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Bella’s Kenyan Discovery

A remarkable blend of wildlife-rich parks, verdant rainforests, and pristine coastline, Kenya is truly enticing. One of our Travel Designers, Bella, recently explored this East African country with her family, travelling from the glistening Indian Ocean to Laikipia’s wilderness land. Hear from Bella about her experience.

Lamu

On Kenya’s breathtaking east coast lies the heavenly Lamu archipelago, a scattering of islands where it feels like time is standing still. The three largest islands are Lamu, the coralline island of Manda, and the lesser explored Pate. These idyllic islands have been attracting the curious traveller for decades, yet still maintain their wonderful authenticity.

Proudly traditional and almost entirely Muslim, Lamu is an endearing destination to discover. ‘Pole pole,’ meaning ‘slowly slowly’ in Swahili truly sums up the atmosphere of this secluded haven.

Kenya safari, Dhow sailing boat in Lamu, Kenya Kenyan safari experience, boat in Lamu, Kenya
Kenyan safari experience, market in Lamu, Kenya Kenyan safari experience, Lamu, Kenya

Just a short 1h 30 flight from Wilson airport, the journey to Lamu itself is memorable. Sprawling coastal views transform into an extraordinary aerial visual of the archipelago, an intriguing network of islands, mangroves, sand banks, and mainland. Touching down in the quaint Manda airport, a short wander down to the pier leads you to a selection of boats and willing captains, eager to transport you across the water.

Cruising gently along the coastline opens your eyes to the bustle of Lamu Old Town, the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in east Africa. Constructed from stone and mangrove timber, the town oozes an ancient atmosphere through its busy alleyways. The Old Town is characterised by buildings which feature gorgeous inner courtyards, verandas, and large carved wooden doors.

With no vehicles on the archipelago, Lamu’s delightful simplicity shines through with donkeys and boats the predominant mode of transport. Passing the palm tree lined shoreline, our final destination was Shela village, a heavenly labyrinth of private houses and beautiful mosques, all connected by narrow lines which rise steeply behind the waterfront. Here, we stayed at the wonderful Coconut House

Amidst the maze, discover art galleries, lovely boutiques, local vendors, and restaurants serving tasty cuisine. And the ambience? Utterly relaxing. During the heat of the day most travellers delight in siestas at home, or seek a cool breeze at the beach. By 5pm they emerge (as did we) to fill the ocean front restaurants, each of which is blessed with refreshing sea air and gorgeous views. Peponi is a sophisticated spot, teeming with people who venture for cocktails, excellent food, and a lively atmosphere throughout its bougainvillaea-covered terrace.

Kenyan safari experience, Dhow boat in Lamu, Kenya

My highlight from Lamu was spending Christmas Day on a traditional dhow boat, sailing through the mangroves and beyond to Manda island. We spotted dolphins and had fantastic snorkelling opportunities, before indulging in a fresh grouper cooked on board by our captain. It was a unique Christmas to say the least.

Bella Straker
Travel Designer

Borana Conservancy

Bidding farewell to the Indian Ocean, we flew to Nairobi and embarked on the first section of our road trip, driving from the city north towards Nanyuki. Passing tropical landscapes, local towns, and bustling markets selling fresh produce, driving through Kenya’s beautiful scenery is eye-opening… albeit quite hairy!

Our end destination was Borana Conservancy, a 32,000-acre conservation area that is located on the Laikipia Plateau at the foot of Mount Kenya. The wildlife-rich conservancy is comprised of sprawling grasslands, flanked by ancient indigenous forests to the south. Once a cattle ranch, now an extraordinary haven for wildlife and the location for numerous safari properties, Borana actively works with neighbouring communities to allow managed grazing within the conservancy.

Undoubtedly its biggest conservation success story, in 2013 Borana introduced 21 black rhino, the first time rhinos had roamed here for more than 50 years. In collaboration with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the adjoining fences were dropped to allow for a continuous habitat for rhino. Now, the Lewa-Borana landscape is home to over 200 black and white rhino, making it one of the best places in Kenya to witness these magnificent creatures. The wider Laikipia-Ewaso ecosystem holds a remarkable diversity of large mammal species, Borana of which boasts elephant, rhino, reticulated giraffe, grevy’s zeba, and other endangered species.

Based at the Dyer family’s house which has breathtaking views across the conservancy and beyond to Mount Kenya, we were lucky to explore the incredible landscape with the owners. Our game drives were exceptional – we encountered multiple elephant herds, lots of rhinos, ostrich chicks, hartebeest, oryx, and jackals. The occasional snapshot of wild African species grazing the same plain as horses and cattle was a wonderful sighting, which further highlights Borana’s holistic approach to ecosystem integrity.

