Beyond the Safari: Finding the Soul of Kenya

Picture Africa. What do you see?… a vast savannah, a lone acacia tree, a pack of wildebeests with a “big cat” predator in its wake.

When you think of Africa, you’re probably envisioning Kenya. And if you are an American, you have President Theodore Roosevelt to thank. Over a century ago, he journeyed to this land on a hunting expedition, returning to help promote Kenya as the capital of the safari industry. Today, safaris are now the lifeblood of this struggling country, drawing in conservation and tourism dollars that contribute to over half of the country’s GDP.

But have you stereotyped Kenya by ending your thoughts here as an uneducated tourist?

Beyond the vast plains of roaming lions, elephants and zebras are snow-capped mountains, dense forests, mangrove swamps and pristine beaches. 42 ethnic tribes color these varied landscapes, each proud of their mother tongue and traditional practices. With such diversity, just one cultural identification as “African” or “Kenyan” is certainly an unfair label.

The tribes here agree. Their differences have sparked a fair share of violent outbreaks since the country’s independence in 1963, posing a threat on foreign travel. And now more than ever, Kenya’s diverse cultural and natural beauty has been condemned to travelers, who are now plagued with fear to step out of their Safari Range Rovers into its colorful, dusty streets. They give their “dollar a day” out of guilt and move on.

Over the next few weeks we will escape the confines of the safari vehicle and expedition together through the real, raw Kenya. We will trek on the path-less-traveled and discover Kenya’s most treasured, resourceful and joyful asset – its people.

Kenya’s real beauty lies here, with its soul. People are making great change in Kenya. I can’t wait to share some of their lesser-known stories with you.

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville

Feature photo courtesy of Karla Stinehour (Come back on Friday for her story!)

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