Friday, 15 December 2017

By Deborah Cicurel for Metro.co.uk: 9 reasons you need to book a trip to Kenya right now

Posted On Monday, 31 July 2017 00:52 Written by Deborah Cicurel
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The beach at Msambweni is a taster of just how stunning Kenya’s coastline is (Picture: Getty) The beach at Msambweni is a taster of just how stunning Kenya’s coastline is (Picture: Getty)

With a picture-perfect coastline, unrivalled wildlife and a fascinating culture, there are countless reasons you should go to Kenya – but here are just a few…

You can take an alternative safari

Before I ever actually went on a safari, I thought the popular activity was all about sitting in a 4×4 behind reinforced windows and gazing at animals from afar.

How wrong I was. It turns out it’s perfectly safe to get up close and personal with the animals – not to the extent of petting a lion or trying to tickle an elephant’s tummy (obviously), but to feel a lot closer than the traditional 4x4s would have you believe.

At Ol Malo Lodge in Laikipia County, a beautiful, boutique hotel with just a handful of bedrooms, there’s no need for 4x4s.

While you can, of course, go wildlife-spotting in a truck, it seems far more adventurous to venture out on foot, with a guided walk with a local Samburu tribesman, or to sit atop a camel or horse while trying to spot animals between the trees.

It’s a surreal experience to be gazing at zebras, elephants, giraffes and more, just feet away, while clinging onto your camel for dear life with one hand and snapping away with your camera with the other.

You can learn all about another culture

9 reasons you need to book a trip to Kenya right now
A young Samburu shepherdess (Picture: Getty)

Ol Malo works very closely with the local Samburu tribe, so, as a visitor, you’re offered a firsthand perspective into their fascinating lives.

Just hours after stepping off the tiny Safarilink plane that whisked us from Nairobi to Laikipia, we were strolling through the wilderness on our way to a local Samburu village, accompanied by our guide Leuia.

The Samburu are a polygamous, nomadic tribe that live in villages called manyattas. In this particular part of Laikipia, they work closely with Ol Malo, giving guests access to their vastly different, intriguing lives.

They have a variety of interesting customs – drinking blood as a major food source, enduring painful rituals to become warriors (such as men getting circumcised without even being allowed to wince – ouch!) and creating treasured jewellery formed of beads, with each different shape and colour symbolising a different meaning.

You can see genuine corporate social responsibility in action 

Ol Malo set up the Samburu Trust, an organisation that works closely with the Samburu people, providing everything from clean water and healthcare to beadmaking workshops and a nomadic school.

So many hotels work closely with the local community, but it feels more hands-on here.

Guests are invited to watch the beadmaking workshops that help the Samburu women bring an income to their homes, and we were also given a tour of the nomadic school where children from the local tribe can get a primary education.

You can watch your breakfast being hoovered up by an eland

True story: if you’re not too protective over your cornflakes, then you’ll probably enjoy watching Ol Malo’s resident eland demolishing your cereal.

You can hang out with adorable animals

If you’ve always secretly wished The Lion King was real-life, and not just a film, I’ve got good news for you – you can find a live-action version in Kenya.

The beautiful Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, a sophisticated, elegant hotel in Nanyuki with gorgeous views of Mount Kenya, not only has monkeys running around the property, but is also home to an animal orphanage, where you can spot everything from leopards and warthogs (yes, real life Pumbas!) to zebras, sunis (tiny, adorable antelopes) and even a 150-year-old tortoise whose life expectancy is 300.

I defy you to take a trip Ol Pejeta Conservancy (a short drive from the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club), and not want to drop your job, cramped flat and everything you know to go and live with baby animals.

This baby zebra – which we named Storm – was abandoned by his mother after a bout of awful weather, and is now being cared for by experts at the conservancy.

While of course he was fluffy and adorable, meeting the scared, week-old creature shaking and searching for his mother was also a heartbreaking experience, and the importance of funding and donating to conservancies like these really hit home.

You can stay on opposite sides of the equator

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club has the enviable position of being split down the middle by the equator.

There are two basins on opposite sides of the path that’s directly on the equator, and on each side, the water in the basin swirls down the plughole in opposite directions.

If you want to splash out on a truly equatorial adventure, the Equatorial Suite – where Winston Churchill used to stay – has a bed with one side in the southern hemisphere, and the other in the northern.

You can learn about the increasingly important issue of conservation

Ol Pejeta is home to the last three northern white rhinos in the world.

The last male, Sudan, is the equivalent of 100 years old, and we were able to meet him at the conservancy.

The last two female northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, also live at the conservancy, but are sadly infertile.

It will take a miracle of science, such as stem cell technology, to keep the species alive so that it doesn’t die with the last three at the conservancy.

You can do some crazy things too

If petting rhinos and trying to spot stingrays isn’t crazy enough for you, take a trip to the postcard-pretty Diani Beach, with its endless white sand beaches and Instagram-friendly panoramas.

If lazing at the pool or building sandcastles isn’t quite daring enough, there’s always Skydive Diani.

You may never have experienced terror like it (signing the waiver is scarier than actually jumping out of the plane), but after the rush of hurtling through the Kenyan sky, there’s no view quite like the one you see while suspended in the air with the calm sea and stretches of Diani Beach below you.

When the adrenaline rush is over, you can crash at the enormous pool at Diani Beach’s beautiful Swahili Beach, and rewatch for the hundredth time the video of the exact moment you jumped out of the plane.

You can eat some fantastic food

Kenya is a heaven for foodies, with plenty of amazing culinary spots.

Picca Alapatt, the chef at Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club whips up an incredible Indian feast, with huge platters of dishes catering to the most avid meat-eaters as well as vegetarians too.

Eating a five-course breakfast on the slopes of Mount Kenya, and gorging on a seemingly endless feast by a bonfire in the large grounds of the resort are particular highlights offered by the hotel that you shouldn’t miss out on.

The Sands at Nomad Hotel – a boutique property in Diani Beach – is also a culinary delight worth experiencing, with its classy beach setting, fresh, tasty food and perfect views of the white sands and glittering seas.

The Carnivore, in Nairobi, brands itself a “beast of a feast”, and for good reason. If you’re vegan or vegetarian it may not be the ideal place for you (there’s a lot of meat being passed around), but for carnivores, you’ll get to try everything: ostrich meatball, lamb chops, turkey, crocodile and even bull testicle. Yum.

How do I get there?

Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi from Heathrow daily, with economy class tickets starting from £439, and business class tickets starting from £1891 return.

Considering that the chairs in business recline to an almost fully flat bed and that you’re presented with the snuggliest blanket on the planet to fall asleep under, upgrading to business is definitely worth considering – it certainly seems like better value for money than many other business class long-haul flights out there.

Where do I stay? 

In Laikipia, Ol Malo Lodge is offering a ‘Stay 3, Pay 2’ special offer for 2017, with prices starting from $530 per night, including guided walks, horseriding, camel treks, Samburu cultural visits and more.

The posh Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club – a favourite haunt of Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby – offers rooms from $265 per person per night on a full board basis. 

Swahili Beach, a luxury hotel with enormous rooms, a swimming pool fit for a king and an ideal location right next to the beach, offers rates starting from £160 per night per room on a half-board basis. 

Before catching your flight back home, you’ll want to spend some time in Nairobi too, and you can’t pick a better place to rest your head for the night than the elegant Fairmont The NorfolkA bed and breakfast stay starts from $200 per person per night.

For more information on visiting Kenya, you can contact the Kenya Tourism Board on 020 7593 1731 or visit Magical Kenya. 



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