I’m Keen on Kenya

This item appears on page 49 of the December 2014 issue.

When travelers are asked to express what impressed or inspired them about a particular country, it’s not surprising that they write detailed descriptions of specific experiences, but it turns out that Kenya is a country about which the memories are especially vivid — a place offering out-of-your-ordinary-environment experiences. All of the essays submitted painted wonderful pictures in words, but ITN staff judged the works of three subscribers to stand out above the rest because they each provided not only a sense of place but expressed something more, the imprint it left, making it more clear why they were “keen on Kenya.”

Taking first place was the essay written by CAROL PROBST of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, who will receive a 3-year extension to her ITN subscription. In second place was the submission of EILEEN RAGSDALE of Sheridan, Wyoming, whose subscription will be extended two years. The third-place winner was CATHY DUNLAP of Salina, Kansas, winning an extra year’s delivery of ITN. The three essays are printed below.


Kenya was full of surprises for someone from Kansas. 

My first surprise was at our hotel in Nairobi. At the Norfolk Hotel there were many photographs displayed that were taken by Osa and Martin Johnson from, of all places, Kansas! I learned that they were adventurers who studied and photographed wildlife from all over the world, including Kenya, introducing the rest of the world to exotic places, animals and people during the first half of the 20th century. 

Kenya is on the equator, so I expected it to be dry and hot, with lots of mosquitoes. However, the land was beautiful, a perfect temperature, and I never saw a mosquito. 

Having seen African animals only in zoos, I loved witnessing their behavior in the wild. The pride of lions scolding the little ones for leaving their hiding places while the mamas were out hunting, the young male impala trying to steal the females from another’s herd, the huge Cape buffalo urging her day-old baby to keep up with the others, or the herd of elephants coming within inches of our van on their way to the river: all made each day an amazing adventure.

The Kenyan drivers and guides made our safari more special by doing things secretly, like setting up wine and cheese to enjoy while watching the sun go down over Lake Nakuru one evening. Or arranging a British-style breakfast by the river, with linen tablecloths, etc.

Watching the Maasai running in their beautiful red robes, silhouetted against the setting sun and moving so gracefully, is a sight that will live in my heart forever. 

Cathy Dunlap, Salina, KS


Keen on Kenya! So keen on Kenya that Ron and I have returned six times. I was introduced to this fascinating country on our 40th wedding anniversary. We flew in from Nairobi on a WWII DC-3 airplane, landing on a grassy runway inhabited by zebras.

We spent exciting days in a tent in the bush with a dug-out “potty” and a bucket shower. . . with warm water! Meals were enjoyed in the dining tent, with the glaring eyes of hyenas who wished they could join us. A serval quickly grabbed Ron’s dinner roll off his plate!

We have also stayed in lovely lodges and charming bungalows and even in a tree house. Where else can an elephant walk past your window and monkeys play on your balcony? Where else can you hear the screams of hyenas, rumbles of elephants and growls of lions at night?

One afternoon we came across a troop of baboons. While watching the antics of the youngsters, we felt the Land Rover tremble. The granddaddy baboon had jumped inside. His hairy arm brushed mine as he grabbed a bag of lemon drops, then ran a few feet away and unwrapped each candy while scaring the young ones away. He was not willing to share his loot!

At an elephant orphanage, a baby elephant greeted me with raised trunk and splashed mud, staining my pants — a remembrance each time I wear those decorated pants.

We witnessed thousands of animals, from Antelopes to Zebras, and observed the nursing of young as well as lions and cheetahs killing prey while vultures waited their turn. We marveled at the beauty of the land, sunsets and, mostly, the people in the Maasai villages and handicraft markets, plus a surprise birthday party for Ron.

Kenya — a new experience every time!

Eileen Ragsdale, Sheridan, WY


Recently, I asked my well-traveled 93-year-old mother what she considered a highlight of all the places she’d been. Mom responded immediately, “That parade of wildlife you and I saw in Kenya 18 years ago.”

A vivid image flashed into my mind: the two of us were sitting at an outdoor bar in Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge sipping drinks while enjoying a spectacular sunset. 

Suddenly, several hundred yards away, there appeared silhouettes of animals passing in‚ seemingly, single file. Our conversation ceased as we stared transfixed. Profiles of wildebeests, zebras and buffaloes plodded along, back-lit by the last flaming rays of light. We weren’t sure, but wasn’t that a Maasai carrying his staff in their midst? 

Suddenly darkness descended and Mom and I gazed at each other in amazement. What had happened? We looked around. The few other patrons at the bar were totally engrossed in their drinks and apparently oblivious. Did we imagine the whole thing? 

Lodge staff later told me that big cats, which hunt at night, are wary of villages, thus herbivores have learned to leave their grazing lands by dusk and head toward perceived areas of safety, closer to human habitation.

Observing such an incredible phenomenon was an experience that neither my mother nor I will ever forget.

Carol Probst, Bethel Park, PA