Before the world shut down due to COVID-19 I went on a safari in Kenya. I literally got back to the United States 3 days before flights shut down and travel stopped.
Now that that’s out of the way, going on a Kenyan safari was the highlight of 2019. I won this safari from Yellow Zebra Safaris in a writing contest about Sustainable Travel. I’ve never been more ecstatic to win something and it being based on my writing skills; To say I was over the moon is an understatement! Because my boyfriend, Will, couldn’t come I invited my dear friend Kate, who has supported me for so long, to come with me.
Safari in Kenya
Planning your trip with Yellow Zebra Safaris
As someone who leads group travel and travels solo I’m either planning everything for myself or leading people to trips. I can’t say enough good things about how easy it was to plan this trip with Yellow Zebra Safaris.
Right from the beginning, their communication was top-notch, and I’m not just saying this because I won the safari. HUGE shout out to Catherine who was our point person! She answered every question we had; and between Kate and me, we had a lot of questions.
Around 2 weeks after we set a date for our arrival in Kenya, Catherine e-mailed us our pre-departure information, receipt, and itinerary. These documents had every detail we needed in them. What lodges we were staying in, approximate flight times (they tend to change – more information on this later), and what activities were available to us while on safari.
The planning process couldn’t have been easier. It really set the tone of the entire safari; smooth, easy, and relaxed.
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Best time of year to go on Safari in Kenya
The great thing about going on Safari in Kenya is there isn’t a bad time to go. However, depending on what you want to see and experience there are certain times of year to visit.
When to go on Safari in Kenya Basics
- Best Time to visit Kenya: June through October, January, and February
- The High Season: Parks and Conservancies become very crowded July through November, January, and February.
- The Low Season: During this period some camps close because of the rain in March through May
- Best Weather: There is little to no rainfall from June through October.
- Worst Weather: The peak of the wet season is March through May.
Read More: Mistakes to Avoid on an African Safari
Events to Experience on a Kenyan Safari
- June through October is the best time to see the famed Wildebeest migration. If you’ve never seen it, it’s amazing. I caught the tail end of it the first time I went on Safari in Tanzania and it was spectacular.
- June through October is the best time to go on a Kenyan Safari if you’re there to photograph the animals. The grasses tend to be a bit shorter and the animals are easier to spot.
- November through May many babies are born throughout the parks. This is my personal favorite time to visit as I love spotting and watching baby animals!
What to Bring on Safari in Kenya
When going on safari you need to pack light. Whether you’re traveling via plane or land there won’t be a ton of room for large luggage. Only had room for one bag – that couldn’t be hard case – each plus a carry-on. I brought my CabinZero Classic 44 Liter bag, and it was perfect! Because it’s a backpack it was easy to carry and there was plenty of room for everything I needed.
For clothes I recommend wearing are lightweight and airy in neutral tones like brown, tan, and green. Don’t forget a hat and a pair of sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
For more information and a full packing list check out my Safari Packing List blog post.
Travel Insurance in Kenya
Getting travel insurance is very important when booking a safari, and many places require it for your to stay with them/for them to book your safari. Yellow Zebra Safaris requires all guests to have travel insurance upon arrival. Safaris can be unpredictable and you want to be prepared for the good and the bad.
Travel insurance – depending on the plan – covers things like missed/delayed flights, lost luggage, and sickness/accidents while traveling. Depending on your traveling style I recommend 2 companies SafetyWing and World Nomads.
SafetyWing is great for travelers who are on the road for an extended period of time. It can be purchased monthly or for a shorter trip. This is what many digital nomads (including myself) use and they love it!
Read More: Nairobi National Park with The Emakoko
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
The first stop on our Kenyan Safari was Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. Located in Kenya’s Laikipia County, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to the last 2 northern white rhinos in the world. When we first arrived in Kenya I was more excited to about going to the Maasai Mara, but Ol Pejeta ended up being my favorite!
Within 10 minutes of being inside the park we saw a rhino and a baby!
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
We stayed at the Ol Pejtea Bush Camp and all I can say is, WOW! As a backpacker I didn’t know a tent could be so luxurious. Our beds were extremely comfortable and the bathroom was in the tent in its own little area! On top of that, our tent was right on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.
The lounge tent was just as spectacular, with open sides, comfortable couches, and a view across the river. One afternoon when I sat alone in the lounge relaxing while others rested, I was rewarded by a family of elephants slowly moving into the area. I watched them eat, drink, and play for more than an hour. It was the highlight of my day!
The Last Northern White Rhinos on Earth
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the home of the last 2 Northern White Rhinos in the world, Najin and Fatu. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to be in the presence of these gorgeous creatures. Knowing there are people in the world that care so much about these animals to put their lives on the line for them gives me faith in humanity. But knowing that people are the reason there are only 2 left disgusts me.
