Read our Kenya Travel Itinerary
Kenya Day 1
We were very lucky on this vacation and managed to score very affordable business class tickets on 3 out of 4 flights to and from Nairobi. The flight was as comfortable as you would expect from business class. Not only were the meals designed by award-winning Canadian chef David Hawksworth, but we also received a very generous liquor services from our attendants. We arrived in Frankfurt Germany well rested after a good in-flight nap and with quite a buzz on. Our connecting flight on KLM was economy class but only a short 7hrs so we could not complain. The only interesting part was the bus transfer to the plane. From the gate, it took 20mins to drive to the tarmac where a OneWorld plane was waiting for us. We had not experienced the OneWorld share fleet before and boarding from the tarmac was not something we had experienced at an airport as huge as Frankfurt.
We arrived in Nairobi airport late, our travel agent had recommended we buy our visas at the airport. When we got there we saw why. Not only was the online pre-purchase the same price as in person, but the line for the online purchase was four times as long. Make sure you are aware of the Visa requirements before landing in Nairobi. We breezed through immigration and met our tour company. They called for our van and we headed to Eka Hotel for a lay overnight. The room was comfortable and hotel security was very thorough making us feel very safe. You can read a full review here. We enjoyed watching some of the local TV. Smartphones and cheap cameras have revolutionized the African television industry, creating an openly creative, and perhaps, little amateur TV industry. Sure production standards were low, but it was obvious everyone was having a great time and the colloquial humour gave us a chuckle.
Kenya Day 2
It was a very early rise and our driver met us in the lobby for our flight to the Maasai Mara from Wilson-Olare airport. There was no time for breakfast at the hotel so we grabbed a snack at the airport. The flight was smooth, the Cessna plane was very small but we never felt unsafe. To give you an idea here is what the flight felt like.
We arrived at the airstrip and we were greeted by two Maasai warriors to drive us to our safari camp, Porini Lion camp in the heart of the Masai Mara. In the first 10mins of our drive to our camp, we saw lions and a herd of elephants. The guide and driver promised there was much more in the near future.
We pulled to the camp and The Maasai Camp Manager Patrick greeted us with a broad welcoming smile. “Welcome to your new home” he said, “Please come and sit in the lounge tent and we will give you a briefing.” We received our camp briefing regarding where everything was located and safety considerations. For example, never walk outside your tent at night without a Maasai guide. Hyenas and lions are known to come into the camp at night. However, the most dangerous visitor at night is the Hippopotamus. In Africa, Hippos are responsible for more deaths than any predator animal. But, according to Camp Boss Patrick, “they do a great job of keeping the grass trimmed around the camp”.
We enjoyed a lunch of fish, rice and salad, then headed out for an afternoon game drive. Combined with a sun downer (cocktail hour) and a night time game drive on the way back to Camp.
We were very lucky to see the renowned documentary star Figgy the Leopard with her young cub. Over the years she has been featured in many nature documentaries. Our guide informed us that Figgy had been the proud mother of two cubs only 48hr earlier. But unfortunately, one of our little ones had been taken by a troop of Baboons the night before. The remaining cub was noticeable skittish, as Figgy walked away to hunt for dinner. The cub cried out to its mother and then scrambled up a tree to hide from all the predators. It’s not an easy life for the young of the Mara. It does not matter if you are prey for a predator; all babies are susceptible to the same threats.
We continued to a small pride of lions devouring a wildebeest calf kill. A cheeky Black Backed Jackal was skirting the pride hoping to get some scraps. We watched as it paced and circled, the Lions occasionally grunting as if saying “Stay away buddy”. He slowly built up the courage and crept over to grab the tail of the calf. With is jaws locked onto it he quickly scooting off as the lions stood up to express their disapproval. The Jackel trotted off proud of his score.
Our guide John poured a couple of Gin & Tonics (sundowners) and we sat back to enjoy the sunset. What a fantastic first day on Safari. We spent sometime spot lighting for evening animals in the twilight. There was not much to been seen except from an angry hippo mother and her calf, she made her disapproval of our pursuit obvious. We took that as our cue and headed back to camp for some much needed rest.
Kenya Day 3
An early rise we started with a bush shower. The Lion Camp uses a gravity “camp shower” system. The staff provide buckets of nicely warmed water with enough longevity for a good scrub. It was much need, because you get caked with a thick layer of dirt from bounding across the savannah. We drove across the savannah in search of the sunrise. There was a feeling of peaceful tranquility over the Olare Motorogi Masai Mara Conservancy. We captured some amazing photos of Giraffes and Elephants silhouetted by the sunrise.
