Africa

Special offer: save £3,000 per person on a 7 night safari in the Selous

We don’t believe in Black Friday. But we’ve also been sitting on this amazingly good safari special offer for a while, and this seems a good excuse to shout it from the rooftops.

Beho Beho is one of our favourite safari lodges in both Tanzania and all of Africa. The lodge is lovely, the food is fantastic and the guiding is amongst the best in the country.  It’s the perfect place to go for a slow safari, doing game drives, walking safaris and boat trips by day, and hugely fun, delicious dinners by night.

We’ve teamed up with Beho Beho to save our guests over £3,000 per person on a 7 night stay. And we would definitely recommend 7 nights, as Beho Beho is more like a home in the bush, rather than somewhere you just rush through for a night or two. If you come back with new friends for life and instantly book to return, we’ll try hard not to say we told you so- Beho Beho’s endless rave reviews are there for a reason!

7 nights including domestic flights from Dar es Salaam costs from £4,920 per person sharing, a saving of £3,050 per person. International flights, and special offers on shorter stays are available on request.

Valid for travel 1st November 2022 to 14th March 2023 Excluding Xmas / New year – 21st December to 03 January incl)

Want to know more?

Ask the Africa Experts
Green Season, Kenya, Masai Mara, Trip Reports

Trip Report: November 2022, Kenya, Diani and Masai Mara

Our gorgeous clients Ben and Jenna just came back from Kenya, and left us the loveliest trip report.

Sorry- very long email- the short version if you’ve read this far is that “it was wonderful, thank you.”  If you want to use any quotes for your marketing/testimonials please feel free, or let me know if you want me to expand on anything.  It really was fabulous.

It was a fantastic trip, thank you.  Obviously missing the first 24 hours on the beach was a bit of a shame, and we will be claiming from Kenya Airways for this.  Other than that, all was wonderful.  We had extra leg room seats on the outbound flight- thank you if that was your doing- it really made a difference!  We also really appreciated the service from the ground team at NBO.  I wasn’t expecting to be met before passport control and whisked through the Priority lane- a nice surprise! 

Asha Boutique Hotel

The airport hotel was nice and transfers to Diani all went smoothly.  Asha was a great hotel- we had a lovely room with a sea/pool view, and we had a blissful stay there.  We had no guilt whatsoever about lack of exploration there; I did want to visit the monkey sanctuary as I love colobuses but one kindly visited the garden, so that meant no need to leave the hotel grounds.  We took a snorkelling trip with the hotel’s boat out to the nearby reef which was spectacular. 

Relaxing at Asha

I also managed to find a small family of pipefish further down the beach, which was wonderful although slightly hair raising as I hadn’t anticipated so many sea urchins.  The sea in front of the hotel is clear of them, but a few hundred metres away they are everywhere.  I’d love to go back for more snorkelling and relaxation.

Boat trip

As for safari, both camps treated us very well indeed- the staff were really lovely at both.  Basecamp Explorer was pretty simple, as you had said- however I wasn’t anticipating such a pretty view either from the tent or the main camp and our tent was comfortable.  Eagle View was simply stunning.  Unfortunately our arrival at Eagle View coincided with the arrival of the rains, and they were fairly torrential all afternoon and most of the night.  As a result, our evening game drive was cancelled (and it was a bit cold for a couple of days).  However, we had an extended drive the following morning, with a bush breakfast, which more than made up for any disappointment. 

All of our drives were productive, both in the main reserve and Naboisho.  I didn’t keep count but we must have seen around 40 different lions at 8-10 sightings.  On our drive from the airstrip to Basecamp, we had a great view of a leopard stretched out on a rock in full view, and then saw her the following day (or the one after- I forget) with a carcass.  The second viewing was too crowded for comfort (20 vehicles) but I was impressed that David kept his distance and didn’t block her exit, as many cars were doing.  We also had a third leopard sighting, but she was very deep in the bush- I think we saw an ear and half her head. 

We also had two cheetah sightings, both mothers with cubs, and I was really pleased to spot one chasing (and then, out of sight, killing) a warthog piglet from the public area at Eagle View.  I had never seen a cheetah before and it was absolutely wonderful to see them; such stunning cats.   I was very impressed David took us down to get a better view of them feeding even though we’d already had a long drive with him that morning.  We also saw a hyena take a baby impala from the camp viewing point, plus lots of interesting animal interractions (lions mating, zebra fighting, hyena cubs tumbling around etc…)

Other highlights- the huge number of hyena in both the reserve and Naboisho.  Wonderful creatures to watch.  I was thrilled to see my first secretary bird, and then 4 more- as well as my first ever wildebeest (lots of them!)  Bat eared foxes, eland and spring hares were other favourites, and Jenna loved the hippos.  We saw everything we wanted to see (except rhino, which we knew were extremely unlikely and which we’d seen a few years ago in Nairobi NP) and then lots more besides.  No elephant in Naboisho, but we saw two families in the reserve.  The night drive following a big pride of lions on the hunt was especially thrilling. 

