Kenya trip report

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Apr 3rd, 2001, 03:30 AM
  #1
olivia carter-pokras
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Kenya trip report

Subject: Kenya trip report

Just returned from 2 weeks in Kenya last Saturday. Still jet lagged (8 hour time difference) but wanted to make sure I "gave back" to the board--it has been real useful to me in planning our trip. We booked with Let's Go Travel in Nairobi. Would HIGHLY recommend them. It turned out to be a very luxurious trip at about 1/2 of the cost that U.S. and German companies would charge. Simon Kibabu made all of the arrangements for us. They can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]. Their web site is www.letsgosafari.com Our 2 week trip averaged $100 per day per person with almost all meals (e.g., 5 course dinners), accomodations, driver/guide, airfare to/from Malindi and airport transfers with only 4 people in the minivan.

I would also HIGHLY recommend using a driver/guide instead of renting a car and doing it alone. During our Lake Nakaru game drive our driver heard the frantic calling of a Thompson's gazelle and located a leopard walking just a few feet away from us with the Tommie's baby in its mouth--just killed. In stark contrast to the American family in a rental car whose father proudly pointed out a "leopard" in a tree--with our binoculars we could see that it was a vine!! Considering the cost of the trip-it makes no sense to travel a) without your own set of binoculars, and (b) without a good guide to help you find animals and birds!

It is worth it to pay a little extra to have fewer people in the van. The seats immediately below the popup only accomodate 5 people. Even with that many, short people may have difficulty seeing when everyone stands up. At 5 1 1/2--my favorite spot was right behind the driver on the right hand side of the vehicle (you can hear the driver/guide and no one is standing in front of you).

What to Take: We did take safari vests. If you are pinched for cash, you can drop this from your list. Did also take a pair of convertible pants each (Travelsmith has petite sizes in cotton and nylon--the cotton was the most comfortable). Must takes include a convertible bag (our stopover in Brussels--we found out that to get the VAT certificate stamped, you have to show your merchandise--this requires planning before you check your luggage), binoculars (worth saying twice), a point and shoot camera with flash, telefoto lens and converter for your 35 mm camera, 200 and 400 ASA film (we averaged 2 rolls per day), plastic bags (dirty clothes, separate film), day bag for drives, snacks (peanut butter crackers were great), electrolyte solution, cipro or other antibiotic, 30 SPF or higher sunscreen, sunglasses, hat with brim, playing cards (we took Canasta and Uno), money belt or inside pockets for valuables, locks for luggage, short sleeved big T-shirt for beach coverup and to sleep in, silk underwear to sleep in. Luggage should be softsided--we took the conversion packs but never used the backpack feature (Sierra Trading Post has very good prices).

WEATHER: The long rains have started. Usually a hard rain in afternoon or evening. I would imagine that this would make the game drives tough going at times in Masai Mara. Lake Baringo/Lake Bogoria are hot (90s), cool at night in Masai Mara, Naro Moru, Lake Naivasha. Pleasant during the day (70's, 80's).

Tips: 100KSH for 2 bags (books say $1), $15 per vehicle for driver/guide per day was recommended by Let's Go Travel but one guidebook suggested $5 per person per day so we tipped $20 per day for the 4 of us (Joseph was very good). We chose to take advantage of hotel personnel who offered to carry luggage--you are employing them. Since everything was prepaid we weren't sure whether the restaurant meals had tip already included but tipped in any case--100-200KSH per meal per couple (the dinners tend to be 900-980 KSH each).

Amount of Time: With the long flights, try to stay over a week. If you can, make sure that you plan time at the beach afterward to relax. We LOVED Hemingway's at Watamu. It is a small luxury hotel south of Malindi. We could have easily stayed there for an entire week (stayed 4 nights). Snorkeling was pretty good at the park (we carried our own snorkel, mask, fins, and 0.5 mm scuba skin/suits). For those who sunburn, I highly recommend getting a lycra or 0.5 mm long scuba skin/suit. You are at the equator. The Brits living in Kenya put their kids in lycra shorties for the same reason.

Political Situation: Elections are planned for 2002 but no one knows whether President Moi will step down. Since I was there in 1979-81, the corruption has gotten a whole lot worse and people are eager to see President Moi leave. The newly passed law restricting a President to at most 2 5-year terms means Moi has to step down next year--but it may not happen. The U.S. consular information sheet notes that riots are very possible as elections approach. Be careful that you don't put someone in a difficult spot by asking about Moi etc. in public--in your van is OK. It does make people nervous since some have disappeared, been killed, or jailed. We did see a very frank open letter to the President in one newspaper pleading for him to step down but it was not signed by a recognizable name.

Health: We took Malarone for malaria--once a day. You do not have to worry about nightmares or depression as with Larium, or sunburn as with Doxycycline and it is easier to remember when to take it (as opposed to once per week). Worked out fine for us. Two of the four of us had vomiting and diarrhea one day each (one with fever and chills [must have been the lamb curry on the plane there]--took cipro and electrolyte solution and was fine; the other treated solely with electrolyte solution). Make sure you force liquids--the second of us who got sick was only dehydrated. Bottled water costs 180-280 KSH per 1-1.5 liters--plan on drinking at least one bottle per day per person plus liquids at meals. Our travel doctor suggested meningitis shots. We were already up to date for yellow fever, tetanus, polio, hepatitis A and B, etc. Don't bother with cholera or rabies shots. We bought syringes and needles from Chinook Medical Gear (www.chinookmed.com or 1-800-766-1365). The U.S. embassy evidently keeps a list of "safe" blood donors. A 1999 estimate is that 1 out of every 6 adults is infected with HIV so practice safe sex. To our surprise, fruits and vegetables are washed in boiled water and ice is made out of boiled water in the places we stayed--so were able to enjoy salads etc.

