If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.
A trip to Africa is a journey back to oneself. To put into words what a journey to Africa means to one’s soul is an impossible task but alas I will give it a go. Africa had been singing to me since I was a girl. Since my earliest memories I can recall her energy calling out for me to come home. Now I don’t need to get into the fact that my DNA does actually trace back to the motherland because regardless of where your physical body came from, Mama Africa seeks to mother us all.
When we announced we would be hosting an African Safari retreat, I had a fortuitous feeling this trip would be significant in our lives. What I did not realize is that I would fall deeply in love with the land, its people, the animals and the incredible vibrancy that emanates from the soul of the earth there. It is a truly wondrous experience. To give value to this article I will focus on some of the more logistical aspects of traveling to Africa and the specifics of our retreat event but know at the core of this article is a deep and profound shift of what it means to be part of the great cycle of life which Africa like no other will reconnect you to.
Our trip started at Hemingway’s In Nairobi where our Bees found their first respite from an arduous journey. Most of our attendees traveled from the US which meant a journey of upwards of 18-24 hours. Hemingways was a truly lovely landing pad that gave us all a moment to fully arrive in Africa before continuing on to our retreat space.
Ol Pejeta in Kenya just north of Nairobi would be our final destination and home for the week of safari in Africa. We began our journey early in order to make the rather long drive to The Safari Cottages that would host us for the week. Ol Pejeta is home to the largest Rhino Conservancy in the world and hosts the last two remaining northern white Rhinos and The Safari Cottages is luxurious new addition to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy family. A visit to this area means getting to see Rhinos in their natural habitat and experiencing one of countries true natural resources. The rhinos are fiercely protected as they are one the most endangered species on the planet and one of the most treasured tourist attractions in Kenya.
Understanding the conservation efforts in this area is a glimpse into how dedicated the country is as a whole to protecting its wildlife. They take it very seriously as they understand the economic value of the tourists dollars, but beyond that they are proud of their country’s unique responsibility of maintaining some of the keystone species of the planet that are continually being threatened. Man is truly the biggest threat to the animals of this area and ironically man is also their biggest ally. The juxtaposition of the situation is not lost on me and is yet another reflection into the profundity of what it means to be human at this time on planet earth that Africa reflects back at you.
Our first stop was at the Mt Kenya Safari Club and a visit to the animal orphanage. Upon entry we were immediately greeted by Patricia. Patricia was a ostrich that had an injury which caused her foot to heal incorrectly and therefore could not be released into the wild. She, like many of the animals there loved sweet potato vines and our group enjoyed feeding her as well as some of the other animals and we all had a good giggle at some of the feeding antics that went on while visiting the wildlife there. We enjoyed a tour of the orphanage which was an absolute delight. Mt Kenya animal orphanage is doing wonderful work rehabilitating injured animals with hope to releasing them back into the wild as well as breeding endangered species to help repopulate animals that are struggling to thrive.
Next up, we loaded back into the land cruisers which would be our trusty steeds for the week of adventure. It’s important to pause for a moment and acknowledge the unique color that these vehicles add to the palette of an African safari. The energy that these vehicles create is truly a cornerstone to what it means to be on safari. They exemplify in outward reality the feelings of freedom and rebellion that Africa ignites in us and they remind us what it feels like to be carefree and adventurous. Try putting on your seatbelt and your guides will quickly stop you to explain that you won’t want it as at any moment you may want to pop up quickly to get a better look at something, sit on the top of the roof to have a “sundowner” drink or just stand while driving to feel the wind and freedom blow through your hair. To have a safari without a safari “jeep” would truly not be the same. This would be just one of the many serendipitous surprises of the way we did our safari and one could never guess how important the role of these vehicles is. If you plan to go on safari this is one of the most important things I can recommend to you. Find out what kind of vehicles you will be in. They will make or break your experience.
As we continued out towards the conservancy we began to be greeted by our first animal sightings. Zebras and giraffes were among the first to reveal themselves and we were all squeals with excitement upon seeing our first wild animals! That moment was when the safari truly began and we could all feel the energetic shift of what we were about to experience in the coming days. Upon arrival at the cottages we were greeted with a warm welcome by the staff and the proprietors Andy and Sonja Webb. The warmth that emanates from the staff at The Safari Cottages is just another example of the love and connection that Africa creates. As we made our way into the main cottage I was greeted by a truly breathtaking scene. The cottages sit on the edge of the bush and it’s as if you are in a shangrila in the middle of the wild. The backdrop to the cottages felt like you were glancing at a movie screen and not real life. We were all in awe.
Over the next week we would pack in a lifetime worth of experience in just a few days. The Ol Pejeta area offers a breadth of experience beyond just game drives and we would immerse ourselves in the area by visiting the local schools, adopting Chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Sanctuary, visiting Ol Pejeta Rhino Conservancy, going on a special Lion tracking excursion, enjoying twice daily game drives, a visit to the Aberdares National Park and we even made time for a little retail therapy in the neighboring town of Nanyuki. Sleep definitely took a back burner to adventure on this experience but this is why we train the way we do. We create good habits and systems in our daily lives and then we know when it’s time to let some of those systems give way to the magic of adventure. This is why we train for the adventure of life. Lucky for us the food was on point and the staff graciously created everything in strict paleo fashion which kept us all deliciously fed for the entirely of our stay. Movement came in the form of bracing from the bumps and humps of the road and even though we weren’t getting our traditional workouts in, we were definitely putting in work as we buffered the energy of the road each day.
There are too many magical moments to list in this format but I will summarize our week at Ol Pejeta as simply being one of the most transformative and connective experiences of our lives. Getting to be with the wild animals of Africa in this fashion is something we wish for everyone to experience. The grounding connectedness you feel when embedded with nature in the way is soul awakening. We leave grateful and inspired for the life we live and we know that our bees left feeling the same way. A trip to Africa is no small undertaking, the distance, cost, and overwhelm of such a trip can give pause to even the most seasoned of travelers, but she is worth it. Just like anything you have to work hard for the payoff is that much sweeter and Africa, well she was pure honey.
Written by Vanessa Lambert
Check out this awesome highlight video for more!
If you would like to learn more about our experience, we encourage you to listen to our Africa retreat wrap up podcast here. If you have questions about traveling to Africa or would like to be alerted to future retreats in Africa please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit here to see current listings.
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