Walking safari

The walk we took was lovely- great to get some exercise- but as I suspected it was very much more an ‘exercise walk’ rather than being a really informative guide to nature, like I experienced in Zambia.  That was fine though, it was nice to get the opportunity to walk further rather than stop at every skull and piece of dung.  David and Fiona (a trainee guide who joined us) were really lovely and helpful and both great company.  We had them to ourselves most of the time- a nice surprise; I’ve never had a private game drive before.  We did occasionally join with other guests which was fine too. 

We were really pleased with the guiding and service at both camps- it wasn’t exactly slick but was delivered with real friendliness and warmth, which was perfect for us.  As for the destination, the Maasai Mara was exceptional.  I have never seen such vast landscapes, with so many animals- a really different experience to other safaris I’ve taken.  The reserve and Naboisho have different enough landscapes to make visiting both really worthwhile, it didn’t just feel like ‘more of the same.’   Other than that one leopard incident, I didn’t find the Talek area too overcrowded or busy- we had several interesting sightings to ourselves, and plenty of times where no other cars were visible.  There were some cattle grazing in both areas (and a herder who seemed particularly interested in peering across the river at Basecamp at the outside shower!) but I didn’t find the presence of the village annoying- if anything it just showcased the realities of conservation.  We did visit a Maasai village as well, which was slightly awkward but an interesting experience and, I think, worthwhile.



We had a fairly eventful flight back to Nairobi, stopping at 2 airstrips on the way.  On the first (short) hop, we had the plane to ourselves.  Then had a chat with the co-pilot on the tarmac while waiting for other passengers to arrive.  The chosen conversational topic was air disasters, which was slightly surreal.  At the second stop, the plane’s battery ran out of voltage (?!) and so we couldn’t take off.  We were beginning to wonder about how to get to Nairobi for the following day’s flight home,  but Safari Link called another plane to come pick us up.  Fortunately it had enough seats free for us.  We made it to Nairobi in time to use the hotel pool.  I can’t imagine BA or Ryanair being that efficient!

Flying out of the Mara

Thanks for organising everything- it really all went very smoothly and it felt like a real luxury to know that all details were being taken care of without ever having to think for ourselves.  That sounds really lazy- we both are fairly capable travellers and enjoy exploring by ourselves- but for this trip it was so nice just to be looked after at every step of the way.  Although it was a relatively short trip, the time passed slowly (in a good way) so that, even though I’d quite happily stay for another few weeks/months, we didn’t feel like we’d missed anything, or had regrets about not doing x, y or z.  5 nights on safari felt like a good amount of time- I don’t think ‘too long’ would be possible, but it didn’t feel too short. 

We’d love to do another trip and would definitely get in touch with you first.  Unlikely to be 2023 (though I am not giving up hope).  I don’t think there is anything of note I’d change about this trip; we’d be very happy to return to any of the hotels/camps in future; especially Eagle View which was a real highlight.  For me it was my first ‘proper’ safari- flying in, not sleeping in a dome tent- and it was the best. More importantly, other than that one drive in Nairobi NP while on a long layover, it was Jen’s first safari, and it really exceeded her expectations and fulfilled her safari dreams.  She agrees it’s not a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience and something that we need to do again.  Thanks for delivering such a great experience for both of us.

Adventure, Africa, South Luangwa, Trip Reports, Zambia

Trip Report- Zambia 2022

Sarah and Gary have taken several adventures with us, but this time, decided to return and introduce Sarah’s mum to the magic of safari, taking in the South Luangwa National Park and Victoria Falls.

I really wanted to email you properly and tell you what a wonderful time we all had.

This time 2 weeks ago….we were having our first meal at Flatdogs and my Mum had just spotted her first hippo, in the camp! It was so funny because she didn’t quite know what to make of it. We just sat there eating our meal whilst one of the staff shined a torch on it for us to see. She kept saying, ‘is it ok?’ ‘are we safe’. I just said, ‘yes Mum, soak it up and enjoy the moment’. She didn’t sleep great the first night, she was a little anxious as she’s never experienced anything quite so wild, we had elephants eating all the trees right up to our tents all night. Even though she didn’t sleep that night, she soon settled straight in to safari life and was well away with it all.

