Top tips for an African Safari – an experience which everyone should do at least once!

img_2711

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy,”

Ernest Hemingway.

I wholeheartedly agree with the quote from one of my famous authors from English Literature days in school and my fellow Mojito lover. Having been born in Kenya, in East Africa, growing up in Africa has truly enriched my body and soul in so many adventures, memories, knowledge and life experiences.

One experience, which no matter how many times you do it, is just always so amazing, is going on an African safari. There is something about seeing lions up close in the grasslands, or a cheetah jumping on a neighbouring car’s roof (or your own car roof) which is just unexplainable. It is a truly life changing experience.

img_3556-1img_2754

img_2556

It is thrilling to see wild animals in their natural habitat, going about their daily lives. If a safari is on your bucket list tick it off sooner rather than later (it is definitely worth it) and here is how to get the best out of your safari.

Firstly where to go on safari? I am going to be unashamedly biased and say East Africa, either Kenya or Tanzania, although it is meant to be really good in South Africa too. You can read about one of fellow blogger Angie Silver’s luxurious safaris in South Africa at Singita Lebombo here.

For the purpose of this blog post I am going to talk about Kenya as safaris in Kenya are what I am most familiar with.

Planning the Safari

First things first is the destination. Within Kenya itself, you have a choice of several game reserves. As important as the game reserve you choose, is the accommodation, which can range from budget lodges to luxurious camps. I went for the luxurious option and stayed at the Olare Mara Kempinski on my last safari which was amazing and is in Masai Mara.Read about it here. It is sometimes worth it to spend a little bit more for an unforgettable experience as after all it is a once in a lifetime Out of Africa experience 😉

You then have to decide whether you are going to go for a package tour or do it yourself. There is a benefit of having a good driver, who can often double up as a fantastic guide. They often know how to seek out the hiding spots of all the animals making your chances of seeing lots of animals higher.

img_3327-1

National park entry fees

An important consideration is that there is a daily fee for national parks which range from $40 for some of the smaller parks to upwards of $60 for some of the bigger parks. If you take your own vehicle there may be a charge for the vehicle too so make sure you add this to your overall budget costs for the trip.

Timing is everything

The time of year you choose to do your safari will influence the cost of your trip as well as the amount of wildlife you are likely to see. The dry season, which runs from June to October, is usually the best time of the year to see wildlife. It is also the most expensive and busiest time of year, especially August as this is when the Wildebeest migration happens. The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife.

You need to decide what works best for you in terms of timing and cost. If you can, consider going on a safari just before high season kicks in.

Fly or Drive?

In Kenya, you can choose to either arrive at your chosen accommodation by car or fly into the neatest airstrip. The cheaper option is to drive but it is also the longest journey.

Flying, may be slightly pricier but you save lots of time and can see the game park from an alternative angle.

img_3583-1img_2558-1

Packing for your safari

Once you have booked your safari and the time has come to pack, here are some suggestions of must bring items:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Swimwear (if your camp has a pool)
  • A warm jacket/sweater for evenings
  • Insect repellant
  • Sun cream
  • Light clothes
  • A blanket or shawl for early morning drives
  • Camera with spare batteries and various lens
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Travel backpack
  • A novel to read for when you are back at the camp
  • Always carry cash with you and a form of ID

img_3545-2img_3547-2img_2560img_2562

The Safari experience

Once you have arrived at your destination, make sure you arrange to do an early morning game drive. Although it may be more tempting to have a lie in instead, trust me it is so worth it! An evening drive is also recommended to experience sunset in the park.

Once you go on your first safari don’t go with high expectations of seeing the big 5 all in one go, although you may get lucky and see them all in your first drive!

