My boyfriend and I did the 7 day / 6 nights safari, going to Ngutuni, Taita saltlick, Ziwani sanctuary, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East with out wonderful guide Jackson, and we both had the most incredible experience – I highly recommend not only visiting Kenya to safari, but to use KET Safaris for experience, sightings, price, standard of hotels, a private tour guide (no sharing with strangers – yock!).
TIP 1 :
On arrival buy a map of Kenya and a poster that shows you pictures and names of all the animals. It was so much easier to remember what was what after seeing one of these in the hotels.
Buy a little headlamp each – you can get them on Amazon for a fiver. Most of the camps turn off the power at midnight, so it can be difficult to navigate to the bathroom in the pitch dark!
TIP 3: DEET!
Get the 60%, 70%… 80% eek.. Deet. Deet early and Deet often. None of your environmentally friendly nonsense.
Buy a great camera – its so worth it putting all your pictures from this wonderful holiday together and making a photo book. Super special 🙂
Rainy season – less a tip and more so a note. We went in the rainy season and it hardly rained at all, we had beautiful weather. So I didn’t get to wear my Safari explorer rain coat at all!!
Down to business..
I rate my safari experience with KET Safaris 9/10 – which is REALLY high – and I’ll tell you why they lose one point later. I’ll cover how I found and chose KET, the booking process, the reserves, hotels, tour guide and sightings.
To put my review in context, my boyfriend and I are 26/27. We have a penchant for relatively luxurious travel, far beyond our means, which is usually satiated by friends parents with luxury villas / boats etc. A lack of Kenyan contacts meant we were going to actually have to dig deep ourselves to fund our extravagance for once! I wanted a high standard of safari that wouldn’t leave me needing to go back to do “all the things I missed out on this time”. Compared to our friends I would say we have a relatively high risk tolerance, in that we don’t do package holidays and have successfully relied on Google Maps and a good four-wheel-drive to get us out of scrapes in the past.
After all that, you’ll see from my photos that I look like a bit of a pansy, and I am. And I believe that because KET always do private tours (its just you and your own friends / partners in the van) it caters for ALL holiday makers.
So lets begin.
1) PROJECT: FIND AMAZING SAFARI TO MEET MINE AND MY BOYFRIENDS EXTREMELY DEMANDING AND DIVERSE REQUIREMENTS.
We agreed we wanted to go to Kenya, and to go on Safari. I had LOADS of time on my hands so I researched, emailed, phoned etc every safari tour operator I could find for a Kenyan Safari. My boyfriend wanted to see Masai Mara, and I wanted to see Ziwani and Amboseli.
My initial plan was to fly to Nairobi (wait for it..) rent a car, drive 4.5 hrs to Masai Mara, stay 2 nights, drive 8.5 hrs to amboseli, stay 2 nights, drive 7 hrs to diani, chill out for 5 days, drive 2.7hrs to Ziwani, maybe take in a day trip of Tsavo, and finish with a 5 hr drive to Nairobi. Obviously this RIDICULOUS itinerary was overruled, and I sought to develop a more conventional itinerary, without self-drive.
My definite wants were Ziwani, Amboseli, Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Most places offering 4 day trips for what was averaging as around £2k per person (ex flights and all the other parts of your trip of course). I couldn’t believe it when I found KET offering a SEVEN day safari (wowsers!) for what was coming in at £750 GBP per person. I didn’t even look to negotiate I was so happy with the price (prices may have changed since April 2011). I transferred a $500 deposit to Paul. On arrival in Kenya (we holidayed for the first week and safari’d in week 2) Paul phoned to see how all was and to make sure I remembered our meeting point in Mombasa. I paid the balance in cash to Jackson who picked us up on time from our hotel, and off we went! All very smooth and happy 🙂
Now, price is NOT everything. There are a number of very important factors when booking a safari and you need to confirm the answers before booking. Happily, KET gave all the right answers and completely delivered throughout our trip. The factors are:
1. STANDARD OF VEHICLE
Is it a Landcruiser or Hiace Van or Other. We had a 7 seater Hiace Van all to ourselves – this was wonderful for so many reasons: You can stand up ALL day during the safaris and not be in anyones way, feeling the wind through your hair and getting really close to the animals, useful for setting up a tripod shot when the van is stopped, someone can sleep in the back if there has been hours of travelling.
The only BAD POINT about the van (actually the ONLY bad point about the whole KET experience, which is net a good thing, that it was just this) was the absolutely awful suspension… (shudder). You are driving on the worst roads you can imagine. Worse that that, the bad roads are more painful than where theres NO road because of the broken tarmac. Between reserves, you can be driving for 6 hours, and the blaring rattling of the windows, constant shaking gets a bit much. I (stupidly) didn’t have a proper protective case for my macbook, so for one of the really rocky journeys I actually held it mid air for four hours because I felt the hard drive was taking a battering.. Anyway, not to dwell on that too much. Thats why I dock 1 point which brings us on to factor 2.
2) HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE SHARING MY VAN:
Most companies sell four to eight seats on every van. Thats a lot! KET only do private so you’ll never be with strangers, and you probably wont appreciate how good it is until you pull up alongside another van at a border crossing or something and they’re all sweating, and cramped and hot and cross looking. Not like us – delighted with life!
