What makes Kenya a good travel destination?
The promise and guarantee of spotting the wild animals all year round.
Top 3 things that every traveller must know about Safari experience in Kenya?
• When you observe the behaviour of the animals in their habitat, you can’t miss the uncanny semblance they have to human behaviour – especially the male Lion, lazing around while the Lioness works hard to get a kill & feed the family
• So many words in Swahili and Hindi are similar – Safari (Safar) = Journey; Duka (Dukan) = Shop; Gari (Gaadi) = Car; Dava (Daru) = Alcohol …..
• The huge ethnic Indian influence, especially the Gujarati influence, where sometime even the local Kenyan might throw in a phrase like “Biju kai?” in a restaurant
When is the best time to go on safari in Kenya?
It is a year-round destination. Once is never enough
Ideally one must visit, once during migration season and once during the non-migration season.
What items and clothing should one pack when travelling to Kenya?
Travel very light
-One open & 1 closed pair of shoes
-Cotton / Linen Shirts
-Cotton Trousers / Track pants
-Glasses (no Contact lenses)
-Lip Balm, Sunscreen, hair-oil
What sort of preparations do you need to make before travelling to Africa?
One must take Yellow Fever Vaccination and Polio Vaccination (oral) which is a requirement by Indian Ministry.
When is the great migration?
Mid-June – Mid Sep (depending upon the rain pattern)
Can you tell us a little about the life of the locals?
Locals are mostly into cattle rearing, but also hold white collared jobs today.
They are strongly rooted & connected to their families
What are the local delicacies/drinks which one must try in Kenya?
Food: Game Meat: Ostrich/ Crocodile/ Ox etc, Kasava (Tapioka chips)
Drinks: Tusker Beer
According to you what is the best thing about going on a safari in Kenya?
Being in absolute nature, which is supremely calming. Not many digital/technological distractions. As a family, Safari Van is the best place to bond & reconnect!
“Once is never enough, you have to visit Kenya multiple times if you love the wildlife & the bush”
In July 2013, the Satyens took a trip to Kenya with The Wanderers and came back with a bag full of memories. Arshea Bimal sums up the amazing experience in a blog post for us..
Excitement was in the air as the plane to Nairobi took off. This was our first family trip abroad and we were all thrilled. Having never seen a place outside my own country, I had spent the previous few days researching every place we went to. Google provided me with information on everything, starting from the Maasai people to the black rhinoceros. Little did I know that nothing could ever prepare me for the gorgeous country of Kenya.
We arrived at Amboselli and stayed at the tented facilities of Amboselli Sentrim Camp. Our two days there were spent exploring the vast open grasslands of Amboselli National Park. The National Park is famous for its vast numbers of free range African elephants and is crowned by the Great Mount Kilimanjaro. The highlight was our sighting of a lion taking care of his sick wife and a pack of hyenas.
Then we were off to Aberdare National Park, which is a wooded region situated 7500 feet above sea level. The first word that came to mind was ‘green’. We stayed at The Ark Lodge (which is straight out of a fairytale) and its viewing galleries enabled us to see elephants at arm’s length. The highlight of our stay was a sighting of our first and only leopard. However it was so quick that the only proof we have of seeing it is a picture of its backside.
An eight hour drive from Aberdare led us to Kigio conservancy. On the way we stopped at the Equator. The Equator isn’t how one imagines it to be. I for one always imagined it to be a red glowing line on the earth, despite what I was taught in my school geography classes. It was marked by a board and a curio shop.
Here, we experienced something rather different from the rest of our trip, as Kigio is unfenced. To prove that we were indeed standing on the imaginary line, a man demonstrated an experiment. Entertainment isn’t a pasta chef, but a giraffe. Your dinner companions aren’t other hotel guests, but warthogs munching on grass. We were lucky enough to see at least 20 of the conservancy’s 45 endangered Rothschild Giraffes.
