Monday, January 16, 2017

Gretchen's Kenya Highlights

An elephant approaching the dining area at Elephant Bedroom Camp in Samburu

It was fantastic to be back in Kenya with Albatros Travel in November. This was my fourth visit to the country, and as has happened in visits past, I found more to love. Here are my Kenya safari highlights:

Nairobi National Park - I love going right into the bush straight from a long international journey. Nairobi National Park soothes away the jarring noise of travel, and it's pretty amazing to immediately head into a park (with incongruous city vistas at some vantage points) that's home to four of the big 5 directly on arrival to Africa. The Emakoko is a luxurious lodge in a beautiful setting and is the perfect antidote to shake off the haze of 26 hours' voyage.
A hungry cheetah family feeds in the background

Samburu - This was my first ever visit to Samburu National Park, and boy, did it wow! The wildlife is spectacular and abundant, and includes the 'Special 5' - reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, Somali ostrich and beisa oryx. Elephants are super abundant, and a stay at the aptly-named Elephant Bedroom Camp allowed for some seriously close-up viewing of the gentle giants. I also had a lucky sighting of a cheetah mother with a kill calling for her three sub-adult offspring, then teaching them to find the lunch she had so graciously provided. Samburu does not disappoint, though it's probably at its best during the short rains (Nov-Dec), as the concentration of lodges along the river makes for busy game viewing during high season.

Even better - the scenery is absolutely breathtaking! The view from Saruni Samburu outside of the National Park is one of the most incredible I've seen anywhere on the continent. Throughout the park, the jagged Matthews Range is in the far background, and Mt. Olololokwe, a sacred Samburu mountain, provides a dramatic table-top backdrop for much of the game viewing. Climbing Olololokwe has found a spot on my top 10 wish list!

Lions, lions and more lions - I've never had better luck viewing these amazing predators than while visiting Kenya. On each safari, I've seen more than 35 lions, and I never ever tire of watching them. The Masai Mara and its adjoining conservancies are always a safe bet for great predator sightings. I saw three lionesses hunting a warthog with my fantastic guide, Grace, from Serian Camp in Mara North. They did their best, but the warthog managed to escape - that time!

I also had a an incredibly special sighting of three-week-old cubs in Samburu - by far the youngest I've ever seen! Their rough-and-tumble play was adorable, though their fierce momma was keeping a very watchful eye.


Wild dogs - I spent a night at Laikipia Wilderness Camp and had an awesome wild dog experience. LWC partners with the Laikipia Predator Project in reporting sightings of local predators, some of which are collared. This allows for frequent wild dog sightings by camp guests. We were lucky enough to see the dogs on both drives, each time with a kill. On one drive, we were allowed to safely exit the vehicle and sit on the ground not far from the feeding action - it was an experience I will never forget!

I also spotted my very first zorilla on a night drive at Laikipia Wilderness Camp - a very exciting find!

Walking safari - I had the chance to do two nights' walking safari with Karisia Walking Safaris in Laikipia. I love walking safaris, but hadn't done much more than a morning's walk in Kenya before. Karisia has multi-day camel-supported adventures throughout the country. They have varying setups (Classic, Luxury and AirBnC - that is, Air Bed and Camel), as well as a permanent tented tamp, Tumaren. The guides were fantastic, the scenery wild and unblemished, and the food was delicious and more than kept us fueled for our walking efforts. Another wish list item - a week walking with Karisia in the Matthews Range, or a walking safari culminating in a Mt. Kenya ascent!

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