Think safari, think Kenya. Nestled on the coast of East Africa, Kenya is where Roosevelt, Hemingway, and Churchill put romance into hunting and started off the safari industry.
It’s also home to one of the most famous romantic 1985 movie of Meryl Streep – Out Of Africa. The story of Karen Blixen, an unmarried Danish woman who, despairing that she would be single forever, married her lover’s brother, moved out to Kenya in East Africa, ran a coffee plantation on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and later, when the plantation was bankrupt and the dream was finished, wrote books about her experiences under the name Isak Dinesan.
These days Kenyan safaris are all photographic, but the excitement remains. The greatest density of game is in the Masai Mara, the northern part of Tanzania’s Serengeti. This is packed with wildlife during the annual wildebeest migration but is busy with game and predators year-round: sighting come thick and fast.
On the south side are the beautiful beaches on the coast of Kenya (Mombassa) – known as one of the most beautiful beaches on Kenyan coast – Diani Beach is now known for relaxing and unwinding these days on your holiday surfing, turtle diving or to simply have some drinks on the beach.
Whether you are planning to spend your days relaxing on the beach or are a fan of the animal kingdom – Kenya is definitely the place you should choose for your first or any safari. It is truly unlike anything you will experience ever before.
Below is our Itinerary of how we experienced Kenya and made the most of it in 9 days.
Only a 6-hour drive from Nairobi or 45 mins by plane you’ll find land safari of what dreams are made of, the Masai Mara! With pretty much every animal you could wish to see on an African safari, including the Big 5. You can even take a balloon ride and see it all from above, especially cool if you time it when the Great Migration is passing through – this varies slightly from year to year.
DAY 1: NAIROBI
Our journey started by taking a late afternoon flight from Dubai arriving late evening into Nairobi followed by a night stay at Intercontinental Nairobi.
We braced ourselves for an early morning flight next day to Masai Mara to begun our adventurous safari
DAY 2: Masai Mara
Shortly after breakfast, we headed to Wilson Airport (This is the domestic airport in Nairobi) and flew to Keekorok Landing strip followed by Evening Game Drive. We flew Flysax to Masai Mara at 10:30 am and arriving at 11:30 am in Masai Mara.
A trip to Kenya and the Masai Mara is definitely not complete without checking out the famous Masai Mara National Reserve; we woke up bright and early and spent most of our time with our heads poking through the open roof trundling over dirt paths in search of wild animals spotted by our trusty guide and driver.
Each day begins with a morning game drive at 7 am – 9:15 am (Approx) followed by breakfast back at the hotel before enjoying the afternoon at your leisure and lunch and to end the day with evening game drive from 4 pm – 6:30 pm (Approx) followed by dinner and Masai traditional dance in night. The itinerary can change depending on the activities you have booked. We had booked a Hot Air Balloon and a visit to the Masai Village.
Our recommendation taking at least a 3 day Masai Mara Safari which will give you time to see everything. Furthermore, it will allow you time to travel to the Mara River which is often too far for shorter trips. Also, you will obviously have two nights in the wild on a 3-day tour which is much more enticing than a quick in-and-out overnight stay.
DAY 3, 4 & 5: Masai Mara
Masai Mara is perhaps most famous for its lions. All other members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) are found here. Hippopotami are found in large groups in Masai Mara and Talek Rivers. Cheetahs are also to be found, although their numbers are also threatened, chiefly due to tourist disruption of their day-time hunting. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving a large number of herbivores: some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 3,60,000 Thomson’s gazelle, and 1,91,000 zebra. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
After the lunch break and some rest, explore the plains again, this time from a seat in a safari van. Scour the national reserve for elusive species you may have missed the previous day. You may also ask for packed lunch from the camp/lodge so you can explore the plains until the late hours of the afternoon.
In the evening, take the adventure a notch higher. Enjoy a bush dinner and end the day with a sundowner drink as you watch the sun setting in the plains.
On day 4 we opted for Hot Air Balloon in the morning (wake up call at 4 am) Enjoy bush breakfast when you land. Mouthwatering food and champagne on the plains of Masai Mara is an unforgettable experience.
On day 5 we opted after our game drive to visit the Masai Village which was a wonderful experience. This was followed by early lunch before taking our scheduled flight to Mombasa – This time we decided on Mombassa Air – 14:00 hr departure and arrival at 16:25 hr
I loved how there were hardly any other cars in sight on our afternoon safari across Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Later in the afternoon, we did see a few, but for the most part, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. To say the plains of the Masai Mara were vast would be an understatement. It seemed like the horizon kept going on forever as we drove around, and every time we thought we saw something amazing, an even more incredible experience awaited us around the next turn.
Having an experienced Masai tour guide who knew the dirt roads of the Masai Mara like the back of his hand, together with the tendencies and habits of the animals there, Joshua our guide enabled us to experience so much of what the place had to offer in such a short period of time. From seeing a herd of water buffalos grazing to a trio of ostriches running across the golden fields, none of us could put our cameras down or rest our eyes for even a second!
DAY 6 & 7: Mombassa
Mombasa is Indeed the Swahili Cultural capital of the world —- A world in tune with different historical perspectives that left a mark in this beautiful city.
Since ancient times, Mombasa was an important trade sea route and port. Different nationalities visited Mombasa leaving a cultural mark — Chinese, Persians, Indians, Arabs, Portuguese, the list is endless. With trade came settlements and culture and the birth of the Swahili culture.