Masai Mara is famous for The Great Wildebeest Migration, so we went with a lot of expectations. Masai Mara should definitely top everybody’s bucket list. Its immensity is something that can be captured by no camera. The number of animals greatly exceeds the populations of some small countries. Here your stop sign is several herds of wildebeest, and a zebra crossing is quite literally, zebras crossing. Want some entertainment? Well the theatre comprises of a pride of lions, not to mention baby Simba and his little brother protected by their ferocious mother, a honeymooning couple (I’m still talking about lions), and cheetahs chomping down on their latest kill.
If you want the perfect getaway, Kenya is the place to go. Its serenity and proximity to wildlife and the absence of any passing traffic make it brilliant for relaxation. For the adventurer, there’s more than enough to see and do, including hot air ballooning. In addition the people are genuine, kind and cheerful and win you over instantly. It’s the experience of a lifetime, and you don’t want to miss it.
And finally, it’s the best place to spot the Super Seven, just like we did!
The views and opinions expressed in the article are of the author, who travelled to Kenya with The Wanderers. The views or any errors should not be attributed to The Wanderers.
The land of smiles…the land of raw sensual beauty…the land where a Wanderer like me turns into a poet. Searching for paradise had me narrow down on the God’s own playground – Africa. I headed out to the enchanted landscape at the time of the Great Migration – (That time of the year, when thousands of wildebeest start migrating from Serengeti in Tanzania to Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture. The magnificent spectacle that is exhilarating is perhaps, one of the greatest events (if not the greatest) in the world. As you watch helpless and weak wildebeests succumb to the strong gripping jaws of the crocodiles and the raging waters of the Mara River, fighting for dear life – sometimes losing and other times winning, you cannot help but pay tribute to their ‘kamikaze’ odyssey.
The confusion unfolds as the sheer mass of wildebeest, and zebra break into a desperate stampede of survival to greener pastures and calving grounds after four long months of trekking).
The Great Migration was a siren’s call to come out and explore the stage and be witness to the dance between the hunter and the prey.
I landed in Nairobi – wet , grey and cold – the cacophony of the metro greeted me. Far from one madding crowd to another. Nairobi city is just another modern city buzzing with activity. Like any other city in the world, the traffic signals, congested roads, morning rush hour greets the tourist..
But, when I flew to the mara – a few hours later, it was akin to stepping into a whole new world. A world where – the magnificent beauty of the plateau, the plane ride (I flew in the smallest plane ever), the first glimpse of the Masai Mara and the majestic giraffe in a distance – opened up its vista to me.
My abode: Sitting above a sweeping bend in the Talek River, at the confluence of the Maasai Mara’s 4 game-viewing areas, the lodge that I was staying in enjoyed one of the most spectacular locations in the entire Mara ecosystem.
What more could I ask for…other than heading out for my first game drive – which happened immediately after I unpacked my bags.
My first game drive:
It was in Masai Mara and what a drive it was!
On these wide open rolling grasslands, an incredible variety of different animals at one time await you. A cheetah mother sitting on a termite mound with her punky-looking cubs, while beyond, gazelle, antelope and zebra placidly graze. Giraffes peer curiously through the trees, while elephants pass on silent feet and vultures circle above.
I was lucky to see the elusive leopard and a pride of lioness frolicking in the grass. And this was just my first day in the enchanted land!
My itinerary was a 8 day sojourn – and every day was like opening Pandora’s box of delights. It’s amazing just how close you can get to the local wildlife – a baby hippo riding on his mother’s back, hearing the laugh of the hyenas, shadowing the king of the jungle – the lion, the baboons, the graceful flight of the gazelle – the list is endless when it comes to Africa.
A must head out to destination for every wildlife enthusiast.
A long ,treacherous drive up the hill , cutting down the Rift valley took me to the Lake Nakuru National Park. What I knew about Lake Nakuru is that it is a shallow soda lake and an ornithologist’s paradise boasting over 400 recorded bird species, the most famous being the pink flamingo.