Gary and I mainly wanted to go to Zambia to see leopards and wild dogs. We assumed everything else was a done deal, but those illusive lions proved to be the tricky ones. We had the most amazing guide, Geoffrey, he could see how passionate we are about wildlife, conservation and environment and went above an beyond to try and find us what we wanted to see.

(c) Sarah Luck

So we saw our leopard first, got some great photos of him too. Then, quite unbelievably, using his tracking skills, Geoffrey found us a pack of hunting wild dogs !! First he found paw prints, then fresh poo, we back tracked for a short while, he pointed out where their den was, then there they were. A pack of approximately 20 wild dogs!!! I actually had a tear in my eye as I never thought I would see them. They were really lively. They had just made a kill and were sharing the food between them when an impala ran out from nowhere then they were back on the hunt !! They were unsuccessful on that occasion which I hate to say I wasn’t too upset about as Geoffrey had explained they ate their prey alive 😦 we were glad to miss that bit. We went on to see 2 more leopards and the same pack of dogs on another day.

After 3 safaris Gary and I were starting to worry that we weren’t going to see lions !! We shouldn’t have doubted Geoffrey, he knew what was on our list and lions were next. We drove far north and found approx. 300 strong herd of buffalo. Geoffrey said to us, ‘where there’s buffalo, there’s lions’ and he wasn’t wrong. He said to us he was going to look for a place for our sundowner then we would go on to look for the lions once the sun had gone down a bit more. So we circle around this area by the river, then we circled again, then again. Then there they were, perfectly camouflaged on the grass, 4 lionesses!!

So we watched them for a few minutes, popped off for a gin and a safe wild wee then returned just as they were moving off towards the buffalo. Oh my god Alex, it was so exciting and I felt so privileged as were the only car there and what we were about to see was amazing. The lions hid in the bushes, then one moved out and around whilst the buffalo tentatively moved through them. It was fascinating to see as you watch this on the BBC but were actually watching it real life. OK, so they missed the one they tried to catch, then they slipped off in to an area we couldn’t get to but they were following the buffalo and Geoffrey said he was certain they would be successful tonight. As we headed off back to Flatdogs, on a high from seeing 4 lions, we then went; on the see another 3.

(c) Sarah Luck

The next morning, my Mum was very tired so she enjoyed some time on her own in camp whilst Geoffrey took us off back to the where we left then lions. We met a jeep on the way driving 2 girls, one was asleep and one was on her phone, Geoffrey asked the driver if he had seen the lions and he said no, but I thought to myself, why should that guide even bother trying whilst the 2 guest appeared to be showing no interest at all in where they are (we saw a lot of that indecently).

Anyway, Geoffrey, being the determined guide he was, was sure they would be there somewhere and thanks to the alarm calls of the puku and the circling vultures, he drove completely off track (I’m not sure we were supposed to be there!) and there they were!! 4 lions looking considerably fatter than they did the night before, trying desperately to fend off the impatient vultures. Amazing!!!

So I then jokingly set Geoffrey a task, I said I bet you can’t find me a porcupine ! Well he did !!! And a honey badger! I mean, what would be the chances. I shouldn’t forget our spotter too, Elias, with the torch, he as the one who found us a leopard one evening, meters in to the park on our last drive. he was working hard to shine the torch in the right places and even found us an African eagle owl!!

I loved Flatdogs, the management was very friendly, down to earth and easy to talk to, networking with guests each evening, it was also really nice how they met you from your safari each time you returned, interested to know what you had seen. The staff were just wonderful, I will never know how they remembered our names every time they spoke to us. The food was absolutely delicious and we had no worries at all about being vegetarian. The tents were totally adequate and I didn’t really want to leave there.

So then we were on to Chundukwa, where I can safely say I probably put on 5lbs hahaha. I don’t think there chef would be out of place in a really good restaurant in the UK somewhere. Knocked socks off most places we’ve eaten. I even asked for one of the recipes one evening. Really lovely setting, nice lodge, very comfortable and Doug and Gail were lovely. Poor Gail was really unwell with flu so we didn’t her too much much I could have talked to Doug for hours, he’d obviously led a very colourful life and had a real passion for conservation and local people which was really nice.

Gary and I tried a bit of horse riding, and we did the sunset cruise which was lovely too but my mum skipped that bit as she’s terrified of water and thought a hippo would upturn the boat !! hahaha. Got soaked at the falls, Gary and I walked to the boiling pot, then we went off and had lunch at The Royal Livingstone, lovely to experience but definitely not my style of accommodation, too many people, much preferred Chundukwa. We did the rhino walk which was really good too, very expensive but hopefully that money is being used in a good way and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity isn’t it?

