The photographic safari was invented in Kenya. The word “safari”, evoking style, adventure and wide-open spaces, permeates this land, manifesting itself in some of the most elegant, charismatic camps and lodges in Africa.
Kenya is the oldest, and supposedly the most “well-known” safari destination. Less well known is that on a contemporary Kenya safari, you can lose yourself for days on end, untroubled by crowds, communing with the bush and its inhabitants in an almost religious experience.
In northern Kenya, Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs Game Reserves join Lewa, Borana, Ol Pejeta and a belt of community-owned conservancies to deliver huge skies, exquisite accommodation and superlative game viewing, while the more remote parts of the Masai Mara offer incredible encounters with wildlife in an isolation not commonly thought possible here. Meru is a wild “frontier” national park, better known, through Born Free, for the Adamsons and their pioneering predator relocations in the 1960′s.
It’s hard to travel to any of these places without the soundtrack of some romantic movie playing over in your head, and justifiably so. Kenya awakens a part of us we never knew existed, and stays in our heart long after we have left.
Planning Your Safari…
The Best Time To Visit Kenya
Kenya is cool and dry, and great to visit all year round, with the exception of the “long rains” in April and May, and the “short rains” in November and early December, during which some camps close, and getting around can be difficult.
As with most destinations in Africa, the busiest and most expensive time to come is July to October.
The Northern Conservancies
If any model provides hope for the future of Africa’s wilderness, this one does. Under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust, community-owned conservancies covering almost 12,000 square miles and home to over 200,000 indigenous people focus not just on conserving wildlife as a commodity, but on conserving entire ecosystems as a livelihood.
Over the last 20 years, this forward-looking partnership that also includes private conservancies like Lewa, Borana and Ol Pejeta has witnessed burgeoning wildlife numbers (many of them endangered northern semi-desert species), and the establishment of a superb collection of world class camps and lodges. The conservancies adjoin, and in some cases, completely encircle iconic northern game reserves like Samburu and Shaba, and the remote Matthews Range.
One of the world’s most well-known reserves, the Mara sometimes suffers from the misconception of being too popular. However, it is only a small part of the reserve that can be so in the high season. Borrowing from the partnerships established in northern Kenya, the community-owned and private conservancies that adjoin the main reserve provide a quiet, more intimate alternative to enjoy the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, with a resulting improvement in the quality of your interaction with the wildlife. Superb tented camps simultaneously respect the fragility of their surroundings and spoil you with unfettered luxury and ambiance.
Meru National Park
Meru has had a variable history. First brought to the world’s attention in the 1960′s through Elsa the lion of Born Free fame, the park then suffered a long period of decline. This all changed in 2000, when a major push was initiated to turn the park around. Five years later, the park, one with a high diversity of large mammals, was back on the map. This has been reinforced by the construction of Elsa’s Kopje, arguably one of Kenya’s most stunning lodges, that has given the park additional sparkle, making Meru one of the more special places to visit in East Africa.