Unable to stay away from the magic of the bush any longer, our Africa Destination Manager Harriet recently travelled to Kenya. Here, she tells us what it’s like to travel to her favourite continent in the times of Covid-19.
This year, like everyone else, we had our travel plans cancelled and had very little faith that we would get away at all… let alone to Africa. The idea took seed in my head only 10 days before I travelled, after a conversation with one of our popular lodges in Kenya. They told me of empty parks and incredible wildlife sightings, not to mention truly spectacular opportunities to see the Great Migration in action, a yearly migration of thousands of wildebeest and zebra that includes treacherous river crossings over crocodile-infested waters.
I decided it was time to do some research and was able to organise everything fairly quickly. Travel to Kenya requires that you provide a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 96 hours before you travel, no different to most European destinations. Along with that, an online form must be completed noting your flight seat number once you have checked in, along with some in-country travel details. A fairly simple process.
With direct flights straight into Nairobi, Kenya is one of Africa’s most accessible safari destinations. The airport in Nairobi was potentially the most organised I have ever seen it, and we sailed through immigration and baggage claim. Our on-the-ground team met us and sprayed down our luggage before placing it in our transfer vehicle, and we were away.
Our first stop was Hemingways Nairobi, a wonderful city hotel that dealt with our arrival in a safe and efficient way, checking our certificate before we were allowed to enter. I felt very secure in the knowledge that they were taking the process seriously.
The following day we were up early to travel onto the iconic Masai Mara where we stayed in the luxurious Angama Mara, which is located upon an escarpment offering some of the most spectacular views of the Mara that I have ever seen. Managing the Africa portfolio here at Scott Dunn it is fair to say that I have experienced some amazing safaris over the years, but I was truly astonished at how exclusive this experience felt. Every wildlife sighting was our own. A leopard and lion showdown, a lioness and her young cubs, and of course, sightings of the aforementioned Great Migration which is usually tailed by a large number of game vehicles. At one point we were driving through the migration herds with thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebra grazing on the vast savannah, and there wasn’t another car in sight. This alone made the journey worth it.
After a spectacular safari, we hopped over to Diani Beach, Kenya’s most popular coastal spot. We stayed at Alfajiri in one of their three exclusive private villas, an ideal option for families travelling in a Covid-safe bubble. Here we had our own private pool, private access to the beach and a team of dedicated staff who again took the safety precautions very seriously. We spent our days walking along empty stretches of white sandy beaches, visiting popular snorkel spots and lounging by our own pool. I have to admit, I completely forgot Covid-19 even existed – what more could you aim for on a holiday.
After two weeks of pure escapism, it was time to return to reality. There were two main questions I received when I returned from Kenya. Firstly, did I feel safe? Yes, I can honestly say I was amazed at how efficient the processes were in Kenya, but at the same time, it was the first time in months I also had the opportunity to leave Covid behind.
Secondly, people wanted to know if the two-week quarantine when I returned home was worth it. Again, my answer is a firm yes. Kenya has always been great value for money in terms of safari, but due to how exclusive it currently feels and the lengths that the lodges are going to to make you feel safe and secure, it is very much worth the quarantine period if you are able to work from home.
If like me, you can’t resist the lure of Africa any longer and you feel comfortable travelling during these current times, then Christmas in Kenya would be the perfect way to end an unusual year. We can organise private charters to get you around the country and put you up in beautiful exclusive-use houses in various parks and reserves, allowing you and your family to travel while keeping your bubble intact. Or, looking further ahead, now’s a good time to book to witness the Great Migration next year. From July to September the migration enters the vast Masai Mara, crossing the border from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. This is always the most popular time to travel, but availability next year looks to be in even shorter supply than normal as our favourite lodges are already largely booked up due to this year’s postponements.
If you want to reignite your wanderlust and support local communities and conservation efforts that rely on tourism to survive, Kenya is ready and waiting and there is a lot to look forward to.