Thank you Sarah for sharing your lovely trip with us!

Kenya

Kenya Trip Report- January 2021

Our intrepid clients, Rachel and Richard, refused to be thwarted by omicron and covid travel bureaucracy, and spent 10 days on safari in Kenya in January.

Hi Alex

Thank you for organising such a great trip for us. 

Our driver, Ambe, was great.  His knowledge of the wildlife in Amboseli was excellent and he was very personable and easy to get on with. 

Sheldrick (note: this is the Nairobi elephant orphanage) was great. Probably a good time to go with visitor numbers being restricted. 

Visiting the Nairobi Elephant Orphanage (c) Extraordinary Africa

As I already told you, we loved Amboseli.  I’m always happy to see lots of ellies and we loved the birds there. 

Amboseli Elephants (c) Extraordinary Africa

I must admit that when we arrived at Basecamp (note: this was their camp in the Masai Mara) I was worried about how basic it was (even though you’d warned me).  However, by the next day I’d settled in and started loving the place.  We were lucky and got a land cruiser to ourselves, which I presume is because we were there for five days. We had a trainee with our guide and, again, we got on well with them. 

Game drive in the Masai Mara (c) Basecamp Mara

You’re right about the number of animals in the Mara – so many lions!  I was very chuffed to see the coalition of four cheetahs (that used to be five), as I’ve seen them on a few TV shows.  We were excited to see servals for the first time.  We also had better leopard views than I’d ever thought we’d get in the Mara.  

Cheetah in the Masai Mara (c) Basecamp Masai Mara

Nairobi airport departures! Now that’s an experience! I think it must have been the safest flight ever with the amount of times our bags were x-rayed 😂  We often find though that other airports around the world feel like complete chaos (San Jose in Costa Rica springs to mind). 

Flying out of the Masai Mara (c) Extraordinary Africa

Now I know why you booked us into the hotel for a meal before flying instead of leaving us at the airport for hours.  We paid for health club passes for showers and had a lovely meal there. 

We were both a little surprised at how busy Heathrow was and it did go through my mind whether we were doing the right thing or not, but I never had any worries the whole time in Kenya.  Covid measures were in place everywhere and it’s such an outside holiday anyway.  

The only problem now is choosing which to keep out of the hundreds and hundreds of photos 😃

So thanks again.  It was a great trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Africa, Kenya, Laikipia, Mountain Biking, riding safari, Walking Safari

Kenya is GO! Seriously Active Kenyan Safaris

It’s fair to say that some of us may have been guilty of being a little… sedentary over the last 18 months. So frankly, now we’re able to get out and about again, we’re ditching the game drive vehicles and getting active.  Jogging with wildlife rangers, riding with rhinos, walking with Maasai warriors- yes please! Even better- now is the time to go, while parks are empty and special offers abound.

Mountain Biking from Borana Lodge

Running with Rangers at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp

Jogging isn’t something you associate too closely with safari, for risk of looking a little too much like… erm, prey. However, when surrounded by a team of experienced bush rangers, we feel pretty safe. Each day the rangers who protect the Ol Pejeta Conservancy head out on an early morning run, and guests at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp are more than welcome to join them. Needless to say, this is something you need to be pretty fit for- running at least 5km without stopping would be an absolute minimum requirement- but then there’s plenty of space for breakfast afterwards!

Walking safaris with Maasai Trails

Mid-hike break with Maasai Trails

After the stresses and strains of lockdown and isolation, calming down, slowing down, and reconnecting with world seems pretty appealing. The Loita Hills are an incredibly special area, home to traditional Maasai communities. They’re covered in dense woodland, known as the Forest of the Lost Child, which is sacred to the Maasai. Exploring on foot with Maasai Trails is a fabulous way to get to know the birds and butterflies of the forest, the medicinal plants, and most importantly, your Maasai hosts, usually young, fun warriors who are up to any hiking challenge- we’ve yet to hear of them being outpaced!

Riding with rhinos on Lewa

Riding with rhinos from Sirikoi

Lovely Lewa is a conservancy that’s captured many hearts, and the rolling downland is perfectly suited to riding safaris. As an added bonus, this is a stronghold for rhino within Kenya, so chances are, if you’re here for a few days, you’re more than likely to get lucky.  There are horses to cater to both beginners and more experienced riders, with a weight limit of 85kgs for beginners and 90kgs for experienced riders.  

For competent riders, we can arrange sleepouts, and multi-day rides. Riding is available from Lewa Wilderness, Lewa Safari Camp, Sirikoi and Lewa House, all on Lewa, and Borana (which also offers mountain biking for non-riders), on the neighbouring conservancy.

