First Week in Africa: Ol Donyo Wuas

Tuesday, April 5th:

WOW! I keep pinching myself and can’t believe I am really in Africa. Not sure how I quite pulled off two weeks away from reality but no turning back now!

It was validated as soon as our KLM flight hit the ground in Nairobi that this trip was going to be a lot different than my NOLS experience 25 years ago. We were greeted planeside for our VIP escort, whisked through customs and obtained our Kenya passport without duress.

Two of the three Brownell Travel colleagues, Addie and Grier, were on my flight.  We were greeted with big smiles and hugs outside customs by our other Brownell friend, Catherine, and by our fabulous two guides from Africa Inscribed, Dylan and Gavin. The safari had truly begun!

My first impressions of Nairobi were not positive:  complete chaos, traffic jams, stray animals, dirt side walks…it was a true 21st century Biblical scene and I was ready for the wide open plains of Kenya.

We were all a fatigued from the flight but the initial shock of the third world settled down on the 40 minute drive outside of Nairobi.  The drive chaos slowly morphed to more bucolic scenes and we soon arrived at the House of Waine (, situated on 2.5 acres that were formerly part of Karen Blixen’s estate. This beautiful place blended the elegance of a gracious home with the spirit of modern Africa.  After everyone settled in, we had cocktails and proceeded to the exquisite dining room, enjoying it all to ourselves.  We had a relaxing evening and due to a bit of jet lag made an early night of it in anticipation of 5:30 am wake-up call to begin our adventure.

Wednesday, April 6th:

We eagerly departed for the Wilson Airport for our charter to Ol Donyo Wuas ( ) in the Chyulu Plains. Scanning out the window, over the beautiful “green” countryside below (an advantage to come in the more off season), we saw our first wildlife in the fields below.  The excitement was high as we realized this truly was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Landing at the “airstrip” was a novel experience with high grass flanking the narrow runway.  We were graciously greeted by our native Maasai guide, Daniel (AKA his American name), who is employed with camp Ol Donyo Wuas which was our new home.

Daniel took us the “long” way back to camp, enjoying a leisurely drive while Gavin identified the wildlife: countless wild birds, impalas, Thompson gazelles and a giraffe!  I quickly realized that knowing your birds is as important as seeing the animals. I suggest all future travelers purchase the definitive book for bird lovers called Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by Dale Zimmerman, Donald Turner and David Pearson.

We toured the camp and were in awe at the spectacular rooms, all decorated in similar fashion, with private dipping pools, gorgeous outdoor living spaces, and exquisite bathrooms including an outdoor shower.  The rooms coup de grace is a “Star” bed, something I will experience firsthand tonight after being assured that no wild animals have ever “jumped” in with the guests (at least not uninvited!).

Thursday, April 7th:

Now that I have just experienced a full day at Ol Donyo Wuas I can say my adventures for 2011 have started out with some of the greatest highlights of my travel career. As you know I visited the Vik Retreat ( this past January to check out the newly opened Playa Vik. I had fallen so in love with the Estancia Vik in April 2010 that  I felt it was my obligation to check out its sister property. My love for these properties is their uniqueness and the staff who make me feel like I am part of their “family”. My love affair has now been extended to another continent, Africa, but this love affair is quite different. It is for the beauty of this country, a place to release all worries, disconnect from the “real” world and totally engross oneself in awe-inspiring.

Ol Donyo Wuas has made me realize I need to rekindle a passion I had for most of my adolescent years, horseback riding. Since this safari camp is located in a private conservation and not a National Park, we are free to roam anywhere with no limitations and no fenced off area –it is all ours!

I was able to experience this freedom this morning on a ride throughout the Chyulu Hills. My riding skills enabled me to take the more advanced ride which lasted several hours.  My horse, Shambu, a ‘Boer Perd (African horse) was a good mate. We cantered through endless plains and I had not a worry in the world as I tried to savor every moment of this spectacular experience.

Ol Donyo Wuas is the best horseback riding, gaming viewing  safari outfitter in Kenya. They are geared for all levels of riding. However, for the more advanced and for those over 12 years old they offer mobile horse camps to the Ambeseli Mountain.  This trip would be a true way to engross yourself in the beauty of the country while being in the heart of true African wildlife.   I cannot wait to share my excitement with all my riding friends back home as this adventure is a match made in heaven.

I am so bitten by the bug to be back in the saddle that Addie and I are going to “ride” to our so called airstrip early tomorrow morning the old fashioned way, on horseback, as we depart for our next base camp, Lewa Downs (  What a perfect way to end a perfect start to our safari.


Africa: Lewa House and Mara Plains: Africa Blog Entry #3

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