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Trip Report - Kenya Part 1

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Hello Fodorites!

I have to apologize first as I have been back for about 3 weeks now and haven’t had time to get this trip report together until now…so Happy New Year and I hope that you enjoy the report.

I should first mention that the entire trip was organized by the Africa Adventure Company based in Florida. I worked with Andre at AAC for months and was 90% thrilled with the service that they provided and with the arrangements on the ground in Kenya. The trip was coordinated for me only and then, at the last minute (literally), a friend decided to go and they were able to include her in the trip as well.

Photos can be viewed at www.rebeccachandler.myphotoalbum.com

Our itinerary was:

11/23/2006 – LAX to Heathrow
11/24/2006 – Night in London at the Covent Hotel (my favorite)
11/25/2006 – Heathrow to Nairobi
11/26/2006 – Full day sight-seeing in Nairobi with Kennedy (guide)
11/27/2006 – Depart Wilson airport for Amboseli – Tortilis Camp
11/28/2006-11/30/2006 – Game drives in Amboseli
11/30/2006 – Depart Amboseli and arrive Samburu via Wilson Airport – Larsens Camp
11/30/2006 – 12/3/20006 – Game drives in Samburu
12/3/2006 – Depart Samburu and arrive Masai Mara – Cottars Camp
12/3/2006 – 12/7/2006 – Game drives Masai Mara
12/7/2006 – Depart Masai Mara and arrive Wilson Airport – Giraffe Manor
12/7/2006- 12/9/2006 – Giraffe Manor – and Shopping! In Nairobi
12/9/2006 – Depart Nairobi for Heathrow
12/10/2006 – Depart Heathrow for LAX

I have dreamed about taking this trip since reading a “Life” magazine article about Kenya when I was 9 years old. I did research for years and finally took the bold step of booking the trip in December of 2005. After doing all of my research, I decided that the only way I wanted to see Africa was via tented camps. Large lodges aren’t my thing and the tented camps, albeit more expensive, sounded perfect – and they were.

I spent months leading up to the actual departure date purchasing, returning, comparing, returning, and investing in the perfect pants, shirts, hat, shoes, camera (a Nikon D50 SLR) and other such items. Once could definitely say that I was, well, very prepared. I read books about Blixen, the Samburu, Masai and other such topics. I was ready.

We met at LAX and immediately decided that champagne was in order. This was to set the tone for the entire trip. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we departed LAX with no problems (British Air) and arrived ready to shop in London. Whenever in London I always stay at the fantastic Covent Garden Hotel and take full advantage of its prime location next to the main Coven Garden shopping area. Champagne and massages again set the tone.

On 11/25/2006 we left a very rainy and cold Heathrow and took off on a very packed flight for Nairobi. (I have to mention. British Air in America allowed me to bring on my camera backpack and a small bag. British Air in London required that every thing fit into one bag. I literally had to go and get a trash bag, put both smaller bags inside, clear security, and then throw the bag away and go back to the 2 bags. It was absurd.) We arrived in Nairobi very late at night and I was immediately hit by the humidity (I live in a very dry California). We cleared the VISA desk (the line for those without Visas was the same as those with) and met our Nairobi Contact, Lucy, with Origins Safaris. At that point, it had been about a 17 hour day and so we were grateful when we landed at the Stanley Hotel in downtown Nairobi. The Stanley is a fine hotel and offers one of the nicest spas I’ve ever seen. However, the rooms are full of relatively old looking furniture and I think that I would have preferred a room at the Serena or the quiet of Giraffe Manor. I will say that the staff at the Stanley were exceptionally kind and offered their assistance at all times.

On 11/26/2005 we met up with Kennedy the famous guide and I think that we threw him for a loop at first as we had our own agenda to accomplish that day. The “usual” tourist itinerary was thrown out the window. We started by drinking our first Tusker at an internet café where we hastily sent “we’re alive” emails home. We then moved on to a very large supermarket (I can’t remember the name) that contained every thing from furniture to produce. We had a fantastic time buying new candy and treats and post cards to send home. Kennedy enjoyed a nice coffee and break as we enjoyed shopping with the locals. Once we left the grocery store, we landed at the National Park where we walked through the park and, yes, did our “Cheetah Hug”…an experience I will never forget. I took a small digital recorder with me on the trip and I still listen to the purr I recorded from time to time. After hugging our cheetah, we had a very pleasant break/lunch at the Verandah restaurant in the Karen area. We sat outside and enjoyed watching the fantastically colorful birds as we enjoyed some really delicious food. From the Verandah we went to the “Bomas” cultural center and enjoyed watching multiple dances representing various tribes throughout Africa. We had to cut our visit short as I had made specific plans to visit the Elephant Orphanage at 5pm as I’m a “foster parent”. After making our way up a slick, muddy road, we landed at the orphanage just as the elephants were coming back from their day outside their pens. I would encourage anyone who goes for the late afternoon (for foster parents only and arranged via internet before arrival) visit to arrive around 4:45pm to make sure that you are ready to see the ellies come running home. We just made it and were able to see a line of ellies coming home but would have enjoyed capturing a photo or two. Of course the visit was magical as being so close to baby ellies as young as 3-4 weeks old is really wonderful. I didn’t want to leave…but we did of course and we were dropped off by Kennedy at the Carnivore Restaurant (our concierge had arranged a reservation early that morning).

The Carnivore Restaurant, in my humble opinion, is one of the worst restaurants I’ve ever eaten at and I would never encourage anyone to spend the sizeable sum to eat there. The meat was over-done and very few meats offered were “exotic”. In fact, I can say that I had tasted 99% of what they were offering in other parts of the world. I’m sure that there are many who think the food is great and that that the ambiance is worthwhile but it reminded me of a restaurant that Disneyland would have put together…just short of downright tacky.

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