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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 6 – Kicheche Camp Review

Posted on 05 June 2012 by David

Kicheche Camp Sign

Today, we are on the sixth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.

On our international around the world trip we decided to pay a visit to Kenya and  experience a wildlife safari.  Having already researched a location and time of the year to visit [see our post on Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 5 – When & Where] we now had to find a camp with comfortable accommodations and excellent guides.

One of the biggest mistakes we read that a safari adventurer could make is to go cheap.  A safari is one of those experiences where you get what you pay for and going cheap can result in low quality meals, poor accommodations, or even compromises in safety.

After much research we settled on Kicheche Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy.  Here’s our experience.


The most amazing thing about the Kicheche Mara Camp is its unbeatable location in the middle of the Conservancy.  The drive from the airport to the camp was a safari in itself.  We saw many animals in close proximity on our journey to the camp.

The moment we arrived in the camp we were met by one of the camp managers.  On the day we arrived the manager on duty, Olivia, greeted us.  She was warm and friendly.  While our luggage was taken to our tent, we sat down with her outside the main tent and checked in.


Kicheche Safety equipment

We received on check-in: camp regulations, a solar rechargeable flashlight, a walkie-talkie, and an emergency whistle.  Olivia also walked us through the safety procedures, daily activities and meal options.  The check-in was thorough, and we immediately felt we were in experienced hands.



Kicheche queen size bed

The tents were luxurious.  More comfortable than some hotel rooms we’ve stayed in.  The restroom was large and had running water!


Kicheche tents

The tents were large and placed far enough apart to give everyone their own private area.

Now look closely at the tent on the right.  See the bucket there?  If there was one drawback about the accommodations it was the ONE bucket of water you had for taking a shower.  Yep, every morning someone would come and fill up that bucket with warm water.    It’s tough at first but you eventually come to know that you really don’t need much water to take a shower!  And besides, we were literally in the nature together with the animals (one morning we woke up to a herd of zebras right outside our tent!), so having to take a bucket bath was well worth it.  We would rather be closer to the animals than to be spoiled in a hotel.  Another tip is if you tell the camp staff that you want another bucket of water in advance, they will gladly bring you another bucket (we used that a few times :)

Kicheche common tent

In the main tent, you could charge all your electricity hungry devices.



Fantastic dining at Kicheche

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were included in the rate.   Dinner was served in a group setting where everyone would come together to eat and share stories of the day.   The food was amazingly well prepared and truly luxurious.  We were all friends at dinner and it was always one of the highlights of our day!  Everyone would laugh and trade their safari stories at the dinner table.  Oh, and of course the fact that wine and liquor flowed freely didn’t hurt either!

For breakfast, fruit, coffee, orange juice, eggs, toasted bread, cereal, all available for breakfast in a comfortable setting.



Your primary reason for going on a safari is to well, go on a safari.  Kicheche offers both private and group game drives.  Depending on how busy the camp is group drives can become a private drive if you’re lucky!  We went on a game drive every day and we only had to share our vehicle once.

Kicheche 4x4

This is one of the Kicheche camp vehicles.  They have an open top and sides that can be covered if it gets too hot or if it rains.  This is the type of vehicle you need for a safari.


Kicheche 4x4 and a few lions

The open layout allows you to easily move around and see the action no matter in which direction it happens.


Jimmy the safari guide

Here is our guide “Jimmy”.  The guides all have easy English names since they’re easier to remember.   Jimmy took us to several fabulous spots for taking some photos like this one!

Maasai Mara at Sunset with Elephants on the horizon.

Jimmy took us to the perfect place at the right time for us to take this photo!

He also had the eyes of an eagle and he could spot animals at a far off distance faster than I could with my zoom lens.   Like many of the people we met in Kenya we had no trouble communicating with them in English.


You must know that Kicheche Mara is not a budget camp.   At this price point you get a fantastic, luxurious, relaxing and comfortable experience out in the wilderness.  A safari is about being out with the animals and watching how they live in the wild.  It is not the time to go roughing it.  Your camp should be the place where you rest after a long day out in the sun and gives you the energy to do it again the next day.

We have to note that on a few occasions on our game drive, we saw other tourists packed into a small enclosed van  and we felt bad for them.  We could only assume they also had an inexperienced driver (especially THAT one who scared off the wildebeest crossing by cutting them off at the river bank!)

A tent of our size cost about $500 a night.  However the rate included full board, bush walks, group game drives, drinks including wine and spirits, and laundry (yes laundry!).   Once you include all that $500 is a decent rate.


We think we made an excellent choice with the Kicheche Maasai Mara Conservancy camp.  It was relaxing, staff was attentive and friendly, the guides were fantastic, and we enjoyed meeting other safari goers.    We definitely recommend this camp and would go back again!

If you stay at Kicheche Mara let us know what your experience was like!

Tomorrow is the last part of our Kenya series, and we’ll fill you in on “Getting to Maasai Mara”!


