A 25-year-old Englishwoman was having the time of her life zipping around the majestic landscapes of Kenya outside of Nairobi, a world entirely apart from the formal meetings and galas she was accustomed to back in London. The year was 1952, and Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip were lost in a timeless world of giraffes, elephants and lions, which dotted the African savannas as if from a painting. Detached from the radically shifting political realities of back home, Elizabeth would spend her first days in Kenya gawking at wildlife as if she was the humblest of tourists, completely unaware that she was on the verge of becoming the Queen of England.
Far from a drawing room, Elizabeth was able to ditch the stuffy world of aristocratic life for an all-consuming journey through awe-inspiring forests and mountain streams, ultimately making the game-viewing lodge she stayed an iconic part of the region (today it’s known as Treetops Hotel). More than a half-century later, Queen Elizabeth II’s trek to Kenya has taken on legendary proportions, as she famously went up the stairs of the lodge as a princess and came down an unwitting monarch. So remote was her ongoing adventure that she didn’t actually get the news about the death of her father, King George VI, until she made it to nearby Sagana.
Yet even though the trip is known for being a dramatic transition of power, it also speaks to the transcendent ability of an African safari to humble even the most privileged of travelers. At the time, Elizabeth was following in the footsteps of other dignitaries like Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt, embarking on the type of adventure that was mainly for royalty in the mid-20th century. These days, the African safari has opened up to the outside world in ways that Elizabeth could only have dreamed, bringing millions from around the world to snap photos along the same path she blazed so many years ago.
Despite having to leave her first African trip in a melancholy state to resume her duties in England, the world of Kenya has continued to call to Elizabeth as she grew into her reign. Elizabeth herself has even been spotted on return trips to Africa with cameras and binoculars dangling around her neck, blending in as just another tourist enthralled by the scenery. Without knowing it, Elizabeth arrived in Kenya for that fateful trip in 1952 at a tipping point, helping to inspire an outside world that was just beginning to understand the unbelievable adventure awaiting in Africa.
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Kenya Safari Adventure – 2017
Kenya Safari Adventure – 2018
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