Kenya, known for its sanctuaries, reminds us of the few untouched places that solely belong to the fauna.
As I nestled a warm cup of coffee in my hands and sat back in my lazy chair, looking at the herd of zebra that had come to drink water… I couldn't believe that I was still on this planet! Such beauty and peace was just too good to be true. Well, it's no wonder why Kenya is called a dream travel destination and why travellers from all parts of the world keep coming back.
Our trip began in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and Ol Pejeta conservancy situated between the foothills of the Aberdares mountain range and Mt Kenya was our first pit stop. Sweetwaters Tented Camp one of the five accommodation options available within Ol Pejeta was one of the finest we experienced in Kenya.
Located right beside a watering hole, we just had to poke our heads out of our tent to come face-to-face with zebras, rhinos, giraffes, buffalos, warthogs and countless birds that all flocked to the watering hole to quench their thirst. With snowcapped Mt Kenya at a distance this surreal setting was complete.
With a game drive in the morning and early evenings, we were at leisure to spend the rest of the day relaxing and observing the animals going about their everyday activities. Our meals were constantly interrupted and yes it was a welcome interruption as we would run out to see a huge herd of animals at the watering hole.
Game drives brought with them a lot of excitement and anticipation. Day one was a good drive where we got to see a variety of animals but none of the big cats. Eager to see more we chose the option of going on a night game drive, which apparently is possible only in the Ol Pejeta conservancy. While a day game drive is about the sights you see, in comparison a night one is about the sounds you hear. You get this eerie feeling that you are being watched and watched very closely! We encountered our first samba (lion in Swahili) and needless to say we were thrilled. The minute a big cat is spotted the excitement is palpable.
The next day we had lady luck beaming down on us as we not only saw three cheetah attack a herd of zebra, but also came face-to-face with a pride of eight lionesses and their cubs sitting beside a pond. After hours of driving around we had finally got our moment with the big cats and it was worth every bit of the wait.
Having spotted four of the big five, namely the lion, buffalo, rhino and elephant, we were on a hot trail to spot the elusive leopard, easily the most prized sighting on the safari circuit. If spotting animals grazing the grasslands was a treat, our next pit stop, Lake Nakuru, blew our minds away. Situated close to Nakuru town, the shallow alkaline lake plays host to one of the greatest bird spectacles on earth. The large concentration of algae attracts thousands of flamingos, giving the edges of the lake a pink tinge.
Surrounded by bushy grasslands and acacia trees, the very Jurassic Park like setting plays host to a variety of animals, including tree climbing lions. But this time around it was not the simba that stole our hearts, but a herd of 15 giraffe. The setting was perfect. Low lying hills rising out of verdant green acacia forests set against a pristine blue sky. These magnificent creatures emerged from the cluster of trees, crossed the open grasslands in graceful strides right in front of our vehicle and made their way to the lake. It was one of those moments that will never leave me.
Having seen so much we were curious to see how Masai Mara, our last pit stop and really the queen of Kenyan national parks, would be. We were most eager to spot the leopard that had lived up to its reputation of being the most elusive of the big cats. Luckily a leopard had been spotted that very afternoon. A solitary animal was high up in a tree deep in slumber, completely oblivious to the carnival of tourist jeeps and vans that were circling it.
Everyone wanted a better view and to get just that little bit closer. The Mara fulfilled our every desire. We saw solitary lions, lone lionesses, prides of lions and more. We even drove into a herd of hundreds of wildebeest, possibly making their trek back to Tanzania – the last leg of the great migration that the two countries play host to every year. But every experience has that one moment that stands out and for us it was our encounter with the cheetahs on a chilly morning as the sun was coming up. Our driver was informed over the radio about three cheetahs that were sighted.
As we reached the spot and turned off the engine, little did we know that we were right in the middle of their path. The three majestic creatures just ambled alongside our car, completely unbothered by our presence. They walked on and out of our sight, while we just stood there speechless at the sheer beauty of these creatures and revelling in the magic of the moment. Name the animal and we saw it.
In fact we saw so many animals that we didn't even know existed. Kenya to me was not a biology class but a life lesson on how our planet was probably before man started to take over every inch of it. Thankfully there are a few places left on earth that bear testament to the beauty of life and of creation itself.
Currency: Kenyan Shillings, though the US Dollar and Euro are widely accepted
Getting there: Kenyan Airways flies direct from Mumbai to Nairobi (7 times a week); Emirates offers connections to Nairobi via Dubai
Best time to visit: The dry months from January to March. The annual migration takes place between June and September, though exact dates may vary.