On our wedding night, in front of all our guests - I made a promise to my wife that I will take her to Africa, her childhood dream. And thats what I did - almost 6 months later, we were on a plane to see Kenya and Tanzania. That was a BIG promise I made….
I will be creating a few shorter blog posts regarding this trip! things such as “TO DO LISTS” “CAMPING IN AFRICA” in the next few days! trust me, camping with the lions - was epic!
You know when you get some sort of cough and your Google search begins? Trying to work out what is actually wrong with you? Well, thats what happened with this trip early on! There were so many news articles and links to potential dangers... I began to immediately second guess this trip. Words on the screen read “Unsafe” and so on, but I was determined to do it, eager to make this work and make my wife smile. Of course, I later learnt that these terms were all over the net for almost every country in Africa. We decided to avoid the internet and watch a few videos via YouTube to ease our minds. And of course listened to TOTO - AFRICA almost every day before our trip.
This is when I came across On the Go Tours, I thought to myself: what better way to explore a new country safely than do it on a tour! On the Go have multiple tours in Africa and around the world and the one we chose was called: The Best of Kenya and Tanzania, which was an 11 day tour across Kenya and Tanzania. Exactly what we were after; Serengeti, Masai Mara and the Ngorongoro Crater. All info needed was online, itinerary details to camp site names - reviews were looking positive and the potential to link up and hang out with other travellers from the across the globe made it a fun group experience. Oh and this trip was an entire overland based adventure, so most of it was either freedom camping or at pre booked campsite.
We chose the BEST OF KENYA AND TANZANIA tour, have a look at the itinerary and see if it suits your vibe / visit ONTHEGOTOURS
For a place which I did not know well in comparison to locations like London and the United States, it was comforting knowing that our itinerary was already done for us, ensuring we see all the main attractions and everything in between. As the countdown began for our adventure to Africa, we regularly looked online, mapping out our trip and researching all that we were soon going to see, which really got the butterflies going on in our belly! Knowing that we were going to see animals such as Lions and Elephants up so close was going to be such an amazing and surreal experience!
The day before, whilst we were packing: it was a MUST that my wife’s two favourite movies were on repeat in the background: George of the Jungle and The Lion King. Although this movies are cheesy (but amazing) it really did set the scene of what we were about to experience (apart from talking Apes) and give us just a little bit more excitement than we were already feeling. I did warn her that she will not be seeing a wild Brendan Fraser running around the woods. I almost was tempted to get into shape and grow out the hair just to impress her.
The day had finally come, we had our luggage in the car and we were on our way to the airport! The flights (Qatar Airways) were smooth, with friendly staff, good food and didn’t feel like a strain at all! Our first stop was Doha, which was a super nice and modern airport, we grabbed a coffee, let our family know we were safe and in no time we were back on the plane for our final destination!
Arriving in Kenya was very overwhelming, we were hit with a blast of heat, we were in a very unknown country, the airport was very different from both Doha and Melbourne (almost as if it was Geelong Airport) and the moment we stepped outside there were hundreds of people holding up signs and yelling out for taxi’s. I wanted to become friends with the one guy who had a Manchester United jersey on.
For someone with terrible eyesight, Chantelle luckily pointed out our A4 handwritten sign (our names were squished because I have the world record for longest surname haha) we then made our way to the Kenya Comfort Inn, “luxury” for Africa, noisy but nice. On the main roads of Nairobi, a great way to experience the streets.
We met our neighbours for the next 11 days which included many Aussies and a few Brits (don’t forget our favourite Welsh Man) made our way into town to pick up a few necessities for the trip (water, snacks etc). I thought it was a fantastic idea to purchase a 10 litre bottle of water, whilst everyone else bought a handful of 5 or 2 litre bottles, but later found out my bottle was a refill for those Never-fail water machines you see in offices.. oops.
We were briefed by our tour guide about the holiday ahead of us, had some dinner and sleep to fuel us for the long drive to our first destination first thing in the morning. Although our drive was long, it was far from boring. Seeing the streets and people of Kenya was amazing, the way they live, the way they dress - so different from myself but so amazing and beautiful. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.
Bonding with our group over night at the Comfort, we instantly found out that I will slowly become the worst dad at “dad jokes” … Kenya believe that!?
Now I have to give a mention to the three amazing staff member; Leah our guide, Ruben the cook and our driver Issa - all three worked so hard to keep a smile on our faces. No matter what challenge was, they did it together. Ruben cooked us everything from local foods to our favourite noodles, Issa tackled every road as if it was for himself - no selfishness. Lastly, our leader Leah - the one who organised it all and kept us in line. Thank you!
The bumpy African roads, dusty air and time spent in the bus was nothing compared to what was in front of us at the first campsite, beautiful scenery and the sounds of wildlife in the distance. We set up tent (something that we got faster at during our 11 days there), watched the sun set and sat by the fire discussing tomorrows adventures. One thing I totally didn’t expect was showers, this place had one of the best of the entire trip - an outdoor wilderness experience. Chantelle loved it, but the drop hole toilets and I are were never friends.
