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"We are dedicated to providing exclusive , bespoke, upmarket,

tailor-made, luxury safaris and exotic holidays for the discerning client looking for the ultimate, authentic, classical Kenya safari, away from the mass tourism sector".

 

A Kenya Diary 2014

 

 

This was my 20th "Safari" and to date the best by far as it offered the opportunity of witnessing the diversified changing fabric of this fabulous country. It has taken me to areas not previously visited and to appreciate and broaden my horizons and perceptions of Magical Kenya. 

 

On previous trips I have always utilised light aircraft to whisk me from lodge to lodge. This has the obvious advantage of radically reducing transfer times; however I was missing the opportunity of seeing firsthand the people of Kenya at work and play and to observe their different cultures and lifestyles. 

 

But firstly huge thanks to the Directors, managers and staff of Cheli & Peacock, the Governors Collection and Southern Cross Safaris for all the organisation and logistics of this trip. In addition a big thanks to the various camp managers and the entire lodge staff for their professionalism, service provision and friendly dispositions. Finally to the driver/guides who are the real stars of the show because of the skills and knowledge they have acquired and their enthusiasm to share their expertise of all things natural. Every safari undertaken, I always learn new things about the wildlife. For example did you know that the collective noun for giraffes is a "tower", guinea fowl is "confusion" and zebra are a "dazzle"? 

 

What is the meaning of "safari"? The word derives from the Swahili for journey, originally from the Arabic (Safariyah) meaning a journey. The verb for "to travel" in Swahili is "Kusafiri" and the noun for the journey is "Safari". 

 

 

Day 1. 

 

To me an essential part of any holiday is the journey (safari). I appreciate that over the years air travel has lost much of its romance, excitement and comfort.

Which is why for this trip, I decided to fly with BA Business Class, departing from London at 10:45 and scheduled to arrive into Nairobi International at 21:20. 

 

Currently BA is flying the Boeing 747 to Nairobi, which for many years has been my favourite aircraft. And for this trip I managed to reserve two flat bed seats in the "bubble" upstairs. With a maximum of 20 passengers in this compartment and two dedicated flight attendants, the service is excellent, coupled with first class cuisine and a quality selection of wines.

For an 8.5 hour flight, I believe the extra cost is more than justified in terms of the added comfort and exclusivity that it provides. 

 

BA 747 Business Class - Upstairs in the "Bubble" 

 

We arrived as per scheduled and cleared immigration formalities quickly. Once through customs, we were met by "Benson" who heads up Southern Cross Safaris ground operations in Nairobi, who then transferred us to the Ole Sereni hotel for our overnight stop. 

 

Ole Sereni Hotel - Nairobi 

 

 

The Ole Sereni hotel is one of the newer hotels in Nairobi and it borders on to the Nairobi National Park. Not being a City Centre hotel has huge advantages if you are only planning to be in Nairobi overnight as it avoids most of the traffic hold ups. To our surprise after check in, we bumped into the BA crew who had been looking after us during our flight and were staying over for 2 nights. 

 

A word about Nairobi. I was amazed by the changes to the city since I last visited. There are new infrastructure projects wherever you look. New roads, offices, factories and housing springing up everywhere.

The massive inward investment that is going into Kenya right now is very apparent and the economy is booming. In many respects this is all very positive, but I fear for the welfare and security of its wildlife. Tourism still accounts for 20% of Kenya's GDP and this should not be forgotten by the Kenyan Government. 

 

 

DAY 2, 3, 4. Kitich Camp - Mathews Forest

After a good night's sleep, we were well rested and eager to get on with our safari adventure. Following the first of many cooked breakfasts, our SXS driver collected us promptly at 08:30 for the short drive to Wilson domestic airport and check in at the Safarilink terminal for our 1.5 hour flight to the Samburu airstrip.


And was it hot! We are now in the semi arid uplands of Kenya and the temperature was way into the 30's. We were met by the Kitich driver and off we went by 4 x 4 for the 3.5 hour drive to the camp. 

