Belfast Telegraph

TRAVEL GUIDE: Kenya

Being a travel agent certainly has its perks and they don’t come much better than this — an eight-day trip of a lifetime through the luxury, boutique game reserves of Kenya.

My trip was arranged by Cox and King’s, a travel company that specialises in high quality group, private and tailor-made trips, and as manager of Oasis Travel’s Holywood branch, my task was to enjoy myself as much as possible and gain first-hand knowledge of Kenya so I can brief customers interested in travelling to the region.

The first and only question on my mind when I heard about the trip was ‘When do I leave?’ My eight-and-a-half hour flight from Heathrow with Virgin Upper Class included a four-course dinner, champagne and a chair that reclines into a horizontal position, aka a bed! I thought I was already in heaven and I hadn’t even arrived at my first destination.

Losaiba is reached by a one-and-a-half hour plane journey from Kenya’s capital Nairobi and the area is commonly known as Laikipia. I checked in to the Losaiba Lodge which is set in a 60,000 acre game ranch and offers fantastic views of the rugged African landscape. Here the native animals are free to roam and I was fascinated to see elephants, lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes and just about every animal from Walt Disney’s The Lion King on my doorstep.

This lodge also offers travellers the opportunity to spend a night with only the stars and sky for a ceiling in its ‘star beds’ which are unique to the resort and definitely one for your bucket list (ie things to do before you die!).

Being on a familiarisation trip of Kenya meant I was staying in seven different reserves over seven nights — all of them equally fascinating. My next bed for the night was in the Sabuk Lodge which can only be described as a hideaway from the rest of the world. What makes the camps in Africa’s many National Parks special is the fact that they’re on private land, so there are no rules about having to stay inside a vehicle while game watching and that means you can experience the reserves on foot, at your own pace and up close and personal.

The next day I flew to Samburu and stayed at Joy’s Camp. The camp is named in honour of artist and author Joy Adamson who wrote Born Free and Queen of Shaba — about her and her husband’s conservation work looking after lions in this area — and it has a small museum set up in her memory. I stayed in one of the ten very stylish tents that are adorned with vibrant fabrics made by the local nomadic tribes.

For me, this is where Africa really came to life as the camp overlooked a large natural spring where you can see elephants and lions jostle for water alongside the herds of buffalo and I’ll never forget waking up to the unique sounds of lions roaring. My stay here can be described in two contrasting words — wild yet luxurious.

Sasaab Lodge was the next destination on my whistle-stop tour. This lodge is based in the middle of a community conservancy, making it rich in local culture and traditions and you can go on wilderness walks, go game watching, enjoy al fresco dining and relaxing camel rides. The local people benefit directly from your stay and in my eyes this lodge would be perfect for honeymooners with luxury accommodation, some of the best food I’ve ever tasted and your very own private plunge pool.

From Samburu I flew to the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve area. During this flight I crossed the Equator, heading for winter in Africa. The mornings and evenings were cooler but the temperature was still very pleasant during the day at around the mid-20s.

At Masai Mara I stayed at Governor’s Camp and Naibor Camp which both have excellent game viewing areas and are teeming with birdlife, hippos and crocodiles.

The next day I flew back to Nairobi and drove to an area called Karen, named after the author of Out of Africa, Karen Blixen. I checked into my seventh and final accommodation, House of Waine, which is an elegantly furnished house and the perfect place to relax and unwind after a hectic schedule.

Everyone I met in Kenya was hospitable and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. An essential part of any safari is an African ‘sundown’ or sunset. Watching the sun go down here is one of the most magical things I have ever experienced with the sky changing to the most wonderful colours, forming an unforgettable backdrop, then disappearing as the curtain of night comes down.

This is one of the world’s most fascinating regions and I packed in memories that will last a lifetime. Kenya is a year-round destination and has a two-hour time difference from the UK. The best time to visit is from July to February as there are two rainy seasons that should be avoided, during October to November and from the end of March to the end of May.

Before travelling, holidaymakers should get a number of immunisations including: yellow fever, hepatitis A, malaria, typhoid, polio and tetanus.

Safaris start at £2,245 per person sharing, including hosted meals with departures available from Belfast. For more information contact Oasis Travel’s Holywood Office on 028 9042 6969 or visit www.oasis-travel.co.uk

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