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Trip Report Third time to Africa: Kenya trip report

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On this trip I visited the triangle of Porini Amboseli, Kicheche Laikipia and Kicheche Bush camps.

Day 1-2, Macushla House in Nairobi (Karen). I hate to give away this fabulous gem of a tucked away hideaway.... But as a starting point to catch our breath, have a hot bath, a lovely breakfast, and enjoy the quiet lushness of Karen Blixen's "backyard", I cannot imagine a more superb little B+B.

Day 2-5, Amboseli Porini Camp. The tents were clean and tasteful. The food was average to good, and the staff was nice, but quiet (few spoke English). We spent most of the time on our own. Our Masai guides were young and knowledgeable, and the drives were good. The camp is relatively new, and the private and quiet conservancy, which normally would provide a private and viewing of relaxed game, was quiet. Too early in the season? Animals not yet used to vehicles and humans? Not sure. Amboseli National Park (the park beyond the park where the camp is located) was amazing, but vast, with roads that do not allow you to get close to animals unless they come to you (no off-roading whatsoever!). A wonderful experience to see Kilimanjaro and interesting and beautiful vistas and elephants. I got a lot of scenic photography. We had a male lion in our camp one early morning as we were waking up, and the sound of his calls at the watering hole 50 yards away, was absolutely, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip.

Day 6-9 Kicheche Laikipia Camp. A deliciously magical and perfectly run little camp on a small lake (more like a massive pond) in a private conservancy on the equator. This is my favourite camp of the three. Andy+Sonia, run this camp, and there are not enough kudos on earth to award him for it. Andy is Zimbabwean, late 50s, with a faint resemblance to Sean Connery: charming, incredibly smart and welcoming. He runs the camp like a tight ship, meals are exceptionally gourmet and timely, rooms are massive and beautifully appointed, and the schedule is organized and varied. The general manager Andrew, was warm and very educated, and spoke to us about everything and anything. We dined with Andy+Andrew daily, usually outside by the lake, and truly enjoyed a first class experience (imagine white table clothes, sit-down service, and gourmet dining under a cypress tree in paradise watching elephants frolic). We went to the rhino sanctuary where 4 of the world's last Northern White Rhino live, which was very special. We also saw the greatest sunsets/sunrises I have every seen in my life, just above Mt. Kenya, in a private and beautiful setting. This conservancy was more established than Porini and animals were not skittish. Best of all, being there early in the season meant seeing almost no other vehicles. It was just us, our brilliant guide (whose eyesight defies human ability), and heaven on earth.

Day 9-12 Kicheche Bush Camp. Given we had just come from Kicheche, I knew that this experience would be outstanding. And it was, if more informal. Our gracious management Darren and Emma were absolutely wonderful, funny, happy and gracious and made our stay wonderful. Our tents were luxurious and VERY tastefully decorated, in neutrals and modern furnishings. The main tent was beautiful and comfortable and we enjoyed sitting around in the evenings and socializing with our hosts and guests. The meals were served alfresco in the afternoons and inside in the evenings, and the service was with a smile and with pleasure. Of all the times I've been to East Africa, I have never met happier, more accommodating staff. The food was very good and varied, with a lot of beautiful soups and baked breads, as well as meats and fish. Dessert is baked fresh daily, and served twice a day! Similar to Laikipia, lunch is buffet and dinners are sit down, and very elegant. Unlike the other areas of Kenya, the Masai Mara is teeming with game and not too hard to find. Our driver James was relaxed and easy and worked hard to find us leopard, cheetah and lions and more lions. This is truly cat land. The private conservancy where the camp was located, was definitely the most animal-active of the three, where animals were NOT skittish, and very few other vehicles passed thru, which allowed us much-needed privacy. The Mara is VERY crowded, so being there early in the season was smart planning.

So, if you are planning to go to Kenya, here is my list of must haves:
- SMALL camp (max 8 tents)
- Open air vehicles that only carry max 4 people (vehicles at Kicheche were perfect!)
- Private conservancy setting, with access to the main park (you pay for this in your package)
- An excellent zoom lens!

Happy travels!

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