Kenyan safari: a frequent traveller, shares his advice on planning it
In search of luxury and adventure, a travel writer offers up his recommendations on a safari holiday in Kenya. Based on his own personal experience he describes the value of three specific camps, all with their own unique attributes and landscapes. From the native wildlife to the local delicacies, this travel expert shares tips on planning a memorable Kenyan safari.
Highlighted in the Hollywood blockbuster film ‘Out of Africa’, the Ngong Hills near Nairobi are a popular destination for safaris. To help other travellers get the most out of the experience writer Brian Jackman recently penned his take on "How to have the perfect safari holiday", as published by The Telegraph.
Described as the location where the Great Plains meet Serengeti National Park, Nairobi is also deemed the “safari capital of Africa”. It’s noted that most safari locations are less than one hour from the capital city’s Wilson Airport.
The referenced lodges that Jackman recommends include Sala’s Camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu National Reserve and Sosian on the Laikipia Plateau. All are described as family-run locations offering exclusivity and a sense of seclusion, where its not uncommon for the owners to sit down with their guests and share a meal or insight into wildlife conservation.
The writer suggests the resident guides at all three locations are superb, with custom-built vehicles such as Toyota Land Cruisers that are ideal for wildlife photography and designed for comfort. From the large cats of the Maasai Mara to elephants in Samburu and the Laikipia Plateau, the shared itinerary offers what he calls the “very best of Kenya” in terms of experiences.
A stronghold for big game in Kenya, Sala’s Camp is a prime destination for the Serengeti’s annual wildebeest and zebra migration during the dry season, the time when the massive herds head north between mid-June and late October. The rest of the year the location provides ideal game viewing, especially big cats. Found in a remote location, the destination includes a handful of tented suites with glass fronts, with enough room for 16 guests. With star-lit fine dining, impressive guides and views leading across the Sand River and the Serengeti, the author notes the location’s impressive attributes.
Elephant Watch Camp
Elephant Watch Camp is described as the place to go for spotting reticulated giraffes, beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, and most of all, elephants. Set alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, the camp is run by a noted filmmaker, the daughter of a world-renowned elephant behaviourist and force behind the charity, Save the Elephants. It is described as a blend of bohemian and bush style, with an infusion of luxury.
The holiday also includes the private working ranch of Sosian. This decades-old hacienda is now a luxurious site complete with a heating swimming pool and shade-covered verandas. Noted as the second largest wildlife refuge in Kenya, Laikipia Plateau features hundreds of lions, thousands of elephants and more than 50-percent of the entire continent’s endangered black rhinos.
It’s pointed out that Sosian specializes in the activity of tracking wild dogs, while also offers camel safaris, horseback riding and swims in the Ewaso Narok River, things that most reserves and national parks typically do not allow.
A 12-day itinerary offers up details on how to replicate the author’s holiday, including suggested activities.
Days 1-4 Arrival/Sosian Lodge
In following his example, day one includes departing Heathrow Airport on a Kenya Airways overnight flight bound for Nairobi. Next, travellers fly out of Wilson Airport for a short 40-minute flight en route to Loisaba and the Laikipia Plateau.
A Land Cruiser takes visitors to Sosian for three nights. After some lunch and rest visitors are advised to go in search of lions on a game drive, then end the evening with a special dinner served alongside the lodge’s local hosts by candlelight and drinks by the fireside.
In the morning the itinerary suggests tracking down the two packs of wild dogs that live in the area, some of which wear radio collars as part of continuing research into the endangered animals. It’s noted that the lodge’s veteran safari guide, Ambrose Lochilia, is a great choice for this adventure. For breakfast the author recommends a picnic while lunch is served at Sosian, followed by thrilling waterfall jumps into the Ewaso Narok River and wild swimming.
The final morning in Sosian includes camel rides, guided bird walks or horseback riding. That afternoon the author describes a game drive to Baboon Rock, popular for spotting klipspringers, black eagles, cliff chats and leopards. For dinner guests may dine on grilled Boran beef and other specialties during a star-lit bush dinner at the lodge.
Days 5-7 Elephant Watch Camp
The following three days include catching a flight to Samburu, then transferring to Elephant Watch Camp. During evenings at the camp the hosts greet their guests, then lead them to a candlelit dinner. It’s common for elephants to feed directly outside of tents as they commonly pass through the area during the night.
The next two mornings and afternoons are filled with game drives lead by expert camp guides. The northern Kenya reserve is home to hundreds of elephants. The author specifically recommends packing a lunch and dining near the river under some trees, surrounded by families of elephants. It’s suggested that a peaceful elephant encounter such as this is only possible at the Elephant Watch Camp.
Days 8-12 Sala’s Camp/Departure
The next several days begin with catching a flight to Nairobi, then connecting to Keekorok. A guide leads visitors on a game drive to Sala’s Camp for the next three nights. The following morning begins with an early game drive across the Sand River in search of the reserve’s largest lion pride, ruled by males Alex and Scar. This side of the river is an exclusive tour only provided by Sala’s Camp.
Another game drive after lunch takes visitors along the Keekorok Lugga, noted as a great viewing place for leopards, buffalo, black rhinos and elephants. Meanwhile, the next day includes a full day of viewing the savannahs. Guests dine along the way on a bush breakfast, cooked on one of the camp vehicle’s grills. Visitors also look for the grown offspring of the area’s most notorious pride’s male, then end the day on Roan Hill overlooking the Serengeti.
The holiday wraps up with a final game drive in the Mara, then a later afternoon flight to Wilson Airport. Visitors spend the night at the Stanley Hotel, a five-star location in Nairobi. The next morning concludes with a Kenya Airways flight back to Heathrow.
More travel tips
For the best viewing, the author notes the elephants at Samburu generally leave on migration during September and October, the end of the dry season. On the other hand, mid-June through late October provides the best times for viewing the wildebeest migration in the Mara.
Enriched by a diverse landscape and bountiful wildlife, Kenya is one of the most exciting destinations in Africa. The opportunity to explore the vast region, coupled with the promise of abundant animal encounters brings countless visitors to the region every year, all in search of a thrilling holiday on safari.
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