How many of you had little to no idea about Kenya, besides the fact that it had plenty of wildlife? I was there, right beside you sharing the same thoughts. Kenya represents the big 5 and great wild for so many, and rightfully so. But there is so much more to this beautiful country, besides its wildlife.
When we usually plan our holidays, our main aim is to explore as much as we can in as little time as we got. While visiting the entire length and breadth of the country is physically not possible in a week, we tried to squeeze in as much as we can. If you are planning to visit Kenya for the first time, then you might want to take a look at this itinerary which will give you the most of this lovely country.
I’ll take you day-wise through our itinerary, detailing out some must visit places, luring you to freeze your Kenya holiday in the meanwhile.
DAY 1 – NAIROBI
Mumbai to Nairobi is a long journey, if you don’t take a direct flight there. With layover, the journey time usually adds up to a minimum 9 hours. It thus makes sense to stay for the first day/night in Nairobi, explore the capital a little and start your tour in this colonial city.
Depending upon what time you land in Nairobi, you can decide on whether you want to get a move on sightseeing immediately or if you want to check-in and relax for a while. It is important to know that most tourist attractions in the city shut by 5 pm. Nairobi is also famous for its insane traffic congestion along its narrow streets. Plan your day well and don’t divert from your existing itinerary as you will inadvertently face delays of up to 1 hour.
DAY 2 – MOUNT KENYA
The Nairobi to Mount Kenya journey is extremely scenic as you drive along several coffee plantations. The travel distance is of approximately 200 km and takes roughly 3 hours 30 minutes. A couple of Curio shops with Kenyan artefacts hanging outside on the way, do their best to lure you in. If you do venture in, make sure you don’t leave without a good bargain. The prices are often inflated by around 60%. They will settle at about 30% less of the asking price. En route Mount Kenya, make sure that you stop at the Nanyuki equator. Request some local to demonstrate the equator experiment, which makes for an interesting time spent. (He will charge you for the experiment, so make sure that you have set the rate prior). The Nanyuki Equator is also lined with some really good thrift shops (super cheap prices, pretty decent variety).
Most of those who halt at Mount Kenya, prefer staying at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club which is a beautifully expansive resort. Spend your day indulging in a variety of activities available at the resort.
DAY 3 – ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
The shortest distance on the entire tour and probably the most unique offering. Aberdare National Park is around 90 km from Mount Kenya and the travel time is not more than 2 hours. Anybody who visits Aberdare, stays at The Ark Lodge for its exclusive experience. After lunch at the Aberdare Country Club, you will be transferred to The Ark Lodge. The lodge is in the shape of a ship like the Noah’s Ark (hence, the name). The rooms are pretty basic, much like a ship’s cabin. The real attraction of this lodge is the viewing gallery experience. The lodge houses 3 viewing galleries, at 3 different levels. There is a water hole beneath the lodge, where you get see plenty of wild animals who come there to quench their thirst. Several tourists prefer to spend their entire night on the viewing gallery to catch all the action.
DAY 4 – LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
Your day would have to start early as you have a long distance to travel, and then go for an evening game drive. Lake Nakuru National Park is located 125 km away from Aberdare and it takes around 4 hours to reach there. The drive is along the Rift Valley, offering beautiful views throughout the journey. There are resorts lined up on its periphery and inside the park. Our journey was rather eventful. In between the park, on our way to the resort, our car broke down. Sure, there weren’t many dull moments as the forest is beautiful and there are plenty of zebras strolling about. Lake Nakuru is ideal for bird-watching, especially flamingos who migrate here annually in huge numbers because of the salinity and alkaline waters. Lake Nakuru is also the ideal place to watch rhinos in the wild. The concentration is good enough to see at least a couple of them grazing around.
DAY 5 – MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
The star attraction in Kenya, is the Masai Mara National Reserve. On its south lies the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The travel from Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara is long and arduous. The road up to Narok is wonderfully maintained. However, from Narok, right up to your resort in Masai Mara, the road is wretched. This terrible leg lasts for about 2 hours of the total 6 hours journey. On arrival at Masai Mara, you can opt to go for an evening game drive, or instead you can go to the Masai Village and relax for the remaining evening. The Masai Village consists of artificially created hutments that depict the living conditions, lifestyle and culture of the Masai tribe. The charges to enter the Masai Village are a flat $20 which they absolutely don’t negotiate with. It’s worth to go there if you want to understand how the tribal live and click some unique photographs. However, if you are looking for an actual or a real surrounding, then you would be disappointed.
DAY 6 – MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
The real adventure begins here! Get ready for a full-day game drive, picnic in between the jungle where birds are flocking you, you can see animals grazing around and everything is absolutely serene. The main track in the reserve is often muddy during the monsoon period of March – May. There are several smaller diversions and off-routes which the drivers take to track and chase the wildlife. Every safari vehicle in Kenya has a radio transmitter, which the drivers use for communicating the whereabouts of the Big Five.
There are three entry gates to the Masai Mara National Reserve. The safaris usually start around 8 am and go on till 6 pm latest.
DAY 7 – MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Your last day of the Kenyan safari experience. Another day full of game drive. On this day, ask your driver to take you to the Mara River, where you will see huge numbers of hippos cooling off in the waters, crocodiles lounging on the bank and huge herds of zebras, gazelles and giraffes grazing around. What a sight! You can spend an entire afternoon comfortably here. Find a quaint spot under an Acacia tree and enjoy your last picnic in these grasslands.
On returning to your resort, you can request the hotel reception to organize a cultural show for you, or you can just grab one Tusker beer and let loose.
DAY 8 – DEPARTURE FROM NAIROBI
Start your journey back to Nairobi well on time, keeping an extra hour at hand. The journey from Masai Mara to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi Airport) takes not less than 6 hours one way. Given the chances of untimely congestion near Nairobi city, you might want to keep sometime in hand so you don’t have to complete your journey in panic. Like with all international airports, the ideal reporting time here is 3 hours before your flight’s departure.
Leaving a country, full of warm people, abundance of flora and fauna, beautiful landscapes and amazing memories is always difficult. Till we meet again!