User Reviews – Kenya
20-35 years of age | Experience level: first safari
Beautiful, geologically and biologically diverse country
I spent about 4 months (August to December) traveling in Kenya, visiting several different regions of the country from Lake Victoria to the Indian Ocean. I passed through Nairobi several times between different legs of the trip and I gradually became accustomed to the hustle and bustle. The roads were overall in poor condition when I visited in 2002, but they were dramatically better when I went back briefly in 2010.
While in Kenya, I snorkeled in the Indian Ocean, summited Mount Kenya, watched the big game in Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, and near Tsavo, drank cow's blood with Maasai, camped and had an exciting close encounter with wildlife in Hell's Gate, and explored the rainforest in Kakamega. There is tremendous ecological diversity in Kenya- not just the classic savannah!
One of my favorite places was the island of Lamu. Nearly 10 years later, I sometimes still fantasize about the fruit smoothies they sell there. Delicious! If you have time, I highly recommend visiting the Kenyan coast. The history of trade is fascinating and the beaches are beautiful! Watamu was one of my favorites because you can easily swim to the reef for snorkeling.
Another highlight of the trip was climbing Mount Kenya. I went with two girlfriends and we hired a guide but no porters so we carried all of our own things. We only saw two other people without porters in the 6 days we were on the mountain, and we definitely felt like a bad-ass group of women. The climb up Mount Kenya was scenic and interesting- well worth it even if you don't get to the peak. Our guide was impressively agile and a great help.
I spent a fair amount of time in western Kenya, in the rolling, tea-covered hills between Lake Victoria and Mount Elgon. Kakamega Forest, a unique habitat in Kenya, has tremendous biodiversity. I am not a birder, but I know that Kakamega is one of the best places for birding in Kenya. One of my favorite memories is from walking up to a hill in the forest before dawn to watch the sunrise and see the mist and birds above the tree canopy. I loved Kakamega so much that I almost did my dissertation research there, but ended up working in Tanzania instead.
Throughout Kenya, I stayed in homestays, budget, or mid-range accommodations. I often took public transportation (for both long and short trips). The basics of Swahili are relatively easy to pick up, but most people in Kenya also speak English.
Email Sallyrango | 50-65 years of age
Kenya - a great safari experience, scenery, wildlife, people, - get off the beaten track
Kenya had changed a great deal when we returned after a 25 year gap. We heard that Masai Mara and Ambosili have become very crowded, so instead we headed north of Nairobi to the hills around Nyeri. It proved to be a fantastic choice. We stayed in a new lodge called Rhino Watch and they arranged the two week safari of our choice. All the staff are local Kenyans and they really know what they are doing. The lodge is owned by a German guy who arranges photo and film shoots, so he knows all the best places to go. He is married to a Kenyan lady and her family run the lodge and drive the cars. There were just 4 of us travelling in a 4 wheel drive with an expert guide and driver called Moses. We stayed in a luxury tent with all mod cons. Aberdare National Park has fantastic lush green scenery, great views of elephants, buffalo, monkeys and sometimes leopards, and we never saw another car. Solio Game Reserve has more white rhinos than I have ever seen before, hundreds and hundreds, and we saw lions and a leopard, and Ol Pejeta Game Reserve turned out to be fantastic for Lions, Giraffes and Cheetahs and more Elephants. These game reserves are all nearby and uncrowded. We also went on a walk with giraffes. It could be pretty cold up there in the mornings and evenings. The food in Rhino Watch was amazing, freshly cooked for us on our return and huge amounts. Another highlight was staying on Lake Baringo at Roberts Camp, where hippos come out of the water at night and sleep right by the huts. This was a great area for birds, with thousands of flamingos on Lake Begoria. Nakuru Game Park was much more crowded, but we got incredibly close to lions there - one group was asleep in a tree near the road, and another group were asleep under the picnic tables. We had these lions to ourselves. We also got a good view of a hippo in the lake with pelicans and flamingos. The weather was warmer once we left the highlands. In Nairobi we visted the Giraffe Centre where you can stroke wild giraffes, and Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage, which rescues baby elephants. Both well worth a visit. We were so impressed by this trip that we have booked to go back again next year. A small, intimate safari experience - comfortable but not luxurious, with the emphasis on hours and hours of game viewing. Ideal for photographers and real wildlife enthusiasts, not so good for people wanting a "holiday". We were usually up and out by 6.30am and not back until 7pm or later. We also had a lot of interraction with the local community, and I took a suitcase full of clothes out to an orphanage where we went and met the kids.
