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20 February 2019

Into Africa: Client Review of Trip To Kenya and Zanzibar

YZ client Greg and partner Tina travelled to Kenya and Zanzibar in January 2019. From spotting the Big Five within 24 hours of safari to having a very special Maasai name-blessing ceremony, they enjoyed some amazing adventures.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much we enjoyed this adventure or thank you enough for the work you put into it. The surprise dinners etc. for our anniversary were unexpected but some of the highlights of an unforgettable trip. Thank you for all of it.

Part 1: The Giraffe Centre & elephant orphanage in Nairobi

We had some pretty long flights and layovers from Atlanta to Nairobi but took advantage of the day rooms in Amsterdam for a nap. 

We arrived in Nairobi about 10:30 and found our transfer ladies waiting for us just past the immigration area. They got us to the van and we headed to the hotel.

The Ole Sereni Hotel was a great first stop once we arrived in Kenya. Tina was surprised by the security at the hotel and got a bit nervous until I explained to her that it was very normal to have that level of security at international hotels.

The giraffe center and elephant orphanage were both great. Tina loved the giraffes and got to feed them and interact with them. As these are giraffes that are used to human interaction, some of them had no problems getting in close to get their treats.

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Being at the elephant orphanage for the foster parent evening was incredible. To me, this is a can’t-be-missed opportunity. A huge thank you to Yellow Zebra for the original adoption of the elephant that allowed us to participate in this. Unfortunately, the giraffe we also adopted was sick, so we did not get to see him, but the visit was amazing. They also had a blind black rhino that has lived there all of its life as well as a 3-month-old white rhino. I got to spend some time and bond with one of the elephants that apparently took a shine to me and was putting his trunk all over my face and then wanted to play tug of war.


Part 2: Big Five, horseback riding & rhino tracking in Borana

We arrived at Lewa Downs and met our guides for Borana Lodge, Albert and David. They were both incredible and very knowledgeable. Albert was able to show us three of the Big Five within 15 minutes of leaving the airport. We saw elephant, buffalo and rhino right away, as well as baboon, common and Grevy zebras, gazelles both Grant’s and Thomson’s, and antelopes of multiple breeds.

That night after supper Albert had spotted two leopards, so we went on a late-night leopard track and ended up getting to see a mother and her male cub. That made four of the Five on the first day. The next morning, we headed out and Albert was telling us he was upset – he had heard of a pride of lions taking down a zebra in the area we were the previous afternoon, and he was upset that we did not get all Five the first day. We headed out that morning and found the pride, a male and three females and a small male cub about 4 months old, still guarding and eating the zebra they had killed. I told Albert not to be upset and we still got to see the Big Five within 24 hours of being in the bush. Unknown to Tina and me, this is not all that common. Albert didn’t tell us until we were leaving that groups get to see all Five maybe five or six times a year, so we had a special trip. We also got to see both striped and spotted hyenas, which Albert said is also rare.

Our room at Borana overlooked the site’s watering hole, so during the small amount of time we spent in our room we could watch animals at the watering hole including elephants and buffalos. The weather was awesome – warm and sunny during the day and cool to cold at night. They always had a fire in our in-room fireplace ready for us at night after supper.

The food was top notch and couldn’t have been much better. Lunch was served in the pool area, so we enjoyed watching the birds and critters as we ate. Breakfast was served at covered tables outside of the main dinner area and supper was either in the bush or in the main meal area. Sitting with the other guests and the staff in the bar area before supper was a pleasure. We all got to discuss our day and what we had seen and enjoy the company.

We spent one morning on horseback, which made Tina’s trip. The horses were able to get a lot closer to the zebras and especially the giraffes, which had Tina in a fit. When we crossed into the valley full of zebras and giraffes, I was not sure Tina was going to be able to contain herself and her excitement.

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We went on the rhino tracking walk one morning and spent 2 hours walking around and actually found and identified two rhinos. The ranger with us was not too happy about me walking through the bush in my Chacos (brand name of a type of river sandals that I wear) and told me, next time, no open-toed shoes.

We also did the Maasai village tour and the jungle canopy and waterfall tours. During the village tour, all of the warriors were out further north with the livestock and most of the women were in town meeting with the governor. We did get to meet about 12 ladies, including the village matriarch and some of the younger schoolgirls. They welcomed us with traditional songs and tried to instruct Tina in the proper way to dance so that the necklace they put around her neck would bounce up in the air. Tina never quite figured out how they pulled it off, but Albert, David and I had a great time watching her try. Luckily, they didn’t pull me into it because I would not have been able to pull it off either. LOL.

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The canopy tour and waterfalls were great as well, but no big adventure out of the ordinary. On the way back to the lodge after the canopy tour we passed through a large village just after school let out. We had five of us, Tina and I and our two guides and one ranger from the canopy tour, in the Landcruiser. The children would get all excited and would start waving when they saw the car coming, and as soon as we were alongside that small group, they would see me and they would freeze with their hands in the air and their mouths hanging open. This continued for each group we passed. The five of us in the jeep were rolling in laughter each time it happened. I guess I should explain that my goatee is neon green and that kind of shocked the kids… it was awesome.