Do keep your eyes and ears open to ensure you don’t miss out on an animal hiding!

img_2547img_3519-1

Always be respectful of the animals and keep noise to a minimum when you are nearby so not to disrupt them in their natural habitat too much.

img_2550img_3558-1

Finally make sure you live in the moment use all your senses to fully experience the moment and adventure. As tempting as it may be to photography absolutely everything, take a moment out to just take in the surroundings, the smell of the african savannah, the smells of the game drive and the sound of the animals.

img_2737

img_3586

A luxurious stay at the Olare Mara Kempinski in the Masai Mara

No matter how many times you go on a safari, it is always a magical experience and each experience is unique, leaving you with absolutely amazing memories to last forever. If you love wildlife photography, or if a safari is on your bucket list, then this is for you!

img_3586

On one of our visits back home to Kenya, we decided to stay at the luxury 5 star eco-resort Olare Mara Kempinski, located on the banks of the Ntiaktiak river, in the Olare Orak conservancy in an uncrowded part of the Masai Mara Reserve. We flew from Nairobi to the conservancy from Wilson Airport. This is a much quicker way to get to the Mara and as we were going for 2 days we were keen to maximise on our time there. Driving is also an option, but it takes a long time.

img_3581img_3582

When we landed in the conservancy, after a short one hour and extremely scenic flight, we were picked up by a guide from Olare Mara Kempinski, and before heading to the lodge, he took us on a game drive in the lodge’s private 4×4, which had open windows and was super comfortable. The fact that it had open windows meant we could take clearer photos and was a much more exhilarating experience when we were close to the animals, especially the lions!

img_3511-1img_3545-1

We were thrilled to see a lion up close straight away and the driver was so knowledgeable and knew where to find all the animals, making it such a fantastic experience. He gave us lots of information about the reserve, which has the largest number of animals in Africa. The guides all have KSPGA qualifications, and only 3 vehicles are allowed at a time so not to disrupt the animals too much.

It also means it is not overrun with cars blocking your views of the animals, which I have experienced on other safaris so you can get good photos and see the animals from a bigger space.

As he drove through the breathtaking grasslands, it was just phenomenal and I was glad we got to go on a game drive first thing.

img_3564img_3551img_3562

We also saw a zebra and  lioness with her cubs and after more scenic drives we soon arrived at the lodge, where we were given a very warm welcome from some local Masai.

The conservancy has a co-operative  relationship with the local Masai, where the conservancy leases land from the Masai, enabling them to earn an annual income, as well as retain ownership of their land.

img_3565

img_9024

Olare Mara Kempinski has 11 luxury en-suite tents and 1 honeymoon suite, which features its own plunge pool. We chose to stay in the Honeymoon suite as it had breathtaking views and was ultra dreamy.

Kempinski are known for their amazing style and touches of luxury, and this lodge is no exception. In the tents, which are more like massive rooms, have king-sized beds, indoor and outdoor showers, a huge bathroom with double vanity and a door which leads onto a wooden deck. Our wooden deck had a plunge pool, which was the sole reason we picked the honeymoon suite.

You can see animals while lying in the bath from a massive window too and it all feels so surreal. A total out of Africa experience!

img_3542img_3541img_3539img_3540img_3928img_3927

 

This is actually the most amazing glamping experience ever and I was blown away by how amazing and spacious the room was! It was MASSIVE and so not what I expected the tent to look like. The canvas around the room was thick and sturdy, and we had electricity throughout and a dreamy tub.

The lodge grows its own vegetables and fruits, and the food, which is outstanding is prepared using fresh, natural produce.

Once we had settled in and freshened up, we headed to the main lodge for some food and to check it out. The lodge has wifi (very good wifi) throughout so you can send your amazing holiday snaps to your family and friends.

The lodge has a very Ernest Hemingway feel to it, and a colonial touch too, with bookshelves, a library room,and amazing african decor throughout.

img_3575img_3574img_3573

There are lots of places to relax and read a book, or enjoy a cocktail or a bottle of wine. The staff are incredibly friendly and make the stay just perfect.

img_3512

We chose to eat alfresco, before heading for our 2nd game drive later in the evening. The food was just amazing, and presented beautifully. Dining in the sunshine is my favourite thing to do, so eating in the wild is an experience which I will never forget.

img_3544-1img_3543

We then left for our evening game drive, and we were treated to some snacks in the 4×4, while watching the sun go down. This was such a lovely experience as we managed to see hyenas trying to steal a fresh kill from some vultures up close. The best thing about going on safari is every single time it is a totally unique and different experience, and each time is absolutely memorable.

