Katie Visits Kenya the Island of Zanzibar

This year I had my first ever trip to Africa. It has been a dream holiday on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and I was over the moon when I found out I was going.

From the moment we landed Africa had my heart. The people were so friendly and welcoming and our driver guide, Alex, who stuck by us for most of our time in Kenya was phenomenal. He told us all about the local villages we drove past on our way to the parks, the behaviour of all the animals we were lucky enough to see and the stories of all the adventures he has been on in Africa’s wild plains.

Our first day had us thrown in at the deep end with a camel trek down to Lake Nakuru. The journey was bumpy and slow paced, and I loved every second of it. My camel was called Tinga Tinga and was such a gentle creature. It was a lovely way to experience my first wildlife adventure, spotting zebra, hyena, giraffe and flamingo as we arrived at the lake’s edge for our first sundowners. After an hour-long trek on the back of a camel, a cocktail to watch the sunset was the perfect way to end our first day in beautiful Africa.

The following morning, we were up bright and early, ready for our first proper game drive. We were treated to a bush breakfast and I was expecting a few dry croissants and a glass of juice but was soon rolled back into the vehicle with a belly full of pancakes, a full cooked breakfast, pastries, tea, coffee, fresh juice and such a content mood, ready to start the day. It didn’t take long before we were whizzing along with Alex’s expertise bringing us right up alongside a crash of White Rhino. It was amazing to see them so close and them not even be phased by our presence in the slightest, while they grazed along the grass and the red bill ox peckers were flitting between them all.

Added to the day’s animal list were Rothschild Giraffe, Black Backed Jackal, Warthogs and both lesser and greater Flamingo.

Our first sighting of Lions was breath taking. They had clearly fed recently as the pride were sat lazily in the bush, dozing and licking their paws. They were simply stunning. However, the animal that really stole my heart were the African Elephant. They moved with such grace and ease around the bush and yet still commanded such authority and power. We managed to see a few different herds of elephant during our time in Kenya, particularly in the Masai Mara, including a small calf, hiding between its mothers’ protective legs.

While the day was coming to an end and the excitement almost over for another day, we caught sight of our first Cheetah, hiding in the long grass. Our guide pointed out that he was in fact eyeing up a herd of Thompson Gazelle across the plain. I have never experienced a group of people sat so still, quiet and patient as us, watching in suspense, waiting for him to take his chance. Around 45 minutes later when we were all beginning to give up hope the cheetah was up and sprinting towards the group and a gazelle that had strayed from the safety of the herd. They looped round and came barrelling towards our car, skirting right past us before he gave up, being outmanoeuvred by the little gazelle. With our hearts in our throats we returned to camp, buzzing from the day’s events.

The next morning saw us up at the crack of dawn and transferring to our next adventure. I was to experience my first ever hot air balloon ride. This was something that has been on my bucket list for a long time and to experience a balloon safari over the Masai Mara was just incredible. Seeing the plains from this height just showed the vast expanse of how far it stretched in every direction. Our pilot was pointing out the black sections where there had been controlled burning to remove some of the old dry shrubbery after the long dry season to rejuvenate the landscape with new growth. The journey was so peaceful and definitely worthwhile for anyone who can’t decide if they should go. As we bumped back to the ground, I was totally unaware of the surprise that was waiting for me at breakfast. Our guide, Alex, had heard us mention that we were going to do the hot air balloon as a treat for my upcoming 21st birthday  and whilst we were in the air he had arranged a birthday cake and a whole group of local Masai to perform traditional dances and songs for me in a celebration that I will never forget. Having a champagne breakfast in the middle of the Mara with my own birthday cake and surrounded by such an amazing group of people was just the most memorable way to spend my 21st. I was so overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of everyone who organised this to make my day so special in such a magnificent place.

Soon enough our time in Kenya was coming to an end and we were heading to a small airstrip for our flight onto Zanzibar. Kenya had me sold on Africa as a destination with its beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife and such friendly and welcoming people. We visited a few different lodges  and I had many experiences, including being woken up in the night with Hyenas outside my tent calling out after a fresh kill. My favourite lodge was Karen Blixen camp in the Mara North Conservancy. My tent overlooked the Mara river and I had a wonderful view of the various wildlife coming down to drink .  Sitting around the campfire in the evening and just enjoying each other’s company telling stories of our exciting days was such a great way to unwind and appreciate the natural beauty all around us.

Our arrival into Zanzibar was such a welcome event after the on the go adventure of Kenya, with white sand beaches, palm trees and the red colobus monkeys that are well-known in Zanzibar. We stayed in the Breezes resort which has direct access to the beach and has its own water sports centre. We went for a swim in the sea and were surrounded by little shoals of fish and water as warm as you would run a bath. Zanzibar was beautifully relaxing, and the spa was a much-needed treat to get out of the mid-day sun.

During our time in Zanzibar we took a morning trip into  Stone Town. Our guide navigated us through this historical trading town intricate streets, shops and markets and the air was full of the pungent perfumes and exotic spices.

The food in both Kenya and Zanzibar was always delicious. I wasn’t quite sure what sort of cuisine to expect in Kenya but was pleased to find it featured lots of meat, veg and potato type meals which suited most people. I did travel with celiac and all places we ate at, including the bush meals in Kenya, made sure they had specialist meals and bread for her. The food in Zanzibar was mainly fish based which was always freshly caught and flavourful, allowing me to try new things each day.

I arrived home after a week of amazing adventure, smiling from ear to ear with a new special place in my heart for Africa and all its natural beauty.

Katie Goodchild

To experience Katie’s trip have a look at a couple of  itineraries she have put together.

Fly in Masai Mara & Zanzibar

Drive Safari & Zanzibar