 

My first surprise upon leaving the airstrip was that we were driving on a proper tarmac road constructed to the highest standard. It is the new road stretching from Nairobi to Ethiopia as part of the Chinese inward invest programme into Kenya. After one hour we turned off this super highway on to the more typical bone jarring "corrugated" Kenya roads. The scenery was stunning with views of mountains all around and dotted with roadside hamlets. Not much people activity though as it was Sunday. We then turned off this track on to the only road in and out of our ultimate destination, Kitich Camp. This is true 4 x 4 terrain navigating around huge boulders and crossing many dry river beds, which in the rainy season make this drive almost impossible due to swollen rivers and flash floods. 

 

Finally we had arrived at our home for the next three nights. 

 

View from the bar verandah 

 

The Mathews Mountain Range rises up out of the desert; a chain of peaks covered in 900 sq km of dense dewy forest in a remote valley. Kitich Camp overlooks a river glade within the lush indigenous forest. 

We were greeted by the camp managers Carl and Sally who welcomed us with a refreshing cold towels and a fresh fruit drink and were shown to our tent. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Kitich Camp, Kenya

 

With only six guest tents, one can expect complete privacy. Each en suite tent is traditionally safari-style, with an al-fresco stone bathroom. 

 

I immediately felt at home and informed Julie that I could happily live here. This provoked one of those typical female sideways glances in my direction deciding if I was really contemplating a permanent relocation or not! 

 

Any rate time for lunch and a fuller explanation on how the camp operates and what activities we would be enjoying. Let me state from the outset that this is not your typical Kenya safari with twice daily game drives around the parks and conservancies, this is an entirely different experience and is probably best suited to the more experienced safari adventurer looking for far more. And Kitich Camp certainly provides this in abundance. The wild animals do certainly exist here such as elephant, melanistic leopard, bushbuck, giant forest hog, buffalo, lion, hyena as well as ancient cycads, spectacular butterflies, Turacos and wild orchids. 

 

However to find all of this has to be undertaken on foot in the forest guided by the local Samburu and Ndorobo people. 

 

So after lunch we were given our safety and walking etiquette instructions by Carl and introduced to our guides. We were advised about the importance of silence while in the bush; walking in single file and obeying the hand signals of our guides at all times and in the event of meeting a hungry big cat, do not run as we will be considered as dinner! 

 

I should state that our guides are highly experienced and armed with rifles and spears in the unlikely event of any danger. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sally informed us that we would be experts in animal tracking and "Scat" which I discovered is animal dung and fascinating it was too! 

At 16:00 we set off for our first forest walk, and it was an amazing experience. We were only a short distance from the camp when we were being shown the footprints of leopard lion and hyena and how fresh the tracks were and whether they were walking up or down the tracks. 

 

Dotted throughout the forests there are many small streams to cross and large rock pools to cool off in. 

 

Julie was sensible and accepted help from our guides to cross them. I did not and proceeded to fall in. The only damage was to my self esteem having destroyed my forest "cred" at the first opportunity! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There followed a well deserved sundowner upon our return, a welcome hot shower and the first of several excellent dinners with enjoyable company, followed by an early night with a 4 hour forest walk planned for the following morning. 

 

So after yet another "full English" breakfast, off we went. (This trip I was determined not to eat eggs, bacon, sausage hash browns each morning, but failed miserably, hence I am now back on the diet). 

 

A fascinating and exhilarating forest walk and just as we wondered if we ever going to see camp again, we rounded a bend in the track and there in a small clearing was our buffet lunch all set out, along with a very welcome cool beer. 

 

Lunch in the Forest. 

 

We had enough excitement for one day and so decided not to venture out again in the afternoon. Instead our intrepid guides demonstrated to us the art of fire lighting using just two pieces of wood, a little grit and some dried elephant dung.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I too had to try this for myself and with a little help from my friends, I made fire! 

 

Elephants had been spotted on the fringes of the camp and so the following morning we went in search of them, which first of all involved a short drive to the Rangers station where they had last been seen. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a couple of hours searching through very thick bush and although we found plenty of fresh tracks, no elephants, so I had to be content with a newly born calf. 

