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Many of you know that I led a student trip to Kenya for a month in 2018 – the main goal was to summit Mount Kenya (which most of us did) and to help out the local communities as much as possible, but we also got to undertake some other incredible experiences as well. One of these was a Kenya safari tour within Tsavo East National Park which we completed over several days.
The “Big 5”
Africa is known for its wildlife, with a truly amazing range of animals living on the savannah. We’d been lucky enough to spot some wild animals on the road between destinations but going on a Kenya safari tour is the best way to ensure you see them up close and in the most natural of environments. African safaris tend to promote the “Big 5”, which are the main five animals that you can see whilst you are out there. These are lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo.
We saw three out of the five which was amazing. You’re not always guaranteed to see all of them, and the one we didn’t get to see in the end were the leopards and rhinos – leopards are highly elusive as they sleep in trees during the day and only really come out properly at night. Rhino numbers are dwindling, with many species extinct or facing extinction, so these are also hard to find. I’ve now got a good reason to go back, however I wasn’t too disappointed about the leopards as I understand they’re hard to spot.
Our “Big 5” Sightings
The species we saw the most of were elephants and giraffes – I couldn’t believe how many there were! We saw several varieties of giraffe, from baby right through to elderly, with so many elephants that I lost count. The best elephant experience was encountering some bathing in the watering hole, filling their trunks with water and then spraying it all over their backs to cool down.
The most exciting sight we saw was definitely lions – we didn’t manage to catch any male lions, however got to spend quite some time viewing two lionesses sat under a tree as they eyed up their lunch in the background. Parking directly in between predator and prey felt slightly disconcerting at first however the lionesses weren’t at all bothered by us, choosing to completely ignore our vehicle and focus instead on all the tasty zebra. It was incredible to get up close and personal with such a powerful animal.
My favourite animal encounter was actually with the water buffalo – they have beautiful, friendly faces, like cows, and are way bigger than you think they are! We came across over a hundred of them in one go and I’ve never experienced anything like it… As we approached the whole lot stopped what they were doing and raised their heads in tandem. It was absolutely surreal, and I was completely in awe of the creatures. Seeing such a large animal in vast numbers like that was amazing.
The Other Wildlife
As well as larger creatures, going on a Kenya safari tour offers lots of smaller animals as well. We saw frequent sightings of dik-diks, gazelle, zebra, and giraffe-necked antelopes (which are bizarre-looking) over the course of our tour, and we also saw so many wonderful birds, such as giant ostriches, majestic secretary birds, and circling vultures. We spotted hogs and reptiles on the ground, plus many curious invertebrates. One giant white locust-type creature caught my attention, though my students weren’t fans!
The wildlife was of course the highlight of the trip, however the tour wouldn’t have been as exceptional without such knowledgeable and protective staff. As we were travelling with Camps International they led the tour, but we had a couple of rangers on board with us to keep us safe and help to spot the wildlife. Their eyesight must be incredible as they’d see things way before we did. They also taught us how to be discreet and stealthy so that the animals wouldn’t run away or feel threatened.
I couldn’t believe how knowledgeable the rangers and our tour leader were when it came to flora and fauna. Peter, our guide, could tell me so much about his country that I certainly couldn’t about the UK. We learnt lots about the animals, from how you can detect the age of a giraffe to why dik-diks are often seen in pairs. I could point out any animal or plant and Peter would instantly know what it was! What it feeds on, what it is prey to, what medicinal uses it has, and so on.
We learnt so much about poaching in the area by visiting a centre in the middle of the park. We saw animal by-products such as skulls and antlers, plus current efforts tackling the poaching crisis. It broke my heart to see how much damage poachers are causing. Rangers have very little that they can do to actually prevent it from happening, which makes it worse. If you do go on safari make sure to ask about the conservation and poaching threats to get that same information.
I haven’t had any experience of booking a Kenya safari tour as Camps International dealt with that side of things, however there are a variety of tours that last from one to several days. If you decide to space your tour out over a couple of days then you can stay in one of the luxury resorts in the area – we didn’t get to but we were able to see them briefly and it’s something I’d love to do. The cost rises significantly depending on how many days you do so a full day tour is best if you’re looking to spend less. Bear in mind that it’s a very intensive day and guaranteed that you’ll be knackered afterwards!
One great way to book a Tsavo East safari tour is via Civitatis – they offer a day trip at a very reasonable price which includes entry to the park, a buffet lunch, and even an air-conditioned vehicle.
What You Need To Know
As with any hot country visits, it’s imperative that you take lots of water with you to keep hydrated. I was drinking between two and four litres a day. There are toilet stops but these aren’t frequent (and you can’t leave the vehicle during the tour) so space your hydration out rather than downing the whole lot at the start. Sunglasses and a hat are also a must given the intensity of the heat, and make sure to also take something like a sarong or scarf to cover your skin up during the more intense hours of sunlight.
Safety is key on safari which is why you’re not allowed out of the vehicle. The rangers do an excellent job with safety so it’s important to respect not only them but also the wildlife. We didn’t experience any aggressive animals, however making loud noises or doing other things that startle them is obviously a bad idea, and generally just disrespectful to the wildlife. I’d also advise not to stick your limbs or head out of the truck whilst it’s moving. I accidentally did this on my first safari experience in 2017 and ended up with a rather nasty gash on my face after a fight with a plant similar to gorse. Not recommended!
I had many experiences whilst I was in Kenya but I’ll never forget safari tours. I’d go as far to say they were one of my favourite experiences from all of my travels. They may be expensive, but a Kenya safari tour is a once in a lifetime experience that may not be so possible in the future due to climate change and extinction, so if you’re contemplating it then I’d recommend just going for it. Perfect for animal lovers, Tsavo East National Park is the best place to experience wildlife in their natural environment.
If you enjoyed this post then don’t forget to like, pin, and leave a comment! Let me know if you’ve been on safari before, or what animal you most want to see. You can read some of my other reviews from Kenya here: