Day 2-4: Let the adventure begin...
On the road with Tucan Travel – Safari & Beach Tour April 2017
It was an early start... and I’m not a morning person! That would have to change on this trip I decided as there would be more than just one 5 am start. I’d cope I told myself. I’ll just have copious amounts of coffee – I’m in Africa after all! – and I’ll be fine. I’ll let you know how that went later... Spoiler alert: it's not a good idea.
Anyway, still half asleep and with our backpacks & room keys in hand we made our way down for breakfast and check-out. Now it was time to leave Nairobi and say goodbye to most of our belongings which were locked up in our big bags and stored safely in the hotel until we would return two days later. For now it was just me and my overnight backpack stuffed to the brim with essentials for two nights camping (half of those things I didn’t even need).
Soon enough our van arrived – that would be our home for the next couple of days. It was spacious enough for the six of us and we had our own local driver and chef with us too. The drive out of Nairobi was pretty smooth and on the way we stopped at a lookout spot to soak up the breathtaking view over the Rift Valley... it looked something like this:
Pretty cool, huh?
Later we stopped for a quick buffet lunch and some souvenir shopping and soon after that we hit the dusty, bone-dry, unpaved roads of rural Kenya. It’s called “African massage” for a reason. I somehow got used to the constant rattling, shaking and bumping and by the time we arrived at the actual game park with its dirt tracks and occasional river crossings this wasn’t really a big deal any more. I was, however, more than happy that I had packed my shock-absorbing sports bra! Ladies, it really does help! With a scarf around my nose & mouth to keep the dust out of my face I sat back and watched the landscape change. By now we saw the occasional Masai warriors dressed in their traditional colorful kangas and we even spotted some wildlife! We had definitely left the big city behind.
In the afternoon we reached our camp site and I got an idea of what “assisted camping in permanent tents” means. It’s basically what I always imagined glamping would be like. Our tent was big enough for an actual double bed - complete with mattress, blankets, pillows & mosquito net. We could even stand up in it! And behind the zip on the other end there it was: our very own bathroom with WC, sink & shower. I was in heaven! If this was camping I could totally do it!
The place we stayed at was called Miti Mingi Eco Camp. Electricity and hot water were available only at certain times, i.e. for a couple of hours in the evening and in the early morning and there were no (working) power outlets inside the tents. Cameras and cell phones could be charged in the common room in the evening once the electricity was switched on. I loved this concept! Oh, and we had our very own security guard – a real Masai warrior non the less – who made sure no cheeky monkeys opened up the tents to steal our snacks.
We chilled in our comfy new homes for a while, sorted out our stuff and then zipped up our tents and went on our very first sunset game drive into the Masai Mara. There is no point in talking much about it, I’ll just the pictures speak for themselves...
Back at the campsite we quickly went into our tents to change and put on some insect repellent – your two main accessories out here are sunscreen by day & Deet by night. We went back to the common room - basically a bigger wooden building with tables and chairs - where dinner was already waiting for us. Our chef cooked some amazing veggie-friendly foods for us: vegetables, potatoes, rice and as always chapati bread. Seriously, not once on this trip did I have to go hungry or rely on the snacks I brought! Now here’s a little disclaimer: when I’m traveling I go by the rule “as vegan as possible, as vegetarian as necessary” – and so far that always worked! I try to stick to my plant-based diet as much as I can without being a pain in the neck to my fellow travelers or turning into the rude Westerner insulting local people who just cooked a meal in their humble home for me. I find this balance works quite well for me and vegetarian food is almost always an available option (note: I'm not allergic to dairy or eggs - so small amounts aren't an issue if I can't avoid them).
And then something funny happened: there was an old TV set in the dining room and some of the ladies working at the camp site started watching this horribly dubbed Mexican soap opera called “Un Camino Hacia El Destino”. I’m not sure how good the original is but the English version was ridiculously bad. The synopsis is “A woman falls in love with her stepson”. Enough said. We were addicted to it in no time.
After dinner we went back to our tents for an early night as we had to get up before sunrise again the next morning for another game drive where we would finally see 4 out of the Big 5!
The Big 5 in terms of African wildlife refer to lions, buffalo, elephants, rhinos & leopards. Only the leopards made themselves rare and we had to wait till Tanzania to spot them. Again, pictures will say more than words ;)
Just a couple more cats...
The mighty Mara River
We arrived back at our camp for lunch and then we set off to visit a Masai village nearby. We were first invited to watch a traditional welcoming dance which the men performed for us. After that we got to see some really cool Masai jumping – and they jump really high! They’d give some basketball players a run for their money! Then we were led around the grounds where they keep their animals, we learnt about how they use plants for certain diseases or as insect repellent and watched them make fire. At the end we were invited into their houses. It was incredible to see how they live! Huge families live in the tiniest of spaces. They sleep, eat and cook pretty much in the same room. In the Masai culture men tend to the livestock and women are responsible for building the houses.
Back at our camp we sat down for another wonderful & healthy dinner cooked by our chef and of course watched more Destino - we really needed to know what happened to Camila...
The next morning we were up again early and by sunrise we were already on our way back to Nairobi. Of course we stopped again at the Rift Valley lookout spot for a quick break and to enjoy our yummy packed lunches. This also doubled as a toilet stop of which there are kind of enough on the trip. Meaning you’ll be fine if you drink normal amounts of water. Not so much if you drink too much coffee in order to deal with the early starts... Not a good idea when you’re stuck in a van for 5 or 6 hours on safari or going overland from A to B. Lesson learnt. Although by now the early starts didn't even bother me anymore. Was I getting used to the African way? Had my body clock reset itself with all that rising at dawn and going to bed at dusk? And most importantly, did I seriously like camping now?!
I hope you enjoyed coming on this virtual safari with me! If so watch out for my next post when I show you what else there is to do in Nairobi! :)
PS: Oh yes, some of you may have noticed that I chose to spell Masai with one “a”. I found different opinions online and locally in Kenya on what is supposed to be the correct spelling. Some use Masai, others prefer Maasai. I’m sure there’s some logic to either spelling but for the purpose of keeping it simple I just stuck with “Masai” here on the blog ;)