I don’t know how I’m going to encapsulate our Kenya safari trip but since I’ve started writing one thing’s become clear – even though it was only a week it’s going to take two posts! I talked about some of the lessons learned in last Friday’s post and I have some absolutely stunning photos because Mal was in his element. But I have to face the fact that scenic pics, however beautiful, are boring for anyone who wasn’t there. And anyway what I want to give you is a feel for the experience which is so much more than just what you see. So I’m going to try to bring you as close to it as I can in places as well as giving you the practical information you need to make a decision about whether a trip like this would be right for you. This post is all about a Kenya safari – what to expect & what to pack.

Before I start, in the interests of transparency I want to remind you that we were invited on the safari week of our almost three week break as a press trip by Titan Travel but the rest of our travel was paid for personally.  However, Titan have not asked for any control over what I write, this is an independent review.

Kenya safari – what to expect & what to pack (part 1)

What to pack for a Kenya safari

Before we go into the pictures I need to talk about this because even though I’d followed all of the advice I could find online, I felt uncomfortable for a lot of the time. I can only conclude that it’s been written by a man so as we go along, I’m going to give you notes on what to pack for a safari.

What I will say though is that I didn’t see a single person looking stylish so it really isn’t worth worrying too much. When you’re living out of a small bag for a week I just don’t think you can achieve it, even the French women we met were grumbling about how scruffy they felt. However, I’ll tell you what I wished I had with me. Bear in mind that we travelled in February and you may need to check weather patterns to adapt your packing for other times.

Kenya safari – do colours matter?

The online advice tells you to only pack khaki or other neutral colours however this only holds for game drives or hikes and you go on about six of those lasting for two or three hours at a time. The theory behind colour is really just about whether you want the animals to spot you or not. You’ll notice that locals in the towns and villages wear very bright colours – that’s because it makes them conspicuous and the animals stay away. As soon as you get into the game reserves and the Masai Mara the last thing you want to do is alert the animals to your presence and so you’ll find that almost everyone is dressed in khaki and other earth colours. You’ll feel a bit of an idiot if you wear anything else but don’t pack any kind of camo print – that’s reserved for the military only.

You don’t need to completely fill your bag with neutrals, you simply need to think through how many game drives you have on your itinerary and plan for those. For the rest of the trip, colour doesn’t matter and if, like me, you’re happier in bright colours, wear them. I’d avoid white for anything other than night-time though, wherever you travel there’s a lot of dust and the dirt shows within minutes.

You’re advised not to pack navy or black because it attracts the tsetse flies however that’s only in the months of the great migration (July – October) because the tsetse flies come from Tanzania with the herds.

Kenya safari – think about cut and fabrics

All of the advice online tells you to pack cotton chinos and cotton or linen safari shirts that you can layer over t-shirts, taking them on and off as the temperature changes – which it does. I was determined not to spend money on things that I knew I wouldn’t wear again so I dug out three pairs of chinos that I’d hardly worn. They took up an awful lot of space in that rucksack and in the end I wore one pair, once.

Why? Because for some reason the online guides don’t consider the fact that you’re changing altitude quite dramatically each day as you drive up and down the Rift Valley. That means that your body swells around the waist, hips and ankles. It happened to everyone and we were all similarly uncomfortable in anything with a fixed waist. You also spend hours at a time sitting in a jeep with bumpy suspension and chinos just aren’t comfortable for that.

I took two safari shirts and again I only wore one once. That’s because the irons aren’t provided, there’s always an ironing service but you’re usually on too much of a tight turnaround to wait for it. The items that worked best were sports tops and stretchy jersey – you’ll see as we go through this post and the next one.

Kenya safari – how much layering do you really need?

One other thing the online advice tells you is that it gets really cold at night. It doesn’t. The only time you’ll feel a bit chilly is for the first hour of the pre-dawn game drives when the roof of the jeep is open (this also plays havoc with your hair!). I packed three different jackets but actually a single, soft, squashable fleece along with the two long sleeved, breathable gym tops I took would have been perfect.

Kenya safari – what kind of luggage to take

Here the online advice is right. It needs to be soft sided and durable because it’s being thrown in and out of jeeps every day. We took a rucksack with lots of zips which enabled us to access different levels without unpacking everything. It was an old one that the boys had used for DofE and by the end of the trip it was quite literally falling apart so durability really is important.

I used packing cubes and it’s worth doing that. The more efficiently you pack, the less grumpy you’ll be in the mornings and nights when you’re rummaging through trying to find what you need. Less is definitely more.

Kenya safari – what do you wear in the evening?

The published information says that nobody dresses up at night – that you should simply wear your chinos and safari shirts. We found that everybody changed at night. I think a lot of women were relieved to be out of their functional gear, most changed into a pretty top and usually a pair of wide trousers (not the men obviously, they tended to stick to safari stuff).