The next day was by far our favourite and most memorable. Casual 4:30 alarm, we knew what we were about to see so time wasn’t an issue. As we arrived, balloons were slowly lifting off - as we watched each and almost every single one rise - we waited our turn. From start to finish, the team behind it all were beyond professional - for someone like the wife to do this for the first time, and to do it in a foreign country easily proved to me how safe and direct they were. Gliding through the Masai Mara, we were heading towards the Serengeti. Years of watching David Attenborough on TV, I could hear his voice whisper each moment - every single animal we flew past. Side by side with Chantelle, we softly glide past Giraffes, Water Buffalos and many more as the sun slowly rose behind us.
After our hour balloon ride was done, we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere (literally) a Defender picks us up, and yells “off to breakfast we go” - only a few seconds into our trip, we make a detour and come across a large male lion tearing into his morning snack - life, right in front of you. I slowly sing “Circle of Life” from the Lion King in my head as this unfolds.
Post breakfast adventures involved a thrilling game drive and a Masai Village visit - all of this occurred within the same day as a ballooning experience. Overwhelmed isn’t a word I would use easily for a day as such, we were spoilt beyond belief. Coming across a family of Elephants, Giraffes drinking from local river beds and of course, Lions roaming through the Masai - we later on ended our trip with a quick visit to a local village, run and inhabited by the Masai Tribe. We were welcomed by the locals with a dance and song from both the women and men of the village. A fun fact we learnt was that most Masai Villagers will walk hours for food, school, work and a lot more. An ancient blood line living alongside todays world.
Going into a third day of our trip, we departed the Masai for Nakuru, a little 8 hour trip north of our current spot - the truck itself was a little bit of a pain when hitting the big roads, mainly doubling up our travel time but also keeping us safe on the road. We finally arrive to our spot for the next few nights - we’ve been camping for the past night or so and actually thought we will be camping every night during our stay in Kenya or Tanzania. Nakuru’s camp spot was actually a Lodge run by an Australian family, which also operates the EAMO Orphanage we will be visiting. The lodge itself was breathtaking, we opted to upgrade and avoid camping the two nights we were staying in town - a warm shower, a soft bed and being out of the rain that was heading towards us.
Nakuru is known for its Pink Flamingos at the National Park, sadly a few years ago the town was flooded which caused a lot of their wildlife to migrate to other regions of the country. We were hoping to catch a Leopard on this trip, our day consisted mainly of Zebras and Baboons and by the end of the day we ticked off both Rhinos of Kenya, sadly not a single Leopard in sight. A simple circular trip around the Nakuru National Park which lasted between 2 - 4 hours. Made it back to our lodge, cleaned up and head on over the EAMO Orphanage and school. Before we made our way to Kenya I teamed up with PARK to bring footballs to the kids, walking onto the school ground we hear the voices of kids screaming, shouting “HELLO” - I pull a football out of my bag, and within seconds what was a silent field turned into hundreds of kids wanting to kick the ball - many of them just wanted a cuddle. Chantelle and I were running around with the kids, introducing ourselves and visa versa. I learnt that a lot of them have had some tough lives, at such a young age these kids have gone through a lot more than most of us reading this blog. The kids put on a show, sung a few local songs and departed with a simple smile.
The next few days were basically travel from Northern Kenya to the border of Tanzania, we passed through the amazing and famous Tea region known as Kericho. Famous for its talented runners/athletes but also for its chai/tea. By the weekend we had made it to Tanzania, a busy town by Lake Victoria. Myself and a few of the others decided to jump on a BMX and stroll through the villages just before sunset. Meeting a lot of the locals, riding alongside traffic on the main road and actually being called JESUS by some of the kids.
Driving through the towns, I noticed that Kenya and Tanzania were different in many ways. Kenyans used a lot of the english language on their signs, shops and language while within Tanzanians, the Swahili language was everywhere. The last stretch of our journey through Central Africa began now - a 4 day trip from Lake Victoria, passing through the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater and finally finishing it all off with a return trip to Nairobi.
Our target arrival into the Serengeti was around 5PM, just before sunset - enough time and light to set up camp / our tour guide did warn us of our upcoming situation - we are basically camping in the middle of the game reserve - lions, zebras, buffalos and more all breathing down our tents. Driving into the camp gates, we stop for a quick lunch all prepared for us by the amazing chef. Once all done we depart for our camp, driving through the reserve we were interrupted moments into our trip by an Elephant crossing our path - all other tour cars, stopping as they witness this gigantic beautiful animal walking pass all cars. The sun slowly departs and everyone on our bus begins to worry about the situation we will face in moments time - once we arrive, its straight into tent set up. Coming to a stop in total darkness, we immediately choose our spots and set up camp, gather local branches and create our bonfire which in someway will keep us safe from the wild life but also warm while we enjoy our dinner.
