A Kenyan Safari Adventure of a Lifetime
Embarking on an African Safari adventure in Kenya is a dream come true for any traveller seeking a unique and captivating experience. Join us as we follow in the footsteps of our intrepid staffer, Emma Holt, a London Based reservations consultant for Somak Luxury Travel.
Earlier this year Emma explored the breathtaking landscapes and remarkable wildlife of this East African gem. From the vibrant city of Nairobi to the expansive plains of the Masai Mara, prepare to be enthralled by the wonders of Kenya.
The capital of Kenya, this city is a gateway to adventure where Emma recommends getting a good night’s rest with an overnight stay to unwind and recharge. Emma stopped for breakfast at Eka Hotel but explained that after her flight from London, she could have done with a break.
“I was exhausted, and I would personally recommend an overnight stay in Nairobi before heading off on safari,” said Emma.
She and her group were transferred to their next destination via light aircraft. “I was nervous about my first experience on a light aircraft – I don’t enjoy turbulence and knew I would need to expect this flying low through the clouds but once we were in the air seeing the landscape below, it made the flight so much easier – plus, I had a short nap!”
The first stop on Emma’s itinerary was Loisaba. “Loisaba is hot, a dry landscape filled with cacti. It was such a contrast from the city of Nairobi and only an hour’s flight away. Home to the “big 4” (minus the rhino) I was excited to start the safari experience and had my eyes peeled for wildlife the minute we arrived.”
At Elewana Loisaba Tented Camp, Emma enjoyed breathtaking views and spacious accommodations. She was impressed by some of the thrilling activities like mountain biking, camel rides, and horseback safaris, available. “Making it a clear winner for those looking for a bit of adventure,” she mused.
Close to where she stayed was another popular stop in Loisaba. “Elewana Lodo Springs and Star Beds are within an hour’s drive of Elewana Tented Camp so it’s easy to mix and match the properties. Both properties are gorgeous, but Lodo Springs was number one for me – quiet, luxurious, and serene. I could have stayed there forever – definitely one for honeymooners,” explained Emma.
Next came the scenic wilderness of Samburu which soon became Emmas’s favourite. “This was my favourite destination in terms of landscape. It’s dry like Loisaba but the landscape is broken up by rolling hills with different colours of sand and it really feels like you’re in Africa,” she enthused. Here she stayed in Ashnil Samburu Camp which is nestled along the Ewaso Nyiro River, providing the perfect vantage point to observe the region’s diverse wildlife. “We were incredibly lucky to see a mother cheetah with her 5-week-old cubs dozing beneath a bush not far from the camp!”
While in Samburu Emma also dropped in on a resort she considers “a hidden gem of Samburu. “Sarova Shaba Game Lodge, located within what feels like a rainforest. The thatched duplex rooms are perfect for those with children or larger groups. A family friendly resort, Sarova Shaba offers family activities in the high season,” she said.
The next place Emmas visited was the recently opened Surana Buffalo Springs where she stayed overnight and celebrated her birthday “Each luxury tent has its own private plunge pool with lovely river views. We enjoyed sundowners on the rooftop bar, and I even received a birthday cake and wishes from the team at Surana,” she said.
While in Samburu Emma also visited other properties which she previously only knew from booking holidays for her clients. “The journey to Saruni Samburu was long and bumpy, but worth it as we climbed the spectacular rockface the property is perched on. The camp offers night game drives, walking safaris, stargazing activities and much more,” said Emma who also noted its limitations. “Not a property for those who have difficulty walking,” she explained.
Another camp she visited was Samburu Intrepids which had recently reopened after renovations. “The camp is very family-friendly and offers an “adventure club” for those aged 4 –12,” she explained adding that it also offered extras such as bush dinners, private dining and activities including archery.
Next on Emma’s trip was a visit to a camp known for its resident bull elephants. “Elephant Bedroom Camp is an unfenced camp right on the Ewaso Nyiro River. All tents are large and comfortable, with private plunge pools and river-facing views,” explained Emma who also sounded a warning. “Be careful to lock up your tent, or you might find a family of vervets have moved in.”
“In the afternoon, we went on a game drive and saw a small herd of elephants munching on the bush, a troop of baboons climbing up a vertical rock face and a bloat of hippos basking in the sun.”
After a busy time in Samburu, Emma was whisked to the Majestic Masai Mara. An iconic National Reserve where one expects to encounter wildlife to leave visitors spellbound. Emma was not left wanting. “Within 15 minutes of being in the National Reserve, we witnessed a pride of lions with at least 12 cubs. It was an unbelievable sighting,” she said. “Searching for shade, the male lion found a spot right under my open window. Being so close to a wild lion was both exhilarating and terrifying. Definitely, an experience that will not be forgotten.”The first camp Emma visited was Mara Intrepids, a family-friendly camp that offers immersive experiences for both young and old. “The property is one of few that offers three game drives per day for guests to make the most of the game whilst in the Mara,” explained Emma.
