Introduction: A Long Delayed Birthday Safari in Kenya

Lion (lyin’) around in Masai Mara

In February 2020, I researched and booked a Kenya safari for my 50th birthday in January 2021. It was going to be an epic trip for the four of us in business class both ways and with a private guide and vehicle across Kenya.

You can guess how that worked out. A month later, everything ground to a halt. We canceled in summer 2020 when it became obvious that things would not return to normal for a while.

I hopefully rebooked for summer 2021, but by the end of 2020, I was concerned that there was now a testing requirement for returning to the US and couldn’t take the chance of getting stuck in Kenya for an extra 10 days. I canceled again and rebooked for January 2022.

Everything looked good right up until December 2021 when the Omicron variant spiked and made it apparent that international travel was going to be difficult until the wave subsided. We canceled again about 10 days before we were scheduled to leave.

I rebooked for January 2023 (leaving December 31, 2022) and hoped for the best. It was probably our last shot at all four of us being able to take the trip because of the kids’ school and work schedules. This time we did it!

The actual safari trip was booked with a company in Nairobi called Best Camping Tours & Safaris. I paid using a Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3x points (although I had to pay a fee to use a credit card but that was preferable to me than bringing all that cash or using a wire transfer). We flew to Kenya on Qatar Airways booked with American Airlines miles (75k plus $40 taxes and fees per person) and flew home on KLM booked with Flying Blue miles (92.5k plus $400 taxes and fees per person). We stayed in Nairobi at the Sankara Nairobi, a Marriott Autograph Collection property using free night certificates.

I plan to present this trip report with lots of pictures over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy reading it. The planned segments are as follows and I will hyperlink them when they are published:

1 – Positioning for QSuites

2 – AA Flagship Lounge Chicago

3 – A Brief Aside About O’Hare T5

4 – Qatar Airways 777 QSuites ORD-DOH – A Few Hiccups But Still Fun

5 – Qatar Al-Mourjan Lounge Review

6 – Qatar Airways A330 DOH-NBO – Not What We Booked

7 – Our Exhausted But Fun Day in Nairobi

8 – Review: Sankara Nairobi, Marriott Autograph Collection

9 – Off on Safari – Aberdare & The Ark

10 – Samburu & Elephant Bedroom Camp

11 – Nakuru Is & Mbweha Camp

12 – Masai Mara Game Drives & Balloon Ride

13 – Masai Mara we & Tipilikwani Camp

14 – Back to Nairobi – Shopping & Carnivore

15 – KLM 777-300 NBO-AMS – Overnight to Europe

16 – A Quick Stop in Amsterdam

17 – KLM Crown Lounge 52 Amsterdam Review

18 – KLM 777-200 AMS-FG ATL – Home at Last

19 – Safari Tips and Advice

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