Kenya Unlocked latest issue of AWAYN magazine

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Joan Makokha Wildebeest Migration at the Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the most magnificent wildlife reserves in the world. It extends north from Tanzania’s Serengeti Reserve, forming a wildlife corridor with Kenya. It is so named after the Maasai people who have lived here for centuries.

The reserve is famous for the Great Migration, where thousands of wildebeest and zebra travel to and from the Serengeti annually in search of fresh pasture and water. The animals are accompanied by smaller numbers of Thomson’s gazelle, impala and eland. 

Each year, from July through October, over 2 million migrating animals have to cross the gushing Mara River. The river provides the most serious obstacle to the animals, as it is thronged by hippos and lurking crocodiles. Watching the frantic herds of wildebeest cross the Mara River makes for a spectacular show. There are often scenes of panic and confusion as the animals try to make it across alive. 

Meanwhile at the Maasai Mara, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and other predators await the annual migration with eager anticipation. Once they arrive at the Mara, the migrating animals will be stalked, hunted and chased down by these larger carnivores. 

One of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”, this great spectacle of nature is not to be missed. Safaris in the Mara are available by 4WD to ensure you get up close to the migration. You can also take a hot air balloon flight to enjoy amazing aerial views of the moving columns of animals. 

Nowhere else in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the Great Migration. Come and witness one of the most incredible cycles of life in Africa. Watch as the animals circle the ecosystem in a never-ending sequence of life and death. The unpredictability of the migration is one of its most attractive features, as no two years are ever quite the same. 

 

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nadine murphy Hand feed Giraffes at Nairobi’s Giraffe Sanctuary

Impossibly elegant and refined, the giraffe ambles slowly towards me.  I am head height on a raised platform. I hold out a small pellet and her face looms above mine, doe eyes framed by a supermodel's eyelashes. Her mouth yawns and a long blue tongue flicks out to grab my snack with the softest of whispers.   We have been told to be wary of the giraffes, although gentle beasts by nature, Daisy, this giraffe, is fond of head butting. As I gaze at mothers, babies and teenage boys I am struck only by their gracefulness and how tame they are.  

 

The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi is set up as a charitable trust to nurture and save the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. At the time the trust was created there were only 180 giraffes left in the in their native habitat, since then 40 pairs of breeding giraffe have been released back into the wild.

 

The Giraffe Centre allows you to get up close and personal to these amazing creatures. You are given pellets and can choose to feed them at ground level or climb a raised platform for a face to face encounter.  These are wild giraffe, given free reign to walk the 100 acres of protected sanctuary, but they are used to humans and interactions are rarely fractious. 

The Giraffe Centre is open every day from 9.00 – 17.00.  

Admission is $10 USD / $2.50 Residents

 

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AWAYN Editorial

A Camping Safari in Kenya's wildlife

The sun is low on the Mara plains, the sky painted with red and pink. A hyena howls, a lion roars, the nighttime predators are waking. You hunker down next to your fire, pour more wine and gaze at the stars. This is life at its most raw and intense. 

 

 

An African safari is breathtaking in its beauty and ferocity. It is a life-affirming chance to connect with nature. Of all the safari destinations in the world, Kenya is the most iconic. 

 

 

Experience the great migration on the plains of the Maasai Mara; vast spaces painted dark brown with wildebeest herds and the highest concentration of big cats in Kenya. Watch huge elephant herds walk through the lakes of Amboseli with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. Meet the last two surviving Northern White Rhinos in the world, at Ol Pejeta. Spot Nile Crocodiles in the largest desert lake in the world at Turkana. Awe at sunsets over the Tsavo. Baobab trees crowning the park, herds of giraffe galloping across the red soil

 

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From the lush, humid palm-fringed coast to the peak of Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa. From the Maasai Mara’s famous savannahs to the chilly mountain forest of the Aberdares. Kenya’s safaris are world famous. The diversity of the landscape and the quantity of wildlife make this a bucket list destination. 

But a Kenyan safari is jaw-droppingly expensive. A night at a lodge or game camp costs anything from 300 USD PPPN to upwards of 10,000 USD. A game drive is upwards of 100 USD per drive.  However, the Kenyan locals have a secret, there is a way to do a Kenyan safari without breaking the bank. Leave the 1000 dollar nights to the tourists and do it yourself. You can still sip gin & tonic with an iconic sunset over African plains but for a fraction of the price.

