In June this year I set off on an adventure of a lifetime with my favourite supplier of small group adventure travel, Intrepid, to explore Kenya, meet the people of Kenya, and get up close and personal with the abundant wildlife!
It was a wonderful experience in so many ways. On arrival in Nairobi we started off by visiting a village where Intrepid’s charity foundation are funding projects to help the villagers alleviate poverty by helping them set up small pig farms. We were warmly welcomed by traditional singing and dancing from the village ladies, who welcomed us into their homes, shared their life stories and taught us to cook traditional food.
Our first night was spent in a hotel in Nairobi where we met our guide for the week, Mambo, who was engaging and knowledgeable and explained everything we needed to know about our week ahead. That evening we went into Nairobi where we tried a local meal in a typical restaurant where local Kenyan families would go to eat followed by a few Tuskers (Kenyan beer) in a local Kenyan pub.
The following morning, we were up early to load up our overland truck for our drive north through the Great Rift Valley to Lake Nakuru National Park for our first night of camping. The truck would be our second home for the week where we stored our tents, bags, camp kitchen etc, and was filled with fun and laughter on our long overland drives. The sides of the truck were floor to ceiling glass enabling everyone to have a great view of Kenyan life as we made our way through the country.
Each night we put up our own tents, helped with the cooking, washing up and cleaning the overland truck, which quickly created a great spirit and camaraderie amongst our group. There were several different nationalities on this trip, including lots of solo travellers who had never met each other before we arrived in Kenya, so joining in with camp life was a great way for the group to bond quickly.
We managed to see three of the Big Five on our very first safari drive (rhino, leopard, buffalo) as well as numerous other wild animals including a hyena on the prowl, baboons, ostriches, zebras, warthogs, flamingos and my favourite – giraffes! A brilliant start to our wildlife adventure.
The next day we did a local village walk in the morning learning about the lives of the people there and how they make use of their natural resources to farm and live sustainably. Then after packing up the truck we headed off to our next camp at Lake Naivasha where we did a boat safari and were incredibly close up to hippos yawning in the evening sun, huge pelicans, and eagles swooping down to catch their prey from the water.
The following day I chose to take an optional excursion to Hells Gate National Park, which is home to some spectacular scenery and is the real-life movie set for the animated landscape used in the Lion King - including ‘Pride Rock’ and the Hells Gate Gorge, the spectacular canyon where the wildebeest stampede happens in the movie.
The part of the trip I was most looking forward to though was at our next campsite where we spent time with the colourfully dressed Maasai people, visiting a local Maasai village, learning Maasai warrior survival skills and enjoying an evening singing and dancing round the campfire with them. This included a no question off limits Q&A which gave a fascinating insight into their culture and traditions. At the end of the evening a few of us slept round the campfire with the Maasai Warriors watching over us – one watching, one sleeping and one patrolling, taking it in turns all night to ensure we were kept safe from the wild animals!
For the last couple of days of the trip we travelled deeper into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and amongst the abundant wildlife we were so happy to see all of the Big Five – including getting very close up to a male sleeping lion (so close I even got a ‘lion selfie’), a female lion on the prowl, a leopard playing with its prey and making a kill, rhinos, elephant families walking in front of our truck, a cheetah, buffalos. We also saw zebras, giraffes, gazelles and so many more it would be impossible to list (even if I could remember all their names!) We reached as far as the border with Tanzania where the Mara becomes the Serengeti and the Mara River is brim full of hippos - and crocodiles!
Lots of Kenyans are very poor but all are extremely welcoming, especially in the rural villages, and the wildlife is amazing of course. I would highly recommend a visit to Kenya on guided group tour like this as you are able to meet Kenyan people you would never get to meet otherwise; you have a guide with you to explain everything about the wildlife and the culture of the country from whom I learnt so much; and best of all you get to share the experience with wonderful new friends that you will make on your journey.
For this particular trip the accommodation was basic, camping most nights, which I loved, but this same itinerary can be done in more comfort if that is what suits you best, and there are also special departures for families (minimum age 5), where the tour is tweaked to ensure that all ages of the group are catered for.
Please contact me if you’d like to know more about the different type of trips you can do in Kenya, from guided group tours like this but also private tours, luxury lodges, beach stays and more!