img_3547-1img_3537img_3548

We saw some hyenas, ostriches, and a very sleepy lioness, and just took in the breathtaking savannah around us, and the best of what nature has to offer. The whole experience was just out of this world. The stunning surroundings and the amazing animals just made it a safari and a trip to remember.

img_3552img_3553img_3536img_3523img_3529

Once we got back, we freshened up and went for dinner. The staff had set up our own candlelit table upstairs in one of the areas in the main lodge as a surprise. This was such a lovely touch and they were so attentive and made the dinner experience superb. The food was so delicious and the menu was fabulous. A truly scrumptious meal!

img_3522-1img_3590

We decided to have an early night after dinner as we were going to wake up early to go on a game drive, which is really recommended in order to see as many animals as possible.

The next day we were super lucky as we saw cheetahs up close and one even jumped on top of a 4×4 next to us.

img_3524-1img_3528img_3557img_3525-1img_3555img_3560img_3561

I love cheetahs and it was so amazing seeing them this close! They have gotten used to jumping on cars in the Mara and they are pretty inquisitive animals.

 

After this exhilarating game drive, we headed back to the lodge for some breakfast, which was a wonderful spread of fruits, cereals, cold meats, sausages, bacon, eggs, beans, hash browns and grilled tomatoes and a choice of fresh juices. I love hotel breakfasts and this had an amazing plus point of being in the wilderness.

After breakfast, we chilled out by the plunge pool outside our tent, in the hot african sunshine watching the plains of the mara and the wild animals wandering around in the distance.

The lodge itself is not fenced, so at night you can hear the animals roaming around. At one point in the night we could hear hippos splashing about in a watering hole opposite our tent. It sounded so close we thought they were right outside near our plunge pool!

img_3929img_3579img_3291

img_3588

I cannot even explain how amazing the views and the plunge pool were and was so glad that we chose to stay in the Honeymoon suite as it was such a nice haven to chill out and so peaceful.

While we were relaxing, the staff brought over a bottle of chilled white wine for us to share as a lovely gesture. They spoilt us so much!

img_3932

The service was absolutely amazing at this lodge and they made us feel really special and looked after. Imagine sitting on the deck and taking in some of the best African wildlife while absorbing such vast and panoramic views.

After a second night in this amazing lodge, it was time to say goodbye and we headed back to the airstrip to fly back to Nairobi.

 

img_3580

Just look at these views!

img_3584img_3583

If you are looking for an extra special, luxurious stay in the Masai Mara and to have an amazing rustic safari experience, I cannot recommend the Olare Mara Kempinski enough! You can experience all the creature comforts while being so close to nature. Mid-July to October is the best times o visit the Mara.

For more information, go to: https://www.kempinski.com/en/masai-mara/olare-mara/

img_9049-1

Beautiful Kenya

I have been blessed to be born and brought up in a such a magical and gorgeous country, Kenya, in East Africa which has so much natural beauty and so much to offer for any traveler.

  In terms of my own background, I was born in Mombasa and lived there till I was 16 after which I moved to Nairobi. My husband’s family live in Mombasa so I still share my time equally between both cities whenever I visit. I wanted to share highlights of my trips back home so if you plan to visit Kenya you have some ideas of what to do and see while you are there.

Mombasa

Lighthouse

Ever since I was a child, on some evenings (mostly Sundays), we would drive to the Lighthouse area which is full of street food sellers.

Here you park your car and wander around to socialise and enjoy the breeze while eating either grilled or fried mogo seasoned with salt, chilli and lime, mogo crisps, grilled corn on the cob (known as makai) and drink madafu, which is coconut water.

Below are some photos which capture the food and the views from Lighthouse which are wonderful. The sound of the sea is just wow.

    

  

 

Salt, chilli powder and lime are the ingredients used to season Mogo.

I am so lucky as my husband’s family live right opposite Lighthouse so every time we visit Mombasa I can get my fix of Mogo and Makai 🙂

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus is a fortress built between 1593 and 1596 by the Portuguese and which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Perfect for history enthusiasts, it has so many artefacts and remains such as cannons, a skeleton and the most amazing views of Mombasa. I recently visited the castle in Lisbon which reminded me so much of this one and the Portuguese influence is so great in this fortress.

