Trip report/Kenya and South Africa

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Jul 28th, 2005, 11:15 AM
  #1
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Trip report/Kenya and South Africa

Just wanted to thank you all for the previous posts that helped us have a great trip to Kenya and South Africa this month. Here are a few observations/tips:

Nairobi:
Stayed at the Safari Park Hotel. Would definitely recommend it for comfort, safety, restaurants, although it is a bit out of the way.

Nairobi National Park is great for a half-day trip if you aren't going on a safari as well. We saw almost the same animals we had seen in the Mara, and at a greater distance. I would recommend it for people who aren't going on safari.

Karen Blixen house nice, but worth only about 1.5 hours.

Just a few blocks away is the Kazuri bead shop and factory which is definitely worth the stop.

We were taken to a few craft places, but the best by far is the Collector's Den, right under the Hilton. In the future I'd just go right there and skip the rest. Our driver for the afternoon had called ahead and asked the shop to stay open, which they did. Excellent selection and very helpful people.


Safari:
We used Southern Cross Safaris to book the Olonana Tented Safari Camp, as well as the game drives and all the transportation. After initial internet communications, we had little contact with Southern Cross, but their arrangements worked out perfectly and they were very professional. They even picked up our lost luggage for us while we were on safari and had it in the car when they picked us up at Wilson in Nairobi. I would definitely use them again.

Olonana Tented Safari:
Excellent all the way around. Very personalized service from the moment you step off the plane at the Kichwa Tembo airstrip. Our guide was Abdul and he was wonderful. We saw the "Out of Africa" elephant heard about two minutes from the airstrip, and four of the big 5 on our first game drive that afternoon. In the three-hour drive so many animals appeared it was as if they had been scripted by Disney.

There are only 12 tents at Olonana, so the attention is very personalized. Food was outstanding. The resident warthog, Pumba, was relatively tame and fun to watch. We had a family of hippos on the banks of the river right under our tent. They were a bit loud, but that was part of the atmosphere. We had a Maasai guard taking us to our tent at night and sticking nearby. The tents were very comfortable - like camping at the Ritz Carlton. I'd definitely go back there again.

Restaurants in Nairobi: We had several private meals, and otherwise ate mostly at the Safari Park Hotel. Their restaurants are quite good. The grilled meat one is very similar to Carnivore. The breakfast buffet was excellent.

The Nairobi Java House was a nice treat, especially for those of us in Starbucks-withdrawl.


Cape Town, South Africa:

Stayed at the Portswood Hotel right at the V&A Waterfront. It was a very good choice, being safe and close to the shops and restaurants. The staff took good care of us, the breakfast buffet which was included in our room was quite good. The only downside was that our room was a bit small, but it was very clean and well decorated. We especially appreciated the tea and coffee service in the room.

Attractions:
Robben Island is a must. The tour is very well done, with former prisoners talking about what life was like in prison there.

Local friends took us to Table Mountain and Cape Point, both very worthwhile outings. The trick, they say, is to gauge the weather. We were lucky to have three very sunny and warm days, but then we ended up not seeing Kirstenbosch gardens due to the rain.

Believe people when they say that you have to watch out for the baboons at Cape Point. We were eating some snacks on picnic tables and one came darting out of the bushes and grabbed a bag of chips right out of our friend's hand.

Downtown (City Bowl): I can recommend the Company Gardens, South African Museum and Greenmarket for crafts, although as other posts indicate, most of the crafts are from other African countries. The Pan-African Market (indoor) was fine, but kind of claustrophobic. The Gold Museum was nice but small, ditto the Slave Church.

We did a very nice, long day-trip to the Winelands with Rainbow Tours, and Bruno as our tour guide. He is Portuguese and speaks English, Afrikaans, Portuguese and Spanish, if that is important. We visited Zevenwacht in Stellenbosch, did the winery tour and tasted. Then we stopped by an old country store, then went to the town of Stellenbosch for an hour or so. Franschhoek for lunch at "The Grapevine," which is a family-style restaurant but quite good. After lunch we went by Fairview, and our last tasting was at Seidelberg, which included a look at their blown glass factory. I'd definitely recommend this tour, although the best place for actually buying wines is back in Cape Town at the Waterfront, at a place called Carolines in the Victoria Wharf mall.

If anyone needs any contact information, drop me a line.
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Jul 28th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Glad to hear you had a great trip.

Is the Collector's Den located in the Hilton shopping arcade? We tried going there a couple of times, but it seemed like our timing was always off (either Sunday or too late in the afternoon). Will have to make a special point to try again. It didn't even occur to me that it would be possible to ask them to stay open. What time do they normally close? Did they have any beaded leather sandals there? I bought some at Utamaduni last time. If anyone else knows where to go for a good selection of beaded sandals, please let me know. I really enjoyed the stop at Kazuri as well.

Your hippo comment sure brings back memories! One of the camps where we stayed overlooked hippo springs and we heard them come ashore in the evenings and return to the water in the mornings near our tent. I very fondly remember being awoken each morning by the hippo alarm
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Jul 28th, 2005, 02:01 PM
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sandi
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The Collector's Den is open daily till at least 6pm and often later. The reason it often looks closed from the street is that they keep the inside gates down and someone has to open the door for you. It is located in the arcade below the Hilton, but the address is on Simba Street.

I don't recall seeing beaded sandles, but then I wasn't looking. And since my very first visit 10-years ago, they've expanded their space. Be sure to check the back room for better jewelry - some, surprisingly, at reasonable prices. And then there are rooms to the right and right rear from the main room to check out.

On all my trips, I always wind up at the Collector's Den for inexpensive gifts and some not so inexpensive items. So you should make some time to stop here and they price in USD and charge in USD on your credit card... so no surprises (except if your credit card applies a "foreign transaction fee" - regardless that it's in USD).

Kazuri is a gem. If I only had more time I would have bought and bought, but instead walked out with nothing. Too many beautiful things from which to choose.
 
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Jul 28th, 2005, 03:06 PM
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Thanks, sandi. Now I'll know even if it looks closed, it might actually be open!
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Jul 28th, 2005, 03:11 PM
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The Collector's Den is actually on the street entrance next to the Hilton parking entrance, and as the other post says, normally closes at 6 p.m., and yes, they do look closed due to the bars on the windows, but apparently you can call and ask them to stay open. They did have beaded sandals! Wish I would have bought a pair. I did buy quite a few gifts at Kazuri, and everyone I've been giving them to this week has been really pleased.
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Jul 28th, 2005, 03:27 PM
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Great, thanks!
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