You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)


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Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong! – Part 2 of 2

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Danica

In part 1 of  “Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong!”, I discussed a few common and tasty dim sum dishes to try out.   Now that you know what to order let’s talk about when it’s served and how to order.

3) When

Dim sum is traditionally a breakfast food.  However, most restaurants now offer it until ~4pm. Dim sum price is also dependent on the time you arrive/leave the restaurant.

The dim sum hours and price varies by restaurant, but in general, there are three sessions:

a) Morning (opening time until noon):  If you want the lowest cost dim sum, this is the best time to go.   But don’t overstay your welcome since you often must pay and leave the restaurant by noon to be eligible for the lower prices.  If you leave after noon, you must pay the lunch time price.

b) Lunch (noon until ~2pm):  This is when almost everyone goes to have dim sum.  Not surprisingly this is when dim sum prices are at their highest.

c) Afternoon Tea (~2pm until ~4pm):  Prices are either the same as the morning or somewhere between the morning and lunch prices. You must enter after 2pm.

While we are on the topic of prices, all dim sum dishes are categorized into 5 different levels: S, M, L, XL, XXL.  On the dim sum ordering sheet or the restaurant menu, the specific price for each category is listed.  Then, next to each dish, either the specific price of the dish or the category that the dish belongs to is listed. Note that while the dishes are categorized into different “sizes” such as S, M or L as mentioned above, the category does not necessarily represent the size of the dish, but rather the perceived value of the ingredients inside the dish.  For example, anything with seafood such as the shrimp dumpling is likely to be L and above, no matter how small is the actual dish.

4) How

When you arrive at the restaurant, the hostess will either a) ask you how many people is in your party and lead you directly to your table, or b) give you a number so you can wait in queue until a table is available.  It is customary for Chinese to share table during breakfast and lunch at a restaurant (dim sum or not).  So don’t be surprised if you get seated at a partially occupied table.

If you want a table to yourself, ask the hostess when you arrive, but the restaurant may choose not to accommodate your request.   You will have to wait much longer for a private table than a shared table.

Once you are led to your table, you will be asked what type of tea you want.  There are many types of Chinese tea to choose from.  If you are not sure, just say green tea or black tea etc. My favorite tea is Jasmine tea, shown here:



The waitress will bring you back two pots: one with tea and the other is just hot water.  In some restaurants, an extra empty bowl is also provided.

The tea pot has… well, tea.  The hot water however serves 2 purposes: 1) It provides hot water for the tea in case you need more water; 2) Some Chinese also like to rinse all the utensils, bowls and plates themselves, so you can use the water to rinse in the extra empty bowl provided for you.  I don’t usually do step #2, but it really depends on you and how comfortable you are with the sanitary environment of the restaurant you go to.  When you run out of water for your tea, just tell the waitress and she will refill the water for you.

By the way, a small charge for tea per person (not per serving) will be added to your bill.  Can you decline the tea, you ask?  I suppose you can, but no local ever declines tea.  So I don’t really know what the reaction will be…Try at your own risk ;)

At this time, you should see some dim sum ordering sheets on the table.  In traditional restaurants, servers push food carts with different dim sum dishes around the restaurant.  When they pass by your table, you can just point at what you want.  Many restaurants in the U.S. that sell dim sum still use this system.  However, in Hong Kong, almost all restaurants have transitioned to the made-to-order system.  You need to locate these dim sum ordering sheets on the table, check off the dishes you want, and hand them over to the waitress.  In Hong Kong, mark the items you want with a check-mark, NOT a cross (‘X’) like we do in the U.S., otherwise you will confuse the waitress.  We briefly forgot to do this and ended up with a confused waitress.    dsc_2039


After you have done this step, relax and your food should arrive shortly.  If you want more, just mark them on the ordering sheet again and repeat the process.



When you are ready to pay the bill, just tell the waitress and you should be all set.

We hope you find this two-part dim sum series helpful for your travel.  Dim sum is integral to the Hong Kong culture.  If you have never had dim sum when you come to Hong Kong, it is like going to Italy without trying pizza, Morocco without the tangines, and Spain without the tapas.

So go on out and try some dim sum!  And while you are in Hong Kong, don’t forget to watch the Symphony of Lights performance by the Victoria Harbor!  What’s your favorite dim sum dish?  We would love to hear from you!


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Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong! – Part 1 of 2

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Danica

When many tourists come to Hong Kong, they automatically assume the standard cuisine of the Hong Kong people is Chinese food.  While this is true, “Chinese food” is such a generic term that it hardly describes the regional uniqueness of the cuisine that’s popular and common here.  What I miss most from Hong Kong is the DELICIOUS dim sum that is typically served in the morning till early afternoon.  Therefore, in this two part post, I want to introduce you all to the art of ordering dim sum so you too can know what to order when you are here.

For today, I will focus on what is dim sum, the most popular dishes and where they are served.  Then tomorrow, I will touch upon when to go for dim sum, how to order them, and some cultural tips so you are comfortable ordering them on your own.  And of course, if you still have questions after reading the posts, just drop us a comment below!

