As I mentioned in my previous post, our two-week Kenya safari was truly wonderful. We went to three national parks, each with a different ecosystems, and “glamped”, staying in comfy furnished tents or huts at four different upscale camps.
We booked through Go2Africa and chose the 15-hour direct flight from NYC to Nairobi on Kenya Air rather than risk the problems that connections can cause. Our package included all the air or ground transportation between camps. This was our full itinerary.
We booked many months in advance giving us lots of time to get our immunizations (this is not a trip for anti-vaxxers), do our research, fret, and over-prepare. There were several points of confusion.
The excitement of landing in Africa wiped out all the stress and pain of the 15-hour flight. Well, most of it. Nairobi Tented Camp was our first stay. It is part of Nairobi National Park, in the world’s only wildlife capital city, and just minutes from the airport.
We were picked up right outside the terminal and driven through Nariobi, a large city with high-rise buildings, lots of traffic in cars, trucks, buses, on bikes and on foot. We drove through a section called “Karen” with the Karen Blixen Museum (the “Out of Africa” Karen Bixen) and past Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. There are tours available of both; neither was in our plans.
Our second lodging was in Amboseli National Park, which is close to the border of Tanzania and an extension of the Serengeti. It is sandy and salty – a completely different environment – with swampy areas and Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, looming over us.
Our flight from Wilson airport was less than 40 minutes and we were the third stop. A lot of up and down …but a good view of the landscape. We landed in a clearing designated only by a wind sock. The driver from our camp was waiting for us, a table set up next to his vehicle with water, tea, and cookies. This standard service never failed to impress me.
Elephants in the swamp
Mawangi meeting us at the airport
Amboseli airport terminal
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is the ancestral pastoral home of the Maasai tribe, with open grasslands favored by large cats — lions, cheetahs, leopards — and dotted with trees. As we drove into the park from the Wilson airport, the very first thing we saw was a leopard in a tree with its impala dinner hanging in the limbs below. And, we weren’t even on a game drive yet!
Mara Intrepids, our fourth stop, was also in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and close enough to Ashnil Mara (our previous camp) to be driven there. This bonus ride gave us another peek at local life — the reality beyond our insulated and curated camp experience, an important reminder of where we were. We passed very modest houses, children walking to school in their uniforms, and boys herding goats.
Local Maasai home
School boys en route
Girls in school uniforms
Boy goat herder
Our favorite camp
When we arrived we were surprised to see a lawn — actual grass! — and someone mowing it. We knew instantly that we had stepped up on the luxury scale. The staff was the friendliest; the tents were large and nicely appointed, the outdoor dining patio, bar, and lounge area were lovely; the menu was excellent with the fanciest desserts; and our safari drivers, Joab and Samson, were beyond endearing. This turned out to be our favorite camp.
Because of its proximity to the Jomo Kenyatta airport, we returned to the Nairobi Tented Camp before flying back to the States. It felt full circle, returning to our starting point. By now, after more than 20 game drives, we felt like “old hands” and the camp was familiar…yet, this last day had a sad quality to it. Luckily, a few things happened to lift our spirits.
My two-week African safari in Kenya was such a rich, wide-ranging experience — full of surprises, revelations, paradoxes, and lots and lots of animals. I doubt that I can capture and express it all in one or two blog posts but I am giving it my best try.