Built to mirror a person lying on their back, it has Portuguese, Arabic and British influences, each from different times of rule during the different eras.

  

 

It is definitely worth a visit to see the magnificent architecture and to see some of the artefacts they have preserved.

Beaches

Mombasa is a coastal city and has some lovely beaches to go spend some time unwinding and relaxing in the sunshine. As Kenya is close to the equator, it is blessed with warm weather all year round.

  
I have shared some snapshots from trips to the beach in the North  Coast as well as South coast of Mombasa.

There are so many lovely resorts to stay at whether you go to the North or the South of the island.

Kole Kole Beach Resort

Severin Sea Lodge
  

Severin Sea Lodge

Severin Sea Lodge
  

Voyager Beach Resort

Drinks

This picture summarises the must have drinks in Kenya which are fresh coconuts or Tusker beer.


Food

Apart from Mogo and Makai, while you are in Mombasa you should definitely eat “soft” which is made from potatoes, bhajias and kachoris which are really famous in Mombasa.

   
    
  Safari in the Masai Mara

Last year my husband and I went for a safari in the Masai Mara in the Olare Motorola Conservancy where we stayed at the Olare Mara Kempinski.

It was a phenomenal experience as we got to see Cheetah’s and lions up close. One of the Cheetah’s even got on top of one of the cars and we were right next to it so got lots of photos.

  
   

 

   

 The lodge itself was wonderful and we got such a warm welcome. It has 12 different luxury tents and we opted for the one with the private plunge pool.

  

The food was incredible and they spoilt us rotten with amazing spreads for all the meals. They even set up tables in the grounds for us and it was such a fantastic experience taking in the scenery.

Pictured below is the plunge pool and the view we had from it which was beautiful savannah and landscapes. So dreamy and the perfect spot to sunbathe and take a nap after a game drive.

For more information visit:

Clare Mara Kempinski

Naivasha

 

Just an hour’s drive from Nairobi, is Lake Naivasha where you can camp or stay in one of the many lodges. Great place to go for a picnic or to go boating on the lake.

Pictured below is Lake Naivasha and the flocks of flamingoes which you will see there.

Hells Gate National park is also close by if you plan to spend a couple of nights in Naivasha.

  

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

A wildlife conservation charity which rehabilitates orphaned elephants in Kenya is one I support as much as I can. Founded in 1977 in memory of David Sheldrick, it is run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her daughter Angela Sheldrick.

You can visit the orphanage between 11 and 12 for the feeding time where you get to see the groups of orphaned elephants having their milk, which is made from a special formula created by Dame Daphne Sheldrick after many different trials.

The elephants arrive at the orphanage either because they are the victim of their mothers being poached, or from being separated from their herd. The elephants range from nursery orphans to slightly older ones. Here they stay with the keepers before being moved on to slowly rehabilitate back into the wild.


  

The work the trust does to look after these elephants is phenomenal and having volunteered in the London office last year, I am truly in awe of it all.

I have fostered many of the elephants, the resident rhino Maxwell and Kiko the Giraffe. If http://officialkristindavis.com/gardeners-of-eden/you would like to contribute to this fantastic cause you can also foster an elephant here:https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/fostering.asp

Kristin Davis has also produced a fantastic documentary called Gardeners of Eden which gives great insights into the work the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does and can be viewed on iTunes and Netflix. For more information visit: http://officialkristindavis.com/gardeners-of-eden/

Giraffe Manor

  

Get up close with Giraffes at the Giraffe Manor whilst enjoying an afternoon tea, or an overnight stay or visit the nearby Giraffe Centre where you can go at anytime during the day to feed, pet and kiss Giraffes.


Read all about the Giraffe Manor on my blog here: https://binnyskitchen.com/2016/01/03/afternoon-tea-at-the-giraffe-manor-kenya/

This by no means a comprehensive guide to Kenya but highlights of my time there. There is so much to do and see in Kenya! If you are planning a trip there do get in touch and I would be happy to give you recommendations for places to stay, restaurants and bars as well as points of interest.

