Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Look, we all can go on Travelocity and read their peer reviews of what to do and see in a
location. However, what works for a Rick Steve’s traveler isn’t what most females over 30 are
interested in. Here are my must sees, taste, experience, and top visit spots for Kenya in my Part 1 Series.
First, let's start with the logistics like the visa process. My tip would be to complete the paper work on your flight as it’s several pages and takes a long time. Bring a $50 USD bill with you and try to make it off the plane as quickly as possible so you don’t get stuck in line. Don’t worry about an online visa. Just get it at the airport upon arrival and you will be directed to the counter. Good news is that they also process your immigration into the country so it’s a one stop shop.
On the topic of arrival into the country, I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that drones are illegal. We decided to mail ours on to South Africa so that we wouldn't break the law. The reason why the country is so strict on drones is due to poaching and the continuous efforts they are making to keep their wildlife safe. My advice, respect the country's laws and leave your drone at home. If you bring it by accident and it is confiscated, I've heard that they will hold it for you for when you depart. However this sounds like a logistical nightmare so leave your flying camera at home. Besides, most animals, including Elephants hate the sound of a drone as it sounds like bees. It will scare them so while you’ll get a "cool shot" of them running, it’s inconsiderate and simply "uncool".
Plan for specific travel days when moving from point A to B as everything is on "African Time" and things simply take more time than you expect. Our first night we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport which is just a 5-minute drive from the airport and super convenient to prep for your next travel step. The next morning we were off to the Lolldaiga Hills where our camp with The Safari Series was located in a private conservancy in Northern Kenya. You can either fly from Nairobi to Nanyuki for 45-minutes or the drive can take anywhere between 3-6 hours. A flight from Nairobi to Nanyuki airstrip starts roughly at $100-$120/per person. Fun fact, Nanyuki is also where the equator is. Be prepared for shop keepers to sell you anything starting at a dollar after you take a picture with the sign. Out of courtesy you can visit the shops and politely decline buying anything if you prefer not too.
If you drive, leave after 10am. Avoid rush hour. We drove 8a-2p (because the flights were $400+that day) and along the way learned that cows are sold from $200-$2,000 and goats from $50-$180. There were mangos everywhere. Picked from the trees and sold on the street by locals. The pineapples were so ripe that you could smell them from the car. Fun fact, Del Monte has been here for over 50 years. The driver will most likely take you to community shop along the way where the local village has handcrafted items for you to buy as souvenirs. Remember, cut the price in half to negotiate. If the suggested price is $100 counter with $40 and never go more then $60. The best part of the road trip, the “free African massages” which is how the local refer to their roads and what it's like to drive on them (very bumpy).
Not only is Lolldaiga Hills where The Safari Series is located but it is also where the new lion king was filmed in Laikipia County, Kenya! What’s so spectacular are the sundowners and looking up to see giraffe silhouettes on the hillside, reminding you exactly where you are. I was so inspired that I decided to host my own retreat. Stay tuned for a Flower Farm & Safari retreat launching in 2021. Get on the waiting list by clicking here.
The Safari Series was an exclusive and bespoke safari experience which sadly will make you spoiled for any other safari experience you have after. We were fortunate enough to have several safaris one on one with the owner and founder himself. What sets The Safari Series apart is that their safaris are focused on viewing, learning and understanding wildlife, interacting with the rangers who keep them safe, as well as the local communities who live in the region.
We learned so much about the wildlife on our game drives including fun facts such as these about elephants:
The male elephants have penises that weigh between 40-50kg. The females actually have to prop themselves on something when they mate so they don’t get their bones crushed. There is 3 weeks of foreplay (makes tracking females they want to mate with) until the females give up and consent. The act is very quick as well to protect the health of the females. Once pregnant, the female elephant will carry for 23 months. Other uses for penises is swatting bitting flies as it has muscles and is quite limber.
It’s hard to sex elephants. Males have more of a curved forehead and females have more of a flat forehead.
Baby elephants start to develop tusks around 3 years old.
Elephants can be pests as they destroy cedar trees between 1-400 years old. Now local Kenyan populations are forming fences to just regrow their trees.
If elephants are lucky enough to die of old age, they will get 6 new pairs of teeth in their lifespan. The old teeth get worn down due to the roughage they are eating and their body automatically grow new teeth. After the 6 times, old elephants can’t eat as fast or as much and typically their health declines. It’s wondered that if elephants had false teeth, how long they could actually live.
Elephants eat 90% of their waking days, sleeping only 2-hours per night.
In areas of high poaching, elephants have been seen to not have any tusks. Since the elephants with large tusks have been killed, the genes for the larger tusks are slowly declining. Silver lining, that’s Mother Nature working to save the elephants.
How can you tell if an elephant is right or left handed?! When they grab and pull on different vegetation, there will be one side that will be green and that’s what side they lead with.
Another amazing opportunity we had with The Safari Series was visiting the Maasai people. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. Plan to pay $40/per person for entering and camping on their grounds.
Also, it’s customary to buy a goat for them to eat which is between $50-$75. You’ll want to bring cash to buy the handmade items like jewelry, beaded baskets and solid olive wood carved spoons. Key chains can be a dollar whilst a beaded belt could be $30. I bought a handmade beaded necklace which took 2 days to make for $15 and a spoon for cooking (great practical and useful gift) for $10 each.
As you arrive, the ladies dance for you (which you should tip and is included in your $40 per person investment). The warriors sometimes make an appearance and dance and jump as well. At the end, the elders will stand by the exit and bless you while the ladies sing you off. They say in 10 years that these tribes will no longer exist due to evolution and climate change. I urge you, if you have the chance, to go and ask questions. They are eager to share their traditions and culture. We were fortunate enough to sit in their homes and sip tea with them learning about their traditions.
What I ultimately loved about Kenya was how very progressive it was when it comes to sustainability. Plastic bags are banned and there is little trash to be found. They are currently working on banning all single use plastic.
Lastly, when it comes to tipping, keep in mind $10/per person per day plus the tracker if you do a bush walk ($70/person).
Next week I'll be continuing my Travel guide: Kenya, Part 2 focusing on a different area of the country, the Maasai Mara and Nairobi proper, which had a completely different look and feel than Lolldaiga Hills, a private conservancy in Northern Kenya; overlooking the slopes of snow-capped Mt. Kenya.
In the meantime, stay tuned for a Flower Farm & Safari retreat launching in 2021. Get on the waiting list by clicking here.