Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Africa & the Middle East (
-   -   first family kenyan safari trip report (

plambers Jul 10th, 2017 04:14 AM

first family kenyan safari trip report
we just recently returned from our first family safari.teens 13 and 15. i have wanted to go for 24 1/2 years (how long we are married-wanted to do for honeymoon but hubby nixed idea) and decided we had waited long enough! i read numerous trip reports here and on other forums and decided on kenya for the cultural interaction, the private conservancies, the varied activities etc. i booked the trip 19 months ago and now cannot believe it is over!! it was amazing, eye opening, humbling, thought provoking and exciting! we are thinking of next year already!

we chose chalo africa bc i really appreciated chalo africa's attention to making sure the teens had plenty of activies and not just game drives for 2 weeks. sangeeta really listened to me and we were completely happy with the service.

we ultimately decided on eka for our night in nairobi ,sosian for 4 nights (alot of varied activities) , kicheche laikipia for 3 and then kicheche mara for the last 4 with a private sheldricks visit on our departure day. guide quality, small lodges, vehicle quality, teen friendly and food quality were my focus.all gave us private vehicles (land cruisers) that were very comfortable and well fitted.

well, the issues at sosian required us to choose another location. they were lovely and fully returned our money. we looked at the lewa but it was the weekend of the marathon and everything was booked. we decided on sanctuary at ol lentille, also in laikipia north. sosian reached out to them and they had space for us and did not charge us any additional $.

of course, the packing angst kicked in-we brought every preventative and medicine in the world with us! saline spray and eye lubricants were godsends bc it was so dry in laikipia and ds did need the immodium once or twice but other than that we were all fine! we never saw a mosquito and never used the bug spray, although we had it. i did buy 4 lipault pliables (thanks amy batt!) but any soft carryon could have been used. since we did fly ins, we were limited to 32 lbs. they only place that weighed our luggage was wilson and they put all ours together and did not take my purse that had the camera so we were under the weight requirement!!

we also bought every shade of beige and khaki out there except for my son who refused and wore tie die and bright colors everywhere. imagine our surprise when our guides all told us the only time you need to wear neutral is when you do a walking safari and even when we did that my son made sure every color was represented! maybe that is why the cape buffalos continued to stalk us, but more about that later!! crosscheck i still remember your posts and chuckle to myself on the packing angst!

our flight was 25 hours (charlotte to atlanta to paris to nairobi) and was brutal as expected. thank goodness we had access to the american airlines lounges. their lounge in paris is amazing-great food, a replica of winged victory and rose at 8 am! the worst was when someone on air kenya sprayed some perfume on that permeated the cabin and left me nauseous for the last 2 hours of that flight.

we got to the Eka hotel around 10 pm and went to sleep bc we had to be up at 7 and out by 8 for our flight to nanyuki. the eka was a fine first stop-great breakfast and our first taste of kenyan hospitality.

plambers Jul 10th, 2017 07:46 AM

we flew to nanyuki on a 12 seater and were welcomed by our guide boni (boniface) from ol lentille. we liked him immediately. he was dressed in masia tribal garb with plenty of necklaces and bracelets (one said Chelsea for his favorite soccer team!). he was on a national geographic special, 2 Kenyan guys, which in on youtube.

it was a 2 hr drive to ol lentille. very interesting to see the pastoralist lifestyle. it was so dry in northern laikipia so the cattle were being moved to mount Kenya, a 10 day walk.

we were amazed when we arrived at ol lentille-it is made up of 4 private houses, a pool, library, spa and kitchen and reception area-all built into huge boulders with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. the views reminded us of Arizona or new mexico. we met the managers, john and gill, who built this and then donated it back to the local community. the helped build schools, a dam, and educate girls and women. I was very happy to contribute to this worthy cause.

we met our butler, Johnson, and our valet, faith. we stayed in the colonel's house, a 2 br 3 bath house. it was decorated in british colonial style. each master was upstairs with a lovely porch with great views. each had a large soaking tub and an outside shower. downstairs had a dining room, and 2 porches (one covered). breakfast would be served on the outside porch and lunches were served at the pool, at the area above the library and by a river on the day we did our camel safari. we have never been taken care of so well. faith unpacked the kids, kept our rooms tidy and washed, dried and ironed our clothes and put them away. all the soaps and shampoos/conditioners smelled so good!

