SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARIS: THE WORLD IN ONE COUNTRY
Those who arrive at the spring first, drink the purest water.” This Kenyan saying is one of our favorites at TAG Safari. The saying is drawn from everyday life in this majestic African country and might just be the nudge you need to book that safari trip to Kenya you’ve always longed for. The authentic trademark of the East African plains is a multitude of animals and pristine wilderness. Fodor’s describes it as follows: “If there were animal karma, some of Kenya’s great parks… would be an animal’s nirvana, because this is a food paradise. It’s an abundantly stocked raptor restaurant that offers something for every predator’s palate: a hyena hamburger place, a jackal fast-food joint, cheetah takeaways, banquets for bat-eared foxes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for leopards, feasts for lions, and lush grazing for vegetarians.” THE SUN’S OUT! Kenya is definitely ‘up in the grill’ of the Equator; it passes right through Kenya. Have you ever had the chance to visit both the Southern and the Northern Hemisphere on the same safari – on the same day? With that info, you can bet the climate is top-notch. You’re in for laid-back sunny and dry days with daytime temperatures at an ambient average of 20⁰C (68⁰F). You’ll want to dodge the lengthy showers during March and April and the short bursts of rain during October, November, and December; the roads can turn into somewhat of a muddy affair, while the mozzies will welcome you and your blood type with open arms. If game’s the name of your game, you’ll want to make your booking for the dry seasons which are May until September, January, and February when there isn’t that much surface water. The game then gathers at water holes. That’s where you want to be. THE MOST DRAMATIC WILDLIFE EVENT ON PLANET EARTH Every year, gigantic herds of wildebeest and zebra – about 2 million – set out for a massive migration across the Serengeti Plains. This incredible movement starts in Tanzania and goes all the way into Kenya’s legendary Maasai Mara wildlife sanctuary. It’s incredible that a little grass sprout would instigate the Great Migration, isn’t it? All right, it’s more than a little grass sprout. In fact, it’s a vast tract of new grass that has sprouted with the seasonal rains. But this migration isn’t all fun and dandy. Since there is such a huge amount of wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra all in one place, you bet a host of predators will be in hot pursuit of this circular 818 km (508 mi) trek. It’s survival of the fittest and, unfortunately, the weak will fall prey to their pursuers. A staggering scene is that of fatigue-laden animals crossing the quick-flowing Mara River filled with – you bet – floats of hungry crocodiles. It’s indeed nature at its most dramatic. This is one of the most sought-after parts of the migration by safari-goers. Witnessing the Great Migration is a wonderful sensory showcase. You’ll hear thundering hooves, feel the earth shake and stand in awe of the sheer pace, agility, strength, and instincts of these splendid animals as they traverse this part of the Earth. Imagine the stories you’ll exchange at night at the campsite with a roof of stars above and a crackling fire in front of you. WITNESS THE MAJESTIC GREAT RIFT VALLEY Kenya’s Great Rift Valley was formed an astounding 20 million years ago with a split of the Earth’s crust. The full geographic stretch of this rift, in fact, extends across the Middle East from Jordan to Mozambique in the south – all of 6,000 km (3,728 mi). The valley affords the safari-goer an incredible view when approaching from Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city). To give you an idea of just how expansive the rift is, as you approach it, the ground underneath your feet will unexpectedly disappear as it stretches for ridiculous distances in all directions. Just as you think this start to your Great Rift Valley experience can’t get any better, you’ll gradually sink deeper as you enter the lake system… Sounds quite Tolkien. You can hike, trek, watch wildlife, put your camera to work, go on guided walks with characterful guides around the crater’s lakes, feast on delicious picnic lunches, find yourself in a bird-watching paradise, pay a visit to the local communities and yes, even have a game of golf. How’s that for impressing your golfing buddies at the 19th back home? THE LEGENDARY MAASAI MARA Probably one of the world’s best-known safari destinations, this