In the end most of my small bit of rucksack space was taken up with clothes I didn’t wear. Instead I cobbled outfits together from the t-shirts, shorts and mini skirt that I’d thrown in at the last minute for wearing around the camps. Lots of you have asked for a packing guide so rather than of talking about what I wore each day as I usually would, I’ll tell you what I wished I had instead. At the end of the next post I’ll give you a final Kenya safari packing list.

Kenya Safari – Thursday (travel to Heathrow)

Ok, are you ready? Let’s set off. You see us here happily leaving home with that one shared rucksack of safari clothes.

Titan travel review

One of the lovely things about travelling with Titan is that your trip begins at your own front door when they collect you and manage all of your travel and transfers from that point on. It meant that we had a seamless journey to Manchester airport…

Kenya safari what to pack

Hush jumpsuit (winter sale 2022); Baukjen jacket past season; trainers

…a quick up and down flight to London and then a hotel for the night at Heathrow.

Kenya safari - Titan travel review

What to travel in – yes, before somebody asks, I did travel in a jumpsuit. I always fly in a jumpsuit. They’re neat and comfortable and it really isn’t a big deal going to the loo – I don’t know why there’s such a fuss made about it. If you still can’t handle it, go for a smart pair of khaki joggers with a tee and sweatshirt that you’ll be able to wear again on the trip.

The trainers were great and I wore them a lot however I’d change the jacket for a fleece another time because it was a pain to carry around for the rest of the trip. The small rucksack was a godsend.

Kenya Safari – Friday (travel to Nairobi)

By the time we were collected for our early morning flight to Nairobi we were in full holiday spirits. If you watched my Instagram Stories you’ll know that we had a few last minute hiccups simply because I’d been so busy at work and it meant we were happier than ever to be setting off at last.

Hush jumpsuit (winter sale 2022); Baukjen jacket past season; trainers

We soon settled in for a long day in the air. It was an eight and a half hour British Airways flight with a three hour time difference so by the time we were transferred to the airport hotel in Nairobi we were shattered.

Midlifechic Titan Travel review

Saturday (the Aberdare Mountains)

We woke up the next morning and looked out of the window to see bright sunshine. My February brain hadn’t caught up with my body and I couldn’t believe it was going to be warm outside but we dressed accordingly and sure enough, when we went down for breakfast it was.

As the group gathered outside ready to be assigned jeeps I noticed that there was a certain amount of shuffling going on and this is where I can now bring you the first tip from the group travel veterans we got to know. The people in your jeep on the first day are the ones you’ll travel with all holiday. You spend hours and hours in a small space together so it’s worth trying to guess in advance who you might have an affinity with and getting into the same jeep as them.

We, of course didn’t have a clue what was going on but I will be forever grateful for the lovely bunch we had in our jeep. As I mentioned in my last post we grew quite close over the course of the week, sharing the exhilarating moments in the grasslands as well as a few funny evenings at the bar. We loved them to bits and had such a giggle together as you’ll see in the next post.

I think this photo best encapsulates the feeling of the first day. We had a long drive and this was just a quick stop for a loo break but it sums up that moment when you realise you’re away from everything with the whole adventure stretching out in front of you.

Kenya safari what to pack

T-shirt past season (new version here); Boden skirt (past season); trainers

We climbed up into the Aberdare mountains and stopped for lunch at the Aberdare Country Club. I was particularly struck by how much like home this part of Kenya is with its deciduous trees and lush rolling hills.

Kenya safari Titan travel review

The British colonial 1940s interiors added to the illusion…

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

… it was only the odd peacock and bushbuck wandering past that shook us out of the feeling of a warm English summer’s afternoon.

Review of Kenya safari with Titan travel

We drove further on and up into the national park until we reached the aptly named Ark which was our home for the night (I should add that they moved us next door to a double later on so we didn’t have to bunk up in single beds). It felt suitably rustic and we later spent a gripping half hour watching hyenas stalking wildebeast through the window.

Aberdare mountains accommodation

There was more magic to be found upstairs where there was a platform with a view and a half. The elephants come here specifically for the salt lick…

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic Kenya travel review

T-shirt past season (new version here); Boden skirt (past season); trainers

… there were buffalo too and we thought this one was rather beautiful with his mud face pack.

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

It really was safari travel at its easiest – when you can sit with a gin and tonic and the animals come to you. And this is where the trip was well planned because the travel was catching up with most people at this point and as we sat by a roaring fire that evening for a fascinating talk, we were all doing our best not to nod off.