 


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Camping on safari is only or the brave… or the mad some might say. You won't find protective fences, it’s you and the bush and the animals. It’s high adrenaline camping. Nighttime on a safari when the animals wake.   Lying in a tent with only canvas between you and the worlds most admire, endangered and hard to spot wildlife is a memory that you take with you forever.   Waking to find elephant dung outside your tent or lion tracks through your camp.  Cooking breakfast with a grumpy buffalo staring at you.  These are experiences you don’t get in the big camps.  These are experiences that only a handful of people in the world get to have. Fear, fascination and excitement are a constant.

 

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Where to camp in Kenya

Ol Pejeta is charged with the responsibility of caring for the world's last two North White Rhinos. It is also a superb game park, with all the big 5 and topography that at times feels more like the rolling hills of Ireland than Africa. Camping is available in 5 different spots, which you prebook. Ol Pejeta supplies firewood; water for washing (not drinking) and if you wish you can hire an Askari (guard) to watch over you whilst you camp. 

COST 30 USD PPPN (10 RESIDENT) + 70 USD CAMPSITE FEE

Northern Kenya is an arid desert climate in which Marsabit is an oasis of green. A lush green forest and three volcanic lakes exist at altitude on an extinct volcano.  Marsabit is famed for having elephants with the largest tusks in the world.  As a consequence, the animals are monitored heavily. The big 5 are all here, although finding them is a little harder in the dense forest.  Basic campsites are available with no facilities.  

COST: 20 USD PPPN (10 USD RESIDENTS)

 


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Kimana Sanctuary is a wildlife corridor that allows animals to pass from the park at Amboseli down to Chyulu Hills and Tsavo. Kilimanjaro towers over the Conservancy and there is all the Big 5 to spot, this small conservancy offers you the chance to safari away from all the crowds. Camping is available at two spots, both offer long drop toilet facilities and bucket showers. 

COST: 35 USD PPPN (20 USD RESIDENTS)

Shimba Hills:

This coastal forest that sits 400 metres above Mombasa’s beaches, has the highest density of elephants in the country. With its tropical climate, Shimba Hills is a land of palms and waterfalls, monkeys and birds. There are no large predators (apart from leopards) but Shimba has elephants, hyenas, buffalo and giraffe. Its proximity to idyllic white sand beaches makes it an ideal safari for a beach holiday. There are 4 campsites, grassed spaces in clearing in the bush with toilet facilities. 

COST 20 USD PPPN (10 RESIDENT) 

 

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Maasai Mara is last on the list for good reason. The Mara has the highest number of cats in Kenya It is truly lion kingdom and one of the best places in the world to spot cheetah. Camping here presents very real dangers. The rule is to keep your food away and your children close. 

 

The Mara offers 3 public and 8 private campsites, the private sites must be booked in advance. Visitors are required to book an Askari when camping. 

COST 30 USD PPPN (10 RESIDENT) + 20 USD ASKARI 

 

Park entrance fees

 

In addition to camping fees, the parks require an entrance/conservation fee. For a complete list of entrance fees check the Kenya Wildlife services page here http://www.kws.go.ke/sites/default/files/parksresorces%3A/KWS%20Conservation%20Fees%20Poster.pdf

 


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GAME DRIVES

 

The cheapest way to get there and to get around is to hire a car and drive yourself.

 

 

A 4x4 is necessary, especially in the wet season. Driving in Kenya is not for the fainthearted but main roads to the parks are of a decent quality. Stick to the main tracks in the park unless you are a very competent 4x4 driver. 

 

 

You can hire a ranger or guide at park gates. Your guide will show you the best places to spot animals and is a wealth of information.

 

Or do like the Kenyans and go it alone. Kenyans prefer to hunt out the game themselves. In places like the Mara, it's possible to spot the big 5 with no help. Nothing beats the thrill of self-driving through Africa's wilderness.

