I have been privileged to visit Kenya not once but twice so far. It happens to be one of my favourite places in the world. There are many reasons to love Kenya, the friendly and unassuming people, the vast expansive landscapes, the fabulous weather and most of all the incredible wildlife. I love Kenya for all those things and every time I think about my time there, I feel an ache in my soul for not being there. Ok, that might seem a bit melodramatic to most people, but the ones who know me know that sadly I am telling the truth. I am passionate about travel because I am passionate about the places I choose to visit and you know that it has to be a pretty special place for me to want to visit more than once.
I first time I visited Kenya was for a friends wedding in Nairobi back in 2008. It was a grand affair and we thoroughly enjoyed the ceremonies and of course it was special to be part of such a special day. But the memories I remember most clearly are the ones that preceded our time in Nairobi. There were 3 of us girls and we decided to go to the Masai Mara for a quick 5 days Safari. We visited lake Illementia (1 night), Nakuru National Park (1 night) and then Masai Mara (2 nights) all in 5 days. It was hectic but a fun filled journey. We had hired ourselves a van with a driver who was also our guide for the duration of the trip. We managed to spot all the Big Five and on top of that saw countless species of birds, dozens of different antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, monkeys. It was an amazing introduction to Kenya.
So when my husband and I had to opportunity to plan a trip somewhere for 10 days this year, my immediate thought was Kenya as he hadn't been and I had only explored a small portion of the country. I used the same travel operators (BIG FIVE SAFARIS) and they gave a great deal. I also love to research a country before I visit and my research is thorough :) So I tweaked their itinerary quite a bit. I will list all the websites I used for my research at the bottom and also include our detailed itinerary and the price. I wanted it to be a spectacular trip as there was a good chance that we were not going to go back to Kenya for a long time. Our budget was $5000 to include everything for 10 days (including the flights from the states). March is a good time to visit Kenya as the rains are just beginning so the roads are not so bad yet, and a lot of tourists are scared of the rains so it's low season, a great time to get good deals. The bad thing though is that the week that we could travel was also Easter holiday week, so we didn't get the low season prices :)
The places we chose to visit were - Mt Kenya National Park, Samburu National Park, Sweetwaters Conservancy, Nakuru National Park and North Mara Conservancy (which is just outside of the Masai Mara National Park). So I am sure you want to know, what the difference is between a National Park and a Conservancy. A National Park is a government owned and operated nature reserve, a Conservancy is privately owned or tribal owned and operated nature reserve. The main difference is however that Conservancies charge more but are better protected and allow night safaris and generally have less stringent rules and are also less busy than the National Parks. So it's a good idea to visit these if you want to avoid the crowds.
The reason I chose Samburu instead of Amboseli was purely because there are a few animals that you can only find in this part of Kenya. These animals are - Dik Diks (although we saw some in Mara North), Reticulated Giraffes, Gerenuks, Oryx and Somali Ostrich. We saw all these!! We were so stunned. We also saw lots of other animals including Elephants and Leopards!
The reason we chose Sweetwaters was for it's beautiful setting (they have a salt lick next to the tents which attracts all sorts of animals). The highlight here was that we saw African Hunting Dogs (our guide hadn't seen these amazing creatures for over 20 years and took pictures himself!!) and we got to meet the only tame Rhino.
Our favourite hotel was the Mara Rianta, which I actually booked myself on Hotels.com and got a great deal. Hotels.com also have great discounts available from time to time. It's a wonderful resort with only 20 tents and great management behind it. It's located on the Mara River and you can hear and see the Hippos all day and night :) It's so exciting. The food and tents were AMAZING. The hotel also have their own vehicles and guides to drive around the Mara North Conservancy (the best one we visited) and they really know their stuff. It's such a luxurious experience (with beer and drinks on all safari drives!!). All hotels in Kenya offer only all inclusive options (as they are so remote) but the Mara Rianta Lodge is the only one that includes all drinks in their price.
I would avoid Nakuru National Park for the next 5 years as it was flooded last year due to a dam letting water out without telling the National Park authorities, which has caused the whole National Park to be flooded. It caused unbelievable devastation for the wild life and the trees are struggling against rot and loss of soil. It is such a shame but I do believe there is hope in the future.
The itinerary -
March 22 - Leave USA - fly to Nairobi
March 23 – Arrive, met & transfer to Savora Pacific (http://www.sarovahotels.com/panafric/) – bed & breakfast
March 24 – Drive to Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club (http://www.fairmont.com/mount-kenya-safari/) – PM at leisure with optional activities – full board
March 25 - Drive to Samburu + afternoon game drive – Samburu Lodge (http://www.wildernesslodges.co.ke/samburu_info.html) – full board
March 26 – Morning + afternoon game drives – Samburu Lodge (http://www.wildernesslodges.co.ke/samburu_info.html) – full board
March 27 – Drive to Sweetwater’s Tented Camp (http://www.serenahotels.com/serenasweetwaters/default-en.html) + visit Chimpanzee sanctuary + game drive - full board
March 28 - Drive to Lake Nakuru (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1015946-d1557130-Reviews-The_Lake_Nakuru_Flamingo_Lodge-Nakuru_Rift_Valley_Province.html) + afternoon game drive – Flamingo Hill Lodge – full board
March 29 – Drive to Masai Mara (http://marariantacamp.exploreans.com/) + transfer to Mara Rianta Camp with a game drive en route
March 30 - April 01 – Mara Rianta Camp (http://marariantacamp.exploreans.com/)April 01 – Pick up from Wilson Airport & transfer to Carnivore Restaurant for Lunch - + PM visit Giraffe Centre + departure transfer to airport.
April 02 - arrive in USA
Total actual cost was around $5400.00 for 2 people.
Have you guys been to Kenya? What were the highlights of your visit.