Into Africa

Here’s the thing about trips of a lifetime: They take such effort to plan that it’s easier to stay home, right? Not with smart expert know-how. First up in our new Insider’s Guide series: safari in Kenya, from travel agent extraordinare and safari addict Lisa Lindblad.

Who doesn’t have a safari on their must-do list?

Too expensive? Think again. Stay in small, owner-operated lodges and private houses, take scheduled flights instead of private charters, use resort guides instead of pricey private guides — and your trip will be top-of-the-line and reasonably priced.

sarara!The Itinerary
1. Start slow in Sarara, a community-run tented camp in North Kenya where you can stretch your legs on long walks accompanied by local Samburu tribesmen. Or walk out the kinks with Kerry Glenn and her team of camels through spectacular rocky outcrops on Karisia Limited walking safaris.

cheetah!2. Want to push yourself a little? Climb Mount Kenya and fly-fish for rainbow trout from your Rutundu log cabin. Or spend a few days in colonial style at Sosian on the Laikipia plateau or in the sheltered oasis of Ol Pejeta conservancy, the only place in Kenya to see endangered chimps.

rekero! 3. Next, jump on an Airkenya flight to the Masai Mara game reserve, the jewel in East Africa’s crown. Stay at Rekero, a stylish, community-minded resort with excellent local Masai guides. Situated near the confluence of the Mara and Talek rivers, the tented camp has front-row seats for the annual wildebeest migration.

4. Finally, end with a bang at Shompole, the most glam lodge in Kenya. (Adding to the allure is the fact that it’s partly owned by the Masai.) Otherwise, head to the Swahili Coast and rent a bungalow like Alfajiri on the gorgeous beach.

shompole!Where the Wild Things Are
Wildebeests, zebras, and the nomadic lions that love them migrate in a giant circle, starting in the southern Serengeti in Tanzania in March. They head west then north, army-style, following the rains (and new grass). They reach Grumeti River around June, site of the over-the-top Sasakwa Lodge, cross the Mara River in July and August — then turn around and head back the same way. Other big safari animals — cheetahs, gazelles, hyenas, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and leopards (the hardest to spot) — tend to stay put and are found everywhere.

When to Go
Year-round, but the best times are June-October and December-February. The green months (November, March, April, May) are rainy and less expensive.

If you want help planning a safari on a budget, contact local guide Sandor Carter. If you want to do the trip in grander style with your own private camp and an expert guide, contact Lindblad.