Why a Kenyan safari is a wanderlust wishlist must


Kenya, and the internationally acclaimed Maasai Mara National Reserve in particular, are considered the birthplace of the traditional wildlife safari. Kenya is still celebrated today by people worldwide as the ultimate destination for an authentic safari experience, although now with the contemporary luxuries and greater investment in a tourism model that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. A safari has always been one of the best ways to visit the wide, open spaces of the outdoors, exploring the wilderness, and encountering its wildlife safely and comfortably.

As African countries, like Kenya, slowly begin opening national, regional, and eventually international borders, visiting an iconic African reserve like the Maasai Mara is once again becoming a possibility, albeit in the future. A safari is a transformative experience that captures the mind, body, and soul. In fact, travel writer Brian Jackman was spot-on when he said, “everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all”. Many people will admit that each safari inspires the next one, for no two adventures in the African bush are the same.

So, while we wait for the world to right itself again before being able to get back to exploring it for ourselves, here is some destination inspiration that might just inspire you to put a Kenyan safari in the Maasai Mara at the top of your travel bucket-list, while also feeding your wanderlust cravings in the meantime.

Encounter Africa’s Big 5 and a wildlife migration spectacle  

The Maasai Mara is a wildlife marvel in East Africa for any big game and big cat enthusiast. This is the world’s Seventh Natural Wonder and the stomping ground of the planet’s largest concentration of land animals.

The crowning of the wildebeest migration as ‘the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth’ is in no way an exaggeration of its magnificence. It really is an event of epic proportions. This annual movement of 2.5 million wildebeest, zebra, and other plains game animals across the golden, grassy plains of the Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania is an impressive natural phenomenon. For many, this is the ultimate safari wish-list item and once ticked off, a memory that stays with them forever.

Kenya is one of the best places in Africa to see most – and possibly even all – of the Big 5 animals in one place. Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant, and Rhino all roam the Maasai Mara and chances of sighting these mighty beasts here remain consistently high. Cheetah also show off their speed here, making this is big cat territory. Come the thousand-strong mega-herds of plains game and their young, all three of Africa’s beautiful felines capitalize on the yearly opportunity to feast.

Escape to the beauty and solitude of the Kenyan wilderness

Commitment to environmental management and wildlife conservation in both government-operated national reserves and private conservancies are important pillars in Kenya’s safari tourism model. The smaller, private conservancies that surround the larger national parks help to protect critical ecosystems and wildlife migration paths that might otherwise be lost due to human encroachment and industrial activities.

This has ensured that the Maasai Mara remains a special corner of the country’s wilderness and the place of legendary safaris for those who take up this opportunity for adventure. The reserve’s pristine landscapes, diverse natural habitats, and preserved ecosystems are fascinating, particularly when explored on foot with a private guide that can read the bush just as you would a newspaper. This is an activity that never grows old, no matter how many times you do it!

From dawn to dusk, the shifting daylight brings seemingly endless changes to the savanna plains and undulating hills of the Mara. Then, once the sun has set below the horizon, it is only by the moon and stars that the outlines of trees and shrubs appear against the dark blue night sky. The solitude and serenity on safari is punctuated only by the noise of nature – the swishing of the tall grass in the wind, an alarm call from a topi antelope smelling danger nearby, and the screech of a bateleur eagle as it circles, looking for its next meal from the sky above.

Engage with and learn from local communities

While on a Kenyan safari, you may have the opportunity to meet with people that have called a particular region home for centuries. In the Maasai Mara, authentic and respectful engagements with members of local Maasai communities can have a lasting, positive impact on you and those you meet.

As the Maasai way of life is most likely quite different to your own, visiting with members from these communities is an incredible chance to soak up a wealth of equally interesting and important knowledge. From attending special Maasai occasions such as a wedding blessings ceremony, to running with and learning how to jump like a Maasai Warrior, these are the kinds of experiences that make a safari in Kenya a wonderful balance of wildlife, wilderness and cultural interaction.

Travel can be transformative, and it can change the lives of all involved for the better. Not only will you gain new insights and different perspectives of the world and your place within it, by listening to the stories of others, sharing your own as well as supporting sustainable community empowerment initiatives, you will have connected with Kenya and its people in deep, meaningful ways.

Expect luxury and indulgent ‘under canvas’ safari experiences

A Kenyan luxury safari is absolute bliss! Wake up with the sunrise and birdsong surrounding your private residence, end the day out in the bush with sundowner drinks next to the game drive vehicle, and then a tranquil candlelit dinner beside the camp plunge pool before getting cosy back in your room.

Whether you are a couple in love looking for a romantic retreat, a group of friends organizing an indulgent safari holiday, or a small family planning a well-balanced holiday of excitement and relaxation over the festive season – all travelling types can be catered for on a Kenyan safari. Open-air bathtubs, beautiful yoga decks and pampering safari spas are just some of the amenities that make the most of the fresh air, open spaces and stunning savanna views of the Maasai Mara.

