Kenya is arguably Africa’s most famous safari destination. Full of an incredible density of wildlife which is perfect for photography as well as a vast range of activities that makes it an incredible family holiday destination, Kenya really has got it all.
Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara is the birthplace of East African safari. With an abundance of wildlife that is unrivalled across the continent, it is no wonder that in normal years, people flock here to witness one of the natural world’s greatest ever spectacle. From July around twenty-five percent of the 1.3 million wildebeest that embark on their annual migration arrive on the plains of the Mara. Having escaped the plethora of predators that also call the plains their home, the wildebeest begin their assault on the Mara River. Risking their lives to the current and the enormous crocodiles, the wildebeest cross time and time again, following the rain.
Although the wildebeest arriving in the Mara draws in the most visitors, other times of the year are still incredible for wildlife viewing. From Africa’s big five to the little and ugly five, a trip to the Maasai Mara is always worthwhile.
There are plenty of choices in the Mara for accommodation, ranging from large hotel-esque accommodation to smaller and more intimate tented camps. One of note that combines exceptional value for money as well as brilliant hospitality and service is Governors Camp. Famed for being the base of BBC’s Big Cat Diaries Governors places guests in the heart of the Mara.
Maasia Mara conservancies
Whilst the National Reserve can get busy with other camp’s guests and day-visitors, the conservancies that form the Greater Mara are perfect for those wishing for a more private and intimate safari experience. Still belonging to the Mara’s eco-system, the conservancies are owned by the local Maasai people who then rent their land to a handful of lodges. With a specific area-per guest limit, you can be guaranteed of a far more private experience than you would get in the National Reserve.
Although the abundance of wildlife is not on the same incredible scale as the Mara, the conservancies of Mara North, Olare Motogori and Naboisho are home to a wealth of wildlife that would rival any other safari destination. By staying in the conservancies, guests directly contribute towards the local community’s sustainability and livelihoods.
Kicheche Valley is a beautiful, tented property in the Naboisho conservancy where walking and night drives are also permitted. Without the restrictions of the National Reserves, these areas of land enable guests to immerse themselves in an all-round safari experience. Combining a few nights in the National Reserve followed by some time in one of the conservancies is the best way to make the most of a Maasai Mara safari.
Although the Mara steals the headlines from the other Kenyan safari destinations, they should not be overlooked as they each offer something unique. This is typified by Ol Pejeta that sits in the shadows of Mount Kenya. Ol Pejeta prides itself on its rhino conservation and is home to an incredible population of both black and white rhino. The bush is far thicker here than the open plains of the Mara, however they have two very special residents: the two last northern white rhinos.
Whilst days can be spent on game drive within the conservancy, it is the personal and intimate experiences that can be had with this near-extinct species that makes Ol Pejeta a must visit destination. Photo opportunities are exceptional, and it is a truly humbling experience being with the last two of their kind.
Asilia’s Ol Pejeta Bushcamp is the pick of the camps in Ol Pejeta. The canvas feel to the camp reinforces the traditional safari style whilst the hospitality and service is of the highest standard. The seven tents are spacious, luxurious and also eco-friendly. Visiting Ol Pejeta is all about conservation, so whether you join the rangers tracking lions, visit the anti-poaching canine unit or simply visit the endangered species area, you will be contributing to the survival of the species.
Amboseli National Park
With Kilimanjaro as its backdrop, there is arguably no better canvas for a photographer than Amboseli National Park. Home to some of the world’s largest tusked elephants, those wishing to see ‘the biggest and best’ of the elephant kingdom look no further.
The best time to visit this stunning National Park is in the dry season. As the water sources steadily dry throughout the region, elephants from near and far are drawn to Amboseli. Although this is certainly not your typical safari destination to tick off the ‘big five’, the photographic opportunities are not to be missed.
Elewana’s Camp Tortilis is the most luxurious and special of the camps in the area, yet 100% solar powered. Located in a private concession bordering on the National Park, safari activities can be undertaken in the National Park or in the conservancy all within sight of the towering Kilimanjaro. The camp is a firm favourite with photographers as the guides at Tortilis are some of the best in the area and will do their utmost to ensure you a magical experience.
Borana/Lewa Convervancy, Laikipia
Steeped in history and style, Borana Conservancy in Lewa is a perfect family destination. With the best game viewing in Kenya outside of the Mara eco-system, the region of Laikipia can offer a multitude of different activities that will keep the whole family entertained.
Recently merged, the Lewa-Borana conservancy prides itself on its exceptional rhino conservation that has seen numbers grow and the populations of both white and black rhino thrive.
Borana Lodge has six cottages in total with two dedicated to families. All the cottages overlook the valleys below and have a warm cosy home-from-home feel to them. Whilst game drives and walks are there for the safari purists, horse riding, mountain biking, farm tours, cultural activities and contributing to conservation with rhino tracking and observing the anti-poaching units are all available activities that make a stay here as diverse as one wishes.
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays.
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