The full safari experience

If you’ve set your sights on a Kenyan safari, it’s alluring to track the masses heading to the Maasai Mara with its huge wildebeest migration across the Serengeti. However, there’s another option available just a few hours’ drive from Nairobi, the Amboseli National Park. The park is most famous for elephants, but has a wide array of animals to keep you entertained and the backdrop of Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro, my morning view from the Kibo Safari Camp. Both sunrise and sunset offered outstanding views.

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African warriors from Maasai tribe, Mount Kilimanjaro on the background, central Kenya, Africa. Maasai tribe inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and they are related to the Samburu.

We didn’t have to wait long before our first sighting, the dusty road leading to the park is lined with trees that attract giraffes, munching on leaves. One of the giraffes lifted its head to get a closer look at us, snorted and soon moved on when the camera came out. The giraffe was clearly shy.

Before entering Amboseli, we visited one of the Maasai villages spread around the area. We paid £20 each and spent an hour and a half smoking (it involved donkey dung), chatting, laughing, jumping, dancing and spending money with the Maasai tribe. We were invited into one of the huts and I was allowed to sit on the bed. Now how’s that for a unique experience?

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We took an afternoon safari, arranged by our new friends from Kibo and soon found ourselves up close and personal with elephants, zebras, Maasai giraffes, gazelles, impala, wildebeest, buffaloes, ostriches, a spotted hyena and our all-time favourite the baboons, lazing around a deserted holiday resort. A few years ago it was full of human life, but the baboons moved in, kicked out the holidaymakers and staff and moved themselves in. They’re breeding at such a rapid rate that I wouldn’t be surprised if Amboseli becomes as famous for baboons as it is for elephants in a few years’ time. They’ve started to move into the resort across the street. Amboseli is also home to hundreds of different species of birds plus lions and cheetahs. We didn’t see any of the cats; they tend to sleep a lot and get up when they’re hungry.

By the time we were ready to head back to Kibo (luckily only a five minutes’ drive from the park entrance) we’d spotted more animals than expected and taken enough photos to kill off three devices. We felt like safari kings.

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Elephant in front of Mount Kilimanjaro & Mawenzi Peak

Later that evening while having dinner and demolishing another gin and tonic, we decided against our scheduled 6am safari and decided to get up and take in the view of Kilimanjaro instead. As I stepped out on to the porch I was blown away with the mountains majestic beauty. I sat quietly for an hour and watched the mountain change colour while I downed coffee after coffee, did I mention that I’m not a morning person? By 7.30 am clouds began to slowly engulf Kilimanjaro, but I was buzzing from the serene hour that I spent in awe.

Kilimanjaro is the tallest volcano in Africa at 5,900m. It’s just across the border in Tanzania, but Amboseli offers the best views, the very park is defined by the mountain.

Elephants love Amboseli and that morning driving back into the park a large family blocked the road ahead of us. There’s something intimidating about the sheer size of the animals, but at no time did we feel unsafe. The leader of the pack slowly approached our vehicle, he was keeping his eye on us and protecting his family. As soon as we reversed, he moved out of the way and allowed the young ones to wander around again. A word of warning, if the elephants’ ears go back get moving fast.

Websites advise against going to Amboseli during the months of June to September for lack of animals. We visited in June and found it difficult to keep track on the amount of animals we saw. This part of Kenya is suitable all year round, our advice, ignore the guidebooks and go when the park is quieter. We only saw a handful of cars both days, which made our safaris even more special.

 Late morning and it was time to head back to Nairobi. As we turned our vehicle into the city we headed straight into a protest against the electoral commission that involved a lot of tear gas, water cannons and stones, but hey that’s another story.

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Kibo Safari Camp

Regrettably we spent just one night at the camp, we could have stayed for two weeks solid. The 73 luxury tents (more were being built while we were visiting) come with locally designed comfortable beds, flush toilets, showers and a wash basin. The rooms are nicely decorated, spacious and authentic and each has its own patio area facing Mount Kilimanjaro.

The five-star delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner were not to be missed and the bar was fully stocked and a great place to relax after a long day. By the time we reached the bar we hadn’t been to bed for 40 hours and after a couple of hours talking gibberish and forgetting what I was talking about I decided to throw the towel in and head to bed and what a great night sleep it was.

The attentiveness and friendliness of the staff is something that we haven’t encountered before. Nothing was too much trouble, they were happy to help with everything, including plans for out night in Nairobi. Would we return? Definitely, Kibo shouldn’t be missed.