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.

Green Season, Honeymoons, Trip Reports, Zanzibar

What it’s like visiting Zanzibar in the short rains. Trip report- November 2014

A lovely email from Faye and Alan, who’ve just got back from  a beach honeymoon in Zanzibar, where it was (allegedly) the short rainy season! Lovely reading on a chilly morning at Extraordinary Africa HQ- thanks guys!

Hi Alex 
It certainly does feel like another world over there now we’re back! We had just the best time – really interesting place and so beautiful. We found everyone really friendly and lovely too. 
Stone Town was great and a real eye opener. We had a good look around by ourselves and a big night out actually on our first night! Emerson Spice was wonderful – what a location! Thank you for the recommendation, it was the perfect start. We then want onto the bar on the seafront and had a lot of drinks with the owner of the bar, very random! Serena was amazing and so nice to arrive at after a long journey. 

Stone Town on Zanzibar
Stone Town

Shooting Star wonderful, the pool incredible and we really enjoyed the beach here. Had it to ourselves and swam in the sea for hours each day, which we loved. Only 5 cottages were in use, which was good as it meant there was plenty of space around the pool etc. 
Anna was just incredible. Our favourite place… So attentive but relaxed at the same time. And the management were great too, really helpful. Nikki said to say hi!

Zanzibar Beaches
Relaxing at Anna of Zanzibar

We went to a spice farm from Shooting Star and added in a stop at Jozani on our transfer to Anna, which worked well. The monkeys were amazing! Then we did a morning of snorkeling at Anna. Apart from the first couple of days the weather was perfect and so hot. We loved every minute and didn’t want to leave at all. 
So nice to remember it all again!! Thank you for everything, definitely somewhere we’d like to go back to and would recommend to others. Maybe with a safari first next time! 
Adventure, Green Season, Uganda

Save £575 per person on a luxurious wilderness adventure in Uganda

Uganda’s long been one of our favourite African countries and it seems the world is catching on to it. Not only is Uganda home to some of the very last mountain gorillas in the world, it also has the sort of game reserves that people come to and sigh “this is what the Serengeti used to be like”… Kidepo (recently acknowledged by CNN as the 3rd finest game reserve on the entire continent- fine praise up against such heavyweights as the Kruger, Masai Mara or Ngorongoro Crater) has spectacular game viewing and a fraction of the vehicles you’d find elsewhere in Africa.

Why? Well it used to be virtually impossible to visit unless you chartered a private plane, but scheduled flights announced in December 2013 have put safari in Kidepo firmly on the map.  Combine this with some of the spectacular special offers available during the green season in Bwindi and you’ve got a great value, utterly magical trip on your hands.

Safari in Kidepo NP

Safari in Kidepo NP
Kidepo Zebras

Day 1: Fly overnight from London to Entebbe, and crash out here for the night. Welcome to Africa!

Day 2: Connect on to your light aircraft flight up to Kidepo, a vast undiscovered savannah ringed by craggy peaks, where the wildlife clusters around the Narus and Kidepo Rivers.  Remote and with utterly wonderful scenery and game viewing, this is a park to visit now before the hoardes catch on that it’s easy to visit.  Spend 3 nights here at Apoka Lodge. Take game drives and look out for cheetah (not found elsewhere in Uganda), leopard and lion. Look out for ellies, skittish zebra and fat little warthogs with their tails firmly in the air. Take a walking safari and trace pug marks in the dust, or a night game drive to watch the glint of eyes as you pass by in the darkness.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Bwindi Gorilla © Aurelia Thomas

Day 5: From Kidepo, take a private flight down to Bwindi National Park. Not cheap, no (if you want to do this itinerary at a reduced price, we can send you back to Entebbe for a night in between), but what a way to get a sense of the magnificent Ugandan landscape.  Spend 3 nights here at the utterly wonderful Gorilla Forest Camp- so close to the national park that it’s not unknown to spot gorillas actually in the gardens. Just watch this YouTube video if you don’t believe us… We’ll include two gorilla treks while you’re here so you really get a sense of how special these wonderful animals are.

Day 8: Fly back to Entebbe and relax beside Lake Victoria, before your overnight flight back to London.

Day 9: Arrive in London early in the morning.

Normal price from £5,805 per person sharing. Travel in April, May or November, and pay £5,230 per person sharing, with discounted gorilla permits, and a free night at Gorilla Forest Camp, saving £575 per person!

Includes two gorilla permits (usual price US$500pp per permit), international flights, 7 nights accommodation, all food, internal light aircraft flights (including one private flight), game drives, walking safaris and transfers.  

Botswana, Green Season, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia

Green season safari- is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Think of African landscapes and the chances are you’ll be imagining an endless golden savannah, broken only with twisted and parched acacia trees. The wildebeest are cantering frantically in search of water and fresh grass (this is the main driver of the Great Migration) and vultures float on the thermals hoping to spot a lion kill.

There’s another Africa however, the Africa that blossoms with life in and around the rains. The green season (sometimes rather optimistically known as the “emerald season”) transforms the landscape.  Rivers burst with life and grasses and trees seem to glow in almost implausibly bright hues. Under thunderous storm clouds young animals learn to stand on shaking legs within minutes of their births, and predators look sleek and happy with a bellyful of food. This is the time when you’ll take the most spectacular photographs and see the bush at its very best (and sometimes at half the price of the peak periods).

Beyond that, the parks are largely deserted, and if you’ve done several safaris it’s utterly fascinating seeing the game reserves in a new light. Birding in particular is utterly glorious- if you’ve never seen a fish eagle swoop for its kill or a finfoot skiddle-skaddle across the water’s surface- this is your moment.

Green season safaris are at their best in Kenya and Tanzania in March and June (catch the savannah with its spring colours) or in Zambia between January and April. The ultimate experience is a boat safari in the South Luangwa– thanks to our friends at Norman Carr for the amazing selection of photos above. Elsewhere, watch the desert spring to life in Namibia, the mighty flood at the Victoria Falls or catch the mini Migration in the Kalahari.