Now one thing I should add is that Kenyans (and Google) say it’s cold at night. If you’ve travelled from the UK in February it really isn’t. The night-time temperature there was the same as an early September evening in the UK. So you can imagine our shock when we sunk into bed in the dark with the sounds of night animals all around us only to feel something soft and warm between us. We both jumped out until further investigation showed that it wasn’t the small furry creature we’d imagined but a hot water bottle! We soon got used to it at every lodge we stayed in.

Review of Titan Travel safari

What to pack: for this day pack a short sleeved jersey dress with a bit of structure (any colour). It’s a hot, dusty day of travelling and it will help you feel smart but comfortable. If you have a nice scarf you could add it to the dress for dinner because dining here is very low key and you go to bed early, as soon as you’ve eaten.

Kenya Safari – Sunday (travel to Lake Naivasha)

Here’s one more shot of elephant love at the salt lick before we moved on.

Titan Travel review safari

We didn’t know quite what our route was going to be because the government had decided to hold an impromptu conference at the hotel we were heading to and so there was a last minute change of plan. I had no idea that we were going to cross the equator and so this stop came as a huge surprise. Strangely standing with one foot either side of it was one of my favourite moments…

Kenya safari what to pack

Cotton slub T-shirt; Boden shorts (past season); trainers

…and of course at first we thought it was just a tourist trap, after all who knows where the equator line really is? Well actually they showed us how and here’s a little video from my Instagram stories to show you how (an extremely rare moment of science on Midlifechic!).

We had another stop for lunch next to the Thompson Falls…

Safari Titan Travel Kenya

… where I made more new friends who kindly changed colour from the orange of the dust road to the khaki of my t-shirt.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

After another afternoon of driving we arrived at my favourite of the hotels we stayed in, the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge.

Titan Travel review Kenya safari

The rooms were lovely, set in individual lodges alongside the lake.

All kinds of animals wandered around outside and each morning we woke up to a parade as the giraffes, zebra, and different types of antelope made their way down to the water. So imagine that you’re sitting on our balcony here…

Titan Travel review accommodation

… and watch them follow the path to the lake…

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya

… it was such a magical way to start the day.

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya

There was a beautiful swimming pool which was just what you needed after hot dusty game drives.

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya

The animals were all around you throughout the day – giraffes on the tennis court and monkeys up to mischief outside our door…

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya

The evenings here were much dressier. As you’ll see in a minute I dug out one of the few pieces I’d packed for the beach because you needed something more stylish than your daytime safari gear.

What to pack: an alternative short sleeved jersey dress for the day (any colour) with flat sandals. Swimwear and kaftan. Patterned trousers for the evening with a nice top and scarf to wrap around your shoulders for the walk back to your lodge. Flat sandals again. I wouldn’t advise cropped trousers because you’ll get bitten around the ankles.

Monday (Lake Naivasha)

Monday was a particular highlight. A short drive in the jeeps took us to a different part of the lake shore. It was the spot where a lot of the animal scenes from ‘Out of Africa’ were filmed in the 80s. At the time, various breeds were transferred there temporarily for filming but when it was all finished, the conservation advisers noticed that they’d settled and so they decided it was kinder not to move them again. Predators such as lions had been kept at bay and instinctively relocated so the animals there are still very relaxed and breed well.

They’re not tame but they’re completely unfazed by humans and so as you hike around the shore, you can approach them quite closely. We had a guide with us and as we walked, he talked us through everything we saw. Not just the animals but the different trees and grasses, the tracks and the burrows, it was fascinating.

This giraffe is known locally as Phillip purely because he’s so friendly. He’s the oldest in the region, about 30 years old and apparently loves a photo!

Mal and Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic travel review

Athlete vest; Gap chino shorts (past season); Trainers; Prescription sunglasses

We all spent ages trying to answer the question of ‘how many stripes does a zebra have?’ In the end the answer was one – it’s just a single, uninterrupted black stripe.

Kenya safari what to pack

Athlete vest; Gap chino shorts (past season); Trainers; Prescription sunglasses

Here’s a wildebeest – they’re pretty unfortunate animals with very underdeveloped senses so they live alongside the zebra. There’s a trade-off that goes on; the zebra use their highly attuned senses to detect predators and in return the wildebeest protect them – they work as a tag team. That’s why you so often see them together.

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya, Titan Travel review

We saw so many other things – aardvark burrows and anteater tracks, lots of different bucks and gazelles and we learned about the yellow acacia trees that you can see all around us. They only grow by water and when the colonialists first came on safaris in the early 1900s, they noticed that they caught malaria whenever they camped beneath them. They assumed it came from the acacias so they named them ‘fever trees’.

Of course years later it was discovered that malaria came from the mosquitoes that you also find next to water.  It makes me smile when I look at bottles of tonic water now though – such lovely branding synergy.

