Travel Two Ways: Masai Mara or Montana

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Giraffes roam in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve.

Masai Mara or Montana?

Track rhinos in the Kenyan bush or go bear watching in Big Sky Country.

Exploring via horse and (below) mountain bike in Montana.

By Susan Hanson
Originally appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler.
Splurge: Masai Mara, Kenya
8-day, $18,400 splurge
TOUR: Home to the seminomadic Masai people and the highest concentration of wildlife on earth, Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is near the top of many travelers’ wish lists. Take in the 583-square-mile park – and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – on an eight-day safari with African Travel, Inc., which has guests traveling by plane between game camps, tracking rhino, listening to Masai lore, and spotting nocturnal animals on nighttime drives. Another highlight: slipping inside a hide on the slopes of Mount Kenya to spy on fauna at a nearby watering hole. Departures: Multiple dates, July 1 through December 15, 2016; from $15,310 per couple.
PLAY: Take in the bush from above by adding a hot-air balloon excursion to the trip. The hour-long ride, which embarks before dawn, provides a bird’s-eye view of antelope grazing along the Mara River and a front-row seat for sunrise. $1,080 per couple.
SOUVENIR: Conversation will surely flow back home over a dinner table created with repurposed wood from Kenyan dhow boats. Each piece of furniture from Indian Ocean Creations (inside Jockey Club of Kenya, Ng’ong Road, Nairobi) is custom made. Approximately $1,975.
TOTAL: From $18,365 per couple
Steal: Phillipsburg, Montana
4-day, $5,500 steal
STAY: It may not be the first “big five” that comes to mind, but Philipsburg, Montana, boasts its own roster of game animals to scope out on safari: elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and bear (both black and brown). Set near the base of the John Long Mountains, the 6,600-acre Ranch at Rock Creek is a natural migration route for some of these species; a stay at the 29-room ranch offers guided hikes and twice-daily Jeep outings to look for them. Also on the agenda: fly-fishing excursions and horseback trail rides. From $5,400 per couple for an all-inclusive, three-night stay in the fall midseason, September 6 through October 17, 2016.
PLAY: The crystal-clear Blackfoot River helped inspire Norman Maclean’s memoir-turned-film A River Runs Through It. Guests can take in the scenery on a full-day fishing float trip along the Blackfoot or the equally pristine Bitterroot River. Included in rate.
SOUVENIR: Prospectors have long mined Montana’s El Dorado Bar for its sapphires – the largest one on record weighs in at 34.7 carats. Much smaller stones, crafted into sterling-silver jewelry pieces, are available at Montana Gems of Philipsburg (204 W. Broadway). From $30.
TOTAL: From $5,430 per couple
 *Prices were accurate when the article appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler. Check with your Virtuoso travel advisor for current rates.
 Photo Credit: (Masai Mara) tankbmb/iStockPhoto