Mountain-biking on Loisaba

While riding safaris have long been popular, these days not everyone’s experienced on horseback and mountain biking has much the same thrill. Speeding along tracks in the open air, covering more ground than you ever could on foot, and yet feeling very much part of the bush. Loisaba Tented Camp is a brilliant spot to do this in- the views alone make the uphill bits worthwhile, and downhill is just exhilarating!

Raring to go?

Ask the Africa Experts
Africa

Last minute safari special offers- 30%,40%, even 50% off.

Are you desperate to get away and love a good deal? I mean, really, who doesn’t? Well, covid has upended a lot of “normal” expectations for us, and one of them is the cost of a last minute safari. In normal times, these can often end up being more expensive, simply because available flights tend to be more costly and (nice) available camps are often at the higher end. Not so in 2021. We have a slew of fantastic camps that are offering excellent last minute discounts, amongst them some of our favourites on the continent.

We have a lot of last minute special discounts on our books, far more than we can list here (just ask if your chosen destination isn’t on the list- we probably have a special for you somewhere), but our favourites are at:

Morukuru Game Drive

Morukuru Farmhouse or Morukuru Beach Lodge in South Africa- both are in non-malarial areas and the sort of lodges that have our guests immediately rebooking as soon as they return. You need to travel before the 17th December and book less than 6 weeks in advance.

Tanda Tula in the Timbavati is another favourite in the EA office- it’s one of those camps that our travellers just seem to fall madly in love with and are utterly charmed by. If you book and travel within 30 days of your stay there’s 20% off here.

Star Bed at Tanda Tula

Up in Kenya, the newest camp on the block is Offbeat Ndoto in the Masai Mara. While Ndoto has only just opened the team behind it are old hands, running some of the best camps in Kenya. Stay before the end of October 2021 and get a 4 for 3 special PLUS a further 15% off- this works out at nearly 40% off overall.

Another beautiful day at Offbeat Ndoto

Elsewhere in the Mara, Olonana is offering 30% off if you stay before mid December, and if you want a longer trip in Kenya and stay 9 nights at any combination of Tortillis, Elsa’s, Lewa Safari Camp and Elephant Pepper that’ll also give you a 30% discount. To be honest, if it were our safari, we’d probably spend that long at Elsa’s and Lewa Safari Camp alone- wild, utterly dreamy, and with spectacular game viewing.

Luxury camel safari in Lewa, Laikipia
Camel Safari from Lewa Safari Camp, Laikipia

We have always held a soft spot for Southern Tanzania. Annoyingly, the rest of the world is starting to catch on, but there are still some pretty spectacular last minute discounts- book Jongomero or Siwandu within 30 days of travelling to make the most of it.  Siwandu has one of the best locations in Nyerere National Park (formerly the Selous) and we love the total sense of wilderness of Jongomero’s location in the Ruaha.

Jongomero
Jongomero swimming pool

Elsewhere in the Selous and Ruaha, you can get 6 for 4 at Kigelia and Sand Rivers, plus 10% off if you book within 90 days of travel. We don’t want to oversell these two camps, but Sand Rivers is one of the few camps Alex has returned to again and again over the years, and a stay in the fly camp there was so magical she came home with a very sparkly ring on her finger (Tanzanite, naturally).

Sand Rivers Selous
Sand Rivers Selous

Finally, safari aficionados always look to Zambia-the guiding there is excellent and the walking safaris that Zambia specializes in are perfect for a socially distant safari. If you’re booking at short notice (less than 45 days before travel) there are some utterly spectacular deals at Tafika and Chikoko Trails which are in the northern part of the South Luangwa.

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, Zambia
Mountain bike safari at Tafika

In the central and southern parts of the park, Mfuwe Lodge plus her sister camps Zungulila, Chindeni and Kapamba also have impressive last minute special offers. November is hot as can be, but we’d be seriously tempted to visit then, just to see the ellies wandering through the middle of Mfuwe Lodge in search of the very ripest mangos.

Elephants at Mfuwe Lodge
Ellies Visiting Mfuwe Lodge

Last but not least, our friends at Chongwe (Lower Zambezi), Chinzombo and Kakuli (both in the South Luangwa) have a pretty magnificent 50% off for last minute travellers. Needless to say, this is not something we see very oftne.

Canoe safari at Chongwe River Camp Lower Zambezi
Canoe Safari at Chongwe

Obviously there are a few boring ts and cs that apply to the above, but we’re here to navigate them all for you and make sure you get the very best deal. After all, you need to start packing!

