9 Amazing animal experiences from around the world!

9 Amazing animal experiences from around the world!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. In this post I share some of the most memorable – and unusual – animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe. What has been your most exciting wildlife experience on your travels?

All the encounters in these posts were with wild animals, apart from the horses which were domesticated and well cared-for.

Indri in Madagascar

A trip to the island of Madagascar, lying off the coast of southeast Africa, can only mean one thing: lemurs. And the largest of these is the indri (see cover photo above).

Tree-dwelling primates, the indri live in large family groups in the treetops, jumping sideways from tree to tree on their hind legs. They are territorial, and one family will rule a specific area of the forest, where their haunting cries can be heard for miles around. A good tracker will know the local families and be able to help you find the nearest group, although it will still mean a scramble across the hillsides which is all part of the fun! Dense forest is prime indri habitat, and standing on the forest floor looking up at these creatures in the trees above you is an unforgettable experience.

Top tip: use your phone to record a short snatch of the indri’s cries. Play it back and hear them answer you!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Spinner dolphins in the Maldives

One of the highlights of cruising the Maldives is the sight of spinner dolphins, which launch themselves out of the water and pirouette gracefully before belly-flopping back in. Look out for them as you sail between islands, and then sit out on deck and admire their athleticism!

Top tip: Between bobbing boats and energetic dolphins, it’s almost impossible to get a decent photo of a spinner dolphin, so don’t try. You might manage a short video, but otherwise just sit back and enjoy the spectacle!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Monkeys in India

If you’re a fan of monkeys, you really can’t miss them in the subcontinent. Big or small, there is a huge mixture of monkey species in India, and they are everywhere. And sometimes that can present a challenge!

Indian monkeys seem to be divided into the cute and the not-so-cute. Encounter a monkey in the countryside, and chances are he will be swinging from the trees, curious of you but content to just show off for the camera. Encounter a monkey in the city, and you’d better not put that camera down anywhere or the monkey will walk off with it! But either way, their antics are incredibly photogenic.

Top tip: Don’t get too close. Once the monkey starts to feel threatened, teeth will be bared and claws will be out. A monkey scratch will land you at the nearest clinic for a rabies jab, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. But monkeys will normally leave you alone if you give them a bit of space. And don’t wave food around…

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Komodo dragons in Indonesia

Now, I’ll be honest: komodo dragons aren’t the most dynamic of creatures. At least, not unless they are attacking, which is not a situation you want to find yourself in (and yes, the komodo dragon diet has been known to include humans). But their sheer size, toxicity and ferocity make them fascinating to see.

A trip to Komodo Island or its neighbour, Rinca, gives you the opportunity to view these creatures up close. A variety of trails of various lengths give you the chance to see them in their natural habitat, however many factors such as the time of day or year can make them hard to spot. But one place they can always be relied on to visit is the ranger station, where the wild komodos wait around for scraps of food. It may not be the wild sighting you were hoping for, but you are unlikely to leave without seeing them!

Top tip: Take a camera with a long lens. You can’t approach the komodos too closely: it’s incredibly dangerous, and your ranger guide won’t allow it anyway. To get a decent shot you will need to zoom!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Wild asses in Gujarat, India

The western Indian state of Gujarat is renowned for its wildlife, which includes the rare Asiatic lion. But one of its most striking inhabitants is much more peace-loving: the wild ass.

Living on the arid Little Rann of Kutch in the centre of the state, the asses – which look somewhere between a horse and a donkey – are under threat due to illegal salt-panning in this desert region. Protected by the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary (which is not just the largest wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, but the whole of India), the asses live in herds on the plains, and make a striking silhouette against the blue desert sky.

Top tip: To visit the wild asses, you will need to take a jeep safari into the sanctuary. Crossing the plains by open-top vehicle is part of the fun! You won’t be able to get too close to the animals, so this is another one where a zoom lens is an advantage.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Coatí at Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

A trip to Iguazu Falls, on the Brazil/Argentina border, summons up visions of thundering waterfalls and mists rising into the sub-tropical air. But the flora and fauna are also lush and mysterious here. Butterflies are everywhere, and toucans can be spotted in the trees; guinea pigs are also a common sighting. But you can’t miss the coatís.

The coati (or coatimundi) is a type of raccoon, and these cute creatures have overtaken the area around the falls, foraging through rubbish bins for food. Always check before you throw your trash in the can – there might be a sleeping coatí inside!