And so, while many things in travel will change over the course of the next months and years, the spectacular and unforgettable experience of a Kenyan safari never will.

Calvin Cottar is Director and Owner at Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.


Comments (12)

  1. Claire Smith says:

    Sometimes on safari it annoys me when people get competitive over what they’ve seen and it all becomes something of a tick-box safari. It really shouldn’t be all about putting a pencil tick by each of the Big Five.
    Then again most safari goers have paid a lot of money, travelled thousands of miles and used up a lot of days of annual leave to get to Africa. I can understand them wanting to make the most of their time and seeing as many of the Big Five as possible. I’d agree that it makes sense to head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya to give yourself the best chance of sightings, especially if the safari is going to be a once in a lifetime event. Though once people have been on a safari once they often get drawn back by the magic for a repeat holiday.

    • Hi Claire

      While some might go on safari hoping to tick off some or all of their wildlife wishlist, they also often forget about that after the first day or so. Once the magic of the wild takes over, it’s difficult to not be captivated by it all, not only those big animals you might have expected.

      If we could all travel the whole world, then we wouldn’t need travel bucketlists but unfortunately that’s not the case for most. So as a destination, Kenya is an excellent one to add to your ‘places to go’ bucketlist, dream board etc.

      Take care!

  2. Julia says:

    I totally agree that visiting the Maasai could and should be a transformative experience. They’ve developed their ways of living over the last 20,000 years or so and most of them don’t see any need to change any time soon.

    I would imagine that they have a very balanced relationship with the land only taking what they need. I’ve been to Kenya and it has to be said that it is a tough land to survive on. Any people who can thrive there have my respect.

    • Hi Julia

      There is so much to learn from and experience with Maasai and other local communities. It is an incredible privilege for us to have developed a partnership that benefits all here – the Maasai community and farmers, the camp, and of course the wilderness of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

      Stay safe and take care!

    • Amanda says:

      I had no idea they’d been there that long. That’s truly fascinating. I love learning about different cultures and their history. I imagine Africa is one of the best places to do just that, specifically East Africa.

  3. Carla Laurenti says:

    A safari tour is one of the many things I have yet to try. I’ve always been curious as to what planning a safari trip entails. Do I need to get special permits and shots (for malaria, I believe)? Pre-book a guide and transport from airport to the hotel or does it come with most accommodation? Sometimes when I think about all these things that I might need to do aside from booking flights, I get overwhelmed that I just end up planning a “regular” trip. Though I must say, all these safari posts are making me think long and hard about pushing through with a plan. Social distancing will not be so hard to keep in mind here as there’s a lot of wide open spaces.

  4. Kev says:

    Good points here about the Maasai. I bet that when most people think of Africa they get images of lions, elephants, rhino etc. For far too long we have tended to forget about the African peoples themselves. Although we come back with our pictures of the Big Five and memories of big landscapes, it would be wrong to plan a visit to Africa without getting to know the people and their cultures.

    • Hi Kev

      The respectful community and cultural engagement aspect of travelling to an African country and local destination is certainly becoming a more integrated part of safaris. We are happy to see this as part of the shift happening as people choose responsible travel.

      Thanks and all the best!

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, that’s certainly what I think about when reading stuff like this. But I can see in the comments also that it’s about much more. Also, that one picture overlooking the wide open mountain/desert is just … stunning.

  5. Brad M. says:

    Safaris do not only give tourists a chance to experience the wild and beautiful, but also allow animals to live and move within their natural habitat without much interference from humans. I personally don’t like zoos where animals are displayed in cramped enclosures with artificial imitation of their natural habitats. Visiting safaris and natural reserves will not only entertain tourists but also educate them on the importance of allowing animals to roam around freely in places where they shoud be in the first place. This article features the beauty of Maasai Mara National Reserve, the wildlife and the community that it protects. Aside from the different animals and landscapes that we can observe in Maasai Mara, we can also visit local communitites that will allow us to immerse in their culture and understand their practices. I know these places make me feel better. It may not be as easy to get to as other global destinations, but it certainly gives people an amazing experience that’s very different and gratifying.

    • Tom says:

      Another good take after reading this post. It’s sometimes overlooked, isn’t it? How human being treat animals for their own benefit. Whenever I think of animal lovers, I am left re-thinking my own behavior about being gentle or more respectful of all living creatures. Thanks for the insight! I wasn’t really looking at it that way before.

  6. Jason says:

    I have to admit, when I first started readin this a Tom Petty song popped into my head. Or a least a quote of his. “Into the gread wide open…” This really captures that perfectly. What a great place to visit, it seems to me. Kenya is one of the places I want to visit first when I finally get to Africa, hopefully!

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