First of all, I want to thank those on this forum who helped me put my itinerary together with your feedback and suggestions.
We arrived in Nairobi on October 8, 2012 aroung 8:30 PM. The line at the Visa-on-Arrival desk was very long. We spent about 2 hours in line as there was no crowd or line control. As a result, we missed our complimentary airport pickup to transport us to our hotel, and had to take alternate transportation.
Lesson learned: Print the visa-on-arrival form out or get your visa ahead of time to save time in the long line at the airport.
Once we got the VOA sorted out, I saw a man with a sign with my first name, and a misspelling of my last name. The company did not match the company that was supposed to pick us up. I confirmed the name, and was assured that this was the right company.
The driver loaded our bags in the car, and off we went. Before we left the terminal parking lot, I confirmed with the driver that he was taking us to the Wildebeest Eco Camp. He said no. I was told to take you to the Fairview Hotel. STOP THE CAR. We are going to Wildebeest Eco Camp.
The driver thought we were a couple from Sweden coming to do some volunteer work. smh
After going back to the terminal and talking to his dispatch, we agreed that he would take us to Wildebeest Eco Camp for $25 USD.
After getting there, however, he demanded $5 more. We did not pay him, and the receptionist as Wildebeest talked him into taking the $25 and leaving.
An exciting first few hours in Nairobi.
Lesson learned: By a SIM card at the airport upon arrival and call your transportation providers if they are not there. I suspect this would not have worked for us as our arrival time was well beyond business hours, and quite frankly, we were too tired after a 20 hour flight to do anything but want to go to bed.
Wildebeest Eco Camp was everything I thought it would be and more. We booked one of the deluxe tents and had a comfortable night's rest after all of the drama.
The next morning we had breakfast on the patio and walked around the beautifully landscaped grounds.
We booked our safari through Kiara Safari and Tours. They picked us up at Wildebeest Camp around 6:50 AM in hopes of avoiding the traffic along Langata Rd. I must say that I thought the traffic is Los Angeles, CA was horrible. Nairobi has LA beat. It took us over an hour and a half to go about 10 miles.
Once in the city center, we paid the balance of the safari and were off to Maasi Mara. We were the only couple in the 9 passenger van. We picked up another couple in Narok on our way to Maasi Mara.
Lesson learned: Pay a little more than the 20% deposit required to hold your space on the safari through wire transfer. This company charged an additional 5% to pay the balance by credit card.
We stayed at Rhino Tourist Camp. Once we arrived, we put our bags down and went for an afternoon game drive.
I have to admit that we were a litttle too tired from the 5 hour road trip to thoroughly enjoy the first day. Plus, we thought that Kruger National park safari that we did back in 2010 was much more interesting as the animals were much closer to the road. That said, we enjoyed our safari and stay at Rhino Tourist Camp. We also enjoyed our visit to a nearby Maasi Village that costs an additional $20 pp.
Before leaving the camp to go back to Nairobi, we picked up 5 more passengers who had come up for only a one day safari and a Maasi Village visit. We also visited a local school and gave pencils to students in one of the classrooms.
The driver guide dropped us off at the train station in Nairobi for our trip to Mombasa. The train ride was very interesting. We booked a 1st class sleeper, which had 2 sleeping berths, and a sink.
Tip: Wait until you get to Nairobi to book your train trip. I asked for a quote online before leaving, and was given a quote of $75 pp for 1st class seats. We booked through Wildebeest and paid only $62 pp including booking fee.
The train looked like it had seen better days. The ride was pleasant and the food in the dining car was good and adequate. I was amazed at how the servers could juggle hot steaming bowls of soup and serve it while the train rocked back and forth.
The ride was uneventful until the train stopped for two hours right after breakfast the following morning. Apparently there was train ahead of ours that was broken down on the tracks and needed repairs before our train could move. We were later told by the locals that we were lucky to have only a 2 hour delay. They say that sometime the train is delayed for 1-2 days.
Once in Mombasa, we booked a room at the Nightingale Apartments near Mtwapa beach. The rooms were large, clean, and the place quiet and comfortable. We had breakfast the next day, a nice swim in the pool and checked out making our way to the main bus terminal in Mombasa.
We were advised to take the bus to Malindi rather than taking a matutu. Our taxi driver communicated for us, and we got our bags loaded on the bus, and were off to Malindi within 15 minutes of arriving. The bus ride costs only 300 ksh pp.
The bus ride to Malindi took about 3 hours, and was very interesting. It was nice to see some of the countryside and villages and see how people live in that area.
Once in Malindi we were greeted by many tuk tuk drivers offering to take us to our hotel. I pointedly asked the driver if he knew where Africa House Resort was. He said yes. Long story short, we spent an hour driving from place to place looking for African House. He did not know where it was, and demanded 500 ksh on arrival. The owner told us that it should only costs 100 ksh from the bus terminal. We agreed on 300 ksh, and the tuk tuk driver was escorted off the property.
Lesson learned: Do not take the tuk tuk drivers word about knowing the location.
Once settled in, we thoroughly enjoyed out 3 day stay in Malindi and the African House Resort. The property is absolutely beautiful and the service is outstanding. Can't wait to go back.
After spending 3 days in Malindi, we flew to Lamu. Our transportation and transfers went a lot smoother than previous destinations. We booked a flght/hotel/transport package through Lamu Homes and Safaris.
We stayed at the Msafini Hotel in Shela and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The food was very good and the service also very good. It was just a little difficult finding our way through the maze of Shela and Lamu.