Kenya·October 22 - 29 2023

Born Free Kenya

An Epic Wildlife Safari inspired by Elsa’s story



Welcome to Elsa’s country, the lioness of Born Free fame. Be awed by the beauty of the land she lived in, the rivers and golden plains in the ever-present gaze of Mount Kenya. Relish in her wilderness surrounded by Africa’s big game – the elephants and rhinos; the big cats and the mighty raptors that soar the skies. Late October is one of the most exciting months to be on safari and watch the land turn lush and green with the start of the short rains after the long dry spell. Typically the days are interspersed with spells of showers followed by hours of sunshine for the wildlife (and us) to soak in. It’s also the time to watch the tail end of the annual migration of a million-plus wildebeest march back into the neighboring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.


Luxury Safari in three diverse wilderness parks

Luxury Safari in three diverse wilderness parks

Seeing Africa’s big game in the wild, it’s a lot different than the zoo!

Seeing Africa’s big game in the wild, it’s a lot different than the zoo!

Study Wildlife with a female biologist and conservationists

Study Wildlife with a female biologist and conservationists

Stay in three uniquely luxury tented camps and lodge

Stay in three uniquely luxury tented camps and lodge

Discover Elsa’s epic life, the lioness that changed the face of wildlife conservation

Discover Elsa’s epic life, the lioness that changed the face of wildlife conservation

Travel Samburu, where Elsa spent time on safari with the Adamsons

Travel Samburu, where Elsa spent time on safari with the Adamsons

Read about the Ewaso Lions and Action for Cheetahs in Kenya founded by women

Read about the Ewaso Lions and Action for Cheetahs in Kenya founded by women

See the Samburu 5, rare endemic animals only found in the northern arid ecosystem

See the Samburu 5, rare endemic animals only found in the northern arid ecosystem

Visit a local Maasai homestead

Visit a local Maasai homestead

Delight in epicurean feasts and local cuisine

Delight in epicurean feasts and local cuisine

Toast to Africa every evening with sensual sundowners in the savannah

Toast to Africa every evening with sensual sundowners in the savannah





Day 1 – October 22, Sunday

Fly into Nairobi the capital city of Kenya. You’ll be met at the airport by our representative who will guide you through arrival via a fast track and drive you to your hotel, the Villa Rosa Kempinski. The Villa Rosa Kempinski, overlooking Nairobi’s skyline, lavish and soaked in tropical sunlight, has played host to Barack Obama, Lupita Ny’ongo and many more.  

The day is at leisure for you to relax, unwind and recover from jet-lag. The hotel is a few minutes’ drive from the central business district if you’d like to explore. Nairobi is a fast-paced city. The core of the city centre boasts early colonial architecture and modern high-rise towers. You can pop into the Nairobi National Museum with it galleries dedicated to prehistory, ornithology, ethnography and the making of modern Kenya. A guided walking tour can be arranged if you want to see city life or the museum. 

We will meet for cocktails and dinner in the evening at 7p.m. at the Tambourin Restaurant (not included in price) with lively chats about your exciting safari before calling it a night.  


Day 2 – October 23, Monday

Today the adventure begins. It’s an early start to the day. After a hearty breakfast we will fly to Meru National Park 350 kms northeast of Nairobi. This is Born Free country, home of Elsa the lioness’s epic true-lifestory. It’s a 45-minute flight over Nairobi National Park, and Africa’s second highest massif that is Mount Kenya, the 3-million year old extinct volcano topped with snow on the Equator. Nairobi National Park means while it is the only wildlife park in a capital city that even today it is home to Nairobi’s original in habitants: the black rhinos, big cats and plains game like the Maasai giraffes. 

We will be collected from the airstrip and driven to Elsa’s Kopje overlooking the vast plains of Meru that Joy Adamson aptly called the Garden of Eden and where she released Elsa into the wilderness. Although Elsa lived from 1956 to 1961, this amazing lioness made history as the first wild cat to return to the wild and still make contact with humans (the Adamsons) after her release. Elsa went on to have cubs-another remarkable event with a wild lion, which the Adamson's closely documented. This set a bench mark for wildlife conservation in Africa for before then, it was believed that human-raised wild animals could not survive the wilderness. 

Sculpted into the kopjes of Mughwano Hill, Elsa’s Kopje is on the original site of the Adamson’s camp where they raised and released orphan lions. We’ll enjoy a game drive en route in our custom-made safari cruisers driven by an expert driver accompanies by a wildlife guide. 

