Dust flew and the earth moved as the six thousand pound elephant trumpeted her rage. Separated from her baby, the mother was on a rampage. Pale faced and shaking, our driver laid on his horn 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 rushed towards his 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 exactly that. Leaving the main road he drove too near a herd of elephants, which could have ended in disaster.

Full moon, soft breeze, and a smiling guide greeted us as began our adventure in East Africa. Nairobi, a bustling city of 33,829,590 inhabitants was in full bloom as our group of four made our way to the Nairobi Serena Hotel. Rated with five-stars, the hotel offered all the amenities necessary for luxurious comfort. Colorful flowers and giant trees encased the hotel and the ambience 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 for the 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 as we photographed lions, giraffes, zebras, and cheetahs. Made of natural wood and stone, the roomy cabaƱas at the Mara Simba Lodge offers a view of the river, and are very comfortable. Lights illuminate the many paths from the cabanas to the main lodge. A huge stone fireplace dominates the dining room where everyone gathers from 7:30 – 9:00 pm for the evening meal. From the balcony off the bar, crocodiles are seen stalking a prey that ventures to the river to drink. Not for the faint of heart, such as myself. Even the men were appalled when a crock grabbed a baby deer.

Sunshine, blue sky 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 have ever had. By 8:30, we were off to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. A herd of Zebras roaming the wind swept plain, and the mountainous background kept the cameras clicking throughout the scenic drive that took us through the Valley to Thompson Falls, down to the floor of Rift Valley, and onto Lake Nakuru National Park.

Early afternoon, we visited the Masai Warrior Village, a cattle-herding tribe still proudly aloof from western civilization. Children excitedly gathered around as I dispersed candy, whistles, paper, and pencils among them.

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

Bright orange highlighted the aqua sky as the sun rose over the Serengeti plains. Heart pounding madly, I boarded a hot air balloon and was swept away. Fear dissipated as we ascended into the wild blue yonder. Five hundred feet below, a herd of elephants moved slowly across Rift Valley as we soared above the plains. Floating high over lakes and forested uplands, we flew. Giraffes nibbled at 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.

Exhilaration filled the air as we landed on a mountain plateau in Tanzania. A picnic awaited the now seasoned balloonist. The food and wine were a culinary delight as we talked, laughed, and savored our adventure.

Mid-afternoon we said good-bye to our wonderful hosts. Boarding the bus, we headed back to Kenya, and onto Lake Nakuru Lodge. Simple, natural, and comfortable describes the lodge that blends well with its surroundings. An enticing blue swimming pool waits, and the Nikki bar that overlooks the pool is a place for fellow travelers to meet. Following dinner, drums beat as the Masai Warriors perform a war dance for guests. What a fabulous show.

The sweet smell of Jasmine highlighted another magnificent day as we departed for the Aberdare National Park. Located near Killimanjaro, whose snow-capped peak soars to 19,340 feet, a fabulous backdrop for photographing animals as you tour the park.

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

Located in the heart of the Park, the Ark Game Lodge is noted for its famous visitors such as Queen Elizabeth 11. Named after Noah’s Ark, the lodge is built on stilts and has four decks and a platform for viewing animals. There are 60 cabin-styled rooms, and each room overlooks a waterhole and salt slick that attracts a multitude of wildlife. In case you are asleep, each room has a buzzer to announce animals that venture in at night. If this is not to your liking the buzzer can be turned off. Occasionally, an elusive bongo and giant forest hog can be seen wondering around.

Breakfast and dinner are served in the main dining room. A ground level bunker provides excellent photographic opportunities. Following breakfast, we returned to the 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.

The journey into Africa was given five-stars by our group. If you have adventure in your heart there is no place like Kenya. Flying out of Nairobi I felt an unexplainable peacefulness, and I could not wait to return.

The entire trip cost $1,500.00, which included gratuities. I strongly recommend Rhino Safaris.

A code of conduct is necessary while traveling in Africa: Radios and cassette players are forbidden in the parks and reserves. Speak softly and never try to get the attention of animals. 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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