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Trip Report Superb safari in Kenya with Eastern & Southern Safaris

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We have just returned (my 18 yrs old son and I) from an excellent 7-day safari in Kenya. I booked it with a local company - Eastern & Southern Safaris (www.essafari.co.ke) - and this turned out to be a very good choice. Like all Kenyan operators, they ask for the money in advance, to book the accommodation. At first I was worried about that, but since they already got some favorable reviews, I decided to trust them. I did not regret it. In fact, based on our experience I can wholeheartedly recommend this company to anyone contemplating a safari in Kenya. Everything was perfectly organized, up to the last detail. The sales person was Bernard Muchiri, who answered all our questions promptly and informatively. Ben, our guide and driver, was extremely competent - the man has a wealth of knowledge about the local wildlife and as a bonus is a very pleasant trip companion. He is also a very good driver; we felt safe with him at the wheel at all times, despite Kenya's difficult roads and traffic. Both Bernard and Ben speak superb English (better than mine). The vehicle was a Nissan 7-seater with a pop-up roof, ideal for viewing wildlife and taking photos.

In Nairobi, we stayed at the Safari Club hotel, which I would describe as good value for the money (we booked through hotel.com and paid GBP 88/room/night). The furniture looked a bit worn, but it is clean, comfortable and the staff is friendly.

We were then driven to Samburu, staying 2 nights at the Serena lodge. This was comfortable, with a decent-size swimming pool and good service. The camp is also home to numerous wonderfully colored birds - a delight in itself. Baboons and black faced monkeys roam freely and playfully among the cabins. They are quite peaceful and harmless, as long as you keep them out of the cabins - the staff told us they have been known to open bags and suitcases and mess everything up! The game drives in Samburu were excellent - by the end of our second day there we'd already seen 4 out of the "big 5" at close quarters. The "stars" of that show were: a lion sitting very confidently in the middle of the track; and a leopard carelessly marching in between the cars, with around 20-30 people looking and taking pictures. I could have put my hand out the window and touched it (I obviously didn't!). We also saw cheetahs, a caracul cat, a crocodile, elephants, buffalos, giraffes, zebras and a host of other herbivors.

Next we stayed a night at the Mountain Tree Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. This lodge is built near a waterhole and all rooms face in that direction. There are no game drives, but we took a very nice 2-hour leasurely walk through the forest (with a guide and an armed ranger!), which was very nice. We viewed elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, mountain hogs, etc. from the comfort of our room. The lodge also has a tunnel bringing you to a ground-level bunker from where you can see (and smell) the animals only yards away! Again, the service was superb. A member of staff is on "animal watch" duty all night (when the waterhole is lighted by projectors) and guests can request to be waken up if certain animals are spotted (that's how we saw the hogs).

Our next stop was Nakuru, where we stayed at the Sarova Lion Hill lodge. This was probably the best one in terms of comfort, food and entertainment - we had Kenyan music and dances performed in the evening near the swimming pool. The game drives were again superb, starring rhinos, flamingos, pelicans, marabu, ostriches and many other species. We had thus completed the count of our "big 5" and could proceed free of all that "stress"!

Our last park was Maasai Mara. We stayed at the Ngame Hill Sentrim Tented Camp. This was less luxurious than the previous accommodation, but still very comfortable in large tents with 2 queen-size beds an en-suite toilet and showers. The service was absolutely superb. We saw large numbers of animals in Maasai Mara, including entire columns of wildebeest migrating. However, the star of the show was a pair of mating lions, which performed their acts and antics shamelessly only yards away from the cars. I know now why the lion is called "king of the animals"!

On the way, we saw Nyaharuru Falls, the Rift Valey and did a short boat exploration of Lake Naivasha (where we saw hippos, fish eagles, pelicans, etc., etc.)

Throughout the trip, we had numerous opportunities to learn about Kenya and the Kenyans. The people are in general very friendly, hospitable and kind-hearted. Unfortunately, too many of them live in extreme poverty. Clean water, food and healthcare are not a given for many in Kenya, as we saw for instance during a visit to a Samburu village. Despite all this, they value very much education and appear to have made a lot of progress in providing schools for the children. There is a huge human potential there, still largely under-utilized.

In summary, a very enjoyable and interesting trip. We returned home feeling enriched by this unique experience.

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