12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
Thinking of having a holiday with a difference? Never been to Africa. Do you (or your other half) cross the road when there is a large dog on the pavement? Then go on Safari in Kenya. You”ll not forget it. But do it whilst you still think you are young. On Safari is not hard but it is arduous.
Kenya Airways offers non-stop overnight flights from Heathrow in the latest Boeing 777 which allows your adventure to start the next day. A week”s trip is fully practical and you can always tag on some more days at the end in one of the popular resorts bordering the Indian Ocean in the Mombassa area. If you are in the UK regions an alternative is via partner KLM to Amsterdam the airline”s other European gateway.
Even if you don”t have a visa getting through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is easy and once past customs the welcome sign with your name on it proves you have come to the right place and you are ready for the next step. It”s off on a 30 minute dive to Wilson Airport on the other side of town, a run down colonial offering with aircraft all over the place, some old, some tatty (very tatty) and some extremely modern. SafariLink is an airline situated in a 21st century building complete with maintenance facility. It is here that you complete formalities and are briefed a little on your trip. They operate the Cessna Caravan 1, ideal for outback operations with fixed undercarriage (nothing to go wrong) and a freight hold slung underneath the passenger cabin making for easy loading and unloading of a real variety of cargo. The ”plane provides daily communications (in fact up to three flights per day) to many of the lodges and camps bringing in clients, staff and urgently needed supplies. Most resorts, which is what they are, are provided for with weekly lorry supplies.
It”s then to the run down terminal building and quickly up and away. First stop on a typical six night, three venue aerial safari is the Samburu Intrepids luxury camp, 200 miles north of Nairobi located in the home area of a warrior tribe whose ancestors moved south from what is now Ethiopia. The airstrip is bumpy, one gets used to that, and then it is a 20 minute drive into the game park and a welcome drink and cold towel on arrival. You might pass the odd leopard and for sure hoards of guinea fowl that inhabit this part. Monkeys will welcome you to your tent. Sumburu is typical of the Intrepids Safari Company offerings. Twenty-seven extravagant tents compete with hot and cold running water, showers, flush toilets and three pin (UK style) electric plugs. It is hardly austere, a sort of five star camp on the jungle edge by the river. There is a swimming pool, shop, open deck bar laundry and valet services, beauty treatments and body therapy. Local Samburu are on hand to tell you all about their history and the eco environment. Your days, as at all the camps, will be programmed into three distinct phrases. An early rise at six, naturally with tea/coffee and biscuits, followed by a sunrise game trip. By eight o”clock you are ready for a huge breakfast, perhaps by the river away from the camp itself.
A park warden stands close by to keep an eye on things. It”s then off to find the giraffes and cheetahs, elegant animals. A two-ton Land Rover will not win a battle with a six-ton African elephant but the huge beast is short sighted and only sees another hulk. The smell of the diesel oil will deter him once he gets within a few feet but the trick is to keep quiet. And you do! Elephants by the score.
The buffet lunch is followed by rest time but with late afternoon you are ready for another trip into the bush. There is always some sort of activity early evening, whether it be an entertaining lecture or a dance performance. The dinner has five courses with plenty of variety and then it is off to your tent for an early night ready for an early start the next day. You can go on a camel ride, take an escorted walk through the bush, try a rafting trip on the Uaso Nyiro River, or look for the elusive lion (in this part of Kenya ” there are plenty of them elsewhere). After the second night you are ready to move on, together with the friends you have made who are taking much the same trip. At a 12,000 feet flight level it is surprisingly warm and the views are magnificent.
Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort provides something different, a sophisticated break from the tented camps of the true safari country. It”s a popular weekend retreat for the prosperous of Nairobi, a fairly easy, by Kenyan standards, two-hour drive, only the last 30 minutes really bumpy. You then arrive at an oasis of smooth roads and manicured fairways. Wild animals are around and for those arriving by air the landing strip sometimes has to be cleared from teaming Zebras and cattle. The lodge itself sits at 7,000 feet giving spectacular views of Lake Naivasha, the jagged volcanic crater of Mount Longonot, and in the far distance the Abedare Mountains. The rooms are in small units of four in an exotic garden built on the hillside. Each looks out over the valley, the great natural fault of Africa, and offers a four-poster bed, handmade wooden furniture and en-suite bathrooms. No air conditioning, it”s not necessary at this height. In the evening you are treated to a spectacular wood fire in the bar, not out of place in a traditional English pub. The golf course is lush, not too demanding, and with the ball reckoned to fly an extra 10%, at 6,580 yards more than enough to offer a challenge to the single handicap golfer. The par three eighteenth hole, whilst fairly easy for the straight drivers, lies head on to the clubhouse restaurant with a series of spectacular properties along one side facing down towards the valley. You can rent the homes as an alternative to the lodges, ideal for family types. There are two tennis courts, a small swimming pool and conference facilities.
The cuisine is very much the same as the rest of the Intrepid Group but with a more comprehensive wine and liqueurs selection. You can go to Crater Lake and see the flamingos; Elsamere, the home of George and Joy Adamson of ”Born Free” fame is about one hour away and boating, horse riding and mountain biking are only some of the activities available. However one word of warning. The roads up on the Ebura Escarpment are misnamed. Tracks would be a better description. Even the so-called Pan African Highway, running through the Great Rift Valley, suddenly comes to an end with no warning. The big 40-ton transporters just plough on (literally). They are bringing flowers and vegetables to a supermarket near you.
Mara Intrepids, well south of Nairobi and bordering Tanzania, is sited on the Talek River high in the Masai Mara National Reserve. The camp, accommodation and cuisine is, once again, the standard Intrepid package, but nothing wrong with that . It is a real quality product, this time the tents” canvas only, no roof over the top as at Samburu. The large dining area accommodates 60, with a bar overlooking a bend in the river. There is a secluded swimming pool and a small conference room with satellite TV and library. Once again the shop sells at sensible prices. If you want something even quieter, perhaps slightly upmarket (maybe for a honeymoon or similar get away from it all) two miles away the Mara Explorer has just ten tents, the very private open verandas each with a cast iron bath. It”s a remarkable sensation sitting out in the jungle in the tub natural as nature intended. The landing strip, no more than half a mile from the camp is less bumpy than some and is one of perhaps two dozen spread around the huge reserve 200 miles long and 50 miles wide.
During the autumn migration season up to one million animals cross the rivers in huge droves, those behind pushing the front-runners on. You”ve got to be brave to be first across, the vicious crocs waiting for their dinner. As dusk quickly settles there might be a pack of perhaps 10,000 zebras pushing on by the waters edge. The leaders are nervous. They turn around. Tomorrow they will try again. As you fly over the Masai Mara you can see the villages of the nomadic tribes, traditional natives speaking perfect English and living in the same rough huts their ancestors did 3,000 years ago. Nothing has changed in the way they live except the children go to school, western medicine is provided to fight diseases such as polio, and the head man demands $15 for the community before you are shown around.
Then it is back to Nairobi and 24 hours at the Intercontinental Hotel before either returning home or taking week”s rest by the Indian Ocean near Mombassa. The Voyager Beach Resort provides 232 spacious cabins and a life and luxury that would not be out of place in some of the Caribbean islands. No worry about getting up early here. There is a 24-hour bar. The seaside holiday venue, just The Intrepid Safari Company, is part of Kenyan Heritage Group.
ABTN does not normally detail prices as this is a commodity that changes daily and normally no two trips are alike. However Kuoni Travel offers a week”s trip similar to the above from ”1,417 per person based on two sharing. This includes flights with Kenya Airways from Heathrow and transfers, six nights on safari staying at Intrepid Lodges on a full board basis with game drives and a final night in Nairobi. For the same safari holiday above plus seven nights on the coast at Mombassa on a half board basis prices start at £1,885 per person.