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With all the unfortunate things happening in the area, lost in the shuffle is the fact that one of nature’s most spectacular events, the Great Migration, is taking place at the moment, with millions of wildebeest crossing over between Tanzania and Kenya.
If going on a safari is on your bucketlist, then seeing the Great Migration should be in parenthesis. A few months ago, we discussed what the best time of year to go on a safari was, noting that with the Great Migration comes loads and loads of crowds. That’s why this travel writer feels Africa deserves two “trips of a lifetime,” one to see the savannas at peace and the another to experience the Great Migration.
Mom and cub lounging in the savanna of the Masai Mara
The situation in Kenya has certainly not improved since our visit a few months ago in April, when we explored one of the world's top safari regions and feasted on game meat. At the time, we penned our thoughts on whether it's safe to visit Kenya, concluding that the safari regions were as removed from the threats in Nairobi and Mombasa as Upstate New York is from New York City.
Things have definitely not stabilized since, and, to be honest, it doesn't sound like the situation is under control or getting better by any stretch of the imagination. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has scrambled to ensure tourists that the attacks are not near or directed at at foreign facilities or tourist zones, but that reassurance has convinced few as many would-be visitors cancel their trips and tourism numbers continue to suffer. We can't blame those who cancel at this point, especially given this statement by the Somalia-based Al Shabab militant group that once again declared Kenya a "war zone" and warned foreigners that they were not safe:
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The savannas of the Masai Mara
Last week, this writer visited a few of the safari regions in Kenya, including the Masai Mara, Laikipia, and Nairobi National Park. As you will see in the descriptions below, all were unique in their own ways, each offering a different experience in terms of scenery and game. Nairobi National Park was impressive because of its proximity to the city, Laikipia provided a safari/cultural combo, and the Masai Mara flexed its muscles and showed why it is one of Africa’s premier safari destinations.
There are two types of safaris to be had in Kenya: One that occurs during the Great Migration, and one that does not.
The Great Migration starts in July and is one of nature’s greatest spectacles. Over a million wildebeests cross the plains and savannas of Eastern Africa, providing visitors with what would seem on the surface to be endless opportunities of interaction. But while it's true that animal activity in the region might be at its peak, it’s not necessarily true that you will get the most intimate interaction. The reality is that along with the abundance of animals comes thousands of tourists.
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Those who have been following the news are aware that Kenya has been the target of Somali terrorist groups and, obviously, the attacks have been incredibly heartbreaking. Considering we are covering so much of the good coming out of Kenya, this writer doesn't think it's fair to leave that elephant completely out of the conversation. Admittedly, before deciding to make the journey from my home in Denver, I too wondered if it was safe to visit Kenya.
On my trip it was confirmed that, in terms of taking a safari, the answer is absolutely yes it is safe. The risk of danger in the national reserve areas like the Masai Mara and Laikipia are no greater than encountering a problem in any of America's national parks. Like here in the States, terrorism in Kenya has thus far been limited to populated places like Nairobi and Mombasa.
We have many tales to tell about our trek through the safari camps of Kenya, but what better way to start than to show you the final product right off the bat. A trip to the game reserves of Africa is, after all, all about the interaction and insight you get with one of the world's most dramatic ecosystems.
The photos below were all taken in the Masai Mara, Kenya's most infamous and iconic national reserve. This week, we'll highlight it in more detail and compare it to other regions throughout the country, giving you the rundown on how they differ in terms of landscape, culture, wildlife, and appeal. For now, enjoy these photos we took on our game drive last weekgetting up close and personal with lions, elephants, buffalo, and giraffeand look for more within the stories to come.
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This week, we've been hopping around Kenya, bouncing between safari camps and reserve regions to discover one of the most dramatic ecosystems in the world. We started in Nairobi, then circled through Laikipia, Masai Mara, and now the town of Watamu outside Mombasa. You can find Nairobi easily on the map above, and we've circled the three other areas to give you a sense of where our whereabouts.
Next week, we'll begin our coverage of the county, including how to get around, what to expect from the safari experiences and natural landscapes in the different regions, the food, culture and people, and some thoughts on the state of tourism in the country on a whole. Below, we provide a preview shot of the scenery.
The reasons we could give for making a trip out to Tanzania are almost too many to count: the staggering beauty of the landscape, the vastness of the sky, the richness of the wildlife, and the friendliness of the people are just a few.
Given the country’s size, if you’re planning on covering major distances in a short space of time, or wanting to see different parts of the country (the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, Selous, Zanzibar), you’ll have to resort to flying to get from A to B at one point or another.
Rather than a practical necessity you have to deal with, we’d almost urge you to find a way to fit one leg by air into your itinerary, as it’s bound to be from dirt strip to dirt strip by small Cessna aircraft, like the Cessna C208B Grand Caravan above; a totally different – and pretty cool – flight experience.
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We love it when our travels take us to slightly more unusual airports, and this one in South Africa certainly fits the bill. Hoedspruit (HDS) lies 280 miles northeast of Johannesburg on the eastern edge of the Limpopo province, towards the border with Mozambique. The most likely reason for venturing out to HDS is the same for which we came: the proximity to world-famous Kruger National Park.
Only one airline (South African Express) and two cities (Johannesburg and Cape Town) offer scheduled service to Hoedspruit, using small, single-aisle Bombardier jets or prop aircraft. The link to Johannesburg is twice-daily throughout the week, with one daily flight to Cape Town only available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. A few charter airlines will also make the hops.
Hoedspruit’s location and level of traffic could easily fool you into thinking this is just a tiny airport, but that impression would be wrong; only a section (officially Eastgate Airport) is for commercial use, with the airfield being unexpectedly vast due to its use as a military base and, even more interestingly, as one of the emergency landing spots for the now-grounded Space Shuttle.
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Safaris are, by their nature, extremely photogenic. All those lush landscapes, the exotic wildlife, and skies that utterly captivate are begging to be captured on camera. Even better, photographic safaris go one step further by offering travelers experiences and locations specifically with photography in mind, and in many cases with professional instruction.
If you love photography, an African safari can be a life-changing experience, but to get the most out of your trip, here's Jaunted's guide for What Not To Do on an African Safari: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes:
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Every year between July and October, millions of wildebeests march from Tanzania into the Masai Mara National Reserve, chasing the rains and the green grass that follows in what is known as the Great Migration. Travelers have marveled over this natural wonder for years, and for people who love photography, a Great Migration photographic safari provides endless opportunities for mindblowing photos. We just returned from it ourselves, with a slew of new knowledge from our own photo wins and fails.
Whether you're heading out to the Great Migration or something closer to home, here's our 11 tips on how to prepare for the photo safari trip of a lifetime:
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WHat the luxury tents will look like
Share your next vacation with a few wild party animals...or just animals. Richard Branson has just the place for the latter, or both if you're into it! The newest addition to Branson's Virgin Limited Edition Retreats family is Mahali Mzuri in the Kenyan bushlands and it's taking reservations for a summer debut.
The safari grounds, located in the Motorogi Conservancy within the Maasai Mara ecosystem, will play host to travelers looking for the "glamping" experience while staying right on the reserve. 12 luxury tents are poised on the edge of the wildlife sanctuary, and each features an en suite bathroom, a living area, and a front porch for watching zebras and giraffes as you sip tea.