Provider: Classic Escapes
Length: 12 days
Price: about $2,995
Among the best places in Africa to view "the Big Five"—elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo—Kenya has long been one of the world's top safari destinations. After political strife erupted following the country's elections in December, however, international tourism dropped off by more than half (although no tourists were hurt). Many Kenyans whose income depends on tourism saw their business dry up: Safari lodges emptied, clientless guides and drivers idled, and game reserves lost income they needed to combat wildlife poachers.
In the eight months since, the political situation has stabilized, but the country still needs more tourists to get back on track. Hoping to lure the safari goers back, many outfitters are discounting package prices. Among them is Classic Escapes, a veteran of Kenya safaris, which is offering $1,000 off its 12-day luxury Kenya package through the rest of 2008. "This is a great time to visit Kenya—not only to support the people but to also see the wildlife and learn the culture before the crowds return," says Executive Director Susan Gettum.
On this safari you'll tour three of Kenya's best wildlife preserves and visit with several tribal groups living in or near the reserves. After a day in Nairobi, you'll head north to Samburu Reserve where you'll meet the semi-nomadic Samburu people and see species not seen elsewhere in Kenya such as the reticulated giraffe and blue-necked Somali ostrich. Traveling to the center of the country, you'll drive through the outer Rift Valley to Lake Nakuru National Park where literally thousands of flamingos congregate along with more than 350 other bird species. Saving the best for last, you'll end with several days in the Masai Mara, a huge game reserve where the epic great migration of wildebeest still takes place. Here is the Africa of your imagination: Elephants, cheetahs, baboons, giraffes, zebra, lions, hippos, rhinos, and hundreds of other species roaming freely and sharing the land with the tall, proud Masai people.
"The trip was beyond our expectations," says Amy Baggott, who traveled on a Classic Escapes Kenya safari in June with her husband and four children. "Our accommodations were indescribable, our guide was top-notch, our pre-trip preparations were a breeze and the itinerary was perfect. Every person we met in the camps, our guide, our naturalists, and the tribe members enveloped us in hospitality and warmth."
Departure dates include September 27, October 11, November 1 and 8, and December 27. Prices cover accommodations, breakfasts in Nairobi, all safari meals, ground transportation and game drives, guides, and park entry fees. Airfare is extra. Round-trip October fares from Newark to Nairobi start at $1,247, including taxes and fees, through Orbitz.