Ask the Africa Experts
Amboseli, Covid-19, Kenya, Laikipia, Masai Mara, Safari

The best socially-distant safaris in Kenya

It’s red list announcement day today, and the Extraordinary Africa team are celebrating, as Kenya has finally been removed from the list! Needless to say, our sundowners are most definitely of the champagne variety! Safari is by its very nature a pretty socially distant sort of holiday as almost all of your time is outside -you can read here a trip report from John and Mags who travelled to Kenya with us in November.

So, if you are itching to get exploring, here’s our top recommendations for socially distant safaris in Kenya (several of them have some excellent last minute special offers too):

Walking on the wild side

Walking on a Karisia Safari
Walking safari with Karisia

In most of the camps we use the game drive vehicles are open to the elements to maximise your photography opportunities, but if you want to be totally in the open air, a walking safari is the way to go. These are beloved by safari aficionados as you experience total immersion in the bush and get a much more up-close, intense safari experience than you do from a vehicle. Standing nearby a big bull elephant is an excellent way to feel how small your place in the universe is!

Looking out over the bush on a Karisia Safari
View!

Karisia Walking Safaris, run by Kerry and her husband James is easily amongst the best walking safari options in Kenya. You can walk out for a few days or weeks- with each day tailored to your interests and how energetic you are feeling. Our favourite thing to do is to use the walking safari as a transfer between two remote safari camps so you have a dose of luxury to start and finish your adventure.

Private safari houses

Family Safari in Kenya
Safari from Mara Bush Homes

Kenya has always been the go-to choice for family friendly, owner-run safari lodges, and staying in a private safari house is really a natural extension of this.  The whole schedule runs around you and your family, mealtimes are just for you, and if you want, you can choose to see no-one but your staff for the duration of your stay.

Bathroom at Elsa’s Private House

We have visited numerous excellent private safari houses across Kenya especially in the Masai Mara and Laikipia, but amongst our longstanding favourites are the Mara Bush Houses and the private house at Elsa’s Kopje in Meru.

Or, as a twist, take over a whole safari camp

Some of Kenya’s safari camps are deliberately tiny, to really emphasise your sense of remoteness and escape from the outside world. So if you want privacy, but with the romance of canvas, this is the way to go. Saruni Wild for example has only 3 tents- gather your friends (or family, if you haven’t seen enough of them over the last few months) and get packing!

Take private driving transfers.

While numbers on light aircraft flights are still fairly low, chances are if you’re using them to access remote game reserves you’ll be sharing the plane with other passengers. So you can either choose to charter, or to take private transfers to your lodge or camp instead (there are a series of strict protocols our drivers use to make sure you are protected!) Some areas are just too remote to make this feasible, but Amboseli, Samburu and certain Laikipia properties can be reached in a fairly easy drive from Nairobi.

Game drives in vintage landrovers with the Safari Series (our transfer vehicles are a bit more 21st century!)

For example- the Safari Series (the newest, and most fun camp on the block in Laikipia) can be reached in under 4 hours from Nairobi, travelling mainly on tarmac roads. So you could be having sundowner drinks in Heathrow and brunch (or at the very latest, lunch) in the bush.

We can also arrange private drivers to help you reach the Masai Mara, though the roads here are a bit more of a mixed bag (we once saw a pothole big enough that it’d absorbed most of a mini-bus) so we’d pick the camps for you a bit more carefully!

If all else fails- there’s always a private flight!

Most planes are 12 seaters so private charters are quite good value for groups.

The practicalities

Needless to say, our safari camps have some pretty serious anti-covid protocols in place- (some of the manuals we have run to multiple a4 pages of details!) Most of these are behind the scenes so you may not notice them, but you can expect things like being asked to wear masks on light aircraft flights, increased hand sanitising and separate dining when you’re staying in safari camps. Some camps may also take guest temperatures on arrival.

At the time of writing to fly to Kenya from the UK you will need to show a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before travel. Children under 5 are exempt.

We’re packing our bags- want to get the ball rolling so you can pack yours?

Ask the Africa Experts
Amboseli, Covid-19, Kenya, Laikipia, Masai Mara, Safari, Trip Reports

What’s it like to go on safari during a pandemic?

John and Mags, two of our most experienced, and intrepid, safari-goers report back.

Our daylight flight with BA was very good, with only 70 passengers onboard.  John had treated us to First Class and we had a wonderful experience.

We were a bit confused who would be meeting us… later the hotel bus turned up and the driver took us to the hotel, leaving all the BA Crew waiting as they were also staying at the hotel too ! So it all turned out fine. We had a lovely spacious, well equipped room and slept very well. (Editor’s note- this was the airport Crowne Plazawe use it a lot for an overnight crash-out).

