OCTOBER 2012 FEATURE
By Lisa Loverro
Located on the eastern coast of Africa, Kenya is a country rich with big game safari viewing and a diverse terrain boasting snowcapped mountain peaks, pristine beaches and coral reefs. In addition to all this beautiful terrain, Kenya plays host to the great wildebeest migration and has a year-round temperate climate. Topping off all the natural beauty and wildlife of the country, it’s also home to more than 40 distinct tribal groups, keeping Kenya as one of the top safari and cultural destinations on the African continent.
In a recent address at this past year’s Indaba held in Durban, South Africa, The Kenya Tourist Board’s managing director, Muriithi Ndegwa stated the country would be adopting new marketing strategies aimed at attracting and retaining the leisure traveler. “Product diversification is our number one strategy, besides our traditional products; beach and wildlife that we are known for. We are focusing on new products such as sports, eco-tourism, culture, and MICE,” says Ndegwa.
While plans for these new strategies are currently underway, there are many steadfast accommodations and sights that have been drawing people to the country for years. Before embarking on a safari, have your clients check out some of the many accommodations and museums in Nairobi and it’s surrounding suburbs for a
The Giraffe Manor (www.giraffemanor.com) in Nairobi has recently added 4 new guest rooms, bringing total capacity to 20 guests. Their new “mini-manor” is a free standing building complete with its own sitting and dining rooms.
One of Nairobi’s most exciting hotel developments, The Tribe Hotel (www.tribe-hotel.com), is a luxury boutique hotel exuding a funky vibe with eclectic furnishings. Wooden masks and leather sofas adorn its lobby giving it an almost cosmopolitan feel. It has just the right amount of rustic comfort with city glitz. If your clients are in Nairobi on a Sunday, the Tribe is also known for their Sunday brunch, which offers more than 50 items from the farmers’ market.
Have your clients visit the farmhouse and grounds of the Karen Blixen Museum, author of Out of Africa, which served as her home and coffee estate from 1914 until 1931. The house is now a national museum and furnished with a mix of its original decor, as well as original props used in the film production of “Out of Africa.” It lies on the outskirts of Nairobi and is easily accessible by taxi or bus. It makes for a perfect afternoon excursion from the city.
For an out-of-the ordinary stay, unlike the normal safari lodges or hotels, The Aberdare Country Club (www.aberdarecountryclub.com), located approximately 2 1/2 hours by car from Nairobi, sits on a beautifully manicured hill in the Aberdare Highlands, part of the Great Rift Valley. The estate was once home to an English couple, who came to reside in Kenya, and is now considered a heritage property in the country. The Aberdare Game Sanctuary located near the Aberdare Country Club covers over 1,300 acres filled with wildlife and birds along with an abundance of flora and fauna. For the more athletic visitor, a hike to the top of Satima, the highest peak in the Aberdare Range is a great option to see the country while enjoying an outdoor endurance activity.
A unique and funky accommodation, set in the heart of the Aberdare National Park, is The Ark Kenya (www.thearkkenya.com), modeled after Noah’s Ark. This “ark” of sorts overlooks a floodlit waterhole, attracting an abundance of wildlife. There are four viewing decks with balconies and lounges to provide the perfect spot for game viewing from the comfort of the lodge. It’s a nice alternative to driving in a safari vehicle searching out the wildlife. This way, the animals come to you!
For the best of the best in game viewing, send your clients out to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, home to one of the most exciting spectacles in the world, the Great Migration. A sight to behold, indeed, as two million wildebeest and zebras pass through the Maasai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem in Kenya and Tanzania every year. Encountering many river crossings, this is not only an epic journey taking place for the animals, but also a dangerous one, with hungry crocodiles waiting for this great migration as well. Witnessing the migration is a once in a lifetime experience, not soon forgotten.
The Mara comprises 200 square miles of open plains, woodlands and forest. One of the top places in this area is the Mara Leisure Camp (www.maraleisurecamp.co.ke) located along the Talek River, at the junction of the Maasai Mara’s four wildlife-viewing areas on the northern boundary of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. If your clients want to challenge themselves with the ultimate fitness test, have them go running with the Maasai, the world’s most notable marathoners.
Beyond the safaris, museums and idyllic accommodations, Kenya offers National Parks to impress even the most well traveled clients. To begin, Lake Nakuru National Park, famous for its huge flocks of flamingos, is a must see for any bird watcher. A superb lodge to view the wildlife here is The Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge (www.sarovahotels.com), situated perfectly for viewing the pink-
Meru National Park is a game park located east of Meru, about 200 miles from Nairobi. The park is famously known as the area where Elsa the Lioness from the movie “Born Free” was raised, and subsequently buried. There are large amounts of rainfall here, resulting in an abundance of wildlife along with tall grass and large swamps. Although it is home to many of the big five game, the viewing can be a bit hampered by the terrain. A popular lodge in Meru National Park is the Elsa Kopje Game Lodge (www.elsaskopje.com), obviously paying homage to the movie star lioness. Its accommodations include nine cottages, one honeymoon suite and a private house.
Tsavo National Park, one of the oldest in the country, is divided into east and west areas. With two airstrips inside the park, it’s accessible by private, light planes. The Athi and Tsavo rivers converge here to form the Galana River, one of the largest rivers in the country, eventually emptying into the Indian Ocean. Covering an area of almost 30 percent of the country’s total national parks, Tsavo National Park is a photographer’s dream come true with a bio-diverse topography ranging from open plains, lush grasslands and woodlands. The light here is excellent, particularly while watching the sunrise along the Galana River, offering an added bonus for the amateur and professional photographer. Game in the area includes lions, leopards and elephant as well as 500 species of birds. Some of the major attractions in the park include The Yatta Plateau, boasting the world’s longest lava flow and the Lugard Falls, most of which are a series of white water rapids along the Galana River. An up-market accommodation located in the park is the Galdessa Camp Tsavo East National Park (www.galdessa.com) with a main camp on the southern bank of the river and private camps. The Galdessa Camp works closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service’s black rhino re-introduction project which helps the 51 black rhino, Africa’s largest unfenced black rhino population, thrive in the country. During the construction of the camp, the utmost care was taken not to adversely impact the surrounding environment. It recycles waste, uses solar power for electricity and has installed a water treatment plant.
Amboseli National Park is perhaps most well known for having up-close and personal views of free-ranging elephants. The views of Mount Kilimanjaro are unobstructed from here and a major reason for visiting this area. Tortilis Camp (www.tortilis.com), located nearby to this park, is located in an Acacia woodland and offers the same spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. There are 17 luxury tents and one two-bedroom house. The property has an on-site garden providing fresh produce. The lodge has its own concession, allowing for a more private game viewing experience, as the Amboseli National Park can get a bit busy with safari traffic.
There are currently no direct flights from North America to Nairobi. Travelers flying from the United States will have to connect to Nairobi via hubs in Europe, such as Amsterdam, London and Zurich. You can also connect through Johannesburg with South African Airways (flysaa.com) and book scheduled domestic flight to Nairobi with services provided by a number of local airlines, including Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Precision Air (www.precisionairtz.com) and Air Malawi (www.airmalawi.com). U.S. citizens need visas to visit Kenya either prior to departure or upon arrival. For more information, call the Kenya Tourist Board, 866-44-KENYA; or visit: www.MagicalKenya.com and Kenya Association of Tour Operators (www.katokenya.org).