I left for Kenya on Oct. 1st. I arrived a couple of hours before departure time in order to deal with the long lines. I went to the Lufthansa counter, since I had some difficulty trying to confirm my flight online. As I was going to board the plane, I was told by the agent that my seat had been given to another person, etc. Well, the bottom line is that I was upgraded to First Class. What a treat! I couldn’t register it what I just heard… but then when we walked into the First Class section is when I realized that it was for real.
And as a bonus the lady sitting by the window seat moved to another seat. I ended up flying with no one sitting next to me for 10 hours.
The seat and the service were unbelievable; the seat had a remote control that you could change multiple positions to almost to a horizontal position. I had several connections my first stop was in Frankfurt. The good thing it was only for about 2 hours.
I had the opportunity to meet several Americans that were working in Afghanistan on contract that had a layover in Frankfurt.
After making a connecting flight in Addis Ababa. I booked this flight on purpose since I wanted to stop in Ethiopia.
The plane landed on time around 1:30 AM on October 2, but technically it was already Oct. 3rd. In fact, I was confused and I thought that I would be leaving for the Safari trip on the same day. Thanks to the taxi driver he clarified for me that I had a whole day in Nairobi.
I was a bit reluctant to take this flight because I was comfortable traveling from the airport to my hotel during this time of the night. However, I was advised on this forum that it was going to be better arriving at this time, than during the day because traffic would be a lot lighter.
Well, it turned out to be true. The entire process from getting my visa, got money from the ATM, (got great rate), and traveling to my hotel took less than 45 minutes. I had a room reserved at the Comfort Inn.
This hotel was centrally located, and it was very comfortable. It had a restaurant that was open 24 hours. I found it very handy, since I was able to eat some a light snack before going to bed. They had security guards through the hotel; it made me feel a bit safer.
I arranged a taxi to take me to the Elephant Sanctuary and to a Giraffe sanctuary. The traffic on the way to the Elephant Sanctuary was horrible. I got a chance to see how bad the traffic in Nairobi is.
I was getting concerned that we would not make it since the Sanctuary had a very limited hours and the traffic was very slow. We arrived about 11:15 AM so I had about 45 minutes.
The Sanctuary was packed with people but I managed to get a good spot. The experience was phenomenal. There were two big groups of elephants ranging from very young to young adults. They were very playful, and you are allowed to even pet them.
Afterwards, I was taken to the Giraffe sanctuary. It was not crowded but it was not as interesting as the Elephant Sanctuary. They gave me some pellets to feed the giraffes. I only stayed a few minutes then we got back.
On the way back, apparently, the taxi driver was not too familiar with the area. We kept going in circle; he had to ask for directions several times. Then we found our way back to Nairobi.
I also arranged with the hotel to get me a guide to walk around downtown Nairobi. I didn’t feel comfortable walking on my own. We went to the local fish market, the business area. He pointed some of the Portuguese and German architecture.
I went to a local Mall that was only a few doors away from my hotel. I went to a supermarket and found out they were very well stocked. They had just about everything we have in the US.
I have decided that from now on, I’m not going to bring any toiletries and deal with TSA. I’ll buy all of my toiletries at the country that I’ll be traveling to.
I walked down the street and wanted to try to eat at one of the local restaurants. I went to a small restaurant that was full of people, mostly local residents. And that was exactly what I was looking for.
I ordered a combination plate that consisted of rice Palau, and plantain that was boiled. I didn’t care for the plantain. The price was right not even $3.00. I was great that I had some Kenya schillings.
I went back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.
The staff were outstanding, so were the facilities. I highly recommend this hotel
The Tour operator greeted me at the lobby of the hotel. I was told that a van was going to pick me up to take me on my Kenya Safari. Unfortunately, the so-called Tour Company did not deliver what I signed up for. I will be posting a separate review under “African Sermon Safari”, be sure to check it out.
Let me just say that we didn’t get to the highway to Masai Mara until almost 3 hours after I got picked up at my hotel. Check my review about African Sermon Safari.
The traffic in the greater Nairobi area its extremely bad. It seems that they have every road under construction.
The road was paved within the city limits, but once we got outside this area, the road became very bumpy, and dusty. I was told that the roads were unpaved for the benefit for the animals. The entire trip was on a two-lane highway, and at times we thought we were going to have a head-on collision.
