Nairobi to Toronto – Homeward Bound
FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS THERE WAS NO WIFI AT OUR CAMP SO I WAS UNABLE TO SEND BLOG POSTS – MANY OF YOU EMAILED WORRIED BECAUSE YOU HADN’T HEARD FROM ME – THANKS FOR YOUR CONCERN BUT WE WERE HAVING AN AMAZING TIME – HERE IS THE CONTINUATION OF THE BLOG!
We are currently at our final camp, Tiplikwani Mara Camp at Masai Mara National Reserve. Yesterday the newspaper reported that this reserve has been rated #1 in Africa. Kruger in South Africa usually is given this honor. This reserve is a massive 150,000 acres.
This mornings Breakfast was excellent – the Hippos were back in the lake resting and the sunrise was beautiful. Since we are the only ones at the resort we have been treated like royalty.
We drove throughout the morning. The last 2 hours we travelled down some pretty rough terrain which was surprising as Masai Mara is the reserve that attracts the most visitors to Kenya. It looks as though these horrid roads are under construction but our one driver told us since he started driving Safaris 14 years ago they remain the same – terrible. He explained that the owners of the local Masai Reserve air strip wants the tourists to arrive by plane not roads. He feels that there is now a change in attitude and there should be some road improvements.
We passed many Masai Villages. This tribe does not farm the land but raise livestock. The ladies do most of the work – men are king in the Masai culture!
Tiplikwani Mara Camp is an unique one. Each camp we have stayed at has been different. The restaurant/lounge is a massive building that overlooks the reserve. The tents are traditional in style – beautiful. There are no electric wires protecting us from the animals so a Masai warrior escorts us to and from our tents.
After lunch at the camp we enjoyed a bit of relaxation time prior to our game drive.
The excitement built when we saw 5 cheetahs taunting a male lion. This was our first time seeing the cheetahs. They were invading the lions domain and he wasn’t having anything to do with it. The cheetahs circled him but the more he chased them the more tired he got. In the far distance we then saw his partner heading our way – female to the rescue. The cheetahs enjoyed this as they now had 2 lions to taunt. We watched the action for a good hour – they put on quite the show. Both the male and female lion walked within a foot of our vehicle. Let me tell you this had Natural Geographic beat! We were told that the lions will kill a cheetah but they won’t eat it as its part of their family.
We had a number of choices for dinner. They were displayed on a big board as we entered the dining room.
We went to bed early as the warrior was going to wake us up at 4:30am – we are all on a sunrise hot air balloon adventure first thing in the morning!
Coffee, tea and cookies were waiting for us in the hotel lobby when we arrived. We were escorted to the lobby by a warrior. George, our waiter from the dining room started work extra early so he could serve the hot beverages to us. Service has been excellent at all the camps.
Eddie, the balloon shuttle driver arrived on time and we were off. It was about a 30 minutes drive to the launch site. Eddie also came to our hotel last evening so we could sign the required waivers.
The company we flew with had 2 balloons going up with 32 passengers – 16 to each balloon. These balloons are some of the largest in the World. In North America there are around 10 pilots qualified to fly these monsters. Our pilot was from Japan, we were greeted by his charming wife. They grew up in a small community in Japan known for its yearly hot air balloon shows so they both fell in love with ballooning at a young age. For the past 6 years they have flown balloons in Australia so surprisingly the 2 of them have developed an Australian accent.
Due to the size of these balloons insurance companies have very strict rules in order for the companies to get coverage and one of them is the way we had to board the massive, heavy basket. Since we are at a higher elevation, we just could not climb into the basket as there is too much of a chance of winds which could lift the basket. The basket is therefore turned sideways. Getting in was a bit of a challenge and a tight squeeze.
Once we were in position holding on to the ropes in front of us the captain continued to inflate the balloon which took quite a while due to its huge size. Due to our awkward sideways position and the smell of the propane fumes, most of us started to feel a little nauseous so we were thankful when the balloon started to float and we were finally upright in the basket. Without an exaggeration the whole process, noise, flames and fumes of “take-off” was almost “rocket-like”. It was amazing.
We climbed to 2000 ft in no time and the views were beyond spectacular. The 1 hour and a bit ride was so peaceful. We even spotted a leopard running through the Savannah. Of course we saw thousands of Wildebeest because this is still migration time – over a million of them make the journey.
We shared our section of the basket with a family from Belgium. They had 2 young children.
The pilot was great at pointing out things as we floated along.
After an hour it was time to get back into our secure landing position but the experience was so graceful we needed to be told we were back on earth. We were thankfully able to climb out of the basket – no sideway departure.
Eddie gathered us once again and took us to a champagne breakfast hosted by the balloon company. We were surrounded by the animals of the reserve. The setting was perfect and the caterer put out quite the spread for us to enjoy. Everything was very tasty.
While we ate the Captains worked on downloading pictures of our flight so we could purchase them – how could anyone resist?
The company we flew with has been in operation for 41 years. One of the two founders recently passed but the other one is still heavily involved in the business.