I was able to go horseback riding within the endangered species enclosure. Which is there to protect the rhinos 24/7. And Kate and I got to meet Northern White Rhino Ranger team member, Jacob, and spent a significant amount of time with him on one of our days in the park. He taught us all about the rhinos and efforts to save them.
Being in the right place at the right time, Jacob saw the Conservancy’s director and we were invited to watch the relocation of a male Southern White Rhino from the endangers species enclosure. They were moving him because of efforts to use In viro fertilization in hopes that another Northern White Rhino will be born.
One of the other highlights of a Kenyan Safari at Ol Pejeta is being able to go on a night safari. I didn’t even know this was a possibility until we were told about it upon arrival. This was a completely new experience for both Kate and me, so we obviously we jumped on it!
Not only did we see an entire pride of Lions – seriously, we saw about 20 of them! – we got to see some nocturnal animals too! If you get a chance to do a night safari while on safari in Kenya, do it!
When it was time to leave Ol Pejeta I was really sad. I wanted to go back and spend more time with Najin and Fatu, I wouldn’t mind sitting and watching them for hours. I hope the next time I return there will be a baby Northern White Rhino wandering around.
Mara Naboisho Conservancy
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is a private 50,000 acre wildlife conservation area located in the Great Rift Valley. It borders the Massai Mara National Reserve and has the same climate, flora, and fauna.
Just like Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Naboisho Camp was a dream! Our tent was HUGE with a sitting room facing the open plane where we sipped tea and watched zebras and giraffes roam around, a second bedroom, and a big bathroom with a bucket shower.
I cannot say enough great things about the staff. They took such good care of us. One of the days Kate was sick and stayed in for our morning game drive. They brought her breakfast to our tent, checked in on her, and made her a special lunch for her upset stomach.
I was so excited when reading our travel documents and finding out Naboisho Camp had a pool! Because I couldn’t wait to get in, the day we arrived I spent my afternoon in the pool. I put on the robe that was in my room, slipped on my flip flops, and off I went.
Not only did I have the entire pool to myself there was a small lounge next to it with a fully stocked bar. There was beer, sodas, and all kinds of ingredients to make mixed drinks. You’re right to think I was in heaven!
While I sat poolside after cooling off in the water, a herd of zebras were grazing in the grass nearby. With beer in hand I watched them eat there way across the grass and out of sight.
Game Drives with the first female Safari Guide in the Massai Mara
As with most safaris we expected to have a male guide like we did in Ol Pejeta, but we were so surprised to find out we had a female guide. Any not just any female guide the first female Safari Guide in the Massai Mara.
We met Evaline in the afternoon right before our first game drive in Naboisho. Her energy and love of the job was evident immediately and Kate and I instantly feel in love with her. She has such an amazing presence, really knows her stuff, and is a BOSS at tracking the animals.
Seeing all 3 Big Cats
While everything we did with Evaline was spectacular, even watching her (she wouldn’t let us help) change a flat tire in the bush, our last day with her was my personal favorite because I was able to see all 3 big cats in the same day! One of which, the leopard, I hadn’t seen before.
In the early morning we spotted several lions. One of which, a lioness, was defending a recent kill from a pack of hyenas. And we saw 2 other really big males. One of them is the first photo at the top of the page, and the other is just above eating a zebra.
Then a few hours later we headed to an area because another truck saw a leopard in the trees. We looked and looked, then all of a sudden a female leopard and her baby came strolling out of the woods.
In the evening, Evaline spotted a cheetah WAY WAY off, and got us down where she was. The cheetah was on the hunt and spotted a Mama and baby Thompson Gazelle, and began to run! While the Mama got away the baby hid in the grass. It took the cheetah a while, but she ended up finding the baby.
The strength and determination it took Evaline to become a safari guide will inspire me for the rest of my life. She isn’t just good at her job, she’s great at it! And if you go to Naboisho Camp and she guides for you tell her Retha and Kate send their love.
As an avid hiker, any opportunity I have to explore a destination by foot I take. I was able to go on a walking safari with an amazing guide named Lucas.
With a backpack of emergency supplies, binoculars, and gun in hand he took me through the bush. He taught me about looking for animal tracks, flowers, bugs, and scat.
I felt so free doing this, like I was able to connect with the land more than from a safari truck.
There was also an element of danger about it because an animal totally could have been following us. Lucas gave me very specific instructions on what to do if an animal approached us, among other things.
I’m working on a specific blog post to give you even more information on what it’s like to go on a walking safari. Check back soon to read more.
Would I recommend a Safari in Kenya with Yellow Zebra Safaris?
I have never been on safari like this before. The planning was easy, communication was top notch and both of our lodges were spectacular. I would recommend Yellow Zebra Safaris to anyone looking to plan that once in a lifetime trip, or for any reason for that matter!
When the end of your safari is met with a lovely note like this you know you’re in the right hands!