Email Christopher Haslett | 35-50 years of age | Experience level: 2-5 safaris
Kenya can still pull it off, at least when it comes to safaris. But I have to subtract one star because of the seemingly unstoppable loss of habitat, especially forest, and the poaching of elephants and rhinos. I also feel less hospitality from the people these days, though this may be inevitable given the steady decline in living conditions and the fed-up mood of Kenyans toward their leaders and institutions.
The police never used to be a problem for foreign visitors, but I have noticed them getting bolder with their schemes to extract money. If you are male, ignore any young women who try to talk you up in a big town - they are undercover cops and you could be stopped and hassled even if you appear to merely notice her. Do not speak to a plain-clothes cop unless picture ID is shown. You are not obliged to have your passport with you if you are running short errands. They cannot arrest you for that.
As part of "terrorism prevention", hotels and even supermarkets are searching people coming in. It seems like a thoughtful measure until you have to endure it a dozen times in a day.
Kenyan safaris are still cheaper than those in Uganda and Tanzania, and you will experience less problems getting to the parks. Roads can be dodgy in places, but they are still better than in the rest of East Africa.
A special advisory: Kenya has experienced heavy rain and serious flooding in April-May 2012, and some land routes may be affected. Be particularly mindful of this in the north, where road repairs get the least priority.
50-65 years of age
I've been to Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia in the past. Areas such as the Masai Mara in Kenya rival anything the other destinations can offer, and there's simply nothing to beat the visual experience of the 2 million flamingo at Lake Nakuru or Lake Bogoria, when numbers are high, (the number does fluctuate with the weather, time of year and level of water in the lake). On the other hand it's often argued that Kenya is more "touristy", that it's less "wild" than say, the Luangua Valley in Zambia, - well probably true, but then it's more accessible, the infra-structure is better and it's less expensive. I'd also suggest the game-viewing is perhaps better, as the open plains are condusive to seeing animals from afar (in Chobe N.P., Botswana, and Hwange N.P. , Zimbabwe, I found animals were only visible when they emerged from the bush to cross the road). They are also more used to tourist disturbance, - not so skittish. So it gets a good rating in my book!
Email Foppe Meijer | 35-50 years of age
Very impressiv a country with many different landscapes.
The road to Marsh is an adventure in itself. If thats what your looking for...go there. If you want to experience an all inclusiv holliday... don't go there.
From Archers post to Moyale the scenery is like a dessert and the road wil eat your car but for how long? The chinees are building a road so nice you won't believe what you see. People are friendly but in this area also robberies occur so you need protection from a soldier or police officer.
The food we have been eating, we brought our own. The campsite of KWS was fine, they have showers, and sanitation was fine.
The weather was very warm. The wildlife is basic out the of the park but in the parks there's a lot of game to be seen.
If you want to drive to Ethiopia and further you need to heve your paper work ready before you go there. For us it was not possible to cross the border.
Email ~lustedtowander~ | 35-50 years of age
Kenya is fine for a packaged safari tour.
Kenya has been the classic safari destination for decades. The tourism infrastructure is well developed, so options abound. One can witness the highlights of Kenya on a budget group safari, indulge in the luxury of a private tour, or embark on a rugged exploration of remote Northern Kenya. The people are friendly, the food is tasty, and the scenery is fabulous. However, industrial tourism has taken its toll on the experience. Entrance fees (ask for an itemized list of your package tour costs) to the parks are outrageously expensive. Mini vans crowd around predator sightings, and the neglected remote parks have fallen victim to poaching.
Email Robert Pielmalm | 20-35 years of age
There are much to see and it offers everything one can expect in terms of wildlife and animals.
Amazing and magic experience. Best place visited ever...
The most incredible trip to a very special part of this world. It is an encounter with the basics of humanity and the magical beauty of nature...
We have learned that people can be happy with very little material things and that definitily we have too much of everything and most of the time it is hard to reach peace of mind and joy.
Also realised that animals in their habitat behave better than human beings....
The most frightening experience is driving in Kenya roads...
Email Bobonacus | 35-50 years of age
I was amazed at the quantity and variation in Wildlife
What an amazing place, the volume of wildlife far exceeded all expectation. We flew to Nairobi, picked and and driven to near Lake Nakuru, 2 nights here before heading to Masai Mara for 4 nights. Then drive back to Nairobi and a night there before flying home in the morning.
Lake Nakuru was exceptional for the flamingoes (among many other birds and animals) and is well worth a days visit. The noise of the birds has to be experienced.
Then to Masai Mara which was just amazing, the volume of wildlife was incredible. I could not believe how many animals there were. We did a sunrise balloon ride which was expensive but so worth it. Breakfast on the plains when we landed was just surreal with all the wildlife around. Lions, Cheetah, Elephant, Zebra, Wilder beast, Impala, Gazelle, Buffalo, Giraffe, Hyena, Crocodiles, Ostrich, Vulture, Hippo, Jackal and many more seen :) Camp site was amazing, private site with just 12 travelers + guides ... very luxurious with en suite! Picnic a few hundred feet from the crocodiles ... another next to the Hippos.
Local guides were used in fairly small vehicles who were very knowledgeable and patient when we wanted to stop for photography. If you are interested my photos are here http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobonacus/sets/72157625299783106/
Email Alan Mirviss | 50-65 years of age | Experience level: first safari
Kenya and our 3-day mini-safari lived up to my hopes of what Africa and the game preserves should be
So VERY pleased with our tour service - Skywide Tours. My wife got approval to present at a conference in Nairobi on Tuesday. I emailed Skywide asking for a 3-day package to Masai Mara and David responded within 12 hours. After looking at our travel arrangements, I emailed back on Wednesday night asking to move it forward by 1 day - to Sunday. Again, David responded in short turnaround to confirm this was manageable. We met David at our hotel at 7 AM Sunday, along with our guide, Wachanga. During the next 3 days my wife and I were continuously impressed with Wachanga's engaging personality, his vast knowledge of large animals, birds, plants and geology of the Rift Valley, which he imparted while we BOUNCED along along the dirt roads which snake throughout the Masai Mara National Park. We found out that after being a school teacher for many years, he now is one of the longest-running guides in Kenya. As a result, in addition to his commitment to ensuring we saw as much wildlife as possible, his ease in the mechanics of a multi-day safari - as well as being on a first-name basis with many of the other guides and wardens in the preserve - made the whole experience extremely smooth. We stayed in OL Moran tented camp, where we were pleased to discover that our tent had a shower/toilet attached. The food was simple, but filling. Overall just what we expected for safari accommodations.
As we were coming back into Nairobi we decided to engage Wachanga for the day on Saturday, 4 days from then, to go through the Nairobi National Park, David Sheldrick elephant orphanage and the giraffe center. Again, David and Wachanga were quite accommodating. We finished with a tour of the Kazuri Bead Factory, which employs several hundred single women producing incredibly beautify necklaces and bracelets. We had wanted to try an authentic yama choma meat meal, so we had a late lunch at a restaurant Wachanga arranged.
During the day on Saturday we realized that our flight out the next day wasn't until 11:30 PM, so we asked if Wachanga could take us to see Hell's Gate National Park. Again, this was arranged without difficulty at literally a moment's notice. Hell's Gate offers multiple activities for a 1-day excursion, including the only park where you can leave the vehicle; a close-up view of the escarpments of the Valley wall; a walk up a narrow gorge with 'escape routes' up the side walls in case of a flash flood; and a close-up look at the geothermal plants that provide 10%+ of Kenya's electricity. On our way back we stopped at Lake Naivasha and took a 1-hour ride to see water fowl and hippos.
As you can tell from this long review, we are enchanted with Kenya, and enthusiastic about Wachanga and David from Skywide Tours - their flexibility and local knowledge made this the perfect week trip! We encourage you to use Skywide, request Wachanga, and tell them that Alan and Diane sent you!