Top tip: Don’t feed them. Just don’t. And watch your bag, especially if there is food inside. But they are still incredibly cute!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Icelandic horses in Iceland

Iceland is not particularly known for its animals, but its horses are special. Squatter and sturdier than their southern counterparts, there are two unique Icelandic horse gaits which experienced riders will enjoy trying out!

Horses can be found all over the island, and Icelandic horse treks are a popular activity for visitors. But you don’t have to be a rider to get up close; if you are lucky enough to see a horse close to the road, stop and feed it grass from the palm of your hand. Or better still, book a horse ride to explore this beautiful country the way it has been travelled for centuries.

Top tip: Keep foreign germs away from Icelandic horses. The breed is hardy, but the horses have had very little exposure to disease; as a result, it is not possible to import any other breed of horse into Iceland, and nor is it permitted to bring an Icelandic horse back once it has left the country.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Proboscis monkeys in Borneo

OK, so I’ve already mentioned monkeys, but the proboscis monkeys of Borneo are something special. Found nowhere else but on this vast island, the proboscis monkeys tend to get overshadowed by their more famous cousin, the orangutan, but they shouldn’t be missed if you are visiting the area.

Proboscis monkeys are comical-looking creatures. The name comes from their abnormally large nose, which makes them look slightly like old men as they lounge about, whiling away the hours until it’s time to eat again. Red-faced and curious, one of the best places to see them is at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary near Sandakan in the far north of the island. The monkeys are subject to the same threats from deforestation as the orangutans, and the sanctuary helps support the local primate community by providing food, although the monkeys live wild. They are incredible sociable and will come to with a few feet of visitors – don’t touch them though!

Top tip: Combine a visit to the Labuk Bay sanctuary with your trip to see the orangutans at Sepilok Nature Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia. Another great place to see proboscis monkeys is Bandar Seri Bagawan in tiny Brunei, where you can take a morning or afternoon boat trip to check out the local population.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Tree climbing lions in Kenya

Have you ever seen a lion up a tree? Unless you’ve been to specific areas around the Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania borders, chances are you haven’t. But in this part of Africa, lions have adapted to climbing trees – and seem remarkably comfortable.

If you are in Kenya, head to Lake Nakuru National Park, which is the only park in the country where these lions can be found. But keep your fingers crossed: actually seeing the lions in a tree is still a relatively rare event. I got incredibly lucky when I visited, and sat for a good half-hour watching a lion climb a tree and settle down amongst its branches for a snooze. It was one of the most special wildlife experiences I have ever had.

Top tip: If a lion is spotted, chances are yours won’t be the only vehicle to make a beeline for it. If you can, try to hang around until after most of the vehicles have left. The lions will feel much less threatened, and much more inclined to pose for the cameras. And you will get better shots as well as a magical experience!

Have you had amazing wildlife experiences on your travels? Let me know in the comments!


Enjoyed reading about these amazing animal experiences? Pin this post for later!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Kibera slum tour: Real life in an African slum

Kibera slum tour: Real life in an African slum

This post was first published in August 2017


It is really important to me to learn about everyday life in the countries I visit. It doesn’t matter whether the country is affluent or impoverished, I want to see behind the tourist veneer and get a glimpse into how people live, the reality of normal life. In the past, this has taken me to supermarkets, residential streets and, in India, a multiplex cinema where I had the samosa special and watched modern Bollywood for an afternoon. But Nairobi was something different. It took me to Kibera.

Not unreasonably, many countries gloss over their poorer areas, would prefer not to show them off to visitors. I visited Namibia some years ago, and we were whisked straight past the townships as though they didn’t exist. Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is a place of contrasts: I stayed in a nice tourist hotel, with air conditioning and a pool, a stone’s throw from the skyscrapers of the downtown. But Nairobi is also home to arguably the largest slum in Africa, Kibera. With some 700,000 inhabitants, Kibera perches on the edge of the city centre, not far from the national park and wildlife sanctuaries that draw tourists from all over the world, yet it is a place of shacks and poverty. I had the opportunity to take a tour, and I took it.