I took the time to speak with both pilots. The pilot flying the other balloon is from Indianapolis and is very familiar with many of the balloon pilots from Southern Ontario. He was naming off a number of them. Our pilot told me that there are so few pilots qualified to fly the large balloons that if he was looking for a new job he would easily get 10 offers in one day.
How can I best describe our balloon experience. It reminded me of watching an IMAX film but this was not a film – it was real – WOW!
Our regular safari drivers arrived after our leisurely breakfast and we started our morning safari. We saw male giraffes fighting – this is called necking and looks very painful.
We finished around 1pm and enjoyed lunch plus some relaxation time before departing again at 3pm.
This time we headed to a Maasai village where we were greeted by the village chief. His son Daniel and helper Jackson then took over.
We were welcomed by many members of the tribe who sang and danced for us. This is a polygamist society. The men must have many wives and in turn many children. There are over 4 million Maasai’s in Kenya.
We got to tour their huts that are built by the ladies using cow dung. They are very small and dark. There are only 2 small holes that allow a bit sunlight in and the smoke of cooking fire to exit. The children often share one bed and there is a very small guest room – large enough for a single bed. Other than the beds there are a couple wooden chairs in these tiny homes and that is about it. They could use an interior decorator….
The homes for the tribes 6 families are located in a circle around a piece of land, where their 300 cattle return each evening. A man receives 5 cows for each wife he marries.
The men eat cow blood mixed with milk and meat – no vegetables. The ladies, children and elderly can eat vegetables.
Usually at the age of 22 the men are presented with their first wife. Their parents decide who their wive is going to be. The only way around this is if the man wins the yearly jumping contest. The man that jumps the highest can pick a wife without his parents permission. One of the dances they performed for us was the jumping dance. Our guide Jackson is now 20 and he has his eye on one of the ladies – we enjoyed teasing him – he would smirk. He told me he is practicing jumping. Not all the tribe children go to school.
When we were done visiting the main village we were taken next door to their outdoor market area which is massive. The items for sale were displayed on tables made of cow dung. The problem is these items have been sitting in the elements for a long time so anything made with wire was rusted, wood was split – I didn’t buy anything….
The experience was excellent but so was the safari that followed. We spotted 22 lions within 1 hour!
They included 3 cubs from two families – one male lion was close by – he was the babysitter.
We found the females a distance away – there were ten of them getting ready for the hunt.
Every safari drive we experienced during this journey has been spectacular.
We didn’t arrive back at our camp until 7pm. It was a long day but an incredible one. We were so tired but we still laughed so hard during dinner.
When we were escorted to our tent we quickly packed and jumped into our hot-bottle heated beds.
They opened the breakfast buffet early for us. The camp is full – 40 guests. Most of the visitors were from India.
We said farewell to the staff and headed back to Nairobi – for 2 hours the roads were just as bumpy as we remembered. We made a couple stops including a beautiful overlook.
Lunch was amazing – we overlooked the Nairobi National Reserve. The hotel in Nairobi’s outskirts and its restaurant stunning. We had to go through two sets of security before entering this property.
I have never experienced so much security at an airport before. A couple miles from the Nairobi airport entrance as passengers we had to get out of the vehicle and go through security. The vehicle was checked while we were checked.
At the terminal entrance we went through security again. Only ticketed passengers are allowed in the terminal (all airports should be like this). We then checked in for our flight – the Ethiopian Air staff are so professional.
We then went through immigration where we were eye scanned and finger printed once again.
Before entering the airport gate area we went through security again – each time shoes off, computers out of bags etc…
The flight to Ethiopia left early and was shorter than scheduled. They served us a hot meal. Service – excellent.
We are now at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport waiting for our connecting flight to Toronto which shows on-time. It’s the last flight of the evening. We should arrive in Toronto around 8:45am tomorrow. We will land in Dublin to refuel but do not get off the plane.
We are all enjoying the fashion show at Addis Ababa Bole Airport – the locals dress beautiful – bright colours – flowing dresses – the men often wear dress hats.
Of course we need to go through security AGAIN before we get on our connecting flight.
This has been an amazing journey. My passengers have ALL said the BEST ever – they have all traveled with me a number of times.
Our eyes have been opened. I’m not sure that is enough room to store all the memories that Kenya has provided.
Yes, you need to be careful while traveling in Kenya but at no time did we feel uncomfortable. The locals are lovely people – so welcoming – so proud.
The animals – we will never forget them.
The balloon ride – incredible.
The tents – luxurious – I think I may buy a hot water bottle for the winter when I get home.
I’d like to thank my passengers – an amazing family who were so gracious everyday. You make my job easy.
Don’t forget I have organized another amazing journey to Africa – this time going to South Africa – January 2019. Don’t miss my upcoming November 1 travel shows when I will announce this program.
Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments about my Kenya blog posts. I’m glad you have enjoyed them.
I’m home for a day then off to Switzerland for an UniWorld Rhine Cruise. Just enough time to visit with Mom and make sure everything is in order before heading back to the airport.
I need to get this blog away before we head to the departure gate – so thats it for now – wish us a good flight home to Canada!