In October 2008, we set out on our long awaited Safari to Kenya. We boarded our Kenya Airways flight from Heathrow to Nairobi at 8pm and arrived the following morning at 6.30am, the direct flight taking seven and a half hours
We were met at the airport by our Tour Operator’s representative who drove us the short journey to their Safari Lounge where we were provided with a hearty breakfast and our first cup of Kenyan coffee (highly recommended). Shower facilities were also available for those of us who wanted to freshen up.
The transfer from Nairobi to the Masai Mara was by plane, albeit a propeller driven 8-seater (an adventure in itself). Our flight took us out of the bustling city of Nairobi, over the Masai Mara, landing 40 minutes later on the Keekerok airstrip. Our waiting jeep took us the short 10 minutes drive to Keekerok Lodge which was to be the base for our Safari.
The accommodation at the lodge was of a high standard. The bungalow type rooms offered all the amenities associated with a 4-5 star hotel in the city while the lodge itself boasted a fantastic buffet restaurant as well as a much appreciated outdoor swimming pool (with pool bar)
After a swift buffet lunch, we set off on our first Game Drive. We were no further than 500 yards from the lodge when we encountered our first “obstacle”. Our driver was forced to stop our vehicle to allow a heard of elephant to cross in front of us. Amazing. We were no more than a few feet away from them and they did not flinch. Obviously, elephants have the right of way on the Mara !
During our 3 hour Game Drive we spotted countless species, all of which looked so more contented in their natural environment, as opposed to when seeing them in captivity. We even took time to visit a Mara village where we mingled with it’s occupants, all of whom were extremely welcoming. We were even treated to eye-catching renditions of several of their traditional dances
After a well-earned dinner back at the lodge, it was time for an early night before our early-morning start the next day. Our bungalow was a matter of 30 yards away from the main reception area. The path was well lit but the surrounding area was in total darkness. The lodge’s Security Guard was waiting for us at the reception and offered to escort us back to our bungalow. We politely declined – until he pointed his tourch towards the area immediately outside of the bungalow. There it was, a fully grown hippo grazing away and seemingly without a care in the world. This observation promted us to have a rapid change of mind and even more politely, we accepted the escort. As we walked, albeit hastilly, back to our bungalow, we also witnessed several zebra in the distance but still within the grounds of the lodge. Even though we came at one stage to within 3 feet of our resident hippo, it not once stopped to see just how much we were all shaking !
The next morning heralded the most fantastic of experiences, a hot air balloon trip over the Masai Mara. Our pilot, Sebastian, was brilliant. Even though we all had our binoculars, he was able to spot the many animals wandering around below us way before we did and his knowledge of the area and it’s inhabitants was beyond reproach. As we soared hundreds feet above the Mara, we were able to witness first-hand the vastness of the reserve. Each time Sebastian spotted either a heard of elephant, zebras, even lions, he would take the balloon down and hover over the animals, affording us a once in alifetime opportunity to snap the most wonderful of photographs.
At the end of our 10km journey, Sebastian put the balloon down, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where we were met by his colleagues who, after securing the balloon, transported us the short distance to where our champagne breakfast table had been set up. It was difficult to comprehend sitting in the open air, drinking champagne at 8am, surrounded by 50 or so zebra and a heard of wilderbeast no more than 100 yards away. Truly an exhillarating experience.
So, back to the lodge and some relaxation time which we enjoyed by bathing in the sun around the lodge’s swimming pool, sipping a local Tusca Beer (good stuff !)
The next day saw another early departure, this time into the mountainous area of the Mara about one hour away from Keekerok Lodge This was the day we encounterd cheetahs and lions for the first time. To sit in a jeep and stare out of the window at two lions brushing up against the side panel was something special and watching the cheetah sprint accross the ground at lightening speed took our breath away.
So, all in all, this was a truly amazing experience, made very special by the most helpful and knowledgeable guides you could wish to meet.
- Take the plane to the Mara, rather than the arduous journey by road. This not only saves a lot of time but is also a fantastic experience
- The hot air ballon trip is a must. It offers a completely different perspective of the whole safari experience as well as you being able to boast at having taken a champagne breakfast while being surrounded by zebras, giraffes, wilderbeast and the likes. Pre-book before you leave for Kenya as there is limited availability Also, the UK Tour Operators have negotiated some fantastic deals.
- Spend at least one of your nights in the hotel’s tented accommodation where you can listen to the roar or lions, knowing they are probably no more than a few hundred yards away with you only protected by the thickness of the the tent’s canvas
- Why not tag on to the end of your safari, a relaxing stay in on of Mombassa’s magnificent beach hotels. After an action packed but exhausting safrai, there is nothing better than soaking up the sunshine on a white-sanded beach with the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean lapping up against your tired feet.