My husband and I have recently returned from a wonderful tour arranged for us by All Seasons. We chose to use a Kenyan company not only to support a local business, but also because they had received a lot of positive feedback on Tripadvisor and were a recognised KATO member. From our very first enquiry back in September 2010 until our trip started in early February, we were impressed with the communications we received from All Seasons (Alex) which were prompt and helpful. We already had specific places that we wanted to go and where we wanted to stay, so Alex planned a tailor-made itinerary for a private safari followed by 5 days in Zanzibar.
We were met in the arrivals lounge of Nairobi Airport by Meshack of All Seasons and escorted to Giraffe Manor - somewhere we had particularly wanted to stay. We enjoyed two nights in the room named 'Betty' which has both a private balcony and an upstairs window which the giraffes can, and do, bump deliberately to attract attention for treats to be handed to them. To have 5 heads poking their heads into the dining area at breakfast makes for some great photos! Although Giraffe Manor charge premium room rates, the food and the service was superb and we decided the experience was worth every penny.
While in Nairobi we also visited the DAVID SHELDRICK ANIMAL ORPHANAGE which was enjoyable, but we were disappointed with the NAIROBI ANIMAL ORPHANAGE which was really just a zoo. We got pounced on by a pushy girl who insisted on guiding us through at top speed (for a tip of course) when we would have preferred to walk through at our leisure and read the information signs ourselves.
The safari itself started with a flight to Samburu. The internal flights that we took (all on Air Kenya) were very good. The planes are clean and appear well-maintained and the service runs efficiently.
We were met at the Samburu airstrip by our All Seasons guide Peter, and we stayed two nights at LARSENS CAMP. The service and staff were friendly and the tents themselves are lovely with polished wooden floor boards, beautifully furnished and tiled ensuite bathrooms. The generator is switched off during certain periods during each day which was a bit of a nuisance. Other Tripadvisor reviewers seem to rave about the food but frankly we found it not very appetising and the salads/fruit, drinks and mousse-type desserts suffered from the lack of refrigeration thanks to the generator's regular downtime. In contrast, the food at our next stop, which was also a tented camp, was fantastic. On the wildlife side of things, Samburu was very good and we saw a wide variety of animals.
Four hours drive from Samburu was our next stop, SWEETWATERS CAMP situated in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The tents were not as luxurious as Larsen's, but were still very comfortable with tiled ensuite bathroom. The tents overlook a waterhole (a cleverly concealed trench containing an electric fence provides a barely visible barrier between tents and animals) towards Mt Kenya and we did enjoy watching the constant stream of animals from our tent balcony. The Conservancy itself contains a wide variety of animals (including the 'big 5') so the chances of sighting them all is pretty high. And we did see all of them. The food at Sweetwaters was excellent, and certainly the best we had during the safari part of the holiday.
Our next flight took us to Maasai Mara reserve where we stayed at MARA SERENA LODGE. We chose this hotel because of it's elevated location and quirky Flintstones appearance. The view is fantastic, although we felt the hotel itself is starting to look a bit weary from what is obviously a high constant occupation rate. The buffet was hit or miss, some dishes were good and the rest were pretty ordinary. We very much enjoyed the game drives at the Mara particularly our encounter with a lion who was more interested in us as a source of shade than a source of food!
The safari part of our trip over, we flew back to Nairobi to transfer for our flight to Zanzibar. Here is where we struck the first, and only glitch with our itinerary. However we contacted All Seasons the following morning and they promptly sorted it out so we were happy to have the problem resolved quickly. The next five days we spent relaxing at NEXT PARADISE BOUTIQUE RESORT, a new 12 room hotel on the beach which was lovely. We then returned for an overnight at FAIRVIEW HOTEL in Nairobi prior to our flight back to the UAE (where we live). The Fairview is a charming and elegant hotel, and the breakfast was fantastic. Unfortunately dinner the night before in their garden restaurant haunted us both for several days afterwards, but these things happen.
So, in hindsight what would we have done differently? Actually, nothing! We were pleased with our choice of tour operator, and we were glad we had opted to fly instead of drive particularly when we heard grumbles that Nairobi to Maasai Mara is a gruelling 8 hour road trip along shocking roads. We were also pleased that we had organised a private safari rather than joining a pre-packaged tour. Having seen the vehicles of one particular high-end operator where there was a nose pressed against every window, we felt rather smug that we had an entire vehicle and a driver all to ourselves - and had undoubtedly paid half of what those tourists had to stay at exactly the same accommodation - and see exactly the same animals!
All in all, a wonderful holiday. Top marks and a big thank you to Alex, Meshack, Daniel and Peter from All Seasons who went to great lengths to ensure our trip was everything we wanted.