The 870-square-kilometer Meru enjoys dramatic vistas. The western flanks show Mount Kenya and the long range of Nyambene Hills that act as the water towers for the park’s 14 rivers including River Tana, Kenya’s longest, that course through Kenya’s arid lands.  No wonder Joy Adamson called it the Garden of Eden.

We’ll enjoy a lovely lunch overlooking Elsa’s country with the occasional herd of elephants browsing below…..or maybe even a cat slinking through the grass.

Meru is a great conservation success story. Between 1980 and 1990, at the height of the ivory trade, Meru’s 3,000 elephants were nearly wiped out and many wildlife rangers were killed by poachers. The international community and the Kenyan government stepped in, staffed the rangers and embarked on a re-stocking program to return Meru to its former glory.

In 1999, with peace restored, Elsa’s Kopje opened its doors to visitors. Amongst them was Virginia McKenna, the lead actress who played Joy Adamson in the film ‘Born Free’ along with her husband Bill Tavers as George. McKenna is the founder of the Born Free Foundation.

Later in the afternoon, we’ll embark on a game drive in search of big game like Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s zebra, Reticulated giraffes, crocs and hippos, lions and elephants, plus the rich birdlife before returning to camp at sunset.

After cocktails, we’ll dine under the stars and exchange the day’s highlights and hear more about the Adamsons’ legacy.


Day 3 – October 24, Tuesday

The animals are most active before the sun becomes too hot and lethargy sets in, so we’ll rise early and set out for our morning game drive as the sun rises. The lionesses would rather hunt when it’s cooler but being opportunistic the hunt is on if the prey is easy. Did you know that lions do not have sweat glands; if we get close enough, you can hear them panting!

By 9 a.m. we’ll be back at the lodge for breakfast. Take time to relax, swim, read a book, take a nap, and enjoy the grounds, discovering its many rare plants including the baobab that is the world’s largest succulent.

The afternoon game drive will have us visit Elsa’s resting place with a poem by Joy etched on the tomb stone. Until recently, the grave was a secret venue. We’ll also visit Pippa, the cheetah’s resting place, the spotted sphinx that Joy also returned to the wild after collecting her from The Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.

We’ll return to the lodge by sunset for a refresh, cocktail and another gourmet feast. Meru’s resident naturalist will be on hand to answer any questions about this endlessly fascinating world. before retiring to bed. A nightcap by the fire pit is a nice way to end the day.


Day 4 – October 25, Wednesday

After breakfast we’ll depart to the airstrip for a short flight to Samburu National Reserve in the arid lands, north of the equator. Have your cameras ready. If it’s clear, you’ll see Mount Kenya on the equator. This volcanic mountain at 17,057 feet (5,199 meters) is Kenya’s tallest. When the first explorers reported seeing the snow-capped mountains on and near the equator, they were ridiculed – for who had ever heard of snow on the equator?

Samburu is the land of the Samburu Special, wildlife only found north of the equator and adapted to life in the arid lands such as: the Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, gerenuk and Somali ostrich. These species have adapted to life without water, surviving just on morning dew. The life-lung of the land is the Ewaso Nyiro River that is to this region what the Nile is to Egypt.

Elsa with the Adamsons’ was a frequent visitor here, frolicking in the great river with close encounters with the crocodiles. The gate to the reserve is dedicated to Elsa with funds donated from her books and films.

On arrival at Samburu National Reserve, we’ll be transferred from the airstrip to the Elephant Bedroom Tented Camp with a game drive en route before checking in and enjoying time at the camp by the river.

At 3.30 p.m. we’ll embark on another exciting game drive through the arid bush and the lush oasis by the river. Look out for leopard, lions and elephants and raptors before returning to camp at sunset.

We’ll be back just in time for cocktails by the campfire before a sumptuous dinner freshly prepared under the stars of the northern hemisphere. If you’re a star gazer, this is the perfect spot close to the equator to see the constellations straddling the two hemispheres.

We’ll be entertained by local Samburu dancers with the songs and dances of their ancestors. The Samburu, like the Maasai, belong to the Nilotic ethnic group that came into present day Kenya from the north along the Nile some five centuries ago. Interestingly, the Samburu believe that they hail from the planet Venus.

Enjoy your evening and a good night’s sleep in your luxurious tent.


Day 5 – October 26, Thursday

Another glorious morning in Africa! Rise and shine for an early morning game drive. The landscape is surreal with mountains and rocky insets.

