Tag Archive | "Kenya"

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Picture of the Week: An Interesting Cultural Exchange with the Maasai

Posted on 22 June 2012 by Danica

maasai women colorful clothes

When you first meet the Maasai people, you can’t help but notice their distinctive clothing.  Men mostly wear red or blue textiles in plaid.  Women wrap themselves in clothes that come in a rainbow of different colors or African design, and are adnored with beautiful beaded homemade jewelry and headdress.

The Meeting

After meeting the Maasai women above, we sat down with a young Maasai man in his home (similar to the mud hut in the background.)  We politely asked about the living condition in his house, which is no larger than a 150 sq ft room that fits a kitchen, a bed for the entire family and a few basic supplies.

You Heard What About America?

We had expected to see this type of living arrangements before we went in, but what caught us by surprise was his curiosity for the American culture.  He has heard a lot of “strange” customs about Americans, he told us.  And he wanted to know whether the rumors were true or not.

  • Is it true that a woman can divorce a man in America?
  • What about the rumor I heard that American women raise children on their own without a husband?
  • Oh, and I heard that some women paid men to have babies by themselves?

It’s rare that we become the subject of interest and under the spotlight when we travel.  Usually, we ask all the questions!

Surely You Don’t Want to Know About That

And as we replied yes, yes, and yes to all his questions, you can see his eyes grew larger and wilder.  He simply could not understand why on earth would Americans do such a thing?  What could be the reasons behind these “crazy” ideas?

And in our heads, all we could think of was, “geez, better not tell him about all the other concepts such as it’s legal for same-sex couples to get married and raise children together in some parts of America, or what about test tube babies?”  The answers to those questions would surely blown his mind away!

The Unforgettable Exchange with the Maasai

It was an unforgettable cultural exchange with the Maasai.  At the end of that encounter, we learned a bit more about the Maasai, and they learned a bit more about us.  While we may not understand the motivations behind the other’s decisions, we tolerate and accept the others’ viewpoint.  And that’s the most satisfying part of traveling – being able to share our differences, and being accepted at the same time.

 

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Picture of the Week: Birth of a Baby Gazelle on Kenya Safari

Posted on 15 June 2012 by Danica

 

Birth of a Baby Gazalle on Kenya Safari from Trips Around the World

 

Our picture of the week was taken while we were on an a Kenya Safari.     Being out in the open with the animals in Mara was an amazing experience.  We saw the circle of life from the birth of the baby gazelle as shown in the picture above to the death of the wildebeest mentioned in our previous safari posts (highlighted below).

Although standing guard, the gazelle can not defend itself or its young from predators.   We were warned by our guide that getting too close to the pair would scare off the mother, permanently leaving her young to endure a very uncertain future.  We kept our distance, watched, and took photos of this amazing event.

 

If you are interested in reading more about our wildlife safari experience in Kenya, check out our seven-part series here:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Transportation to Maasai Mara

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Picture of the Week: Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest from Trips Around the World

Posted on 08 June 2012 by Danica

Masai Mara Tribesmen from Trips Around the World


On a sunny afternoon after our morning game drive, we followed our Maasai guide to visit one of the local villages in the Mara Conservancy.  What immediately caught our eyes was the bright color clothing they all wore that contrasted against the deep green African plains and blue sky.  In addition to interacting with the locals and visiting their dwellings, we were also treated to their famous traditional dance, the Adumu (or the “Jumping Contest” as Westerners call it).  As a show of strength and endurance, these Maasai warriors formed a circle, and took turns in competition jumping as high as possible while the others sung in high-pitched tones.

I was selected as the judge of the contest, and the warrior jumping in the picture won the competition.Then they challenged David to jump in.  He did well but the Maasai’s jumping skills could not be beaten.

It was a beautiful and unforgettable afternoon visiting the friendly and knowledgeable Maasai people.

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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 7 – Getting to Maasai Mara

Posted on 06 June 2012 by David

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

To reach the safari camp in the Conservancy, your itinerary will have two major components.  The first is getting to Kenya.  The second is making your way from wherever you are in Kenya to the camp.

Typically you would fly into Nairobi International, take ground transport to Wilson Airport, and then take a prop plane out to the Maasai Mara.   Our around the world trip took us through Turkey on Turkish alines and we landed in Nairobi around one in the morning.

Arrival at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

For the most part you will need to fly into Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (airport code: NBO).

Kenya Ministry of Health regulations

Here's a sign with info about vaccinations. Please double-check this with the Kenya Ministry of Health for the latest info.

 

Waiting in line to buy a visa

Kenya allows you to purchase a visa on arrival. Make sure you have enough US Dollars or Kenyan Shillings to cover the cost of the Visa as the ATM's around in the international arrivals area may not be working!

 

If you’re flying out to Maasai Mara, you’ll most likely need to go to Wilson Airport.  Wilson airport doesn’t open until the morning daylight hours.   This presents a dilemma if you arrive very late at night or really early in the morning into NBO.  Should you stay at NBO and wait around until it’s time to head to Wilson airport for your departing flight or should you book a room at an hotel?   It’s up to you but we decided it was not worth the time and expense to go to an hotel for only an hour or two of sleep.  We decided to tough it out at NBO.  We arrived at 1am and were out of baggage claim around 2am.   Our driver picked us up to go to Wilson at 6am.

One tip, if you decide to wait around the airport, try to not exit the baggage claim area.  We made the mistake of exiting out into the arrivals hall to find that there are almost no seats available once you exit baggage claim!

Cafe in NBO arrivals hall

These are the only seats you’re going to find in the arrivals hall. It’s a little dark here so only take a nap if you have family or friends with you who can watch over your belongings.

 

NBO arrivals hall

This is the arrival hall. It's quite sparse but reasonably lit. Money exchange booths open around 6am. There are a number of ATMs here but every one we tried was out of service.

Nairobi Wilson Airport

Prior to us landing in Nairobi, we booked transportation with a well reviewed car service operator.  He picked us up at 6am from NBO.  Nairobi has very bad highway congestion and it took us an hour to reach Wilson Airport.

When flying out of Wilson Airport you will by flying on a small aircraft.  Do note that there is a weight limit but  if you have too many bags you’ll have to leave it behind.  Fortunately you can rent a locker with Air Kenya at Wilson airport when you check in.   We left our large duffel bag there  and we had no issues picking it up on the return.

 

Air Kenya aircraft

Air Kenya prop plane.

 

Air Kenya lobby is comfortable but can get crowded quickly.

This is the Air Kenya waiting area. There is a small cafe upstairs. They both get crowded quick so it's good if you get there early.

 

Mara Landing Strip

Air Kenya landing strip

The landing strips in the Mara are busy with aircraft coming and going quite frequently.

 

On landing you’re met by a representative of your camp.  Depending on how far the camp is, this becomes your first game drive of your safari!

 

That’s it for our series on Kenya.  We couldn’t cover everything so if you have questions let us know!

Also if you have an idea on a location you want to go, but not sure how to plan it all out?  We have traveled around the world so if you have a question about a place, we probably have been there.  =)   So leave a comment below. Your destination may just be our featured location next month.

Our entire seven part series of our “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya“:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Getting to Maasai Mara (Current Post)

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

 

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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.

Check-In:

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.

 

Accommodation: 

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.

 

Meals: 

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.

 

Activities:

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.

Cost:

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.

Conclusion:

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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