While on her trip to Africa, Senior Copy Editor Jessie reflected on the travel tales that inspired her once-in-a-lifetime journey.
To be honest, an African safari wasn’t on my travel radar until I started working at Go Ahead a few years ago. When we launched the two of our Safari Tours—Botswana & Zimbabwe Wildlife Safari and Tanzania Wildlife Safari—I started to learn more about the safari experience from other Go Ahead staff and I suddenly needed to go to Africa.
One of my favorite things about Go Ahead is our passionate team. The scenes and stories I’d read in books like Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa and Beryl Markham’s West with the Night were brought to life through my coworkers’ accounts of zipping across the savanna in a land cruiser, meeting the local tribes and spotting wildlife.
And now, with a head full of these images, I am here on tour in Kenya. Just today I saw lions, zebras, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, elephants and more. I’d heard about the sheer volume of life on the plains, but in real life it is truly staggering. Zebras, warthogs, wildebeest and a number of different kinds of antelopes will graze the same area at the same time.
It was amazing to visit Karen Blixen’s house, a somewhat modest Scandinavian-style construction that was once the finest house in the colony. We saw the Ngong Hills in the distance and photographs of the baroness and the native house staff she cared for so much. Blixen was and still is revered by the tribes that lived on and around her land—the Kikuyu and the Masai—and today the area is home to a nursing school for local women.
The strong traditions of the local tribes are so powerful to see. In her book, Blixen described her many interactions with the Masai and their proud warrior spirit lives on today. Kenya is still very much marked by the different tribes and their traditions, but the country is also quite modern in many ways.
On our way to the Masai Mara, we saw young men in full warrior attire, women adorned with beads and silver, and men with the Masai plaid slung over their jeans and sweatshirts—the blend of tradition and modernity was striking.
I think my favorite thing about Kenya is that there is always more to see. With daily game drives, we are still coming across new wildlife and new activity. One day it is a vast swatch of plain covered in zebra, wildebeest and antelope. The next it’s a leopard cub struggling to stay up on his tree branch or a lone young cheetah unsuccessful in her hunt for breakfast.
By lush Lake Nakuru we saw zebras grazing, monkeys playing and rhinos mating. On the sweeping plains of the Masai Mara, we saw lions lounging in the shade of the acacias and giraffes trekking to the watering hole. In swampy Amboseli, at the foot of Kilimanjaro, we came upon a hippo and elephant teaming up to scare a hyena away from their vulnerable babies.
It is only in Africa that you can learn certain things—like how elephants call each other by name, that gazelles dance when they are happy and that Karen Blixen wore two hats because she believed the strong African sun would harm her brain—and truly appreciate them. Reading books and hearing stories from friends brought East Africa to life for me, but also inspired me to see if for myself and for that I am forever grateful to those storytellers.
Have you ever been on an African safari? What stood out to you on your visit?