Kenya: Safari on land and sea

Elephants of Amboseli and Indian Ocean sea life of the Marine Park, Wasini Kenya – Photo by Eyes of a Lagos Boy

Dear readers, please enjoy this short report of our recent trip to Kenya. We dedicated several days to exploring Kenya’s rich wildlife – both in the savannah and under water.  The Swahili word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”.  Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to explorer Richard Francis Burton.

Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, the Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s most popular parks. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning “salty dust”, and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from Lake Amboseli, wetlands with Sulphur springs, the savannah and woodlands.  They can also visit the local Maasai community who live around the park and experience their authentic culture. Amboseli is at 1200 meters above sea level, which makes the climate very crisp, hot during the day and cool at night.

Besides the bountiful wildlife – cape buffalos, lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippopotamus, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, impala gazelles, flamingos, herons and hundreds of different types of birds and other animals – the park impresses with its unforgettable views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the fourth highest stand-alone mountain in the world and the highest in Africa (5895m).

The animals are so peaceful and living in apparent harmony – including with the human visitors to the National Park. It is not allowed to walk around – only drive using the authorized paths and for a limited amount of time. No feeding or any other interaction is allowed.

Flamingoes – Animals of Amboseli, Kenya – Photo by Eyes of a Lagos Boy

Bolaji Alonge, Eyes of a Lagos Boy and photo illustrator of this story: “The biodiversity of Amboseli National Park is breathtaking. I remember watching a documentary series “Elephants of Amboseli” and always wanted to visit. Seeing all these animals live is a huge dream come true for every animal documentary lover.” He also noted that “One thing that stands out is the absence of plastic and other waste inside the park that is carefully managed. Plastic bags have been banned in Kenya and this has an obvious positive impact that could be easily duplicated in other countries. Road safety is another important element for tourism that is based on taking tourists crisscross around the country. Speed bumps on the high way might seem a nuisance, but I did not spot a single accident or burnt out vehicles on the side of the road, during a whole day of driving to our next destination.”

After enjoying Amboseli, we moved to Wasini island, which is a tiny island off the Kenyan coast, in front of Shimoni village. We stayed for three days at the Blue Monkey Beach Cottages, enjoying yummy Swahili food, waking up to the birds and monkeys, living a 100% solar powered, super eco and sustainable village life with a National Marine Reserve around the corner filled with colorful corals, a carnival of tropical fish, dolphins, turtles and a barracuda as an icing on the cake.

Seeing the underwater world up close is a mesmerizing experience – floating feels like flying in space, with strange sounds coming from the surface whenever a boat passes by. The absence of plastic waste was a major relief since we are now so often confronted with pollution of our waterways. However, the residents of Wasini island struggle with waste management just like people all around the globe. The announced construction of a deep sea port just in front of the island, in Shimoni, is also a potential threat to the underwater life but residents are hopeful that nature will not be affected too severely. Only time will tell, we hope that next time we can revisit the purple and pink coral reefs full of magic. We noted that some of the bleached corals we saw three years ago have come back to life, so that strengthens our optimism.

These encounters with nature have been humbling and thought provoking. We would love to show these wonders to friends with children, hoping it will change their relationship with our planet’s non-human inhabitants. We feel our commitment to ecological issues is reinforced and want to do more to ensure peaceful co-habitation with other species and of course address pollution. Seeing how its done in Kenya is certainly inspiring.

As to Kenyans – they are kind, open and always willing to lend a hand. The tourism industry (8% of GDP) in Kenya is truly excellent with wonderful places to stay, eat and lounge – from very affordable to super-luxury. We also met lots of wonderful people from different countries during our trip. Making new friends and seeing new places with your own eyes is a a great experience that during these Covid times has become even more precious. We love traveling and hope that soon it will be easier again to do so.

Kwaheri Kenya, Asante sana.

(Goodbye Kenya, thank you very much).