By Mark Hickey
NHA Creative Director
If you’ve ever been on safari in Africa, you know how impressive it is to watch wildlife from an open 4X4 vehicle on a game drive. But watching it on foot is even more amazing. While I was in Kenya last month, staying at Leleshwa Camp, I was lucky enough to enjoy a 3-day walking safari with NHA Director Ben Bressler, General Manager Rick Guthke and NHA marketing consultant Matt Kareus.
Leleshwa is a deluxe tented camp situated within the private Siana Community Conservancy on the northeastern edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. From our base here, we challenged treacherous muddy roads (with one minor push-out) and arrived in our staging area ready for the Loita Hills Walking Expedition. The Loita Hills border the Great Rift Valley, and it was here that we met our lead Maasai guide, Robert Rerende, two other trackers and a team of 14 donkeys and their handlers.
As we snacked on trail mix and quenched our thirst with ice-cold Coca Colas, the donkeys were packed and maps coordinated. We then set off for a 5-hour hike deep into the Sacred and Naimenenkio (Lost Child) forests. At 6,000-8,000 feet in elevation, these are some of the most beautiful and pristine indigenous woodlands left in Kenya, and are home to an array of fascinating animals, birds and plant life.
We traveled along trails sculpted by buffalo and waterbuck and regularly came across lion, hyena, and leopard prints in our path. Giant water holes would give us relief from single-track hiking, and a lunch stop at Ol Seiyei swamp refueled us for the last leg of the hike. Our Maasai guides continued to trim back heavy brush and our favorite plant (not!), the stinging nettle.
We had our share of water crossings, and scenic views of surrounding valleys were constantly on display from high outcroppings or cliffs. Troops of colobus monkeys shook the canopy above our heads–and attempted to pee on us as we kept a watchful eye and ear out for bigger and more dangerous wildlife. And thanks to elevation, we were super pleased to walk through these magnificent forests without the company of any mosquitos. Bonus!!
We camped in a fantastic spot overlooking a waterhole in a natural clearing in the forest. Our camp was pre-set by our guides, and our donkey friends grazed nearby in tall green grass. Cohibas and cold beers were of first priority, and a fantastic beef stir-fry filled our bellies before an early lights-out. The next morning we were awakened with the warm sun and a hot breakfast. We spent the day hiking through another valley that also offered us unparalleled views into the Great Rift Valley beyond, learning about its history and wildlife as we walked with our guides.
As we sat around the campfire that night, regaling each other with travel stories and drying our socks, I knew this was an adventure I would treasure forever. There were moments during these few days on foot in the African wilderness that I found myself thinking, “This is what it must have been like for African explorers like David Livingstone and Henry Stanley,” as we hiked another ridge line with a storm on one horizon and a herd of buffalo in the valley below.
It was simply amazing!
If you’d like to arrange a walking safari – whether a multi-day adventure like this one, or an outing lasting just a couple of hours – the staff at Leleshwa Camp can coordinate it. Check out our African safari planner iSafari.com to book a stay at Leleshwa, or elsewhere in Africa where exciting walking safaris are possible!
All photo credits for this post: Mark Hickey