The sight that greeted me
A breathtaking – surreal vision of a great number of pink flamingos that flock to the lake that, from a distance, it looks like it is encircled by a thick, pink border.
At the Hells Gate National Park
Famously named for its pair of mammoth, red hued cliffs, I was treated to the raw unpolluted flavor of Africa – an abundance of plains game and birdlife which wove itself so beautifully to the vast canvas.
a. My stay in the Kigio Conservancy at the Kigio Camp – for its awesome rustic type experience (to be fair – the accommodation is anything but rustic though ) , is one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever had the fortune of walking up in! (And I think I had the best night’s sleep ever).
The camp is run by solar power and is an eco friendly venture – with the hotelier working closely with the community. The staff there were also the warmest of all the locals we met.
2. Bush Breakfast at Kigio – Breakfast out in the open! A very special experience, good food, wonderful smiling service, fresh air – nature at it’s best.
3. Visit to Malindi – a quaint little beach town which has all the ingredients to make a vacation truly fantastic. It’s a destination which screams luxury – private, pristine beaches, tucked away coves, gorgeous Italian hotels, casinos, beautiful homes, vibrant culture – my last night in Africa after my 5 nights in the jungle – from the jungles to pulsating beautiful civilization – the transition couldn’t have been better.
4. The rustic lodges: Where you truly get the flavor of being part of the rich continent.
The food is balanced to suit the western palette and the Indian taste. The most sought after drink for a tourist is the Dhawa, a mixture of local vodka, blended with local herbs, lime and honey.The country also offers rare delicacies like wild boar meat, ostrich meat, crocodile meat and wild buffalo.
A must try is the Nyama Choma – a local delicacy
2 – 3lbs Beef short ribs (or other red meat that can be roasted)
2 cloves of garlic
2 lemons (used to make lemon juice)
Some Kenyan curry (Simba Mbili ) or any curry powder turmeric Coriander
(The measure of spices are to one’s taste)
Mix the lemon juice, garlic, and spices
Marinate meat in lemon juice mixture for an hour.
Grill meat over charcoal
Serve with Ugali and savor the delicacy.
The unpolluted wildlife, the natural beauty of the Savannah and more forested areas of Nakuru and Mt Kenya, the warmth and hospitality of the locals especially at the lodges, the laid back balmy atmosphere in Mombasa and Malindi, the interesting blend of Swalihi and Arab customs and culture in the coastal areas.
Best time to travel:
July – September – this is just after the monsoon and the weather is gorgeous – winter sets in the region, cool soft winds kiss you, everywhere you go – the myriad shades of ‘green’ embraces you. It is also the season of the Great Migration. That is reason enough to pack your bags and head out.
The November – Jan period is a tourist season, but with the onslaught of summer, it could get very warm.
The essence of a Wanderer:
Heading out and discovering the offbeat has always been on my agenda.
Being so close to nature; surrounded by wildlife; witnessing the hunter and the hunted – the raw appeal is so special that you only realize it when you’re actually out in there in the wide open savannah of the Mara – looking at a zebra chomping on the grass or getting a glimpse of a pride of lions – just sitting around enjoying the sun, it’s tawny eyes trained on your lens – it really is awe inspiring.
The African wilderness is an experience that no one should ever miss!
And staying in offbeat locales and discovering the true Africa – in its camps, the warm hospitality of the people, the smiles – all of it comes together to make it a perfect Wanderers’ sojourn.
No wild life documentary or anything you have seen on National geographic can truly capture a firsthand migration experience which I was fortunate to see and ‘hear’. The wildebeest are called gnus and they make a sound just like their name. I can imitate something very close to it.
It was the last day in the Masai Mara. We had seen a vast herd just before our lunch and were hoping to see them do the river crossing. Post lunch to our good luck the herd had reached the river. We were on one side and they were waiting on the other..restless must say. Some of them had made it half way to the river but no one was taking the lead to cross it. We could see hundreds of them walking in single file, coming in from nowhere on the horizon, all heading for the river.