The next day, following an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we were met by Emmanuel, our Asilia driver/guide…  Emmanuel proved to be an excellent and considerate driver, and we liked him very much for the duration of our first few days.  We had opted to drive from Nairobi down to Amboseli, avoiding the inevitable gridlock of traffic crossing to Wilson Airport, and also to avoid mixing with too many other people which we thought was a great choice.

Tortillis Camp is set in a lovely location, with the main area, deck and dining area and bar set on the ridge, with views out to Mt Kilimanjaro (weather permitting – which it rarely did for us, but that’s down to luck and time of year). The highlight of Amboseli was undoubtedly the prolific game, which we had hoped for but not expected.  The huge herds of elephants, including the huge Matriarchs and Bulls with their enormous tuskers were a sight to behold.

And without exception, all the animals had young at this time of year (Editor’s note- late November), which was a bonus, and a real treat.  We were surprised just how many areas of water there were.  Apart from the actual lake, the rainwater from Kili and the recent rainfall had created large swamp areas, which was a haven for thousands of birds and hundreds of animals.  In particular we were surprised how many thousands of flamingos there were, and apparently all the ones at Lake Nakuru and Naivasha have left that area which is now badly flooded, and they were all down at Amboseli. A wonderful sight : clouds of pink.

We also very much liked the Asilia Touring style safari vehicle, and its layout, which suited us well. It was very comfortable and spacious, yet still provided excellent game viewing from the 360 degree top opening.

Lewa Landscapes (c) Mags Fewkes

Our private transfer from Tortillis up to Lewa  with TropicAir went very smoothly.  We had a Caravan to ourselves, piloted by Ian. We arrived early at the airstrip, and the plane arrived just as we did, so we left soon after and arrived early up in Lewa, a short flight of I hour 10 minutes.

We were met by David, our driver/guide whom we both liked immediately. He wore his red Masai clothing with pride every day.  His English was excellent, as were in fact all of our guides, and all were easy to understand. We LOVED our time in Lewa House and were very glad we had chosen to spent 5 nights there : thank you for the suggestion !  We loved the terrain and the variety of game.  On the way from the airstrip to the House, we passed 5 rhinos wallowing by the road, with others in the near distance too.  Lewa House is a beautifully appointed family home, owned by Calum and Sophie MacFarlane.  Calum came to Kenya 10 years ago, but Sophie comes from Lewa and the original ranching family.  They were the perfect hosts.

Sophie, Calum and the children

We had a GORGEOUS room, Room 1/Waterhole (overlooking the waterhole) which was conveniently very near the house.  We had both an indoor and outdoor bathroom and a lovely private patio.  We ate breakfast on the lawn, usually with the children (11 and 8) and their adorable puppy ; lunch was by the pool ;  aperitifs by the log fire in the spacious lounge and dinner (set menu) usually in the adjoining dining room, at one huge table which seated 10 socially distanced.  And Calum and Sophie ate with us and were excellent company. 

Lewa House

On our Anniversary a table had been laid for us in a separate entertainment area with lights and lit Chiminea in the walls making it warm and cozy with our own waiter John who showed us proudly his “oven” to keep the food warm. We were led by torchlight down a path with lantern lights and it felt like we had gone a long way from the lodge, but the reality was we had not gone very far as we realised after the meal !

2 ponies and Jersey cows also graze contentedly on the lawn and the waterhole attracted Somali Ostrich and other game whilst there were lots of birds helping us to breakfast too ! Perfect !  I should also mention that they have a super gift shop where I bought a LOT of things !  (retail therapy fix).  You can see Mt Kenya from the house and all the rooms will have had wonderful views. Wifi was only available up at the main house, not in the rooms.

The game was outstanding.  We were literally tripping over rhinos (both white and black) at every turn, often close and often in small groups.  Grevy zebra were plentiful too and this is one of their last strongholds. David was also an excellent driver.  About the only thing we did not like particularly was the vehicle we used, which was a more traditional (and less comfortable) old Toyota Landcruiser with open top and sides, but no opening doors.  Which meant you had to haul yourself up and over the sides to get in (which we managed, but as we get older, will find increasingly tricky ). It also means you cannot stand to see game.

I did go for a ride at nearby Lewa Wilderness Camp (about 20 mins away) for an hour with Miranda, a super English girl.  They have 45 horses.  Bizarrely though, they only cater for guests 12 stone or under (Editor’s note- apparently it’s down to the horses they have and the weight they are able to bear).  But I had a wonderful hack, riding right close to eland, waterbuck and zebra. I would highly recommend this.

