There are really two kinds of safaris in Kenya. One is where every attempt is made to make you feel as though you have stepped back in time into a romantic Africa: lots of leather and brass furnishings, luxurious drapes and a cocktail offered every time you turn around.
The other is where no attempt is made to re-create that romantic Euro-centric illusion. It’s where the Africa of old and new meet in a much more meaningful way.
The first kind is to be found primarily in the old established game reserves, notably the Masaai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo and the like. The second kind are to be found in wildlife conservancies around the perimeters of these formal parks, where local communities have turned their traditional lands over to safari use.
You are hosted by the tribe’s people, usually men, while the womenfolk stay at their village homes to look after family matters. On a conservancy safari you are not bound by strict game reserve rules, which means you are free to go walking in the veld with people who were born there.
Loisaba Wilderness Conservancy, Laikipia Plateau
Walking safaris are particularly rewarding for families as this is a time when you and your children get to enjoy real quality time in the company of your guides (dressed in their moran – warrior’s – clothing, resplendent in red cloth, complete with spears and traditional jewelry).
You will enjoy the ambience of an intimate tented camp, where you decide how your days will be spent. No military-like regime of game drives on the minute as advertised, as is the norm at most game reserve lodges. In this environment a visit to a traditional village is as an honored guest, not as hop on-hop off bus rider.
You could go on game drives, but why would you when you can spend your days learning the lore of the land and the animals in the company of these stupendous guides: tracking animal spoor in the sand; gathering wild honey; sitting round a fire enjoying their stories, music and time-old companionship.
Here, in the company of real warriors, you will experience nature “raw in tooth and claw”. This is the true Africa, the true Kenya, and – ultimately – the true story is always better than the movie.
David Bristow is a Bushtracks' Specialist Guide based in Cape Town. For 13 years David edited Africa’s leading travel magazine Getaway, and his colleagues dubbed him “the walking enviropedia.” Now a freelance writer, he continues to share this knowledge, primarily through storytelling. He is an environmental scientist and has written some 20 books that focus on the natural environment, culture and history of the region. His specific focus is the history of the Cape, its peoples, cultures, politics and how the natural environment has influenced human development there. The geological (including paleontological) and archeological record are among his abiding interests.