Animal Encounters and other Adventures in Kenya
“When you travel in Africa, you have to prepare yourself physically and psychologically,” said Moses, the man in charge of the Mara Explorers campsite on the edge of Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara National Park where my group was settling in for the night. It had been a very long day of bumpy road travel from Nairobi, a journey that saw our bus break down at one point and I was just very glad to stop moving for a while.
The Great Migration at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
But the very next morning on safari, I watched a herd of wildebeest stampede down the banks of the Mara River and snake their way across the water through a rising cloud of dust. In true National Geographic fashion, there was a soaring soundtrack playing in my head as I witnessed this sliver of a moment in the Great Migration, the annual movement of zebra, gazelle and wildebeest searching for new grazing grounds between the Mara and the Serengeti plains.
Travel in Africa may be challenging at times, but moments like these remind me that it’s definitely worth the effort.
Wildlife around the cornerThe beauty of Kenya is that nature is never far away, even from its urban centre. The capital of Nairobi is one of the most thriving economies in Africa and home to an increasing number of skyscrapers, a widening sprawl of buildings, and where traffic comes to an absolute standstill during peak hour. The city can be seen in the backdrop of Nairobi National Park where an electric fence is the only thing that separates Kenyan’s human residents from its wild neighbours.
Nairobi from above. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
I spent a morning at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage on the edge of the national park, where I stood around with other tourists, cooing and watching baby elephants suckle milk from the largest baby bottles and gambolling around in red dirt. Later, I stood on an elevated platform at the Giraffe Centre, eye-to-eye with an endangered Rothschild Giraffe named Stacey that was all too happy to headbutt me when I was too slow to feed her.
Feeding Rothschild Giraffes at the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
Animal encounters are imminent in Kenya, even in the most unexpected of places. On the overnight train from Nairobi to the coastal city of Mombasa, I was distracted from breakfast by the sightings of elephants flashing by my window as the train passed through Tsavo National Park.
More than rolling plainsI came to Kenya expecting beautiful savannahs and lush landscapes, and Kenya delivered with aplomb, from the Great Rift Valley, a vast seemingly-endless green carpet of foliage to the golden plains of the national parks, dotted with the occasional Acacia tree and waving grasses.
Diani Beach. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
But I was completely unprepared for the glory of the Kenyan Coast. Mombasa felt like a completely different world after the dusty dry landscapes and modern skyscrapers of Nairobi. This colourful coastal city is the second largest in Kenya and an important historical port on the eastern coast of Africa.
Just south of Mombasa, I laid eyes upon Diani Beach, perhaps the most beautiful beach I have ever seen with unreal turquoise waters and pure white sand that slipped right through your fingers. The fact that I saw camels walking across the beach only made this paradise more surreal.
My last night in Kenya was spent in Kilifi, a town north of Mombasa, in a local village house quaintly nicknamed ‘Giarama Paradise’, a name that’s hard to dispute as we watched the sun set on a picture-perfect bay in its garden, while playing checkers with new friends, eating a lovingly home-cooked meal of Nyama Choma (a traditional roasted goat dish) and drinking palm wine made by a neighbour.
Drinking palm wine at Giriama Paradise, Kilifi. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
Kenya is its peopleMy trip to Kenya would only be half as amazing if not for the warmth and hospitality of the Kenyans that I met at every juncture, from the kind-hearted drivers who stopped to try and help us fix the broken down bus en route to the Mara, to the Maasai tribe members who showed us their traditional dances and patiently taught us how to light a fire with just a few scraps of wood.
The Kenyan landscapes were breathtaking, the experiences unparalleled, but there are countless little moments with the Kenyan people that will dwell in my memories, like dancing with my friends under the stars of an open-air bar, to collecting a crowd of curious village children that followed our group around Kilifi.
The pied pipers of Kilifi. Photo by Jaclynn Seah
Tips for first-time visitors to Kenya
- Singaporeans do not need a visa for less than 30 days of travel in Kenya.
- July to October are high season months where the Great Migration occurs. January and February are dryer months popular for safari as well.
- Malaria is a risk throughout Kenya, so definitely consider taking Malaria medication before and after your trip as a safeguard. Carry around a good mosquito repellent or wear light-coloured long sleeved tops and pants to cover up.
- Besides routine vaccinations, it’s also good to have updated vaccinations for Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Tetanus. Yellow Fever vaccinations are only necessary in certain parts of Kenya, check with your local GP or clinic for more details.
- Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover the remote and adventurous activities that you might do in Kenya.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.