We stopped for lunch about 2.5 later at a roadside restaurant. Apparently, this was a regular stop. It was buffet style. It was adequate since we were very hungry. About a half an hour later we got back on the road.
I was traveling with a man and a woman that were traveling separate from Korea. A man from NY with his girlfriend from Finland, that kept talking in Finnish through out the entire trip. I found them be very rude since they spoke fluent English. These people had no interest in the Safari; they kept talking throughout the entire trip, and seldom interacting with anybody in the van. They were the only ones that had no camera.
I booked a 4-day Budget Camping safari, covering Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru.
We arrived at Rhino Campsite around 4:30 PM. This was a public campsite, no thrills. I was assigned to a canvas permanent tent. I was assigned a roommate (from Korea), and we noticed that the zipper on the tent was torn. And we got concerned that mosquitoes and other bugs would have a feast with us. We asked to be moved to a different tent, but it was not well received, in spite that they had several vacancies.
After being very persistent, we got moved to another room, actually it was more like a cabin.
I think this campsite is the kind of camp to spend no more than one night. But at least it had hot water, but the water pressure was nothing more than a few trickle of water coming out of the showerhead. There were a lot of vacancies.
There is constant communication among the safari vehicles in order to notify of any animal sightings. Then after an announcement is made, then it goes crazy all the vehicles start racing to see who is going to get to the spot first, and to grab the best place to view the animals. It’s like Hollywood Paparazzi.
This was my first African Safari, but in spite of how disappointed I was with African Sermon Safari I was able to see most of the Big 5 during our short game drive.
After spending almost 2 hours, we returned back to the campsite for dinner at a communal dinning room that looked more like a mess hall. I took a peak at the kitchen, and I was amazed how they were able to cook a complete meal on a bed of charcoal. There were other groups staying at the campsite as well.
We went back to our tent, and how quickly we learned that they turn off the electricity before 9:30 PM. I’m glad that I packed my headlamp. In fact, I packed a couple of small flashlight. So I would put that on the top of your packing list.
We woke up and had breakfast and we were ready to leave for a game drive around before 7:00 AM. We will be spending the entire day on a game drive. We had scheduled to stop for lunch.
There is a constant communication via cell phone among all the Safaris vehicles sharing information about any animal sighting. This morning the guide was notified that there was a sighting of a “Cheetah”. We rushed to the area. As soon as we got to the area where the cheetah had been spotted there were at least 20 vehicles full of people.
I can imagine how crowded this would be during Migration season. I’m glad that I decided to come in October. I was very surprised to see and hear how much conversation goes on while viewing the animals. It looked more like your local Mall; people couldn’t stop chatting so loud that I found it very disturbing and annoying.
We stopped for lunch at a nearby rest area. We were handled a lunch box that apparently it was prepared back in NBO before we left.
We were warned by the driver to keep an eye on the velvet monkeys since they were aggressive and sometimes they grab your lunch while you are eating it.
Then in a matter of seconds, we saw a monkey that got inside our van. The driver rushed in trying to flush him out. It was an interesting sight. The monkey escaped unharmed and empty handed.
Apparently, we were in south end of the Masai Mara near the Tanzania border. The driver had arranged a short hike right after lunch with one of the park ranger.
We started the short hike lead by the park ranger. I noticed that he carried a rifle, we asked him about the rife. He told us that from time to time animals come to the area, and he used the rifle to shoot up in the air to scare them off. In fact, he pointed several animal footprints.
We hiked along the edge of the river; we spotted a very large adult croc. He never moved. He must have been at least 14 ft long.
The park ranger pointed out to us that we were standing right at the Tanzania/Kenya border. There were no markings, signage or a checkpoint. Unless you were told about this, you had no way of knowing that you were standing at the Tanzania/Kenya borderline. I didn’t see any point going on this short hike. We all pooled some shillings and tipped the park ranger.
The driver told us that he was going to pick up 3 new people to join us. The other van drove up, and the 3 people and their luggage were transferred to our van. I will more details about this on my African Sermon Safari review.
A few minutes later, the driver told us that 2 other people were going to be joining us from another tour. He said something about them joining us for the rest of the tour and somewhere going back to Nairobi in another van. (I will tell you more about this on my African Sermon Safari review).
Later we rode to the actual dividing line between Tanzania and Kenya. There was an undescribed piece of concrete that it looked like a small monument. It had the letters “T” and “K” showed the dividing line between Tanzania and Kenya. Again there was no one at the border.
