best safari

The expert’s guide to planning the ultimate Kenyan safari

Getting up close and personal with the Big Five is on everyone’s bucket list - here’s how to do it right…

There are some trips that everyone, regardless of age, gender or personality, has on their bucket list and a safari is undoubtedly one of them. The thrill of the chase and getting up close to some of the world’s most magnificent animals is an experience that appeals to everyone’s inner naturalist. After all, there’s a reason everyone loves The Lion King so much Disney made it twice.

For many, this is also a once-in-a-lifetime trip so it’s worth getting it right. Here the experts from luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent, which has more than five decades’ experience organising African safaris, share their top tips…

Know your audience

Your choice of safari will depend greatly on who is travelling with you but as a general all-rounder there are few better destinations than Kenya for almost guaranteed wildlife spotting without compromising on comfort. The semi-arid Laikipia Plateau and the Masai Mara National Reserve are both world-renowned for their abundant animal life – particularly the Big Five – and make excellent spots for traditional game drives. They are also home to some of Africa’s most experienced safari hosts, including Big Cat Diary host Jonathan Scott who offers lessons in wildlife documentary filming, making them ideal for first timers.

Time your trip carefully

Like any holiday that centres around wildlife nothing is guaranteed but you can greatly increase your chances of spotting big cats, giraffes, elephants and the like by booking your holiday at the optimum time. If you’re heading to Kenya go between June and August to catch the Great Migration of the wildebeest – and the hordes of predators it attracts. The warm nights mean this is also a great time for spotting aardwolves and bat-eared foxes along with elephant herds in Kenya’s acacia forests.

giraffe manor

Start your safari in style

As with any holiday, where you rest your head at night can make a huge difference to your safari experience. And, while you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to high-end lodges and camps in Africa’s most popular safari spots, few offer the fun, elegance and style of Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor.

You’ve likely seen this glamorous resort on Instagram – giraffes poking their heads through the dining room window while you eat your morning boiled egg is, after all, hard not to share. Built in the 1930s and inspired by a Scottish hunting lodge, the family-friendly boutique hotel has just 12 bedrooms and is set in five hectares of private land making it seem as if the roaming herd of Rothschild giraffes is simply strolling through your back garden. Other popular options include Sirai House at the base of Mount Kenya and the Geoffrey Kent Suite at Sanctuary Olonana which boasts unbeatable views over the Mara River.

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Go beyond the game drives

While a game drive on one of Africa’s big reserves is your best chance of seeing animals in the wild, there are plenty more ways to encounter indigenous wildlife – many of which help support local preservation efforts. For example, a visit to Nairobi’s David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust will be rewarded with a chance to see baby elephants being hand fed by keepers while the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to three of the last five remaining white rhinos and there’s no prizes for guessing what animal you might encounter at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Abercrombie & Kent can also create exclusive experiences for guests, such as exploring the Borana Conservancy on horseback or taking a helicopter ride to the real life ‘Pride Rock’ for a picnic.

family-safari

Meet the locals

If there’s anyone capable of unlocking the secrets of Africa’s great plains it’s the indigenous tribes. Luckily many of them have been more than welcoming to tourists and now do a thriving trade teaching visitors traditional bush crafts, sharing their expertise in animal tracking and telling the lore of the land. This is particularly true of the villages of the Masai Mara where families will happily welcome you into their homes allowing a unique insight into their traditional way of life.

To find out more or speak to a specialist call 0203 814 0760.

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