Sonia from Noller & Turner Travel Associates recently embarked on an amazing journey to Africa.
I spent time in Nairobi, Aberdare National Park, Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Masai Mara. I flew there in business class with Emirates, with a good connection in Dubai.
We stayed in a variety of accommodation; from basic, comfortable lodges to luxurious tented camps. There is a wide range of options available depending on the kind of experience you are after, the game parks you visit and your budget. Doing a mixture of accommodation styles is a great way to go if you are budget conscious and would like different experiences. The highlight properties for me were:
The Ark at Aberdare National Park: It's set on a salt lick and waterhole, with four levels of observation decks and different viewing areas. Guests can just sit back and wait for the animals to come to them. It's a very unique experience.
Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp: Located on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River, these tents are luxurious and beautifully appointed. The dining area is set amongst the trees and the wild of the bush. It's a wonderful setting, boasting excellent service and is very well presented.
Sarova Lion Hill Lodge : An excellent hill-side lodge with a large restaurant and very pleasant public areas. Standard rooms are on the small side but clean and comfortable and have lovely gardens. It's a good option if you are in Lake Nakuru for a one or two night stay.
Sopa Lake Naivasha Resort Lodge: This is an amazing property with Lake Naivasha lapping at its doorstep. Think lovely thatched bungalows which can comfortably sleep four adults. They have a sunken lounge area and a terrace or balcony opening out onto the gardens. Rooms are bland in furnishings but the views and the ambiance certainly compensate. There is also a lovely bar and restaurant area. as well as a beautiful pool and landscaped gardens. Hippos wander past your room at night and graze within arm's reach while giraffes clog the driveway! It's an excellent choice for visitors to Naivasha.
Sanctuary Olonana was the highlight of my trip to Kenya. It is absolutely magical – from the hippos that greeted us on arrival, to the personal care and attention from all the staff, to the quality and presentation of the meals. The ambience of the Spa was unbelievably peaceful, I loved the sound of the water rushing outside of our tents, they have beautiful bathrooms and offer Africology products. Olonana has everything. I could not fault it – it ticked absolutely every box for me.
Accommodation is important but even more significant is the array of amazing experiences awaiting you in the different African regions...
Nairobi: We visited the Daphne Sheldrick Animal Orphanage in Nairobi where orphaned elephants are raised and rehabilitated before being released back into Kenyan national parks.
Aberdare: We saw elephants, buffalos, bush bucks, hyenas and warthogs at Aberdare National Park.
Samburu: We did several game drives in Samburu National Reserve where we saw the “special five” of Reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx and Somali ostrich. We also saw leopards and plenty of elephants and impalas. Another highlight was a village visit to Josphat’s Village where we were granted insider access to a local village, their homes, their customs and their daily life.
Lake Nakuru: We saw a family of white rhinos, plenty of zebras, impala and buffalo, as well as the Greater and Lesser Flamingos that make Lake Nakuru famous for its “pink lake”.
Lake Naivasha: We enjoyed a peaceful boat trip, taking in bird life, game viewing of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and waterbuck. We got up close to several hippos – both in the water and then later that evening on land outside our hotel rooms.
Masai Mara: A balloon safari is an absolute must for any visitor to the Mara. What an amazing way to see the animals and the park! The views are breathtaking and the champagne breakfast amongst the grassy plains of the Mara is a real highlight. The other highlight of the Mara is the Big Cats, in particular lions, cheetahs and leopards. Seeing the King of the Jungle was an extremely memorable experience. He sat there proudly in the grassy plains. We also visited a Maasai village: Richard’s Village. This was a very complimentary experience to our Samburu village visit and gave me an insight into how another Kenyan tribe lives. The similarities and differences were quite striking. Village visits are a very humbling experience and I highly recommend them.
No Kenyan itinerary is complete without including both Samburu National Park and the Masai Mara. The landscape and animals viewed in these two areas are vastly different. Samburu is arid, full of acacia trees and low-lying scrub which makes animal-spotting a game of hide-and-seek, while the Masai Mara is made of vast, open, grassy plains with the occasional lone tree interrupting the savannah.
As a first-time visitor to Africa, I highly recommend choosing Kenya as a destination. I was amazed that we were able to see the Big Five in just a few days and that one country could be home to so many varying landscapes and ecologies. It exceeded every expectation that I had and I can’t wait until I can return to East Africa in the future.
Kenya is not about visiting museums and monuments, or dining in great restaurants or bargain-hunting. It is about three things: the landscape, the animals and the people. It is truly God’s country and it reminds you of the rawness and simplicity that still exists in the world, which is difficult to find in western society.
- Ask us about our African holidays.