I was initially concerned that this would be stuffy or uncomfortable, but Johnson and Faith were so lovely and accommodating that we felt immediately at home.

the daily menu was presented the night before in a frame and you could customize as needed. the food here was the best of the trip-baby lamb chops, lavender panna cotta, fish cakes 2 ways etc...

after our first lunch, dd and I took advantage of the unlimited spa treatments and we had a facial and massage. the spa room was open aired and I almost fell asleep. dd and dh took a nap.

since it was so very dry in this area, we did see some animals-elephants, giraffe, zebras, rock hydrax, baboons etc. the water hole below the infinity pool, which attracts a lot of animals, was completely dry. we were told there were tons of animals there a few weeks ago.

we chose to treat this as our cultural portion of the trip. we scheduled a school visit, a village visit and a camel safari.

after dinner we sat out on the patio and watched the stars and the milky way and then off to bed. temps here were ideal-high 70s and no humidity.

CaliNurse Jul 10th, 2017 10:08 AM

Thank you Plambers for starting your report! Recalling your concerns about clothing, etc , I wondered how the trip went. Now you can join the replies to similar worried pre-trippers--"It'll be ok!!"
Can hardly wait to read more!

amyb Jul 10th, 2017 11:29 AM

Great start, plambers! Glad the Lipault bags worked out!

plambers Jul 11th, 2017 07:22 AM

today we visited a local primary school that our guide, boni, attended. the principal also teaches bc of the lack of teachers. students are local and poor. the principal talked to us about the local challenges-wanting more student to board bc it is dangerous walking to school in the early morning with all the elephants, girls getting married at 10...

we visited the classrooms, girls and boys dorms, the kitchen and the gardens.

the principal was very informative and so proud of his students and their accomplishments. I read some essays aloud. you can tell he, as well as the other teachers, love their job. the respect and excellent behavior of the students was amazing. all wore uniforms and were graded on their appearance/cleanliness 3 times a week!

we were allowed to take photos and all the children wanted to be in them! our guide told us many have never seen themselves. I wish we had time to show them their pictures.

we then drove to see some animals and we passed a small village. a woman came to our jeep and told us there was a lone bull elephant very near and asked us to chase it off. boni also told us our butler's father had recently been killed by a lone bull elephant. we excitedly found the bull elephant and drove him off.

we then returned, had a lovely lunch by the pool, napped and then visited the spa again for an indian head massage with dd. we then played bocci and had dinner in the library with a fire blazing. such a perfect spot and after dinner, they set up the lion king for us to watch.

it is so quiet and peaceful here with such gracious service. it is perfect was to start a safari trip after such a long flight.

plambers Jul 19th, 2017 05:57 AM

the next day we went on a camel safari which was alot of fun. boni brought his son, john, 13 (same name and age as mine!I), his nephew and some friends for assistance. they were all adorned in typical masai tribal gear-bracelets, necklaces, head ornamentation and colorful garb.) they were all very nice and we felt safe as it takes alot of work to get the camels ready. we rode for over an hour to a river laced with palm trees where a delicous lunch was set up by johnson under a tree with linens, silver and china! they say nothing is too much to ask for and this is obvious at the level of service that we received. a tomato never appeared on my daughter's plate (her request!), a cold tusker was always awaiting us, peach juice was there to be shared with johnson and my daughter etc.

our absolute favorite day was the village visit with boni. we arrived to singing and were each walked in by a local woman. they sang and danced and invited us to do the same. each woman wore numerous lovely beaded neckaces and collars and their dance showed how they moved their collars (hint: not like me moving my shoulders!) everyone held hands for many of the dances. all were wearing colorful tribal garb.

