I finally made it to Kenya! I’ve traveled extensively elsewhere in the world, but hadn’t made it to Kenya, where EJ has such deep roots, until this past year. It was so special to explore the country that’s at the heart of this company in so many ways. Plus, who doesn’t want to spend three nights in the Masai Mara?
Safari Tip: Traveling solo? I did on this trip and, other than some pre-trip nerves, it was amazing! I was so busy and so well looked after every step of the way, I never had a chance to feel lonely. That also meant my guides and the camp staff were extra focused on whatever questions or preferences I had, which not all travelers get when you have companions with competing interests.
The guides really are incredible
Not kidding here. Every guide I had – from Amboseli to the Laikipia Plateau to the Masai Mara – was so knowledgeable about the surrounding area, its history and wildlife, and all the little intricacies that make the ecosystem work. Even spending hours together on game drives, there’s always a plethora of conversation and learning. For instance, even though I love wildlife, I didn’t realize until this trip that there are three distinct types of giraffe, and two types of zebra, or the little differences that make a gazelle and an antelope different species. Not a single question stumped any of my guides, which was astounding. The guides EJ works with really are top notch. We know what a huge difference they make in your safari experience. And each one had such a personal, intimate understanding of the ecology and wildlife while still connecting and communicating with western guests in the most effective ways.
There’s so much you don’t realize you don’t know! It definitely changed my perspective on Kenya, and gave me a much deeper appreciation—partly for all the hard work, skill, and passion of my guides, but also for the amazing and diverse ecosystems travelers get to experience here. If you want it, Kenya’s got it! It’s really humbling and exciting to be part of.
Sometimes it’s the little things
One of my favorite memories is actually from my last night in the Mara, where our guides surprised us with a bush dinner right on the Mara River, just a little way from camp.
Safari Tip: Bush meals are specially arranged for you to enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner in a special location outside of camp and surrounded by nature. This might be along a lake or river, or nestled under a giant baobab tree, or simply in the tall savanna grasses – it all depends on your circumstances. Wherever it is, though, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the camp and all set up for your arrival.
Photo courtesy of Alex Walker's Serian
Near our dinner site, we could hear lions calling in the distance, while hippos camped out nearer to us. They had set up a number of chairs around the fire pit for us to enjoy the warmth and the sunset while set up just a short distance away was our table full of drinks and beers, and another table full of plates and napkins. At another small fire pit, we could see some of the camp staff cooking our meal right over the open fire! I still can’t get over how well-done these bush meals are. It was amazing to have such extravagant, tasty food in the middle of the wilderness! No amount of working in travel takes away the magic of these kinds of quiet experiences.
But sometimes it’s the big thrills too
That said, a major memory was definitely seeing two action-packed kills in the Mara. We happened to catch these two events, both from the same two cheetahs who were traveling in a pair (very unusual), but many travelers never see a kill on their trip. There just aren’t any guarantees! The cheetahs were lying low in the tall grasses, but we could see the small Thomson’s gazelle they were eyeing in the distance. It takes a lot of patience to wait for a predator to prepare, and it’s a unique experience to watch cheetahs lying in wait for their prey. There was a long period of quiet stillness, and then all of a sudden the cheetah sprang up to pounce on the gazelle – I couldn’t believe how quickly it happened! I was pretty torn because it was absolutely exhilarating to see, but I don’t really have the stomach for it, so I was feeling a little squeamish too.
Safari Tip: If you’ve never seen a kill before and you have the chance to, do let yourself get caught up in the excitement of it! You can always look away, or ask your guide to move on if it starts to make you uncomfortable. It’s such a raw safari moment, though, I would say at least try watching once if you can.
Sabuk Lodge was totally magical! Its rooms feature open-faced walls so even indoors you’re up close and face-to-face with the bush. Plus, every room is river-facing! Surrounded by trees and the sounds of wildlife, you can essentially game-view right from your bed, so afternoons when you just want to kick back and relax? You don’t have to miss out! Bonus: Sabuk’s owner was an absolute pleasure to get to know and really helped make it a standout stay.
Photo courtesy of Sabuk Lodge
It’s so hard to choose! Even after twelve days, there’s so much more to experience and I can’t wait to go back! If I had to choose, I’d say the Masai Mara was my favorite place from this trip, but the scenic terrain of Laikipia definitely gave it a run for its money.