Been back almost two weeks so just about getting sorted,
In previous years, we have gone straight through JKIA to Mombasa and ended up at Travellers on the coast in mid-afternoon. This year, we had several discussions with Somak in London and Kenya and they agreed to a slightly different safari for us by working our way from Nairobi to the coast over six days. The problem with going to the coast straight away and then going on safari is that a lot of time is effectively wasted going back up the Nairobi road to get to Amboseli and/or Tsavo. What we did this time was to meet the Somak safari van at JKIA and head more or less straight to the Serena in Amboseli after freshening up in their lounge near to the airport. Doing this we ended up getting to Amboseli in time for lunch at about the same time as we would have normally got to Travellers.
We stayed a couple of days at the Serena and because it is such a good lodge were then pretty well acclimatised. It was really good to see the park back to it's old self with lots of zebra and antelopes as well as the elephants, hippos and lions etc. We also saw a civet cat for the first time on the final evening drive.
Next part of the journey was the short but interesting trip with beautiful views of Kilimanjaro alongside the border and over the lava field down to the Chyulu Gate into Tsavo West to stay a night at Kilaguni - beautifully kept lodge, as ever, with excellent staff and wonderful views. We then moved down to Ngulia. This was a bit of a culture shock after the first two lodges, but we knew very well that it was not going to be in the same league. We chose to go there because it was close to the Rhino Sanctuary and because there was a good chance of seeing a leopard either nearby on a game drive or the one likely to be visiting the leg of lamb outside the bar (apologies for those who disagree with baiting!). Didn't see any rhinos this time but the leopard visited the bar at a respectable time during the evening. It is such a shame that the place itself doesn't do the location of this lodge any favours. Clearly showing it's age and of feeling as though it is being run by cost-cutting accountants, it is just about bearable for one night in exchange for what we wanted to do.
Next stage was the short trip via the Tsavo River Gate across to Tsavo East. The west park is very lush and we did see a great variety of birds, but the animals are always difficult to spot. The east park has much less growth and is very good for finding and watching animals and we certainly found loads of them. We were stopping at Voi Safari Lodge so that we could go and visit our adopted elephants at the Sheldrick Orphanage - wonderful experience, as ever. We did have a slight dispute with some baboons while at the lodge, but this place is now quite a good place to stay after the refurbishments of last year The staff are superb and the views are second to none. There are a few minor management cost cutting things such as missing soap dispensers in the bathrooms but the staff certainly make up for it in enthusiasm and friendliness.
The final leg was a one night stay at the Asnil Aruba Lodge. Aruba was still very hot but there have been a lot of trees planted and it is now looking much more established. This is a superb lodge with fantastic staff. It is is a very good location for game drives and we certainly saw most of the animals we were looking for out and about.
Having stayed the last night in Aruba, we then had a pleasant morning game drive down to the Bachuma gate at the south end of the park followed by a 2-1/2 hour drive to Travellers. All in all, we had the roof up on the safari van for all but around a couple of hours from when we got into Amboseli to leaving Tsavo. Our driver/guide was superb. He was able to find interesting things to see throughout every game drive. If there were few animals about, he found some of those fabulous birds. Having recently watched a UK quiz programme just before we went there was an intriguing question about Cashew Nut Trees and we asked him if he could find us one so that we could see that unusual nut growing outside the fruit - and he did just that on one of our drives - perfect.
Travellers seems to get better each year. Friendly staff in all areas from front desk to security and now with kettle and tea/coffee in all of the rooms plus an amazing number of satisfied repeat guests that we seem to see every year.
I have to say that working your way down to to the coast in the way we did (apart from probably staying another night at Kilaguni or Aruba rather than Ngulia) worked superbly and we would certainly recommend it to anyone. I guess we spent less than a total of no more than six hours in transit between parks all together in the six days.
The Nairobi-UK flight on Virgin leaves at lunchtime and so we would have had to leave Travellers at a silly time in the early morning, so we opted to fly from Mombasa to Nairobi and then stay overnight near to JKIA in the Ole Sereni. I know some people don't like that place but we have found it pretty good for what we want. Just by way of a bonus, as we sat on the bar terrace looking over the national park on our last sundowner evening, a group of over twenty giraffes came by quite close and there were also several zebra groups visible in the distance.
The logistics of our trip were handled immaculately by Somak from end to end and we could not have asked for better. All we need now is to save enough to do it again either later this year.