By Rick Lewis

This past February, Lindsey Culver—a Homewood-based photographer and frequent contributor to this magazine—and her two kids, Smith and Roland, packed their bags, boarded a plane, and set out to see her sister’s family in their faraway home of Nanyuki, Kenya.

Though her sisters’ family has lived in Kenya for eleven years, the ten-day trip marked Culver’s first time meeting up with her relatives in Africa, a pregnancy and pandemic having put the voyage on the back burner. When she and her kids finally arrived, she said it felt like walking into a movie: “There were people, fruit stands, souvenirs, and motorbikes everywhere, and we didn’t see any stoplights.”

Elephants on a sunset safari in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya.

The town of Nanyuki lies just northwest of Mount Kenya, Africa’s second-highest peak, and sits in the relative center of not only Kenya but also on the earth’s Equator, leading to sunny days all year long. Famous for its wildlife conservancies, the small farming town of about 50,000 is home to a good number of British ex-pats and military residents from the nearby Nyati Barracks.

“We took a four-hour ride from the airport to where [my sister] lives,” said Culver. “I looked out the window the entire time. The landscape is different. There are beautiful hills and cows and sheep everywhere—even in the middle of the city or being herded down the highway.”

Smith Culver (10)

Culver’s sister, Abby, and her husband, Andrew Lettsome, moved to Kenya as missionaries associated with Mount Kenya Baptist Church. Abby, with a degree in education, also serves as a teacher at a local international school that her two children, Adalyn and Carson, attend. The Lettsome children have lived their whole lives in Nanyuki, but the family plans to move back to the U.S. this summer.

So, for Culver, the trip was an attempt to see her sister’s family in their element as well as to show her kids a different way and pace of life. While they spent the majority of their time visiting with family, they also got the chance to see some African wildlife on a three-day safari in the bush and on a hike through the Ngare Ndare Forest, where they had to tip-toe past an elephant with a rifle-toting guide.

A cheetah at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, an uncommon find in the wild.

“We had a driver that would take us out first thing in the morning. It was the hot season, so we’d go out in the early morning and late evening when the animals were cooling,” Culver said of the safari trips. “We saw pretty much everything. You could pull up right next to the lions.”

Fortunately, she was able to document much of what the family saw in her photos, and she knows her kids have had a special opportunity to see a unique part of the world: “I kept telling my kids most adults from the U.S. never get to do this.” We’re glad to share some of what she captured here for others to enjoy.