Kikambala Travel Blog› entry 1 of 7 › view all entries
October 1st, 2009 – by: jock8186
Ok, this was a big talking point with everyone. Do you stick to the hotel? Do you trust the beach boys? Do you trust local companies? Do you book before you go?
The best thing I can advise is do the RESEARCH before you go. The way I went about it was by emailing every local Kenyan company advised for Tsavo east and west safari’s on Trip advisor. Email all the companies in the same email, stating clearly where you want to go, how many nights, what kind of vehicle (Jeep or mini-van, I recommend the mini-van) and off course the price and dates. The reasons I say send them all the same email at the same time is so that each company can see that it is competing with many others straight away. This will cut out any one on one haggling and basically beat them at their own game. Wait for them all to reply (give a couple of days as computer access to even consider “well off” is limited. Compare the prices and take the cheapest few, now that you have narrowed it down to a few, compare the company reputation reviews on trip advisor and make your choice from there.
I can’t recommend the company I went with highly enough. There name is First African Dream Safaris (FADS). They are run by a man called “Mike Musyoka”. Mike impressed me by first of all being extremely prompt in answering my emails and queries that I had before I arrived. He agreed to meet my exact needs for the safari and gave an excellent price. Once the Safari was agreed in principle via email, I met up with Mike just at the gates of the hotel on the day of my arrival. He them gave me and verbal overview of what to expect on the safari and also introduced me to the driver who was to take us (Paul). This was all exceptionally done and very professional (by Kenya standards) All that was now needed was a £100 deposit for the safari and the rest to be paid on the day of departure (1week into our holiday).
On the day of departure Paul our driver turned up precisely on time 0600 (in fact he was about half an hour early). He was extremely friendly and made my partner and I comfortable with him from the start. Straight away he started to educate us in Kenyan culture, talking us through the history of all the little villages we were going through on our way to the National parks (Tsavo East&West). On route to the parks we stopped of at various road side shops which had toilet facilities and places to buy gifts, water, sweets ECT…
The first park we entered was Tsavo West. Tsavo west is a lot more scenic than Tsavo East, however with more bush and a more shapely landscape it did make the animal spotting slightly more difficult. Due to this I am extremely thankful that our driver Paul had an amazing spotting eye. He constantly and consistently found animals lurking around that without his expertise would have simply passed me by. Lunch and dinner was held the accommodation lodge which on the first night was Ngulia safari lodge. In between meals we were out on game drives spotted a wide variety of wild African animals. Paul would explain in thorough details the various animal species along with the different vegetation which was on display.
The lodge itself was stunning. An open restaurant looking over an animal watering hole was a site to be seen. That evening we saw 2 leopards approach the watering hole (about 20metres from lodge wall), elephants, buffalos and poripines.
At night my partner was kept awake by the cackle of Hyena’s and the trumpeting of a near by elephant just outside our balcony. Not a bad way to be kept from sleeping eh!
On the second day we made our way to Tsavo East, having a final game drive through Tsavo west (where we spotted our first pride of lions). Once in Tsavo West it was evident that there is a huge difference in the landscape. Tsavo West was more like the “stereotypical” image of the African Safari planes. Vast areas of flat land exposed made animal spotting a lot more easily and frequent. Paul was constantly spotting various game and we were now able to afford the luxury of driving past the more commonly spotted animals in search of the harder ones (Rhino, Cheetah, Lions).
Over the course of that day our excellent driver managed to spot every one of the BIG FIVE. The last animal of the day being the rarest; the black rhino. Making it even more special was it was a black mother rhino walking side by side her calf. This topped off and completed our big five and we retreated back to our lodge. This time we stayed in the Vio Safari lodge. This lodge was a lot more luxurious and comfortable with spectacular scenery and views onto a water hole below the hill in which the lodge was built on.
The food in both lodges was good, perhaps not up to the same standard as the hotel but good none the less. All food is and accom is obviously included in the total safari price paid before departure so you can relax without having to worry about money or bills. Both lodges host spectacular views, and both have little surprises that allow you’re to see animals extremely close up. I won’t give it away but just trust me your breath will be taken away.
On the last day of our trip we concluded with a final game drive and lunch at another lodge with our driver. Paul our driver and guide never once failed to give up looking for animals, even when my partner and I were “exhausted” on the third day. His enthusiasm and passion for his job was glaringly apparent. He took pride in ensuring that we had a good time and also that we went away with a huge amount of knowledge not only in the animals but in Kenyan history in every sense. He was always polite and courteous and once he dropped us both off back at our hotel safe and sound and on time I made sure he received a good tip. These guys don’t get paid much from the company and they do rely on a decent tip from their customers. Paul thoroughly deserved what we had to give and more. For the service he provided, the same comparison and knowledge he expressed would command an exceptional fee. In Kenya, all they look for is enough to get by and live.
That concludes my safari trip. In the few short paragraphs I’ve wrote I’ve tried to cram in as much info as possible. However reading back on it I haven’t even scratched the surface. You really have got to see and do it to explain how magical the safari trip is. FIRST AFRICAN DREAM SAFARIS (FADS) promised my partner and I a trip of our life, and the certainly were true to their word and more. For contact details see the end of my review.
Once back at the hotel after our safari we had a couple of refreshing and re-energising days by the pool. We didn’t stay hidden within the hotel grounds however; we were frequently walking around the local villages just outside our hotel which are completely safe. We also went to Mombassa on a city tour trip, went to the local orphanage, had a few drunken nights in the local bars, and went on a village tour and a trip to Haller Park (a local zoo with animals opening walking around).
All these trips were organised by “Ali”. He is the local village tourist guide. He is almost like the godfather of the village. He can arrange to get you anything, take you anywhere at any time. A small slight built man with a beard, he stands just outside office at the hotel gates everyday. You will need to learn how to barter for you trips but that is common practise in this country.
In my opinion do not book anything through the hotel. Its way overpriced and gives you exactly the same deal and trips as the locals. If you have extra money to throw away then fair enough, perhaps paying the hotel would give you that extra security should your trip not turn out to be how you’d wish, but for the average Jo like myself I did and always would book through Ali for local outing.
The beach boys: They are harmless but persistent. They are desperate men in search of much needed work. And that is all they want to do. The cheapest prices can come from them; however they do not hold a tourist license unlike the local guys who site outside the front of the hotel gates. In my opinion, use the beach boys for buying small carving gifts and such. Use them for doing a small sea safari just outside the back of the hotel, but do not use them for booking a safari or any “major” excursions. Not because I feel they are dangerous, because they are mostly very nice and good men, but because they can disappear and come and go as they like. If the trip goes bad you have no point of complaint. Where as the guys outside the hotel rely on that spot for business and will always be there. Plus they are licensed tourist guides.
Ok, I’ve rambled on for ages but I hope this review helps. I’ve tried to think about what I would have needed to hear prior to departing. Anything I’ve missed or need to elaborate on please feel free to send me a message asking.
In conclusion I like to say Kenya is an Amazing country. However respect the fact that is also a 3rd world country. You will see things that will break your heart, and you will see things that will amaze your for the rest of your life. Treat the Kenyan people how you’d like to be treated, but be firm and use your wits to determine which people see you as a walking cash machine and which are passionate about what they do.
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