Those who know me or follow my blog are well aware of my love for animals. So, it will come as no surprise to all of you that my trip to Kenya tops my list of travel escapades. Wildlife in Kenya is very diverse and makes for excellent game watching experience – better than anywhere else in the world.
I visited Kenya in August 2011 and everything is still so fresh in my mind – it was an unforgettable experience and one I will cherish forever. I visited several national parks and since we were in a small group, it was easy to travel from one park to another by renting a mini – van – the same van has a open roof and is ideal for game watching.
Surely all parks are quite a distance from each other (6-7 hours) and bumpy rides but it is advisable to visit few parks to enjoy the diverse landscapes . You will probably spot the Big 5 on day 1 if you are lucky . For those who are unaware of this term, big 5 of Africa refers to these animals – African Lion, Rhinoceros, African Elephant, Wild Buffalo and Leopard. From these, I would have to say that the Leopard was the hardest to spot.
Here is my itinerary in brief followed by the highlights of my Kenyan adventure
I would highly recommend this wildlife route as it is a PERFECT selection of national parks – It took me months to design the itinerary and short list the parks / hotels and the results were incredible. You can just hire a mini van and follow this blindly with a 100% guarantee of watching the big 5 and having the trip of your life.
DAY 1 – Our main goal of the trip was to spend quality time amidst nature so we just stayed for a day in Nairobi – transit and rest. Did a small city tour around the parks, shopping centers and the main business district of Nairobi. People everywhere were very friendly and courteous as against what we were “made” to believe before visiting Africa.
DAY 2 – We arrived at Amboseli national park . The highlight of the park is African elephants. Did I mention that African elephants are much larger than Indian elephants and they are a sight to behold. So majestic and daunting – I felt like an ant watching them. So, you can practically find African elephants in all parks so why did I choose this park you ask ? The other highlight of this park is the amazing view of Mt Kilimanjaro which it offers. For those who don’t know, Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest free standing mountain in the world. Watching game amidst this backdrop is simply incredible.
During our afternoon game safari in Amboseli , we were extremely lucky to see 2 giant African tuskers fight. My heart was literally beating out of my chest. Our van was thumping as they moved – It was like a front row seat in a 16 D Adventure but the only difference was – it was all real ! Here are some shots/ videos of what I saw and you can pretty much take a front seat to the view in this video (Though , they were just “preparing” to fight in the video – later, the fight was full blown with dust and trumpets all around – so much so that we had to move backwards and literally had no time (or nerves) to take a video –
DAY 3 – Two game drives, morning and evening resulted in some amazing sightings. Saw almost all the usual suspects – Zebra, Giraffe, Elephants, Hyena , Wildebeest and many more mammals and exotic birds. We stayed in the lovely Amboseli Serena Safari lodge. The serena group of hotels is highly recommended by me for your kenya adventures – they are perfect with awesome views and unmatched hospitality.
DAY 4 – Woke up around 6 am to proceed to Lake Elementaita. It was a rough 7 hours ride. You can squeeze in a game drive in Nakuru before heading to Lake Nakuru National Park. This was our home for the next day. This national park is also totally unique because its mostly a bird sanctuary. Being an avid birder, this made it to my itinerary without any hesitations. It is well known for flamingos. I was amazed at the number of flamingos I saw – it was an experience of a lifetime. The whole lake was literally dotted with pink spots – and yes, those were all flamingos – Wow, what a sight.
We also saw wild buffalo up close here. We were warned by the guide about them – they are the deadliest of the Big 5 and maximum attacks and deaths are caused by them. I was brave enough to take a picture of this wild buffalo who obviously looked angry – it was a move frowned upon by our guide as I insisted the driver to stop the van for 20 seconds so I could get one shot. Bad idea, the buffalo was furious and charged at us. Luckily, we got away but it is not recommended to bug these bullies. Keep a safe distance.
We stayed the night at Elemantaita Luxury Camp – Superb camping experience in the jungle.
DAY 5 – Another early wake up call, which is the case always if you are on a wildlife tour. Wildlife enthusiasts believe in the saying – Early bird catches the worm – It is so true as you can catch awesome game and birds early morning. In our case though, we wanted to head to our next destination as soon as possible in order to maximize our Kenyan experience.
Today was a big day – why ? We were headed to Masai Mara. Quite honestly, Masai Mara was the exact “Reason” I planned a trip to Kenya. Having spent several years watching The Great Migration on National Geographic, my entire purpose in life revolved around watching it happen – live – no TV screens – Just me and millions of Wildebeest battling for life with the nile crocodiles – survival of the fittest . It is said to be one of the most awe-inspiring natural events in the WORLD!