 

After lunch we were invited by Sally for a look behind the scenes into how such a remote location operates on a daily basis, literally miles from anywhere, with no mains electricity or running water. 

 

There is a total of 15 staff employed full time at Kitich. The electricity is produced by solar power which provides all the lighting and power required to run the camp. Cooking is via gas bottles and wood, the daily laundry service is by hand and the ironing is done by a charcoal iron! All fresh produce comes from their own gardens which Adam, the head gardener, was very proud to show to us. Hot water for the showers is produced by open wood fires under boiler tanks and then the "safari" shower container is filled up at the time of day the client requests. 

 

Communication to the outside world is via a satellite link, so internet access is possible. 

 

The most fascinating adaptation of technology was the cold store used to store fresh produce. It is a large walk in store room insulated with charcoal on the outside that is then sprayed with water that produces a chemical reaction to keep the store room almost at fridge temperatures. How this works, I do not know, but it is a very efficient method of keeping produce fresh, without the need for electricity. 

 

The background to Kitich Camp is very interesting and I detail below further information on its history provided by Cheli & Peacock: 

 

 

About Kitich Camp 

 

Kitich Camp has guarded the 900km sq forest for over 40 years, originally set up as a hidden jewel for guests to enjoy in the 1970s by Miles Burton, celebrated hunter and conservationist. Miles was a larger than life character, counting Hollywood stars, and the great and the good among his clients. In the 1980s the camp was used to monitor rhino. 

 

Liz, Stefano and their friends the Hitchins bought the camp from Giulio Bertolli, of Italian olive oil fame in 2008. Giulio loves Kitich, it was his home for over 12 years, and he would only part with it to Stefano Cheli, whom he knew would preserve the essence and magic of Kitich. 

 

Stefano Cheli completely refurbished the camp in 2009, including installing state of the art solar power, and delightful bathrooms. 

 

Miles built the original road up to Kitich, and the road stops at camp. The only way in, Kitich Camp is truly the guardian of the forest. The camp remains very small, only 6 client tents, and many of the staff have worked there for over 20 years. 

 

Our third and final day meant a very early start for the next leg of our safari and would be another 3.5 hour drive. 

 

All of the staff lined up to see us off and bid us farewell. Kitich Camp offers a truly unique and private forest wildlife adventure which we feel privileged to have experienced. 

 

 

Day 5, 6, 7. Joys Camp - Shaba. 

 

As there is only way into Kitich Camp, so there is only one way out! 

However the views back towards the main tarmac road were today completely different as it was now mid week. There is no arable farming possible within this semi arid countryside therefore existence is pastoral. I was amazed at the size of the herds of cattle, goats and camel that abound. The people are all brightly adorned in the coloured fabrics of this region and the extensive wearing of beaded jewellery that is a trade mark of the Samburu peoples. 

 

Upon reaching the main road, we turn right in the direction of Nairobi, past the airstrip where we entered this region and after passing through the town of Archers Post we turned left and very soon entered the Shaba Reserve. 

 

An elegant boutique oasis in the arid lands of Samburu; Joy's Camp is built on the site of Joy Adamson's tented home in Shaba National Reserve. The site was also home to Penny the Leopard, the heroine of her last book. The camp overlooks a large natural spring 

where elephant and lion jostle for watering rights with herds of buffalo and the rare desert species of Beisa Oryx, reticulated giraffe and Grevy's zebra. 

 

 

Joys Camp - Kenya 

 

Each of the 10 sumptuous tents is uniquely decorated with handmade glass and the vibrant fabrics of the local nomadic tribes creating a chic, sophisticated and stylish camp. Each tent has breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, with its own verandah - ideal for game viewing as well as relaxing, reading and soaking up the truly wild environs offered by Shaba. 

 

Anyone who considered that "tenting" in Kenya was slumming it, forget it, this is 5 star luxury in any language! 

 

 

Our tent with a wooden front door! 

 

 

 

Interior View 

 

 

Bathroom Joys Camp - Kenya 

 


 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joys Camp - Bar & Dining area 

 

 

 

 

Joys Camp - Swimming Pool 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Views from our verandah 

 

Having settled in, unpacked and after an excellent lunch, we arranged to meet back in the bar area at 15:45 for tea and to meet our driver/guide Arnold for the next 3 days and the opportunity of observing wildlife that are unique to this part of Kenya. 

