Skimming over the African landscape, past the icy peaks of Mt. Kenya then down into the nomadic frontier of the north, I can’t help but think that there’s nowhere in the world quite like Kenya. A brown river lined with lush thickets of Acacia trees snakes through an arid expanse of thorny scrubland below us. Meanwhile, the soaring rock-walls of a flat-topped mountain dominate the view to the north.
My husband, Frank, in the captain’s seat of a Cessna 185, tilts the wing and cranes his head to scan the ground. I know he’s looking for elephants. It’s become a habit of his after several years of tracking them from the air for research NGO Save the Elephants (STE). Personally, I’m more worried about running into equids on landing – a rare species in this case, the Grevy’s zebra. About 10 years ago, a stallion chose to gallop straight into the propeller of our previous research plane just as it touched down. Thankfully the occupants got out alive. The zebra was sadly not as lucky.
Frank eases back the throttle to begin our descent. As a surfer living far from the ocean, this taildragger has become his latest passion. It’s also a critical tool for gathering data on elephant movement, which is a key part of his role as STE’s chief of operations. The wheels bounce and the plane rolls to a stop in a cloud of dust. We step onto the runway and feel a hot wind racing towards us from the mountain. It smells of baked earth and sun-bleached grass. Beyond the edge of the airstrip, thorn trees pan out towards a distant escarpment that undulates in a shimmering heat-haze. We’re in the centre of the elephants’ home range; a landscape both stark and inhospitable, but which has a wild beauty that takes my breath away.
We’ve landed in the Ewaso ecosystem, part of an expansive wilderness that stretches all the way up to the Ethiopian border. We call it the Northern Frontier, and it’s the place I love best in the world.
That said, there are many other places that also make Kenya special and many reasons why it has stolen my heart. In the following gallery I will take you through my top 10 favourite places in this stunning country that I have the privilege to call home. Just click on the ‘Next’ button above each image to explore this East African paradise.
Here is a map that shows Saba's top 10 favourite places:
To find out more about this week’s author, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, read the last page of this gallery.
Cover image provided by Anja Denker.