For a first trip to Kenya, what would you recommend doing?
You really have to visit the Masai Mara, with its endless plains and huge amounts of wildlife. However, I would always try to couple this with time in the Laikipia region, with Mount Kenya as a brooding backdrop. Laikipia offers wonderfully easy game viewing with a variety of ways to enjoy your time from ‘normal’ 4x4 safari drives to riding (for all levels), fly camping, trout fishing, walking safaris and scenic flights. The area is also a leading light when it comes to conservation, initiating ground-breaking anti-poaching procedures, while encouraging visitors to understand the issues that threaten their wildlife.
And for a 'Deep Cut' more in depth trip?
Head north! The Samburu region is one of my favourite areas. It is dry and arid – a far cry from lush Laikipia and the plains of the Mara. There are different wildlife species here and the walking is sensational, with no-one else around. Fly camp in dry rivers, quad bike, trek with camels, visit the singing wells or simply enjoy spending time with the Samburu - one of the most proud tribes in Africa who take great pleasure in inviting you to their village, taking you to the local market and explaining their traditions and contemporary culture.
This coastal village on the island of the same name is Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited town, with deep historical roots. Predominantly Muslim, the town contains myriad of architectural styles, with heavy influence from Portuguese colonial rule in the 1500s. The water here is beautifully warm, and there’s are a collection of beautiful, characterful hotels where you can happily stay for a week, watching dhows (Omani boats) sail by, shopping in the markets and swimming in the warm Indian Ocean water. Go deep sea fishing, head out on boating trips or simply relax and enjoy the fabulous coastal cuisine. Staying on Lamu is a completely different beach experience to anywhere else.
What made you fall in love with Kenya?
The diversity of the country’s wildlife, people, activities and landscapes.
Where have you not been in Kenya that you are desperate to go to?
I would love to visit the lakes of the Great Rift Valley and the deserts in the north. Best accessed by helicopter the north is a wild, untouched area with many archaeological secrets and spectacular views – especially when the flamingos are at Lake Turkana.
Is Kenya somewhere to go as a couple or with family?
Both. Simply because so much of the safari/tourism industry is run by families themselves. Similarly, couples have been exploring Kenya for generations and you can make it as adventurous or luxurious as you like. The ability to do ‘bush and beach’ makes Kenya a superb honeymoon option.
Recommendations for Kenya
Best book you've read about Kenya?
Dare I say Out of Africa? It’s a classic for a reason!
What is the perfect souvenir from Kenya?
A beautifully hand-crafted bronze sculpture from Matbronze. You can visit the studio/gallery in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi, and see the artists at work. The sunbirds, in particular, are beautiful - lightweight to pack and great value for money.
Favourite foodie experience in Kenya?
A nyama choma is the Kenyan equivalent of a barbecue, where you order the meat (most often goat) 48 hours before you arrive and it is then slowly cooked underground for 24 hours. It tends to be a way to mark a celebration in Kenya and it’s uniformly delicious whether you eat it at a swanky safari lodge or from a roadside shack. Best served with a chilled Tusker lager.
Insider tip for Kenya?
Visit in January or February! People tend to forget about Kenya outside of the main migration months. Don’t get ‘migration fixation’.
Place in Kenya you could go back to again and again?
The rolling hills of Laikipia. I love the fact that in the morning I can be in the thick forests of the Aberdare National Park surrounded by colobus monkeys, waterfalls and streams full of trout and then, in the afternoon, be riding across open plains spotting the Big Five with Mount Kenya in the background. No two days are ever the same.