What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

Kibera. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Schreibkraft)

I wasn’t sure about the ethics of taking a Kibera slum tour, and if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure today. My reasons for going were primarily for my own education: to see what life in an African slum is really like, and to fully understand the conditions people have to live in simply because they were born less fortunate than me. My intention was to raise my own awareness, and to help the community in some small way. But the last thing I wanted was to be a voyeur, to parade around town in a tour group flashing my riches and making people feel uncomfortable at best, embarrassed at worst. Fortunately my visit was as low-key as possible; I was in Kenya as a solo traveller and had booked a 2-day private tour (with Dawn in Africa Safaris), and they were able to arrange for me to visit Kibera with a representative of a local charity, and – most importantly to me – on my own. And what an experience it was.

What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

With David in Kibera

I was met on the outskirts of the slum by David, who runs a community project helping local children express their creativity through a range of means – arts and crafts, modern and traditional dance, videography and many others. What can at first seem superficial is in fact very valuable for these kids; aside from providing them with a safe place that keeps them occupied and out of trouble, it provides mentorship from the adults involved. And the skills they learn lead to employment, primarily in the tourist industry which is a big part of the local economy, as well as the opportunity to get out of Kibera and travel around Kenya – and even overseas – giving performances. David and I sat in his office on the top floor of a ramshackle wooden building as he filled me in, and my eyes were opened wide by his passion and commitment.

Afterwards, David took me on a walk around the eastern part of Kibera. The township is made up of a number of “villages” which blend one into the other, and not all of which are welcoming to strangers. But here in his home district, we were greeted on the street by his friends and family. The streets were narrow in places, wending between the tightly-packed wooden buildings (to the point that I hit my head – hard – on an overhang, which was more than a little embarrassing). The ground beneath our feet was buried under several layers of rubbish. It was exactly how I had pictured an African slum, and difficult to digest. The refuse underfoot, the smell of garbage, and the families living side-by-side amongst all this, purely because they were born here and this was their lot in life. Life in Kibera is hard.

What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

Kibera. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Ninaras)

But the people were incredible. David introduced me to everyone he knew along the way – all of them friendly, welcoming, ready to shake my hand. His family members would appear from nowhere – a teenage niece who met up with him to collect some money, brothers and sisters who would appear for a quick hello. We visited a local bone carver, who took the bones of cows from the slaughterhouse and cut and polished them into jewellery to sell to tourists. He showed me the process, in a rickety workshop thick with bone dust. In his little sales room I selected a few pieces to take home with me, knowing that the important thing was to buy something, regardless of whether I liked it. But the little bracelets and necklaces made great souvenirs, as well. One of the salesmen surprised me when he asked where I was from and I told him Stoke-on-Trent. “Ah, Stoke City!” he said, referring to our local football team which was currently in the UK Premier League. Nowhere on my travels has anyone known where Stoke-on-Trent is, and yet here in the slums of Nairobi I found someone who knew of the city and had watched its team on television. He was a Manchester United fan, but you can’t have everything.

We visited a community centre who have set up a project to generate electricity using refuse from the local public toilets. Living conditions in Kibera are such that in-home plumbing is very rarely available, so these community toilets are common, and the method of generating electricity from this inexhaustible source was ingenious. We also went to Kibera Town Centre, a building with offices, public showers and a small coffee shop where local people could buy their espressos and lattes and have some dignity, knowing that they were having the same experiences as their richer cousins in the city centre. In a side room was a bank of computers; these are free to use, and enable Kibera’s residents to have email and Facebook accounts, and all the other things needed in the modern world to communicate and look for employment. It was a fabulous place.

What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

Kibera. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Ninaras)

Everywhere I visited, I was handing out donations. It felt awkward and patronising, but would have felt so much worse if I hadn’t. My general donation was £5-£10 sterling, and to this day I don’t know if that was insultingly extravagant or insultingly little. All I could do was follow my own instincts and hope for the best.

I also had the opportunity on our tour to visit David’s adoptive family. His own parents died young, and he was raised by a local couple who still live in the community with their children and grandchildren. And so I was privileged to go behind the street façade into their home, through a courtyard into a back building where the four grandsons were doing their homework on the floor, next to their bunk beds and with an old tv playing on one wall. We made awkward conversation; David insisted on taking photos. I think I was interrupting them, to be honest, but they were so generous to allow me to come into their home, and the children were full of smiles. After a chat with the adults in the courtyard, we were on our way again, with me once again dishing out money like some dishevelled fairy godmother. It didn’t get any easier.