3) WHAT IS THE NAME OF EACH HOTEL THAT ILL BE STAYING IN
Trip advisor search all of them. KET chose really good hotels and we were very happy with them. Critiquing each individually is far outside the scope of this review, but suffice to say, I was very happy that KET chose a high standard of hotel at every reserve and (what I really liked) was that our guide Jackson had a visibly really strong relationship with everyone at the hotels. It made you feel really looked after.
4) WHATS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
We had every meal paid, you just pay for the wine etc if you want it. We also got hour long massages at Ziwani for $20 each (nice!!) which was well worth it. KET also paid for a night viewing at Ziwani and a walking safari (…also at Ziwani – I LOVED Ziwani!)
5) HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE HAS THE GUIDE
You’re dependent on this person to notice the cheetah in the long grass, tell you the names of the 7billion breeds of antelope (or so it feels..) tell you the names of the really random stuff that you’ve never seen before. Also, you want a popular guide; not popular with tourists but hooked up on the guide circuit because they all share radios and sightings. So by default, the more friends he has the more animals you’ll see! Jackson was fantastic – I really like him both as a guide and as a really great person. On safari he was super hooked up. On our second day, leaving Ngutuni, we were the first van out for the day (it was pretty quiet being low season, April) but we were first to see the Lion. Jackson shared out nugget of wisdom and I feel it paid dividends in the sighting tips we got in return! As a person, Jackson is just a genuinely happy, good natured, good guy! I am really happy that Jackson was our guide – I hope Oisin and I didn’t drive him too crazy!
He was a safe experienced guide too, and he went to the ends of the earth to make sure I got the most amazing photos. One such was a shot (well, probably fifty shots) of a massive herd of elephants crossing Kilimanjaro. Incredible experience. Not just that, he could read the animals behaviour, and was always positioned for a quick getaway if they decided to charge!! (Key skill!)
Jackson knew the name of everything! So much so that my boyfriend actually thought he was making it up, until he showed us a book proving he was right! It was April, we were often reminded that “This is the rainly season, but in September there are thousands of Lion cubs right here!” – I guess he was tempering our expectations but we saw LOADS! Lions, Cheetas, cheetas hunting!, Giraffes, loads of elephants (and super cute baby elephants!) buffalo, antelope, secretary bird, vultures, hyenas, jackals, zebra, bats, cheeky monkeys, wildebeest, massive dung beetles and iguanas. Phenomenal.
Here is a quick rating of the safaris:
Ngutuni – first place we went, but I have particularly fond memories. Our room looked right onto the waterhole. The owners of the hotel were just lovely and I would say we saw the greatest mix of animals at Ngutuni – highly recommend.
Taita Hills – Mmmm. Meh. I didnt like the hotel. The grass was very long so didnt see much BUT that was the day that we had an amazing elephant crossing experience and I got a picture of a Mum monkey cradling her tiny baby monkey – cute! Actually my only thing about taita hills was there was a funny (bad funny) smell in the restaurant. I dont know why that made me not like the place.
Ziwani – HEAVEN! Stunning, great food, amazing friendly staff, cheap massages, Hippos right there in the swamp in front of (and this is the best part) PROPER LUXURY TENTED CAMP! Wow. I loved it so much. You will never see a starry night like ziwani.
Amboseli – Amboseli is in the shade of Killimanjaro which is pretty amazing. Its a basin where all the animals come together. Plus, a masai tribe live nearby so you can visit if you want. We didn’t. I think Amboseli was great, but in the hotel, the manager was a bit of a crazy person and railed on staff in front of guests, but Im not a fan off, and its also a tented camp, but they’re not in as good nick as Ziwani. Realistically though, anywhere was going to a come down for me after Ziwani. We experienced the most amazing elephant crossing here. Great day!
Tsavo West – Here they have a cheetah trap set so definite sightings. Plus, one night we were all sitting out on the verandah waiting for the cheetah and it was dark, and suddenly a herd of elephants emerged to bathe in the waterhole.. Cause it was so dusky it was a really beautiful sight.
Tsavo East – This hotel is cool! Its somehow really high up over the plains and theres a massive waterhole where so much wildlife comes to bathe all day long. Its a really relaxing sight in between game drives (in summary, you have daily game drives circa 7-10, chill out and lunch and then afternoon 4-7). We had a super close encounter with a giraffe which was pretty spectacular!
If I was to come back I would like to visit Masai Mara, and if we do, I will definitely bok with KET Safaris look to have Jackson as our guide – thank you Jackson and Paul for an incredible experience. Writing this has reminded me of all of our wonderful adventures.
In conclusion, if you are in any way hesitant, put those doubts away and book! You’ll be so happy you did!
If you’re interested, as a brief outline of our itinerary, we got monarch flights to mombasa, rented a Pajero from Avis at mombasa airport, rented a 3 bed house with pool and cook called ‘Topi Villa’ in Diani (£85 p/n), chilled out for a week, stayed one night at the castle royal in Mombasa (awful hotel), did the week safari, stayed in a suite in the Royal Court hotel (fabulous) and then flew back to the UK.
Date of Posting: 31 March 2015
Posted By: Orla