Mombasa is a cosmopolitan city with people from various tribes residing in it, although the majority of them have a rich Arabic influence, they are very kind, hospitable and always willing to show you directions whenever you need it. Steeped in history and culture, you can participate in various cultural events that are held annually and experience true Swahili culture.
Our Stay was in Baobab Beach Resort and Spa right on Diani beach (Full Board Basis)
Enjoy your day relaxing on the beach or simply having mojitos by the pool along with a snack. Mombassa is definitely on our recommendation list to relax and unwind after the safari and to enjoy a bit of dancing by the hotel bar.
DAY 8 & 9: Nairobi
Just after breakfast, we took a small Air Kenya flight to Nairobi and followed in the footsteps of Karen Blixen as we travel towards the Ngong Hills, taking us immediately in our minds onto the film set of Out of Africa when we arrived.
Karen Blixen Museum
We were given a private tour of the house which included the interior of the house, the detached kitchen, and a small portion of the grounds. The house is much smaller than we expected but includes original furniture that belonged to Blixen, including the famous cuckoo clock, as well as some movie props used in the filming of Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. (Some of the props here were donations after the movie was made). The tour lasts about 40 – 45 minutes and we were allowed to explore the grounds and gift shop on their own. The great views of the Ngong Hills that Blixen often commented on in her book remain, and it was nice to just walk around the property and notice other things that Blixen wrote about in her book.
The old colonial farmhouse is simple, housing a few items that Karen Blixen chose and once enjoyed herself. There are also colorful gardens to explore, where several old coffee machines have laid untouched for decades.
Next on the stop was the Giraffe Centre, where the highly endangered Rothschild giraffe lives in peace. With an elevated viewing-cum-feeding platform, this tour was perfect for us and for animal lovers
The center has been successful in breeding the rare Rothschild Giraffe, an endangered subspecies of giraffe found only in East Africa. The center was established in the 1970s by Jock Leslie-Melville, and in addition to the breeding, conservation, and release of giraffes, it also provides education to the public.
We were given a handful of pellets that you can feed to the giraffes from a large viewing platform. The platforms are raised so that you are standing face-to-face with the adult giraffes, and you can offer the giraffes pellets by hand or the more adventuresome visitors (like some brave ones) place them between their lips for a giraffe kiss. The highlight here is definitely getting up-close views of these beautiful long-legged animals, but to get the most of your visit don’t forget to look down to see the resident warthogs, learn about the giraffes if there are any free educational talks or lectures going on, and take a walk along the Giraffe Centre Nature Trail that begins just across the road.
We really enjoyed our time here, but do be aware that this is a VERY popular stop for school groups (along with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Mamba Village). A visit here averages about 30 minutes but allow longer if you really want to explore the nature trails.
The next morning after breakfast we headed to David Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust followed by our flight back to end our trip
Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provides care and a home to dozens of orphaned baby elephants and rhinos from all over the country with the goal of being able to release them back into the wild. Visitors can visit daily at 11:00 am to watch the public feedings of the young elephants and learn more about the mission of the trust. We weren’t really sure what to expect but after parking and entering, you follow a path to a large fenced in a dirt area. There are typically hundreds of visitors but space is pretty large so you can still stake out a good view-point.
After a brief introduction, the first group of about 20 baby elephants was led in, these were the youngest of the elephants. You get to watch as they are fed bottles by the handlers, play in the water and dirt, and roam around the area. If you are lucky, you might get a chance to touch one if it comes up to the rope, but you need to be careful as they weigh a ton. After the first group is taken away, another group of about 20 more older young elephants was led in and the feeding process was repeated. None of the baby black rhinos were available for viewing during our visit which is typical. During the feeding, a staff member with a microphone explains the goals of the trust and gives you some information about the individual resident baby elephants and rhinos.
It was sad to hear how many of the elephants are orphans due to poaching and human water conflict situations. Elephant and rhino poaching is very much still a problem in Kenya (and many other African nations). The cost of raising just one orphan elephant is ridiculously expensive. For those who want to contribute more to protecting the elephants, anyone can make a donation to adopt an orphan for a minimum annual donation of $50.00, which entitles donors to receive detailed information and updates about their orphan and the opportunity to visit the orphanage in the evening. Our visit here was not only an amazing chance to get very close to a bunch of cute baby elephants, but also a good way to learn about and support a truly wonderful organization.
Some of the places in Nairobi are a bit spread out so it is wise to try to group places together by location. For the sake of time, convenience, and safety, I would suggest seeing the city with a driver and/or guide if for no other reason than the traffic (and inventive driving strategies of locals) can be very frustrating. For most places in Nairobi, you’ll probably just need a driver, but if you are interested in a city tour, a walking tour of Kibera, or game drives in Nairobi National Park, you’ll want a guide. In our case, our driver and guide were the same people.
Nairobi offers a mix of both international and African restaurants so you can have your pick of cuisine. Some popular local foods you may want to try are nyama choma (roasted meat), ugali (cornmeal), irio (peas and potatoes), kachumbari (tomato and onion salad), githeri(beans and corn), hearty stews, grilled corn, mutura (sausage), mandazi (doughnuts) and locally brewed beers. We didn’t get to do much exploration of restaurants as we mainly had meals prepared at our hotel. If you are interested in trying some of the local favorites, you can go to one of the more upscale restaurants catering to tourists and local businesspeople or find a favored local canteen or small restaurant nearby.
Although we ordered in from Mexican restaurant called: Mercando and would recommend it