Written by William Faunce.
We had always wanted to see elephants in the wild. On a safari in Kenya and Tanzania last January, we not only saw all the elephants we wanted but also had close-up views of lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, water buffalo, rhinos, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, baboons, gazelles, and some animals, like the tiny dik-dik antelope, which we’d never heard of before. The birding was so good, we were able to add over 200 species to our life lists.
Classic Travel had sent clients on this same safari a few years ago and recommended the guide and agency they had used; Jim Heck of Explorers World Travel. We did and we are happy to pass along that advice to anyone interested in an East African safari. Jim is personable, experienced, a knowledgeable naturalist, and was largely responsible for making the trip a wonderful experience.
We arrived at the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and were whisked off to the historic Norfolk Hotel, one of the finest hotels in East Africa. Our safari began the next day in Aberdare National Park, where we stayed at the Aberdare Country Club before moving on to The Ark, a hotel with several decks overlooking a waterhole which attracted many elephants, water buffalo, and birds. From there we continued north to Samburo National Park and Larsen’s Tent Camp along the Ewaso Nyiro river. A stay at Larsen’s is not exactly roughing it- each two-person tent has electricity, running water, a bedroom, bathroom, and shower. The Samburo Park is the only East African habitat of the reticulated giraffe, the gerenuk (a smaller giraffe relative), and the Grevy’s zebra. From Larsen’s, we went up the mountain and upscale to the elegant Mt. Kenya Safari Club, a justly famous accommodation developed by William Holden and Stephanie Powers. The golf course there had more baboons on the fairways than golfers. The next two game parks we visited, Tarangire and Lake Manyara, each had abundant wildlife and a distinct topography. We then flew to Tanzania where we switched from minivans to Range Rovers with popup roofs for the game viewing drives in and around the amazing Ngorongoro Crater. The crater floor covers a hundred square miles and is all that remains of what was once possibly the world’s highest mountain and is now the protected home of a herd of male elephants, the rare black rhino, and many birds. At the luxurious and whimsically decorated Crater Lodge, each pair of travelers has an individual cabin with a butler on call to serve tea as well as chase away buffalo. The over-sized bath tub has a view overlooking the crater and was lit by an overhead chandelier. The last stop on our safari was the wonderful Serengeti plain through which millions of animals make an annual migration. From our Land Rovers we could sometimes see tens of thousands of wildebeests, Thompson’s gazelles, zebras, giraffes, and antelopes and, with that much prey, there were also lots of lions, leopards, jackals, hyenas, and cheetahs. Our three nights in the Serengeti were spent in an Explorers World Travel mobile tented-camp which, though less luxurious than our other accommodations, was set up near the animals and away from the crowds.
All in all the trip was everything we hoped for and more. We now wish we’d stayed longer than 2 ½ weeks and that we’d included a side trip to Zanzibar. If you are interested in an African safari, we recommend that you have Classic Travel hook you up with Jim Heck’s Explorers World Travel.