We’ll return to camp for a hearty breakfast. After, enjoy the camp lounging by the river or a massage in the wild. It’s not uncommon to see elephants come for a drink … or even one of the big cats.

Samburu is also the home of Grevy’s Zebra Trust that pioneered research of the rare equid, the Grevy’s zebra (named after the French president from the 1800’s because a Frenchman first described this imperial zebra). Before the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, these rare zebra were poached for their skin and meat. Today, the zebra are seen as an asset for the Samburu women, warriors, elders and the children who are now all involved in zebra conservation.

Samburu is also part of the lion project started by Ewaso Lions. The driver-guides will point out to some on the game drives.

After our afternoon game drive, we’ll return for a starlit dinner followed by a night cap by the campfire and finally to a peaceful slumber in your ‘tent’.


Day 6 – October 27, Friday

A 90-minute flight from Samburu via Nairobi, we’ll land in the Maasai Mara, (via Nairobi), after flying over the Great Rift Valley. It’s the planet’s longest valley on land stretching 6,000km from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique in South-eastern Africa, and best seen in Kenya. The flight then enters the savanna grassland in the mighty Mara that is home to the Big 5 – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard (and cheetah). This is lion country famous for its black manned lions and it is possible to see all the three big cats – lion, leopard and cheetah – in a day.

The Maasai have co-existed for many years with African wildlife because both the wildlife and the large herds of cattle owned by the Masai need wide spaces to survive.

We’ll be collected from the airstrip and driven with a short game drive en route to the luxurious lodge – Mara Serena Lodge – with a gorgeous 360-degree eagle’s eye-view from atop the hill of the great plains. Styled like a Masai village, the unique architecture is special.

After check-in, relax and enjoy an exquisite lunch before leaving for the afternoon game drive at 3.30 p.m. to witness one of the world’s greatest migrations – that of the million-plus wildebeest mowing their way back into the mighty Serengeti.

Return at sunset to the lodge.

Take a few minutes to refresh before we meet for cocktails on you first night in the Mara, dubbed one of the seven natural wonders of the modern world.

Dinner will be under the stars with lots of lively exchanges and talks with the resident naturalist about the wonders of the Mara.


Day 7 – October 28, Saturday

Leave for a morning game drive at 6.15 after a cuppa tea/coffee. Or, you may wish to treat yourself to a thrilling balloon safari at sunrise with a champagne breakfast on landing. It’s a novel way of game watching catching an eagle’s eye view of the land and life below. (NOTE: the balloon ride is an extra charge of $400 USD).

Spoil yourself today. Revitalize with a massage in the wild or simply soak in the splendor of the landscape.

For those who wish to visit a Maasai village, a visit can be arranged.

Packed with a picnic lunch, we’ll spend the rest of the day in the Mara and return for sundowners.

Tonight, we’ll be entertained by Maasai dancers as it’s your last night in the African bush with dinner under the stars before we wish you ‘lala salaama’, ‘a peaceful sleep’ in Kiswahili


Day 8 – October 29, Sunday

After a sumptuous breakfast in the Mara, we’ll fly back to Nairobi to arrive by midday for your flight home, or onward to Lamu if you’re joining us for the trip extension (see below). For those heading home, we’ll decamp to the Four Points at Sheraton at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to relax while you wait for your return flight home. (You’ll have the option of getting a “day room” at the hotel, or booking a room overnight, depending on when your return flight is. This stay is not included in the trip price).

Saying goodbye to your new friends and this beautiful country will be hard, but you’ll have many wonderful life-long memories to take back home with you.

We hope your African adventure has amazed you. As Joy Adamson said: ‘Wildlife is something which man cannot construct. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. Man can rebuild a pyramid, but he can’t rebuild ecology, or a giraffe.”


Extension: Day8 – October 29th Sunday

From Nairobi we’ll fly to Lamu, arriving on Manda Island in the afternoon. We’ll make the short crossing of the Lamu channel to Shela, where we’ll check into our home for the next 3 nights, Peponi Hotel, Shela’s iconic hotel by the dunes and the beach. Over the years, Peponi has seen many a famous name sign in.

After settling in, we’ll enjoy the afternoon on the beach with a swim and stroll enjoying the wide sweep of the Indian Ocean with stories from the past of her ancient Swahili history. A sumptuous Swahili dinner awaits us, prepared by the local chefs, to taste the real flavor of coconut, fresh fish, prawns and lots of variety of vegetables spiced to enchant the palate.

