Travel Matters Ltd

20th January 2020

Kenya – A 7-day Safari

The taxi delivered us to the Nairobi Air Safari terminal in early morning darkness. A smiling, sweaty, beanie clad face greeted us, the Manager unlocking the terminal door.

Welcome to Kenya where the locals run to and from work. We boarded our flight out to the Mara, with a full view of the cockpit and pilots. The vista was beautiful, glimpses of open plains, mountains, local villages and herds of antelope. We were headed for Karen Blixen Camp, one of the oldest lodges in the Mara North Conservancy. The plane touched down on the red earth and we were greeted by Daniel, our driver and guide. It was a short but breathtaking 30 min trip back to the Lodge; we saw antelopes, giraffes, zebra, baboons, topi, and eagles all within this short drive. Daniel as we were soon to learn was very patient and wonderfully knowledgeable.

Arrival at Mara North airstrip.
Arrival at Mara North airstrip

After a warm welcome we were shown around the Karen Blixen Camp. It has a prime location on a curve in the Mara River with a large, extended family of hippos living opposite, the noise of this happy family echoes throughout the lodge. You can spend hours sitting in the garden (with a glass of wine) happily viewing the hippos, along with giraffe and elephant families as they come down to the water to drink. One evening while warming ourselves by the outdoor fire-pit, we watched a lioness wander along the riverbank in the moonlight, occasionally stopping to drink. There is an overwhelming sense of wonder at the wildlife that surrounds and occasionally enters the camp, a reminder that this is their home and we are only visitors. One night we were woken by the sound of zebra hooves on our veranda and the security team safely driving them away.

Our accommodation at Karen Blixen Camp.
Our accommodation at Karen Blixen Camp

The Lodge is beautiful, made from local wood and a thatched roof, while our raised tent was a step back in time but with all the comforts of home, there is a large bathroom and gorgeous outdoor shower where birdlife watch you bathe. The covered, wooden veranda with day-bed looks out upon the river rapids entirely surrounded by native bush. You can watch the crocodiles sunbathing on the opposite side of the river. The tent is reminiscent of “Out of Africa” the famous novel Karen Blixen penned. The lodge has a lovely swimming pool, surrounded by trees and flowers and a day spa. We left our massage relaxed and smelling of native oils. The food and drink at Karen Blixen is wonderful, breakfast is provided on return from the morning safari and there is the opportunity to sample local Kenyan dishes. The camp provides employment and training for the local community, with a tree nursery, cooking and computing classes and a shop selling locally crafted jewellery.

Hippos in the Mara River opposite Karen Blixen Camp, Kenya
Hippos in the Mara River opposite Karen Blixen Camp, Kenya

Of course the highlight of any trip to Kenya is the safari. We ventured out every morning and again in the evenings. Snuggled under local blankets and with a thermos of coffee, Daniel imparted his local knowledge and infectious love of the wildlife. The camp is in the Mara North Conservancy just outside the National Park, this does mean that there is a little more flexibility and less congestion when viewing the wildlife. We were often viewing animals up close, without another truck in sight and there is a fond camaraderie amongst the drivers, game keepers and local farmers.

Daniel - our more than capable and knowledgeable driver & guide from Karen Blixen Camp
Daniel – our more than capable and knowledgeable driver & guide from Karen Blixen Camp

The highlights included multiple lion families all with cubs, herds of elephants washing in the river, cheetah hunting and a night drive where we saw a hyena take a baby antelope. Every game drive was different and Daniel ensured we were always surprised, even providing a surprise picnic breakfast one morning complete with chefs and white table cloths. On our last day we ventured into the Mara National Park, which is about a 2 hour bumpy ride away from the lodge. The vastness of the plains and scale of the herds is amazing. It was early in the migration season and the wildebeest were grouping, although we didn’t see a actual river crossing (some had taken place the day before) it was interesting to see the points of the river where this happens and view the waiting crocodiles.

Breakfast on the plains in Masai Mara, Kenya.
Breakfast on the plains in Masai Mara, Kenya

After 3 nights at the lodge we returned by small plane back to Nairobi for a quick overnight before we embarked on the train journey across to Mombasa. The new fast train line between Nairobi and Mombasa has reduced the journey to 6 hours, stopping at local stations on the way and crossing the Kenyan National Park. You can view elephants and zebra from the train window and arrive at the new, modern Mombasa rail station. It was then a short taxi ride to the Serena Beach Resort hotel on the northern coast. This lovely resort provided some relaxing beach time before returning home.

The pool at the Serena Beach Resort & Spa, Kenyan coast
The pool at the Serena Beach Resort & Spa, Kenyan coast

The grounds are beautiful with palm trees, white sand beach and turtle sanctuary, if you are lucky you may just catch a baby hatching. We played tennis under an audience of monkeys and relaxed poolside under the frangipani trees. Snorkelling, diving and windsurfing are all on offer. It was then a short flight from Mombasa back to Nairobi and onto London.

Two male cheetahs before a chase.
Two male cheetahs before a chase

Kenya is magical, and viewing the animals in their natural habitat is breathtaking. I can see why visitors return again and again, each holiday would be different according to the seasons and movements of the wildlife. Travel Matters researched and booked everything down to the last detail, even guiding us through the visa process, it made for a wonderfully relaxing holiday.  Kenyans are rightly proud of their country and delighted to share all it has to offer, it was a privilege to spend a week in this wonderful country.

Safari drive in the Masai Mara.
Safari drive in the Masai Mara

This guest blog post is by Katrina Clarkson who travelled to Kenya in June 2019 with Travel Matters. She was hosted by Karen Blixen Camp and Serena Hotels during her visit.

By Karen Simmonds
20th January 2020