 

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More ADVENTURES highlights

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nadine murphy Naivasha Lake

Lake Naivasha is a glittering expanse of placid water.  Sacred Ibis make their noisy colonies in the trees and giraffes dip their heads to drink.  An otter glides across the water and a fish eagle sighs its eerie call.   All is calm.  Suddenly a monstrous body lurches from the water, lumbering slowly towards shore.  A male hippo is approaching.  Looking more intently I notice that what I had taken as a line of rocks are in fact a family of hippos, their eyes gaze at me malevolently. My thoughts go to the fishermen, perched high in the trees above the hippos, lines dangling in the hope of Tilapia.  

 

Hippos kill more than 500 humans a year in Africa. Fiercely territorial, they swim faster than a boat and run faster than a man. Enter their space or get between a mother and a baby and the chances of an attack are incredibly high.   Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s rift valley is home to over 500 hippos.  These great beasts and the human population have an uneasy relationship.  Every year someone is killed in Naivasha, but still, the fisherman fish and the tourist boats tour the lake, creeping dangerously close to hippo pods or the lone unhappy gentleman.

 

 A trip to Lake Naivasha is a chance to experience the heart of Africa just outside Nairobi. It’s a 90 minute car journey through the majestic canyon that is the Rift Valley.  You can take lunch by the waters edge, fish off a pier or take one of the small motorboats out to see hippos close up. 

 

 

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Joan Makokha Hiking trip to Mount Kenya

The second highest peak in Africa, Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya, standing at an elevation of 5,199m. It is an ancient volcanic mountain that’s believed to have once reached well over 6,000m. Today, what remains is a volcanic plug that’s been sculptured by erosion into a complex jagged outline of the central peaks. 

Mount Kenya offers an abundance of superb and diverse climbing possibilities on rock, ice and snow. Walking around the peaks makes for one of the most splendid excursions in the mountains of East Africa. Trekkers can admire the alpine meadows and exotic vegetation including lobelias and giant groundsels. The local fauna is another highlight with hyrax, sunbirds and soaring eagles encountered at every turn. 

The climbing trails pass through cultivated farmlands on the lower slopes before reaching the rain forest zone that’s home to many tree species. Then there’s the bamboo zone that goes up through an open moorland before arriving at the moonscape on the higher slopes. The forests are filled with wildlife such as elephants, buffalo and monkeys. Other animals found in the park include lions, leopard and antelopes. 

Although it is possible to climb Mount Kenya all year round, the safest time to ascend the mountain is during the dry seasons of January to February and August to September. This is when the weather is reliably fine, although the routes are likely to be crowded at this time of the year. If you prefer complete solitude, try climbing slightly off the peak season. However, it’s best to avoid the rainy seasons.

Tours are available all year round to take you up to the summit of Mount Kenya. The tours are inclusive of guides, porters, accommodation, food and water. Be sure to select a tour that is customizable to suit your skill level, whether you’re a technical climber or a novice. 

 

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Joan Makokha Hike around the Lake Nakuru

Situated on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya’s most stunning National Parks. Surrounded by bushy and woody grassland, the park features rocky escarpments that tower over indigenous forests. Nature lovers are bound to be impressed by the park’s picturesque landscape of yellow acacia woodlands, and its rich topography of wooded hills, waterfalls and euphorbia trees that dot the shores. The park also has unique vegetation with over 500 different plant species. 

Lake Nakuru plays host to one of the most brilliant shows of birdlife on the planet. During peak season, millions of pink flamingos congregate on the shores of the lake. The birds come here to feed on algae that forms on the lake bed, creating a breathtaking spectacle. Occasionally the birds take flight, filling the sky above the lake with color. The intense fuchsias of the birds contrast wonderfully with the deep blue alkaline waters of the lake.  

Lake Nakuru abounds with game. The national park is an important sanctuary for rhinos and boasts the largest population of black rhinos in Kenya. Both black and white rhino can often be spotted resting under acacia trees by the lakeshore. 

There are also massive herds of waterbuck, buffalo, zebra, and the endangered Rothschild Giraffe among others. Several large prides of lion call the park home, and it’s also one of your best chances of spotting leopard in Kenya. In the woodlands, you may come upon large African rock pythons hanging from the trees. 

Lake Nakuru can be visited as part of a day trip from Nairobi. The park is ideal for bird watching, hiking, picnics and game drives. Viewing wildlife here is easy and accessible and makes for an amazing safari vacation. For a more rewarding experience, visitors can go explore beyond the lake among the forests, waterfalls and cliffs. 

 

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