From rugged hills and montane forests to endless savannah plains, Kenya offers incredible physical diversity. The scenery is breath-taking and the wildlife viewing is some of the finest in the world. The Maasai Mara is often alluded to when talking about a Kenyan safari, but Alex would like to be able to show you that there is so much more to the country he calls home. Kenya’s safari history goes back to the early 1900s and its fine tradition of personal guiding and warm hospitality still exists today.
Heading right up into the Northern Frontier with a train of camels, walking down dry river beds and through dense bush, with the sun beating down on your back, galloping on horseback across the Laikipia Plains or trudging through snow and ice on the peaks of Mount Kenya are a just a few of Kenya's offerings that can inspire a more active safari goer. Visiting some of the more unique and inaccessible wildlife projects are one of the aspects of Alex's safaris that make him stand out above the myriad other operators out there. His connections with both the Big Life Foundation and the Tsavo Trust make travelling to the Chyulus and Tsavo National Parks respectively a fascinating and educational experience. Tsavo is also where Alex cut his teeth in the safari industry, and is a park held very dear to his heart.
That is not to say that these itineraries are devoid of luxury; a soothing cool towel and an ice cold drink will be poured for you by Alex's staff, served with a welcoming smile as you arrive into camp.
Laikipia harbours a wealth of endangered species, including half of Kenya’s 600 black rhinos. Also on the increase in Laikipia are wild dogs, with several packs here and good chances of seeing them: Laikipia is now their second most important range in Africa. Spotting Grevy’s zebras –the handsome, radar-eared, fine-striped species – is almost a certainty, as a quarter of Africa’s remaining population lives in Laikipia.
You can find most of Kenya’s more common wildlife in Laikipia, too, as well as more than 2,000 elephants, which migrate between the slopes of Mount Kenya, the Laikipia safari conservancies and the Samburu region.
THE RIFT VALLEY
Stretching from the Lebanon to Mozambique, Africa’s Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-mile crack in the earth’s crust, and much of it is to be found in Kenya, where it has literally cut the country in two. The Great Rift Valley contains some of the world’s finest lakes, mountains and plains.
Beginning in the remote north, the first of these lakes is Turkana. Sometimes known as the Jade Sea, it sits in a land more reminiscent of the moon than of planet earth, and is home to a range of incredibly resilient life-forms. Further south, there are a number of lakes – Baringo, Bagoria, Nakuru, the soda Elimentaita, and Naivasha – all unique, all supporting a staggeringly large proportion of Kenya’s wildlife.
AMBOSELI & CHYULUS
Found in the far south of Kenya, the game-rich Amboseli National Park is often missed. Famed for its large herds of elephant, Amboseli also offers stunning views to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro just over the border in Tanzania.
Beyond, the Chyulu Hills are a geologically recent lava ridge with plenty of game in the woodland savanna, and probably Kenya's best-kept secret. Deep in the lava fields there are also a few wild black rhinos, closedly guarded by rangers. This is where the Big Life Foundation are, headed by Richard Bonham , Alex's brother in law.
Wildlife in the north is relatively sparse, but all the more striking for its appearance in these arid regions. Long-necked gerenuks and blue necked Somali ostriches, rare Grevy’s zebra and Beisa oryx, strikingly marked reticulated giraffe. elephants and, with luck, big cats and even wild dogs can be seen.
Birdlife in the forested mountain areas is abundant and varied, with many areas having hundreds of frequently seen species, and Palearctic migrants often seen between October and March. The jade waters of Lake Turkana in the far north also boasts Africa's largest population of Nile crocodiles .
At 5,199 m, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa. It is an ancient extinct volcano. There are 12 remnant glaciers on the mountain, all receding rapidly, and four secondary peaks that sit at the head of the U-shaped glacial valleys. With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mount Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa.
One of Alex's favourite expeditions is to take guests up Mount Kenya; the sheer beauty of the peaks is beautiful - once termed Snowcaps on the Equator - and the biodiversity of the alpine-montane forest and moorland is spectacular.
Land of Big Cat Diary and Disney’s African Cats, the Maasai Mara is at the top of most people’s Kenyan safari wish lists. The location of the ’Great Migration’ – one of the natural wonders of the world – is a gloriously beautiful, wildlife-rich savannah landscape, once described by the eminent biologist Julian Huxley as 'the only easily accessible and readily studied remaining portion of the world’s pre-human climax community at its tropical richest.' It’s also a region where traditionally dressed Maasai still herd their cattle and goats in a lifestyle that in some respects hasn’t changed much since they first arrived here 350 years ago.
Covering almost 22,000 square kilometres, the Tsavo National Park is split into two smaller parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West owing to the presence of the railway line which runs inland from Mombasa and slits the park in two.The construction of the railway line is one of the darker stories from the creation of Kenya's National Parks, many construction workers taken by lions whilst they were building the line, leading to the lions being dubbed 'the man-eaters of Tsavo'. Nowadays no such problems await visitors, although they can still expect excellent lion and cheetah sightings who thrive in the huge open plains. Elephant, kudu, zebra and ostrich are also found in abundance in the park.
THE COAST & LAMU
The Kenyan coast feels like a different world from the savannahs of safari country. Low-lying and sandy, indented by mangrove-lined creeks, and shaded by coconut palms, the coast blends the bright light and colours of the tropics with the sparkling azure-blue of the Indian Ocean, where you squint through the afternoon sunlight to watch traditional lateen-rigged dhows sailing out beyond the coral reef.
While being on safari can often feel like participating in an enjoyable group challenge, with its daily rhythm of game drives, bush meals and campfire anecdotes, a beach holiday releases you much more into the gentle embrace of local life.