We were very sad to leave Lewa, and said we would love to return. With your help we chartered an Air Kenya Caravan (2 pilots) to take us to the Masai Mara to Rekero Camp, which took 1 hour 10 mins, and we saw some wonderful scenery along the way – once again just the two of us!

At the Mara, we were met by Francis, who we also liked immediately.  He was a very experienced driver (which was essential when we encountered rivers he had to ford, and deeply rutted muddy roads).  He was great fun too and we got on very well indeed.  It was only a short 20 minute transfer to the camp, which is set on the banks of the Talek River, and has stunning views from the main deck.  The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly at all times. 

In the evenings, there was a campfire and they also had a small private dining area, which was delightful.  We did notice some mozzies and tetsies here. The food at Rekero was excellent, thanks to Clapperton  the chef and his assistant Wilson.  The waitstaff were very attentive and friendly too . 

We had visited the Masai Mara many many times over the past 40 years and never have I seen it so deserted, with so few tourists.  Which was excellent from our point of view, as sightings were undisturbed by dozens of vehicles all crowding around a single animal, which we hate (Editor’s note: us too!).  Many, if not most, of the wildlife had young which is a big draw for us travelling in November, and although we did have rain it usually came at night and only stopped us going out one afternoon.  And we were astonished at the profusion of game and birdlife too and put this down partly to the location of the camp but also the lack of disturbance by other vehicles.  We were extremely lucky to see cheetah with very young cubs, leopard, a lion pride also with playful cubs, to name but a few.

We took the 1615 scheduled Safarilink from the Mara back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, (which was very late and had 10 of the seats occupied Which of course we thought of as strange !) where we were promptly met by Asilia guide Rufus, who then took 1 hr 45 mins to get across the city to  the International Airport. Even he thought this was not great, but there was nothing much he could do as the traffic was completely gridlocked.  We had a good supper at the Crowne Plaza hotel before our flight back to London at Midnight.

Mara Sunset (c) Mags Fewkes

I took 7600 photos over the 14 days, which says it all.  We both feel it was without doubt one of the best safari’s we have ever been on.  The combination and order of the camps we stayed at worked perfectly, with differing terrain and vegetation and a huge variety of game and birdlife.

We have come home feeling wonderfully refreshed and bringing back many very special memories.

Mags & John

Africa

Last-minute safari: how to book a safari in less than 24 hours…

Richard first rang us on Thursday morning. 24hrs later he was on a plane to a safari in Kenya. So, if coronavirus means you can’t commit too far in advance, or you suddenly realise you need to use your airmiles, a last minute safari is very much a possibility.

How to make a last minute safari happen?

Give us as much information as you can about the essentials. If you’re dying to stay in a tented camp, have to do a sleepout, hate crowds, or have to be back at work on Monday, tell us. We’ll throw all of our resources at finding something unforgettable, and the more detail we know about what you want, the quicker we can find something amazing for you and get you onto your flight.

Our favourite sleepout, at Sand Rivers in Tanzania.

After the essentials are taken care of, be as flexible as you can. We know the lodges and camps that have instant availability, or last minute discounts, and the people we can rely on to come through for you at 24 hours notice. If you’re flexible, we can often find you a better trip more quickly.

Riding with wild dogs at Sosian

Embrace the slow safari.  We are huge advocates of taking time to properly immerse yourself in a safari camp. If you want a guide to show you his top secret spots, or surprise you with a magical sundowner, or take you to see a much coveted wild dog den, then you need to get to know him. And this means a longer stay in a safari camp. Not only does this get you a much better safari, it dovetails beautifully with the practicalities of a last minute safari- you’re much more likely to find space at one camp for 4 or 5 nights, than try to find 5 nights at individual camps that fit together.

Sundowners at Ongava

If it’s peak season, be prepared to throw money at the problem. While last minute discounts do occasionally exist, particularly in shoulder or off-peak seasons, in general, the really charming good value spots are the ones that get booked up first. So late in the day, it’s often the spectacular, but slightly more expensive lodges and camps we can find space at. The downside is obvious, the upside? Well, we can be pretty sure you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.

Malaria-free safaris at Kwandwe

Take care of the medical side. Aside from malaria-free safaris in South Africa, most safari destinations are considered to be malarial. Most malaria tablets need to be taken at least a day before you arrive in a malarial area. Certain countries (or combinations of countries) require yellow fever certificates, so if you don’t have one let us know. It’ll probably mean countries like Uganda are ruled out, but there are plenty of other amazing places we can find for you.

Lastly, if you have any questions about packing at the last minute- call our office. With many years of safari experience under our belts, we can tell you what you really, really need and what’s just nice to have. If we’re honest, a sense of humour, a soft-sided bag, and an appreciation of a good sunset will do most of the job.