we then met the men who were playing mancala, and the local medicine woman.we saw where the goats were kept-in an area surrounded by acacia thorns. we were invited inside their house-small but sufficieint for sleeping, cooking and socializing.

we then met the adorable children. i promised myself that i would show them their photos, as we did not have time to do at the school visit. initially, some of the children and their mothers were cautious, but when we showed them their photos, more and more came to say hello and to have their pictures taken. the first photos were serious and when we told them to say "cheese" and smile, they did and delighted in this new style of photo! we then offered to take some family photos which we did. more and more children wanted photos and we happily accommodated. it was worth it to see their smiles and hear their giggles.

after this, the woman sat around in a big circle and offered their wares. we bought many intricately beaded bracelets, a necklace, key chain and two wooden carved animals. we said many asante sanas (thanks very much in swahili) and sadly departed. it was to be an hour visit and we were there for over 3 hours! the smiles, pride in their cultural heritage, their warmth-was so very evident and we all felt so enriched by this visit.

my daughter and I did a few more spa visits and rode the atv twice. it was so much fun with lovely views.

we thank johnson for his daily swahili word which we tried to use. the weather was lovely-high 70s with a breeze although we did wish for rain for them. i hope it did arrive as scheduled the following weekend. at night, it was so very quite and the stars and milky way were in full view as there is no light pollution.

it was a perfect way to start a 2 week safari vacation. tomorrow we are off to kicheche laikpia where the real safari will begin.

plambers Jul 19th, 2017 06:29 AM

first time family safari and the bar was set very high after our first 4 nights at sanctuary at ol lentille. peter K, our guide for the next 3 nights, met us in nanyuki and we knew we were in great and super friendly hands.

we saw the big 4 (no leopard) and many other animals within our first 15 minutes of entering the conservancy! our favorites were the herds of elephants, many babies. our least favorite the cape buffalos which seem to be able to look into your soul. one lone male actually charged our jeep on our way back to camp one evening!! much preferred the area by the camp - wilder and off roading allowed.

the family tent was lovely - quite large with an interior sitting area, 4 chairs on the patio and a hammock. bedding was very comfy. the camp is now enclosed by an electric fence bc some prior guests and an owner were charged by a cape buffalo! it was a perfect introduction to tented safaris while feeling safe. askaris assured this also.

meals were very good-breakfast in the bush was always a great surprise and lunch under the trees by the lake was always a treat. we always saw herds of elephants, buffalos and zebras by the lake, either while eating lunch or sitting outside our tent.

dinners started outside by the fire over drinks with guests chatting about their day and then moved inside to a beautifully set table and another delicious meal. desserts were stellar!

our guide went from peter to peter the great to peter the excellent when, on the last day, he proved is amazing guiding skills by finding the mother cheetah and her 3 cubs. we spent over 1.5 hours with them-watching the baby try to climb a tree and the cubs chasing an eland. we could feel his determination in the back seat of the very well equipped and comfortable jeep when searching for them. he was alot of fun and our teens really liked him-he was our favorite guide of the trip. great sense of humor too.

louise, the new camp manager, was lovely. we enjoyed our many conversations and greatly appreciated when she was able to get us and another family of 4 staying here on a quicker flight to the mara from the conservancy airstrip. this was brilliant as we were able to enjoy another safari en route to the airport and enabled us to sleep a bit longer.

be sure to do a private visit at the rhino sanctuary and book in advance. we met sudan and petted him. we wish him the best. the kids loved feeding baraka, the blind rhino. very informative visit.

amyb Jul 19th, 2017 09:08 AM

I'm enjoying following along, plambers! Sounds great so far.

StacyB Jul 29th, 2017 11:43 AM

I'm following too! What a wonderful trip for your whole family.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:20 AM.