Other than the photos in the home, and a few on the outskirts of the slum itself, I didn’t take any pictures while I was in Kibera. In fact, other than some money and my phone, I didn’t take much with me at all. Taking photos in the streets would have been hugely inappropriate, but David very kindly took some for me after my visit and emailed them to me. Having said that, I don’t need photographs to remember the images of the slum, the streets full of people living their lives in difficult conditions, and the entrepreneurship and determination to better their lot that I experienced everywhere around me. It was embarrassing how driven they were compared to myself and the majority of us back home.

What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

Kibera. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Flickr: klndonnelly)


Where is Kibera?

Covering a sizeable chunk of Kenya’s capital city, Kibera lies to the southeast of the city centre and close to Nairobi National Park. It can be easily reached in combination with the major tourist sites of the area, but must be visited with a local guide.

How can I help the community of Kibera slum?

After I visited Kibera I was on the lookout for some way in which I could help the community. The projects I came across were all local, and aside from the donations on the day it is difficult to transfer money to them. Then, some months later, I came across Anno’s Africa. A project very similar to the one David runs, Anno’s Africa works with Kibera children, teaching them performing arts and, especially, ballet. They do a lot of good work in the community and have some prominent backing outside Kenya, particularly in the UK where the charity is registered. I urge you to visit www.annosafrica.org.uk to find out more.


Inspired to take your own trip to Kenya? Check out this inspiration for your own 2-day tour, or click here for some incredible beaches to round off your trip!

To compare life in Kibera with another of the world’s biggest slums, check out this post on the district of Dharavi in Mumbai, India.


Considering your own Kibera slum tour? Pin this post to re-read it later!
What is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobiWhat is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobiWhat is it like to visit the largest slum in Africa? Discover what a Kibera slum tour is like, the ethics of your visit, & the inspirational people you will meet on the way. | Kibera charity | Where is Kibera | Living conditions in Kibera | Kibera housing project | Kibera children | Problems in Kibera | Kibera slum population | Improving Kibera | Kibera population | Life in Kibera | African slums | Kibera shanty town | Kibera slum Kenya | Life in Kibera slums #kibera #kenya #nairobi

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

The lion that climbed the tree: Life on the plains of Kenya

The lion that climbed the tree: Life on the plains of Kenya

In September 2015 I went to Kenya. I was on my way to another location in Africa, but as so often happens, my flights there and back transited in Nairobi and the temptation to see something outside the airport was too much to bear. So it was that I broke my journey on the way home, and spent two days and two nights in on a whistle-stop tour of the area.

I’m going to be honest here: my expectations weren’t high, mainly because of the bad press Nairobi gets (which is kind of justified given the crime rates). I’d also “been on safari” a number of years earlier in Namibia and Botswana, and that bucket-list box was already ticked. So I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with Kenya, but that’s exactly what happened. The people were friendly and generous, the countryside varied from beautiful to spectacular, and… well… the wildlife.

tree climbing lions kenya

Life on the plains. Nairobi National Park

On my first day I headed to Nairobi National Park, on the city’s doorstep. The park was set up to maintain a migration corridor for the animals around the city, and to give them a safe environment which would discourage them from their increasingly frequent excursions into residential areas. Nairobi National Park is pretty spectacular; it contains most of the major animals, although no elephants, and all set in wide open plains against a backdrop of city skyscrapers which you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

While I was in the park, I tagged on a couple of somewhat touristy visits, but unmissable and still with a wildlife theme. On the fringes of the park is the Giraffe Centre, where I had the opportunity to mount a high platform and feed food pellets to endangered Rothschild giraffes. Touristy it certainly was, but the experience of seeing a blue tongue flick out and swipe a handful of pellets from my hand (hello, giraffe slobber…!) was only surpassed by being on eye level, able to stroke the heads of the giraffes and feel their bristly manes and surprisingly soft “horns”. An incredible experience you could never get in a zoo.