1) What

I think of dim sum as the Chinese version of the Spanish tapas, with Chinese tea replacing your sangria.  Dim sum is a collection of small meat or vegetarian dishes.  It is usually served with Chinese tea (no surprise here!).  In recent years, you can also order other types of beverages such as bubble tea (you HAVE to try it), or other healthy drinks made with different herbs and vegetables common in this part of the world.

Some of the most popular dim sum dishes are:

a) Ha Gaau (Shrimp Dumpling, 蝦餃)


b) Siu Maai (Shaomai, 燒賣)


c) Cha Siu Baau (Barbecued Pork Bun, 叉燒包)


d) Cheong Fan (Steam Rice Noodle Roll, 腸粉) – Note that there are many different types of fillings.  Most popular are beef or shrimp


e) San Juk Guen (Bean Curd Skin Rolls, 鮮竹捲)



2) Where

Most Chinese restaurants offer dim sum seven days a week.  Note I said restaurants, not cafes or noodle shops, and certainly not places that serve cuisines from other parts of the world!  These restaurants are usually quite large in size, and most likely require you to walk up some stairs or take an elevator to get to.  This is because real estate in Hong Kong is like gold, and very few restaurants (…none?) can afford such a large space on the ground level.  If you are not sure where to find one, just ask the hostess or the reception desk at your hotel.  These restaurants are more common than you think if you know where to look.

Here is how a typical Chinese restaurant that serves dim sum looks like inside:



Now that you made it inside the restaurant, do you know what to do?  If you don’t, the waitress is likely to just bring you an English food menu and you will end up ordering the same thing that you always do back home, like pork fried rice, chicken with broccoli etc.  How boring!   If you want to actually order some dim sum, then come back tomorrow for the second part of this series where I will go through the mechanics of ordering dim sum.

See you tomorrow!

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An Unlikely Food Choice in Marrakech

Posted on 09 October 2011 by Danica


Tagines in Morocco are like hamburgers in the U.S.  Every local restaurant offers them.  If you read our previous post on Djemaa el Fna, you might think that we never left the medina for food!  That was simply not true.  While both of us love tagines and had it almost every day in the week that we were in Marrakech, we wanted to break the monotony of the every day tangine by looking for some other cuisines as well.   We found that different cuisine in the most unexpected way.

During our quest to find a local laundromat that charges by kilo as opposed to by piece in town (if you need to do laundry in Marrakech, see our previous post here), we came across a laundromat that not only does laundry, but prepares and serves Japanese cuisine as well.    We know what you’re thinking.  Japanese food in Marrakech?  In a laundromat?!   Don’t worry.  We’ll explain.

Kin, the owner of Lost in Marrakech, has an even more interesting background to share.  She knows Japanese and actually lived in Hong Kong for a while before settling in Marrakech.  Without knowing a word of Arabic and with very limited French when she arrived, Kin, an Asian female, opened up a laundry business in the part of the world where you can certainly keep count of the number of Asians with your fingers.

Besides the laundry business, she keeps herself busy with developing a simple but delicious Japanese food menu.  When we dropped off our laundry, we decided to try her Japanese ramen noodles and fresh fruit smoothies.  Both tasted home-made, were delicious, satisfying, and very refreshing.  The dining area also offered a welcome respite from the unforgiving heat and sun in the medina.  In fact, we liked the food so much, we went back a second time!

Next time when you are in Marrakech and are ready to take a break from the tangines, stop by Lost in Marrakech for some smoothies and ramen noodles, no laundry required!   If you would like to order Sushi, you may need to give Kin a heads up as the ingredients may need to be specially ordered.

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My Love Affair with the Hyatt Regency Greenwich Lobby

Posted on 18 September 2011 by onthegroundtravel

Hyatt Regency Greenwich from Trips Around the World

The Hyatt Regency Greenwich hotel has one of the most romantic lobbies from our trips around the world.  Ever since I came back from Hawaii last year, I have been looking for a hotel with a lobby that has the open air tropical ambience of the hotels I stayed at in Hawaii. It’s no easy job to replicate (or compete with) the natural habitat of Hawaii, but the Hyatt Regency hotel in OldGreenwich, CT did a pretty darn good job at it.

Lobby of Hyatt Regency Greenwich from Trips Around the World

Lobby of Hyatt Regency Greenwich from Trips Around the World

The hotel lobby of this Greenwich hotel is basically an indoor garden complete with a small stream and miniature stone figurines along a small stone path. Guests can stroll on the meandering path that connects from the bar at one end of the lobby to the restaurant in the other. In the evening, it’s particularly romantic to have a drink at the bar as the soft lights along the path light up and the sound of the flowing stream envelops you. It’s also worthwhile to mention that this is an indoor lobby, meaning rain or shine, whether it’s 100°F or -32°F outside, you still feel nice & cool in the lobby.

I think I just fell in love with this hotel.


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