After hearing great reviews about African Travel, I was inspired to book a tour myself for my first experience on the continent. I chose the 10-day Kenya and Tanzania safari, which gave me memorable opportunities to see majestic wildlife in their natural habitats, try flavorful authentic cuisine, and interact with locals to learn about their language and culture.
African Travel offers packages that include internal airfare, transfers, meal, activities, lodging, and laundry. The only expense not included in my package was gratuities for the guides; this allows tour participants to adjust their tips for exceptional service.
As soon as I landed in Nairobi, I was met and escorted to a regional airport to fly to Masai Mara Game Reserve in southwest Kenya. The Masai Mara is part of the northern section of the Serengeti National Park. One of the greatest wildlife reserves, the Masai Mara holds a diverse concentration of wildlife with an abundance of lions, leopards, cheetahs and the great wildebeest migration. It is also home to the Maasai people, who are well known for their customs and vibrant dress.
Our group stayed at the Karen Blixen Camp in Masai Mara, an eco-friendly luxury camp which offers an authentic “yesteryear” experience. The Mara River runs right in front of the camp, and guests can lounge in armchairs while zebras, elephants, and hippos mingle by the water. The tents have private toilets and open-air showers with 24/7 solar power for water and electricity. The camp includes a restaurant, lounge, bar and swimming pool, and a gift shop with internet access. All meals, local drinks, basic laundry, and shared game viewing activities are included.
The next leg of my journey took me to Tarime, Tanzania, and on to the Singita Grumeti Reserve, an impressive 400,000-acre wilderness and part of the famous great migration, also referred to as the greatest wildlife show on Earth. This annual trek of two million animals through the Serengeti–Mara ecosystem is truly a wonderful sight. A camp ranger transferred us to the Faru Faru Lodge, which has a mix of contemporary and organic styles. Each suite is air conditioned and features inside and outside showers, picture windows, a hair dryer, an electronic safe, a minibar, a direct dial telephone, wireless internet, and a viewing deck with a Swarovski spotting scope. The lodge offers a main lounge and dining room, elevated viewing decks with two heated pools, lounge areas overlooking the waterhole, a spa, and gallery. Singita works to conserve, preserve, and protect the the land and creatures who inhabit it. (“Singita” is the Shangaan word for “place of miracles.”) The lodges show their commitment to conservation through protecting wilderness areas, managing the land, maintaining ecological processes, and educating the community.
At the Faru Faru Lodge, we dined on authentic East African recipes like meat with Ethiopian spices, Somali rice, sambuusa, and curry chicken, all paired with fine wines from the cellar. Time here was well spent with morning and afternoon drives in open safari vehicles, guided bush walks with experienced rangers and trackers, stargazing, and community visits. The tribes around the lodges we stayed at are Kuria, Ikoma, and Sukuma. We enjoyed learning some basic words and phrases in Swahili.
We continued on to the Singita Sasakwa Lodge, one of three lodges in an enormous private concession comprised of 340,000 acres. This lodge has stone walls, deep verandas, high ceilings, and stately furniture. The manor house has an expansive infinity pool, and the cottages each feature a private, heated plunge pool overlooking the reserve. Each air-conditioned cottage includes a four-poster bed, chandeliers, en-suite bathroom with bath and shower, a lounge, a fireplace, a dressing area, a guest toilet, a veranda with a Swarovski spotting scope, a personal bar, a fridge, an electronic safe, a direct dial telephone, and wireless internet. Professional guides and trackers led the daily game drives.
After a flight to Manyara, we arrived at The Manor at Ngorongoro located within a 1500-acre coffee estate. Each cottage has its own private entrance and adjoining sun terrace. A log burning fireplace divides the room interior, and the en-suite bathroom has a Victorian-style bath, rainfall shower, and twin vanity basins. The main house features fireplace lounges, a formal dining room, a bar, a private wine cellar, a library with internet, a home theatre, a snooker room, a massage room, a swimming pool, and horse stables.
We feasted on a picnic lunch at Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest unbroken caldera. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains a number of swamps and springs, drawing in a variety of birds and wildlife as well as local Maasai people.
The twice-daily game drives were unbelievable. The vehicles were open for easier viewing, and we didn’t have to stay on a particular path. I was fortunate to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) over the course of my trip, as well as many types of trees and birds. We also saw a live kill. The guides were very well educated and made the experience indescribably amazing.
My advice to other travelers would be to bring a portable charger for your phone (especially if you are also using it as your camera) and pack only a few changes of clothing, as laundry service is usually completed the same day. If I were to do this tour again, I would include some time in Dubai, as it is only a five-hour flight from Nairobi.
My educational and inspiring experience with African Travel was everything I hoped for. They’re a great tour company—everything was well organized and laid-back. There is free time each day to explore, relax, or do whatever your heart desires. You can travel off the beaten path and get up close to the animals. Each day brought new adventures and exhilarating experiences. I look forward to going back to Africa!
*The above mentioned travel supplier may have gifted or discounted this cruise as an educational opportunity in order for our travel professional to critique for your review.