Next, she visited Mara Explorer which caters to adults seeking a more intimate setting. “Guests that would prefer an adult-only camp, can be accommodated at Mara Explorer aimed at 12 years plus. A small, intimate camp with only 10 tents, located right on River Talek, all rooms offer wonderful river views, “said Emma who added that it was a personal favourite of hers. “I would recommend Tents 3 & 4 if you are after the best view of the hippos.”
“Next stop was Ashnil Mara, a firm favourite with our clients which boasts the best location in the Mara for the Great Wildebeest Migration, at the confluence of Mara and Olkeju Rivers. Ashnil Mara places importance on the local community and supports the Loigero Primary School, which is located close to the entry gate of the Masai Mara and serves the Masaai community of Talek,” said Emma.
Emma managed to fit in a short game drive after lunch before visiting Elewana Sand River, and then ascending to Angama Mara which sits high on the Great Rift Valley. “We were welcomed with open arms by Doris. This property has everything you could ask for Panoramic views of the Masai Mara, a photography studio, a Masaai beading class, and nature walks within the grounds. If clients have the budget for Giraffe Manor, I would strongly suggest offering Angama Mara as an alternative,” said Emma.
Emma was also able to find time to visit one of her favourite properties in the Masai Mara. “I was really excited to visit Main Governors as it’s one of my “go-to” properties in Mara. The tents are large, spacious and can easily accommodate families,” she enthused adding that each tent at Main Governors has a safe drinking water tap.
“Main Governors has a resident elephant, Blossom, who popped by when we were enjoying our lunch. It was an experience having to ditch our food to make it to safety, she was less than 50m away from our table!”
From Main Governors, it is but a short small boat trip to Little Governors. “It was a unique experience as the captain pulled the boat along a rope tied between the two parts of the reserve,” said Emma. However, she said if she had to choose between the Governors properties she would choose Il Moran Camp. “The added touches make it top-of-the-range safari accommodation for those who are seeking that extra bit of luxury. The tents are all river-facing and have hammocks on the veranda, making that after-lunch snooze perfectly acceptable,” she said.
“From Masai Mara National Reserve, we travelled North into the private conservancies, “said Emma who explained that private conservancies are owned by local Masaai communities and offer a more exclusive experience. “Due to the limited number of vehicles per game drive, it is possible to encounter the African wilderness without meeting a huge number of other vehicles,” she explained.
In these private conservancies, Emma visited Neptune Mara Rianta, with its luxury tents overlooking the Mara River, which guarantees unparalleled service and delightful activities such as night game drives and bird watching, and Kicheche Bush Camp, a haven for wildlife photographers, some of whom visit annually.
“Patrick, our driver at Kicheche, was fantastic. He spotted a lone lioness calling her cubs and within minutes the cubs were running at full speed to interact with their mother,” said Emma adding that Patrick also created the perfect sundowner setting. “To celebrate the end of our safari, Patrick found us the perfect sundowner location where we sipped our cocktails enjoying the Mara sunset.”
African Safari Ballooning Adventure
Emma’s final bucket-list activity in the Masai Mara was a Hot Air Balloon Safari. “I cannot recommend this excursion enough. I am not particularly a fan of heights and I understand that it is a scary thought being so high up in the air, but experiencing Mara from above was amazing,” said Emma. “We passed over a herd of elephants who did not enjoy being interrupted whilst enjoying their breakfast, and we did get a bull tooting at us as we passed over. An unforgettable experience and I would definitely do it again!”
Return to Nairobi
Upon her return to Nairobi, Emma was taken to savour a delectable brunch at Hemingways Nairobi, followed by a visit to the enchanting Giraffe Centre.
“It was difficult to get close to the famous Rothschild giraffes as it was over a weekend, so I would recommend stopping here on weekdays to avoid the crowd,” she recommended.
Then she rounded off her trip with dinner at the famous The Carnivore Restaurant.
“It’s definitely worth trying meat you wouldn’t get at home (crocodile) but if you would prefer a drink, then definitely have a taste of “Dawa.” A cocktail made up of lime, honey, vodka, water, and lots of ice!”
Tips: Emma’s advice for your Safari in Africa
- Visit more than one destination. I would recommend pairing Samburu and Mara in a flying safari.
- Get Kenyan Shillings out before you travel, it’s nice to use the local currency as tips, although USD$ are accepted.
- Use packing cubes to separate your safari day clothes from your evening clothes, or safari from beach wear.
- Kenya uses the same plug as the UK – I always take a universal adaptor that has 4 USB ports so it’s easy to charge multiple devices at once.
While on Safari:
- Take a moment away from your phone or camera lens to really enjoy being in an environment where you can fully immerse yourself in a different culture and wildlife.
Now that you have read all about Emma’s trip why not look into booking your own trip to Kenya, with its diverse landscapes and rich wildlife which offers an unparalleled safari experience?
From the adrenaline rush of encountering lions up close to the serene luxury of tented camps, a journey through Kenya promises unforgettable memories.
Immerse yourself in the magic of the African wilderness and let Somak Luxury Travel guide you through an adventure of a lifetime in Kenya.