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Kenya Travel Plan

Our first trip to Africa actually began in Mexico.  We were attending a timeshare sales pitch when the salesman pulled out a catalog of some of the places and programs you can trade for with your timeshare unit.  This was the first time I knew that my partner, Courtney, had always wanted to go on an African safari.

Livingstone Wing Safari Map

Micato’s Livingstone Wing Safari in 2010 did not include Aberdares National Park

We did end up using a timeshare week as partial payment for the tour we chose, but there was no comparison shopping on our part to see if we could have done just as well, or better, by booking directly.  The uncritical approach to this trip had everything to do with the online presentation of one of the most famous of the Kenyan tour companies – Micato.  After reading through the description of the “Livingstone Wing Safari”, Courtney had a two word reaction:  “Book that!”

Kenya is a long way from our home in Colorado USA, and at the time it seemed likely that this would be our only trip to Africa.  So, we added two weeks in South Africa (SA) at the start of the trip and used the advantage of personal contacts in SA to put together a self planned itinerary.   After the homemade quality of the first half of the trip, we then traveled on to Nairobi and placed ourselves in the hands of the all-inclusive tour operator.

Our particular Micato tour is available most of the year, so the timing of the trip was actually determined by the South African leg.  After some research, we learned that the end of the dry season is generally recommended as the best time for wildlife watching – because the animals have no choice but to come to the last of the places where there is water.

So, we made plans for late September and early October in South Africa, and timed that to coordinate with the start of one of the Kenya safari dates.  Although this placed us in Kenya somewhat late for the high season for viewing the great migration, we did see enough of that phenomenon to not feel that we missed anything.

Africa Kenya Nairobi Architecture

Africa – Kenya – Nairobi • A street closure for the Nairobi Marathon reveals different eras in architecture

Our plane flights made a big loop from the USA to Johannesburg, on to Nairobi, and back to Colorado.  This required an unusual amount of effort to find a schedule and airline combination that was affordable, and upon arrival at the airport in SA for the flight to Nairobi we were informed that our reservation didn’t exist.  In this era of paperless tickets, no amount of other documentation made any difference.  We literally had to buy new tickets to get to Nairobi, and spent months getting reimbursed after returning home.  We had checked the itinerary online before departure, and to this day have no idea how or why our plane reservation was dropped.

We weren’t traveling according to the schedule of the Kenya safari tour air package, and this did allow us an extra day in Nairobi both before and after the safari.  (As luck would have it, our last day was the date of the Nairobi Marathon.)  Other than this one variation, we had no travel plan within Kenya – Micato did it all.

Whether you’re with a group or make your own arrangements, the pattern of a safari day is likely to be similar.  Start with breakfast, and go for a morning game drive.  Return for lunch and go for a late afternoon game drive, preferably including a nice sunset.  Game drives go by very quickly, as there is so much to see, but there are also opportunities to visit local villages, or just stay around the lodge and take a swim in the pool.

Nearly all game drive vehicles have the pop-up sunroof feature which allows you to stand up and get a 360 degree view while staying protected from hot sun or rain, though some just have an open hatch.  All vehicles are equipped with a two-way radio, and the cooperation between the drivers for the different companies is very impressive.  The Kenyans have adopted the philosophy that they want everyone to have a good experience, no matter what company you’ve hired, and when one vehicle finds something of interest it soon becomes common knowledge.

Africa Kenya Amboseli Safari Van View

Africa – Kenya – Amboseli National Park • The 360 degree view from a safari vehicle is perfect for sightseeing

The safari radio news service can sometimes result in a dozen vehicles surrounding one lone animal, but that is the exception.  Even then, the drivers shuffle themselves to give everyone a good camera angle, and move along after a relatively short stay.  The discretion of the drivers and the apparent indifference of the animals make it difficult to be overly concerned about the potential negative impact of our being there.  From a purely economic/land management standpoint there seems to be little controversy that tourism is a net benefit for preservation efforts, or that the bigger challenge to wildlife comes from human population growth and the subsequent expansion of agricultural needs.

Everything about safari tours in Kenya is consistent with a place and people who have been hosting foreign visitors for well over a century, and the single biggest change may have been the substitution of cameras for guns as the accessory of choice.

The high degree of development and refinement of the safari concept is also reflected on the internet, where you can drive yourself crazy with the sheer volume of information available.  Allow yourself a reasonable amount of research based on your particular interests and budget, and rest assured that you are more likely to have a great experience than not.

(A discussion of the general strategy we use to increase our opportunities to travel can be found at The Travel Chronicle Travel Plan page.)

 

Kenya Travel Front Page

 

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