As I mentioned in my previous post, our two-week Kenya safari was truly wonderful. We went to three national parks, each with a different ecosystems, and “glamped”, staying in comfy furnished tents or huts at four different upscale camps.
We booked through Go2Africa and chose the 15-hour direct flight from NYC to Nairobi on Kenya Air rather than risk the problems that connections can cause. Our package included all the air or ground transportation between camps. This was our full itinerary.
We booked many months in advance giving us lots of time to get our immunizations (this is not a trip for anti-vaxxers), do our research, fret, and over-prepare. There were several points of confusion.
We knew we were taking small planes between camps and the luggage restrictions for these flights had us worried. We saw a warning that said “BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE IS STRICTLY 15KGS PER PASSENGER INCLUDING HAND LUGGAGE, ALL IN SOFT BAGS.” Some places said “NO WHEELS.” We each bought (and packed) hand-held luggage scales and debated what would fit and still leave room for souvenirs: clothing for two weeks, shoes, hats, cameras, medicines, toiletries, hair appliances?? I checked with our travel agent first and got the OK for a soft-sided duffle with wheels so I did not have to lug it around. My back & shoulders thanked me.
Boarding the small planes was a casual event. In reality, our bags were only weighed once for the small flight leaving Nairobi from the Wilson Airport. I believe it was just for a total plane weight because it was done in a group and not person-by-person. Note: People DO bring bigger, heavier things, as the professional photographers with bazooka-sized cameras proved, but they have to pay more…maybe lots more.
The recommendations about clothing said “comfortable, modest, layers, and no military camo”, this all made sense. But, then we read that black attracts tse-tse flies, white gets dirty too quickly, and bright colors scare the animals. We were advised to dress in neutrals, gray, khaki, green… in other words, to look like the landscape…which for me meant a whole new wardrobe. As it turned out, June is their coldest season, so insects were not a problem, and we spent most of the day inside safari vehicles, virtually invisible to the animals. After I saw the Maasai people in their bright colors, I suspected REI clothing stores were behind this.
I checked the weather and knew that the nights would hover around 50 degrees. I brought layers, as advised, and wore plenty of them on morning game drives. What did not register with me was that we were in tents, meaning we would essentially be sleeping outdoors in this weather. The hot water bottles that every camp put in our beds at turn-down helped…some. For me, the cold was the most difficult part of the trip.
Getting to NYC
I flew from North Carolina to the JFK airport a day early and stayed at the new TWA hotel, originally the TWA terminal and an iconic Eero Saarinen landmark…sort of part hotel, part museum. It was a fun way to start the trip and take a break before the l-o-n-g flight to Nairobi.
The camps each had their own special qualities; they also had many things in common.
- Outstanding service. I always felt like an honored guest in a good hotel even if the walls were canvas and there were wild animals nearby. All the employees seemed happy…and happy to see us.
- Tented or open-air dining, both providing scenic views of the environment and a reminder that you were still in the bush.
- Bottled water, insect repellent, and other amenities available in the rooms.
- Escorts to and from the rooms at night, typically a Maasai man armed with a spear.
- Good-to-excellent food with a wide variety of choices and wonderful desserts.
- Nightly turn-down service: hot water bottles in our beds, rooms tidied, amenities replenished, mosquito netting lifted and tied back.
- Friendly, knowledgeable, and always accommodating guides on every excursion.
Find out about each one
They were all really pretty awesome, yet some stood out from the rest. Because there is so much to share, I am dividing it sequentially by the stops we made.