Why you should visit Kenya
Of all places, what took me to Kenya? Probably the fascination with the age-old romance of wild Africa, the novels of Karen Blixen, Kuki Gallman, Pat Cavendish O’Neil and Ernest Hemingway, the lives of women like Beryl Markham and Joy Adamson and the longing for adventures in khaki shorts, white shirts, safari hats and green Land Rovers.
What kept me there for 12 years and kept me going back it’s certainly what is known as Mal d’Afrique, an incurable illness that, on the highlands plains, I can feel stronger than anywhere else. The moment I stepped on this fertile soil at the foot of Mount Kenya, Karen Blixen’s words played back, whispering to my soul… “In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be, because here I belong…” and no sentence has ever felt as true in my entire life.
Because Africa pulsates with a lifeforce that is primordial and powerful. It’s rooted in the land you walk on and penetrates every part of your being. You can feel it transpiring from your pores, filling you from within: mighty, inscrutable, ancient. Africa is the cradle of humanity and Kenya is a world known archaeological heaven where many of the most ancient remains of humans have been found. Here you can sense evolution and life itself at its best.
Kenya is also the place an eclectic group of extravagant people decided to call home, won over by the endless freedom and a lifestyle that is hard to find elsewhere. Opinionated, skilful and resourceful: from bush pilots, cattle ranch owners, camp managers, to entrepreneurs, they are all part of a special breed of people that can entertain you till the early morning hours with incredible stories and anecdotes, with their fighter/pioneer style and their mischievous sense of humour. They are passionate about the country and about conservation, often incredibly knowledgeable of its story, geography, flora and fauna and all united by a great spirit of adventure. An evening with one of them, and you feel like you have been granted membership to an exclusive club, one I subscribed to wholeheartedly feeling a sense of belonging I never experienced before. Kenya was and always will be my home, the place where my children were born, children of Africa, where they took their first steps and explored the world with wonder, surrounded by the magnificent nature and African animals.
I could list thousands of reasons why you should visit this beautiful country which is outstanding in so many ways. The most compelling though are certainly:
Kenya is synonymous with stunning landscapes and the safari experience that here has still such an authentic feel to it compared to the sanitised ones proposed in other African countries. The “wild nature” as found only in Africa, “is… mysterious, fantastic and savage” Henry M. Stanley wrote during his exploration years and Kenya is still undeniably under the spell of the great explorers and safari guides of the early 1900’s.
The wildlife is exceptional with the annual wildebeests migration in the Mara and the big five roaming the national parks in good numbers. Yet the country is also home to several endangered species, from Gravy’s zebras to Rothschild’s giraffes, from Duiker and Kudus antelopes to wild dogs, one of the biggest world population of wild black rhinos, and an extraordinary marine and water birdlife, thanks to the Indian Ocean and the many lakes, among which lake Naivasha and lake Nakuru, world famous for its show of pink flamingos.
In parts of the country like Laikipia, tourism has a different face. Everywhere feels private and real. Like in a time capsule, you are catapulted back into a glorious past that has built the unmatched safari reputation of the country for the past 150 years.
The sweeping plains of the vast highlands, the rolling hills of the Masai Mara, the snowy peaks of Mount Kenya, the open grassland and dry forest of the Great Rift Valley, the red soil of Tsavo, the hot dusty environment of Kenya’s northern frontier and the lunar landscape of Lake Turkana, the lush tropical forest of the coastal area where the Arab Muslims settlements and villages project you elsewhere in stunning contrast with the colonial houses of Nairobi and the white settlers farms, reminiscent of England and the imperial times. The immense variety of landscapes and sceneries never fails to bewitch even the most seasoned visitor, regardless of the number of times you have visited the country.
- “In Africa… everywhere you looked was made for greatness”, wrote Karen Blixen capturing so well the essence of a country and a continent torn by contradictions, where everything is either too big or too small and too powerful; where the light is brighter, the darkness darker, the scents are stronger and silence is louder. Kenya might not change your life as it changed Karen’s and mine, but it certainly won’t leave you indifferent or unchanged.
- Kenya has 43 different tribes and body and facial traits varies importantly from one to another, providing exceptional opportunities to capture on camera the extraordinary African beauty of men and women often seemingly sculpted in stone by God’s hands.
