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Family Ties on a Kenya Migration Photo Safari

By Natural Habitat Adventures Marketing Manager Nick Grossman 

Zebra and Wildebeest during the Great Migration.
© Nick Grossman

Something that stood out during my Kenya Migration Photo Safari was the presence of family connection throughout so many aspects of our nature adventure. Relationships among groups of people working in the safari industry and the bonds within migrating herds of animals seemed to link everyone and everything together into vast networks of East African kinship.

In Kenya’s iconic safari destinations, ecotourism is a family affair. Joe and Gillian Charleson form the husband and wife team that manages Nat Hab's Kenya safari operations from their headquarters in Nairobi. The Charlesons and their young son, Kian, joined our small group for part of our stay at Natural Habitat's Migration Base Camp—Maasai Mara. Their safari expertise, local knowledge and networks, conservation ethos and steadfast commitment to hospitality excellence are among the hallmarks of this family business.

Nat Hab Founder & President Ben Bressler with Gillian and Joe Charleson.
Nat Hab Founder & President Ben Bressler with Gillian and Joe Charleson. © Mark Hickey

Rashaud, one of our guides in Nairobi National Park, hails from the lakeside town of Naivasha northwest of Nairobi. Rashaud and all three of his brothers work as safari guides in Kenya. Our skilled local guide in the private Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Lucas, was one of four siblings, and his two older brothers and one younger brother are also Kenyan safari guides.

In the Maasai Mara National Reserve, we learned that our local Nat Hab guide, David, was one of six siblings in his family, with three older brothers and two younger brothers all guiding safaris in the Maasai Mara. Our Expedition Leader, Pietro Luraschi, was instilled with a passion for nature at a young age. While growing up in Italy, Pietro's father taught him about trees, birds, and a quest for searching out new things you've never seen before. 

Travelers and guide looking at an animal skull.
© Nick Grossman

Our small group safari included two couples who had each shared large portions of their lives together. One pair had been high school sweethearts and were now celebrating their 50th anniversary. The other couple had been together for nearly 25 years. Each couple traveled in their own vehicle, letting them share this intimate, unforgettable safari experience together.

We also witnessed family ties among the thousands of animals that surrounded us while we explored the Kenyan wilderness. Our Kenya safari took place during Africa's Great Migration, so each day we watched vast herds of wildebeest and zebra traverse the savanna. The migrating herds were some of the largest ever recorded, with some 2 million animals making the journey during the fall of 2016 alone.

The African savanna elephants, in particular, displayed remarkable family connections, traveling slowly and methodically in closely knit herds, with the larger elephants guarding the younger ones.

Elephant with its calf in Kenya.
© Nick Grossman

In addition to the great herds of antelope and elephants, we also saw prides of lions, a crash of rhinos, journeys of giraffe, dazzles of zebra, cackles of hyenas, sounders of warthogs, rafts of hippos, flocks of all types of African birds and a coalition of four cheetah siblings. It was fascinating to see how these wild animals interacted with their families and compare those dynamics to how we humans relate to each other.

Intertwined networks of Kenyan families provide the foundation for East Africa's safari tourism, and they all work together to deliver the best safari tours possible for their guests while also protecting the amazing wildlife that attracts nature travelers from around the world. Our Kenya migration photo safari showcased the intricate connections between all living things, including the wild African animals and those of us who are lucky enough to get to spend time in their presence. 

Traveler showing a camera photo in Kenya.
© Nick Grossman

Header Credit: David Tinkelman
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