TRAVELER’S CORNER – Diana Discovers Kenya

October 26, 2016  By: Gretchen

Diana’s First Trip to Africa

Kenya Knocks Her Socks Off!

Diana’s Kenya safari included visits to:

  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Nairobi’s Giraffe Center
  • Amboseli National Park
  • Laikipia Plateau
  • Masai Mara Game Reserve

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First time in Africa…

Diana has been working with AAC for over a year now, and we’ve been eagerly anticipating the day she would first set foot in Africa. That opportunity came in October when she visited Kenya for two weeks to learn about the country’s culture and wildlife. She knew what to expect, of course. She’s been neck deep in all things Africa since she started. What she didn’t expect was how much more incredible everything seemed in real life.

The animals she saw, the people she met, the lodges she visited – it all knocked her socks off. She’s caught the ‘Africa bug’ – we were pretty sure that would happen! Here’s her story…My first trip to Africa was magic. I visited four different regions of Kenya: Nairobi, Amboseli National Park, the Laikipia Plateau, and Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Nairobi is like most other cities – busy. But there is a gem right at the southern tip of the city – Nairobi National Park. I appreciated that the city has decided to keep this 45-square mile park right at its border. I had the privilege of doing two separate game drives here, and once out in the bush, it’s easy to forget you are so close to a major city.

In Nairobi, I also visited David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and learned about the efforts being put into saving Kenya’s orphaned elephants and rhinos, along with the steps taken to reintroduce them into the wild. The Giraffe Center is a MUST if you are ever in Nairobi. You get to learn about these majestic animals, feed them, and if you are brave enough – get a smooch from them!

If you love shopping, then you must stop at Utamaduni Craft Center. There are about 18 different craft shops in one large house and you can buy anything from bookmarks to furniture. It’s a lovely place and afterwards you can enjoy some lunch at their restaurant, sitting outside in their gardens.

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From Nairobi, my journey took me to Amboseli National Park where I had the privilege of staying at Tortilis Camp. The game viewing is amazing. Driving to the camp upon arrival, I saw a family of hyena with 5 cubs. The next morning, I met their elephants! We were driving and our guide noticed a herd of elephants were walking straight towards us. He turned off the engine and we waited. A herd of about 15-20 elephants walked right by our vehicle. It is a majestic and humbling experience to see these huge wild animals walk so silently and right next to you. Absolutely enchanting.

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Next, I flew to the Laikipia region and stayed at The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille. This property is exceptional and the owners are lovely. It is located on the top of a hill in a 40,000-acre conservation area and consists of 4 separate villas. This property is fully inclusive and for activities you have the option to do game drives, walking safaris, camel trekking, horse riding, mountain & quad bike, community/village visits, and unlimited spa treatments. This location is perfect to relax and enjoy the surrounding nature. I absolutely loved my two nights at Ol Lentille!

“This location is perfect to relax and enjoy the surrounding nature.”

Finally, I flew out to the Masai Mara Game Reserve where I stayed at Mara Expedition Camp. There are so many great things to say about the Mara and the wildlife sightings on offer! The 5-tent camp is located on the banks of the Ntiakitiak River on a secluded spot. You could say this camp option is for someone that wants more of an ‘authentic’ safari experience with its safari showers and tents, but it still has the exceptional service of a 4 or 5-star property.

I had a few notable sightings in the Mara. The first was a leopard and lion confrontation. The leopard accidentally crossed the path of a lioness and they got into a serious quarrel. Fortunately, the leopard managed to escape by climbing up a tree. The lion then waited around for the leopard, lost interest, and left.

Next, I saw a family of 4 cheetahs attack a baby impala. It was an intense thing to witness a kill, and a very uncommonly lucky sighting from what I understand. The family was made up of a mother cheetah and her 3 sub-adult offspring – all pretty grown up and close to being left behind by their mother.

I witnessed a pack of hyena dining on a wildebeest and vultures waiting in a circle around the hyena for their turn to eat. It was a grand view to see the way the food chain works in action.

My favorite experience above all was lying in my tent at night being kept awake by lions calling to one another across the river. It was magnificent!

“My favorite experience was lying in my tent at night being kept awake by lions calling to one another across the river.”

I must also mention my hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. It’s a very early wake up call for the drive to the 6:30am launch site, but it is SO worth it! Upon arrival, we were briefed by our pilot on where we would be flying, the expected landing site, and how long the balloon ride would be. Usually the ride is 1 – 1.5 hours long and it is simply beautiful. You have the chance to view the Mara from a completely different perspective and see game that you normally wouldn’t see because you are flying over them. I highly recommend a hot air balloon safari. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And that was my first trip to Africa. Kenya is beautiful and has so much to offer. The wildlife is breathtaking. The camps are world class. The people are magnificent – kind, thoughtful, and smart. The overall experience made me hungry to see more of the African continent. I can’t wait to go back!

“Kenya is beautiful and has so much to offer. I can’t wait to go back!”