For as long as I can remember, the term Safari always meant something similar to scenes I saw in movies and documentaries. People in an open hood range rover, wearing vests, shorts and sunglasses, driving through vast savannah planes. They occasionally come across a herd of zebras and antelopes. A mother warthog and her young one. Different kinds of birds. However, what catches their attention most is the cheetah sleeping on an acacia tree or the lioness and her cubs catching an afternoon bask. The sun is hot, and the roads are dusty. That was Safari for me. While this is not entirely wrong, Safaris come in different flavours. In Kenya, you can experience three kinds. Here is a look at each.
1. Driving Safaris
This is the most common type of Safari. Perhaps because it was the very first type of Safari to exist. The colonial settlers before Kenya got its independence enjoyed driving through the vast lands of Kenya. Then, the wildlife was more populous and the lands more vegetated. Lack of tarmacked roads gave the four-wheel-drive land rover popularity. It led the Big Five of the best vehicles to experience a Kenyan Safari in. The free-roaming wildlife was a new sight to the British and other foreigners. So it became the standard for any Safari.
When the friends and family of these foreigners came to visit from overseas, they would not leave before experiencing a Safari drive in Kenya’s plains. Naivasha quickly stood out, thanks to the Lords Delamare and Egerton. These two gentlemen owned vast tracts stretching from Njoro beyond Nakuru to Naivasha. The estates were endowed with wildlife, lakes, rivers and beautiful scenery. Let us see the ups and downs of a driving Safari.
Driving safaris are excellent when you desire to experience the magnificence of Kenyan wildlife in their natural habitat at relatively close range without getting too fatigued. They are also convenient, especially if you have motion challenges. Since the whole experience occurs at the back of a Safari vehicle, you do not have to strain or miss out. They are a great way to get near the animals without endangering yourself.
When the driver is not cautious of the game park rules, they can end up scaring or even hurting the animals. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) requires all drivers in the park to maintain a speed limit of 40 kilometres per hour. However, some drivers ignore this rule and end up even killing the animals. Noise from the vehicle can also agitate the animals, causing panic and anxiety. This can, however, be solved with new-generation Electric Safari Vehicles which are relatively silent.
2. Aerial Safaris
I think I do not want to die before experiencing this. Imagine being a few hundred feet above ground level, the whole world lying silently beneath you. You can see the terrain change from yellow grass to tall green trees then to big grey mountains up until your eyes hit the horizon. Giants like elephants and giraffes now appear like tiny creatures, and herds of wildebeest seem like ant armies. This is what aerial safaris are all about. Getting to soak in Kenya’s wild in an aeroplane or hot air balloon. These are especially common at the expansive Maasai Mara. Laikipia and Naivasha occasionally also offer aerial safaris. You can read more on when an aerial Safari makes more sense.
No other Safari matches the views in an aerial Safari. You get to see Kenya from a different perspective, which makes you appreciate the country anew. I believe it is also enjoyable and refreshing.
If you suffer from aerophobia, the fear of flying, then this type of Safari will be your worst experience. To avoid digressing too much, you can read more on the other phobias that can totally ruin your travel experience here. These kinds of Safaris can also be costly, thus making them unavailable to everyone. They lack the intimacy of getting close to the animals, vegetation and sites present within Kenya’s wild.
3. Walking Safaris
Did you know there are walking safaris in Kenya? Well, you are not alone. I discovered them in 2018 as well. They are not so common because not many people know about them. However, if you are one who loves getting lost in nature and all its contents, then perhaps a walking safari is an experience you would enjoy.
What is a walking safari? Imagine exploring the Kenyan wild on foot, with only a trained guide and your senses to rely on. You get to learn the necessary skills of tracking animals from the prints they leave on the ground or from their dung. You learn how to differentiate various birdcalls. You get so close to a rhino or elephant, you can almost hear your knees shiver in both thrill and excitement. That is what walking safaris entail.
In Kenya, a few places offer this experience. They include Karisia Walking Safaris, El Karama Eco Lodge and Naboisho Camp. Ngare Ndare in Meru also provides you with a chance to walk with elephants. While some walking safaris have you exploring the wild and coming back to the same camp, others allow you to move with it as you go.
Walking safaris are exciting and thrilling as they involve your full participation. They provide the most intimate encounter with nature you will ever have in the wild. The learning is equally intense as you get to acquire useful skills such as tracking and camouflage, which you will not find in the other kinds of Safaris.
The only downside of a walking Safari is accessibility. The elderly and physically challenged would not be able to enjoy this experience thoroughly, especially when steep terrain is involved. Although some camps offer horseback or camel rides in such situations.
There is so much more to a Kenyan Safari than the standard drives. The three kinds of safaris above are all worth experiencing. Each has its own unique features that are not present in the rest. Make sure to add all three in your bucket list of things to do in Kenya.