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.
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.
As I already told you, we loved Amboseli. I’m always happy to see lots of ellies and we loved the birds there.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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?
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 Plaza–we 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a little known “special” in the safari world: residents’ rates. Safari companies across Africa offer heavily discounted rates for local residents, so that they get to experience the natural wonders on their doorsteps. For many these would be unaffordable otherwise, and it means that camps can fill empty beds at the last minute or during low season. Not only this, but there’s a huge conservation benefit in local residents enjoying and appreciating the animals and landscape they might not otherwise see.
We are utterly thrilled to see one of our favourite safari collections extending residents rates as a thank you to doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. This averages out at about a 70% discount on most camps. We are all so incredibly grateful for the work they have done, and know they will need a break more than most when this is all done.
Over the border in northern Tanzania you can choose from six gorgeous camps in the Serengeti. Olakira, Kimondo and Ubuntu are seasonal camps which broadly track the movements of the Great Migration. Sayari sits in splendour in the far north of the park, Dunia- famously staffed by an all-female team- and Namiri, in a splendid spot for big cats. If you want serious style, we’d find the Highlands at the Ngorongoro Crater a tough one to beat, though the walking in this area gets us even more excited than the lodge. A short distance from such a well-known safari spot, it feels incredibly wild, authentic, and unspoilt. As a last stop in northern Tanzania, you can also stay at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire– a particular favourite for elephant-lovers during the dry season.
The ladies of Dunia
Sunset at the Highlands
Lions near Namiri
Heading further off the beaten track into Southern Tanzania, the wild and ruggedRuaha is one of our favourite parks in all of Africa. Here you can choose between rustic Kwihalaor serious luxury at Jabali Ridge (have sampled, can confirm- very nice). Then for birding and boat safaris, not to mention an extremely civilized way of being, Roho ya Selous has a pretty location in the Selous Game Reserve.
Jabali Ridge infinity pool
And if you really hate safari (seriously, are you sure?) Matemwe Lodge and Matemwe Retreat are laid-back spots on Zanzibar, where you can cheerfully spend a week or so snoozing beside the Indian Ocean.
Retreat roof terrace
The fine print:
Travel before May 2021.
Valid for any nationality with proof of work ID card showing name/job description – e.g. doctors, nurses, paramedics, elderly care home workers, pharmacists, ambulance drivers etc.
Discount valid for one partner or friend sharing a room.
Children aged 5-18 travelling with healthcare workers will be charged resident’s child rates.
Flights, park fees and other government fees charged as normal.
Postponements due to Covid-19 will be possible within the same rules as the company’s Covid-19 policy, with the only additional requirement to not rebook new postponed dates in high or peak season if new dates fall after 1 June 2021, due to the level of discount applied on this offer.
COSTS- all of our trips are completely tailor-made, so there are no fixed prices or fixed packages. However, to give you a general ballpark figure to start from, a 4 night safari at Mara Bush Homes plus 4 nights on Zanzibar costs from around £9,000 for a family of 4 using the special offer, excluding international flights. This would cost about £14,000-£17,500 normally.
10 days on safari in Northern Tanzania using the special would cost around £4,600 per adult excluding international flights.
A week’s safari in Southern Tanzania using the special offer costs from around £2,800 per adult excluding international flights. Normal price would be £5,200-£6,900 per person.
CHILDREN most of these camps have a lower age limit of 5, except for the Mara Bush Homes, the ultra luxury private villa at Jabali Ridge, and the private house on the beach at Matemwe which are totally private and have no lower age limit. As parents ourselves, we think we’d be very unlikely to take children much under 3 on safari.
If you’re looking to keep active whilst on safari, how about buddying up for a run with a local Maasai? Cottar’s 1920s Camp will organise one of their Maasai staff to keep you company while you make your way through the bush. The question is, can you run as fast as them?!
Do you enjoy the odd dabble with a paint brush? The lovely Saruni Mara has themed cottages, of which one, The Artist’s Studio, has a collection of drawing materials and an easel for you to let your imagination go wild, and the scenery out the window will keep you enthralled for hours.
3. Star Gazing
What could be better than being surrounded by silence, miles from the nearest town, in the middle of the Namib Desert and watching the stars above in the inky black sky through your skylight whilst lying in the comfort of your bed? Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia has just this. If you’re really serious about your star gazing, they also have their own state of the art observatory where, each evening, you can join resident astronomers who will guide you around Namibia’s skies. The reserve here is Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve.
4. E-Bike Safari
Plenty of camps offer mountain biking safaris but how about taking the pressure off the legs a bit and trying out an e-bike. Similar to a conventional mountain bike, but with a battery added to it, these bikes will give you an extra helping hand to haul you up the hills, giving you more energy to enjoy the views.
