Ex-VJ Ramona Arena decided to traverse Kenya for 50 days. We decided to follow.
50 days in the bush is no easy task but throw in some of the best travel gadgets in the world and jungle accomodation to die for and it starts seeming like a pleasant enough affair.
We started from Nairobi, headed to the misty mountains in the north and then visited the sea. We saved the beasties for the last and we suggest you do the same. Our travel route, broadly speaking, was Nairobi-Mt. Kenya-Diani-Lamu-Shaba-Masaai Mara. Comprende?
Enough talk. Let's hit the road.
The Hills have highs
The name Kenya came from the Kamba tribe’s name for Mount Kenya – ‘Kinyaa’. The tribes around the mountain still pray to it. Standing at 5199 metres with snow-covered peaks all year around, the mountain looks divine alright. The best part? It’s just 150km from the capital city of Nairobi – hop into a taxi, listen to some Toto and four hours later, you’ll be gazing up at the mountain, shivering slightly.
The climate is typical equatorial, which translates to winter every night and summer every day. Temperatures fluctuate a lot, especially on the lower slopes, so definitely pack in a few extra layers. Despite having the heavy tag of Africa’s Second Highest Peak, the mountain is relatively easy to climb. There are even some walking routes that take 2-3 days and give bragging rights for a lifetime.
the sea calls us home
The Kenyan coast stretches for 536km along the Indian Ocean. Think uninterrupted seaside forests, white sands and blue waters. The most prominent city on the coast is Mombasa, the city we all know now thanks to Inception and Halo. A mere hour away from Nairobi by flight, Mombasa needs to be done for the food, the music scene and of course, for the sea. Well connected via land, air and water, Mombasa serves as a great base for covering the coast of Kenya.
Where the wild things are
All things said and done, it all boils down to this: Kenya has some of the most magnificent animals on the planet and the safari experience here is unparalleled. 300km from Nairobi is the Shaba National Reserve. It’s a 45-minute flight away from the capital, but we recommend a 5-hour picturesque drive around Mt. Kenya. The crown jewel, though, the Sistine Chapel of Kenya, is the Masaai Mara National Reserve. Save this one for last. Kenyan wildlife has two distinct categories – The Special Five and the Big Five. The Special Five – Beisa Oryx, Garenuk, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe and Grevy’s Zebra – are found in abundance in the Shaba National Reserve, while the Big Five – Lion, Cheetah, Elephant, African Buffalo and the Rhinoceros- frequent the Masaai Mara National Reserve.
The only way to live
Kenya, one of the top tourist spots of the world, obviously has its share of great hotels. We won’t give you a list of five star accommodation that you can find anywhere. We will, however, suggest the one place you have to stay at. Wildlife is the quintessential Kenyan experience and what better way to take the jungle in than a luxury tent? Feast your eyes on the Sarova Mara Game Camp.
Located in the heart of the Masaai Mara Game Reserve in South West Kenya, the Mara Game Camp is just a 40-minute flight away from Nairobi. The property is surrounded by jungles and streams and it is not uncommon to see elephants and baboons from your window.
You’d be hard-pressed to do luxury tents better than this – light beige canvas with large ‘windows’, spectacular view, wooden flooring and a permanent roof. All tents have en-suite bathrooms, hot showers, mini-bar... the works. There is no room service. Instead, all meals are served ‘al fresco’ at the Isokun restaurant, overlooking the main pool and the forest. The Camp grows its own produce and prides itself on an extensive cellar of imported wines. Rooms start from ₹10,500 per person, per night. Book directly from sarovahotels.com
1. Panasonic Toughbook
The jungle can be rough. Dainty little ultrabooks are fine for the city but venture out of Nairobi and suddenly the dust/water/wilderness takes its toll. Make way for, the very appropriately named, Toughbook. The Panasonic Toughbook is the world’s lightest and thinnest semi-rugged laptop in its class. It features a spill-resistant magnesium alloy design, a hard drive heater, a dedicated GPS and 4G LTE. An astounding 11 hours of battery and a choice of Core i5 or i7 processors entail you can take this baby here anywhere on God’s green earth and do anything with it. (₹1,39,000, in.panasonictoughbook.asia)
Nonprofits, seasoned hikers and mountaineers all swear by this little magic pipe which burst onto the global stage ten years ago. Clean drinking water has been a problem in Africa for centuries and the Lifestraw solves it with absurd simplicity. It’s a 310mm portable water filter that removes 99.9% of waterborne parasites; you can stick LifeStraw in any pond, river or lake and sip clean water directly through it. (₹750, amazon.in)
3. Kingston MobileLite
SD card reader? Powerbank? Wireless media streamer? Router? Too many devices for that small backpack? Kingston’s got you covered. The 2nd generation MobileLite does all of these things and takes the space of a small paperback book. (₹3400, amazon.in)
4. GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition
No adventure trip is complete without badass documentation of the said adventure trip. And no badass documentation is complete with a GoPro. The Hero4 Black Edition shoots 4K resolution videos and 12MP burst photos at a blistering 30 frames per second. New night modes, built in WiFi and Bluetooth and an all new audio system should make this the first item on your Packing For Kenya list. (₹43,990, amazon.in)
Pack your bags
Planning your trip already? Allow us to lend a helping hand.
Best time to visit
January-March and June-October
Average of 27°C at the coast, 21°C to 27°C around Nairobi. Gets chilly during the nights.
Due to its proximity to the Equator, Kenya’s temperatures fluctuate wildly. Pack sunblock, hat, sunglasses, a warm jacket and insect repellant.
Well, there you have it. You have the route, the inside info, the gadgets and the travel tricks for covering Kenya like never before.
Kenya is a kind place for the well-prepared tourist so follow our guide, make one of your own and we'll see you there in October.