A couple of weeks ago TourSpecGirl & I went on vacation to Africa, we went to see the animals and ended up falling in love with the people. I wanted to share the experience we had in the event you choose to visit this amazing country. Our trip was 7 nights and 8 days, we flew from Los Angeles to Amsterdam then into Nairobi the capitol of Kenya total travel time was around 22 hours but well worth it. Nairobi was a pretty fantastic city there is a lot of infrastructure investment by the Chinese going on, we were told that was due to the natural resources being found in the continent.
There really isn't much luxury in the city, traffic is bad and poverty is intensely high. I believe the unemployment rate was near 40%, I can't imagine the struggle Kenyans must endure and it made me appreciate everything we have living in more developed nations. The slums were extreme, I've never experienced anything like it and we have travelled quite a bit. I would say it's as bad or worse than some areas in India. All photos were taken by me using a Canon 7D with a variety of Tamron lenses & a Sony RX100.
Above is a picture I took from a vehicle while going through the slums of Nairobi. Your probably wondering what was TourSpecGolfer (Chris) doing in a place like this? We were on our way to a school to help children. Much of our visit was based on helping the poor and doing good for the environment yet on the flip side the trip also had it's share of extreme luxury built into it. I'm going to start with the good we did for a school located in the slums. As you can see from the pictures the roads are not fit for driving so it was a long and bumpy commute. This picture doesn't capture how bad the situation really was. Trash everywhere and yet the people had large bright smiles on their faces. The Kenyans we spoke to didn't complain and held no grudge against others for the situation they were in. In fact they were optimistic and enthusiastic about their future and the future of Nairobi.
When we arrived at the school a wave of beautiful children greeted us singing, We had the opportunity to provide them with supplies and feed them but what we fed them were cups of a bland thick and gooey porridge. They loved the porridge as if it were a treat for them. In the school many of the uniforms were patched together or handed down and what was even more shocking is that in order for these children to even attend this school they needed to provide proof that at least one of their parents had died via a death certificate. How on earth does a child as young as 5 get a hold of their parents death certificate? Even the school itself had it's trouble with funding. No matter the hardship the children had suffered it didn't show in their faces and attitudes. I know kids in many other countries could learn a lot about studying and attitude from these children.
Along with the humanitarian aspect of this trip we joined with an organization called the Green Belt Movement to plant trees and make a financial contribution. Founded by the late Wangari Maathai who was awarded the Nobel Piece Prize in 2004 the Green Belt Movement does a variety of things to fight climate change and is responsible for the planting of millions of trees. We had the opportunity to plant trees with children and staff from the local community. It was an eye opening experience that pictures nor words can express effectively.
Now on to the luxury portion of the trip...:0) In Nairobi we stayed at what is considered to be their #1 hotel, the Fairmont. It was a luxury experience no doubt. The food, the service, the accommodations were on par with many 4 star resorts in the U.S. Much to my surprise they had some really awesome steaks from cows bred for the hotel corn fed for 100 days then grass and dry aged. Wasn't expecting a great steak in Africa but this hotel has it down.
We also had the best massage of our lives there at only a fraction of the cost of what we would pay in the U.S. No frills simply hop on the table and they really work hard for their money. The average person earns less than $5.00 usd per day, we felt bad so we tipped based on what it would have cost us in the states for the same service. Our massage therapist received a 30 dollar tip, the next day she called our hotel room asking if that tip was an error. I told her no it wasn't and that she totally deserved it. The day after that she called the room again to confirm that making sure her manager was aware that the tip was indeed meant for her. I really appreciated her honesty.
After relaxing and taking advantage of the spa for a few days we headed to a small airport in Nairobi for a short flight to Maasai Mara for nearly a week in the wild. This is when the Safari began. For accommodations we stayed at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. It was the nicest and most luxurious tent I've ever seen. Each room had two showers one indoors and one outdoors. This was the equivalent of 5 star luxury except that you were out in the wild.
The entire resort was surrounded by a horse shoe shaped river with literally hippo's and crocs just outside your door. Throughout the night you would hear hippos in the water, monkeys just outside and all sorts of crazy sounds. I highly suggest this exact location if you intend to go on a Safari. The staff, the safari guides, the restaurants, and facilities are second to nothing else in Africa. It is expensive so expect to pay a couple of grand each day to have multiple safari's, food, and your accommodations covered.
The location is called Maasai Mara. ( The Mara) is a large game reserve in south-western Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named after the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area). It is famous for its exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration. The animals are tame because it's a reserve so none of them have ever been hunted.
Of the big five we saw all but the leopard and the best part was we got to get right up close, I'm talking 10-15ft away from lions and rhino's. At one point we were surrounded by over 60 elephants. When staying at the Fairmont Safari Club your driver will do just about anything you want. wake up too early from jet lag? call your driver tell him you want to go on a 4am Safari, Want to take a 12 pack of beers and wine hop in a jeep and have a night safari as well. Do what you want when you want. Everything is up to you.
This was an amazing trip, we originally thought we would only do Africa once in our lives but after this experience we decided that we will be visiting at least once every 5 years. If your interested in a similar luxury safari we highly suggest a company called Micato Safari's rated the #1 luxury Safari company in the world. Everything was well taken care of... EVERYTHING! from your airport transportation to nightly gifts and any issue that comes up They promptly make things right. Click Here to see their online brochure or visit their website at www.micato.com
On the way back to the states we travelled through Amsterdam and decided to stay 4 nights. Instead of posting that experience in this already long blog post I decided to add it to our TSG Click here.