Kenya wasn't on my bucket list, and my husband Art didn't want to go to Africa at all. He said it was too dangerous. But we had houseguests last summer - Ed and Jeri - who said their two trips there had been life-changing experiences for them. They were very enthusiastic! At their suggestion, we contacted a friend of theirs - Tom - who has made over a dozen trips to Kenya in the last couple of decades. Then, at Tom's suggestion, we contacted an outfitter in Nairobi - George - who'd provided fabulous experiences for Ed and Jeri and Tom. We've been emailing Tom and George for five months now, and George has crafted an itinerary just for us. We tried to find one to four other people to travel with us - for the company and for the lower cost of more people sharing a driver/guide - but had no takers, so it will be just Art and me. George's company provides airport-to-airport service, so we'll be in good hands during our time there.
We told George we'd like to see the animals, of course, but also that we'd like to meet the people and learn about the history and culture of Kenya. Our goal? To make personal connections and, on our return, to feel like we've really experienced the places we've been. That's always what we look for when we travel - whether in another country (as Ecuador last year) or other parts of our own country (as in Kentucky and Tennessee, also last year). Tom said, "If you make a connection with your driver, he will open up a whole new world for you."
In 15 nights, we'll be staying at seven places:
Two nights at the Nairobi Serena hotel
One night at The Ark, in Aberdare National Park
Three nights at Samburu Intrepids Club, in Samburu National Reserve
Two nights at Sweetwaters Tented Camp in Ol Pejeta Sanctuary in Nanyuki
Two nights at Flamingo Hill Camp in Lake Nakuru National Park
One night at Kembu Cottages in the Njoro area.
Four nights at Kichwa Tembo Camp in The Masai Mara. One of these nights may be spent, instead, in a village nearby. At present the village is being moved to find fresh grazing for the cattle, so the huts may not be built in time to accommodate us, but we are planning on spending an evening in the new location.
We'll be in Kenya from May 27 to June 11, and high season starts June 15, so we should avoid both the crowds and high season costs, but we'll miss the Great Migration. George says that on a game drive, we may be the only vehicle watching, say, a group of elephants or lions, rather than one of 20 vehicles. That's fine with us.
On the two in-country flights, we have a 33-pound weight limit, so we're packing light. I understand we'll be able to have laundry done every few days.
We're taking along a few items to give as gifts: writing tablets and pencils, colored markers, and balloons. I'd hoped to collect a few used knitting needles and sent out a request on Freecycle, but didn't hear from anyone. I thought about stickers for the kids, but haven't had the chance to buy them yet - so maybe or maybe not. And Tootsie Rolls, if Art has a chance to get to the store. Plus one Obama t-shirt from his 2008 election campaign. Someone in Kenya may love it.
Temperatures should be in the mid-70s during the day and in the 50s at night. We'll be at the equator, but at 7000 feet the temperatures are cooler.
This is the most expensive trip we have taken. We considered it carefully because the cost exceeds our annual travel budget. But we decided if not now, when? We'll never be younger, and we'll never have more money. The Bag Lady is actually okay with this. She wants to see some elephants and giraffes in their natural habitat.
I am taking my laptop and expect to blog a few times. George has lent me his modem so I can access wifi where it's available. Art has a new camera with a fabulous telephoto lens. If all goes well, there will be a few photos included in the blog.
I am a little edgy. It will take 20 hours for us to get to Nairobi, and 23 hours to get back. Nairobi is 10 hours ahead of Seattle time. I'm not keen on jet lag or loss of sleep while traveling.
Still. This will be a memorable trip. I'm so grateful we can do it.