Friendly Planet Blog

Through Your Eyes: a Kenya Safari Experience

One of our travelers, Deborah, recently went on our Kenya Safari Express small group tour. When she returned, she shared with us her incredible story–along with some awesome photos! Africa had been on her bucket list for decades and we are so humbled to play a small role in her unforgettable experience in this amazing country!

It’s 6 am three days before Thanksgiving, and my husband and I are sitting in a small airport café in Frankfurt, Germany sipping coffee while we wait for our next flight. While there, a couple from Texas sat down next to us to chat. As with any airport conversation, the ‘where are you going’ question popped up, and I excitedly said – Kenya on safari! After a split second of stunned silence, the woman said “I wasn’t expecting that”…to be quite frank, I wasn’t expecting it either.

Africa has been at the top of my bucket list for over 30 years. My master bedroom has an African theme, and I always watch NatGeo hoping to see another lion, cheetah, leopard — you name it, I want to see it. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with Africa, but I know one thing, I was not going to leave this life without stepping foot on the vast African savannah and seeing these incredible creatures with my own eyes. It was time to scratch this off my bucket list.

I knew planning this trip would pose some challenges, but I’ve always done it myself. From the Greek Islands to Costa Rica, I’ve organized everything, but this one was different. I needed a little help and that’s when I decided to turn to Friendly Planet.

I learned of Friendly Planet while in the Galapagos Islands. A fellow traveler from South Carolina gave me the information, and I decided to check them out. In my search, I found the Kenya Safari Express hit all the key places I wanted to see and within the price range I wanted to spend, so I signed up and started counting the days. When the time arrived, I was more than ready to head to Kenya.

When we landed in Nairobi, we were greeted by Mercy, an enthusiastic young woman with an electric smile. We chatted a little and then she introduced us to Youseff, our driver, and that’s when our incredible journey really began.

After a restful night in Nairobi and a morning of getting to know our traveling partners, we were off to Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphans’ Nursery. What an incredible place! These babies, orphaned by drought, illness or poachers, come here to heal and grow. They eventually are re-introduced into the wild where they live out their lives as nature intended.

These blankets keep the baby elephants warm at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi

These blankets keep the baby elephants warm at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi

Once our visit with the babies was over, we set out for the Great Rift Valley and Lake Naviasha. The terrain was crazy and due to an accident up the road and an hour’s long line up, we had no choice but to go off road four wheeling. OMG what a ride!

When we arrived at Naviasha Sopa Lodge, we couldn’t believe the natural beauty of the place and the number of animals roaming freely around the property. From giraffes, my new favorite animal, to zebras, waterbucks and monkeys, we saw them all. After a wonderful buffet lunch, we walked around the grounds. We even had the opportunity to take a boat ride in the lake where we saw a pod of sleeping hippos and some amazing birds.

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At the Naviasha Sopa Lodge, you can have a cup of coffee on your patio and watch this giraffe family enjoy a relaxing stroll.

After two days, it was time to head to my dream place – the Masai Mara, where we stayed at the Keekorok Lodge. Although not quite as beautiful as the previous place, it held its own charm. Once we finished our lunch, it was time for our first game drive.

Not more than three minutes into the drive, I spotted my first lioness. Youseff told me that seeing a lion this early was bound to give us good luck and boy did it ever! Over the course of three game drives and one balloon ride, we saw more than two dozen lions, three leopards, five cheetahs, a black rhino and of course the usual suspects: zebras, giraffes, elephants, waterbucks and other incredible creatures like ostriches and water buffalo. We even saw a troop of about 40 baboons run by us.

At the Naviasha Sopa Lodge, you also can take a nice boat ride and see some very beautiful birds. These Crowned Cranes found something very interesting in the bushes.

At the Naviasha Sopa Lodge, you also can take a nice boat ride and see some very beautiful birds. These Crowned Cranes found something very interesting in the bushes.

Our sunrise balloon ride on the Masai Mara

Our sunrise balloon ride on the Masai Mara

Afternoon game drive on the Masai Mara, we saw this beautiful girl waking up!

Afternoon game drive on the Masai Mara, we saw this beautiful girl waking up!

After our afternoon drives, my new friends and I would head for the Hippo Bar. Yes, that’s the name, and yes, there were hippos in the little lake below the bar. In the late afternoon when the hippos woke up, the babies would play tag by running around this big grassy mound just off the lake. What a joy to watch!

Sadly, our journey was coming to a close, so we had to return to Nairobi, but our adventure was not quite over. We still had a few more stops to make. We visited the Karen Blixen Museum on which the movie Out of Africa was based, and we popped into the Kazuri Bead Factory where we saw beautifully crafted gifts and jewelry. We also stopped at the Langata Giraffe Center where we were able to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures. Finally, our trip ended with a nice lunch at Carnivore’s Restaurant, which is a famous outdoor eatery in downtown Nairobi known for its ‘all you can eat’ exotic meats.

Although our journey ended, our memories have not. I want to thank Friendly Planet for a wonderful trip! The food, hotel, and drivers were incredible, and I couldn’t have asked for more. We are so grateful for this trip of a lifetime, and we look forward to our next adventure with Friendly Planet.

Our “Through Your Eyes” series shares tales of travel from the perspective of Friendly Planet Travelers. We know how beautiful the big, wide world is and how exploring new places and experiencing new things can change our lives forever. 

6 Comments

  1. Franklin higginbotham

    The Kenya Safari Express was a wonderful experience to celebrate my 70th birthday as solo traveler. Entire trip was first rate in every respect.

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  2. Brigitte Davey

    I am in the process of planning my Kenya Safari Express for November 2018 and really enjoyed the safari
    travel story and am looking forward to my own experience in Kenya. It is my first “bucket list trip” and
    I will be looking for a roommate.

    I read Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s wonderful book LOVE, LIFE AND ELEPHANTS a few years ago
    and have dreamed of visiting the elephant orphanage ever since. Dame Sheldrick passed away
    in April of this year but one of her daughters is continuing her legacy and I look forward to
    visiting the elephant orphanage on my visit, and also plant to foster a baby elephant and donate
    to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DWST).

    I know the Kenya Safari Express it is going to be my trip of a life time and I am extending my trip
    for a few days to see more of Kenya and its wildlife.

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  3. I also took the Safari Express tour a few months ago and our wonderful driver/guide was named David. This was my fourth trip with Friendly Planet and like the others, it provided excellent value for the money. The only downside of the tour were some bumpy highways, but seeing the wildlife up close more than made up for it.

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  4. I would very much like to go to Africa in 2019!!! This also a bucket list trip for me. I went to Asia, Bali, and rode elephants, am going to New Mexico in Oct for the Hot Air Balloon Festival (both bucket list items) and would like to make Africa my next one!!! I will probably be going solo unless I can find a fellow traveler to go with me. At this point if I can get a good deal, I will go alone and be fine!!! I have traveled alone many times before. Get in touch if interested.

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  5. I would like to go to Africa, Kenya, in 2019 either as solo traveler or with someone interested. I have been to Asia, elephant rides, am going to New Mexico, hot air balloon ride, and now want to to go on a safari out of Kenya!!! Keep me updated on package deals that come up please.

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  6. greg

    Tina, our tours to Kenya have some of the lowest single supplements of any of our trips. We also have a roommate finder program for solo travelers. We’ll let other solo travelers on the same tour know that there is someone looking for a roommate. If you both agree to share a room, no single supplement! We run periodic promotions on Kenya too, so keep an eye out. Here is a link to all our tours to Kenya, and thanks for reading the blog: https://www.friendlyplanet.com/vacation-packages/africa/kenya.html

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