Wild at Heart Women Africa Sundowner Toast

Basking in the glow: the Wild at Heart Women share a toast at the end of their journey. Image via Hannah Strand.

"She was one of the rare ones,
so effortlessly herself,
and the world loved her for it."
- atticus

Six women, thirteen days, and the adventure of a lifetime. When I returned from the inaugural 2017 Wild at Heart Women trip to Kenya and Tanzania in February, my first thought was to immediately begin planning the 2018 version of this very exceptional journey. It was simply that special and words can hardly do it justice, but here I’ll try. 


 Who is the Wild at Heart Woman?

The Wild at Heart Women journey was created for women who are being called towards a transformative experience, seeking to get out of their comfort zone and gain a new, more inspired perspective - about the world and themselves. It has been an honor for me to develop this concept with Hannah Strand, a friend, guide, and explorer who grew up in Tanzania.

As part of my own personal growth and as owner of Wild at Heart Journeys, I have travelled all over Africa for more than 10 years looking for the most authentic and transformational experiences on the continent. I lived in a small village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, climbing “Kili” many times, and have been involved in supporting women’s health and empowerment in Africa. Hannah possesses an intimate knowledge of her home country and lives for her passion of sharing the wonders of her homeland and creating connections between women all over the world.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Giraffe Manor
A tender moment at Giraffe Manor near Nairobi, Kenya. Image via Wild at Heart Journeys.


Exploring Kenya and Tanzania

Our 2017 Wild at Heart Women journey came together to celebrate the 60th birthday of Gry McFarlane, owner and equestrian trainer at Windfall Farm near San Francisco. As a group of animal lovers, the trip began with two days in the Nairobi area to visit the incredible elephant orphanage at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the famous Giraffe Manor for breakfast with the endangered Rothschild giraffes.

From the urban environment of Nairobi, our group flew to Laikipia in the wild northern frontier of Kenya. Laikipia is the home of the Samburu people, semi-nomadic pastoralists who are related to the Maasai and herd cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. The Samburu guides, stunningly beautiful in their colorful textiles and beading, generously shared with us their deep connection to this land on walks and camel treks in search of big game. Staying at the Sabuk Lodge, overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River, our group also spent precious time in a local village with a Samburu healer and were able to see the highly threatened Grevy’s zebra, found only in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Samburu Camel
Wild at Heart Women Africa Mara Giraffes
From top left: Trekking camels in Laikipia; Samburu guide; giraffes engaged in dominance behaviors. Images via Wild at Heart Journeys.


Hopping on another flight, the Wild at Heart Women next arrived at Alex Walker’s Ngare Serian, accessed by a long wooden suspension bridge over the hippo-filled Mara River. Here along the Kenya/Tanzania border, we explored the famed Masai Mara with both daytime and night game drives. The entire trip provided some of the most exceptional wildlife sightings I have experienced in all my travels. Here in the Mara, we encountered cheetah, many lions and lion cubs, cape buffalo, and birds of prey, as well as enormous giraffes engaged in struggles for tower (herd) dominance.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Mara River Eagle
Wild at Heart Women Africa Mara Lion cubs
From top left: Martial eagle in Masai Mara; the bridge to Ngare; lion cub. Images via Wild at Heart Journeys.


After flying to Tanzania and continuing southwest via Land Cruiser, we made a special stop to meet and visit with the women and children at the Lake Eyasi Girls Vocation Training Centre. The Centre provides medical care, education, and job training to marginalized women and children and offered our group an opportunity to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing young girls from this area of Africa. The children, of course, were quite excited to meet their visitors and playfully explored the magic of our cameras!

Wild at Heart Women Africa Lake Eyasi Children Hannah Strand
Wild at Heart Women Africa Lake Eyasi Girls
Meeting the women and children at the Lake Eyasi Centre. Images via Wild at Heart Journeys.


From there, it was on to the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater. At over 2000 meters elevation and with steep walls rising 600 meters above the crater floor, Ngorongoro has been called one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is a veritable haven for migrating wildlife. Sightings (from our vehicle as there is no walking allowed within Ngorongoro) were again spectacular, including thousands of migrating wildebeest, elephants, cape buffalo, zebra, hyena, hippos, and lion. Life on the road in Africa includes pulling over for picnics in the bush, often in the thin shade of an acacia tree, as we did on our way from Ngorongoro to the Serengeti.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Ngorongoro Crater
Wild at Heart Women Africa Serengeti Leopard
From top left: grazing in the Ngorongoro Crater; a leopard at rest in Serengeti. Images via Wild at Heart Journeys


The Southern Serengeti is the site of the largest land based migration on earth and Dulana, our exclusive classic tent camp, provided comfortable access to the daily theater of big game predator-prey activity. The Serengeti, with its ever-shifting cast of wildlife characters and the great wildebeest migration, is no doubt one of nature’s biggest shows. Again we had unparalleled up-close experiences, including an unforgettable duo of young male lions, elephant, zebra, bat eared foxes and several cheetah kills.

Dulana, like our other camps and lodges during the trip, was a welcoming and luxurious home base for tented dinners and bonfires under the stars. On the last night, the camp staff sang an African birthday song for our friend Gry, their deep baritones somehow containing all of the warmth and wonder we had received throughout our journey.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
Wild at Heart Women Africa Sundowner Serengeti
From top: Great wildebeest migration on the Serengeti; a birthday toast for Gry. Images via Wild at Heart Journeys and Hannah Stand.


A Transformative Experience

The itinerary of the Wild at Heart Women trip provides the roadmap and destinations, but it is the moments within the journey that create a transformative experience. There is a certain bond that occurs when we as women together witness something extraordinary, share a vulnerability, or explore unfamiliar terrain.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Masaai
Wild at Heart Women take a bush walk in Masai Mara. Image via Wild at Heart Journeys


There is magic in the conversation that flows while traveling hours along a red dirt road towards an ever distant horizon and pure joy in a seemingly endless supply of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This is the essence of the Wild at Heart Women journey: experiencing not only a new place but also experiencing ourselves in a new way in a protected and supportive environment.

2018 Wild at Heart Women Itinerary

Are you ready for a transformative experience? Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone? Are you ready to be inspired and gain a new perspective? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes!” our Wild at Heart Women trip is for you. I invite you to join us for our next women-only exploration of the wild beauty, wildlife, and wonders of Africa.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Lions Land Cruiser
A close encounter with two young lions. Image via Hannah Strand.


For 2018, Hannah and I have made a few changes to the itinerary, including visiting some local empowerment projects in Arusha, dedicated time for meaningful volunteer work at the Lake Eyasi Centre, a visit to the secret jewel that is Tarangire National Park, and time for exploration of the Central and Northern Serengeti. We have again selected the very best accommodations for each area and will be incorporating Hannah’s yoga instruction into our morning and/or evening activities. The full itinerary is available here.

Wild at Heart Women Africa Yoga Hannah Strand
Yoga on the Wild at Heart Women wellness safari. Image via Hannah Strand.


This next Wild at Heart Women journey is planned for September 2018. We have begun taking reservations and will limit the trip to 10 women. For questions or to reserve your space, please contact me.

Warmly,
Robin

 
 

Robin Francis of WAHJ has been providing African travel services for over 10 years and travels frequently to the continent to meet with partners and experience their lodging, amenities, and activities first hand. Partners regard her as one of the most knowledgeable African travel consultants in the US, who has also invested in giving back to the communities she works with. Robin and WAHJ are available for complete travel booking throughout Africa or consulting on bookings made through other providers.