After dinner, we’ll retire to the verandah to enjoy one another’s company under a star-decked dark sky until sleep calls.


Extension: Day 9 – October 30th Monday

Before breakfast, we’ll have the option of a yoga class to energize our day.

We’ll energize ourselves in the morning, saluting to the rising sun on the beach with a walk and swim. Then we’ll enjoy a healthy breakfast full of tropical fruits and Swahili-cooked eggs and breads.

Today, we’ll visit to the centuries-old Lamu Stone Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Dating back to the 12th century, Stone Town’s history is shaped by the monsoon winds and the eastern mariners who came to trade for ivory, rhino horns, mangroves and more. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors.

We’ll sail back to Shela for lunch. Then you’ll have some time to yourself to read and relax, or perhaps enjoy a revitalizing massage.

This evening, we’ll board a dhow, the ancient sailing vessels powered by the winds and the waves that brought in the ancient mariners from the East, giving rise to the Swahili civilization. We’ll just be sailing near the shore, but we can imagine what it must have been like to make ocean passages. Sundowners and dinner will be served on board sailing around the island.


Extension: Day 10 – October 31st Tuesday

We’ll start our day with (optional) early morning yoga on the beach followed by breakfast.

Then we’ll sail to Manda Toto to snorkel and be dazzled by the array of fish and enjoy a BBQ on the tiny islet..

We’ll return to Peponi for an afternoon of relaxation. Enjoy an in-house treatment or massage, or just laze around at the pool.

Meet for sundowners at the famous bar at Peponi followed by a leisurely seafood fest.


Extension: Day 11 – November 1st, Wednesday

Enjoy an early morning walk over the ancient sand dunes and a swim at the beach.

Upon return relish the healthy tropical breakfast.

Then you’ll have time to yourself to pack, rest and relax before lunch. This afternoon, we’ll sail back to Manda Island for the flight to Nairobi and onward flight home feeling rested and refreshed.

You'll Be Staying Here

Villa Rosa Kempinski

Villa Rosa Kempinski

Villa Rosa Kempinski offers European luxury while you are immersed in Kenyan hospitality. 

Elsa’s Kopje

Elsa’s Kopje

Elsa’s Kopje sits on the original site of George Adamson's campsite. You can indulge in bush breakfasts, sundowners and an infinity pool with views of the brush.

Elephant Bedroom Tented Camp

Elephant Bedroom Tented Camp

Elephant Bedroom Tented Camp is nestled in between the Ewaso Nyiro River and Doum palms the boarders the Sambura National Reserve. Many of the Big 5 will join you for breakfast and sundowners.

Peponi Hotel

Peponi Hotel

Peponi Hotel is situated on the Shela’s iconic hotel by the dunes and the beach. 


Rupi Mangat

Rupi Mangat

Rupi is a travel writer with a particular concentration on wildlife conservation and sustainability. She’s 3rd generation Kenyan who’s been on safari countless times since she started writing professionally in 1998. She works with the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya as the editor of Komba, the magazine to promote wildlife conservation amongst schoolchildren. With her strong connections with conservation not-for-profits like the East African Wild Life Society, Nature Kenya, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (to name a few), we’ll be given an insiders view of the amazing and often challenging world of today’s wildlife. 


Private Room

Private Room

Everyone gets their own fabulous room!


What's Included

What's Included

Everything stated in itinerary above including meals plus wine or beer with your evening meal (except otherwise noted)

Lodging at 5-star tented camps

All guides, experts and entry fees

All in-country transport

Roundtrip airfare to Kenya

Additional wine, beer, or spirits beyond what is offered at meals.

All personal souvenir purchases

Travel and Medical Insurance (required)

Airport transfers

Additional outings as indicated such as the Balloon Ride

Any additional spa treatments desired than what's described

Add Ons

3-day Trip Extension to Lamu

3-day Trip Extension to Lamu

After a week on safari, it’s time for some serious relaxation and restoration. Lamu, the fabled archipelago of islands off the east coast of Kenya, is steeped in history from over 2,000 years of ocean trade with the Orient East. Lamu is THE place to de-stress. We’ll explore Lamu’s historical Stone Town, enjoy the sand dunes, snorkeling and swimming in the Indian Ocean, and sailing on the dhows that brought the ancient mariners from the Orient on the monsoon winds....
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Inquire about this trip

Born Free Kenya

Kenya· October 22 - 29 2023· 7 nights