As a mahoosive animal lover it somehow amazes me that I never really considered going on a safari before last year. Zanzibar had been on my bucket list for years, but the rest of Africa has never really appealed to me for some reason. In fact, I think back to my third date with my current boyfriend where he drove me 3 hours to the West Midland Safari & Lesiure Park in the middle of England, because in the short time he’d got to know me (all 3 weeks), I’d obviously expressed my passion for animals. I’m even sat here writing this now in an animal print jumper, so really this trip should have happened years ago!
When the opportunity arose to head off with friends on a combined trip to Tanzania and Kenya, it was a no brainer to combine our trip to include both Zanzibar and go on a safari. What was I waiting for? In no time at all, the newest editions to my Lonely Planet collection arrived and my planning had begun.
Bloody exciting, that’s what! Yes you’ll spend hours driving off road through the vast savannah, but it’s the unknown of what’s out there that keeps you on your toes. Will there be a pride of lions out on a hunt? Will you see the smallest baby elephant you could ever imagine? Or will you just be baffled by the sheer size of a giraffe! Seeing these fascinating animals in their natural habitat is priceless. It’s an experience that cannot be compared to anything else, especially as so many of these precious animals are sadly endangered and getting closer to extinction.
The most common phrase you’ll hear on safari refers to what once was classified as the most difficult animals to hunt on foot. ‘The Big Five’ includes; the rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo and the almighty lion! We were incredibly lucky to be able to spot all five during our visit.
Our trip to Africa included 10 nights in Zanzibar before we flew onto Kenya, where we spent one night in Lake Nakuru, one night in Lake Naivasha, and then three nights in the infamous Masai Mara National Park before heading back for a final night in Nairobi.
Our first day in Kenya was pretty hectic with most of the day spent sorting our National Park entrance fee’s (as we weren’t entering through the main gate) and picking up currency, before we drove out to Lake Nakuru. We were four friends travelling together, so our guide met us at Nairobi airport in his monster eight seater Land Cruiser, which we had hired for the entirety of our six-day safari.
We arrived at our accommodation, Punda Millis, in the afternoon after a three and half hour drive from Nairobi. Our camp was pretty basic, but due to the lack of other guests we were upgraded from the luxury tents that we booked to their Buffalo Cottage, a two bed, two bath interconnecting cottage. After a long day of travelling we had a restful afternoon before our early start the next morning out to the National Park for our first game drive.
We spent one night at Punda Millis, so we were only able to arrange one game drive in the National Park. We were up bright and early to leave at 08:00 to drive the short 30-minute distance into the National Park. We spotted loads of the more common animals including zebra, giraffes, warthogs, impala, deer, and monkeys. There was one particular picnic area where all the baboons gathered which had the most incredible view out over the lake – although these baboons were pretty naughty so we didn’t actually eat our lunch here, but later on in another picnic area.
Lake Nakuru is famed for it’s colourful pink flamingo’s that fill the waters, however sadly due to natural reasons and flooding to the Rift Valley Lakes, we were disappointed not to see a single pink feather in site. Historically this has happened back in the 1970’s and in the 1990’s, where the flamingo’s relocate to Lake Bogoria.
Unfortunately we weren’t aware of this so completely missed out. We were able to spot three or four rhinos from a very long distance away, but much like the flamingo’s, the number of rhinos have dropped dramatically in recent years due to poachers. Our guide suggested there were around 10 rhino’s left in the entire National Park as many had since been relocated to protect them.
A 90-minute drive from Lake Nakuru and we arrived late afternoon to Lake Naivasha, so again, there wasn’t much to do other than rest up in our beautiful luxury tents at Kiboko Luxury Camp. Luckily our camp, the first to be based on the shores of Lake Naivasha, had many animals roaming wild around us to we were able to get real close on foot to some of the animals unlike in the National Parks (as you have to stay in your 4×4’s of course!).
From our camp decking we spotted a lazy hippo that lurked in the shallow waters, as well as many zebra and waterbucks that wandered behind the camp inland. Due to the close proximity of the animals, guests are not permitted to walk without a ranger once the sun went down.
The following morning, we left at 08:30 to take a boat safari across the lake upon the suggestion of our driver. Boats lined the shorefront ready for visitors to pay the fixed price of 9,000 KSH per boat, which included a knowledgeable driver who guided us around. We meandered across the calm waters of the picturesque lake for an hour, only passing a handful of other tourists and lakeside properties, making our boat trip a relaxing and peaceful morning out.
We saw endless hippo’s including a teeny baby resting on his mother’s back, lots of birdlife and other wildlife too. We also sailed around Crescent Island, one of the film locations for the 1985 film ‘Out of Africa’. Many animals were imported to the island for the purpose of filming, however to this day there are still animals living there.
Along with Serengeti, Masai Mara is one of Africa’s most popular National Parks to visit. We had originally wanted to visit Serengeti, but due to the timing of our visit the migration (from Serengeti to Masai Mara) was already in progress so we opted to visit just Masai Mara instead.
We spent three nights at Keekorok Lodge, which is located within the National Park itself. From here our driver took us out each day on either early morning or late afternoon game drives as you tend to see more animals during those hours – plus it’s scorching hot in the savannah so no-one would want to be out during the middle of the day in a suntrap of a vehicle.
Considering the sheer size of the National Park, we must have been extremely lucky to spot all of The Big Five. Our driver would stay in regular contact with other drivers via radio, and this is how we would identify what animals were in which area before we raced off to find them. There are few words that can describe the excitement of spotting such incredible animals in their natural environment. I could have spent hours just sat there watching them.
Our hotel was located within the National Park with no real boundaries to the surrounding habitat. There was an 800m boardwalk that led up to an elephant viewing deck, and a hippo bar that looked out into the hippo pool – although we actually spotted loads of giraffes on the viewing deck rather than elephants!
The hippo pool wasn’t secure, which meant they could roam around the hotel grounds and that’s exactly what happened the day we arrived. We were escorted to our room by one of the hotel concierge team who held us back as one huge round hippo was stood right by our rooms having a munch on the grass. Later that evening we could hear him roaring from our bedrooms which was pretty cool!
We spent our three days in Masai Mara heading out on two game drives per day, afternoons relaxing by the pool or in the spa, as well as watching the animals from the hotel decking and bars. I really enjoyed this part of our safari as our days were more varied and without a doubt we saw the most animals here.