The Safari Experience
A safari is one of the true great reasons for a visit to Kenya. Whether you are a wildlife expert, a keen photographer or someone who simply enjoys watching animals, a safari is an experience not to be missed, and one that is quite unforgettable.
The question is, how do you want to do it? In a 4×4 vehicle or in a hot-air balloon? On the back of a camel or on foot? Would you rather view animals or birds, or both?
When it comes to a Kenyan safari the options are endless – the following module explores them.
Traditional wildlife safari
There are a number of ways to explore the wildlife of Kenya! The easiest and most frequent used is by four-wheel drive or converted minibus. This will give all passengers their own window seat and view of the Kenyan plains!
It is unrivalled in many respects as it is a fast way to cover ground, and has all the comfort European travellers are used to!
Most vehicles are fitted with radio – which is not just for emergencies, but also for talking to other vehicles to exchange information about wildlife movements. In times gone by the CB radio would have been the only form of communication in the wilderness, but today the spread of the mobile phone is a world-wide phenomenon!
On safari, the driver becomes the guide – with a knowledge of the scenery, wildlife and culture that is second to none. Indeed, finding their way around the huge national parks, with no signposts or service stations in sight, is an art-form in itself!
Vehicles are also fitted with small refrigerated boxes, and mean that packing for a vehicular safari should include plenty of water.
Typically on a safari visitors should pack:
Many people pack a hat or cap… but if you do decide on wearing one make sure that it is well secured!
Most importantly, do remember that a guide book or reference book that lists the animals and/or birds will be beneficial if you are very interested in the wildlife.
Kenya is certainly on the list of those interested in viewing birds in their natural environment, as it is home to over 1,000 species!
Indeed the Kenya Tourist Board has identified 60 important birdwatching areas where rare and native species can be found.
Some of the key areas include, by region:
Kenya is home to one of the most spectacular experiences in the world – the balloon safari over the Maasai Mara.
This is one of the few places that such a trip can be undertaken, and this would explain its huge popularity (so book early!).
Starting just before sunrise, the trip starts in fairly unimpressive circumstances in a field as the passengers board a large picnic basket style gondola, whilst the burner lights the night sky as it fills the balloon with hot air.
As you rise above the Mara, and you look ground-wards, the whole scene opens up before the very eyes. Drifting over the game park, and seeing herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, elephants… and so much more!
It is an impressive journey for the game viewed (it is one of the best times of day for game viewing), as well as the scenery viewed, and to be able to comprehend just how big the land and the sky is! Kenya looks spectacular close up, and just as impressive floating over the Mara in one of the earliest forms of air travel!
Additionally, once landed, from nowhere (it appears) a champagne breakfast is served, in the middle of the national park, with the sun rising over Kilimanjaro, and the distant sounds of the movements of wild animals!
Another great Kenya experience!
Samburu land is camel country, and an ideal place for a camel safari.
For a longer safari, there are many possibilities out of Maralal and Wamba. The high and beautiful Matthews Ranges offer excellent camel trekking.
The camel is perfectly adapted to this landscape and is widely used throughout Northern Kenya. They are usually used for pack animals rather than riding, and are ideal as back up on a trek through the bush. Camels with saddles are usually also supplied for those who want to ride.
Many camel safaris either carry all camping equipment and supplies with them, or use vehicle back up to set up camp ahead of your arrival at a prearranged spot. Gifted Samburu guides, for whom a camel train through the wilderness is a way of life, will introduce you to the bush and the local wildlife.
This is a once in a lifetime experience, walking through the bush with only the sounds of the wild and the soft tinkling of the camel bells, you will find yourself travelling at a relaxed pace, moving through the wild in tune with the rhythms of nature.
Trekking safaris are popular in many regions of Kenya, particularly Mount Kenya, the Kilimanjaro region, and the Loroghi Hills.
Wild and isolated yet easily accessible, the Loroghi hills are one of Kenya’s best trekking regions. They provide stunning views across the Great Rift Valley, as well as high mountain passes and the cool of deep forested valleys. Tracks wind their way up the Lesiolo escarpment, reaching a 2580 metre pinnacle at Poror Peak.
The real beauty of this region, though, is the opportunity to meet and spend time with the Samburu people for whom these hills are home. Travelling with a Samburu guide helps you to get to know both the land and its people, making your trek more than just a walk.
In addition, daily walks are available from many of the Lodges in Kenya – a local guide will walk a small group through the surrounding area. It provides a fascinating insight into areas that cannot be viewed by vehicle!
A privately escorted foot safari is the best way to really experience the African bush at its best. Walking through the wilds let you explore the wild at its most pure and visceral. as you track big game, you become aware of every sight and sound, the smell of the earth and the touch of the wind. An expert tracker will teach you the signs to look for, tracks- the individual tracks and spoor, and show you how to use the wind to disguise your scent, and to move silently through thick cover and get up close and personal with the game.
When you are at close range your senses are heightened, and you become increasingly aware of the animal you are watching, how it moves and feeds, how it reacts to its environment. If the animal reacts to your presence, it can be a real adrenaline rush.
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When it comes to experiencing the African safari world, not many hosts can put you on the map quite as firmly or as centrally as Heritage Hotels. With eight stunning properties and three distinctive brands spanning Kenya’s most spectacular beaches and wilderness locations, Heritage offers the broadest range of destinations and safari experiences – and the most diverse and memorable holidays – in Africa’s original ‘safari land’.
With nearly 20 years’ experience in the thick of the world’s best-known bush business, we also offer a vital inside knowledge, a strength of collaboration with local tour operators and airlines, and a depth of ‘bush wisdom’ that provides for the most comfortable, reliable and well-informed safaris in Kenya’s wildest and most exotic locations.
Those locations are also among the best in the business, stretching from the shores of Lamu Island on Kenya’s north coast, where our luxurious hideaway at Kipungani overlooks a deserted 12-kilometre white beach, to the wilds of the Maasai Mara, where our two luxurious tented camps, Mara Intrepids and Explorer, enjoy such bountiful locations that Big Cat Diary used them for over 75% of the filming of their record-breaking last series.
In between these locations are an unrivalled array of safari destinations to suit all tastes and pockets, from the undeniably romantic Voyager Ziwani in Tsavo, voted Kenya’s best tented camp by local visitors in 2004, to the ever-exciting waterworld of Voyager Beach Resort, recently cited as one of Kuoni’s top 10 beach resorts worldwide. From the Voyager properties, it’s a short step up our brand-ladder to the legendary Intrepids camps deep in the wilds of Mara and Samburu, recently joined by a ‘four-star-plus hotel with five-star sports’ at the Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort, where Africa’s most spectacular championship golf course overlooks the breathtaking expanse of the world’s largest valley.
Heritage offers an abundance of different safari perspectives and unique ways to explore Kenya’s magnificent wildlife and fascinating tribal cultures up close. Our latest partnership involves a traditional pastoralist community over the eastern boundary of the Maasai Mara, where we are helping the members of Siana Group Ranch to blend their traditional lifestyles and cattle bomas with a luxury tented camp beside a natural spring – providing visitors with a uniquely rich and uncontrived cultural experience. And there are opportunities for stretching your wings even further afield, courtesy of the exclusive Explorer Collection, which links Kipungani and Mara Explorer with a host of other five-star retreats on some of East Africa’s most remote and exclusive private ranches and game reserves.
All in all, we think we’ve got Kenya pretty well covered. Whatever angle you want to look at it from!
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