Food: We were very pleasantly surprised at the quality and presentation of the food--much has changed in the 20 years since I lived there. My husband and friends enjoyed Tusker beer--try the variations (Export, Premium etc.). Vegetarians will find mostly Indian food (e.g., samosas, curry) as well as salads and fruits. Did not see beans, just lentils. You can buy groundnuts (peanuts) to supplement--the "fried" ones are the best. Especially if you eat eggs and dairy, you should be fine (no soy products). Fish was on every lunch and dinner menu.

Souvenirs: Tea and coffee are very good--especially the tea. Go to a supermarket for best prices and freshest products. Up near Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria, honey is harvested from hives placed in trees and in the ground--the ground honey is supposedly the sweetest (I bought the wrong one myself). Try to buy from cooperatives and in more than one place (e.g., Kazuri Beads helps single moms near Nairobi--sells pottery and beads, a lamp was 1500KSH). The nicer wood carvings and soapstone are expensive-the old "you get what you pay for". Beaded jug covers cost 200-300KSH for a pitcher size. Beaded keyrings are $4-5. Negotiate starting at 40% of asking price if not fixed price. Kikois are a nice present and can be used for a tablecloth or to make something. At Hemingways I had a double kikoi made into a top and skirt for 500KSH (tailoring cost). Beautiful beaded leather sandals are about 900KSH.

GUIDEBOOKS: Although heavy, Zimmerman's guide to birds of Kenya and North Tanzania was excellent and much cheaper in US ($30). A smaller guide of the most common birds is available in Kenya by Collins (about $20). We took my old Collins guide to the larger mammals but it doesn't have pictures of all of the mammals we saw. I liked another guidebook which our driver/guide had--can't recall the author. Audubon is so-so. If you are into birds, the Zimmerman book is fun to mark up with what you saw.

WHERE WE STAYED: Boulevard hotel (Nairobi), Naro Moru River Lodge (slopes of Mount Kenya), Sweetwaters Tented Camp, Lake Baringo Club, Lake Nakuru Lodge, Mara Simba Lodge, Lake Naivasha Country Club, Hemingway's (Watamu).

Hope this helps. You can post questions, or email me at [email protected]

Olivia


 
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Apr 3rd, 2001, 03:12 PM
  #2
buck
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Hi Olivia,
We just returned last Wed. from Kenya. I was the one that you had to convince that a visa was needed, remember. We got them at the Nairobi airport and it was no problem at all. We already had the form made out so only took about 5 or 10 minutes extra.
We had a wonderful trip with Go Ahead Vacations, which uses Vintage Africa as their ground operator in Kenya. From the flights to the lodges, the food, the service persons , everything went off without a hetch and it was truly a wonderful trip. We had 20 in out group and we all became great frinds. We now have a web page where we are all posting pics and planning another trip. If your trip was half as good as mine you had a wonderful time. Buck
 
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Apr 4th, 2001, 02:32 AM
  #3
olivia carter-pokras
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Glad to hear that you had a great time Buck. We also had a great time--probably the most luxurious vacation we have ever had! Perhaps we even saw you? Were you at Lake Nakuru on March 22? Three vans?
 
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Apr 4th, 2001, 05:11 AM
  #4
buck
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Hi Olivia,
We were at Lake Nakuru on the 22ond with three white vans, Go Ahead Vacations logo on them, did you happen to see them? If so I wish we had made the connection. Buck
 
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Apr 4th, 2001, 02:59 PM
  #5
buck
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Hi Olivia,
I just checked my log and we were at Lake Nukuru on the 20 not the 22. Sorry, I guess our paths didn't cross. Did you eat at Carniviors in Nairobi? Our group had lunch there and really enjoyed it. Someone said here that they thought it was gross. What did you think? I had a steak for dinner at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club that I couldn't even cut a piece off to get a bit of it. I know that all their beef there is free range and they do not fatten them with corn like we do to make it tender so that was ok. I sent it back and went to the fresh made pasta station which all the lodges seem to have and had a great pasta dish. Also had fresh pasta at another lodge and it was just as good. Later Buck
 
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Apr 5th, 2001, 03:14 AM
  #6
olivia carter-pokras
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No, didn't get to Carnivore. I have stopped eating red meat more than a year ago. We instead went to the Norfolk hotel for our last meal (hoped to get to the Ibis restaurant but it was not open until too late for us to eat and catch our plane)--very nice pastries there but much smaller servings than we experienced on the safari.
 
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Apr 30th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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ttt for the person asking for budget safaris
lacontessa is offline  
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Apr 30th, 2005, 03:32 PM
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Olivia and Buck,

Glad you enjoyed your respective trips. The leopard taking the baby gazelle was a marvelous spot. What were some of your other good sightings, and where did they occur?

What differences did you find between Lakes Baringo and Nakuru?

Thanks for your posts.
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