October in Africa and the weather is in charge. In East Africa the short rains have begun and the landscape replies with a blanket of fresh green grass. South of the Zambezi, however, it has barely rained since May and animals mill around the remaining waterholes, eyes wide and ears flicking at every snap of a twig.
Lions are the most sought-after sighting on a safari. The excitement of seeing them is partly because we expect to see them in Africa and are reassured when we do but there’s also something a bit more primal behind our fascination with them. Thanks to their reassuringly feline name – Panthera leo – we know we are technically dealing with ‘cats’ but lions are startlingly huge, almost bear sized. Their muscular, barrel-chested bodies and arrogantly jutting chins let everyone know who the boss is – and it’s not the 2-legged creatures wearing sunglasses!
Exploring Congo's untamed rainforests is one of the most authentic wilderness experiences we’ve had in a long time. The journey to Odzala National Forest – home to gorillas, elephants and flocks of parrots - is exciting but conveniently straightforward. You fly into Johannesburg, Africa’s international hub, catch a regional flight to Congo’s modern capital, Brazzaville, stay overnight in a luxury hotel, and hop on a charter flight to Odzala the next morning, rested and refreshed. As your charter plane descends out of the tropical cloud cover, you know you’ve found that rare and precious thing in our modern world: a truly wild frontier.
Is it just coincidence that August is the month when many people go on holiday and Africa becomes the perfect place to visit? In fact, there’s so much happening across the continent that travellers really are spoilt for choice: safari destinations feature the best game viewing conditions, while the beaches and tropical islands bask beneath warm, dry skies.
Birthplace of the classic Hemingway-style safari, Kenya is home to some of the best game viewing and most famous reserves on the continent. But unlike neighbouring Tanzania, whose most popular parks lie on a well-trodden circuit, Kenya's safari destinations are scattered throughout the country and planning an itinerary depends on what you want to see and who you're travelling with.
Maybe it’s the way the world works these days; perhaps it’s also about old-fashioned Kenyan resilience. Whatever the reason, the fact is that Kenya is going about its daily business as it deals with the aftermath of the Nairobi shopping mall attack.
Guides say that if you see 1% of what sees you in the African wilderness, you are very, very observant. This is mostly because every living creature makes use of camouflage, whether to hide from predators or sneak up on prey. It is also because guides know that our over-stimulated and under-utilized city senses are pretty much good for nothing in the jungle.
On a recent trip to Kenya, I was privileged to spend a morning exploring the lush forests of Mount Kenya. It was a guided walk in the care of an armed ranger – there is plenty of game in the forest, including buffalo - and a superb guide from my hosts at Serena Mountain Lodge.
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the continent’s main gateway to Europe and Asia. As East Africa’s primary hub, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport sees around six million passengers flow through its doors each year. Connecting flights ferry passengers to all the major attractions: from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Masai Mara and Lamu Island. In peak periods this busy airport greets around 16,000 travellers each day.
Taking a road trip through Kenya is a great way to explore this iconic destination. My safari begins in the lush rainforest of Mount Kenya National Park where I discover that a good guide can turn an uneventful stroll into a magical experience. What more could you ask for: the haunting skull of a forest buffalo, monkeys whooshing through the canopy, and mid-morning tea served in a woodland clearing?