African Safari: Discovering Tsavo East and Amboseli


An African Safari is a lifetime experience, something you’ll never forget. We are both passionate about wild animals and watch plenty of documentaries on TV. Going on a Safari Tour was always on our bucket list and so for Vincenzo’s 30th birthday we took the opportunity and booked a 2-week trip to Zanzibar and Kenya.

There are several parks to choose from for an African safari in Kenya. The most popular one is certainly the Maasai Mara National Reserve, home of the Maasai tribe and host of the Great Migration. Other parks we were looking into when planning our trip to Kenya are Aberdare National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park. However, it turned out our best connection to Kenya was Mombasa, which is quite far from the above parks. We remembered other travellers we met around the world had highly recommended Amboseli and Tsavo East parks, and so ultimately we decided to go with these. 

African safari

Our little misadventure

Here is our little misadventure. We contacted a small local operator which was advised to us. At first, he was very responsive to all our queries and very informative about the tour packages. However, as soon as we booked and paid 50% of the total for the Tsavo East and Amboseli package (note safaris are expensive…) things changed. They did not give us a receipt, not even a confirmation email for the service booked. All we had was the WhatsApp number of the manager who told us once in Kenya they would follow up and tell us the pick-up time for the Safari.

After Zanzibar, we headed to Mombasa and then Watamu, the village from which our safari adventure would have begun. On the day before departure, we still did not have a pick-up time. With no internet, we had to spend the day at the local café waiting for an answer from the agency. But nothing. We went to bed without an answer. A sleepless night, until the confirmation finally arrived at 1am: “pick-up time is at 3am“. 😫


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African Safari: Tsavo East National Park

The adventure begins

Finally, it was our time. We met with our driver and guide Babu, a friendly clumsy man who could speak our language. The group on our 4×4 was cool, the music was good, and everything was just perfect as we hit the road toward our first stop: Tsavo East Park.

During the trip, we had the opportunity to look at Kenya’s landscape: a mix of rocky and dusty roads, and extensive deserts with oases here and there. Inevitably, we witnessed the poor side of the country as we passed by rural villages with no running water and mud-made houses.

A little bit of charity

After a few miles, Babu proposed to stop by a shop and get some flour to hand over to the poor on the way to the park. We agreed and with 10 USD each, we filled the jeep with bags of flour.

I had the impression people were waiting for us on the edge of the road and so I asked Babu. He confirmed they would walk from the villages and wait for the jeeps to arrive. He also recommended handing over the bags to the ladies only, as the men and children would have sold the flour instead of using it to feed their families. It was cute and sad at the same time seeing the children sitting on top of their mum’s shoulders. You wonder what the future would be like for them.

African Safari: handing over some flour to the poor
African Safari: handing over some flour to the poor
African Safari: handing over some flour to the poor

The endless trip to the park continues

On our (endless) way to the park, we also stopped by a school. Here we handed over our last few bags of flour and donated also some clothes and money to the director. The conditions of the school – a private school financed entirely by donations – were poor, yet it was something valuable for the locals. I gave a small English class to the pupils. I felt like I was becoming good at it after Makunduchi 😀

Part of the group was becoming tired and I could see their point. It was lunchtime and we did not arrive at the park yet. Half-day of our trip was gone but we gave smiles to several people, so we’re happy with the trip so far. I was truly delighted to see how tourism was useful to the locals in this instance and how small companies and drivers like Babu care for their unfortunate fellow citizens.

Tsavo East at last

Finally, the sign “Welcome to Tsavo East National Park”. We stopped at the entrance for a little break. We made the best out of it and visited the nearby lake to watch the crocodiles sunbathing. As we went ahead towards our lodge, a family of warthogs looked attentively at us and an ostrich crossed our way. We checked in at the Voi Wildlife Lodge and had our lunch. The place is pretty cool, with the restaurant overlooking a small lake. There were lizards of any kind and colours. I took my time observing these cool creatures closely. We were given some time to rest, so we relaxed a bit at the pool while a group of elephants gathered by the lake. The elephants were just a few steps away from us: the scenario was just unbeatable.

African Safari: Tsavo East National Park

Safari Tsavo East

Time for our first, proper game ride. The landscape of the park could not go unnoticed: Tsavo East is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Kenya and it features an alien-like landscape due to its red dusty soil. We drove for about an hour wandering the landscape but without noticing any animals. Until we found a group of jeeps: a sign that something was going on. A group of three lionesses was approaching a small pond to drink. We were very close and got so lucky on this occasion. On a safari, you don’t always expect to observe animals closely. Sometimes they are close, sometimes far, and so you never know what to expect.

