“If tomorrow we can go back, we will go,” says Dr Hayden Kho, husband of Dr Vicki Belo and father of social media darling Scarlet Snow, reminiscing how Kenya gave them a breath of fresh air from the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic. “We were stuck here in the Philippines for a long time, so we just wanted to escape.” Vicki adds, “We always go somewhere every Christmas and I thought this year, we wouldn’t be able to do it because of Covid. You can’t help those little voices in your head telling you ‘you shouldn’t go’. [But] I can’t put my life on hold for the rest of I don’t know how long.”
The couple, who have embarked on several African safaris in the past, chose Kenya this time for its diverse wildlife. “Scarlet loves animals,” says Hayden. Before the pandemic, Kenya was teeming with tourists all year round, but this changed in 2020. “Kenya has always been the goal for me, but I’ve never gone because it’s always so crowded. Kenya has always been my dream,” Vicki shares.
Kenya has always been the goal for me, but I’ve never gone because it’s always so crowded. Kenya has always been my dream— Dr Vicki Belo
It was early December when she called her friend, Binky Dizon, owner of A2A Safaris, to check the viability of going to this African destination. “Binky said it’s the best time to go as nobody’s going,” Vicki narrates. And that was it. The next thing Vicki and Hayden knew, they were already aboard a flight to Dubai the day after Christmas, where they would take a connecting flight to Nairobi and a chartered flight to their first destination: Masai Mara.
“It was very magical. The day we arrived, they set up lunch for us outdoors. We’ve seen about a hundred animals! They were drinking water so it’s as if they were all having lunch [with us] at the same time. It was like happy hour for them. I’ve never had that happen to me in any of my trips,” laughs Vicki. The couple, with Scarlet and some of their friends, stayed for four nights at the Mara Bushtops, a safari camp situated within a private wildlife reserve. “We lived in a tent. No air conditioning. The doors were basically zipper. There were a lot of animals. We saw 25 giraffes and about 30 zebras and maybe hundreds of impalas. It’s like they were having a party,” says Hayden. “Scarlet’s eyes were so big. She was so happy,” says Vicki.
The camp is nestled at about 1,700 metres above sea lev- el so the group enjoyed the cool breeze throughout. “We went to a place where you could see the moon coming up as the sun was setting. We had cocktails by the sunset and a bonfire. The locals were dressed in their national costume in bright colours. It was a wonderful welcome and I knew it was going to be a different experience,” she adds.