Maasai Mara

Lion King lovers rejoice! The Maasai Mara is celebrated for its stunning grassland landscapes, the Big Five animals that traverse its more than 1500 kilometers, and its annual Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras and gazelles traveling from Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south. The Mara makes for an excellent safari holiday because it is fairly compact (as compared to the Serengeti’s 30,000 kilometers) and biodiverse, meaning you can generally see a lot of different animals within a few days. The Mara has all of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and water buffalo), giraffe, zebra, various species of gazelle, crocodile, hippo, baboon, cheetah, hyena, wildebeest and more.

The best time to visit the Mara is during the Great Migration, which takes places between July and October. Note that July and August are winter in Kenya, and while the days will be warm (20s Celcius) the nights and early mornings will be cool. Also, be prepared to book in advance and pay high season rates!

Most safari camps and resorts will organize flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to the nearest airstrip in the Maasai Mara. Flights run back and forth daily between the Nairobi and the Mara, and should be included in a full board accommodation package.

The Maasai safari guides are amazing, and a good guide will make all the difference in a great and truly fantastic experience. Make sure to tip your guides well, this is their livelihood and most of them are sending money home.

Bring cash for tips! There are no money machines and it will likely be difficult for most camps to exchange foreign money. You may also have to pay a daily reserve fee per person in cash.


Full board will be included in most safari camp and resort packages, and will provide for three meals a day. Traditional Kenyan food has many Indian influences, and is fresh and healthy. A few things to definitely try:

Chapati Fried bread influenced by the Indian subcontinent. Eat it with everything.

Mandazi Another fried bread, this Kenyan treat is most similar to a doughnut.

Sukuma Wiki Delicious boiled greens. Similar to collards in the United States.

Ugali This starchy staple is common across Kenya and often the side dish to richer stews and curries. It is a mixture of finely-ground cornmeal and water.


Try the local Kenyan beers. Our favorites are Tusker Lager (the most popular across East Africa) and White Cap Lager. Nothing beats an ice cold Tusker at the end of a long, dusty safari run.


Safari This is the real reason for a trip to the Maasai Mara, and take advantage of the 2-3 safari trips that your camp will plan daily. Most will start off in the morning very early, from 5:30 or 6:00am, have breakfast on the road, and head back to camp by 11:00am for guests to have lunch and relax by the pool or in the shade during the midday heat. Go out again late afternoon for a magical experience at dusk, as the animals are generally most active during the cooler parts of the day.

Shopping The Maasai people create truly stunning handicrafts. Larger resorts and camps may have items for sale, but if not you can swing by the Maasai Market in Nairobi once back in town. Keep an eye out for beaded jewellery and wall hangings, the plaid and striped traditional shuka blankets, and woven baskets and wall hangings.


Our advice is to choose a camp that has a few amenities (pool, common area, etc.) to keep you busy during the quiet afternoon time between safari. We loved the four star Mara Intrepids camp, run by the Kenya Heritage Hotels group. Tent accommodations were luxurious, we enjoyed the pool during the day, and the staff were fantastic. We have also stayed at Virgin’s Mahali Mzuri camp, which was stunning and a true glamping experience, though it will cost you a pretty penny!

Friends have also recommended Kicheche Mara North, Mara Plains and Porini Lion camp.



The only capital city in the world to have its own national park and game reserve, Nairobi has established itself as one of the continent’s main economic hubs. It is also home to one of Africa’s largest slums. Explore the city for a few days and then head off to explore Kenya’s great wilderness.

If only entering Kenya once, apply for a visa on arrival via the Kenya eVisa site. Evidence of a yellow fever inoculation may be required at the border.

Traffic in Nairobi is notorious and it can take two hours to drive a few miles. Uber is an easy and cheap way to get around town.

If you are traveling from the US, Kenya Airways recently started a 14 hour direct service from JFK Airport to JKIA Airport in Nairobi.

Kenya is gorgeous and its true beauty lies beyond the capital city. Short, domestic flights leave daily from Wilson Airport in Nairobi for the Masaai Mara, Mombasa, the coast and beyond.

If it is your first time to Kenya or East Africa, we recommend adding the following books to your reading list to better understand the local history and context: Jacqueline Novogratz’s memoir The Blue Sweater, Isak Dinesen’s (Karen Blixen) Out of Africa and Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. For other great books by African authors, check out Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, both about Nigeria. We also love Alexandra Fuller’s memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.


Artcaffe Tasty European bistro food in Yaya Centre. There are a few other locations around the city.

Habesha Restaurant on Argwings Kodhek Road The best Ethiopian in a cozy outdoor setting. Good for groups.

Hemingways Posh and relaxing restaurant in Karen. Stay for lunch or drinks by the pool.

Sierra Brasserie Chic spot for roof-top dining in Kilimani.


Level 8 Lounge + Bar at the Fourpoints Sheraton in Hurlingham Rooftop bar with views of the city.

Java House A homegrown Kenyan cafe chain that can be found all over the city. Amazing coffee and ginger/lemon infusions.


Giraffe Centre Learn about, hand feed and spent time with gentle, long-necked friends.

Nairobi National Park Nairobi is the only capital city in the world with its own national park. Take an early morning or late afternoon safari to see lions, rhinos, zebras, giraffes and more!

Maasai Market at Yaya Centre On Sundays this treasure trove features East African prints, jewelry, art work and wood carvings by local artisans and Maasai. Come prepared to haggle.

