As a child I was completely captivated by beautiful nature documentaries. I am also a huge National Geographic fan. My father promised me he would take me on a safari for my 21st birthday. By that time I had a boyfriend so it became a family trip with my boyfriend (now husband) and my parents.
We flew from Amsterdam to Nairobi and stayed one night in Nairobi Panafric Hotel. The hotel was rather disappointing, and my dad was expecting the worst for the next hotels. The hotel is currently being upgraded and looks a lot better right now.
The next morning Washington, our driver, was waiting for us. The adventure could begin!
After a few kilometers we exchanged the asphalt for dirt roads and it didn’t take long before we encountered the first wild animals. There, at that moment, my love for Africa began. From impalas to zebras and elephants, every close encounter took my breath away.
Before we arrived at our first lodge, we passed Lake Nakuru. From afar it looks like it is a lake with a gigantic beach. As we approach the lake, it turns out to be a beach with an incredible population of pink flamingos. Two to three million flamingos come to this lake because of the huge amount of algae in the water. This lake has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 2011.
Near the lake we see two rhino. One of the big five (and for those who don't know what the big five are: African Lion, African elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino)
After this first close encounter, we are taken to Sarova Lion Hill Lodge gebracht. In this beautiful setting we can settle our first impressions of Africa. Relax beside the pool, enjoy a delicious dinner (grilled impala) and go to bed early. During a safari you have to rise early because the chance of spotting animals is best (very) early in the morning.
Masai Mara National Park
The next day we drive to Masai Mara National Park to visit a traditional tribe. The Masai are nomads who, despite modernization, still preserve their ancient traditions. They eat almost nothing but meat (goat, sheep, cattle) and nearly no fruit or vegetables. Nevertheless, they are healthy.
In the dry season, when cows give little milk, they sometimes drink the blood of cows. They do it the traditional way. They seek a healthy cow from the herd. They bind the neck with a strap. Then the owner of the cow shoots the animal in the neck with bow-and-arrow. They catch about half a liter of blood in a gourd, a leather jug. After this they squeeze the wound, to stop the bleeding and then the cow returns to the herd.
The Masai mostly wear red clothing because it symbolizes life and blood. They also like lots of decorations.
The Masai we visited lived in huts made of wood and dried cow dung. They performed a traditional dance for us and tried to sell their souvenirs.
At the end of the afternoon we went for a game drive. Washington did his very best and in a short time we saw elephants, zebras and lions. To conclude the day we discovered two leopards, lounging under a tree. We were able to get really close and enjoyed the moment. On most tours you will see four of the big five on safari, but cheetahs are so rare and shy you need a little more luck to see them.
A little later we noticed that nature can be very cruel. A mother hyena was mourning besides her dead baby while a few feet away a number of vultures where waiting for a nice meal.
In the evening we arrived at the Mara Serena Lodge. The lodges and hotels of the Serena chain are top quality. Some even belong to “The Leading Hotels of the World”.
Since we stayed here two nights, we had a little more time to enjoy the lodge. The pool looked really tempting, but we saw monkeys with their hands in the water and decided to resist the lure. The next day it turned out that it was a wise decision. Some other guests did take a swim and they all became sick.
From the lodge we had a beautiful view of the migration of wildebeest. This is an annual event in which more than a million wildebeest make a round trip of nearly a thousand kilometers, accompanied by thousands of zebras and gazelles. Later on we passed a river full of dead wildebeest. Many animals are trampled while crossing rivers. It is possible to follow this migration for some time. I think that is a very special experience and is therefore still on my wish list.
As I am really fond of seeing animals in their natural habitat, I have a lot of safari-like adventures on my bucketlist. Check out Amy's post about her bucket list wildlife experiences.
The next two days we made some more game drives. In the morning we discovered a lion resting from an exhausting night. Beside him sat a half-devoured topi (a kind of deer).
The first night we heard a strange noise at the window of our lodge. When we looked outside, we stood face to face with an elephant. Apparently the plants around the lodge are juicier and attract many animals for a late night snack.
The next day we drove to Lake Naivasha, and we passed the border with Tanzania. We stayed at the Lake Naivasha Country Club which many may recognize from the lodge scenes in the classic film “Out of Africa”. It’s nice to know that you are under the tree where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep spent one of the most famous scenes of the movie.
At Lake Naivasha we took a boat trip and saw hippos, pink pelicans, spoonbills and ospreys.
Amboseli National Park was our next goal. It was not without problems because in the middle of nowhere our car broke down. Fortunately my father is a mechanic and together with Washington he managed to solve the problem. I can guarantee you that you are not at ease when you are standing next to your van and know that there might be a lion or elephant behind the bushes.
We were really happy to arrive at the next magnificent Serena Lodge. From Amboseli Serena, you have beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is actually a mountain range consisting of dormant volcanoes. At 5895 meters, it is the highest mountain in Africa. The top is covered with a glacier of about 11 square kilometers.
From the Tsavo West National Park, which we visited the next day, you have beautiful views of this impressive mountain.
From Kilaguri Serena Safari Lodge we made another game drivea nd discovered how important it is to have a good guide. Without their trained eyes you could pass so many animals unnoticed. Washington tried to show me a baby crocodile for about 10 minutes. The crocodile was laying very still on a rock in the river. It took me quite awhile to spot it even though it was only a few meters away. When Washington told we the mother must be close by, I felt a little less comfortable.
Our next hotel was Taita Hills Safari Lodge . At the time it belonged to the Hilton group, but has now become part of Sarova. The lodge consists of one large building and is less charming than the smaller lodges. If you look for a hotel in the neighbourhood I would rather choose for Salt Lick Game lodge .
After a final game drive we left for the long drive to Mombasa.
After an amazing but exhausting week we had a few days to relax. Obviously the hotel was again part of the Serena group. The Serena Beach hotel is part of “The Leading Hotels of the World” and that was noticeable. The rooms are lovely, and the food was incredibly tasty. The lobster we ate, sitting with our feet in the sand is still on my mind.
For a few days we had only one concern - shall we dive in the pool or do we jump in the Indian Ocean?
DO you prefer the beach in Zanzibar? Take the opportunity to discover the secrets of Stone Town too.
After enjoying a few days, we went back to Amsterdam, but not for long because Africa captured our hearts forever.
Since this trip was made long time ago (it's been a while since I was 21) in the pre-digital era, pictures are not made by myself. Hotels and lodges have been checked and they are still high end.
I hope I convinced you to book your own trip to Africa. Please share your experiences.
You want to read more about Africa? Start reading here about our trip to South-Africa.