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Kenya, Africa

Dust flew and the earth moved as the six thousand pound elephant bellowed his rage. Separated from her baby, her mother was insane. Pale-faced and shaky, our driver honked as he scrambled to restart our vehicle. Terrified, we watched helplessly, and then suddenly the baby elephant appeared from the back of the rover and ran towards her mother. The drama ended as suddenly as it had begun.

Lesson learned: Never persuade a driver to break the rules. That April morning, on the open plains of Kenya, he did just that. Leaving the main road, he drove too close to a herd of elephants, which could have ended in disaster.

A full moon, gentle breeze and a smiling guide greeted us as we began our East African adventure. Nairobi, a bustling city of 33,829,590, was in full bloom when our group of four headed for the Nairobi Serena Hotel. Rated five stars, the hotel offers all the necessary amenities for luxurious comfort. Colorful flowers and giant trees lined the hotel and the atmosphere was a welcome surprise after the long flight from London. Still smiling, our guide recommended that we stay within the confines of the hotel grounds. However, if we wanted to venture out, it was necessary to hire a bodyguard.

Refreshed and camera-ready, our group headed to Mara Simba Lodge, a safari resort on the Talek River. The elephant incident created quite a stir, but the afternoon ended on a more pleasant note when we photographed lions, giraffes, zebras and cheetahs. Made of natural wood and stone, the spacious cabins at the Mara Simba Lodge offer views of the river and are very comfortable. Lights illuminate the many paths from the cabins to the main lodge. A huge stone fireplace dominates the dining room where everyone gathers from 7:30 to 9:00 pm for dinner. From the balcony of the bar, crocodiles can be seen stalking a prey that ventures into the river to drink. Not for the faint of heart, like me. Even the men were horrified when a pitcher grabbed a baby deer.

Sun, blue skies and a temperature of 72 degrees framed our perfect morning. A buffet breakfast was served at 7:00 am, and their quiche is one of the best I’ve ever had. At 8:30, we leave for the Masai Mara Game Reserve. A herd of wind-roaming zebras swept across the plain, and the mountainous backdrop kept the cameras firing throughout the scenic drive that took us through the valley to Thompson Falls, to the bottom of the Rift Valley and Lake Nakuru National Park.

In the early afternoon, we visit the Village of the Masai Warriors, a tribe of cattle herders that is still proudly removed from Western civilization. The children gathered excitedly as he passed out candy, whistles, paper, and pencils among them.

Tall, aloof and proud, the Masai Warrior Chief turned out to be quite the businessman. In exchange for this photograph, it was my duty to offer him something of mine. It seemed that he had given my leather notebook quite a shine. Hesitantly, I tore out all my notes and handed him my book. The smile on his face was worth a little inconvenience. .

Brilliant orange highlighted the aquamarine sky as the sun rose over the Serengeti plains. With my heart pounding wildly, I boarded a hot air balloon and was swept away. The fear dissipated as we ascended into the wild blue yonder. Five hundred feet below, a herd of elephants moved slowly through the Rift Valley as we flew over the plains. Hovering high over lakes and forested highlands, we fly. Giraffes nibbled in the trees while zebras drank water from their natural well. A colony of Pink Flamingos greeted us from the lake and then spread their wings as if to fly. The scent of freedom was overwhelming as I watched these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.

Euphoria filled the air as we touched down on a mountainous plateau in Tanzania. A picnic awaited the now experienced balloonist. The food and wine was a culinary delight as we talked, laughed and savored our adventure.

In the afternoon we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Boarding the bus, we headed back to Kenya and towards Lake Nakuru Lodge. Simple, natural and comfortable describes the hostel that blends well with its surroundings. An inviting blue pool awaits, and Nikki’s poolside bar is a gathering place for fellow travelers. After dinner, drums beat as Masai Warriors perform a war dance for the guests. What a fabulous show!

The sweet smell of jasmine highlighted another magnificent day as we set off for Aberdare National Park. Located near Killimanjaro, whose snow-capped peak rises to 19,340 feet, a fabulous backdrop for animal photography as you tour the park.

Dining at the Aberdare Country Club is a culinary delight. Over the years the Club has hosted many celebrities. William Holden was an important guest who was intrigued with Africa and the many animals that roamed the plains. During the 1950s, he formed the Holden Wildlife Foundation to care for sick, injured and abandoned animals. After his death, the foundation continues to thrive under the direction of Stefanie Powers. Donations are never solicited, but are greatly appreciated.

Located in the heart of the park, the Ark Game Lodge is noted for its famous visitors, including Queen Elizabeth 11. Named after Noah’s Ark, the lodge is built on stilts and has four decks and an animal viewing platform. There are 60 cabin-style rooms, and each room overlooks a water hole and salt patch that attracts a multitude of wildlife. In case you’re asleep, each room has a buzzer to announce animals venturing out at night. If this is not to your liking, you can turn off the buzzer. From time to time, an elusive bongo and a giant forest pig can be seen circling.

Breakfast and dinner are served in the main dining room. A ground level bunker offers excellent photographic opportunities. After breakfast, we return to Aberdare Country Club for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, our driver escorted us back to the Nairobi Serena Hotel, where we rested until flight time.

Our group gave the trip to Africa five stars. If you have adventure in your heart, there is no place like Kenya. Flying out of Nairobi I felt an inexplicable peace and couldn’t wait to get back.

The entire trip cost $1,500.00, which included tips. I highly recommend Rhino Safaris.

A code of conduct is necessary while traveling in Africa: radios and cassette players are prohibited in parks and reserves. Speak quietly and never try to get the animals’ attention. Do not take a souvenir, not even a feather. Do not try to touch or feed the animals, and never litter. More importantly, never ask your driver to break a rule.

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