tree climbing lions kenya

Feeding the giraffes of the Giraffe Centre

tree climbing lions kenya

David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

I also headed to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where I and a small crowd were able to watch one of the daily public feeding sessions with the baby elephants. The elephants here are rescued, usually because their mothers have been killed by poachers. They are raised at the orphanage until the age of about 7 years, before being transferred to a rehabilitation centre in Tsavo National Park with the goal of being reintroduced to the wild. The baby elephants were just as cute as you would expect, drinking from bottles and playing football quite spontaneously in the mud and dust. Again, I was able to stroke them as they approached, almost as inquisitive about us as we were about them. The groups of Kenyan infant schoolchildren were as captivated as I was, and almost as cute as the elephants.

tree climbing lions kenya

The spectacular Great Rift Valley

On my second and final day in the country, I took a trip to Lake Nakuru National Park. A couple of hours to the west of Nairobi, getting there involved a drive along the main trunk road to Uganda, stopping at a spectacular viewpoint over the Rift Valley before heading along the valley floor past Lake Naivasha before reaching the park. If I’d though the previous day was great, this day was incredible. I was in Kenya by myself, and since I was limited on time and restricted on dates, joining a group tour wasn’t an option so I had splashed out on a two day private tour instead. And I cannot recommend it enough, especially on safari. Alone with my driver/guide, I was able to stop anywhere I pleased in the park and take photos to my heart’s content, utterly undisturbed. It was incredible, and something I would love to repeat one day.

I saw most of the animals I wanted to see, bar the elusive elephants which again, are not present in the park. A highlight for me was, over the two days, getting great sightings of both spotted and striped hyenas, who have a special place in my heart in spite of a very close encounter in Botswana when they were 6ft away from my tent at 2am trying to rip a tarpaulin off our food trailer – a long story for another occasion! Seeing both species of hyena in Kenya (and in daylight!) was incredibly special.

However, the most incredible part of the day came towards the end. I knew in advance, from reading up on Lake Nakuru, that it is home to tree-climbing lions. Now, lions don’t normally climb trees. If you’ve seen photos of a big cat in a tree, it will normally be a leopard. However, there are small populations of lions in East Africa who, for some reason, have taken to tree-climbing. Most are in parks in southern Uganda and northern Tanzania, but the only population in Kenya is in Lake Nakuru National Park. I was hoping I might get to see one, but was realistic about the chances.

Want to find out more about wild cat species across the globe? If, like me, these beautiful animals fascinate you, check out this great breakdown!

We were driving across the park, when suddenly my guide got a call on his radio that lions had been spotted. We headed to where they had been seen, but they had already moved on. Then another message – other vehicles were actually viewing them right now, and we set off at breakneck pace across the unmade roads of the park, with my head sticking out of the popup safari van as we bounced over the rough ground. We reached the sighting area, and there was a lioness, up on a branch. But she didn’t hang around, and I watched her jump back down the tree and head off into the undergrowth. “Oh well”, I thought, “at least I can say I saw it”.

“Let’s wait and see if she comes back”, said my guide. So wait we did, with 3 or 4 vehicles full of groups around us. The lioness did indeed come back, but chose instead to sit in the grass under the tree, so the other vehicles gave up and headed on their way. But I decided to wait, and my patience finally paid off when a second lion padded across the grassland and climbed gracefully up into the tree, where she settled herself, two legs dangling either side of a stout branch, and settled down for a peaceful afternoon nap.

It was incredible, made all the more special by being one of very few to view it. And the icing on the cake was when my guide, who is in the park several times a week all year round, mentioned that this was only the fifth time in his life he had ever seen it. When you have to promise to send photos to the guide afterwards, you know you’ve seen something special.

The day was rounded off wonderfully by a late lunch with my guide in a local restaurant where I was the only tourist, followed by a detour to the Equator sign some 40 minutes up the road which would also not have been possible on a group tour. (Seriously, I need that lottery money to come through so I can do it more often…). It may have been a whistle-stop trip to Kenya, but it will always be unforgettable, and not least because of how lucky I was to see those tree-climbing lions.

tree climbing lions kenya

Jambo Kenya! The smile says it all…


If you’re pushed for time or just travelling through Nairobi, I strongly recommend a stopover. I was only in the city for two nights and didn’t leave my hotel unaccompanied as I was unsure about safety, but still packed a lot in.

If you need inspiration for other places to visit in Africa, check out this post by The Kiwi Couple, or see my other posts on this incredible continent!

My trip around Kenya was organised with Dawn in Africa Safaris, who did a fantastic job and provided great company over the two days that I was travelling solo.

None of the links in this post are sponsored.


 

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Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!