Kenya

High on Kenya’s Wildlife

Words Justin Jamieson

June 2016 from issue 46

Tags: animal encounter, kenya, safari, tanzania

High on Kenya’s Wildlife

Kenyan four-wheel-drive safaris are legendary, but a luxury flying expedition takes big-five spotting to new heights, as Justin Jamieson discovers.

The small Cessna Grand Caravan lurches forward as we gather speed. To my left, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro looms large over Amboseli National Park. I recline in my wide, luxury leather chair just a touch, so I can still gaze out at a large group of 15 elephants bathing in one of two massive water springs funnelled from Kilimanjaro’s melting ice cap. Our pilot, Murtaza, has plugged an iPhone into the intercom system and as our wheels leave the ground the first chords of Toto’s ‘Africa’ flow into our headsets. Our heads bob in unison and, as the chorus breaks and lead singer David Paich sings of blessing “the rains down in Africa”, I cannot wipe the smile from my face.

We’ve spent the previous two days based at the luxurious Satao Elerai Lodge, marvelling at the elephants of Amboseli living alongside hippos and hyenas. We even caught a pride of lions stalking a wounded wildebeest. It has been indulgent to say the least, including sundowners that lasted well after the sun went down. It was our first stop on a two-day, two game park Scenic Air Safari, an ideal option for those short on time yet keen to experience the best of Kenya’s varied game reserves.

Our Caravan follows the Tanzanian border north towards the Masai Mara, one of the more popular wildlife reserves, famed for its big cats, including lions, cheetahs and the elusive leopard. Murtaza interrupts a Mick Jagger classic to tell us we’ll fly low over the Mara River and to keep an eye out for hippos. A lone elephant makes tracks in the long Masai grass as we fly overhead. The shiny black backs of a pod of hippos glisten as Murtaza follows the river deeper into the Masai. It is a surreal sight and a terrific perspective.

We land at Mara Serena airport and are greeted by our driver, who offers refreshing cold towels before whisking us away to Karen Blixen Camp, a perfect glamping set-up perched on the banks of the Mara. Here, we spend another two days on a driving safari, coming within a couple of metres of a pride of lions and stumbling across a cheetah catching the last rays of the setting African sun. It is almost too perfect. That evening I sip a cold Tusker, watching the hippos disappear and reappear in the running river. Like the guy in the song says: “It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.”

Get there

Kenya Airways flies the new Dreamliner into Nairobi with connections through Bangkok.
kenya-airways.com

Tour There

Scenic Air Safaris runs a range of packages from two to 14 nights with an incredible range of experiences.
benchafrica.com

While you're here

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