After our walk we went out on Lake Naivasha in boats to find hippos. They were all around us…

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya, Titan Travel review

…and we watched fish eagles and cormorants swooping overhead too.

Kenya safari what to pack

Safari hat

This was my favourite baby hippo – he gave us such a glare when we woke him from his morning nap.

What it's like to go on safari in Kenya, review of Titan Travel

Afer a break with a swim back at the lodges we went out for a quick visit to Joy Adamson’s house, Elsamere, to see where she raised Elsa the lion. We heard about her work and the conservation that the foundation still funds and then looked round the house – unfortunately photos weren’t allowed. It was sad to think that both she and her husband were eventually killed by locals.

Kenya safari what to pack

Baukjen blouse past season, Boden shorts past season

This gives you an idea of the set up for dinner on safari, wherever you stay you’ll find that each night there’s a buffet with lots to choose from. The food was good everywhere but particularly so here.

What to wear in the evening on safari

One of our ‘happy bus’ friends took this photo and it sums up just how exhilarated we were feeling by this point. We’d settled into the rhythm of the safari, getting used to the dawn starts and early nights which are the opposite of our usual holiday pattern. It was absolutely worth it for the mental stimulation we were enjoying, learning so much about subjects that we’d never really given any thought to before.

Kenya safari what to pack

Boden halter top and trousers – both past season

What to pack – the shorts and vest with trainers felt right for the walk and the hat and scarf were critical for the boat ride because we were out on the water for over an hour in the hot equatorial sun. You’d probably pop one of your jersey dresses on for the Elsamere visit.

For evening I wore the same trousers as the night before with a different top. As an alternative, I noticed some stylish French women wearing wide legged linen/viscose blend trousers with elasticated waists which would have been really useful to have – they’d work for some of the day trips as well as the evenings.

Kenya Safari – Tuesday (Lake Nakuru)

On Tuesday morning we rather reluctantly left our lovely Sopa lodges and doubled back on ourselves to go to Lake Nakuru now that the government conference had moved on. One of the fascinating things about the journey was seeing crowds of local people walking miles and miles along the dusty roads.

We asked why there were so many and where they were going. Our guide explained that they were going to work at the flower farms because of course most of the flowers we buy in Europe come from Kenya. As Valentines Day was fast approaching they were having to do extra long shifts to meet demand for roses and they walk an hour or more each way to get to the farms. It occurred to me that it must seem like such first world nonsense to them; nothing like Valentines Day exists in Kenyan culture.

We arrived at our next lodging in time for lunch and this was the only place we stayed that was in need of a bit of refurbishment. We were allocated room 101 which set our minds whirring but luckily no deep fears lay within…

Accommodation Titan Travel review

After lunch we all relaxed together by the pool for a couple of hours…

Accommodation Titan Travel review

… and it looks as though Mal’s done the wedding photographer trick of smearing Vaseline on his lens here but it was just that his fingers were greasy with sun cream.

Kenya safari what to pack

Boden swimsuit past season; Prescription sunglasses

As the sun started to drop we went out on a game drive to see Nakuru’s famous flamingoes. Lots of them were still white because they were only just starting to arrive from spending their breeding season in Tanzania. They come to Lake Naivasha to feed on the algae and that’s what turns their feathers pink.

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

Further along the rest of our group were very excited to spot this mother and baby rhino. Of all the animals we saw the rhino was the only one that didn’t resonate with me, I don’t know why.

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

Further along though I loved this secretary bird, it walks around so efficiently that it feels as if it’s very well named

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

But best of all that day was watching the baboons in our own back garden – they obviously enjoyed the buzz from the electric fence…

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

… and soon scrambled over it to sit on our roof.

Kenya safari Titan Travel review

And so, that was the end of our fourth day, we were advised to go to bed early because the climax of the next few days in the Masai Mara was up next. So we had dinner and a cocktail with our happy bus gang before turning in, excited about what was to come.

What to pack: rewear one of your two jersey dresses for the day as you spend most of it in the jeep (you can have them washed during the previous two night stay). You’ll need your swimwear for the afternoon and you can pop your dress back on for the evening because it’s very dressed down here.

Ok, I’m going to stop now and let you get on with your evening but in the next instalment you’ll see how after this gentle start, the pace of the trip ramped up and there were moments of breathless excitement. Everything changes when you get to the Masai Mara – it’s such a crescendo. I’ll also have the complete packing list for everyone who’s been asking. Thank you for travelling with me so far, I hope I’ve managed to bring it to life for you, if not, you can now watch all of the Instagram stories on my highlight reel and feel like you’re there with us. A Kenya safari really is just so much more than you can imagine.

Disclosure: ‘Kenya safari – what to expect & what to pack’ is not a sponsored post however we were invited to experience the safari in exchange for a review. All of my opinions are therefore first hand and honest.

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