We continued riding until we got along the Mara River. Then we saw hundreds of Wildebeests. You could see as far as the eyes could see, and it appeared to be like an ocean full of Wildebeests. They were grassing and almost motionless.
The driver told us that during the Migration that it was a total different scene. The wildebeests are constantly traveling from the Masai to Serengeti.
I also found it fascinating how well zebras, giraffes, and wildebeests liked to be in closed proximity to each other. There was an abundance of zebras, Impalas, and Giraffes through out the Masai Mara.
We returned to our camp after a full day on a game drive. I had asked the driver to make a stop at a local school because I wanted to donate some school supplies that I had brought with me. The driver told me that he had arranged with the nearby Masai village to take me to the school village upon returning from the game drive.
I went back to my cabin to pick up the school supplies. A couple of people from our group went on a Masai Village Tour. I believe they paid $20 pp.
I don’t know if I mentioned this, but the Rhino camp was owned and ran by the Masai Tribe.
I met a Masai warrior dressed in full regalia. He spoke very little English but was very willing to take me to the school. We walked along a trail for about 15 minutes. We were trying to communicate but it was very limited due to the language barrier.
We arrived at the school (after hour); however, there were still a lot children playing at the schoolyard. Also, the teachers were sitting outside the classrooms.
The school principal greeted me. We walked into one of the classroom because he wanted to show me a classroom.
He handed me the school register in order to sign my name. He told me that other people had donated money to the school. I told him that I had brought him school supplies in lieu of money. I gave him the pencils, and notebooks that I had brought for the school. He thanked me and introduced me to the rest of the teachers. He told them about my donation.
Then the principal called out the children, and he handed out the school supplies that I just had donated to the school. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring enough supplies for the entire school. It was a great sight to see how my humbled donation was distributed right on the spot. All the children came running toward us, and they seemed very happy with my donation.
It was a great way to end the day.
Afterwards, I walked back to the campsite along with the Masai warrior that I had met earlier. On the way back, we met another Masai Warrior. He was very told, well groomed, and wore a pair of nice Nike shoes. He introduced himself as Rafael. I asked him how he got his name. He told me that got his name from the church.
He spoke good English, and told me that he had had graduated from High School. We continued walking toward the campsite. He told me that he was one of the 7 children of the Chief of the Village.
He told me that he was going to be the next successor as the Chief of the Village. He told me that he was looking forward to it. He was married with a 3 years old boy.
Rafael then looked at my watch and he made a comment that it looked expensive. I thanked him. He asked me if I wanted to visit the village for $20. I thanked him but declined since it was getting late and I had a very early game drive the next morning.
Then he pulled a Lion’s tooth attached to a piece of gold casing. He was trying to sell it to me. I thanked him but told him that I was not interested in buying any type of animal parts. I asked permission to take of picture of him, he agreed and I took a picture and thanked him again and I walked back to the campsite with the other Masai Warrior.
After showering, we went to have dinner at the Communal Dinning area. Lighting was very limited; I think they ran a generator to get their electricity.
We headed back to our cabin and trying to get ready for bed since they cut off the lights around 9:00 PM.
Today was going to be an early departure. We only had time for coffee and we were on our way to an early game drive. We were going to return a couple of hours later for breakfast and to pack our luggage into the van.
After driving for about 20 minutes, the driver told us that he got a call about a sighting of a an adult male lion. We rushed out to the area, and we were able to see a total of 2 adult lionesses, and one adult male lion. It was a great sighting.
We continued the game drive and we continuing seeing more animals, including several herds of zebras, impalas, and giraffes.
A couple of hours later we went back to the campsite for breakfast and to pack our luggage. As we were loading the van, the driver told us that a 3rd person would be joining us because she was going to be transfer to another van to continue to Nairobi.
Now we had a full van 7 people + driver. I will have more detail on my African Sermon Safari review.
We continued on our game drive and saw a wide variety of animals. Then we stop at a restaurant in Naruk. Apparently, this is a regular stop for a several Safari Tours. At this spot, 2 people that had joined us were transferred to another van to continued to Nairobi. However, one person stayed with us for the rest of the safari trip.
During my research trying to get ready for my trip. I found out about the emphasis about the “Safari Attire”. I have to say that you can wear anything you want and forget about the “must have attire”.
