I always wanted to go to Africa, to see the beautiful animals, and experience life on safari. The photos look so romantic!
My dream came true this spring with an opportunity to go to Kenya in East Africa. I chose to fly on Qatar Airlines, and adding two more new countries to my list of places visited. Qatar's service was excellent and the stopover in Doha gave me a brief view of a different culture. The airport is fairly new and very large.
Our Kenya portion began at the historic Fairmont Norfolk hotel in Nairobi. One really feels the ambience of old colonial days here. On my return, I rented the film Out Of Africa to
relive some of my experiences. There are scenes that were shot at the Norfolk; and it is really fun to say: "I was here." We visited the city market nearby and the giraffe sanctuary. At the elephant orphanage it was priceless to see how they drank from a baby bottle. So tragic, that even today, so many elephants are killed for their ivory.
The following day, we flew from the Wilson domestic airport on a 12-passenger prop plane to Ninyuki -- where the Fairmont Mount Royal Safari Club is. It was originally founded by William Holden as a place to go hunting with his friends; a really imposing club! The grounds are manicured and lovely. We went out on game drives in the early mornings and again in the afternoons. Really beautiful views everywhere. One can see Mount Wilson, the tallest mountain in the country, behind the plains with zebras, lions, cheetahs, wildebeest, giraffes & other wildlife.
In the afternoon there was a ceremony with dances and our participation, where we received a certificate stating we had crossed the equator. That evening a special private BBQ dinner was set up on our patio, just for the 4 of us! The chef stopped by to say hello. We felt like VIP’s. We enjoyed breakfast set up beautifully in the bush, with china, linen tablecloths, champagne, etc.
We were housed in a large bungalow with a living room with fireplace, lit for us every evening, and a bedroom and bathroom on either side. I loved their custom of putting warm water bottles in the bed to warm your feet. Very cosy. I would love to have that at home!
Two days later, we flew with Air Kenya on a small prop plane to the Masai Mara, where the Fairmont Masai Mara Hotel has 49 permanent canvas tents. On the river below you see hippos resting and lots of vegetation. The rooms were lovely with four poster beds with mosquito netting, oriental rugs, leather furniture, real bathrooms, etc.
It rained that night, and the rain hitting the tent was a bit unsettling. Yet all part of the adventure.
At 5:30am we were awakened with tea or coffee & cookies, and quickly got dressed to go on a game drive. Amazing that our
guides found their way around! I did not see any roads, just fields, some trees with flat tops (acacias) that I just loved, and suddenly we came upon zebras, lions, elephants, gazelles, etc. Afterwards we would return to camp and have breakfast.
Time went by very quickly on safari. After lunch we rested a bit; and went out again, and one day, had a sundowner reception in the bush, with a beautiful sky and wood burning fire! In the evening a guide talked about the wildlife in Kenya.
We visited a Masai village where we were able to go inside a small house made out of clay --it was a Saturday, and all the small children were sitting in a circle and watching us and wondering what we were like. When they go to school, they wear cute uniforms [little boys wearing ties were so adorable]. It is great to know that our tourism dollars help support schools, and in turn these children grow up and help locals.
Back to Nairobi, it was interesting to visit the Kazuri workshop in Nairobi, where women and young orphaned girls are making beads out of clay, painting, glazing and firing them. They have a gift shop, where one can buy items they make. We also went to Karen Blixen's house, and seen in the film Out of Africa. She was a Danish writer and lived there from 1910 to 1931; it was a huge farm at the time. She also had a coffee plantation, but unfortunately it failed.
I would have loved to stay longer. Alas, the voyage is very long--21 hours of flying from Los Angeles plus some layovers in each direction, but extremely worthwhile for such a unique experience. Everyone was so wonderful to us on the trip. I hope I can return one day.