Jonathan Scott, author and presenter of BBC’s The Big Cat Diaries, recently declared in an article for The Telegraph that “the joys of safari are one reason why so many visitors fall in love with Kenya and long to return.” Having lived in Kenya for the best part of forty years, the British ex-pat has witnessed The Great Migration – the annual migration of zebra, gazelle and wildebeest to the Serengeti – every year. Living in the Maasai Mara nature reserve (near Nairobi) for six months out of every year, listening to the roar of lions reverberate across the vast plains from his bed every night, he can certainly be trusted to give a realistic account of what it’s truly like to visit Kenya.
He’s right of course. The true pull of Kenya is its wildlife and the unique opportunity to see it in its natural environment. The Maasai Mara is one of the most original safari spots, meaning its location is perhaps one of the very best to see the migration as well as ‘The Big Five’ (lions, leopards, African elephants, African buffalo and the highly-endangered black rhino). The Big Cat Diaries documentary series was filmed by the BBC here; the spot that lured presenter Jonathan Scott away from the UK.
Between July and October, the Maasai Mara sees 1.7 million wildebeest, 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle and 300,000 zebra cross through its ranges. Remember Simba clinging desperately to that branch as a stampede storms the Serengeti in Disney’s The Lion King? This is the real deal, with blood-thirsty lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas also playing a part in the annual drama that ensues.
The landscape is also a huge draw-card for Kenya. From vast plains of barley and wheat, to pink flamingo dotted lakes and the looming peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s much to be said for the natural habitat of the animals we head out to find on safari here. Spotting an elephant in the wild is one thing. Seeing it with the snow-dusted peak of the highest free-standing mountain in the world in the background is something very different. Lake Nakuru and Amboseli National Park, a drive away from Maasai Mara, are the best spots to enjoy both wildlife and Kenya’s most epic landscapes.
Of course, the Kenyans know that safari is the big pull for tourists and over the years, they have come to tailor packages to suit various tastes. Adventure is now offered alongside a boutique experience, with campsites styled up to accommodate those of us that like our home comforts. Forget food heated in a tin over a camp fire. Think luxury tents with interiors inspired by local nomads and verandas with breathtaking views over the endless plains.
Post-safari, it’s worth noting that Nairobi has great connections to sun, sea and sand spots like The Seychelles and Mauritius. It’s a short flight to either of these destinations from Nairobi, the perfect pull back to the ‘real-world’ after your days in the wild. Or you may well make like Jonathan Scott and insist on staying...