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7 reasons to visit Kenya with Cox & Kings


| March 17, 2022

Jen Morris shares seven highlights of a small-group tour that took her from Mount Kenya to the Masai Mara.

Sunsets & sunrises

Sunset

I had forgotten how beautiful African skies can be. On our Highlights of Kenya small-group tour, we were lucky enough to experience them in all their glory – more than once.

The first time was after my early-morning arrival in Nairobi, following an eight-and-a-half-hour flight direct from London. We were greeted by a shower that quickly passed, revealing the most spectacular sky: the best welcome to a holiday in Kenya.

Then there was waking up under canvas at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in time to see the sun rise over Mount Kenya. The country’s highest mountain (5,188 metres) spends most of its time shrouded in cloud, so seeing this rugged spectacle surrounded by the sun’s red and orange hues was exceptional.

And, of course, there is nothing quite like being in the midst of an afternoon safari drive as the sky starts to change colour. While we were spotting wildlife, the sun sank to the horizon in a blaze of colour, and stars slowly emerged – with no light pollution to spoil the view. Magical.

Wildlife

Big cats

The top reason so many people travel to Kenya is, of course, the wildlife, and during my six-day itinerary it didn’t disappoint.

We travelled in November, so not the time for the Great Migration, which extends from August to September. But the opportunities to view wildlife in the four parks we visited were excellent. We travelled from Aberdare to Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Masai Mara to Lake Naivasha, with each place providing an immersive wildlife experience with a difference.

At Aberdare, we enjoyed a ‘sofa safari’ at the aptly named lodge, The Arc. We watched from the viewing deck to see what animals came to drink at the permanent floodlit waterhole. This was our first night in Kenya and it was exciting to see plenty of elephants, including a two-month-old baby, along with buffalo and hyena.

Ol Pejeta is fascinating due to the incredible conservation work they do. We visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, established with an agreement between the park, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Jane Goodall Institute. The aim is to provide lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees. We also learnt about the last remaining northern white rhinos with a tour of the conservation centre. At 1.67 metres, I discovered I am shorter than the entire length of a giraffe’s neck.

Lake Naivasha, the Rift Valley’s highest lake at 1,884 metres above sea level, offers a water experience. Hippos are my personal favourite, so watching them bob up and down and chortle away was a special moment.

The final park was the famous Masai Mara, with its endless plains brimming with activity. We saw huge herds of elephant, a jackal with a kill, cheetah, mating lions and lions sheltering their cubs from the rain. That’s not to mention the sightings of rhino, giraffe, and zebra (including a ‘zebra crossing’) – on top of a tantalising glimpse of a leopard’s tail.

I’m lucky to have been to Africa a lot over the past 20 years, but some of the ladies I was travelling with had never been. To see Kenya’s wildlife through their eyes was humbling.

Balloons with a view

Hot Air Balloon

A hot-air balloon ride has never been on my bucket list. I’ve always been comfortable with small flights or helicopter rides, but being at the mercy of a large fabric balloon suspended in the sky did not appeal.

I needn’t have worried, however. During our balloon flight, we gracefully glided up into the sky above the Masai Mara at sunrise. It was beautiful, peaceful, and I couldn’t believe how close we got to giraffe and elephant without spooking them. The early start – we left camp at 05.00 – was well worth it.

We could see the open Mara plains fade into the horizon from our basket. We spent an hour floating through the sky and it felt like forever. Despite my reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After landing, we were driven to a special site for an excellent champagne breakfast (with the option of a bloody Mary, if that was more you). We were in the middle of the Masai Mara – not another vehicle or camp in sight. The food was hot and delicious, especially the ‘breakfast’ chips, which reminded me of my gran’s potato-chips cooked in the chip pan. It was a special start to the day.

Private guides & custom vehicles

Zebra

While Kenya’s wildlife is amazing by itself, an expert guide can really elevate the safari experience.

In our case, it was Cox & King’s private driver-guide, Daniel Kamau. He was with us for the duration of our adventure, at the helm of a customised Land Cruiser. Now, this is no ordinary Land Cruiser; it has plugs, USB charging points, a bin, a cool box, bean bags for the pro-photographers, a pop-up roof to maximise wildlife viewing, and natural air-conditioning. It even had Wi-Fi – no matter how remote we were. Individual buckets seats, all with seat belts, were needed during the journey for some of the bumpier roads.

Daniel was a fantastic driver and guide: patient and calm, knowledgeable about wildlife and history, and so passionate about his job. He not only spoke seven languages but was the perfect host and had so many fascinating stories to tell. He filled us in on every detail, from why elephants stay in herds to why the poo of hyena is white; from the strength of a lion’s jaw to day-to-day life as a Kenyan. He really did make the difference.

Changing landscapes

Zebra close to the city

Across our six-night Kenya itinerary, we covered a large distance, mostly on bumpy roads. However, when the journey is broken up into four-hour drives, with comfort breaks midway, it becomes an opportunity to admire Kenya’s diversity of landscapes – from bustling city to coffee plantation to small rural town to vast wilderness.

We also crossed the Equator, which is an exciting moment. There is a stop where locals demonstrate a match moving clockwise in water one side of the Equator, and then anti-clockwise less than a metre away. You may wish to buy a certificate as a souvenir.

Nature never feels far away. The capital, Nairobi, is the only African city with its own national park. Just 10 minutes after leaving Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, we saw giraffes. What better beginning to an African adventure?

The people

Maasai

The Kenyan smile will stay with you forever. They are the most genuine of people. The restaurant staff interact with you in a most natural way, along with the staff who walk you to your tent at night. There is always a story to share, and they are genuinely interested in making your stay special.

On our tour, we visited a traditional Maasai village. Although I’m not usually a fan of a ‘set’ cultural experience, this was extremely well done and interactive, with the Maasai asking us questions as well as the other way. At the end, they offered us items to buy, but didn’t pressure those of us who weren’t interested.

Philanthropy

School children

Cox & Kings is part of the Abercrombie & Kent Group (A&K). As a result, we were able to visit one of A&K’s charitable projects in Kenya.

We visited a local school in the Masai Mara that had received a LifeStraw community water filter. Upon arrival, we were met by the smiling faces of children aged from four to 13, who then welcomed us with a heart-warming traditional dance.

The LifeStraw community filter allows more than 200 children to drink clean water. Not only do these children now have clean water, but they also understand why they mustn’t drink straight from the river. They have more awareness of the illnesses they could catch by doing so, and how the filter works.

They sang a most uplifting song, and it was clear to me that this filter was really having a positive impact on these children’s wellbeing. We learnt from the headteacher that fewer pupils are missing school, and more kids are wanting to come to school. Despite having so little, they are ambitious and truly want to learn. It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever.


To begin planning your own Kenya adventure, visit our dedicated Kenya holidays page, where you will find a selection of group tours, private travel options, accommodation and more. Alternatively, speak directly to one of our Africa specialists online by calling 020 7873 5000.

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