We inched closer. The disturbance caused by our vehicle sent them back and to our dismay, the ones that had come half way to the river suddenly started going back. Our guide, Ben, then relocated us further away. There were some zebra at the start of the herd. Ben told us that the zebras are a bad sign and the crossing won’t happen.
The Zebras are smart you see and will not just go headlong into a crocodile infested river.The herd started following the zebras and moved down the river bank. We were quite disappointed but then our guide told us to watch for more signs. The herd that was coming in from the horizon was ready to cross. They were all grunting the ‘gnu-hmmm’ anthem and there was a lot of shuffling as the herd was restless ..
Suddenly they started crossing and it awesome an sight to see them plunging, swimming or lunging across the river and safely reaching the other bank. Suddenly we saw a thrashing movement..a zebra was caught by a crocodile. All I could actually see with my binoculars was a huge crocodile with its mouth agape and the zebra thrashing and being sucked down into the water. An NGC moment! About a 1000 animals crossed while we witnessed what may have been the only zebra death that day at the crossing.
We couldn’t stop talking about the experience and all the locals we met thought that we were truly lucky to see the spectacle of an actual crossing, which despite the frequent ‘Animal Planet’ sightings on TV are quite rare in reality. Many of the locals have come and waited for hours at the river bank and witnessed no crossing.
Giraffe at 6 oclock
Beg, borrow, steal but you must have your own set of binoculars. I was lucky to have borrowed my own set and could point out giraffe at 6 o’clock and elephant at 9 ‘o’. Hence I was designated the official giraffe spotter for my vehicle. We were really lucky and saw giraffes, countless zebras, cheetahs (twice), the elusive leopard once and a pride of lions – twice. The beginner’s luck, they would have me believe!
Traffic jam in the jungle
The drivers are all contactable on the radio and can hear each other so if one car has seen a leopard then all the other vehicles will come to the same place and if you see my pictures you will get an idea on the traffic jam that happened over our leopard spotting. The feline then lumbered down the tree and the whole convoy of gawking tourists started following him and slowly but surely he just melted into the tall grass and was nowhere to be seen. Then he emerged on the other side and crossed right by the other groups vehicle and they got a real close up view of him.
Mofassa and me
We had just started our evening game drive when we were alerted to a sighting of lions. The male lion was sunning himself when we first spotted him. Our 4WD vehicle moved quite close to him. We named him Mofassa, after Simba’s dad from the Lion King animated movie. We observed him and his family for long. The cubs playing around. The mothers keeping a close watch. Another NGC evening!
Croc meat is very chewy!
On our last night we were all set for the famous Carnivore restaurant which has a huge spit with all possible meats on it and the exotic list featured crocodile and ostrich meat. Ostrich meat was nice and tasty, but the croc was a tough cookie I was unable to digest. Every table has a small flag, so when you are full and can’t gobble, munch, chew or gnaw anymore, you need to lay the flag down in a gesture of surrender! Just for your knowledge, Zebra meat and other exotic meat is banned since the last 3 years.
Well, we all got ripped off and paid much more for everything except at the Masai market where we spent too little time. You will see souvenir shops during your ‘comfort’ stops. One really needs to bargain here. Start at 25% of the cost quoted. You will see at least one fancy souvenir shop at your hotel. Avoid, unless you are desperate and will not go to any mall in Nairobi which will have the same stuff at more reasonable prices. Last, but not the least, there is a Masai market on different days of the week at different malls . It’s the local Masais selling their wares laid out on mats in one area like a terrace in a mall. They sell directly to you for the best prices. We caught it on a Tuesday at the Westland mall. For my rhino mug I paid 1300 at a mall shop. It was 2200 in the hotel shop, but I paid only 570 at the masai market for another one. So much for the learning curve.
The order of an itinerary should be start with Mt Kenya National park followed by Lake Nakuru and its flamingoes, then Lake Naivasha and finally Masai Mara. The Mara experience can’t be bettered!