national park, which covers 1,510 km2 (583 mi2) in the south of Kenya and converges with the Serengeti over the Tanzanian border, is home to ‘The Great Migration’, ‘The Big Five’, a huge variety of plains game, predators and over 470 species of birds. Those pictures you see of vast plains dotted with Acacia trees and grazing wild animals? That’s Maasai Mara. Images of luxury safari lodges, verandas with views that go on forever across said plains, and an air of ‘old-time’ safari class and glamor? Maasai Mara. Named after the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area, you’ll be awe-struck by the space, the volume of game and the gentle life of a safari in the bush. There are numerous lodges and camps in the Maasai Mara, but if you’re looking for a more exclusive, uncrowded experience, head to the Mara Triangle. UP, UP AND AWAY Hot air balloon rides over the Maasai Mara as the sun rises over Africa are on offer. Watch the bush wake up from a bird’s-eye view as you gently float above it, the silence broken only by the occasional pump of gas/flame to keep you airborne. This is the stuff of dreams. Generally, the balloon ride is followed by breakfast in the bush as the sun gets hotter. There’s nothing quite like a glide over the plains of Kenya to build up one’s appetite. LOOKING TOWARD KILIMANJARO FROM AMBOSELI Amboseli National Park is known for its large herds of elephant and its views of Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro. Covering 392 km2 (151 mi2). It’s a small park, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in heart (and it’s nice and close to Nairobi, making it easily accessible). You’ll be able to catch ‘The Big Five,’ bar one: the black rhino has, sadly, become extinct in the area. MAASAI WONDER While visiting Amboseli, you can meet the local Maasai people, visit one of their villages and learn about their incredible history, culture, and traditions. Don’t miss out on this. The Maasai people are known for their grace and beautiful, bright dress. Traditionally semi-nomadic, many of the Maasai now live in permanent villages, but some still follow old nomadic traditions. It’s not unheard of to see a herd of Maasai cattle being shepherded through the edges of some of the national parks. Another tradition that is a must-see is the adumu, or warrior dance, which includes competitive jumping while keeping a narrow posture. It’s one of the most beautiful rituals you could wish to witness. And sometimes, they even let visitors participate. BIGGEST AND OLDEST? THINK TSAVO Covering almost 22,000 km2 (8,494 mi2), the Tsavo National park is the largest and one of the oldest national parks in Kenya. It was split into two – Tsavo West and Tsavo East – by the railway from Mombasa into Kenya’s interior. GO WEST! Tsavo West is more rugged and wetter than its eastern sister, with spectacular scenery and a rich population of wildlife. A guided walk along the Tsavo River is a must-do – if you’re into rock-climbing, you’ve found your next destination. Safari and rock-climbing while elephants amble on the plains below and vultures circle above you – who could ask for more? THE DRIER EAST Tsavo East is flatter and more arid, with vast savannas. ‘The Big Five’ roams here, as do a huge diversity of other African wildlife. Take some time to sit atop Mudanda Rock and watch the elephants frolic, bathe and drink in the natural dam below along with the rest of the game. And enjoy the sight of the prolific birdlife flitting about. A safari in Africa is all about taking a deep breath, sitting still, and experiencing the natural rhythms of the bush as it thrums around you. HEAD FOR THE HILLS: LAIKIPIA Situated between the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya and the deserts in the north, the Laikipia Plateau is a relatively undiscovered – less crowded – safari area made up of numerous conservancies and ranches, including the Lewa and Ol Pejeta Conservancies. A huge effort has been made towards conservation here, and almost half of Kenya’s highly endangered black rhino population lives on the plateau. While we’re talking numbers, over a quarter of Africa’s remaining Grevy’s zebras also call Laikipia home. These beautiful animals are different from their southern relatives in that they are taller, have bigger ears, and their stripes are narrower. Get your cameras out: these guys are super photogenic! NOW THAT YOU KNOW THE DEETS: GET BOOKING A famous someone or other once said, “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Need any further convincing?