We enjoyed watching the cats for a good bit, but it was time to go. During our game ride, we also saw lots of impalas and a large herd of red-dusted elephants. These elephants enjoy rolling on the red dusty soil becoming completely red. It was getting dark, so we returned to our lodge.

Once there, we still wanted to make the most out of our day, so we followed the path that goes from the lodge to the back of the small lake. From the top of the path, we had a clear view of the animals having a drink and we saw a hippo! He was going back to the lake and we watched him pretty closely. Unfortunately, it was dark so the photos did not come out clearly.

African Safari: Tsavo East

A brief stop to our safari

Day 1 was the longest day ever, but honestly one of the coolest of my life. Day 2 did not start so well. A member of our group got food poisoned and Babu had to arrange a car to bring him to town. We waited at the park’s exit and enjoyed watching a cute couple of young hyraxes and a family of yellow baboons.

While the baboons were calm and quiet, other smaller monkeys wandered around us with suspicion. One of them got into our car and stole some snacks. Some of us tried to run after them but with no hope and they eventually attacked us back. We knew what they were up to, we just could not stop laughing!

By the time Babu arranged a car, the guy was feeling better, but half-day was already gone, meaning no more game rides in Tsavo; time to head to Amboseli.

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African Safari: Amboseli National Park

The day did not start the way we hoped, and in addition, the rain was hitting hard on the way to Amboseli. At the park’s entrance, we had to wait another half hour before our tickets went through due to a bad internet connection around the area. The group was getting disappointed at that stage. The misadventures faced till then had made us lose a substantial amount of time to the game rides, which were the true highlight of our trip to Kenya. But deep inside me I still felt lucky for being there that day. I was there with my loved one, and with a fantastic group and after all, the tour was not over yet.

Amboseli Game Ride

As soon as we entered Amboseli park, we spotted two giraffes from a close distance. Time to check in at AA Lodge Amboseli. This lodge had just been renovated and it featured some beautiful cottages overlooking Kilimanjaro Mountain. The lunch was nice, but we only took a little break; we really wanted to go out and experience the park. Time for a game ride then, and perhaps this was the coolest one. Right away we spotted a group of wildebeests and another two giraffes from a close distance. From the top of a naked tree, right on top of our heads, a group of vultures was quietly waiting for an easy chance. We often stopped to take some photos of the animals and the beautiful landscape of the park.

However, I wanted to see something different. I was waiting to spot a leopard and I had a feeling soon was going to appear. I was looking at the trees, where they would usually stay. On the edge of our way, I spotted a lonely hyena.

Amboseli: A magic atmosphere

We drove by a watering hole that was full of pink flamingos…a great view, I must say. We stopped a bit to admire the surroundings. The colours of the park and the atmosphere were just unbelievable. Later, we saw a storm approaching which simply blended perfectly with the scenery.

We suddenly heard trumpets and drove towards them uphill, downhill, and…a large herd of elephants appeared. Other cars approached. The elephants seemed very disturbed and so everybody kept on distance. We could not see anything in particular so we took our binoculars to have a better look. Further away, lying down, there was a group of lions including an adult male. The elephants were annoyed by their presence and were running away. Unfortunately, the lions were out of the driveable path and our cameras could not reach that far. Would have loved to have seen an adult male lion closely.

We started making our way back to the lodge. On the way, we saw a herd of zebras and a herd of gazelles. Further away, a herd of buffalos was in the middle of our path. It was like a sign saying: “Please don’t go”. We stopped again and took some more photos…I really, really did not want to go back to the lodge. Just outside of the lodge then, we still had the time to photograph more zebras and an ostrich. Sadly though, the day was over and our tour was coming to an end.

The end of our safari

The next morning, we woke up early (just as usual) to take some photographs at sunrise. The scenery with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background was simply amazing. We took some group photos, then we headed for our last game ride. We reached a pretty large water reserve, where we saw many kinds of birds as well as elephants, wildebeests, monkeys, and gazelles. We don’t know the different kinds of birds, but we remember in particular grey crowned cranes, a hawk, and a bold secretary bird. This last bird marked the end of our tour. It was not a leopard as I hoped but still…overall was a fantastic tour; one of those I’ll remember for life. It is very hard to describe emotions here.