The Great Migration is the largest movement of animals. It consists of millions of Wildebeest and Zebras moving up North in search of greener grass and water. They have to battle for life and death as they cross the harsh waters of the Mara river thriving with hungry Nile Crocodiles. Many don’t make it but if they don’t cross the river, they die in hunger in any case so, like it or not, the migration has to happen.
Here’s a video I took of thousands of Wildebeest grazing what’s left of the grass as they prepare for the fateful river crossing –
We went for the afternoon game drive and were simply brown away to see millions (I am NOT kidding, guys) of Wildebeest dotting the savannah . You could see the black dots for as far as the eye could see – and you were right in the middle of those dots. There were wildebeest – big and small, everywhere – so many that you could barely move the van amidst them. Now that was something. We had to come back the next morning to try and see the “Actual” migration – the fateful river crossing.
DAY 6 – The whole day, morning and afternoon safari’s were spent trying to “Catch” the river crossing happen. We were lucky enough to finally see the Cheetah – the fastest animal in the world. I always wanted to see a Cheetah since they are extinct in India. Cheetah is a beast to watch – a wild cat like no other.
Our focus, however, was to watch the river crossing so we joined around 50+ safari vehicles (yes, its the most crowded time of the year). The vans were full of top photographers with huge ass cameras and telescopic lenses. I felt so “small” with my mini digi-cam and cursed myself for not investing in a better camera before the trip – Still, I got some nice shots overall so I was happy. We waited for around 30 minutes and saw Wildebeest line up to cross the river and go to the other side – towards greener grass.
It was amazing how they got into a single line – I mean even our lines in school assembly are not so straight and we were never so disciplined as these creatures. Imagine millions of wildebeest in one single line – what a sight! Those Wildebeest closest to the water watch anxiously for any signs of crocodiles. We all can see the crocodiles clearly waiting in anticipation for the Wildebeest to cross so they can get their share of meat… they know they “have” to cross the river, which makes their work so much more easier. All they need to do is wait – and so did we.
Our game safari time was running out so we were hoping against all hopes that they would cross now – but its nature, you cannot push nature. Finally, we saw a few brave Wildebeest begin to cross the river but behold – a huge crocodile pops its head and they go back several steps. It would take them quite sometime to muster the courage to try again . The park was closing for safaris, we had to go back to camp (Mara Serena Safari Lodge) with a heavy heart.
So, we missed the river crossing but we did see those millions of wildebeest feeding their young ones, lining up to cross and anxiously looking for food. We did catch those hungry crocodiles waiting for the animals to cross so they can make a kill – I would saw, that experience was enough to last a lifetime – don’t you think so ?
DAY 7 – We depart from Masai Mara and head for Naivasha. All though the 7 hour ride, we were excitedly talking about the migration with little regrets and many memories. We spent the day at leisure and overnight stay at Naivasha Simba Lodge. This was just a rest day for us and we decided to stay overnight en-route to avoid a 14 hour long journey.
DAY 8 – We make our way to our final destination – Sweetwaters. This is another epic reserve – though smaller but has a lot to offer. Apart from the usual game drives they have a Chimpanzee Sanctuary and a Rhinoceros Sanctuary. You could get up close with the animals and it was also my first (and probably the last) time I touched a full grown Rhino. These were rescued animals and hearing their stories was heartwarming.
We spent the night in Sweetwaters tented camp which was simply amazing. It gives you the “Real” jungle feeling. The tents overlook a huge water hole. There are no dividers except a tiny trench between your tent and the waterhole. Whenever I would step out of my tent, I would see different animals at the watering hole – so close to me. What an amazing feeling ! Giraffes and Zebras frequented the place and the huge storks would follow us to Lunch and watch us eat in hopes of getting some scrapes.
DAY 9 – Another safari in Sweetwaters gave us the chance to see a young Lion up close. The highlight though was after the drive once we were back in camp and heading for dinner. We saw a Rhino and her baby at the watering hole – Rhinos would almost never come so close to the camp – so, that was quite lucky. For me, it was an adrenaline rush watching a Rhino on foot – He could almost come at you anytime – especially to protect her baby – Mama animals can be dangerous.
DAY 10 – We checked out and went to Nairobi for catching our flight back home.
All in all it was an experience of a lifetime and I would recommend anyone with even a slight interest in nature / wildlife to follow this itinerary. You will surely not regret it.
Have you ever been to Africa ? If yes, Do share your adventures in comments . If not, I hope this article inspires you to go and enjoy the exotic wildlife in Kenya . I am looking forward to hear your stories.