The following morning, we're in the air, flying about 45 to 50 minutes north to the vast Laikipia Plateau and its 100-square-mile Loisaba Wilderness Conservancy, home to some 300 varieties of birds and beasts. Our camp, Loisaba Lodge, is run by a private conservation group that uses profits from tourism to preserve the land and help local people start their own businesses, one of which is building Star Beds—thatched-roof rooms on stilts— for the lodge. From a distance, Star Beds look like giant mounds of grass sprouting out of the rocky landscape, but each holds a modern bathroom and a four-poster bed on wheels that can be rolled out to an open platform for sleeping under the brilliant night sky. Once we settle in, Tonnie loads us into a van with a pop-up top and steers us through the bush to a spot where we can go horseback riding. We wonder if our safari has been structured so that each day we see increasingly exotic animals. This afternoon it's dik-diks, tiny antelopes that crop up all over as we saddle up and ride off into the sunset.
Désirée and I had planned on making tonight a date night and letting the children sleep in the lodge with Auntie Lynne, but the kids are so enchanted by our Star Bed that they climb in, too. With all of the mysterious hoots, growls, and calls—and three kids tossing and turning—sleeping isn't really an option. But even insomnia has its upside: around midnight, we all watch three shooting stars, one after the other. Not bad for our first night in the bush.
Camel rides to the river are on the morning's agenda, and the kids can't wait, except for Blake, who tries his best stuff: "I'm not okay with this! I'm not okay with this!" After about five minutes of crying, he realiz es that the creature is not going to buck him, eat him, or even lick him, and he's riding high. It's time for me to film two crucial scenes for Lippity-Loppity Lane. In one, Paris and Brielle have a mysterious conversation on camelback about "the map and the key;" in another, they listen to directions in Swahili from three tribesmen.
Our next stop is Samburu Intrepids, a camp in a lush area by the Ewaso N'giro ("Brown Water") River, in the middle of the Samburu National Reserve. From here on, we'll be staying in preserves where the animals are so close that we don't have to drive more than a half hour from our lodgings to find them. Guests at the Intrepids camps (there are two in Kenya) are put up in luxurious platform tents, each decked out with a mahogany bed draped in mosquito netting, a desk, a wooden trunk for clothes, and a bathroom tiled in fieldstone.
The meals are as appealing as the rooms. At breakfast there are crêpe-thin pancakes for the kids, omelettes made to order for the adults, and the world's sweetest pineapple. Dinners eaten in an open-air dining room feature plenty of grilled meats, which we all love.