We followed our noses to a Hyena kill. It was not a pleasant smell. The killed was obviously well ripened, but the Hyenas are not fussy eaters. They can handle meals that most predators would avoid due to fear of disease from its decomposition. They can also break down the bones with their strong jaws. Their highly acidic stomach juices digest the bone and sterilise the rotten meat. This resiliency makes them the clean up crew of the Mara food chain.
Nothing goes to waste in the Maasai Mara, there is an animal specifically evolved to fill every ecological niche. We passed countless Topis, which are nick named Blue Jeans, because the look like they are wearing Jeans with denim colour on their hindquarters.
We drove up a hill overlooking the conservancy and enjoy “breakfast in the bush”.
Porini camp guides can drive off-road, getting you closer to the wildlife, but also making for a slightly rougher ride. We received many “Maasai Massages” during our day of driving.
We stopped at a river crossing and watched a large herd of Wildebeest crossing on their migration. As they stumbled and clambered up the riverbanks it felt like we had been dropped in a nature documentary. This was an experience of a lifetime.
Further down the river, we followed our nose to a herd of Hippos who were wallowing in their own odour (as Hippos are accustom to doing, read our Tanzania dairy for more info on Hippo habits). The herd included a cute baby hippo that worked hard to keep up with its much larger family members, bumping along the edge of the bank.
During our drive to the next site, we discussed marriage and the cultural norms of Maasai and the Western cultures. Our guide John asked how expensive my dowry was. He paid 10 cows, 5 goats and a large order of alcohol for his educated, beautiful wife. His father in law told him it was the least he deserved, considering all the money he had spent on her education. I informed him that I had not paid a dowry and he looked at me and Sherriden saying, “You’re a very lucky man.” I thought to myself, I hope my father in law doesn’t hear about this, I don’t know where he would put 10 cows and 5 goats.
Driving along a hillside, our guides spotted a pride of lions in the distance. We made a left turn and headed down the hill towards them, they were stalking the large herd of Wildebeest we had seen crossing the river. We watched intently as they sized up the herd. Suddenly our guide exclaimed, “Look over to the right, Hyenas, chasing a Lion!” We focused our cameras and binoculars trying to get a view. The driver hit the pedal and we bounced across the scrub towards the fracas. Getting to the other side of the bank we found that the Hyenas were gone, they had chased the Lioness up a tree. Our guide looked to us and said “Well that is something you don’t see very often, a Lion in a tree.” The lioness did not look comfortable; she looked anxiously for the Hyenas. Fumbling to stay in the fork of the tree, she certainly lacked any of the agility we had seen from the Leopard. She could not stand the discomfort any longer and clumsily ran down the tree trunk and off into the scrub.
After a morning of game viewing, we returned to camp for lunch and to recharge our batteries, both literal and figurative.
Around 4pm we set out on our afternoon game drive and sunset sundowner at a scenic spot. The sunset was stunning and we did a little spotlighting on our way back to camp. We got to see some nocturnal animals including African Wild Cats and a huge pride of Lions on the perimeter of our camp. We returned to camp for dinner and shared safari stories with our fellow tourists from all around the world.
Kenya Day 4
We arose early and took one last quick morning game drive around the Olare Motorogi Masai Mara Conservancy. We found Figgy the Leopard again, but her cub was nowhere to be seen. We hoped the little one was hiding in the scrub somewhere and not befallen the same fate as its sibling. We partook in another bush breakfast on a hillside, watching the Wildebeest and Giraffes graze on the savannah below us.
Then we returned to the camp said our goodbyes to Patrick and his team, picked up our luggage and left for our 2hr drive to Il Keliani Safari camp.
Our drive was basically an accelerated game drive. We saw many animals, which was a bonus. Arriving at the next camp we said goodbye to our driver and thanked him for his services. We were greeted by our new hosts and received our camp briefing. Il Keliani overlooks a section of the Talek River. Our tent opened to a fantastic view and we often saw Baboon troops on the opposite side looking for food and protecting their territory. With that in mind, it is recommended you secure your tent. Baboons are known to be cunning thieves; breaking into tents and stealing anything they can get their hands on. They are allegedly fond of makeup and nail polish. We are not sure why, but I swear I saw one wearing lipstick.