I only saw 3 people carrying long lenses. I’m glad I had chosen to bring only on zoom lens. The vehicles get very closed to the animals so a regular zoom lens would suffice. Albeit, from time to time, you might need a longer lens but inconvenience traveling with a heavy lens, outweighs the use of a longer lens But the frequency of this happening its very infrequent. I even saw people shooting with Ipads, which it looked rather odd.
We then started to head toward Lake Nakuru. There were now a total of 4 people traveling for the rest of the safari tour. The driver told us that he could drive us to Lake Naivasha. However, since it was not part of the itinerary, we would have to pay our own entrance to the park, which was about $ 23 US.
The 4 us had a brief discussion, and we all agreed that it would be ashamed to pass this opportunity, besides it was too early to get stuck in our hotel room. It was only 2:45 PM. The driver told us that we would have about 3 hours before they close the park.
We went straight to Lake Naivasha. The entrance had a nice set of nice cabins and there were some tents. We looked toward the lake and it had a row of Acacia trees, and it looked more like a Forrest than a lake.
We paid for our admission. Once we paid we were to follow a man to board a boat. He handed out lifejackets to wear during the boat ride. There was an island in the lake that it was included with the admission. The setting was perfect; hardly anybody was at the lake, and the surroundings, looked like a grotto or a Forrest than a lake.
In a matter of minutes, we got transported to a completely different setting that what we had been exposed during the past couple of days.
For one, we were outside a vehicle, so that gave you a sense of openness and freedom and space. Also the fact, that area we were looked more like a marsh with water lilies and other type of water plants.
The guide pointed to us a stork, hippos, and cormorant birds. There were so many different types of birds that I’d need a book to identify them. In fact, the guide pointed a bird he told us it that migrates every year from Europe, (I’m not sure the country). This bird flies non-stop for 24 hours.
If you like bird watching, you might consider adding Lake Naivasha in your itinerary. Also, the lake it’s very small so you feel that you can see most of it.
Then, we rode to the other side of the lake, and this area looked more like Shangri la. It was a very dense Forrest with beautiful tall trees. We got out the boat and were told that we now were going for short hike.
There were several local people selling some souvenirs. We followed the guide and then we got to an area that looked very surreal, almost like a painting. There were giraffes, zebras just grassing in the area. They were no more than 10 feet from us, and yet they never got scared. The setting was perfect; I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
As a great bonus, there were only a 5 people besides us visiting the lake. This was the best time to visit this lake. I would imagine that during peak season that would be a different story. The guided pointed out more hippos that were right on the water’s edge.
It was time to leave, but we didn’t want to leave. This place was a lot different than the Masai. For starters, there was no human cacophony whatsoever. You could hear the birds chirping. We were walking and not inside a vehicle, so it gave you a sense of closeness to the animals, and by the same token a sense of openness.
We got back to the van and headed to our hotel in Lake Nakuru. As we drove through the middle of the town, it showed a very busy town. It had lots of people, and small business along the road.
Then we got to Kivu Retreat Resort. Our hotel, I think the name it’s very misleading. This was not retreat. There was a big gate that slide to the right. There were several security guards that were fully armed. I don’t know if I felt secure or not.
We were given the keys to our rooms. The hotel consisted of a main courtyard, with bungalows on both side of the courtyard. The room assigned to me, and my roommate was spacious. It had two rooms. I chose the small room, but then noticed that the entire wall was covered with mold.
I pointed it out to my roommate; he told me that he wouldn’t mind switching with me. I guess in Korea mold is not threatening. Then we heard a loud music, and realized that the hotel had a bar or disco that was playing loud music.
We suspected that this was going to be for the whole night, since it was Friday night. We showered and went to the restaurant to have dinner. However, we sat there for over 30 minutes and no one came to our table.
We went to the restaurant and had dinner. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms, we had to get ready for an early departure.
This was our last day. On this day we were going back to Nairobi. The driver told us that he would pick us up around 6:45. We had breakfast and this time the restaurant was a bit more responsive but again, it took a good half hour before anybody came to our table. Please keep this name on you “not to stay list”.
We went to the reception room waiting for the van. After waiting for over 45 minutes, the driver showed up. He told us that he couldn’t start the van, so he took the van to the shop. We already contacted another van, and it would pick us up to take us to the entrance to Lake Nakuru, and he would meet us there.
A few minutes later, the other van showed up.
