Pretty much all travel guides talk about seasonal attractions, but we’re safari experts so this booking advice is about what safaris to book during the months of May and June to ensure that you can have the best lodges, guides and locations on your vacation, whether you’re travelling now or the coming year.
A foot-long purple giraffe tongue is probably the most unlikely addition to a breakfast spread but if you're visiting Giraffe Manor, which is situated in a leafy neighbourhood of Nairobi, it's just as common as butter on your toast. A number of friendly and habituated Rothschild's giraffes regularly interact with guests during meal times by sticking their long necks through the windows hoping for a treat (or two).
There is no denying that Kenya has had more than its fair share of tragedy over the past few years. Ordinary Kenyans have suffered the Nairobi Mall attack, an accidental fire at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, bombings in the far north along the border with Somalia and, most recently, the attack on students at Garissa. Except for the fire, all the other incidents are connected to terrorism perpetuated by al-Shabaab, a militant group based in Somalia. Much like ordinary New Yorkers and Londoners who survived the attacks by al-Qaeda, Kenyans are determined not to let the terrorists get the upper hand or wear them down. But, unlike those in New York or London, they don’t seem to be getting any global support. In fact, countries who have also been victims of attacks are advising against travel to Kenya – rather than offering a hand in solidarity.The hard question is: for the average tourist who wants to experience the once-in-a-lifetime splendour of game viewing on the Masai Mara or the thrill of the wildebeest migration, is it safe to travel to Kenya?
I’ve travelled across most of Africa – from South Africa’s Cape Winelands to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, throughout Botswana and Zimbabwe, to the archipelagos off Mozambique, from sultry Lagos in Nigeria to East Africa’s triumphant trio: Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. I’ve spent two decades in a love affair with this continent, mostly as a solo traveller.
She pushes her huge tail down, ducks under the waves with tremendous forces and then, with colossal power, launches her huge body above the water, coming down with a fantastic splash. Everything is quiet except for the chorus of ‘Wows!’ from my fellow boat passengers. There’s a shared anticipation and keen excitement as we hope she’ll do it again… Our luck is in as she once again uses her tail fin to propel herself like an aquatic rocket above the ocean off Kleinbaai, a tiny hamlet on South Africa’s Whale Coast, less than an hour’s drive from Hermanus and regarded as the whale-watching capital of the world.
You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your gators. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group - it's time to drop your backpack and move forward slowly with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you've been waiting to hear: ‘There they are.’
There are few destinations as romantic as Africa. Vast blue skies curve down to golden grasslands that roll to the horizon, framed by distant mountains marching away in shades of navy and purple. Africa awakens your senses: the scent of wild sage, the cry of a fish eagle, and goosebump-inducing leopard sightings. The days are deliciously hot and the nights comfortably cool. African hospitality is warm and sincere, and when it comes to fine dining or lavish luxury, a leading safari lodge is hard to beat.
The arrival of May during my northern hemisphere childhood promised the long, warm and sometimes sunny days of summer. South of the equator, however, things are heading in the opposite direction. Days are shortening and chairs are getting pulled a little closer to the campfire.
Growing up in South Africa, I was lucky enough to make regular visits to private game parks and reserves, like Addo Elephant National Park and the Kruger National Park. My first ‘game ranger-tracker-and-driver’ was my grandfather, who taught us grandkids the value of getting up before dawn, driving slowly, keeping quiet and training your eye to distinguish elephants from rocks and springbok from impala. At about 10, the ‘I want to be a game ranger when I grow up’ phase hit hard, and I amassed a huge collection of dead dung beetles, abandoned weavers’ nests, old warthog teeth and found antelope horns.
It’s 3:30am, -8°C / 18°F and all I want to do is lie down and go to sleep. The only reason I'm keeping my feet moving is my guide, Milton's encouragement.