After a light lunch, we embarked on an afternoon game drive. It was a hot humid afternoon and storm clouds were on the horizon, the animals seemed to be hiding out. We encountered a herd of elephants and ticked more birds off our list. Aside from that and many many Topi (Blue Jeans!) we did not see other animals.
Then the rains came, boy oh boy, did it rain. A torrential downpour, the savannah turned into a river of water, we clambered to close the sides of the Land Cruiser and our driver struggled to navigate us back to camp.
We were very happy to call the day early and took advantage of a hot shower from our tents private solar heated hot water system. Warmed and refreshed we strolled to the camp lounge to watch the rain fill the river, dry and comfortable with a cold beverage in our hands.
Dinner was a simple beef stew with couscous and sautéed vegetables. Dessert was tasty butterscotch pudding. We retired to bed to rest for a busy day 5.
Kenya Day 5
We arose before the sun and headed out on our game drive. We came upon a herd of elephants feeding on scrub and watched the hot air balloons rise from the nearby camps.
Another pack of hyenas feeding on a wildebeest kill and then made our way to the Mara River for a riverside breakfast of our own.
It felt a little surreal munching on breakfast watching Hippos and Crocodiles bobbing around in the river below our bank top vantage point. It would be fair to say it was the most interesting breakfast of our lives.
Fully fed and feeling like bulbous hippos, we got back in the Land Cruiser and continued on our game drive. We didn’t drive far before we crossed the path of a large herd of wildebeest. As they relentlessly galloped through the long grass, it made us ponder the fortitude of their natural instinct driving them to migrate despite the obvious peril predators posed.
True to form the predators were not far away. We picked up a call on the radio; a nearby pride of cheetahs had taken down a young wildebeest. We rush to the site and found 5 brothers hurrying to get their fill.
Although formidable hunters, Cheetahs often become victims to other opportunistic predators like Hyena and Lions. Their efforts stalking and chasing down their prey often results in it being stolen from them. For this reason, they greedily eat as much as they can as quickly as they can. Always in a hierarchical order, but often with the dominant hunter delayed in the ranks, while it rests from the takedown energy expenditure. We watched as the dominant hunter panted and puffed working to get its energy back so it could feed. The other four brothers took advantage of their leaders incapacitation and feasted. As soon as the dominant leader had regained his composure he let our a quick snarl and snap and they others made way for him to eat.
We watched as nature circle unfolded in all its gory glory. Quickly the brother’s bellies filled, bulging with fresh protein. They each began to lose interest in the kill, but others waited near by, eager to pick up the scraps. A large flock of White Backed Vultures waited for the last of the brothers to leave the kill and pounced on it, squabbling and bickering to get their piece. We watched as the kill was turned into a pile of bones.
We set off after the brothers. They were heading towards a lone acacia tree on the horizon. We watched the brothers mark their territory and lay down to sleep off their meal.
Following more wildlife spotting, we went back to the camp for lunch, “traditional African” Lasagne and Cheesecake. Ok not really traditional at all, but who can knock Lasagne and Cheesecake?
Our afternoon drive featured more elephants, giraffes, Thompson Gazelles fighting, countless wildebeest and a lioness with her cubs. The mini pride was exploring a riverbank and the cubs were having a fun time roughhousing through the boulders.
Kenya Day 6
A warm camp shower followed by breakfast some goodbyes to the camp staff and more wildlife viewing on the way to the airstrip. Many wildebeest honked on the plains very close to the airstrip. As we took off we wondered how close they get to the planes and what risk they posed. As we took off we looked to our right and saw a Giraffe gazing on the long grass, unperturbed by the noise created by the plane.
Back in Nairobi, we had arranged to do some tourist activities. One of the most popular tourist activities in Nairobi is visiting the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The centre is dedicated to educating visitors about the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife. They focus on anti-poaching, addressing animal welfare issues, providing veterinary assistance to animals in need and rescuing elephant and rhino orphans, nursing them back to care so they can be returned to the wild when they are fully grown. There is also a resident Black Rhino who is blind and could not survive in the wild.
The centre is only open to the public for one hour each day from 11am to noon and costs approx. It costs US$7 to visit and you should book ahead as space is limited. The centre is quite small so 1 hour is plenty of time to walk around and visit each orphan. There is also the option to foster an elephant for $50USD a year and this allows you to visit the centre at 5pm to see the elephants return to their beds for the evening. You can get full information on visiting and adopting at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
We choose to sponsor an orphaned elephant named Jotto. We were very excited to meet him and eagerly lined up to watch the herd return from their day in the national park. It was fascinating to see the tourist jostling to get the best viewing spot. I have never seen so many 40+-year-olds acting like 12-year-olds.
