Where It All Began
When Westerners think of Africa, it's Kenya they see: acacia trees, elephants, and a khaki-clad Meryl Streep in Out of Africa.
Kenya is so much more than that. East Africa's superpower is a center for tech innovation with world-class hotels and safari camps, yet Kenya's people remain firmly grounded in tradition.
We carefully curate our trips, offering the least "touristy" and most authentic safari camps, whether you're into luxury or roughing it.
Kenya is also a great first-time safari destination, with awesome seasonal specials. We can get you to two of East Africa's best safari destinations, the world-famous Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Park, for under $3000 - and airfare to Kenya can be less than flying to Europe.
Kenya: Our Newest Trip
Tracking Lions in Samburu National Reserve
An Intimate Look at the Great Migration
About a year ago, we talked to our safari partner in Kenya about visiting with Ewaso Lions, a project Shivani Bhalla started with Samburu warriors in central and northern Kenya. We felt the project embodied successful community conservation in East Africa.
Now the trip is fully (and, we might add, beautifully) planned. Spend 4 days with a lion research expert from Ewaso Lions with 4 nights at Saasab camp (see below) a gorgeous safari camp that accommodates only 18 guests in nine individually located tents with magnificent views of the Ewaso river and the true African wilderness. There is wireless internet and each tent has its own plunge pool and privacy. Electricity is solar powered, offering outlets for charging equipment in each tent.
After tracking lions and working with Ewaso Lions staff to spread the word about lion conservation in the Samburu community, spend 3 nights at Porini Lion Camp for an intimate view of the Great Migration, one of the wonders of the world. Income from tourism pays for the conservancy land to be set aside for wildlife, so your visit will directly support conservation. In addition, 5% of the total safari cost is donated directly to the Ewaso Lions project (www.ewasolions.org).
Lion conservation recently became an issue of international concern when statistics revealed that lion numbers in Africa have plummeted to between 16,000 and 45,000. The lion population has declined by 30%-50% in just over the past two decades, a reduction largely due to habitat loss and conflict with humans.
The cost for this trip ranges varies depending on the size of the group.
Contact us for more details.
The Usual Suspects: Cowgirls & Pirates Suggested Itineraries
First time to Kenya? The un-Hemingway Safari
Days 1-2 Introduction to Kenya
Arrival. Overnight in Nairobi National Park at the tented camp everyone raves about. You won't have to sacrifice comfort to begin your safari experience right away. (Yes, the photo at left is a TENT. Welcome to Kenya!) Spend a day getting over jet lag and getting an overview of Kenya's wildlife.
Amboseli National Park
Days 2-5 Under Mt Kilimanjaro
Drive four hours to a 15,000-acre private wilderness where you stay for 2 nights in luxury safari tents. Twice-daily game drives, night walks, culture and birding. Meet Lion Guardians founders, two American women who work with Maasai warriors to conserve lions and cultures in 1.3 million acres of grassland savanna.
Days 6-9 The Laikipia Plateau
Overnight in Nairobi, fly to Nanyuki, then a 45-minute drive to Ol Pejeta, where you meet people responsible for the safety of 110 black rhinos and the world’s last white rhinos. Two nights in tented camp outside the 95,000-acre conservancy where you will experience wild Laikipia, a high plateau the size of Wales.
Days 10-13 Iconic Kenya
Overnight in Nairobi, fly to Maasai Mara, the world-famous Rift Valley park contiguous with Tanzania's Serengeti. All-inclusive stay at private conservancy with busy schedule of game drives and night walks, plus game viewing in the national park on private tracks. Experience the Mara's breathtaking vistas (see below) and pursue your interests, whether the park's 570 bird species or 60 mammals, ranging from aardvark to elephant.
Note: All safari tents have hot water, flush toilets, and charging facilities for electronics.
Big City Nairobi
Day 13 Nairobi
poIf flight schedules permit, explore Nairobi, a center for tech innovation (they don't call it "the Silicon Savanna" for nothing) and the arts. Our top picks include open studios at the Go-Down Arts Centre (left) visiting dance companies, music producers, and visual artists. Experience Kenya's history by staying at the Norfolk Hotel. Sip a cocktail at the bar where Lord Delamere rode in and shot out the bottles. Dine on the verandah where Beryl Markham and the White Mischief set traded gossip, along with husbands and wives..
BEST TIME TO VISIT
NOVEMBER 1 THROUGH MARCH 1
February and March: Calving Season in Maasai Mara
June to October: Great Migration
November to March: Complete your safari with a trip to the island of Lamu, a World Heritage Site where you'll find endless sunny days and the calm indigo waters of the Indian Ocean.
