The world has become a strange place over the last year, with many of us at home eagerly awaiting the moment we will be able to travel again. I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to Kenya and have a first-hand look at some of the wonderful properties and National Parks that you can look forward, and see how the pandemic has changed the safari experience – here are some of my impressions…
After more than a year of overwhelming and often rapid change, we kept a close eye on the requirements for entering Kenya and came well prepared, so that the whole immigration procedure was very uncomplicated. Upon arrival in Kenya, we met our driver, who would be travelling with us for the next week. We had a private car for the whole trip, which was extremely comfortable and perfect for social distancing!
But now for the important part: Safari! Our trip started in Amboseli National Park, where we experienced first-hand what this park is famous for - huge herds of elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Unfortunately, Kilimanjaro kept hiding in the clouds and we only got a small glimpse of the snow, but I guess you cannot have it all on the first day!
We carried on to our camp, Satao Elerai, which is set in a private conservancy directly bordering Amboseli National Park. The camp is beautifully built and offers tented rooms and chalets that have either a direct view to Kilimanjaro or over the plains of Amboseli. We were lucky to spend two nights in this wonderful camp and enjoyed the comfortable rooms, extremely friendly staff, and the amazing views of “The Roof of Africa” directly from our tent and the camp’s infinity pool, that attracted many animals.
We continued our trip towards Tsavo West National Park and found ourselves in a completely different landscape. Here the scenery is dominated by rolling hills, ancient lava flows, and the famous red soil of Tsavo. We stayed at Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge, located in the middle of the park. It is built around of a huge waterhole that you overlook not only from the restaurant, but also from your rooms. After dinner, we were even asked by a member of staff if we would like to receive a wakeup call if any interesting animal visited the waterhole during the night. Unfortunately, that night the phone stayed silent, but we had some nice sightings during our game drives.
The next day we travelled through Tsavo West towards the east and really were mesmerized by the beautiful landscape we passed. Later, we arrived at our next destination, Voyager Ziwani Camp. Located in a private sanctuary on the western edge of Tsavo, the camp sits on a secluded dam on the Sante River – home to turtles, crocodiles, and hundreds of basking hippos. During our game drives we were spoiled with lions on a kill (and many vultures waiting for their share), huge elephants right next to our car and big herds of zebras, eland and kudu. We also enjoyed our time in camp, which offered a very peaceful atmosphere, wonderful and very attentive staff, and excellent food.
The final stop on our safari was Ashnil Aruba Lodge, in the heart of Tsavo East National Park. For lunch we were greeted by a herd of elephants that enjoyed the waterhole in front of the lodge and the game drives in the stunning scenery did also not disappoint. We were surrounded by numerous animals at the waterholes, joined a family of hyenas for a sundowner, and had lions growling at night at the waterhole right in front of our room. The whole staff at this camp were extremely welcoming and we were quite sad that our safari was coming to an end.
From Tsavo, we drove all the way to the Kenyan coast, through ever-changing scenery and finally had the Indian Ocean right in front of us! It was time to say goodbye to our excellent driver-guide, who took such good care of us during the safari and shared our enthusiasm for not only the big animals but especially the small wonders of the bush. Spending a lot of time in the car with lots of early mornings and late nights, safaris can be quite tiring, so we were happy to have some relaxing time at the beach and our hotel, The Sands at Nomads - the perfect ending to a great trip.
Many people asked us if we had been worried about travelling with all the current uncertainty and I can honestly say that there was never a point where I felt uncomfortable! Every accommodation we stayed at paid a lot of attention to the added security measures: all the staff members and guests wore masks, our temperature was taken before we checked in to each accommodation and our bags were sanitized. We stayed in very private accommodations and there were only a few other guests, so social distancing was not hard to maintain - most of the time we were surrounded by more animals than people! Kenya welcomed us with open arms and offered us many special moments. As soon as we opened the roof of our car and felt the breeze of the African wilderness, keeping an eye out for each small creature that crossed our path it really felt like any other safari from the days before COVID and we we’re able to forget about this strange world that we currently find ourselves in.