 

 

 

I had no preconceived notions of what to expect from this region and was immensely impressed with all that we saw. This is a beautiful area with superb views along river banks; the rugged mountains and the variety of the wildlife, all contribute to make Joys Camp a must for anyone's safari itinerary. 

 

          Arnold, our driver/guide 

 

Our first afternoon drive was very rewarding and finished in the time honoured way of a "Sundowner" out in the bush. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Toyota Landcruiser and Paul, the head barman 

 

 

 

Sunset over Shaba 

 

The following morning we agreed with Arnold to make an early start and to take a picnic breakfast with us as we were going to cover many miles to see the Magado Crater.

It was a fascinating experience to watch the old men and women working in the crater to mine salt and then to carry their 20kgs burdens all the way back to the top. Donkeys are also used for this task and to carry heavier loads. One old man that I was talking to informed me that he had been doing this job since 1962! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an excursion that has only recently been sanctioned by the Conservancy elders. Before vehicle access was permitted, the only way to view this spectacle was by helicopter. 

 

Our journey continued through some amazing countryside and alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River. 


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Bush breakfast was excellent and it provided us with a great opportunity to talk to Arnold about his life and experiences. Although we are in Samburu territory, Arnold is in fact a Masai. This promoted me to enquire how they acquired their Western names. I was surprised to learn that they are mainly Christians and their names are given at the time of baptism. 

 

We made it back to camp in time for lunch and decided not to go out that afternoon, preferring to chill out on our verandah and watch the world and the birds go by. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day, we decided to embark before breakfast and to explore towards the Shaba and river areas and were rewarded with some exceptional game viewing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The views along the river are breathtaking 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

And then just round the next bend, we came across some of the staff from the camp preparing our breakfast, which was a very pleasant surprise! 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Joys Camp and to hit the road again to our next destination, Elsa's Kopje in the Meru National Park, some 3 hours drive away.

We exited Shaba and rejoined the tarmac road, heading towards Meru. This was a fascinating drive as once we had gone through the county town Isolo, the landscape and vegetation changed completely. The soil here is very fertile and as far as the eye could see, farmers were busy in their fields planting before the start of the short rains in November. This is the source for such crops as Sugar Peas, Kenya Beans etc. It was noticeable that this area had an air of affluence about it with modern farm machinery much in evidence. We then left the Meru road and headed towards Maua. Again there is a noticeable change in the vegetation and this road continues to climb. There was so much commercial activity along the sides of the road as one passes through several different communities. What impresses is the number of educational establishments and churches that covered the whole spectrum of religious faiths and the multitude of roadside inns and "hotels" all guaranteeing a warm welcome and a good time. In addition there is commerce at every level, from computer shops, cyber cafes, mobile phone recharging points, mini stores and "super stores" (these are usually two sheds as opposed to the one shed for a normal store), bike and vehicle repair shops, furniture manufacturing shop. Then there are the numerous butcher shops which are sometimes combined with the local beauty salon or dressmakers, but I think the oddest I spotted was a shed with the signage displaying "Nairobi Flying School". 


 

We are now in the only part of Kenya that grows "Khat" and it is from here that Khat is exported worldwide from Nairobi and Mombasa. 

 

What is Khat? (Catha edulis) 


 

Khat is a green-leafed shrub that has been chewed for centuries by people who live in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula. It has recently turned up in Europe, including the UK, particularly among emigrants and refugees from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and the Yemen. 

 

As of June 2014, the UK Government has now classified Khat as a Class C drug and banned all imports, which I am sure will only serve to create a "black market" and push the street value of this leaf, which is far less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes, through the roof. 

This ban has outraged the local producers, who I believe at one point were threatening to go war with the UK. I understand that common sense has now prevailed. 

 

Local Taxi Services. 

