lake 62 km2 in extent. It is set in a picturesque landscape of surrounding woodland and grassland next to Nakuru town, the home of Kenya’s second President, Daniel Arap Moi. You can expect to see Flamingo (Greater and Lesser) and other water birds including a variety of terrestrial birds numbering about 450 species in total. Side trips can be arranged to Hyrax Hill where Louis and Mary Leakey found some of the oldest evidence of human habitation and in the early 1920s.
Near Nakuru lies Lake Baringo. Lake Baringo, is one of the Great Rift valley’s beautiful geological formations. The 170km² lake is fresh water and it has a charming camp site and luxury lodge on its shores. Its main attraction is the fabulous bird life which abounds here and attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. The demand is such that the lodge, Lake Baringo Club, has a resident ornithologist who conducts bird walks and evening slide shows. The lake teems with crocodile and hippos invade the shore every evening and stroll within meters of the tents. The lodge and campsite have lots of trees, which ring with bird song. Further, Lake Baringo is home to the Njemps people who are relatives of the Maasai and the Samburu.
Of course, no wildlife safari is complete without time at the Maasai Mara. The Maasai Mara is the Kenyan portion of the ecological plains which include the Serengeti, which lies in Tanzania. Lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants and numerous antelopes roam these vast grasslands, keeping company with any other species the safari traveler can think of, from hippos, to elands. Golden grasslands are dotted with various species of Acacia or thorn trees. You might run across cheetahs, hyenas or leopards if you are very lucky.
Of course, a cultural safari must include a visit to a village of the famed Maasai people. A nilotic and nomadic people who make their home in Kenya, Tanzania and other parts of east Africa, the Maasai roam the plains of East Africa searching for suitable forage for their cattle. The Maasai are an extraordinary and proud people who have managed to keep their traditional lifestyle when western influences to change is all around them. They are pastoralists who do not hunt for meat or farm the land. They herd cattle and goats and rely on the leather, blood, meat and milk of their cattle for their livelihood. In a visit to one of their manyattas, you will get to see how they care for their livestock, watch the proud warriors or morans sing and perform their cultural dances, and have an opportunity to admire or purchase their famed and beautiful beadwork.
Then it is back to Nairobi where our final stop is the beautiful home of the famed writer, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) who penned the historical and literary classic, “Out of Africa.” Her home is impressive in its own right, a remarkable piece of period architecture surrounded by impressive and well-selected flora. The Baronness Blixen was a pioneering settler of Kenya, and her influence on the mythological image of Kenya, as well as her dramatic romance with safari legend Denys Finch Hatton are an appropriate capstone to a celebration of Kenya’s culture.