Alternative Safaris

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Alternative Safaris

By James Ellis

The word safari comes from the Swahili for journey and was adopted by the Victorians to mean a trip for a big game hunt. With species now protected from the gun, all shooting is done through the lens of a camera and, while most trips to find the Big Five are taken in the back of a jeep, there are a number of other ways to see Kenya’s animal magic.

By balloon
Fly over the Maasai Mara

It’s 4.30 in the morning when we receive our wake up call – an ungodly hour, even by safari standards. A quick cuppa and a couple of biscuits later and we are speeding through Kenya’s most famous reserve, the Maasai Mara but this time we are not pausing to photograph any animals, rather heading to our dawn take off point. On arrival, people gather in the early dawn light but there’s no need to wear a fleece against the chill – huge burners, pumping hot air into balloons, are enough to keep us warm. Once inflated, we step into the basket, eight of us in each one, a slow bump, a slight creak and we are off into the sky, floating over herds of buffalo, parades of elephants and prides of lions below.

By camel
Ride camelback through Laikipia

Climbing aboard is ungainly and the camera around my neck bashes me around the head as I get my leg over the hump – but then I’m on, and my trusty steed, a dromedary camel, raises to its feet as we leave the Sabuk Lodge. As we head to the open plains of the Laikipia, two Samburu Warriors, resplendent in red, go ahead and two follow. Along the way, we stop to see huge herds of elephant drinking at watering holes and see too many birds to list. At night, the Samburu pitch our tents by a river and we camp out in the bush by a crackling fire. Some how, some way, in this most magical of settings they manage to conjure up a delicious apple crumble cooked over its flames.

On a boat
See hippos and flamingo at lakes Naivasha and Nakuru

A pair of giant eyes rise over the surface of the water, followed by two large nostrils. As the hippo raises it’s head, I can’t help but remember that more people are killed by hippos than by all the Big Five together and I’m thankful for our skilled captain who keeps a respectful and safe distance from the huge pod that live in Lake Naivasha. The lake is also home to more than 400 species of bird and while spectacular to see, none of them compare to the huge mass of pink that lines the shores of Lake Nakuru when we visit the next day. One of the Rift Valley soda lakes, it is packed with algae – ample food for the thousands of flamingo that live on the lake.

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More from Issue 4 - May 2010

Tea Break

Tea Break

Relaxing with a cuppa is one thing, but getting in amongst the tea-leaves is a different thing entirely. Catherine Quinn discovers life on a Kenyan tea plantation.

And The Band Played On

And The Band Played On

Kenya’s coastline is often overlooked in favour of the famed safari. But Jeremy Head discovers a paradise of beach life and authentic local music in Mombasa.

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The frenetic capital of Kenya is more than just a stop-off on the way to a safari. We discover, culture, nightlife and a much-loved local brewery.

Traverati Travel Guide: Kenya

Traverati Travel Guide: Kenya

Get the Traverati Guide to Kenya.

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