I love to travel, and while I haven’t done much of it in the past two-plus years due to COVID, when my best friend, Valerie Macaulay, invited me on a safari to Kenya, I knew I had to make it happen. This was a bucket-list type of trip.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting many beautiful places, but nothing thus far has compared to Africa. It just hits different. The untouched land, the animals in their natural element, the jovial people… To borrow from the late, great Ernest Hemingway, “If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” Co-sign. It truly is a tonic of inspiration and rejuvenation for the soul.
My epic adventure began in Borana, a conservancy in the northeast of Kenya, known for its high concentration of elephants, giraffes, Grevy’s zebra, lions, rhinos, and a myriad of other incredible wildlife. We partook in game drives, mingling about with animals on their land, we mere visitors. We horseback rode with zebras and giraffes, frolicked by the pool, and drank our first dawas.
The Borana Lodge boasted sprawling suites with picturesque windows, a pool with a view out of a movie set, a common bar and lounge, and a dining room where we sat around eating the most delicious meals and reminiscing about our day.
Next we took a small plane to the Laikipia region, Tumaren, where we geared up for a three-day camel walking safari. We hiked over 25 miles of desert, tracking animal prints and dung, swam in muddy riverbeds, climbed to the top of Pride Rock for an absolutely epic happy hour on a makeshift bar with 360-degree views that rivals paintings, slept in tents (eek!), and cohabitated with snakes, scorpions, spiders, lions, giraffe, elephants, and even a leopard.
We were led by the infallible Carrie, a badass Kenyan woman who knew this sprawling land and all its crevices like I know the backroads in West Hollywood, and Samburus, the indigenous tribe of the region. We heard the scream of the hyenas, the roar of the lions, the chirping of the birds. We bonded around nightly campfires and ate delicious three-course dinners around gorgeous tablescapes. There were no phone calls or social media or texts or Wi-Fi. This was us, off the grid, out of service (and our comfort zone). We played games, laughed so hard our bellies ached, and got a crash course on the ecosystem from the ground up (literally).
Then we were off to Samburuland, more specifically Mathews Mountain Range, Namunyak conservancy, in the northern frontier district where an incredible South African couple hosted us at their luxurious, eco-friendly lodge, Kalepo. We ate delicious fare, drank cocktails 30 feet from elephants, and visited a Samburu village, meeting the local people and learning about their incredible culture. Interacting with the Samburus was truly humbling and a highlight of the trip. Their love of the land, pride, and kindness is something I will never forget.
Our safari ended with a beach jaunt on the coast of Kenya in a town called Watamu. It was the first time in 10 days that we weren’t on a schedule. We had sprawling lunches with monkeys mingling about, stealing our gluten-free crepes. We took a boat ride into the middle of the Indian sea, sailed past an island of flamingos, and dove into the turquoise water. We watched turtles being released back into the wild and found a millipede in one of the rooms. We did a marsh “float” down a river, drinking rosé and laughing at the crabs.
All in all, my time in Africa felt like a reprieve from the hustle of city life. It made me think of the simplicity of a life lived from—and off—of the land. This must’ve been what it was like before electronics and social media and shopping centers and strip malls and same-day delivery. How pure and primal and beautiful and frightening.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I left Kenya—via Nairobi and Dubai—and returned stateside … to my phone, Instagram, Postmates, air conditioning, and all of the other amenities I have learned to rely on. But I hope to keep a piece of Africa with me, always. To take that moment to watch the sun rise or set. To take a beat before turning on my phone in the morning. To connect with friends and family in person, without electronics. To sleep beneath the stars (nah, I’m good without ever camping again … I like four walls and a seven-step skincare routine, tyvm). I truly hope that I get another chance to explore this special part of the world. I cannot recommend it enough. If you have the opportunity to visit Africa, GO. It will most certainly change you. It changed me.
A special thank you to Africa Born, who curated this epic adventure, and our guides Paolo Palazzi and Ollie Outram, who put up with our loud westernized personalities and catered to our every random need, while making sure we were safe, well fed, and always having fun.
To read more from our Travel Diary series, try:
Travel Diary: Japan
Travel Diary: Finland
Travel Diary: Punta De Mita