 

For years the way people got around was by the much loved "Matatus", ram shackled mini buses seating anywhere between 14 to 24 people. They drove on either side of the road, or straight down the middle of it and had no brake lights or indicators. Now there is a newer, lower cost version. This comprises of a 2 wheeled, gaily coloured 125 c.c. motorcycle, fitted as standard with a "Ghetto Blaster" of a sound system and can be used for both passenger and freight transport and sometimes both at the same time. It is common to see three people mounted and not unusual to see four! 

 

Plenty of interest and entertainment along the way and very soon we had reached the entry gates to the Meru National Park managed by the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service). 

 

Day 8 & 9 Elsa's Kopje - Meru 

 

I was not particularly looking forward to the Meru National park as I had visited once before in 1985. Back then it was pretty desolate and there was talk about abandoning it as National Park. But today, what a turn round in fortunes, I am now of the opinion that it is one of Kenya's best kept secret. 

 

The total area of the park is similar to the Mara, but has only one fully operational lodge compared to 180 operators in the Mara, therefore the entire wilderness more or less to oneself! 

 

 

 

Elsa's Kopje is named after Elsa the lioness, made famous by George and Joy Adamson's biographical book and film "Born Free". 


 

Winner of the Good Safari Guide's, "Best Safari Property in Africa" award, Elsa's Kopje is renowned for being one of the most elegant lodges in Africa, with the most spectacular setting. It is the best upmarket location to view rhino in their natural habitat in Kenya. 

 

An award winning design with stunning views from the open bar, lounge and dining room, Elsa's Kopje is almost invisible to the eye as you approach its home on Mughwango Hill. It blends into the rocky crags of the "Kopje" (small hill), built above the site of George Adamson's original campsite. 

 

Every sumptuous cottage is the ultimate "room-with-a-view", uniquely designed and crafted, incorporating the natural features of the rocky hillside. 

 

We were greeted by Philip & Charlie Mason who have been running this lodge for the past 6 years. It was also great to establish with them that we had mutual friends going back many years, down on the coast. 

 

We were shown to our cottage, which is the Honeymoon suite! 

 

 

Honeymoon Suite Elsa's Kopje - Kenya 

 

 

Bar Area Elsa's Kopje - Kenya 

 

 

View from the swimming pool 

 

Following lunch with some new friends, (see below) we returned to reception at 16:00 to meet up with our driver, also called Philip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Heating for the resident family of Rock Hyrax 

 

Philip was most certainly one of the most experienced and knowledgeable guides we have met. He is currently at Silver level and after 3 years of study, he sits his final exams to attain Gold standard. This will make him only the eleventh guide to achieve this status in Kenya. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 













We were treated to "sundowners" by Philip, who proved to also being a dab hand at cocktails as well, not sure if this part of the "Gold" curriculum, but a useful skill to have! 

 

Dinner was served out under the stars and we discussed the great day that we had experienced and were eagerly looking forward to our second day within Meru, including a visit to the Rhino sanctuary. 

 

Our second day did not disappoint: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Sunset in the Meru 

 

Early the next morning, we said goodbye to our hosts, Philip and Charlie, with a promise that we would return. Two nights at this fabulous lodge and location does not do it justice. 

 

Day 10 & 11 Lewa Safari Camp - Laikpia 

 

Our final destination on this northern Kenyan circuit was to the fabled Lewa Safari camp. This meant retracing our steps back towards Isolo. It was as we were approaching the town that I caught my first glimpse on the left, of the snow covered Mt. Kenya standing majestically at 17,000 feet, the second tallest mountain in Africa. 

 

Before entering Isolo, we turned off the main road and detoured around the new international airport that is being constructed and continued to climb in the direction of Mt. Kenya, before turning right off the tarmac road and entering the Lewa conservancy. 

 

Lewa Safari Camp 

 

 

Lewa Safari Camp - Kenya 

 

Lewa Safari Camp has a stunning location within Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, with outstanding game viewing and spectacular views to Mt. Kenya to the south and arid lowlands to the north. Each tent has a thatched roof, verandah and full en suite bathroom, very much in the "Lewa" style. The central areas have exquisite gardens with a large sunny verandah and swimming pool to enjoy during the day and cosy log fires in the lounge and dining room for the more chilly evenings. 