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Stop by this elephant rescue and rehabilitation center every day between 11am to 12pm to see the babies have their midday mud bath and feeding.


Fourpoints Sheraton in Hurlingham Central location within walking distance of Yaya Centre in Kilimani.

Ololo Safari Lodge Comfortable and quaint lodge on the outskirts of the Nairobi National Park with sweeping views.

Panari Hotel Budget option near the airport. Stay here if you have an early flight.

Villa Rosa Kempinski 5-star hotel in the Westlands with impeccable security.

Zehneria Portico Hotel Budget option for the business traveler in Westlands near the Westgate Mall.



The capital of Rwanda, Kigali is the gateway to the land of a thousand hills. While still recovering from the 1994 genocide and civil war, Rwandans have worked hard to establish peace and rebuild. Today this tiny East African nation is well-known as a safe and stable place to do business.

Many nationalities are able to apply for single-entry visas on arrival. You may need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter Rwanda.

Plastic carrier bags are banned and airport security will scan your bags before you depart the airport. Leave them on the plane or throw them away before you exit the luggage carousel.

If you are deciding whether to go to Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see mountain gorillas, choose Rwanda. It’s safer, and while more expensive, the Rwandans truly treasure their gorillas (so much so that the government hosts a naming ceremony for the babies every September).

If you have only a few hours in Kigali, do visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial and museum honor the one million Rwandans murdered in the 1994 genocide and are a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit.

If it is your first time to Rwanda or East Africa, we highly recommend reading Jacqueline Novogratz’s The Blue Sweater to better understand the local context of the country and region. For other great books by African authors, check out Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, both about Nigeria. We also love Alexandra Fuller’s memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.


Heaven Restaurant Open air restaurant known for its Rwandan and international cuisine. It is also a social enterprise with an artisan boutique on site.


Cafe Neo Hip, rooftop cafe popular with the ex-pat community. Try delicious, Rwandan coffee and stock up on a few bags to bring home. Other good brands are Gorilla and Maraba.

Hotel des Mille Collines Take in one of the best panoramic views of Kigali with a drink from the pool bar. During the 1994 genocide, the manager of the Mille Collines famously sheltered and saved over one thousand Rwandans.


Haute Baso A social enterprise sourcing high-quality apparel, accessories and home decor from local women artisans.

Kimironko Market One of Kigali’s busiest markets, pick up everything from your daily produce, cooking, hardware supplies and beautiful local crafts and baskets.

Volcanoes Safaris Plan a 4-7 day luxury retreat into the hills with the mountain gorillas.


5 Swiss Hotel Clean and bright boutique guesthouse. Location is close to everything and the staff are lovely.

Kigali Marriott Hotel Palatial and new, its down the street from the 5 Swiss and a bit cheaper than the Serena.

Kigali Serena Hotel Five star glam and celeb spotting, but hard to justify the cost.



With its winding, narrow passage ways, smoky souks, bright-eyed peddlers and crumbling Islamic architecture, a visit to Marrakech’s medina is like stepping back into medieval Arabia.

While Marrakech is amazing, real Morocco lies beyond its cities. We spent three days on a private tour with Rough Tours Morocco traveling to Erg Chebbi in the Sahara Desert. We highly recommend Rough Tours and our guide Youssaf.

The Moroccan dirham is a closed currency. This means you can not obtain dirham before arriving in Morocco or exchange it outside of Morocco. Be sure to exchange any leftover dirhams before leaving for the airport.

Organize airport transfers via your hotel or riad.


La Relais du Lac About 35 kilometers outside the city, this is a charming, traditional restaurant on Lake Barrage Lalla Takerkoust.

Latitude 31 Romantic outdoor restaurant with delicious traditional food. Try the tagines!

Museu de Marrakech After touring the museum have a simple lunch in the courtyard.

Terrace de Epices Where the cool kids hang. Good music, good vibes on a roof-top stunner. The shops downstairs are fantastic — check out fair trade clothing brand Tribal Chic.


While visiting be sure to try the National drink:  moroccan mint tea.

Cafe Arabe Beautiful, casual roof-top. Try for drinks at sunset.

Le Salama Take a break from the bustle of Jemaa el-Fnaa square by escaping to this cozy rooftop for drinks, snacks and gorgeous views of the Atlas Mountains and medina.

Restaurant el Bahia Next door to the Palais de la Bahia. Service is slow but it has a quiet rooftop on which to cool down and rest with a beer.


Bab Agnaou Gate One of the most well preserved and beautiful gates inside the Medina.

Ben Yousef Madrasa This former Islamic college is now a historical site with beautiful architecture and design.

Heritage Spa Try the hammam and massage package.

Jardin Marjorelle Stunning botanical garden created by the French artist, Jacques Majorelle. Worth the wait of the queue.

Jemma el-Fnaa Square  The main square and entrance to Marrakesh's medina quarter. It can be overwhelming but a must.

Mellah The spice souk located within the old Jewish quarter.

Palais el Badi An ancient palace built at the end of the sixteenth century. One of our favorite sites in Marrakech! Spend at least an hour inside.

Palais de la Bahia A small palace with gorgeous mosaic work.

Tombeaux Saadiens Grab coffee at a roof-top terrace across the street before going inside.


If visiting Marrakech for a few days, stay in the medina. For an authentic experience consider staying at a riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard and garden.