I had travelled all over the world, but there was one large region I had yet to explore; Sub Saharan Africa. I love wildlife and I had been on trips to spot wildlife in India, Thailand, Australia, Borneo and the Amazon. I’d witnessed some amazing things, but I always felt I was missing something and that something I think can only be found in Africa.
Kenya and South Africa are both famous for big game safaris and I’d watched hundreds of documentaries filmed there and been amazed by the sheer diversity of what there is to see and the abundance of it. I’d left it far too long and when my wife and I were planning where to go on our next big adventure, it just had to be Africa.
Kenya, Tanzania or both?
Two of the most famous national parks in Africa are located very close to each other; the Masai Mara in Southern Kenya and the Serengeti in Northern Tanzania. Since I always like to visit at least 2 different countries when we go away, visiting them both seemed ideal. I researched the area a little more and realised that the geological wonder of the Ngorongoro crater was not far from the Serengeti also. So now I just had to find the perfect trip that would take all these places in and not break the bank.
I spent some time searching dozens of different tour companies and then I found the perfect trip. A 10 day Kenya safari starting and finishing in Nairobi, that took in Lake Nakuru NP, Lake Navisha NP, the Masai Mara NR, Serengeti NP and the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
Obviously the biggest draw card to this region is the wildlife, especially the big five, which are Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo and Leopard. But on top of this there is the fascinating colonial history, the many different tribes native to the area (the Masai being the most famous) and you also have a beautiful tropical coastline, perfect for a bit of relaxation after your safari.
Overland truck or a little more luxury?
The most affordable way to do a trip like this is on an overland truck tour, where you mostly camp along the way. If you like your luxuries and you’re not into roughing it, then this is not really the kind of trip for you. Everyone mucks in with the daily chores, setting up camp each night, packing away each morning, cleaning the truck and preparing and cooking meals. It can get quite exhausting some days, but it’s a great way of getting to know your fellow travellers and you feel like part of a little travelling community.
The trip that I chose was just 10 days long, but these types of overland trips can run for as little as 3 days or as long as 6 months! There is also a fair amount of flexibility on these trips, for example, you can add on additional trips before or after your main one or you could do as I did and not complete the full circle back to the starting point in Nairobi and instead leave the tour and do a short stint on the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar.
5 great reasons for a Kenyan safari followed by Zanzibar beaches
Whilst the trip was only 10 days in total, it was amazing the amount that was packed into this short space of time. These are the 5 real highlights for me that made this trip absolutely unforgettable:
1. Seeing the big 5 and so much more
We were very lucky with what we saw on our trip. Of the big 5, buffalo and elephants are quite common, even lions and rhinos are seen regularly, but the leopard is the rarest of the 5. Usually when you do see one, it’s taking a nap on the branches of an acacia tree, but we were lucky enough to see one stalking a warthog and then attacking it. Fortunately for the warthog, it was a lazy attempt by the leopard and it got away unscathed.
On top of that we saw a pride of 6 lions with about 20 little cubs. We saw elephants chasing off some lions that were in their way. We saw lions devouring a freshly caught wildebeest and we saw even saw lions mating. Not to mention hippo, hyena and jackal.
2. Watching the sunset over the shores of Lake Victoria
After a long day’s driving, including a slow border crossing from Kenya into Tanzania, we eventually arrived in Musoma on the shores of Lake Victoria. Our camp was a stones throw from the lake and as the sun was getting low I grabbed my camera and a beer and witnessed one of the most stunning sunsets.
3. Getting a real feel for local life
Travelling overland by truck really gives you an insight into everyday local life. The hustle and bustle of the local markets, the Masai warriors herding their cattle across the great plains, people doing their washing on the shores of Lake Victoria, plantation workers picking tea and children playing football. You just don’t get to see that sort of thing on a luxury safari.
4. Witnessing the sheer immensity of Ngorongoro crater
I had seen pictures of this place before we went, but nothing prepares you for your first actual glimpse in real life. The sun was setting as we arrived at our camp on the crater rim and the view from there was out of this world. The following morning we drove down into the crater to meet it’s many inhabitants. The crater is 600m deep, covers an area of 100 square miles and has a unique ecosystem.
5. Soaking up the sun on the tropical paradise of Zanzibar
After 10 days of camping and not enough showers, some serious relaxation was needed and Zanzibar was the perfect spot for this. Our last night of the tour was spent in Arusha in Northern Tanzania, with the last day usually spent driving 7 hours back to Nairobi. Instead, we decided to skip that and fly directly from Arusha to Zanzibar instead. We stayed in a beautiful resort on the east coast of the island and spent our days eating delicious food, drinking cocktails and lazing by the beach – bliss!
Interested in visiting Kenya and Tanzania?
If an overland truck trip doesn’t appeal to you because you can’t bear the thought of being without your creature comforts and you have a bigger budget, then there is no end of options. If you still want to feel at one with nature, then there are semi permanent campsites, where you still sleep in tents, but these tents are a little different, as they all have comfy beds. That said, bush camping, endless hours driving along unsealed roads, lending a hand in cooking and cleaning, might not sound like an ideal holiday, but trust me, it was all worth it.