If you’re after a way to cool off while getting the adrenaline pumping, then how about a trip to the Zambezi Riverfor some white water rafting? Along from the Victoria Falls are 70km of warm and fairly turbulent water offering some of the most exhilarating grade 5 rapids in Africa as it surges along the Batoka Gorge. A perfect base for a little post-rafting luxury would be the Royal Livingstone, a 15 minute walk from the Victoria Falls.
Well, what can I say ! Another amazing trip Alex. Wonderful people and hospitality and the most fabulous wildlife I feel privileged to be able to see in real life.
Our guide, Clement, in Amboseli, lovely, charming man, very knowledgeable and went out of his way to try and get us a good position for the perfect photos.
Serena Lodge didn’t allocate us a view of the plains but it only needed a request to make that happen and it was done, no problems at all. We think the staff may have been fascinated by our name, ‘Luck’ ! As they just kept saying ‘Luck’ to us, haha!
Governors Camp (NOTE: this is in the Masai Mara) gave us the river view, as we requested but on arrival I decided a tent overlooking the savannah would probably be better. I asked if this was possible and they were very accommodating and said, ‘of course’ but would have to be on the second night. They seemed a bit concerned that they only had tent 37 available, right up the end, kind of on it’s own, but I swear this is the best tent in the camp ! Not a sound from the other guests, no one walking past and was able to sit outside watching the giraffe and zebra during the day. We were on our hands and knees at 3am peering though a gap in the tent door at this hippo munching the grass only 8 feet away! Fabulous memories. Lions bellowing all night, hippos and hyena making a racket too……love it 🙂
So, the balloon flight. it was a amazing and thank god we did it as we wouldn’t have seen the Big 5 if we hadn’t. It was Little Governors side of the river where the rhinos were. I managed to snap a quick shot from the balloon of two but they were very far away. I made it quite known to the guides how desperate Gary and I were to see at least one, they asked to see my photo, they knew exactly where it was and took us there on the way back and there they were. How lucky were we to see this magnificent, endangered animal in the wild.
As for the leopard…… Dickson searched tirelessly for the leopardfor us, made constant phone calls to the other guides, spoke to the Masai en-route trying to find out exactly where they had been seen then low and behold, one leopard and her cub appeared from nowhere as we flew over the canopy the other side of the river in the balloon! I was a very happy bunny 🙂 the captains of the balloons asked to see my photos as they were shocked she had a cub.
The food at Governors was really good and the staff were so lovely to us. Again, seemed fascinated with our name!
All in all, another amazing trip Alex, thank you.
Was going to attach a photo of The Big 5 for you but will only let me do two. We were so lucky to see so many other amazing animals too, even a Genet, a Serval, a Wild Cat, a Bateleur eagle, a cheetah hunt, lions matting, ostriches matting and a HUGE hippo yawn ! I took 1700 photos!
Won’t be Africa for the next few years but will certainly be in touch next time it is.
Dawn and Leo took their honeymoon in Kenya, and returned this August with their two sons. This is their report:
So sorry that I haven’t been in touch sooner. We really got caught up in our trip, and I stayed away from email and any connection with the outside world. It was lovely.
We had an absolutely wonderful trip! Every single thing went off without a hitch, and I could not be more grateful to you for making it happen. Every transfer was smooth, and every pick up and drop off was as scheduled. After such a long journey, it was so reassuring to have someone waiting for us with our name on a sign.
We loved our choice of destinations and are glad that we spent so much time in the Mara.As you predicted, Amboseli was very dusty, but it did not ruin our time there. We saw tons of elephants as I had hoped, and Kilimanjaro was cooperative for almost an entire day.
The Amboseli Serena was perfectly situated for our activities, and the rooms and food were great. Food is a very big deal for my teenaged boys, and all of our meals everywhere were very plentiful and terrific.
The Mara Serena was just as we remembered, and the views from that lodge are unmatched by any place I’ve ever stayed in the world. Despite its size, the lodge remained quiet and serene, except for the dining room which was just fine for a family. The game viewing in the (Ed: Mara) Reserve was tremendous, and the scenery was spectacular! Being there for the migration was so much better than when we were there last (January). We saw so much more wildlife and all those wildebeest….simply amazing! We were lucky to see two river crossings(one with a croc trying unsuccessfully to eat), and we will never forget the feeling of excitement and anticipation….there are truly no words to adequately describe it.
