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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-09-29 09:55:29



Think group tours are just for spinsters? Think again! Aisling O'Toole went
on a group trip to Kenya and may never travel any other way

W hile the chance to sing Toto’s Africa in the possible way to that - everything is organised so you don’t
shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro is a once-in-a- have to worry about the logistics of local travel while you can
lifetime opportunity, I promise it’s not the sleep soundly knowing nobody will leave without you. Best of
only reason I went to Kenya on holidays, all, you know you’ll have decent accommodation: call me an
even though I do harbour dreams of living aul' wan if you will but my days of bunk beds, questionable
every day as the star of a 1980s power ballad! breakfasts and shared bathrooms are over. I’m a grown up
However, the chance to see critically endangered wildlife up lady who has notions above my station, and so, that’s how
close, experience the melting pot that is Nairobi and visit the I ended up on an eight-day National Geographic safari trip
traditional villages of the Maasai also swayed my decision. around Kenya with G Adventures, a company that specialises
in sustainable travel and offers the sort of reassurance that
It’s funny, because people have become very snobby about comes from paying a little extra to make sure you’re getting
solo travelling, thinking that if you book a group tour, you’re the best. Everything on the table: this trip does not come
not experiencing real solo travelling. I say boarding a flight cheap, but it is an 'every few years' kind of treat. You can
to Africa by yourself not knowing who’s picking you up at do a safari on the cheap while on a sun holiday, or you can
the other end or who you’ll be sharing a car with for a week spend a little extra and know you’re seeing parts of the world
is brave enough for me. If you’re travelling solo and want to as they truly should be seen - absolutely naturally. Plus,
feel like you’ve actually had a holiday while also seeing all the sustainable aspect of the company becomes apparent
you can see in a short time span, a group tour is the best

when you see its commitment to supporting local can go off road, meaning if you see a lion
companies, ventures and communities. just over there on a hill, you drive just over
there on a hill to get as close as possible.
The itinerary includes two overnight stays in This is how we spent a good hour amazed
Nairobi, bookending the trip, a visit to Café Ubuntu (a at a leopard (left) parading through all the
community project supported by G) and then visits to assembled cars, none of which could believe
the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli National their luck - leopards are the most shy of the
Park all mixed between hotels, lodges and tented safari big five and even the Joes were delighted at
camps. Ignorant as I was I honestly expected Electric the view we got.
Picnic-style tents and was ready to rough it. What I got
was Out of Africa style bedrooms with wi-fi, running While in the Maasai Mara we visited a local
water, hot showers and turn down service. Seriously - village, and met the Maasai people (below) who
there was no roughing it on this trip. At all. live there - an experience I could talk about
forever. That’s another thing I loved about G
I met the rest of the group, the guide and the Adventures; this wasn’t a visit to some random
driver (both called Joseph and both excited every village established solely for tourists, this was
day that this is their job) early on the second the real deal, and all money went directly to the
morning as we loaded the jeep and headed for the villagers themselves - something the company
Maasai Mara. One word of warning, there is A LOT of ensures. While there we were welcomed with
driving involved in a trip like this, over rough roads traditional dance and song and sat inside one
without conveniences like toilets and shops at every family’s home while hearing all about the
turn, so be organised. Pack Motilium or stronger if traditions and problems faced by the tribe,
you get travel sick and bring enough entertainment including schooling, illness and polygamy.
for yourself for several hours; books, iPads etc. Eight
days is a long time to chat in a car with anyone, never Even now, several months later, it
mind with a group you've only just met - even if we still blows my mind that families
did all get on! Easily excited, I lost my shit when I are reared in huts made of cow dung
saw a zebra on the road leaving the airport, much while I complain about a draft in my
to the amusement of the taxi two-bed terrace.
driver. I didn’t know what to
expect from this sort of safari Then we were off to Lake Nakuru,
at all. I had previously done with a heavy day of driving ahead
a few private game tours in of us - so heavy I watched all of The
South Africa and so presumed Crown season one and napped. A lot!
this would be the same; a If you Google flamingos in Africa,
few animals dotted here and the first picture you see, hundreds
there about the park. All very of flamingos on a huge lake, is
far away and all very used to Lake Nakuru. This was the thing I
people, so kinda like an open was most excited about seeing up
air zoo. I was wrong. This is close, and so was beyond disappointed when I
nature at its very best. discovered that the flamingos have all left for
nearby lakes due to the salt levels in Nakuru
The fact that this was a rising dramatically over the past few years.
National Geographic trip It was the first time I realised at that level
meant that the commitment how real climate change is and the very real
to seeing wildlife in its own consequences it has, not only on wildlife but
habitat is astounding, and on businesses dependent on natural beauty
the Joes were determined we to bring the tourists. However, we did see a
would see the big five (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo family of rhinos on our game drives which
and leopard) and see them up close and personal, not saved the day!
through binoculars or a giant lens. After a quick stopover we drove on again
to Amboseli National Park, to see Kilimanjaro
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is an area and the herds of elephants that graze in its
of preserved savannah that shares a border shadows. Amboseli is home to all of the wildlife
with Tanzania’s Serengeti and covers 1,510 we had come to expect on our game drives,
square kilometres. Its size but it’s the morning and evening migration of
is unfathomable, even after elephants from their homes to the marshlands
spending three days in it, and in the park that makes this place so special. Cars
what really blew my mind is park up near the exit and wait, while dozens
that within its folds are dozens and dozens of elephants, of all sizes and ages,
of Maasai villages, inhabited start the long walk home, weaving their way
by families who go about their through the vehicles. All while the sun sets on
daily business while wild animals Kilimanjaro - it is one of the most special sights
wander freely outside their walls.
We saw a lioness play with her
cubs so close to us that we could
hear them purr; zebra, buffalos
and warthogs so frequently they lost all
appeal after the first hour; we got so close
to elephant herds we could’ve touched
them and sat quietly while buffalo ambled
by. The difference between the Maasai Mara
and other national parks is that vehicles

