Kenya has always been on my Bucket list, so to be invited on a trip with 20 other agents from around the world was a dream come true. The itinerary was the 8-day Kenya Wildlife Safari with Intrepid. It’s part of their Basix tours which means camping throughout. Now I’m not much of a camper, but how many opportunities do you get to go to Kenya?
Our journey started on the direct overnight flight from London Heathrow to Nairobi with Kenya Airways. We had a full day in Kenya ahead, so we went on an Urban Adventure tour, a company who work with Intrepid Travel. Our adventure for the day was called ‘From Farm to Feast’, which focused on the local communities and how they provide for their families. This tour is fantastic as they take you right out into the sticks to meet the locals. One Horizon Africa, Intrepid’ s partner on this tour, has rescue centres in these communities for locals who are in desperate need of a sustainable food source.
We started off at Rosemary’s house, who talked to us about life in Kenya and how she feeds her extended family. Rosemary raises piglets and sells these on to other locals. Pigs are such a major source of income as they breed quickly but are relatively low maintenance. The best thing about this tour is that 100% of your tour costs will go to the purchase and transport of chickens and piglets to the local communities you visit so you really feel you’re making a difference.
It was an early start on day two as we met up with our Tour leader and explored our truck, which would be our home for the next week. Today we were driving from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru through the immense Great Rift Valley to our first camp near Lake Nakuru National park. The campsite tonight was basic, but we had showers, toilets and a bar! We all bonded over lunch, and then attempted to put up our tents, with help from Mambo the tour leader, Albert the Chef and Stony our driver. In the afternoon we embarked on our first Game drive in Lake Nakuru national park where we saw Rhino’s, Hyena’s and even a sleeping leopard.
Day three we drove from Lake Nakuru to Lake Naivasha, which is one of the largest lakes in Kenya. Our campsite tonight was like the Ritz Carlton compared to the previous night. We had a restaurant, a bar and a pool! My tent buddy and I even upgraded to our very own Lodge as one night in a tent had us longing for a mattress. Lake Naivasha is home to many groups of Hippo’s and birds so an afternoon boat safari was on the cards. We loaded up onto the Canoes in groups of 6 and sailed around the lake getting close to the hippos and the wildlife. The hippos were great to watch, but the fishing eagles were incredible. The eagles perch in old tree’s around the lake and scout out their next meal. The eagles have this amazing partnership with the canoes where the captains whistle out, and the birds swoop down to catch their treat, and yummy fish.
Day 4 is a free day where you have a choice of optional activities. As this is a once in a lifetime trip, I thought I might as well do both the Crater walk in the morning and Hells gate national park in the afternoon. The crater lake Game walk was a great way to get up close to the many animals in the park. We walked amongst many Gazelles, some Zebra’s and the most beautiful Giraffe family who certainly know how to strike a pose. The walk was around three hours in total, and you end up at the top of the Crater with a spectacular view of the three lakes.
The afternoon we visited Hells Gate national park, named for the intense geothermal activity within its boundaries, the Hell’s Gate National Park is a very spiritual place in Kenya. It’s not hard to see why Hells Gate inspired scenes from Disney’s The Lion King. We started off at the top of the park, walking alongside the amazing flat faces rock structures and ended up right down into the heart of the gorge. Walking along the gorge floor was a real treat for me, and I loved geography growing up and this was my first experience of a fully formed gorge.
Day 5 we travelled from Lake Naivasha to Lolita hills, the home of the Maasai People. Today’s journey was around 6 hours of rough terrain, but the time passed quickly when your taking in the immense views of Africa, plus a pub quiz. Our campsite tonight was unique, as it was shared with the Maasai Warriors. We spent our evening sat around a campfire and listening to the Maasai warriors telling us about their traditions and values. Interestingly, to become a Warrior, they are sent out to the bush at a young age and cannot come back until they have killed a Lion. They sung us some traditional Maasai Songs and we sung them a great rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Day 6 we started our morning with the Maasai, wondering the local village and learning about their weapons and how they live day to day. This afternoon we were off to the Maasai Mara for our first experience of a real African game drive. The Maasai Mara expands over 580 square miles of rolling savannah plains connecting to the Serengeti. It’s unknown how many animals they have in the reserve, but you are guaranteed to see some of the world’s most beautiful animals.
Everybody’s main Safari bucket list is to see the Big Five, Lions, Rhinos, Buffalo, elephants and Cheetahs. Although for me, my bucket list was to see the big cats. Our first afternoon game drive proved to be a success with Elephants, Giraffe, Wilder beast and many gazelles, but the highlight was watching a leopard hunting and driving alongside a Cheetah with the beautiful African sunset in the background.
Day 7 we embarked on an all-day game drive in the Maasai Mara whilst some of the group went on a sunrise hot air balloon safari. This was our last game drive of the trip and last chance to spot the elusive Lion.
After driving for a few hours and no Lion sighting, we stumbled across a brown furry thing hidden in the bush by the side of road. We finally had our Lion, two fully grown males having a mid-morning nap. I could have stayed for hours watching them dosing in the sun, but there was still so much to see.
We stopped for lunch by the river where there was an opportunity to walk along the river bank, with armed guards of course. The Mara river is most famously known for the wildebeest crossing in migration season, which was due to start in a few weeks. Some hungry crocodiles had started moving up the river for the migration. The river is also home to a few Hippo families. Interesting fact, Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, killing more people than Lions. Hippo’s tend to attack more at night as they spend most of their days in the water due to the strong Sun. They do like to tell you that they are not happy with you walking through their territory though, which was a bit daunting at times.
We ended our game drive with a fabulous pride of lions playing in a tree, and the most beautiful group of elephants with some adorable babies. The Maasai Mara game reserve truly is a special place, and an amazing reserve for game spotting.
Day 8 was the long drive back to Nairobi for our flight home early the next morning. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kenya with Intrepid. Going on an intrepid tour is a fantastic way to really sink your teeth into the real Kenya. We didn’t just see the tourist side, we met with the locals, we learnt how they live, and what they do to make a living. We met the Maasai warriors and experienced so much that you wouldn’t get to on an ordinary holiday.
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed my time camping. Going back to basic facilities makes you realise how lucky you are, and how privileged we are to enjoy a shower after spending the week in one of the most baron continents on earth. I will definitely book an intrepid trip again in the future and wouldn’t rule out the camping. Kenya is a nation of welcoming people and outstanding natural beauty, and worth a visit.
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