As we were sitting by our fire, I had this idea to potentially capture our site with some of the night sky, I walk into the dark just enough to fit it all into my shot. As I set this all up, I notice a little sound crackling right behind me, I look back and notice a shadow - within seconds I’ve gone from crouching to running. It ended up being a Buffalo and Leah (tour guide) advised me that in the future I should never run, mainly if it is a Buffalo - as they do get triggered by people running.
Hearing the sounds of a Hyenas laugh in the morning, can wake you up no matter what time it is or how much sleep you have had - restless moments there on after, sitting in our sleeping bags waiting for everyone else to make first contact with the outside world - I did hear some talking, so we assumed it was safe to do so and get out of our tent. It was around 6am and we looked around our tents, noticing scratch marks in some areas of tents. Some sort of animal did visit our campsite overnight. After having our morning breakfast we depart and head on over to Serengeti National Reserve for todays game drive, ending the day and setting camp just outside the Ngrongoro Crater which is tomorrows destination.
Arriving in the busy end of the park it was packed with tourists - our trucks cut through path ways to achieve the best view possible of every scenario we come across. Our first moment we encounter was the herd of lions just sitting around what seemed to resemble Pride Rock (yep, Lion King reference) remember that most of these reserves are large in size, the Serengeti itself is around 30,000 Square KMs and just to be able to see every single part of this park would be amazing but as I was told by many on this trip “right place, right time”. The game drive covered a lot of ground, we had an amazing day witnessing Cheetahs roam around the reserve - Zebras in the hundreds - and of course to top it all of for me, my hat decided to fly out of the truck and on to the road, I did yell to the driver to stop. But he wasn’t stopping. RIP Hat! We did see a lot more on our trip through the park, its just hard to note every moment - make sure to bring heaps of water on your future trips and wear comfortable clothes as it does get hot/sandy at times.
11 days wasn’t enough, after witnessing all that we did in the Serengeti I’m keen to finish it all off with the Crater tomorrow. Passing through the end gate, we depart the Serengeti for the Crater - a good 2 hour trip in between, thankfully our trip become a little more adventurous than advertised as our truck decides to hit something and rupture a tyre. After many attempts our driver finally puts it back on the road, and off we go to our camp site just outside of tomorrows National Park. Driving towards the crater, we pass many Masai villages - kids with white masks, I was fortunate enough to meet an elder who was passing through the road where we had made a half way point pit stop - we discussed a few things and I asked if I could capture his portrait, he insisted and allowed me to proceed.
The camp site was a great way to end our wilderness camping experience as tomorrows spot was a little more safer and enclosed to the world. A beautiful tree stood tall in the middle, surrounded by so many tourists - many from Germany, Asia and abroad. Running off to the bathroom that afternoon we crossed paths with the local Zebras. The next morning was our final adventure. The crater was only a short trip from where we were, although it was a downhill road from here. As you could honestly look outside your window and see the bottom of the cliff.
Making our descend down the entrance the Ngrongoro Crater we noticed a lot of other cars sitting in one spot, now this happens often on a game drive if someone/one of the drives comes across something. Slowly one by one the depart, and only seconds later I noticed a few lions on the cliff side walking around. Looking over my shoulder we all noticed that there was a female lion making her way down and potentially past us. I wasn’t sure how to feel, the large female lioness slowly passes our truck - not even fussed if we were watching as she brushed us aside. Only a few seconds below from this spot we came across a large Elephant feasting on one of the trees. Like most of the game drives we witnessed everything, the lioness was and will always be our favourite moment from this trip. Meeting the local kids, and everything in between.
Departing the crater we head for our last town called Arusha (small town near the border of Kenya and Tanzania) where we will be staying at a camp site set up by a South African couple who have been there for a very long time. If you happen to be passing by or needing a place to stay before you visit Kilimanjaro or the Crater route, a visit to Mesarani Snake Park. A legendary establishment, the bar within the park features hundreds of memorabilia from passing visitors. Our campsite that night was a little bit of a tearful one, as we all had our “last supper” with the group we were apart of for the past 12 days. We said our stories, our thanks and enjoyed Rubens last dish which was a Kenyan special called Ugali (google it, looks yum)
The final trip back was about an 8 hour drive including a quick pit stop at the border - from here we were driving directly through to Nairobi where Chantelle and I will be departing the next morning. When we arrived back into the city we caught the cheapest UBER (highly recommend) from the centre to our hotel which cost about $6 AUD for what would have been $60 in Australia itself. Early wake up call the next day and off we went back to Australia via Doha, little delay at Doha but if you were ever to have a delay then this airport was the place to be
Arriving back into Melbourne and realising it is all over! 11 days in Africa has come to an end!
A huge thanks to the team at ON THE GO TOURS / Africa Travel Co and our team of three for taking care of Chantelle and I during the 11 days across Kenya and Tanzania.