African Safari: Amboseli National Park

On the way back we stopped in Voi village for lunch. The atmosphere was more relaxed than ever. We built a fantastic group and we were all friends already. We are still in contact with the rest of the group and we meet up when we can somewhere around the world.

The misadventures continue...

It was time to go again but once on the jeep, Babu noticed something wrong with the steering wheel. We had no choice but to go to a mechanic. They told us they were going to try and fix it, but could not guarantee it. The agency promptly reassured us they were going to send help since other jeeps from the safaris were going back to Watamu. Would you think somebody ever showed up? Of course not. Our destiny was to remain with the same group, with the same driver, and with the same car. We could not do anything but wait there. We went for a walk around the village but to be honest, there was not much to see or do.

Three hours later, the mechanics had done their jobs. Still, they recommended driving slowly as the wheel was a bit loose. And do you think Babu listened to them? No. He was driving mad, speeding like crazy, and taking off other cars as he could not wait to go home. We said goodbye to Babu, the best driver ever 😂, and a see you soon to the others.

Time for conclusions

Our African Safari experience ended there. Definitely, one thing to remember next time is to spend more days on a Safari, considering all the unexpected events that can happen. We divided our trip to Africa into beaches/relaxation and adventure and realised once again there is never enough time to do everything.

The Safari tour was the main highlight of our trip. After many years of watching documentaries, it’s been an exciting experience seeing those wild animals for real. Despite the many misadventures, we have great memories of our African safari in Kenya and we can’t wait for the next one. 

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African Safari packing list: 10 things you must pack for your Safari

Going on an African safari is one kind of experience you’ll remember forever. You might be already excited about your upcoming trip but you’re not too sure of what to bring with you. Don’t worry, we have thought about this, and so we decided to make a list of must-haves on a safari. Make sure you bring these with you so you can enjoy your experience fully.

1. A good DSLR camera

Our number one must-have for a safari is a quality camera. You’ll be viewing animals from a distance, so to capture the best shots, a semi-professional camera with a good zoom is essential. While phones can take good pictures, they lack the zoom capabilities and advanced functions of dedicated cameras. We recommend using a Canon EOS Rebel T7 with an 18-55mm zoom lens to do justice to the spectacular landscapes and wildlife you’ll encounter.

2. Backpack

A small backpack or bag is essential for carrying your daily necessities like water, tissues, sun cream, and other essentials. It ensures you have everything you need conveniently at hand throughout your adventures.

3. Water bottle

A water bottle is definitely a must-have. Avoid plastic bottles as the heat can make your water taste bad and it’s not healthy. Instead, opt for a vacuum-insulated water bottle. It keeps your water cool and fresh and is light and easy to carry. During your trip, the tour organizer will provide water, but using a reusable bottle helps reduce plastic waste.

4. Sun protection

Another must-have to protect you from the African heat is sun cream. We prefer environmentally friendly, bio-certified products, which are healthier for your skin and better for the ocean. We’ve been using Sun Care Organic – Alga Maris from Laboratoires de Biarritz for years and are very happy with it.

5. Runners

Although you’ll encounter dry and rocky landscapes, you won’t be walking much. Instead, you’ll spend hours in a jeep, so comfort is key. Bring your most comfortable pair of runners instead of hiking boots.

6. Flip flops and towel

Most lodges have pools where you can unwind. If your lodge has one, make the most of it. After a day in the heat and sand, a swim will be exactly what you need. A microfiber towel is ideal in this situation as it takes up less space and dries quickly.

7. Light clothes

Your change of clothes will depend on the number of days you’ll be on safari. Generally, days are warm, but evenings can get chilly. Pack shorts and T-shirts/vests for the daytime, as well as light track-suit bottoms and a jumper for early morning game drives.

8. Power bank

While you won’t spend much time on your cell phone, having a power bank is essential. It can prevent your phone and camera from dying. Make sure to bring your camera charger as well and keep both items in your everyday bag.

9. Toiletries

You probably won’t bring your main backpack on a safari, but don’t forget your toiletries!

10. Binocular

As mentioned, you’ll often see animals from a distance on safari, so binoculars are essential. They needn’t be expensive; affordable options like Kylietech High Power Binoculars are available.

Want to read more about our trip? Check this out:
7 Days in Zanzibar:  Stone Town, Best Beaches and Much More

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