An Alternative Kenya
Updated: Jan 27
I, too, am convinced that our ancestors came from Africa.
Kenyan Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist.
Nairobi December 2022: Deciding to jet off to Africa for a short week-long break over Christmas might appear a rather daring and un-christmassy thing to do. However, Kenya is an uncomplicated bucket list destination that is easy to reach when you are based only a short distance away in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh to Nairobi is roughly six hours away, depending on who you fly with.
So what is the attraction? Firstly and most significantly, Kenya is home to some of the most successful wildlife foundations in the world and has played a lead role in wildlife conservation since the 1970s.
Kenya is the spiritual home of the British car marker, Land Rover, a holdover from British colonial rule and a stalwart of safari all-terrain driving across Africa dating back to the 1950s.
Kenya also features in and generally plays a staring role in popular culture with books and movies like
Out of Africa, based on the story of Karen Blixen,
I dreamed of Africa, written by Kuki Gallmann, describes a life story of love and tragedy in the wilds of Laikipia
White Mischief is based on a tale of murder among the English aristocratic expatriates who moved to Kenya on the eve of World War Two.
All these amazing stories have sparked immense interest in millions around the world to visit and explore this charming country.
Nowadays, Africa knows that its plethora of wild animals and its diversity of indigenous flora spark immense interest and curiosity in tourists, enticing them to come to visit their homeland. And Kenya works diligently to safeguard these crucial national assets.
But to make it even more interesting for the destination, Kenya recognizes that most of these guests are high-paying travelers, the very kind that every country wants.
Kenya's gold is its year-round temperate climate, abundant and relevantly easy-to-view wildlife, and wide open spaces, all complimented by eager, smiling, service-orientated locals.
Kenya does a lot of interesting things with very little, and Kenyans are resourceful and creative while nature and natural things decorate every setting.
Our trip was a city break. We spent seven nights in the capital city Nairobi and spanned out from our base to visit all the local attractions. The key element was situating ourselves in the right part of town, and that suburb is called Karen. From this base, we enjoyed long days exploring our environment, and here is what we got to see.
Matbronze Wildlife Art Gallery is within walking distance from our accommodation. Founded in 1987 by Kenyan artist Denis Mathews, the foundry has expanded into a gallery, restaurant, and local attraction.
Nairobi National Park is the only national park on the perimeter of a capital city. Established in 1946, the park is home to all the major safari animals except the elephant. The park is not large enough for those guys.
Access to the park costs approx 40 GBP per person, but you can only access the park in a specialized vehicle and with an experienced driver.
The park has a visitor and education center that hosts thousands of Kenyan children on school field trips each year.
The 117.21 km2 park is fenced on three sides, with an open side on its southern flank, allowing migrating wildlife to move between the park and the adjacent Kitengala plains.
We spent an entire afternoon in the park driving here and there to see as many animals and native birds as possible. Our Driver was constantly on the radio, getting updates on where the animals could be seen. We got a good glimpse of most of the animals, even the lions. Mr. Lion was located flat out on his back in the thicket, fast asleep, with his feet in the air. We watched silently for about ten minutes, then quietly left him to rest in peace.
Giraffe Manor is a 1930's Manor with extensive gardens and its own resident herd of Rothschild Giraffes. It is an all-inclusive luxury experience, and we were lucky to get a last-minute cancellation to stay here for one night.
Visitors get two private opportunities to get an up close and personal experience with these fantastic resident giants.
The property is part of the Safari collection of hotels and owns some of the most beautiful camps and lodges across Kenya.
Every room is designed with great care, impeccable taste, and its own individual style and usable comfort.
Our stay included a pick-up from Severine Cottages, a welcome drink and cold towels on arrival, a handwritten welcome note and gift in our room, a decadent lunch, a wide selection of drinks, afternoon tea with the giraffes, a 5-star dinner in the courtyard and our own ever obliging Butler called Harry.
The following day we were woken at about 5.30 am as the sun was coming up over the horizon to find Eddy, the male giraffe poking his head in our second-floor bedroom window, looking for his early morning snack. Of course, we leaped to our feet to accommodate him.
We rounded off our stay with a delicious breakfast and then were dropped off at our next port of call.
Giraffe Center: If your budget doesn't allow you to overnight in Giraffe Manor, you can still get an up close and personal experience with the Giraffes just down the road at the Giraffe Centre. You don't have to book this experience as you can pay at the gate. The center houses a visitor center, a lovely gift shop, a cafe to buy drinks, and lots of picture moments with the Giraffes. The center's real purpose is as a breeding program for the Rothschild Giraffe, and your visit contributes to this work.
Kitengela Hot Glass by Anselm Heading out of the city, going southeast along the national park border, is Kitengela Glass Studio. Our Driver warned us "prepare for a bumpy ride", as once off Karen's paved roads; we were in for a jolting ride. You had to battle for space on the single-lane dust tracks with grazing Maasai cows, loaded-down motorbike riders, meandering donkeys, and other drivers.
Once you reach the glass studio, you realize you are in for a very Gaudi experience. Lots of colour, quirky and original designs. All hand made from recycled glass.
Hemmingways Hotel For Christmas day lunch, we went to another 5-star hotel. Hemmingways offered great food, live music, and an international mix of guests. Drinks and a full buffet Christmas lunch cost 35 GBP per person.
The Carnivore Restaurant is another familiar haunt on the tourism trail that serves an all-you-eat meat buffet. Crocodile and the best chicken livers are served on the menu, along with more traditional cuts of meat. Everything is cooked on a huge open pit fire in the center of the restaurant.
Kobe Tough Beads is a local initiative created to provide single mothers and women from disadvantaged communities with a way to make a living. They make ceramic beads for beautiful necklaces and decorate leather goods with intricate Kenyan bead designs. The ladies can also sing some very catchy local songs to welcome visitors.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick in honor of her husband David, who was a farmer and the founding park warden of Tsavo. Following David's untimely death in 1977, his wife Daphne started Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in his honor. Dame Daphne was the first person to perfect the milk formula needed to feed orphaned baby elephants, giving these orphaned babies a second chance at life. Today Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is one of the most successful elephant orphanages in the world.
The Trust has 31 young elephants in their care, which will eventually return to the wild when they are old enough. Their keepers can recognize each of them individually, and all of the elephants have unique survival stories.
Return Flights with economy seats on Ethiopian Airways, Airport Transfers, a driver each day during the week, Christmas lunch at Hemmingways, six nights accommodation at Severine Cottages, one night at Giraffe Manor, dinner at Carnivore, a visit to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and a national park day visit cost 2,400 GBP per person.
(December is High Season for Kenya).
Our trusty drivers were supplied by Raymond Maranga +264 720 346320