It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Our travel insider Sekita Ekrek wrote about her first African safari in this month’s BELLA New York magazine. The adventure to Kenya was curated by Micato Safaris, experts for over 50 years. Below are excerpts of her thrilling ride through savannahs, navigating Nairobi, and floating in a hot air balloon.
Few trips feel as epic as an African safari. Touching down on a bush airstrip, I instantly felt like I was following in the footsteps of explorers, novelists, and great adventurers. The remote setting is intoxicating. The first signs of roaming wildlife are slightly Disneyesque. Over the course of a week in the bush, my initial shock eventually matured into deep gratitude for our great animal kingdom.
Welcome to Kenya
The gateway to safari begins in the bustling capital Nairobi. We checked in to the legendary Fairmont Norfolk Hotel, a colonial oasis dating back to 1904. After settling in, we headed to the bar for a dawa. The classic Kenyan cocktail, made of vodka, muddled lime, honey, and crushed ice, is refreshingly addictive. On Tuesdays, the excellent Maasai Market is held on Kijabe Street, behind the hotel. Bargaining is part of the fun. We walked away with hand-beaded jewelry, colorful textiles, and handicrafts galore.
Kenya’s history comes to life at the fascinating Karen Blixen Museum. In her memoir “Out of Africa,” the Danish author recounted her life on a coffee farm in the early 1900s. Now a museum, the farmhouse is the setting for the Meryl Streep-Robert Redford 1975 film. Nearby is a sanctuary for another beloved resident. At The Giraffe Centre, we got a hands-on opportunity to learn about, feed, and even kiss the endangered Rothchild’s giraffe.
Endangered Rhinos and the Lewa Conservancy
After two nights in the capital, we flew an hour north where safari magic began at the Lewa Conservancy. Set against Mount Kenya, this wildly romantic and sparsely populated land is home to an astonishing variety of wildlife. From touchdown to arrival at the posh Lewa Safari Camp, we spotted elephants, Grevy’s zebras, ostriches, giraffes, white rhinos, gazelles, impalas and sleeping cheetahs. No wonder Prince William proposed to Kate here. It’s that kind of dreamy place. Pay particular attention to rhino spotting. This endangered creature is fiercely protected here.
Traditional Maasai Village and Mount Kilimanjaro
Our second camp was Amboseli National Park, home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. It’s also where we met with the Maasai, one of the last traditional tribes of Kenya. Famous for their look and customs, these nomads live as they have for centuries. Upon arrival, we were treated to a traditional welcome dance before getting a tour of daily village life.
Hot Air Ballooning over Maasai Mara
The Maasai Mara is perhaps the most popular game reserve in Kenya. It’s the site of the annual wildebeest migration. A must is hot air ballooning at daybreak, when animals are most active. The experience is exhilarating beyond words. Afterwards, we toasted the rush with champagne and a hearty bush breakfast. The swanky Fairmont Mara Safari Club was our base camp. Each luxury tent hugs the Mara River, where grunting hippos served as our dawn wakeup calls. No need for alarm clocks!
Afternoon at Harambee Community Centre
Our final day took us back to Nairobi, where deep inside the slums of Mukuru, we visited a place of calm and inspiration. The Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Community Centre is a complex committed to education and local outreach. We spent the afternoon learning how lives are changed every day – from the nursery school, learning resource center, and library, to fresh water, and programs to empower young girls. It was an opportunity to not only share compassion but also learn how to make a difference. What a fitting way to end the journey.