‘Once in a lifetime’ Kenia!
What a richness of wildlife and culture this eastern African country has to offer. With its national parks, each unique in its own form, spotting the big 5 is almost guaranteed. If that alone isn’t reason enough to visit Kenya, I’ll give you another one. The culture of the Masai and Samburu people! These traditional indigenous people still live by their own laws. And they withstand. The government tries to have them integrate in modern society, however without success. I’ll tell you more about my adventures with these people later in this blog. Just like the rare moments I had with wildlife in open nature. Do you want to experience a unique trip like this yourself and go home with spectacular photos? Than you’re very welcome to join!
Before I tell you about some special moments we had, let me first tell you something about the best season to visit Kenya. Kenya has a dry season, a wet season and a short wet season. It’s best to avoid the wet season, which is from April until mid-June. The dry season is okay to visit. Even though it’s dry, dusty and hot. We’re talking about January until March and July until September. This is the best time to spot wildlife because nature is dry and arid. Do you want to see the great migration up-close? Than you should be there from July until October. But keep in mind all the jeeps racing around to get the best views. That brings me to the most ideal time to visit Kenya, October until November. This is the low season, which means that you can spend time with all the wildlife in peace and as long as you wish. Nature is luscious green, which gives that extra touch to wildlife photography. Trust me, you can see the animals just as good. If you’re not convinced, check the photo gallery on the site. It’s also not as hot and as expensive as during high season. And those rain showers? You might get 1 or 2 hours of rain a day, or even only once a week. So for us Dutchies, nothing to complain about!
Alright, let’s start at the beginning. Together with Julius I went on a 17 day trip. And we had a mission. Turning Kenya inside out, searching for the most special places for photography. Julius is, like many other Kenyans, a wildlife specialist and knows every park from corner to corner. With his wildlife expertise and my photography knowledge, we complement each other, which makes unique images that even surprised Julius with his 25 years of experience. And above all, we had lots of fun!
Okay, enough about that. Back to adventure. Let’s start with the Samburu people and national park. I spent some time with the Samburu people to better understand their lifestyle and habits. They live in small huts build by the women, that withstand up to 6 years. By then, the entire village moves to a new location to start all over again. They only possess their homes, colorful clothing and jewellery, nothing else. They mainly live of milk and meat from their cattle and ingredients found in nature. The men patrol and protect their village and cattle. The women take care of the children and do the cooking. Life can be so simple! They love traditional song and dance, which is their way of welcoming and thanking you. Before marriage the men get the role of ‘warrior’. They learn to survive in the wild nature and learn how to protect their village. They are stars at throwing their spears and traditional orugume! Not so long ago every warrior had to prove his masculinity by overpowering and killing a lion. Luckily, they don’t practice this habit any longer. It were warriors that I joined during my trip. It turned out I’m bad at throwing spears, but then again they’re bad in photography. But together, we managed to use the magical lighting of the sunset and their beautiful land to catch some gorgeous pictures.
The Samburu National Park is a true gem. Gorgeous landscapes that only get more gorgeous when the animals get in sight. Gigantic herds of elephants parade through the grass and you don’t know where to look. It is this time of year when you can see these big herds. There’s enough to eat for everyone. Once it gets dry and arid, they split up because there is a shortage of food. The lions make their rounds like tough rulers and giraffes gracefully stride from tree to tree. It’s a true delight to watch these beautiful animals in their own habitat. A big recommendation it is!
Actually, all parks are recommended, they all have something unique to offer. Like Solio Ranch. With a great amount of rhinos it offers something completely different. You drive through vast landscapes and hilly areas. When you drive through the yellow acacia woods with its gorgeous lakes, you think you’re in a fairy tale. You won’t find elephants here, but the rhinos make up for that. Antelopes, giraffes, lions…you’ll all find it here. It’s the combination of diverse landscapes and wildlife that make this park a must-see.
Lake Nakuru, in the famous Great Rift Valley, is another gem. There are several lakes in this area, like Baringo and Bogoria. Once, all of them were a real haven for millions of flamingos. However, the changed water quality caused a decrease in number and now there are only a couple thousand left. But it’s still an amazing sight. You can only hope that nature recovers so this pink phenomenon returns. Luckily Lake Nakuru has more to offer than flamingos and that’s worth a visit too. The rising water in this time of year gives you amazing views on the east side of the lake. Large areas of dead forest are submerged, a feast for the eye. Besides all the wildlife you can find here, you’ll also have breathtaking views from the hilltops.
The showpiece of Kenya, better known as Masai Mara, has everything. The Masai culture, the gorgeous landscapes and the Big Five. What else do you want? I stayed a few days in the national park and an entire week with the Masai people. As soon as you enter the park you can keep your camera ready for action. Even though it’s a vast area, you’ll find lots of wildlife in a relative small area. Like the lions and leopards that I found, living next to each other like neighbors. Or the leopard couple that I spent two days with. They only spend one week a year together to mate, than they go their separate ways again. It’s an astonishing spectacle. Having nothing but respect and admiration for these athletic predators, they let us come close. It’s amazing how they keep their balance on even the smallest branches and they don’t have any problems mating on them. One week of mating as much as possible… The female becomes in heat almost every hour and with a pervasive growl she lets the male know to get in action. A few seconds, and some loving bites from the male, the action is over and all is calm again. But of course the Masai Mara has lots more to offer. Regularly we rushed off to admire the spotted lions and cheetahs. This park is also the place to be for the great migration. Between July and October, the wildebeests try to cross the Masai Mara river. Without being cought by waiting crocodiles. It’s obvious why the Masai Mara is Kenya’s showpiece.
Alright, Masai culture. I spent a week at Nairoshi Foundation in the heart of the surrounding Masai villages. Not only did I learn about the way the Masai people live, I also was touched by the living conditions. Don’t get me wrong, they choose how they live and their happy with it. Their lives are similar to the Samburu people, as you could read earlier. Their clothing is different and their huts are more solid so they hold up for a longer period of time. The government tries to persuade the Masai to send their kids to school. Families consist of multiple children and some of them go to school now, but most of them don’t. There’s a lack of support and after they finished school most of them go back to living the Masai life. Even if they want to, there’s not enough money to go to college. At a young age, a lot of girls are forced in an arranged marriage. Early pregnancy, I’m talking about ages between 14 and 18, forces them to stay at home. The Nairoshi Foundation supports these kids after school, which is often rewarded with kids graduating high school. Sponsors around the world support the students financially, giving them a chance to find good jobs. This week I’ve seen lots of kids passing by. No matter where you are in the world, kids are the same everywhere. Naughty, with twinkling eyes… They play with footballs, made out of paper and tape. Shoes that have holes in them and raggedy clothes. They don’t have a private place, they share rooms that are made out of clay, and sleep on goat’s skin. The Masai choose this way of life and they’re happy. I hope they can stay like this for many generations to come, it would be a waste to see this culture disappear. However, the kids don’t always choose this life and it’s a good thing they are offered options to live differently too.
Touched by the conditions I’m determined to support some of these kids. And maybe you would like to support too. Please send me a message if you do, I’m happy to think about options.
So, once in a lifetime Kenya! An experience I’ll never forget. I’ve chosen the best locations for you and you’re more than welcome to join on this trip!
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