It’s easy to arrive in Africa but nearly impossible to leave. And now from January 2024 onwards it’s even easier, as a trip to Kenya will no longer require a visa for Indian visitors. The age-old mystical culture and heritage of the Masai tribes will captivate you in a tight grip and make you fall in love with this amazing continent that you won’t feel like leaving it too soon. East Africa is blessed with the bounty of nature, which houses the two tallest peaks Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, the world’s second largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria, and the world’s second deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika.

But the reason I wanted to tick it off my bucket list was the lure of the big cats. Kenya is home to some of the most unparalleled Safaris in the world, a destination where one can experience seeing an animal paradise in truly amazing natural habitats – Masai Mara and Amboseli. Blessed with breathtaking panoramic landscapes, friendly locals, pleasant year-round weather and rich wildlife, it is not a surprise why millions of travellers long for that coveted Kenyan Safari, atleast once in their lifetime. The best part about Africa is that you get everything in one place – deserts, white sunny African beaches, highlands, grasslands, plateau, coastal regions and of course wildlife and great mix of cultures. Great food too. Can you believe there are 40 national parks around?

Experiences: East Africa is known for its pristine mountain rainforests, dry forests, coastal forests, mangroves, hilly woodlands, stunning sprawling savannahs and open grasslands. We loved our giraffe feeding experience at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, which was at driving distance from Sarova Stanley, where we stayed. Another thrilling experience was passing by the equator and stopping for pictures at the crossing point from Nairobi to Nanyuki. This is the point where the equator passes through.

A trip to Africa is incomplete without a visit to Masai Mara. In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. The term was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. With upto 390 species of mammals in Kenya and over 1100 bird species, Kenya has a rich diversity of wildlife and while out on Safari in one of the many national parks or reserves, it is expected that you would spot not only the ‘Big Five’, but also infact the ‘Big Nine’ – the lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra, cheetah and hippo. We were lucky to have witnessed a lion chase and a kill at close quarters, thanks to our agile safari guide and driver Frances who rushed us to the spot. We also saw a confusion of wildebeest, although it was towards the end of their migration month on their return south.

Don’t miss the Hot Air Balloon Safari at the break of dawn ending with a Champagne Bush Breakfast in the scenic wilderness of Masai Mara. Another popular excursion in Kenya, specifically in Masai Mara or Amboseli National Park, is visiting a traditional tribal Maasai village where you can get a fascinating insight into the way of life of the famous nomadic Maasai tribe. We were blessed to have witnessed Adumu, the traditional Masai dance of Masai men, dressed in their colourful adornment and drapes that symbolise their strength and bravery. There’s also the Mwazindika traditional dance, a pepo spirit possession dance performed by the tribes of Taita Taveta for exorcism and celebration of life. If you have more time at hand, you can try the guided nature walks, sundowners, bush meals and picnics and horse or camel riding as part of your many experiences that Kenya has to offer.

Recommendations to Stay: The Sarova Group is an iconic showcase of the classic African Experience. From over 50 years, they have been carrying a historic legacy in Kenya’s hospitality industry. Their hotels in Kenya including Sarova Stanley in Nairobi, Sarova Panafric in Nairobi, Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa in Mombasa, Sarova Mara Game Camp in Masai Mara, Sarova Woodlands in Nakuru, Sarova Imperial in Kisumu, Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge in Nakuru, Sarova Shaba Game Lodge in Samburu and Sarova Maiyan in Nanyuki are a class apart.

Sarova Stanley – Our stay at Sarova Stanley, Kenya’s first luxury hotel, that holds a special place in Nairobi’s heart, has hosted many iconic figures and historic events since 1902. Its century-old doors welcome you into a world of Victorian elegance with 212 exquisite rooms, eclectic dining venues, a heated rooftop swimming pool and unparalleled conferencing solutions. With a stay here you can experience the epitome of grand living, while enjoying close proximity to a host of amenities and attractions within the bustling Nairobi city life.

Sarova Mara Game Camp – We experienced life-changing safaris at Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve at the award-winning Sarova Mara Game Camp. We indulged in the luxury of the Mara Game Camp with superlative hospitality, while witnessing awe-inspiring wildlife, including the annual migration of over 1 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebras during our safaris. Our game drive ended with a champagne sundowner on the banks of Lake Nakuru, one of the Rift Valley lakes of Africa, in the wild with bubbly, amarula, heavenly canapes, live music and bonfire…an experience that words cannot describe. The luxury accommodation had all the amenities at their 75 tented rooms and their restaurants serve exceptionally fresh and delicious local, seasonal and global cuisine made from the produce of the organic gardens. The bonfire party with live music and dance in the evening completed our experience.

Sarova Maiyan – An award winning luxury resort in one of Kenya’s finest holiday destinations comprises nine exquisite villas comprising of 54 bedrooms that sit on 113 acres of natural lush landscape with the backdrop of Mt. Kenya and Lolldaiga Hills. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the Arbedares from the rooftop pool lounge in our villa.

What to Eat: Delightful culinary experience with global flavours that include local Kenyan dishes, Continental, Pan-Asian & Indian cuisines. Skilled chefs explore diverse cooking styles from traditional to modern techniques. We tried some native local dishes like Ugali, Irio, Giteri, Matoke, Nyama, Mutura and more. All the Sarova Hotels also serve a lot of delicious Indian food, but I was happy to try something that was local.

Our trip to Kenya was hosted by One Above Global, an all-inclusive global Destination Management Company, owned and run by one of the most reputed names in the travel fraternity, Rahim Aslam, Vishal Somaiya and Irshad Dadan. We also attended the 5th OTOAI Convention, organised by the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of this year’s convention was Smart Tourism. From breathtaking wildlife to stunning landscapes, there couldn’t have been a better place for the OTOAI convention than Kenya. This Kenyan adventure will stay with me forever as I return with tons of African souvenirs and the most precious of all, memories of a lifetime and new friends that I will always cherish.