Kenya is ready to reopen. Safari operators are standing by.

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Sabuk Lodge offers a camelback safari through the Laikipian Wilderness in Kenya.
Sabuk Lodge offers a camelback safari through the Laikipian Wilderness in Kenya. Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

Kenya is reopening its borders and will welcome visitors from across the world, including U.S. travelers, on Aug. 1.

Safari operators have been preparing for that day for months. Tamsin Corcoran, managing director at New African Territories, said tourism players have gone to great lengths to ensure all protocols are in place to keep travelers safe. "With so many measures in place to safeguard travelers, it is probably safer to travel now than at any other time," she said.

Corcoran reports that most tour operators also have adjusted their refund policies to make customers feel more confident to book. New African Territories, for example, requires a 20% deposit to secure the booking. The deposit is generally nonrefundable; however, if the cancellation is Covid-related, it is fully refundable, minus a small handling fee. (Covid-related reasons include customers contracting the virus as well as changes in travel restrictions due to the virus.)

New African Territories' Sabuk Lodge arranges  a number of exotic trips in Kenya, such as a slow camel-back safari through the Laikipian Wilderness, where the scenery is dramatic and the birdlife, flora and fauna extraordinary.

"Walking with these camel handlers is like stepping back 100 years," said Corcoran. "You just can't get closer to nature and peace and far away from the day to day, humdrum of life. The walking in this area is not all flat; the walks follow the Ewaso Nyiro River, where possible, so there are plenty of valleys."

Generally, the walks take are about four hours. There is the chance of seeing elephants, buffaloes, elands, oryxes, impalas, Grevy's zebras, Burchell's zebras, Grant's gazelles, dikdiks, clippspringers, warthogs, and Thompson's gazelles -- and if you're especially lucky, perhaps even an excited pack of wild dogs.

The fly camp (mobile camps set up along the way) is simple and comfortable, featuring tents with mosquito net ceilings to allow for stargazing from bed. At some of the campsites, there's a chance to swim in the river.

From the little fly camp, you can see the local tribesmen come down to the river to water their livestock, a rare and wonderful opportunity to observe the daily lives of these majestic people. It is a musical and colorful event.

Great Plains Conservation has also unveiled an initiative for the luxury traveler wanting to visit Kenya, called the Return of the Safari Pioneers.

"For half a year now, wildlife and these pristine landscapes have been devoid of people. Our returning safari pioneers will see Africa again, as if for the first time," said Derek Joubert, CEO of Great Plains Conservation. "Most of all, you will be emissaries of hope, restarting travel, connecting our world again, playing a role in our collective emotional rediscoveries, health and strength."

In partnership with Kenya Airways, Great Plains is offering a series of direct flights from New York to Nairobi, with exclusive health, customs and immigration procedures that enable guests to be cleared in private lounges and then transferred to the safari camps.

The highest-end camps have been precertified from a health and safety standard and qualify as self-quarantine camps that visitors can move between with the safari.

Great Plains Safaris has secured the entire business class cabin for each flight; guests will be served an onboard meal featuring the Great Plains Conservation executive chef's cuisine.

The inaugural departure of the Return of the Safari Pioneers from New York's JFK is on Saturday, Nov. 21. This curated experience, limited to a maximum of 30 participants, is perfect for those wanting to immerse themselves in African wildlife sightings over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The safari includes three nights' accommodations at each of the Mara Plains Camp, Mara Nyika Camp and ol Donyo Lodge as well as a Great Plains Conservation partner property, Arijiju. The cost for the 12-night safari is $42,900 per person, double, including flights to and from Kenya. Part of that cost will go to the purchase of personal protection equipment that will be distributed in the Kenyan communities visited.

There are also a number of lodge openings in the cards. The brand-new Angama Safari Camp, a sole-use tented camp situated in a remote wilderness region of the southwestern Mara Triangle, will pen in September. It was originally planned to open in  July but was delayed by the global travel lockdown.

Comprising just four tents, sleeping eight guests, the camp will offer absolute privacy in the midst of the megaherds of the migration and abundant resident wildlife. The team at Angama Mara has diligently worked to put a set of protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of all guests and staff. Angama Mara and Angama Safari Camp have released a video demonstrating the newly enhanced health and safety protocols.

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