The van already had 6 people + driver. The van was a lot cleaner, nicer than ours. In other words, it looked like the type of van used for a safari not a like the one we had been traveling for 4 days. I will give more details on my “African Sermon Safari review”.
After the usual introductions we got a bit acquainted with the people in the van. There was a couple of Sweden, 2 girls from Burgos Spain, and one man from Thailand, and one man from California. We were now one happy can of sardines.
This was my least favorite park. The lake had a very dense curtain of fog and haze. There were a few flamingos along the lake. However, we saw a White rhino that was a treat. And then we saw the stapled animals, i.e., zebras, giraffes and some wildebeest and heart beast.
We didn’t see our driver, but the driver of the van we were riding called him, and he was told that we would meet our driver at the lunch stop.
Once we to the lunch stop. We had lunch, which was a place we had stop a day earlier. Lunch was good and plentiful. After we were told that the van was had not been repaired so we would be riding back to Nairobi with the van full of people.
It was a very uncomfortable, bumpy, dusty and crowded ride back to Nairobi. We arrived to my hotel about 3:00 PM. I had made reservation for my last night in NBO at the Comfort Inn. I felt very comfortable during my previous stay.
I wanted to take advantage to visit the Nairobi National Museum before leaving Kenya. I asked the hotel staff for directions. I was told that it was a short walk. I was feeling tired and besides I didn’t feel too comfortable walking. Instead, I hired a taxi, he charged me $10 and would bring me back.
Nairobi National Museum.
I found out that they had raised the admission. It used to be based on donations, now they charge a la carte per exhibition. I was disappointed; there were several empty rooms. There was another exhibition at another building, but it required additional admission. I decided to skip it.
I waited for the taxi for just a few minutes, and then I saw the taxi and got on board. I told the driver to take me to the Westland Mall because I wanted to buy a book. He dropped me off and he would wait for me.
The mall had a security guard on every store, and you had to check in your bag. I decided to skip the book. I had my camera gear and my netbook. Instead, I got some ice cream. But saw the prices from the store window. The prices were outrageous. The same paperback we had here for $11.00 it was listed at $28.
We headed back to my hotel. I had dinner and got ready for my road trip to Arusha, Tanzania.
Daniel from African Sermon Safari to take me to the bus terminal greeted me. I found out that it was across the street. He had made the reservation for the shuttle to Arusha. I had asked him to book me on Kilimanjaro Bus line, or a similar shuttle that most tourists used vs. locals.
I was assigned a single seat right above the wheel. There were mostly local people; there were only 2 other tourists beside myself. I knew this was not what I had requested.
The shuttle made several stops, including one stop at Nairobi airport to pick up more people. The shuttle was packed. Then within one hour away, I noticed that we were slowing down. I saw the driver that was texting and driving.
In fact, he was so engrossed with his texting that he had removed his foot from the gas pedal. I thought this guy is crazy, and yet no one said anything. I kept my eyes on the road and on the driver and he would not stop texting. Then we came to a halt.
And that’s when I realized we were in trouble. I looked around and we were in the middle of a small village. There were a lot of people hanging around. This was a spot where several Masai people would trade their cattle.
People became frustrated and some got out of the shuttle bus. Some women went to a local business to use their toilet. The driver was on the cell phone, I managed to ask him what was the problem, and he told me it was fine. I said how could you say its fine when I see water coming out the radiator and you are not driving.
He was trying to downplay the situation. Then some of the local people brought some buckets of water and they started pouring water. One guy was putting no joke “pieces of shredded tea leaves”, into the radiator.
We spent nearly one hour, and there was no sign of any van replacing our shuttle. It was hot, and no place to get some shelter. Then all of the sudden, the engine started and the driver made the motion to board the bus.
The driver continued driving while texting. I had my eyes glued to the road. Then he slowed down again. He was having some difficulty. But somehow, he managed to get the bus running and we got to the border.
We all got out of the bus, and walked to custom. I paid $100 for my Visa. They took a picture with a small camera attached to a PC. The Visa was attached to my passport. The picture they took of me came out so blurred, that I don’t see how they could use it.
I didn’t know where to go from there. The border had several small buildings, and there were several trucks. I asked a lady where we go from there. She pointed to me we had to walk across the way to another checkpoint.
I entered the other post, and we had to hand out our passport, they stamped it again. And we were on our way Arusha.
To be continued on the Tanzania trip report