Shades of Kilimanjaro
Recently Glen from our Business Travel Division was able to check one thing off of his bucket list as a retirement gift to himself; an African Safari.
I went on a 7 day Safari from United Travel Group with Fox World Travel. The tour offered stays at three different lodges, throughout Kenya. We flew Delta and departed Outagamie County Regional Airport on Sunday May 4th at 10:30am and arrived in Nairobi on Monday May 5th at 8:30pm. The flight was long, however, I would soon find out it was more than worth it.
The Destination Management Company that was used in Kenya was Pollman’s Tours & Safaris. They took us to the Safari Park Hotel which would be our overnight hotel in Nairobi. This was not a hotel but a 64 acre resort about 30 minutes from the airport. It had a full health club, swimming pool, tennis courts, three bars and a restaurant. Unfortunately it was 10:00pm and we would be leaving at 7:00am the next morning to begin our adventure. Our room had an outdoor deck, a sitting parlor, a bedroom and two bathrooms. Extremely nice!! The next morning we enjoyed a buffet breakfast and all meals were included in the tour price.
Soon after, we met the other people joining us on the Safari. There would be a total of eight of us. After a brief overview of what we will experience throughout the week we were introduced to our tour guide, Daniel, who would be with us the entire time. We had two vehicles, four people in each vehicle. The Masai Mara, our first destination is approximately 280 Kilometers (174 miles) west of Nairobi and is a 5-6 hour drive. The main highways are packed with traffic so travel was slow, the side roads….well we simply wouldn’t consider them roads.
We arrived at the lodge around 1:30pm and were given a quick briefing on the lodge and then we were escorted to our rooms. This lodge, to conserve on energy, turns off the electricity and hot water during parts of the day and evening. The lodge serves lunch from 12:30 – 2:30 which we thought would be a buffet, but to our surprise we had a four course menu provided where we could choose to have soup, salad and choice of three different entrees and desert. We had buffets at breakfast, each lunch and dinner would be ordered off of a menu. The food and presentation was fabulous at each lodge.
We left for the Masai Mara reserve for our first game drive which was incredible; we saw many zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, gazelles, elephants. Not just one here and one there but herds of them. Daniel, our guide, did an excellent job of getting close and in positions with good camera angles. We were back to the lodge by 7:00pm and dinner was from 7:30pm – 9:30pm and it was as delicious as lunch!
The next day we had a game drive in the morning and in the afternoon. Towards the end of the morning drive we were taken to a Masai village. These tribesman wear bright red and blue garments draped around their bodies. We were met by the chiefs’ son and he explained their traditions and showed us around the village. Their homes are made of sticks, straw and cow dung. They did a traditional dance for us and then we were sort of separated into groups and taken into their “homes” which was no larger than my office. Here is where they tried to sell us their wares.
We had some free time before our afternoon game drive so we lounged by the pool and enjoyed the weather and our new found friends. Our afternoon game drive was very successful, we saw lions, both male and female, and we had a cheetah pass right in front of our vehicle! He also saw herds of elephants and Ostrich. You cannot imagine how close we were to these animals. It was incredible.
On day 5 it was time to head towards Lake Nakuru National Park where we stayed for one night at the Lake Nakuru Lodge. This area is famous for Flamingos….by the thousands! The drive from Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru was particularly rutted, what we were on could not possibly be considered “roads”. Once we arrived it was off to lunch immediately and then a game drive at 4:00pm.
On day 6 the first order of business was a boat ride on Lake Naivasha. This was really a swamp and we saw tons of different cranes, African fish eagles, and hippos… huge hippos! After a 90 minute boat ride we continued on to Amboselli National Park at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The route from Lake Nakuru to Amboselli was thru Nairobi. We stopped in Nairobi for lunch at a posh hotel in their restaurant and once again a four course meal for lunch. Had you been blindfolded, you would have thought you might be in New York.
On day 7 we woke up and as luck would have it Mt. Kilimanjaro was shrouded in clouds. After breakfast we headed out on our game drive. Amboselli is the land of the elephant and did we see elephants. We were very lucky to see a herd of 25 elephants playing in deep ponds, spraying themselves and each other with water. Our guide told us to take a picture, he said, “you don’t often see this”. We also saw hyena, jackal and more wildebeest and zebra. We ended the game drive with a bush lunch. There is an area with a large tent and we had lunch in the park. We were expecting a picnic type lunch; no way, once again a four course meal served on china sitting at tables.
On our final day we got up and headed for breakfast and we had a pleasant surprise. The clouds had moved on and there was Mt. Kilimanjaro in its glory! It was very impressive and quite a site to see.
After breakfast Daniel took us back to Nairobi and brought us to the Pollman’s office where we were met by the person who gave us our initial briefing at the Safari Park Hotel. We said our good-byes to Daniel and now Leah would serve as our guide for our final day in Kenya, as our flight home did not depart until 10:30pm. We began by eating at an outdoor café for lunch, went to the Karen Blixen Museum and finally, the Giraffe Center where the Rothschild Giraffe are being bred and then reintroduced into the wild.
Our last event in Kenya was dinner at the famous Carnivore restaurant. This is a fixed menu restaurant and the draw is they have chefs walking around the restaurant with different meats on huge skewers. They stop at your table and carve some meat on your plate. Beyond the traditional chicken and beef they also have an assortment of exotic meats. On our evening it was ostrich meat balls and alligator. This is a fun place and a good way to end the week long adventure.
I cannot put into words how awesome this trip was. Truly a trip of a lifetime and it exceeded everyone’s expectations. Our tour guide was fantastic; he was very knowledgeable and worked very hard to find animals and get us in good spots for photos. The only caution I would mention is the driving; the roads in many places are simply not roads and if you are highly susceptible to motion sickness you would have a problem.
The lodging was very nice; each property had a swimming pool and bars. The one thing to be aware of is to conserve energy many turn off electricity and hot water during certain times of the day. A flashlight is a must for those midnight trips to the restroom.
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