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Our final night there, they surprised us with a candlelit dinner on our patio to celebrate our anniversary. I was not even aware they knew it was our anniversary, but I guess we have YZ’s Emma, who organized our trip, to thank for that. It was very touching and a great night. All too soon, it was time to leave Borana. We said our goodbyes and hoped the next place would be as good…

Part 3: Offbeat Mara, fishing with lions & a Maasai blessing in Mara North

We arrived in the Mara North Conservancy and were met by our guides Joseph and Kimani, both Maasai and dressed as Maasai. They transferred us back to the Offbeat Mara camp, doing a game drive on the way. The area was so different from Borana. Borana was mountains and dry and brown from no rain, whereas Mara was flatter and greener as far as the eye could see (although we were told that was unusual, as this is the dry season and it should be brown as well, but they’d had unexpected rain the week before). We got to see a huge number of animals on the way to camp, including cheetahs, which we had not seen at Borana. Joseph told us we would get to see hippos and crocs the next day at the river. We did get to see hippos in the river from the plane but nothing up close yet.

We arrived at Offbeat to a group of waving staff greeting us, as well as one of the managers, Chania. They welcomed us and got our gear settled while they got us drinks and told us about our stay. They then took us to our tent and arranged for us to meet them back at tea at 4 and then a game drive. 

The tent was interesting and very very hot. Tina and I were talking about the huge mistake we had made staying here longer than Borana and maybe staying here at all. It just didn’t and couldn’t compare. We rested that first afternoon and the next morning started our adventures. 

Joseph and Kimani were incredible. We did breakfast at the river, watching the hippos and crocs. Then we went back for a break and lunch and then went out for an afternoon drive. They showed us animals and animals and animals. Lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, we started having a blast. We went fishing one afternoon with Chania and Joseph and Kimani. Sitting on the river bank in the bush in Africa fishing, having a blast. Of course, only Chania caught anything, but we enjoyed it. Once we were leaving Joseph told us he wanted to show us the lions that he’d ordered to protect us while fishing. While we thought he was being funny, he took us and showed us, about 80 feet from where we’d been fishing, two female lions laying under a tree watching us. I talked to Chania when we got back and asked if she’d known they were there as well. She laughed and said she’d seen them when she got there before us, and when we arrived they’d discussed whether they should tell us before or after we went fishing. They were concerned we would panic and turn a safe situation into a dangerous situation. I told her it was awesome to find out they were right there, and they could have told us either before or after and it would have been fine.

It was funny how all of a sudden Offbeat Mara had become just as awesome as Borana – yes it was hot, but the tents were wonderful and the first night we saw a hippo right outside our tent and the second night there was a female lion and her cubs in front of our tent that we could hear huffing and wondering around. Also, I cannot speak highly enough about the staff at Offbeat. Our guides Joseph and Kimani, the bar and food staff Franco and Nico, the manager Chania, they were all incredible and made us feel at home. 

The other manager Jennifer was also Maasai and she was a whole other level. I started teasing her on the second day there and she came right back and was great. We went round and round for three days and had a blast. She told me one of the other guests wanted to know how long we had known each other and was surprised we had just met because we were like best friends. She was a wonderful person and I miss her dearly already.

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Our last night at Offbeat came, and they surprised us with a bush dinner for our anniversary. Candlelight, oil lamps and a fire with champagne and good company for supper. We made sure that everyone (Joseph, Kimani and Nico) stayed with us around the fire and enjoyed the night with us. At one point Tina told Joseph she wanted a Maasai name. Joseph and the group loved the idea and spent some time talking amongst themselves about a good name. They finally settled on Parani (spelling may be way off here…), which means social in Maa. Joseph told Tina the name had to be blessed and he would arrange for it to be. As we visited and talked, we were surprised when a second jeep pulled up and we were surrounded by Maasai men singing and dancing around us. Joseph had called Jennifer, who arranged to get all the guys out for the blessing ceremony. They sang and danced around us at the table in their traditional wedding blessing ceremony for a new name. Tina was in tears the whole time.

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Joseph wants us to come back and have a traditional Maasai wedding, so we are discussing that and when we will make that trip. 

Then all of a sudden it was time to leave Offbeat…. What had started with us wondering if we had made a good choice had turned into something we will never forget and a group that had started as strangers we left behind as family. Tina was in tears as we left and so was Jennifer. She kept telling the staff to say goodbye to their favorite guests ever. It was hard to leave another place….

Part 4: The last adventure in Zanzibar

Zanzibar. We arrived at the airport and were transferred to the hotel on the beach. Tina had never seen the Indian Ocean, so we got to experience that together and spent the last few days relaxing on the beach.

We did go into Stone Town one day and it was okay but very hot and we enjoyed just relaxing. It was different after so long in the bush. Breezes was a nice beach resort like many others, but I will say it had some of the best food I have had at almost any resort. They also surprised us with an anniversary cake on our last night, which was awesome.

Then, unfortunately, it all came to an end. From the sunrise on Pride Rock, to the sunsets on the savanna, all with my love, it couldn’t have gotten any better.

If you'd like to experience a safari like Greg and Tina's then why not contact our experts here. Alternatively, take a look at the below destination pages for more inspiration:

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