African Safari Diaries: Dreams can come true
In this edition of African Safari Diaries we speak to Mairead Skirka who was offered the chance to pick a dream holiday, thanks to Dreams Come True, after she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in May 2016. A safari was top of her list, so she travelled with us to Kenya for our Thorn Tree safari.
1. Was this your first time visiting Kenya? What made you decide to visit?
Yes, this was our first time. I was offered the chance to pick a dream holiday, thanks to Dreams Come True, after I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in May 2016. I am a veterinary student and have a huge love for animals, so a safari was top of my list! Having spoken to some family and friends, Kenya was highly recommended, and the package offered by Somak, which also included a relaxing beach stay at the end, was perfect!
Smiles all round on safari
2. What was your itinerary?
We picked the Thorn Tree Safari and arrived in Nairobi late on the Monday evening and stayed at The Eka Hotel close to the airport. It was gorgeous and a great introduction to the amazing service and hospitality of the Kenyan people. We set off early the next morning for a four-night safari staying at several lodges and visiting the Aberdares, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and the Masai Mara. During this time we went on many game drives and managed to see every animal we were hoping to, with even a very rare sighting of a a black rhino!
We also took a boat trip across Lake Naivasha where we got to see many hippos in their natural habitat and also got the chance to visit a Masai village which was a really fun and eye opening experience.
On the second last day of the safari, just before a champagne breakfast, we took an early morning hot air balloon flight over the Masai Mara which was insane!
After our safari was complete we were transported back to Nairobi where we caught a flight to Mombasa and spent five days by the beach, the perfect way to recover from the action packed nature of the safari.
Balloon flight over the Masai Mara
3. Where did you stay whilst on your trip and what was your favourite property?
We stayed at the Eka Hotel, Treetops, Lake Naivasha Country Club, Keekorok Lodge and finally Sarova Whitesands. My favourite property was Keekorok Lodge in the Masai Mara. I loved being able to wander down to the hippo bar with a gin in hand to watch the sunset and the hippos come to life.
The rooms were very welcoming and we had the opportunity to see wildlife such as baboons, zebra, mongoose and more from our terrace. I loved the quality and excitement of the game drives from this lodge and the food was also amazing. Finally, the tranquil swimming pool at the lodge was an added extra, ideal for cooling off in between morning and afternoon game drives.
Our hotel by the beach in Mombasa, Sarova Whitesands, was also a fabulous hotel and the entertainment, food and facilities offered here were outstanding, so I would highly recommend this hotel for a beach retreat.
4. What were your highlights from your trip?
An unforgettable moment of the trip was when we discovered a pride of lions who had just hunted down a giraffe. We were within metres of the lions and it was marvellous, although slightly gory, to watch them tuck into their dinner. One of the younger lions crossed the path right in front of our van and I remember being both exhilarated and terrified at the same time.
Lion in the Mara
Another highlight was definitely the hot air balloon trip which I would highly recommend. We loved getting a different view of the animals below and being able to see the various herds of zebra, buffalo and wildebeest making their way across the land. Our pilot was fantastic and able to provide us with lots of interesting facts as well as the smoothest flight I have ever experienced – it felt as if we were just gliding through the air.
Finally, I also really enjoyed our trip to the Masai Village and joining in the traditional dances and songs while learning about the Masai culture. It was a totally different way of life and, although it was so far removed from anything I had seen before in the way of accommodation, day to day activities, food and culture, it was amazing to see how happy the people were with this simple way of life.
5. Do you have any advice or tips for anyone thinking of going on a Safari?
Do it! It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life and I would love to go back some day. I fell in love with not only the animals of Kenya but also the people and beautiful scenery. My favourite part of the safari was the Masai Mara, so if I was to return in the future I would perhaps stay at a lodge there and only do game drives in this area.
However, I think for a first safari the Thorn Tree Safari was a great way to see different areas of the country and a variety of animals. Our safari was four nights long and, while I wasn’t sure if this would be enough, I think for a first time it definitely was. Safari is amazing but it is more tiring than you would expect and so I think this length combined with the 5 nights beach stay at the end was the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation/recovery.
Dreamy eyed giraffe
Somak are proud to be associated with the wonderful charity, Dreams Come True.
If after reading Mairead’s experience you would like to book a similar itinerary, here’s more information about our 4-night Thorn Tree Safari Itinerary.
We would love to work with you to plan the safari holiday of a lifetime. For more information on how our safari experts can help you, call Somak Holidays today on 020 8423 3000.
To find out more about Dreams Come True, a national children’s charity whose mission is to enrich the lives of children and young people living with serious medical conditions, visit their website here.
Please note all photos featured are credited to Mairead Skirka .