Kenya safari experience, Arijiju

We had a lovely evening at one of Borana’s exceptional private houses, Arijiju, a unique property that is inspired by Ethiopian monasteries. Blending meticulously into its surroundings, Arijiju leaves a small footprint on the landscape and has impressive views across the conservancy. For those seeking a combination of exclusivity, luxury, wellness, and unforgettable safari experiences, Arijiju provides it all. 

Explore Arijiju

Kisima

Our journey continued to Kisima, a 100% Kenyan owned and operated farm which focuses on floriculture and arable crops. With conservation at its core, Kisima’s positive environmental footprint stems from carbon offsetting, water conservation, and responsible farming practices. As well as boasting wildlife, its fantastic position represents a crucial link between Borana Conservancy, Lewa, and Mount Kenya.

I was most intrigued by Kisima’s remarkable floriculture. We visited the main site, the greenhouses of which sprawl for 18.5 hectares, a phenomenal production that grows roses, delphinium, matthiola, and craspedia. These flowers are grown, sustainably harvested, then sold on the international market. Employing more than 400 local Kenyans and promoting gender equality, Kisima Floriculture is not only inspirational, but a beautiful farm to visit with heavenly scents. 

Laikipia

Next on our adventure was Karisia, a wonderfully remote landscape in eastern Laikipia, north of Mount Kenya. The journey took us along the border of Laikipia and Isiolo, past the incredible private conservancy of Ol Jogi. Undoubtedly ‘giraffe country,’ we saw these majestic animals in abundance, and had a memorable moment when two male ostriches ran alongside our car, their vast strides kicking up dust in their wake.  

Travelling deeper and deeper into the bush, we swapped villages and communities for scrubland and wildlife, before arriving at our isolated satellite camp set on the banks of the Ewaso River. Renowned for its unique species and absolute wilderness, our experience in camp presented a secluded feeling, just us and the wild under a big sky. Canvas-style safari tents, bucket showers, and a fantastic team made us feel at home-away-from-home for the next two nights.

Kenya safari experience, camel riding in Karisia Kenya safari experience, guide in Karisia
Kenya safari experience, sundowners in Karisia

The focus of Karisia is outstanding walking safaris led by expert local guides and supported by camels. This peaceful experience enabled us to immerse ourselves in the natural environment, tuning our senses into the surroundings. The Karisia guides were brilliant – each individual had impeccable knowledge on the ecosystem and took pride in educating us on the intricacies of the bush, how each species has a key role to play, however big or small. To rest our legs we took turns riding the camels, Hamish and Kodo, a somewhat grouchy pair! Aside from a particularly amusing experience, the extra height provided us with a unique perspective of the land with expansive visuals across the arid scenery, punctuated by rocky outcrops.

Although we were lucky to encounter species such as dik-diks, gerenuks, zebras, and elephants, northern Kenya is undergoing a severe drought crisis which is affecting the wildlife density of this area, amongst many others. It was intriguing to witness the knock-on effects first-hand, and learn from our guides how it has impacted their local livelihoods. We can only hope that the country receives adequate rainfall following three consecutive failed rainy seasons.

Aberdare National Park

For the final section of our Kenyan adventure, we headed northwest to Nyahururu. Following miles and miles of dry bushland and dirt roads, we started to see smallholdings and increasingly green scenery as we approached the large town. Here the landscape is more luscious, with productive farms, crops, and pastures of livestock.

Our final destination was Aberdare National Park, a largely undiscovered and unspoiled area of land in Kenya’s central highlands. This high-altitude area of land is blanketed in thick forest, and some of the most remarkable trees I have ever seen. Beautiful cedar trees soar into the sky, some of which are 30 foot in circumference.

Kenya safari discovery, hiking in Aberdares

As well as dense rainforest, the Aberdares encompass a range of landscapes, from dramatic peaks, undulating moorlands, deep ravines, breathtaking valleys, and cascading waterfalls.

Following a steep, hair-bend road into the national park, our secluded home for our final nights was Cedar Retreat, a cosy lodge hidden amidst the trees. Wonderfully simplistic in design and operation, here the feeling of remoteness and wild living is prevalent.

Our days were spent soaking in the peace of the forest, dining on hearty cuisine, and venturing out for wilderness walks with our guides who educated us on unique flora and fauna. Although the Aberdares is sparse in game compared to other parts of Kenya, the park is home to an array of wildlife including forest elephants, hyenas, buffalos, colobus monkeys, and leopards. Blessed with a large waterhole on our doorstep, we were lucky to witness incredible elephant behaviour as a herd of 20 individuals frequented the waterhole each day. For travellers seeking excellent hiking adventures and a true feeling of wilderness, Aberdare National Park is incomparable.

In Swahili, the word for safari translates as ‘journey.’ The superb country of Kenya undoubtedly provides a perfect environment from which to create memorable journeys amidst everchanging scenery. Fascinating and diverse, Kenya should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

Stay tuned for more updates from our team’s adventures