A word about pricing: Seasonal. Prices are higher at Christmas and in the summer months of June, July, and August. But prices often are negotiable depending on number in party and how full safari camps are, so give us a range of dates and we will come up with itineraries.
The Laikipia Plateau is one of the least-known but most rewarding places to travel in Kenya. There is no public land on the plateau and population is scattered. Wildlife experiences are not curated or managed. Dik-diks leap out in the night, their stick-like legs flashing under your headlights, and as you imbibe sundowners on the porch, you calmly watch lion, elephant, or giraffe in the Back 40 (except it's the Back 40,000).
One of Laikipia's Remarkable Lodges:
Our guests rave about Suyian Soul, the brainchild of ethnobotanist Anne Powys, and we love the place, too. The daughter of the man who founded the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, one of Africa's most promising social-environmental experiments, Anne employs local Samburu women to grow herbs for the world market, and the 50,000-acre ranch offers utter privacy, peace - and yoga, plus an intimate view of how conservation pioneers made it all work in challenging circumstances.
Note: We collaborate with Suyian Soul on custom-crafted trips.
Prices are among the most reasonable in Laikipia and vary depending on group.
Now for Something Completely Different...
A Camel Safari
Traverse the wild Laikipia Plateau by camel, on a journey led by the Laikipia Samburu, who know the land best, along with expert wildlife guides. 3 days; 4 nights out of Laikipia Rhino Camp. Prices vary depending on time of year and size of group.
For Families: Laikipia Wilderness Bush Camp
$450-$550/pp/nt, depending on season/Age 12-17 $325-$400/Age 5-11 $215-$265
4th child half-price; children under 5 free
Road transfers from Nairobi $400-$500 depending on vehicles
$120-$90-$60 conservation fee
We met Steve and Annabel nine years ago, right after the first of their three sons was born. Annabel is trained as an anthropologist and Steve grew up in Zimbabwe, where some of the best African wildlife guides plied their trade until tourism collapsed in the early 2000s. Both prize Laikipia for its "miles and miles of unfenced wilderness." Walking safaris with animal trackers are the specialty here, but they also offer rock-climbing, swimming, rafting, and fishing, all included, as well as Samburu village visits, fly camping under the stars, and tracking wild dogs.
WHY WE LOVE IT HERE: Tons of activities for kids and adults. Take a bush course and learn about ecology, geology and soils, trees and shrubs (identification, medicinal uses, folklore), animal tracks and tracking, bird identification, animal behavior, wildlife management, and wildlife photography.
Samburu National Reserve, Buffalo Springs, Shaba
Hot, dry, and remote, Samburu National Reserve is less visited than Kenya's better-known parks.
The reserve is renowned for rare animals, many that can't be found in other protected areas: the long-necked gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa onyx. The elusive Kenya leopard is known to visit, especially in the evenings. Birdlife is as plentiful as wildlife, with over 350 species, including vultures, kingfishers, marabous, bateleurs, guinea fowl, Somali ostriches, and others.
We drive from Laikipia to the Reserve in a 4x4 vehicle and meet with Ewaso Lions, founded by award-winning conservationist and fourth-generation Kenyan Shivaji Bhalla, who has pioneered ways of working with Maasai warriors on eliminating the human-predator conflict that has reduced lion numbers. (Cost for this segment of the trip includes a 5 percent donation to Ewaso Lions.)
Stop at Lewa Conservancy, among the first and largest community conservation projects, and learn about successful efforts to stop rhino poaching.
Saasab Camp Moroccan-Swahili style rooms with private pools.
Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp
Prices vary depending on season and number in party
Island Life: No matter how long you stay, it's never enough
Cowgirls & Pirates got its start on Lamu Island, a destination for minor royalty, ex-supermodels, and hippie backpackers. The island's 700-year-old coral rock architecture and intact culture earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status; the slow pace of Swahili life and 16 miles of untouched beach make it a refuge from the frenetic pace of 21st century life.
There are two settlements on the island: Lamu Town and Shela. For culture, Lamu Town is the place. If you're craving quiet and wild beach, it's Shela village.
Where to Stay
The island has a wide range of accommodations, from elegant private homes to individual rooms at guesthouses. One of our favorites is Fatuma's Tower in the village of Shela, a one-of-a-kind retreat tastefully restored by art dealer Gillies Turle. Set back from the village against the dunes, you can take a shortcut to the beach, a daily yoga class, or cool off in a plunge pool. Best of all, you will be completely but unobtrusively taken care of by Gillies and his staff.
If you prefer to be right on the beach, Forodhani House is impeccable, with a swimming pool, and accommodates up to 10.