I have ever witnessed and one that the pack for For something
tens of videos I have on my phone do little totally different…
justice to. To be honest, unless you have a
professional camera I suggest sitting back An eight-day National Geographic
and experiencing a trip like this, rather Journeys with G Adventures Kenya
than constantly trying to get the best Safari Experience tour is priced
shot. You'll never do it justice. from £2,349pp/€2,769pp. This
trip is also part of the Jane Goodall
After a last night dinner, which was Collection by G Adventures; a
buffet style and like the rest of the meals we ate selection of wildlife-focused tours
while travelling, we started the long drive back endorsed by world renowned
to Nairobi, everyone trying to digest all that we primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. Trip
had seen. For me, the trip to Café Ubuntu was price includes accommodation
one of the most memorable. A Planeterra project (two nights in hotels, one night in
(an offshoot of G), the café helps a safari lodge, and four nights in
women who have had disabled children comfortable tented safari camps),
return to the workforce and provide most main meals (allow USD100-
for their families. While there we met 130 for meals not included),
Alice who told us how difficult it is to transportation in a seven-seat, 4x4
have a disabled child in the family, due safari vehicle, a chief experience
to the traditions and beliefs around officer (CEO) throughout, and
disabilities that remain in some tribes. a certified driver/guide. Prices
By coming to work in the café (making do not include flights. For more
leather goods and accessories) Alice information or to book, please call
was able to send her children to school 0344 272 2040 / 01 697 1360 or
and build her own confidence. Again, visit
for a woman who had travelled halfway around
the world, on a whim, to see some wildlife, it was Kenya Airways flies daily from
a reminder of how lucky we are. London Heathrow to Nairobi and
operates new B787-Dreamliners on
what to the routes from Europe, offering
award winning business class and
economy. Priced from £460pp
including taxes for an economy
return - London-Heathrow-Nairobi.
Call 020 8283 1818 or visit For more
information on Kenya, check out


Opt for layers, comfort, sun protection and, of course, style

13 5



1 Fedora, €15, F&F @ Tesco 2 Sunglasses, €135, Tommy Hilfiger @ Littlewoods Ireland 3 Trousers, €60, H! by Henry Holland @ Debenhams
4 Scarf, €25, Bon Prix 5 Wetforce Sensitive Skin SPF 50+, €36, Shiseido

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