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4 Reasons Why You Should Go on Safari in Kenya

4 Reasons Why You Should Go on Safari in Kenya

A safari in Kenya is one of life’s most incredible experiences and the ultimate travel adventure.  However, many travellers share some common doubts about security and any media about Kenya seems to bring only stories of terrorism, ebola and road accidents.  But you have to be unlucky to get caught up in trouble of these sorts.  Kenya has much to offer if you can shake off the media’s negative images, so you should go on safari for the following reasons:

  1. To see the Great Wildebeest Migration
  2. Beach, bush, mountains, desert, savannah – Kenya has many different environments and with them, different cultures, wildlife and birds
  3. Poaching is increasing and gloomy predictions say there won’t be any elephants in 20 years
  4. Kenyan people are ready to welcome visitors – low tourist numbers affect the whole economy and Kenyans want to show travellers their beautiful country

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The Great Wildebeest Migration

Tourists flock to the Maasai Mara to witness the Wildebeest Migration, often touted as the eighth wonder of the natural world.  Each year approximately 120,000 tourists come to see the wildebeest cross the river while crocodiles snap at them.  But even if you miss the river crossing, seeing the massive herds (animals in their millions!) grazing the savannah is a sight to behold.  Cameras cannot do it justice; you have to see it for yourself.

Varied environments

Whether you want a beach holiday, bush retreat, mountain climb or desert experience, Kenya has it all.  And you can put together an itinerary that covers some or all of these environments without having to fly long distances.  The most common Kenyan holiday combines a safari with a few days at the beach at the end to wash the dust off.  And along with these different environments comes different cultures and wildlife – Samburu in northern Kenya has five endemic species you won’t see in the southern parks.  For culture, you can visit a Maasai village, experience 14 different ethnic groups around Lake Turkana and then finish in cosmopolitan Nairobi.  The highlight of the central highlands is Mt Kenya, but you don’t have to hike for a week to enjoy the mountains; there are coffee and tea plantations to visit and the beautiful Thomson’s Falls.  Through the Rift Valley and into western Kenya are lakes with the myriad birdlife, including the famous flamingos.

Lake Oloidon (6)

Poaching threatens the Kenyan safari

There seems to be a misperception that poaching was a problem in years past, but is not now.  Sadly this is untrue, and in fact it is becoming worse.  One prediction is that there will be no elephants in 20 years if poaching continues at the current rate.  Lions and rhinos are also under significant threat, with rhinos disappearing at a rate that is simply not sustainable.  It’s difficult to be optimistic that humans will be able to turn around the trend with market forces so strong for ivory and rhino horn, so it is perhaps better to come to Kenya now to see these magnificent animals before it’s too late.

Kenyan people

Tourism is Kenya’s biggest industry so when tourism numbers are low the whole country feels the economic impact.  Kenyans are naturally hospitable, keen to welcome visitors and show off their country.  Not everyone is a terrorist or a madman; most are proud of their country and excited to meet travellers.  Moreover, there is a lot of positive work being carried out by Kenyans to develop Kenya that goes unseen and unheard.  Come and see for yourself and be inspired!

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A Kenyan safari will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life.  I came to Kenya in 2010 and have now made it my home.  But a word of caution: you may have heard people who have travelled to Africa talk about the “Africa bug” – it bites!

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What are your perceptions of Kenya?  Do negative news reports impact your decision on where to travel or do you ignore the hype and do your own research on a destination?  Please leave your comments below.

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Responsible Photography

Responsible Photography

When we travel it is natural to want to capture every memorable moment.  Many times these memorable moments are the times when we are struck by something unusual or so different from our experiences back home – for example a pride of lions lounging under a tree or a family of elephants striding across the savannah – these things we don’t see in our normal lives.  But how do we deal with those moments when we see extreme poverty or simply people getting on with their everyday lives in a very different way to our own lifestyle?  Is it OK to photograph that as well?

Often travellers coming to Africa are struck by the poverty and want to take photographs of people and dwellings in slum areas.  There are two sides to the coin of whether this is OK or not and I believe it comes down to your intention.  Is it voyeuristic?  Do you simply want to post the photos on Facebook to show your friends how intrepid and benevolent you are by visiting these poor people?  Or is the purpose to raise awareness of the issues of poverty, showing friends back home how fortunate they are and potentially getting people to think about what to do to overcome the challenges?  Depicting poverty is a minefield and even your best intentions can be misinterpreted.  Showing sensitivity and respect to the community is vital both in your actions to get the photo and in how you use the photo afterwards.

On our safaris, guests often ask us if it’s OK to take photos, whether we are in an urban slum or a Maasai village.  The trouble is that it is not much use asking us – it is the people in your photograph that need to grant permission.  And then it is important to respect the answer.  Many older people in rural Kenya and also Indigenous Australians (among other groups of people around the world) believe that a photograph can have a negative effect on your soul (different people have different beliefs about exactly what happens, but “capturing the soul” seems to be the underlying theme) and so will refuse a photograph.  Or they may just be uncomfortable being the subject of so much interest.  On the other hand, many children in developing countries have swarmed me in their eagerness to have their photo taken and then to be shown the picture (the wonders of digital cameras!).

Often taking photos out of the car window is the only way to get that fleeting shot as you travel through the country.  It seems like a good compromise: you can’t possibly stop and ask permission and the person probably wouldn’t even notice they were being photographed anyway.  But we have also experienced people shouting and waving and generally showing displeasure at being photographed this way.

Overall, I think the best way to approach photography of people is to ask: how would I feel if it were me?  Can you imagine stepping out of your house when a carload of African travellers drive down your street and take photographs of you, your house and your neighbours?  That would be weird surely. www.ota-responsibletravel.com

A final note about responsible photography is to be aware of where you are.  A few years ago in Kashgar (western China), one of my guests was taking a photo of a donkey and cart, without noticing the large military trucks passing on the same road.  She was so endeared by the donkey, she failed to realise the guns and the shouts from the soldiers to put her camera away!  In many countries, bridges, border posts and transport hubs are regarded as strategic interests and photography is prohibited.  Consideration should also be given at religious sites or events.

Do you have an opinion about photography of people and poverty? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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