I was planning to take my son to Hong Kong, when out the the blue he surprised me with, “So mom, when are we going to Kenya?” I considered his request and when I saw that the airfare was $800 from Detroit versus $550 to go to Hong Kong from Toronto, I was sold. After our last two trips out of Toronto in January, I am even more pleased that I am leaving from our home airport. Our last trips to Toronto for value-priced tickets were awful due to weather conditions. I vowed that if at all possible, I would avoid that four hour commute in the dead of winter as much as I could.
I tried to organize a trip on our own, but the more I planned, the more reality set in–the only way I could do this trip AND be safe would be to take an organized safari. After a few days of research, I found what I felt would be a good safari for us with Wild Safaris and Travel. The coordinator, Tom, was wonderful all through the six months leading up to our departure. He responded to email promptly every time I had a question.
The tour cost was $700 per person and it included park entry fees, transportation, accommodations, water daily, experienced driver/guide, meals, and transfers for a six day five night safari.
Upon arrival in Nairobi, we hurried to get into the evisa immigration line. I highly recommend that you apply for your visa ahead of time online. This line moved much faster than the line for those who were getting visas upon arrival. We were pretty near the front of the line, yet it took over half an hour to get through immigration. I had read about the ban on single use plastic bags and was careful not to pack any for fear that the arm of law would come and get me with a hefty fine. When I passed customs, not one word was mentioned about them. I could have packed a few to keep my flip flops from touching my clean items. I withdrew the equivalent of $200 US from the ATM. I highly recommend that you get your Kenyan shillings here before leaving on safari. I saw few ATM machines after leaving the airport.
I paid 22500 shillings to go to our hotel (We stayed at the Best Western Plus Meridian which was in a great location and was safe. The cost was $75 for the night.) from the airport. This was the most nerve wracking part of my trip since I was carrying $1000 in cash to pay the balance of our safari the next day. I was so afraid I’d forget the bag that contained the money in the taxi. (I was so relieved when I finally put that money into Tom’s hands. I am not used to walking around with that kind of cash on me).
The next morning, Tom picked us up at our hotel at 7:00 a.m. and we went downtown to await the other people who would be joining us on the safari. We finally departed Nairobi at 10:00 a.m.. I found the downtown area of Nairobi to be clean and rather quiet. The video below shows what a nice downtown it is.
As we left the city, living conditions began to look more basic until finally we came upon the slum. This is one of the largest slums in the world with around 700,000 inhabitants. Very sad that so many people in world live like this.
By noon, we were at the overlook of the African Rift Valley.
It wasn’t too long after this that the paved road ended and for the duration of the day we were on dirt roads that were in poor condition. Masai Mara National Reserve is only 150 miles from Nairobi, yet it took us six hours to get there. Here’s an example of the roads. I noticed that many of the potholes were filled in with rocks.
When we finally arrived at our camp, we dropped off our bags and were given a brief orientation. At the orientation, we learned that the camp was powered by generator and electricity (and thus refrigeration) would only be available from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. This clearly showed me that packing my own food was a wise decision since the meat that was going to be served for dinner, was only refrigerated for five hours a day.
We set off to look for wildlife. It was exciting to see animals for the first time. On the first drive we saw wildebeest, gazelle, impala, and a mother lion with her cubs. A full photo gallery is available here.
Thus ended day one of our safari.
Day 2: Masai Mara Game Reserve
We spent a full day driving in the reserve sighting many of the same animals as the previous day. We walked across the Tanzania border to see hippopotamus and crocodile.
Our van got stuck in the sand. The rangers and the men on our tour (ten total) pushed it out.
We returned to the camp just before dinner and visited the Masai Village which was a five minute walk from our camp. Here is a more detailed post about the Masai Village
Day 3: Drive to Lake Nukuru Region
I was wakened at 4:30 a.m. by the sound of several people throwing up. My guess it was from eating the meat served at the camp.
We left the camp by 8:00 a.m. and rode all day to the Lake Nukuru region. At 4:00 p.m., we went on a boat ride that cost $10 US each to see the many types of birds that live in the area.
The boat tour took about an hour. We then went to a hotel for the evening.
Day 4: Lake Nakuru
We were up early again for a quick drive to Lake Nukuru.
We left the park by 11:00 a.m. and rode all day to Amboseli National Park. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. It was a long day with a lot of riding.
Day 5: Amboseli National Park
We were up again early and in the park by 8:00 a.m.. We rode all day through Amboseli. The highlights of the day were watching a pack of lions feasting on a wildebeest and seeing a hyena chasing a wildebeest for a potential meal. Views of Mt. Kilimanjaro made the pictures special.
Day 6: Amobeseli to Nairobi
We were up early again for a pre-breakfast game drive. We had to be out of the park by 8:30 a.m. to avoid being charged for an extra day. We were on the road by 10:00 a.m. and back in Nairobi by 4:30 p.m. The traffic getting into Nairobi was awful.
Overall, I am glad I did the trip. As you can read, this trip entailed many hours of riding in a car on dirt roads. My advice is if an African Safari is on your bucket list, do it sooner than later. This is not a trip you would want to take in your advanced years.