Hope you enjoyed reading about Kenya xx

 

img_8944-1

Afternoon Tea at The Giraffe Manor, Kenya

The Giraffe Manor, is located in Langata, and is one of Kenya’s iconic boutique hotels with a 1930s historical charm, especially in the world of travel and wanderlust.

  It is home to a very well known herd of  Rothschild Giraffes. It is also the only hotel in the world where you can feed Giraffes from the windows of your room, or while you eat breakfast.
 In December 2015, I  finally ticked visiting the Giraffe Manor off my bucket list and enjoyed  an amazing magical Afternoon Tea there with Amit and my mum.

It was truly an “Out of Africa” experience  and definitely the best and most unique Afternoon Tea I have had.

Growing up in Kenya, I have been lucky enough to go on plenty of safaris but I have never been this close to Giraffes and Warthogs.

In close proximity to the Giraffe Centre, the Giraffes wander between both as well as on 12 acres of private land. They are an endangered species of Giraffe of which there are only around 100 in the wild. They are easily identified by the colouring of their coat which differs from other Giraffes.

 

  
The Giraffe Manor has 10 different rooms, all with different sizes and art deco interiors. Definitely one to visit at least once this lifetime.

The below is a photo of the very grand dining room. It is so romantic with a very cosy and incredible ambience. The details are so on point.

img_8934

The theme throughout the manor is Giraffes and love the little comfy areas like the one below which you can just imagine settling down in with a good book and a cup of tea.

We had our Afternoon Tea on the beautiful and tranquil lawn, where the Giraffes would soon wander to after they had finished eating treats at the Giraffe Centre.

While we were waiting for our tea, we were entertained by the resident Warthog family like the dashing one pictured below who caused us a lot of excitement but is so harmless.

Our tea arrived on a massive tray which was also Giraffe themed and which I wish I could take with me. We had Earl Grey and took in our surroundings while the Warthogs just grazed in close proximity. It was just out of this world.

We had a colourful assortment of sweet and savoury treats to enjoy as part of the afternoon tea which included delicious chocolate cake slices, carrot cake, scones, cookies, biscuits, fruit tarts and sandwiches. We could see the Giraffes in the distance being fed at the Giraffe Centre.

All around us was just natural beauty and that rich Kenyan soil which is just so lush. It truly felt like a dream come true as the location, venue and food just made me want to don a safari hat and pretend I was in the middle of the game reserve. This was close enough to it and truly an Out of Africa feel and a memory I will treasure forever.

 img_8946

Just to give you an idea of how close the Warthogs were to us look at the photo below. Was just phenomenal. The little pumba on the right was just so adorable.

img_8221

As we devoured our tea and delicious food, it soon got to just after 5:30pm and the giraffes started wandering over. A warning in advance. There are lots of Giraffe photos coming up.

We had Kelly and Jock visiting us, and as a special treat, Kelly’s one month baby Giraffe who was just so so so so cute, also joined them.

You can see the baby in the background running around hyper and excited whilst Kelly and Jock eat lots of treats.

Here’s the baby again peeking from behind Kelly in the picture below. The Giraffes were so incredibly friendly and tame and it was just the most amazing experience being able to feed them and pet them.


  
  

While the Giraffes were busy eating look at these 3 little “piggies” sneaking off around the Manor. Caught on Camera!


We even managed to get sneaky kisses from the Giraffes!

I would really recommend visiting the Giraffe Manor for a stay or for afternoon tea as it seriously a phenomenal, superb and unique experience. We didn’t even want to leave!

A special thank you to Linet, and her  fabulous team for looking after us so well and telling us all about the Giraffes and their personalities and showing us the grounds. It was truly magical thanks to the amazing service and food in such a beautiful venue.
For more information visit: http://www.thesafaricollection.com/properties/giraffe-manor

An afternoon tea costs USD $50 per person and runs from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. It is recommended to book well in advance.

My blogger friend Angie from Silverspoon London recently visited Giraffe Manor for a stay and experienced the Afternoon Tea. You can read about her experience here.