The Mara North Conservancy did not disappoint either, and we were very impressed by how close we were able to get to the wildlife compared to the Reserve. After leaving the somewhat shiny and semi-luxurious surroundings at the Serena, I was very concerned that the Karen Blixen Camp would not measure up. I am happy to say I was mistaken. Karen Blixenwas extremely comfortable, had fantastic food and is perfectly situated for game viewing on the river. The staff was exceptional, and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable. We were very well attended to, and the staff made sure to check on us frequently. We felt so much more important than we usually do on vacation! We loved the eco-aspect of the Camp and how well the employees are treated. The employees raved about the camp owner and how well they are treated compared to other camps. After spending some time in Africa, one feels like an overindulged Westerner, so it was great see a camp that tries to spread the wealth and treat people properly.
One of my biggest concerns about this trip was worrying that it was not long enough. However, ten days in Kenyaseemed like a month. We were/are exhausted and would not have wanted to do another thing more. I loved spending the bulk of time in the Mara and am so glad that we didn’t have to trek from place to place every two days. As you know, travel there is so hard and tiring, and we enjoyed just soaking in the surroundings for days on end.
All in all, it was a spectacular trip, and I don’t think we will ever be able to top it! I can go on and on for days about it but I will spare you for now! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or if you would like me to post a review somewhere. I cannot thank you enough for all of your help, advice, tips and recommendations. You were spot on and provided honest and extremely thorough guidance. Nothing was left to chance, and I felt so much more knowledgable than I did going into other trips. Thank you for helping us to have this most special trip.
I am very late this morning and must run out the door, but will be happy to tell you more later! I’ll also send a photo when I muddle through the 1200 I took!
Africa is full of big animals, big characters and big landscapes. It’s where you’ll find the world’s largest land mammal, legendary explorers and the Great Rift Valley. Yet even amongst such well known, if not always illustrious company, some stories stand out. One is that of Christian the lion.
Christian’s was no mere common or garden lion. His story begins as a young cub in Harrods. In 1969, he was spotted by John Rendall and Anthony “Ace” Bourke who bought Christian and swept him home to Chelsea, where he lived in the basement beneath their furniture shop. He took walks in a local garden, and charmed visitors to John and Ace’s furniture shop.
However, dear Christian, though a remarkable lion, was becoming rather large, and began to startle visitors to the furniture store. Fortunately, two such visitors included actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna who’d recently starred in Born Free- the true story of Elsa, the orphaned lioness raised by George and Joy Adamson.
And so Christian moved from the King’s Road to the wilds of Northern Kenya (via a stint in the Traver’s country garden). He was released from George Adamson’s camp at Kora, far from the dangers posed by hunters, tourists, or local villagers. However, Christian still had wild lions to contend with who resented the male interloper smoothing in on their territory. He formed an alliance with “Boy” (a semi-tame male who’d starred in Born Free), and eventually became the head of his own pride. He left George’s camp for longer and longer periods of time, until he was seen for the last time, headed in the direction of Meru National Park.
.And while it seems elephants may never forget, lions too must have a long memory. For when Ace and John returned to Kora, there was Christian, running up for what looks remarkably like a bear hug. Or should that be a lion hug?
In the 1980’s taking the “toughest bus ride in the world” was one East Africa’s legendary journeys. This week long trip from Nairobi to the Lake Turkana passed through lawless districts braved by only the most intrepid of travellers. United in search of adventure international diplomats and backpackers sat side by side in Bedford trucks, bouncing through Kenya’s northern frontier.
By day, passengers would alight to trade with roadside hawkers and dig out the bus, and once they made camp for the night, they’d be visited by Samburu warriors who’d come to investigate. Finally, after three long dusty days on the road, guests would finally catch a glimpse of the implausibly turquoise waters of Jade Sea- Lake Turkana. The lake shore thronged with Luo fishermen, families and herders bringing animals to water. Temperatures soared above 40 degrees and travellers slept on the roof of the truck to admire the fireflies and stars. In an era when luxury tented camps were coming in to their own, the Turkana bus was a true adventure through Kenya’s wild frontier.
Emma Hedges, daughter of Dick, who originally ran the bus, has revived this epic journey for a small number of set departures during March, April and May. Guests travel in a little more comfort (the Bedford truck’s been replaced by Land Cruisers), but the same sense of exploration remains. With the wilderness of Lake Turkana increasingly under threat from proposed pipelines, railways, and oil rigs, now is the time to visit this World Heritage site.
The Turkana Bus has a small number of 6 night/7 day set departures, leaving Nairobi on the 8th and 22nd March, the 12th and 26th April, and the 10th and 27th May. Extraordinary Africa can offer a 9 night trip, including international flights from London, a night in Nairobi and the 6 night Turkana Bus trip from £2,625 per person.