After a few days of meetings in Nairobi and a stay at the lovely new Hemingways Hotel, my Kenyan safari began with a flight past Mt Kenya to the Northern Laikipia Plateau. Here, I spent 2 nights at Sabuk Lodge perched on a cliff overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River. This privately-owned lodge remains a family home run by the entertaining owner, Verity, who hosts all the meals regaling with stories of her rich history in the safari industry. Verity coordinates each guest’s schedule with unique adventure activities such as walking or hiking excursions and Masai-guided camel safaris with stunning views of the Laikipia plains, Mount Kenya, the Karisa Hills and the Mathews Mountains in the North.
For me, the real highlight was a surprise breakfast out in the bush after we had just walked past a breeding herd of female elephants and their young. I also really enjoyed jumping into the Ewaso Nyiro River for a refreshing swim in the heat of the day and can’t wait to return to do a longer overnight walking safari sleeping out with a simple mosquito net under the stars!
With an easy and direct flight south, my next destination was the lovely Serian Camp situated on the Mara River in the Mara North private conservancy. This favorite camp provides the highest level of comfort & service, with outstanding guiding and special opportunities for photographers or families. I also had the chance to stay at the sister-property, Nkorombo Mobile Camp, a snug little camp in a stand of wild olive and orange croton within earshot of the Mara River in the Masai Mara Game Reserve itself.
One of the best features unique to these properties is that all guests get a private vehicle and guide so you have utmost flexibility with your safari activities; your guide will also stay with you at both camps if you do a combination safari. My guide, Jacob, was a masterful host from start to finish and we enjoyed many special wildlife sightings including a zebra stallion chasing a young hyena, a cheetah chasing a warthog (unsuccessfully!) and seeing hundreds of wildebeest and zebra at the tail-end of the annual Migration.
My final stop in the area was the stunning newly-rebuilt Mara Plains Camp where guests have the unique ability to traverse three wildlife-filled regions as part of their stay: Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Olare Motorogi Conservancy is known to have the lowest vehicle density in the Mara region, while also having the highest concentration of big cats anywhere in Africa.
Mara Plains is a modern-day safari retreat with beautiful, spacious tented rooms boasting magnificent vistas. The wide range of activities and special focus on photography (each tent comes with Swarovski binoculars and a Canon camera set) makes this a great place to relax for a longer stay. The best photos of my safari (some lovely elephant and leopard shots) came from our slow, patient game drives with high-quality interpretive guiding from manager, Richard.
It was time to leave the Mara and head east to Kipalo Camp, nestled into the Mbulia Hills overlooking Tsavo West National Park surrounded by rolling kopjes and secret valleys as far as the eye can see and Kilimanjaro (my namesake!) in the distance. This simple tented-camp is relatively new with close ties to the local community and a commitment to conserving a vital dry-season dispersal area for hundreds of elephants and buffalo, as well as lion, leopard and African wild dog.
From here, I also had the opportunity to explore Tsavo East, well-known for its huge concentration of elephants. My favorite experiences here included standing on top of Mudanda Rock, an outcropping of 2 Billion year old stone!, and the dramatic Lugard’s Falls.
After a few hours drive and a 20-minute boat ride, I arrived at my last stop: Delta Dunes Camp sitting high atop windswept dunes at edge of the Tana River Delta. To one side, the small creeks of the Tana River wind slowly into the bush creating the only wetlands of its type in Eastern Africa with incredible birdlife and shade-dappled creeks full of aquatic life and large numbers of hippos and basking crocodiles. To the other side, a vast beachfront stretches for 50 kilometers along the Indian Ocean.
Each of the seven open-fronted cottages is built from driftwood and cooled by ocean breezes with private veranda, sun-filled shower and enormous Swahili bed. A wide variety of unique activities includes river fishing, kayaking, bird watching, game walks, sand yachting, river tubing, cultural visits to Orma villages, and sunset Tana River cruises. In three days, I only had the chance to try everything once and loved every relaxing minute of my stay here!
After so many years and visits to Kenya, it never fails to surprise and inspire me. The range of landscapes and incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities are wonderfully complemented by some of the most gracious, hospitable and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. I’m always looking forward to my next visit to Kenya, and I can’t wait to get started planning your next safari.
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