- The tall figure of a young Samburu man standing against the sun on a barren plain where no trees or bushes populate the landscape. A young Masai warrior, standing on one leg in the typical position of guard and wait, adorned with beads and draped in the characteristic red blanket, overlooking the cattle that he is guarding from predators, his Nilotic descent visible in the gentle traits of his face, nose and lips. The sinewy elongated bodies of the coastal women draped in colourful kangas and kikois, their Arab ancestry, still recognisable in their magnetic eyes, glancing shyly at you while walking past, so effortlessly graceful. These are the everyday scenes the country gifts you with in a continual visual feast that fills your mind with indelible memories.
- Because when you photograph here, in the words of the African Italian photographer Mirella Ricciardi, “I felt like a painter in front of an empty canvas and had no idea where to put the first brush stroke. Africa lay around me in all her magnificence… I seemed so small and insignificant in my task of capturing her magic”.
- Watching the night African sky crowded with stars while sitting around the roaring camp fire sipping a glass of wine or whiskey and listening to the sounds of the night: the lion roaring in the distance, an hyena barking, the rumbling of the elephants’ stomachs and the sweeping sound of their feet just slightly lifted from the dusty ground when they walk, it’s an incredible surreal experience you have to live at least once.
- Discover the African savannah onboard of a 4x4 land cruiser or on a bush walk accompanied by highly qualified guides. Feel the early morning cool and crispy air on your face while you drive on the open car.
Observe the light changing throughout the day. Lose yourself among the scudded clouds in the immaculately blue sky. The light is finer and harder here providing a sharper eye-sight where things near and far blast with details
Enjoy a surprise breakfast in the bush under the shade of an Acacia tree or a romantic sundowner on a hill overlooking the endless space below you where herds of elephants and buffalos walk unhurried ancient routes to the water holes, giraffes graze on the tall thorny trees and antelope herds graze peacefully, waiting for the night to fall.
Sleep in a typical safari camp, with thatched roofs, open verandas, a bath with a view and open-air showers. Gaze across the plains from an infinity pool and dine under the vast skies.
Explore the authentic Swahili feel of the Lamu Archipelago, with its laidback lifestyle and stunning villas, empty creamy beaches and slow paced rhythms governed by tides and seasons. Explore the Moresque architecture in Lamu Town, with palm-cooled courtyards, shady verandas, frangipani scented gardens and roof terraces to sip a late afternoon cocktail or sunbathe. Relax on a four-posters wooden pili pili bed swathed in net and decorated with freshly picked hibiscus laid on the white sheets by caring hand, in a high ceiling room open to the elements and the sea breeze, sparsely furnished with Swahili antiques and walls with intricate carvings.
Introducing my Kenyan Retreat
I can’t even start saying how glad I am that my dream of taking people on a journey to my beloved Kenya is finally a reality. Sharing the endless beauty of this country with others fills me of immense joy. Details are still being finalised but during our safari, we will walk the footsteps of all those who had the privilege of knowing Kenya when it was still pristine and uncontaminated. We will try to capture the spirit of a bygone era where hunters were gentlemen in khaki and safaris were a grand operation of mobile camps, wicker baskets, metal crockery, tartan blankets and Stanley flasks.
We will visit and discover the places the first settlers and visitors to the country explored, wrote passionately about and decide to make their home. The land they decided to farm, growing coffee, tea and flowers, pineapples and green vegetables. The sceneries and views they learnt to love.
This is a lifetime trip for all those who have a keen interest in experiencing and understanding Kenya and the African continent intimately and through the eyes and perspective of the people who have lived there and have embraced all its contradictions, its rawness and kindness, its gods and devils. Humanity and Nature, their interplay and clash will be protagonist. The voice of Africa will do the rest.
I am pleased to organise this trip with my colleague and friend Ugo Cei who has a vast experience in photo tours and photography retreats all over the world.
If you want to know more details about the journey and be the first one to know when bookings will officially open, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter. As a thank you to join our wanderers community you will receive a FREE COPY of my
Check details of the itinerary and get to know more about my Kenyan Retreat here. You can also register your interest here and reserve your spot taking advantage of an exceptional opportunity that will guarantee your spot 100% risk free if you change your mind later on.
Places are limited. Don’t miss your chance.