Kenya is a land of incredible diversity, it’s rife with topographical diversity with glaciers in the equator, dense forests, endless Savannah and bush country, lakes that stretches as far as the eye can see, deserts, mountains and miles of beautiful beaches – this is the original safari country and there is nothing like it anywhere else.
We reached out to Robert Michael Poole– A travel expert, to get some of his best tips for traveling through this eclectic East African country.
Who is Robert Michael Poole?
I’m a photojournalist and digital nomad turned Instagram influencer (@robertmichaelpoole). I previously worked for CNN, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and BBC, but these days I focus on photography and do Instagram takeovers for National Tourism Boards, airlines and resorts. I grew up in the UK but from age 19 have lived in various parts of the world, Russia, Japan, Finland and Sweden. I like finding interesting cultures in every corner of the world and just reached my 121st country.
What is your must-try food or beverage while in Kenya? And why
I’m always a fan of breakfast, which is quite different in Kenya. They use a very sweet masala tea as a wake up call, like English Breakfast tea but with a little spice like cinnamon. It’s made in a massive pot with a huge whisk, and is quite a thing to see as one assigned person makes the froth and strains it out. This is served with mandazi, which is the fried bread dough with cinnamon sugar. The bread here is extremely sweet.
You can also get chips mayai, a breakfast omelet. It’s eggs from a long leg chicken, half the size of western chickens, very tasty, the yolks are much bigger that have less white than a normal egg. It is cooked with chips in a jiko which is a small BBQ that local people use to cook.
In your opinion, what’s an important “do this” or “don’t do that” when it comes to traveling in Kenya?
A must do is a hot-air balloon ride in the Maasai Mara. You need to get up early but it gives you a whole new perspective and appreciation of the landscape. From the ground level you can try to track various animals, but from above you get to see the space in which they roam. Plus I love the floating sensation.
As for don’ts… I would just say, don’t expect to see a lot on limited time. Patience is key, so it’s a destination to spend a few weeks in, not a few days. And don’t get frustrated if you don’t see what you hope to see right away, the element of surprise and the unexpected is what safaris are about, you never know what you will see, so don’t come with a precise expectation.
Robert, what was one of the biggest challenges you, as a photographer, encountered while shooting in Kenya?
The biggest challenge undoubtedly is getting around. I hadn’t realized before coming that it’s a case of taking flights on small planes to reach most destinations, it’s very hard to get around on land. And flights are expensive, it seems tourism in general is set up principally for guests with a significant budget because the only way to see the wilderness is with a proper vehicle, guides, and with food brought in. It makes sense, but it presents a challenge, and I was just lucky to be able to work with many lodges and the tourism board.
You saw the Big 5 on your first Kenyan safari, so we are curious what is your best tip for someone going on their first African safari?
Patience. Nature is unpredictable, that’s the beauty of it, so while you may come hoping to see one thing, it’s for sure you will see a whole lot else too, so enjoy the whole experience, don’t focus too much on pre-determined goals.
And finally, you spent time on a safari and on the beach, what is your best travel moment while in Kenya?
For sure it was being able to touch a wild rhino out near the Maasai Mara. Highly endangered, our guide was able to locate two who had armed guards with them 24 hours a day. The female was aggressive so we couldn’t go close, but the male was relaxed and didn’t mind us approaching. His skin is so tough you can only imagine how much he must weigh and I’m sure he couldn’t even notice when you touch him. It was also an important reminder of the human impact on earth, and sad to reflect that such an awesome creature is in such great danger. It was a real privilege.
Karen Blixen said “there is something about a safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”