 

Lewa Safari Camp - Kenya 

 

Bar & Lounge area Lewa Safari Camp - Kenya 

 

The camp is based within the private 65,000 acre wildlife conservancy of the Lewa Wilderness Trust. The conservancy is home to about 10 percent of Kenya's black rhino population and the single largest population of Grevy's zebra in the world. 

 

 

Grevy's Zebra 

 

 

 

Reticulated Giraffe 

 

 

Sundowners at Lewa Safari Camp - Kenya 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Our guide, Daniel, did a superb job for us and showed in just over 1.5 days many of the aspects of the operations of the conservancy which is doing a fantastic job in conserving the dwindling populations of both the Black as well as the White Rhino. All profits from the safari camp are ploughed back into the main conservation projects. 

 

 

Another excellent Bush Breakfast 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sundowner" with a full moon to illuminate us. 

 

 

Goodbye to Lewa. 

 

And now for the final leg of our journey, but this time no further to drive than to the Lewa airstrip for our 90 minute Safarilink flight to the Mara. 

 

Day 12, 13, 14, Little Governors Camp - Masai Mara 

 

 

In most peoples opinion, no safari would be complete without finishing in the Mara and staying at one of the Governors Camps. 

Of the four camps operating along the banks of the Mara, Il Moran, Private Camp, Governors and Little Governors, I have to say that my preference is for Little Governors. 

 

Every time I return it feels like my second home, with a warm welcome from the manager George, who has now been in charge for some 20 years, and all the staff, whose attention to detail and service provision is second to none. However all of Governors Camps operate to the same standard, so what makes Little Governors extra special for me? 

 

Well to start with its location, which is unique as it can only be accessed via a river crossing by boat, so no vehicles anywhere on site. What a tale this small boat could tell of past adventures as at one time it was used to take clients for excursions down the river for closer views of the hippos and crocodiles! 

 

Then there is its intimacy with only 17 tents located in a crescent formation around the swamp that teems with animals and birds, with hippos providing interesting entertainment in the middle of the night! 

 

 

 

Then there is the family of Warthogs who have taken up residence. These animals are normally very shy and will scamper away when they hear a vehicle approaching. Not this troop, they will happily approach your table looking for any tasty morsels that might come their way. 

 

And of course not to forget the herd of elephants which will often make an appearance during lunch. This causes great fun as clients are rapidly ushered to the shelter of the bar to allow these majestic creatures to slowly amble through the camp. 

 

It also has the added benefit of being the launch site for Governors Balloon safaris, which is located in a clearing just behind reception. 

 

If all of the above was not enough, then there is the excellence of the cuisine the standard of the tents with flushing toilets and constant hot water, early morning tea/coffee service delivered to your tent, hot water bottles at night and the constant concern for guests welfare and safety all contributes to making this my favourite location in the Mara. 

 

We were soon settled in, an enjoyable cold beer, excellent lunch and we were ready for our afternoon game drive with our guide for the next 3 days, Maina. 

 

We had just left the confines of the camp, when we came across this enchanting scene of a female lion with her cubs. 

 

This was a great afternoon as we also found Cheetah and Hyena, many different varieties of birds and a Monitor Lizard, in addition to elephants, hippos and gazelles. 

 

 

For our second day we decided to make an early start and take a picnic breakfast with us in the hope of spotting the elusive Leopard. We did our best, but failed in our quest today, despite finding many signs of Leopard activity, however we saw plenty of other animals along the way. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning again involved a very early start as we were going off on a balloon safari, which is the second time we have done this from our base of Little Governors. For anyone who has not previously experienced this, then it is a "must". Drifting across the plains, forests and the river gives a completely different perspective and finishes with a flourish upon landing with Champagne and a cooked breakfast. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then proceeded on a slow game drive back to the camp for lunch and again found many more photo opportunities: 

   








 

 

 

 

 

My final shot of the day was probably one of the highlights of my safari, the largest snake in Africa, the Rock Python. This specimen we estimated as being about 4.5 metres in length and had recently fed as the bulge in its girth shows. 

