To date, my time spent in Africa was the most surreal and amazing experience I’ve had while traveling. I had many people tell me before we left for our safari about how life changing it can be to experience nature in such a raw natural way.
After dragging ourselves away from Giraffe Manor, we stayed one night in Nairobi before beginning our 3 day safari in the Masai Mara.
Saturday May 14
We woke early to eat and get ourselves organized to head off for our safari. Our driver was there and ready to go before 8:00am!
We drove out of Nairobi and into the countryside, through the valley towards Masai Mara, which is approximately 270km from Nairobi.
Anyone who has driven this road will know the road towards Masai Mara, when it turns from nicely paved roads to pothole dirt paths. Driving on this gravel road for(EVER) 2 hours was exhausting.
We reached the park around noon, arriving at the park gates and staying in the car while our guide paid for our entry. Make sure your windows are closed and you make no contact with the women and children near the gates selling you any and everything. They will reach into the car and shout and bang on the windows.
We arrived to our camp at 1:00pm and had lunch. It was within our first 10 minutes of arrival that I came to the realization that … THERE WAS NO WIFI. You’re probably thinking, DUH!! You’re in the middle of a game park in Africa, Lisa. After about a half hour of whining and complaining to Tammy, I got over it. Our camp was beautiful and our “tent” was so cool. Run on generators, we had electricity for only certain hours of the day.
We started our first game drive around 3:30pm and only 15 minutes into the drive we came across elephants. The first sight of these beautiful creatures in their natural surroundings was incredible, and I cried (of course). While the sun set, we continued our drive and saw gazelles, topi, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, water buffalos, elephant, lions, hyenas, and cheetahs.
The Big Five: 1. The African Lion, 2. Cape Buffalo, 3. Rhinoceros (white or black), 4. The African Elephant, 5. The African Leopard.
The “Big Five” term was coined originally by game hunters for naming the top 5 animals that were the most difficult to hunt on foot, the most dangerous, and that offered the largest reward (fur, horns or tusks etc.). Today, it names the 5 top animals which are the most sought after safari sightings.
We arrived back to our camp around 7:00pm, ate dinner and headed early to bed! (Power out at 9:00pm).
Monday May 15
Woke up before the sun was in the sky to get ready and eat before heading out on our full day game drive! Left the camp around 7:00am and straight away on to seeing zebras, gazelles, elephants, wildebeests AND . . . A LEOPARD!
The hunt for the leopard was exciting. The drivers in the park have radios in the trucks to speak to each other and listen in on other conversations to find whereabouts of the animals. Not understanding a word on the radio, but knowing the tone of voice, meant that we knew there was something good around! Speeding towards a tree with over 10 other jeeps around us as well, we arrived to spot a leopard up high in the tree taking a nap.
After watching the leopard sleep and wake, we drove onto the other side of the park and ate our packed lunch. We spent most of the afternoon on the hunt for rhinoceros, since it was the final of the Big 5 still to be seen.
We drove towards the river and spotted hippopotamus and crocodiles.
The afternoon was incredible. We saw three cheetahs. We followed a huge group of giraffes to a field to discover 8 lions (females and cubs) in the grass.
Drove on for a bit more looking for rhinoceros, unsuccessfully. We made our way back to our camp around 4:30pm. We sat out on our balcony enjoying the weather and view of the park.
We woke early again, ate and out for an early morning game drive to, again, try and find rhinoceros. In the end, we never did see a rhinoceros. Our morning sightings included: giraffes, elephants, lions and zebras.
We left the park around 10:00am and began the long, bumpy ride back. We made several stops along the way for food and breaks. We arrived back into Nairobi by 3:00pm and went straight to the airport. The departures at Nairobi airport are kind of funny. You exit the vehicle and walk through a security, while the driver and your baggage drive through the gate. In to the airport and checked in at 4:00, we hit that Wifi, had a hamburger and waited to fly to Zanzibar!
We arrived into Zanzibar at 8:30pm, through Visa and customs (make sure you have your yellow fever vaccine!). Our hotel transport picked us up and we drove 45 minutes in pitch-black, winding pot-hole covered roads. To our hotel by 10:00pm. Had our arrival beverage and straight to bed. My final journal entry from this night made me laugh : “showered and in bed 11:30 only after discovering all the bugs in our bed”.
Wednesday May 17
This day went down as one of the top 3 worst travel days I’ve experienced (#1 was our arrival into Oman). It wasn’t really THAT BAD in hindsight, but at the time it was.
We woke early and had an amazing breakfast at our hotel. It was POURING RAIN 🙁 We sat in the lounge area and read and chatted. We decided to rent a car to get around the island. Taxis are VERY expensive, and things are very spread out on the island. Thinking that Zanzibar was similar to an African Island, like Seychelles, we thought it would be easier to drive ourselves . . . WRONG.
The car arrived early afternoon, there was a guy in his early 20’s, who dropped the car off at the hotel. He spoke very simple English, the car was likely his personal vehicle – there was no insurance or registration forms for us to sign, the fuel tank was on empty when we received it. This should have been our warning signs that perhaps renting a car isn’t as common as it was in other countries we had been. They attempted to overcharge us, and after about 30 minutes of arguing in broken English, phone calls made and bartering, the keys were ours.
We headed out when the sun came back out, around 2:00pm, and headed towards the north part of the island to visit the turtle sanctuary.
Two blonde girls driving a beaten up white SUV through little towns, dodging chickens, dogs and people, sure earned us a lot of weird looks.
Using pre-loaded Google Maps (every trips saviour), we finally arrived.
It was once we arrived at the sanctuary that I started to get a bout of gastro. Dizzy, shaky and nauseated I pushed through and enjoyed feeding the turtles.
My turn to drive. While simultaneously wanting to throw up and having my stomach gurgling I drove to Stone Town in a horrendous downpour of rain with lightning and thunder. It was like something out of a movie, we drove past a van ON FIRE on the side of the road while avoiding people and animals walking on the road.
We made it to Stone Town safely, after about an hour and a half drive. I parked the car where I thought we could. A kind taxi driver quickly told us not to park there as we would get ticketed or clamped. Hopped back into the car to move it … THE BATTERY IS DEAD.
Like, completely flat. Two helpless girls in Africa with a dead car and no maps… thankfully the people around were generous. Getting our car jump started finally, we realized we were low on fuel so left Stone Town (the sun was setting), got gasoline, and headed back to our hotel for 7:30pm (Tammy driving).
Showered, and went to bed really early.
Thursday May 18 – Saturday May 20
We woke early after a goods night sleep (totally exhausted). We ate breakfast and spent the day basking in the sunshine! We had the car picked up and not to be returned!
We essentially spent the last 2 full days in Zanzibar at our resort, swimming, eating and suntanning.
We did leave the resort on our final night, we had a driver pick us up from the hotel and we headed to The Rock Restaurant.
We drank wine and ate seafood and watched the sun set.
We departed from the hotel early Saturday morning to catch our flights back to Abu Dhabi.
Flight to Kenya: Depart Abu Dhabi 0855; Arrival to Nairobi 1300 via Etihad Airways.