Just back from three days/two nights safari to Tsavo East and West. The Safari was booked from England with JT Safaris and I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable three days of my life. When you book with JT, he only puts your party in the safari vehicle, no sharing with others, in ours it was just me and my wife. You can pick any lodge in the park but I would suggest Ashnil/Aruba Lodge in Tsavo East and Kilaguni Lodge in Tsavo West. Both lodges were excellent, but Kilaguni will really blow you away with it’s setting. You can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst overlooking a watering hole visited by all of the big game that Kenya has to offer. The backdrop is a vast plain leading to mountains in the distance. All meals are included in the price of the safari but drinks in the lodges are extra.
We contacted JT Safaris (Julius) via email at email@example.com and asked a price for three days/two nights to Tsavo, using the above lodges. The price was quoted as $1100 US Dollars and a deposit of $200 dollars was sent to his bank account via my bank. Please don’t be put off sending the money as he is an honest business man that relies on his good name, a search of his positive feedback should put you at ease. $1100 US Dollars at the moment is only £704 at today’s rate.
We met lots of people who had booked through their travel company and were crammed into vehicles and were becoming very irate. One guy asked if he and his wife could jump in our van as his was too crowded, we had to explain that we paid $1100 to be alone so politely refused. Many others told us that they had to get out of their hotel rooms whilst they were on Safari, If you book independently from you travel agent this does not happen. I don’t quite understand why the hotels make you get out of your room for a few days, as they probably don’t rent them to others. Others that booked through one of the major companies spent a night in a very high class sort of tent, book with JT and this doesn’t happen.
The Safari started early in the morning, where we were picked up by our driver (Francis) and the first couple of hours were spent driving to Tsavo East. Nearly all of the vehicles in the park are similar (mainly Toyota and Nissan type small minibuses), they are great as the roof levers up and you have 360 degree visibility, ideal for cameras and binoculars. As soon as we went through the gate we started seeing monkeys and baboons, but as we got further in to the park we started to see elephants, antelope and Zebra. We arrived at our Lodge around 1pm and had a lovely lunch and settled into our room, birds and lizards were so colourful. We went out for an evening game drive at around 4pm and saw many colourful birds, giraffes, elephants, jackal and Impala. Back for a superb Dinner at our lodge just as it got dark.
The next morning we went for an early game drive heading for Tsavo West, we saw a pride of six lions trying to get some antelope but they failed. We exited the park at a different gate and after an hours’ drive we were entering Tsavo West. The parks are very different Tsavo East is fairly flat and the animals are generally easier to see, Tsavo West is much more rugged and scenic with mountains, forests and rivers, so the animals are a little harder to see. On the way to the lodge we saw warthogs, mongoose, many beautiful birds, Ostrich, elephant, gazelle, giraffe, dikdiks, waterbuck, and kudu. We arrived at our lodge in time for lunch and were blown away by Kilaguni’s beauty. After settling into our room we went for the evening game drive saw giraffe antelope, hippo, crocodile, eagle owl, zebra, and elephant. At dinner that evening we were stunned to watch the animals at the waterhole, Leopard, Buffalo, Zebra, Gazelle and warthogs. The following morning we had a long scenic game drive through the park, where we saw a huge Martial Eagle at very close quarters, he had just caught a small Dikdik and we were not going to frighten him off so he just stared at us from ten foot away and we took some very good pictures. We saw the strange secretary bird, hornbills, vultures and bustards as well as all of the usual elephants, zebra, giraffes etc.
We exited by yet another gate and drove for about three and a half hours back to our hotel in Diani. We paid the balance after the safari, and Julius gave us some carved animals as presents.
A couple of tips if you are serious about photography, a small bean bag from ebay costs about a fiver and was a fantastic tool to absorb some of the vans vibration, also my monopod was used to advantage. Helms guide – Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania was a great book if you are serious about birds, we left our brand new copy for Francis and he was over the moon. At the airport (Nairobi), the bookshop had the same copy on sale for £56 so I now know why he was so happy.
Julius rang our driver every day and insisted on speaking to us to make sure we were enjoying our trip, a very nice touch. Our driver was superb throughout and was so knowledgeable on the roads, birds, animals, trees, etc. Will we go again, you bet, will we go with JT Safaris again, you bet and will we ask for Francis as our driver, you bet!