 

Tomorrow was to be our last morning before our afternoon flight back to Nairobi, so we decided to do nothing else but have a final attempt at locating the elusive Leopard. And we succeeded in our objective with this magnificent male, what an achievement! 

 

And as a finale upon our return to camp, we spotted the female lion, with cubs, that greeted us on our first venture on to the plains of the Mara. 

 

There is nothing else to add. We lunched with the Warthogs again, packed for the last time, drove the short distance to the airstrip where we waited for our flight to Nairobi, and on to southern Spain via London and Madrid. 

 

This safari had been a year in the planning and organisation, but it was over in the blink of an eyelid. 

 

Goodbye Kenya and thank you for a wonderful safari. 

 

Summary 

 

As stated at the beginning of this diary, this was by far our best safari to date and I believe is perhaps the ultimate as it achieved all of our expectations. 

 

Would I repeat this itinerary or recommend it to clients for their personal safaris? Probably not as there was too much included in too shorter a period. 

 

But it was all I could manage with the time available and the different areas I wanted to visit. I do believe that each lodge needs a minimum of three nights stay and the Meru and Mara, a minimum of four to really appreciate all that is available to explore and enjoy. 

 

Would I repeat the same road trips again? Maybe if I was 30 years younger and had more time available. Exploring the Northern circuit by road was interesting and educational for the insight it provided into his fabulous country, but next time I will utilise mainly aircraft for the lodge transfers. 

 

My biggest surprise and delight was the Meru and the amazing Elsa's Kopje. It fully deserved the recognition it received when it was awarded "The Best Safari Lodge in Africa". 

 

My biggest concern from this trip is the welfare of the Mara. It is in danger of becoming over commercialised. I understand that there are now over 180 operators here, that long term surely cannot be sustainable. Many of these I believe are closing down or are for sale. There are just not enough tourists coming into Kenya right now to support these numbers and the established organisations are suffering as a result. 

 

I would prefer to see the Botswana model of restricting the number of licences granted for lodges and camps thereby making them more exclusive and upmarket. 

 

The Mara is often described as one of the greatest natural wildlife shows in the world, which it is, well there should be a premium for this spectacle and not to demean it by reducing it to a mere circus. 

 

I was surprised to observe so many safari vehicles with company names and logos that I had never heard of and I consider myself something of an expert on safaris in Kenya. Of further concern was to see the growth of self drive safari vehicles. The ones I saw had no idea about safari etiquette in terms of noise and respect for the environment and to see small children riding around on top of these vehicles is simply asking for trouble. 

 

Of further surprise was to see permanent toilet blocks around the principal areas of the main Mara River crossings. One guide commented to me that during the peak of the migration season, it was like a busy city centre during rush hour. Any rate, not my idea of what a safari is all about. 

 

This whinge aside, the Mara is possibly the ultimate in game viewing, but chose the right time of the year. 

 

Overall the status of Kenya as Africa's premier safari destination remains intact. Conservation is very much gathering momentum, with good communications and joint projects with different communities on understanding the vital role that the wildlife should continue to play in the ongoing prosperity of Kenya and the mutual respect that exists between Kenya as a tourist destination and the farmers and their herds and their rights to graze. 


 

My final comment is the ongoing involvement of China and their huge investments into Kenya and its infrastructure. I have previously commented on their influence in development projects such as new roads, airports, railways and sea terminals. This is all to exploit the potential of raw materials such as coal, natural gas and oil deposits that are being discovered. 

 

This is all positive and can only be good for Kenya as it rapidly establishes itself as the predominant communications and transport hub of Africa and has one of the most politically stable, secure governments on the continent. 

 

China and the Far East is still today the major market for elephant ivory and rhino horn, with illegal exports continuing to be being shipped via Nairobi and Mombasa.

I just hope that a blind eye is not going to be turned by the Government of Kenya to the exploitations of Kenya's major asset in return for the inward investment from the Far East. 

 

Once the tuskers and the rhinos have gone, they can never be replaced. 

 

Michael McInnes

Kenya Safaris

October 2014