Uganda and Kenya - A luxury safari

The journey began with a rather long arrival process in Nairobi in the late afternoon, followed by a very friendly meet and greet and transfer to The Crowne Plaza Hotel to spend the night before the adventure began. My guests arrived later that night, inbound from Canada. We shared a cold beer and chatted excitedly about the trip ahead before heading to our various rooms to rest our heads before an early departure in the morning. 

5:30 am – The Crowne Plaza Lobby – Silence and coffee were enjoyed before we departed for an early flight from Wilson Airport, headed for an incredible camp in the Northern reaches of Kenya called Sarara Camp. The aim was to visit the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, to spend time with the Samburu Tribe and see what incredible work they are doing to help numerous species of the area.  We also hoped to see gerenuk (also known as the giraffe antelope), lesser kudu, reticulated giraffe, tree hyrax and vulterine guinea fowl. We were treated to warm hospitality from every person we came into contact with on this journey including the wildlife. We had elephants around camp from the moment we arrived to the moment we left and there was not a dull moment to be found. We visited to singing wells to see the local people making use of old knowledge of the area to gather water from large hand dug holes in an otherwise seemingly arid area. It was a camp and area that we all left with fond memories. The warmth of the people was a huge highlight and visiting the first community run elephant orphanage was a privilege. Will definitely return! The next stop was the Masai Mara!

We arrived to cloudy skies in the open expanses of the Masai Mara. We were positioned  just on the border with the Serengeti, on the banks of the Sand River at Salas Camp. Here we enjoyed a large group of banded mongoose that call Salas home. The camp is positioned beautifully with shade provided by the countless tree species that the luxury tents are situated underneath. Wildlife is abundant around camp and leopard were a common visitor at night, although we only had footprints and the calls to go by. The game drive were rich with animals and experiences! We had a beautiful female cheetah on our first sunrise drive followed by a massive pride of lions before enjoying an incredible breakfast  cooked up freshly by our guides under the shade of a shepherds tree. Served with a smile, a freshly squeezed coffee and a show – THOUSANDS of animals all around. We spent time with elephants, more lions during a rain storm, hyenas at their den at sunrise, a leopard marking his territory at sunset, it all went by in the blink of an eye and before we knew it Kenya was coming to an end and it was time to head towards some primates in Uganda. 

Uganda – the pearl of Africa. Ah Uganda, how beautiful you are! I have never seen such a fertile land, rich in every aspect… The people we encountered were wonderful and warm, and to my most pleasant surprise, nobody was hungry. The amount of fruit, nuts, coffee, tea etc that was growing was incredible. Around all the houses were trees or plants bearing food. This meant that the children always look happy and healthy while on their early morning walk to school with their friends. It’s a difficult way of life to understand to those of us who have lived the “modern” way but in many ways I envy the life of living in such a community. It was a very humbling experience and made me feel a happiness I don’t often associate with driving through communities through Africa. Now, on to the animals… 

Kibale National Park – Chimpanzees. We arrived at Ndali Lodge full of smiles after a wonderful drive from the airstrip. The scene that greeted us felt like something out of a novel. We were positioned up on the rim of an extinct volcano overlooking a volcanic lake. The area surrounding the lake has steep slopes and is all natural forrest with local community scattered all around on their farms. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I highly recommend a swim in the lake! We had two nights here with a Chimpanzee habituation permit planned for our day in the park. We left before sunrise after a very early breakfast and coffee to head to the forest to start our walk. We were allowed four hours of contact on our permit but we had to go find them first. It didn’t take long to find the group we were looking for as they were contact calling to each other in the forest. We spent a solid hour with one male who was up in the trees just above head height checking us out and chatting to his invisible family who we had glimpses of from time to time. We were with a semi-habituated group of chimpanzees, meaning we were helping them to get used to people. Some chimpanzees are more trusting than others and the leader of the group was most relaxed as he was the one who faces any threats, and luckily for us,  we posed none whatsoever. Never the less, we eventually lost contact as the group started feeding on fruits high up in the tree tops. We were then treated to a second group of habituated chimps who happened to have moved closer to us. We spent an hour in amongst the vegetation watching them feed. The experience was quite surreal to say the least. It’s difficult to put into words what it is like meeting our primate cousins!!!

From here, we caught a flight to Bwinda Impenetarble Foprest for the next three days and it on to the other members of our primate family and the highlight of the trip for me, the Mountain Gorillas. Bwindi Impententrable National Park, Uganda. This is the most beautiful of any forest I’ve seen! The sounds, smells and sights of the forest are simply indescribable. As soon as you step foot into the forest you are greeted by an orchestra of birds singing away in the trees, the freshest air you’ve ever breathed and a childish excitement that you’ve stepped into a story book. This is what I experienced at the entrance of the park and what followed was one the most profound wildlife experiences to date. After trekking for a short while, possibly 40 mins, we could smell and hear the gorillas and we started our approach a family of gorillas consisting of two silverbacks, two black back males (up and coming silverbacks), four females and a seven month old baby. We were treated to displays, a walk bye and tender moments between mother and baby. We had the silverback just feet away making a judgment call on us, he then sat and observed us as we did him. He let his family know we posed no threat and then we enjoyed the fastest hour of my life and before we realised it was over. The second day was more gruelling for some, but equally mind blowing with a different gorilla family. The experience of sitting in amongst a family of mountain gorillas has not left us, and will remain with us always…  I feel a compulsion to apologise to them for what our species has done to them and their home… we have not been able to live in harmony as they do. I feel a compulsion to carry on trying to help the natural world through educating and sharing and most of all I wish the natural world success and growth and to see just kindness from our kind to theirs. 

This was an incredible trip crafted and curated by Safari Craftsmen and hosted by myself, Nick Kleer. 

A special thank you to Melissa Mayhew for reaching out and planning this trip with us for her family. 

Until next time! 

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