True to our luck Jotto ran past and promptly went to bed, ignoring us completely. He was so lazy he even chose to eat his dinner lying down. We walked around and met all the other orphans. Many of whom were far more animated and engaging than Jotto.
They also have an orphaned Giraffe called Kiko. We had a great time with our Samsung Gear 360 and its curious tongue.
We technically spent another night at Eka Hotel before leaving for Uganda and then Tanzania, but let’s pretend we continued our Kenya trip for the sake of not disjointing this diary.
Kenya Day 6.5 (After Tanzania and Uganda)
We returned from Tanzania, were greeted by our driver and taken to Tribe Hotel. Part of the SPG Signature series, it is a beautiful hotel. Well worth the SPG points we cashed it for a taste of luxury. We settled in and enjoyed some room service for dinner. We were beat from a big trip around Africa and an early night was welcome.
Kenya Day 7
There are plenty of great things to see and do in and around Nairobi. We had a spare day before a late night flight, so we hired a driver to take us around and see as much as we could in 8 hours.
We were interested in finding some gifts and gorgeous jewellery to take home. The best place for that is Kazuri Beads located in Karen. Meaning “small and beautiful” in Swahili Kazuri was opened in 1975. Its founders started the workshop with two single mothers, aiming to help them support their families. But she soon found that many other local disadvantaged women were in need of regular work too. Today they help to support the families of over 300 women who have become skilled artisans creating beautiful jewellery and ceramics. We took a tour of the working factory then headed to the gift centre to buy up some beads and pottery.
Is to provide and sustain employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan society, especially Single Motherhood women and in order to achieve this, we must produce top quality Ceramic Jewelery and Pottery. This will also ensure that we are well equipped to compete and be recognized in both the local and international market.
Is to be recognized in both the local and International market as a top Brand of Hand crafted ceramic producer. Our Brand is well established worldwide as we export over 60% through a network of distributors all over the world.
Their work is very honourable and more information can be found http://kazuri.com/
Next, We took a short ride to the Giraffe Centre, home of the endangered Rothschild Giraffes. At the Centre ,you can get up close with their 7 residents. Standing on a raised rotunda, you’re eye to eye with the beautiful animals. They provide an opportunity to hand feed and even take a selfie with a Giraffe. They encourage you to allow the giraffes take food directly from your mouth. We decided against this, it looked pretty gross! The centre is quite small so you don’t need to spend any longer than 1 hour there.
No trip to Nairobi would be complete without a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum. Made famous by the movie Out of Africa, it is a tribute to her life and literature. The museum is the beautiful farmhouse where Karen lived between 1914 and 1931. You get to learn all about her life as a writer and the impact she had on the community in Nairobi as a coffee farmer.
Lunchtime came and our driver asked us what we felt like eating. After 3 weeks of eating western inspired food in Africa, we said to him “Where would you go if you weren’t touring us around?” He looked confused and we clarified “We would like to eat what the average Kenyan eats, where they eat it”. He agreed and took us to a restaurant that served authentic African dishes. We walked through the door and all patrons turned their heads as if saying, “What are those tourist doing in here!” We enjoyed a meal of beef stew and whole fried tilapia with sides of Ugali. Ugali is a white cornmeal similar to polenta. It is a staple across Africa and popular because of its low cost and satiating qualities.
Reflecting on our experience in Kenya we can’t help but compare it to our trips to Tanzania and Uganda. All three were life-changing experiences; there were similarities and many differences. The biggest difference came from the off-roading and it is a little hard to reconcile the trade-off. On the one hand, you get amazing access to close up viewing of animals, on the other, the landscape is torn up by the vehicles. Seeing the tire tracks certainly detracts from the view. We wonder how deeply it impacts the animals and flora. Tourism provides much-needed income for Kenyans so we can’t say they are completely wrong to allow it. Should the Kenyan government bring in legislation to complement the Tanzanian anti off road laws? Or is it their Safari market differentiator. Either way, we highly recommend you get out on Safari. Yes, it is a very expensive vacation, especially if you select mid-premium packages as we chose. But it is worth every penny you spend.
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