Africa Travel Itinerary: Inspired by Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife, takes readers to Kenya in the 1920s, where the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer and aviator Beryl Markham tells the story of her life among the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in colonial East Africa.
Book your safari with Micato, nine-time winner of the World's Best Safari Outfitter. The family-run company has strong roots in Kenya, and also sends a local child to school for every safari booked. With excellent guides (my safari director Philip Rono, was recently tapped by Outside Magazine as the best safari guide on the planet), Micato is prepared to amaze with one of their seven Classic Safaris, or a Bespoke experience like no other. (1-800-MICATO-1, Micato.com)
If you're in Nairobi, definitely make time for a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum. Danish author/pioneer/baroness Blixen wrote Out of Africa under the penname Isak Dinesen, and her gorgeously preserved home will instantly transport you to colonial Kenya, and perhaps have you dreaming of Robert Redford! The guides are well versed in Blixen's life and offer lots of information and insight.
On the way back into town, stop for high tea or a cool drink at Giraffe Manor. The breathtaking 1930's estate is also a sanctuary for rare and endangered Rothschild giraffes. Guests can hand-feed and even kiss (!) the curious resident giraffes. Not to be missed!
An easy three-hour drive from Nairobi, Mt. Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki is a perfect weekend destination, with magnificent views of Mt. Kenya. The property sits on top of the equator, with individual rooms in both hemispheres, and was once the retreat of movie star William Holden. For decades, the resort was one of the most elite private clubs in the world, hosting the likes of Hemingway, Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill. Then, pet leopards and Holden's beloved Zamba the lion had run of the place, and Holden himself liked to monitor goings on via telescope from his private villa. Now, things are tamer, but old-world glamour is still everywhere apparent.
The remarkable interplay of rocky cliffs, savanna and forest make Lake Nakuru National Park one of the prettiest Kenya has to offer. There's abundant wildlife: you'll likely spot black and white rhino, buffalo, giraffe, lion and-if you're lucky-leopard. Picnic at Baboon Cliffs, overlooking the park, but the best views are a bit higher up, at Out of Africa Lookout, also a shooting location for the Sydney Pollack film.
Kenya's Great Rift Valley, north and west of Nairobi, is Beryl Markham's early stomping ground. A drive through the area will offer glimpses of lush valley and farmland, as well as the dramatic knobs, buttes and volcanic calderas violently sculpted twenty million years ago when tectonic plates below the earth's crust collided. Stretching 4,000 miles from northern Syria to central Mozambique, the Great Rift Valley is the most significant geographical feature of our planet visible from space.