I’ll never forget my first time; my first safari, in Kenya. I was 17 years old, travelling with a group of American teenagers and we were experiencing Kenya in the best way possible. We stayed in a family’s home in Nairobi, made long-lasting friends, learned some Swahili, volunteered, enjoyed the coastal city of Mombasa and the muslim island of Lamu and went on safari in Amboseli National Park. It was an unforgettable experience and a life-changing trip, but most of all I’ll never forget the safari.
How can one adequately express the squeal I emitted when a monkey stole my toothpaste or when a family of giraffes walked five feet from our safari vehicle? How many times does one have to pinch themselves to remind themselves they are not at a zoo?
Safari camps may differ in accommodations, food and service and you might see varying numbers of animals in one park or another, however, the enjoyment and bliss are the same. It takes you back to the feeling of discovery you once experienced as a child, the feelings you might have forgotten, the ones we thought we would never re-create. On safari, you will.
Is one safari enough? Who’s to say but so far I have been on three and I’ll likely go on another. There are always different animals to see, you’ll experience the high of the “chase,” searching for the elusive animals, such as the leopard and cheetah, that you’ve missed seeing before.
Or perhaps this time you want to witness the great migration of wildebeest and zebra through Kenya and Tanzania or revel in “Green Season” when tons of babies are born such as what we saw at Kichwa Tembo, Masai Mara, Kenya. Baby giraffes, hippos, elephants, lion cubs, warthogs, antelopes and even a baby black rhinoceros.
In summary, please make sure you make an African safari a priority in your life. There is a range in prices from budget camping all the way to the lap of luxury so never feel like you can’t afford it.
A Few Tips?
- Check out the safari vehicles that the lodge or park uses. The vehicles at Kichwa Tembo have been my favourite among the three safaris I’ve done. The first in Amboseli, Kenya was in a van with a pop up top to view the animals without a window barrier and in Kruger Park, South Africa, it was on an Intrepid tour in a van with the windows open. I cannot stress how imperative it should be to research the vehicles, what a better experience it is with a 4×4 open air jeep, permitting you to get much closer to the animals. En route to seeing the cheetahs we passed a few vans stuck in mud; I can’t imagine missing such an opportunity because of the vehicle I was in.
- Take advantage of safaris offered at varying times. In the early morning (7am) you might see a hyena, a night-time scavenger returning to its den, at 9am, a lioness and her cubs eating a freshly killed warthog. My favourite occurred at 12pm when a family of elephants cooled off in the river. In Kruger National Park (South Africa) we did a walking safari and were lucky to see two packs of wild dogs killing an impala.
- Although you’ll have some early mornings you will also get time to relax in the afternoon. Three-four nights affords you plenty of time to see all the animals and enjoy your lodge/camp.
- Make sure you’ve got ample camera equipment, chargers, memory cards, lenses etc. And remember to download often and charge your battery at each opportunity you get. We were able to do so between each safari, no problem.
- You may want to bring some warm clothes for early morning or evening safaris.
So now you’re probably wondering more about where you should stay during this incredible adventure. My answer is &Beyond’s beautiful lodge, Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp & Bateleur Camp located in the Masai Mara, Kenya.
Kichwa, “head” and Tembo, “elephant” is a beautifully set and well-appointed forty tent camp located near Oloololo Gate at the north tip of the Mara Triangle. Owned by &Beyond it offers everything; warm and comfortable accommodations, a beautiful washroom with hot showers and excellent, all-inclusive food. The grounds are well-kept and the multi-tiered pool overlooks the savannah so watching giraffes or other animals stroll by while sun tanning is a common occurrence. Evening entertainment changes each evening and were entertained at night by a Maasai tribe and another night by the Sing For Life choir.
The small details that matter? Tea/coffee/hot chocolate and cookies served on your porch with your personalized wake-up call. Your safari guide who takes you out when you want and introduces you to the animals of the Masai Mara – ours, Akatch, made our experience unforgettable. The flexibility in eating times as we arrived at 11pm and dinner was brought to our tent. Go on an evening safari? Eat before you go or when you’re back. And my favourite? Hot water bottles strategically placed under the covers during turn down service but just be careful not to mistake them for a furry monkey sleeping under the covers. My scream may still be echoing throughout the camp.
I can try to put into words what it is like to stay at Kichwa Tembo and to experience all they have to offer but you really have to live it to understand. It is truly unforgettable and we thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie with the other guests in our group. We’d unexpectedly all end up in the bar before dinner swapping stories, building excitement for the next day and planning out what each worked best for all of us.
But what if getting away from it all means even escaping other people? Want to be alone or alone with just you and your loved one? How about being waited on hand and foot, relaxing in an exquisite living room right out of Architectural Digest and enjoying the finest cuisine delivered to your private terrace? Kichwa Tembo also offers you this at their eighteen-room Bateleur “flying eagle” camp. Dine alone or with new friends, sip fine cognac while watching the sunset from the indoor/outdoor living room and even go on a private safari in your own jeep.
The food was simply delectable, the service at the highest standard and with your own private butler and room steward your every whim is taken care of.
The best part of all? It’s a great combination in offering the two camps side by side. Visit Kichwa Tembo for a change of scenery and if travelling with friends and staying at different camps you can still share meals at Kichwa Tembo and share a safari jeep during the day.
For groups it would be fantastic since there are multiple categories of accommodations, two or more in the tented camp plus Bateleur, something for everyone!
It wasn’t just the experience, hospitality or surroundings that warmed my heart but also the corporate responsibility, the stand that &Beyond takes in aiding communities around them. &Beyond’s “Africa Foundation is about empowering communities in rural Africa through conversation,” and the projects they head among the Maasai are inspiring. Whether it is through income generation projects, education or healthcare they are making a daily difference and the impact is seen everywhere.
Kichwa Tembo has donated a number of classrooms and facilities to the nearby Maasai community and they teach the children about sustainable development through the environment. They also work with the women in creating small income generating projects such as beekeeping, the heifer project (cattle breeding), and the poultry project. I have first hand knowledge and experience of their healthcare initiative as Kichwa Tembo supports the need for healthcare in the district by providing a fully serviced clinic and health technician at the camp. I came down with a bad stomach parasite and then had a rare, allergic reaction to the injection I was given for pain, a reaction they had never before experienced; I was glad to be a teaching opportunity for the doctor who treated me. ;). I was treated quickly and efficiently and am thankful that Kichwa Tembo cares about the communities they are in and are committed to making them better.
In this day in age we have so many choices of where we spend our money and with whom. I believe corporate responsibility has to be taken seriously so when choosing who you’re staying with, why not research the company’s involvement and make an educated choice in knowing your hard-earned money is also working toward the betterment of another’s future?
Goodbye Kichwa Tembo, your staff, hospitality and safari expertise will forever be etched in our memory. Thank you!