Visiting Kenya and Tanzania

Giraffes strolling on the open savannah in the masai mara -Kenya with a blue cloudy sky and mountain background
Photo by paulafrench/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Bob and Ronnie
In a Samburu Village, Bob and Ronnie meet with a teacher and her son.

My wife, Ronnie Liadis, and I are both travel agency owners with over 30 years' experience selling dreams to our clients.

Many years ago, we met on a fam trip and have had the privilege of experiencing many exotic destinations all over the world, but nothing really prepared us for the magic of a Micato Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. It was not a vacation—it was a truly unique life experience.

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Masai Mara
The couple arrives at the Masai Mara “International” Airport.

It was a trip that required us to move outside our normal comfort zone from beginning to end. But everyone involved with Micato gave us a sense of security and competence from minute one. Every detail was thought out and taken care of by our safari guide and the wonderful drivers who kept us out of harm’s way, but close to the action. 

From waking up in the dark for early morning game runs and a hot-air balloon ride to flying in small planes that took off and landed on dirt runways, it was a never-ending series of adventures. We never imagined that we would see such a diverse abundance of wildlife up close and personal. Walking through a native village and getting a sense of how true Africans live, as they have for centuries, was simply incredible. 

The itinerary that Micato put together truly included the best of the best of both Kenya and Tanzania. In Nairobi, we stayed at the historic and charming Fairmont The Norfolk hotel, which was a great base from which to visit such sights as the home of Karen von Blixen (author of Out of Africa), the Nairobi National Museum, and Giraffe Centre, which raises and then releases giraffes to the wild. We also had lunch at the home of Felix and Jane Pinto, the founders of Micato in Africa—it was a nice treat to meet the people who started it all more than 45 years ago.

 

Bob and Ronnie, with Vivian
Bob and Ronnie, with Vivian, the child they sponsor through AmericaShare in Nairobi.

The next day it was off into the bush as we headed to Samburu—a wild and little-visited region known for its spectacular scenery and wildlife not found in the south: reticulated giraffes, the rare Grevy’s zebra with its large furry ears, and Somali ostriches with their distinctive blue legs are all found here.

Our home for the next two nights was Larsens Camp, a luxury tented camp located on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro river. Since each tent has its own private deck, we could spot animals without even going on a game drive. Nevertheless, we did head out on morning and afternoon drives—and each time a new surprise awaited us. Our favorite wildlife sighting here was two gerenuk antelopes standing on their hind legs, feeding off high bushes with their giraffe-like necks.

Our next stop was the renowned Mount Kenya Safari Club, founded by the late actor William Holden in 1959. The Club was refurbished by Fairmont a few years ago and is now a lovely resort, which has all sorts of activities, including tennis, horseback riding, fishing in a trout stream, lawn bowling and even just strolling the gardens and grounds. My favorite highlight was playing golf, literally on the equator—so one hole was “north” and the other hole was “south.” 

After breakfast, we headed to the Maasai Mara via bush plane, a great way to enjoy the scenery and the fauna from a different vantage point. The Mara is considered the finest game sanctuary in Kenya, home to an astonishing number and variety of animals, and it did not disappoint. 

 

Hot-air balloon ride over
Up Early for a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara.

We spent the next two nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a great tented camp on the banks of the Mara River. We could literally hear the hippos from our comfortable beds in our luxury tent.

Next, we headed to Singita Grumeti Reserves, which encompasses 400,000 acres of unrivaled, pristine wilderness. Being on the famous and dramatic migratory route, the reserve is perfectly situated for visitors to witness one of the greatest natural wonders on earth—the Great Migration. The Reserve runs three luxurious lodges and tented camps, each offering a distinctive and exceptional safari experience.

We stayed at Sasakwa Lodge, the flagship lodge of Singita Grumeti Reserves, with elegant and grand British architecture. Reminiscent of a 1920s English manor home, it has long, sweeping verandahs and a beautiful drawing room with fine antiques and works of art. We savored delicious gourmet meals, as Singita is known for some of the finest cuisine in Africa. 

During our two days here, we enjoyed early morning and afternoon game drives, bush walks, and “down time” back at the lodge, which included the option to play tennis (on either clay or grass courts), work out at the gymnasium, indulge in a spa treatment or relax in the infinity swimming pool and Jacuzzi.

I would call staying at Singita Sasakwa Lodge one of the greatest lodging experiences on Earth.

How could anyone pick out a highlight? There were so many. For us, however, there was one true highlight. It was getting to meet Vivian, the delightful young lady we have sponsored through Micato’s AmericaShare School Sponsorship program for the past five years. The program matches homeless or orphaned children—many of whom have lost one or both parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic—with Micato travelers who sponsor the children to attend boarding school, keeping them safe and out of the slum. The 45 minutes that we spent with her will stay with us forever.

We went to Africa with Micato primarily to see the animals. But we really returned home changed—and in the end it was Vivian and other amazing, genuine people in East Africa who changed us.

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