5 TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR HOLIDAY

Taking a long holiday requires some planning and forethought as you will be away from the comforts of your home for a while, and any mistakes made in the planning and execution of the trip are likely to be magnified. Proper planning will allow you to obtain the maximum benefit from your trip. To help with your planning, I have identified 3 articles that offer sage advice on travel planning.

The first article is from Tripwolf – Common travel planning mistakes, where some common planning mistakes are highlighted.

Holiday

 

The 2nd report comes from US News – Travel where the writer offers 6 Simple Tips for planning your first international trip. .

 

Medina Palms

 

The 3rd article can be found on Traveller – 11 Mistakes every first time traveller makes. Here the writer advises on how to avoid making these mistakes.

 

sirai house2

From my experience in planning holidays for my clients, I would suggest keeping in mind these 5 tips when planning a long trip.

  • Trying to do too many things in one trip – leave yourself some flexibility to be able to do things on the spur of the moment. Also give yourself some time to discover the authenticity of the destination by spending time with locals and not rushing around.
  • Research the best season to visit your chosen destination – also don’t forget to check out any holidays, festivals or special events that may impact your stay.
  • Ensure you have the right vaccinations well in advance – some vaccinations have a long incubation period so taking them early ensures you don’t have to delay your trip.
  • Packing too much– you will probably end up wearing only half of what you take so pack conservatively. Also don’t purchase clothes and accessories specially for the trip as this would be an unecessary expense. Leave space in your suitcase for souvenirs.
  • Venture beyond the guidebook – guidebooks are meant to be used a guide and not a bible on the attractions of the destination. Strike out on your own to discover the hidden gems on your trip.

Follow these 5 simple tips for a great stress free holiday.

Shaheen Therani is an experienced East African Tour Operator who runs a successful tour company, Wild Destinations. She is currently taking the Social Media Specialization Course from Coursera and North Western University. You can follow her on @WildDestination,  https://www.facebook.com/wilddestinationsafrica/  and https://ke.linkedin.com/in/shaheen-therani-32a6b520 .

 

Cooking up a storm at Angama Mara

 

Persian Pilau, Puris & Indian Omelettes, Parathas, Chicken Curry, Kulfi, Nankhatais,

20160426_162105

Potato Curry, Kuku Paka….these were the order of the day at the luxurious Angama Mara Camp, at the beginning of the last week in April. The Camp’s sparkling, sterile kitchens were a hive of activity – chopping, baking, whisking, basting, frying and best of all, tasting.

20160426_111436

My sister and I were at Angama Mara, to teach their chefs the proper way to cook Indian food, courtesy of our gracious host, Nicky Fitzgerald. So , do we own a restaurant in Nairobi, or entertain a lot, cooking for maybe 50 to 60 people at a go? Neither is true….we are actually tour operators who love food. So how did this invitation to teach Angama’s chefs come about? Fate played a very big hand here, and it really is true that you need to be in the right place at the right time for things to happen.

Late last month in March, my sister was on the flight back from Serian Camp in the Mara, and Nicky happened to be on the same flight . Nicky heard my sister saying she was a tour operator, and as my sister was talking about the different camps and lodges, Nicky was all ears. As they flew over Angama Mara, they began to talk about the Camp, introductions were made  and my sister found out that Nicky was the owner of the Camp. That  short  45 minute flight was literally the start of it all …..

Angama Mara 156

Enter Kate (Nicky’s daughter) and myself…we were both at Wilson airport to meet our people and after the introductions were done, Kate began to talk to her mum about a recipe book they were compiling, using dishes they had introduced at the Camp. My curiosity was piqued and on hearing about the project, I offered to help them with Indian dishes, if required.

Nicky took us up on our offer, and we flew down to Angama Mara for a fantastic stay of 2 nights in late April. I have never worked in a Camp kitchen before (always being on the other end, as a guest) and it was so much fun. Collins, the head chef, has a superbly talented team, and I soon had them chopping & peeling away – they always rushed to do my bidding.

WP_20160426_12_49_22_Pro

Nicky was there, recording every step of the process, and finally, everyone got to taste the finished product. The management staff would pop in every now & again – I think the smells coming from the kitchen were so tantalizing that they couldn’t resist coming in.

We were treated like one of the family, and we all sat down together for meals, and sampled the Indian dishes made that day. Even some lucky guests were treated to some of the delicacies and now Angama Mara has a genuine Indian breakfast  special on its menu.

Of course, Nicky & Collins made sure we took some time out to enjoy game drives and a game walk  –  the driver Moses, and guide Fred, who looked after us were great and we had a memorable time.

Angama Mara 014

Angama Mara is truly special in that they have anticipated any need you may have, and taken care of it, and I have never felt so pampered at any other place in the Mara. Behind all of this, is the magnanimous spirit of Nicky Fitzgerald who truly wants her guests to be comfortable  – even going as far as to get her chefs to learn Indian cooking for the benefit of her Indian guests.

I will miss the cooks at Angama Mara, right from Joseph who handled all my preparations in advance, to Corry who picked up the techniques of naan, parathas and puris so quickly, to Irene who fries the best onions, Katana who used to finish all the food, not forgetting John who made a fantastic Indian omelette for breakfast on the last day.

Collins, Shannon, Tyler and Nicky are like family now, and I for one, can’t wait to go back to Angama Mara, hopefully with new recipes in tow.

Angama Mara 010

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AN AFRICAN SAFARI

  1. Accommodation

Kicheche-Valley-2012-92

Although you may be booked to stay in a luxury Camp or Lodge, the accommodation will not be like staying in a city hotel. This does not mean that you have to ‘rough it’, but do take note that most Camps do not have airconditioning. A lot of the Camps don’t have proper shower facilities but use ‘safari showers’ – a contraption where water is filled in a canvas bag which is then hoisted up and fitted with a shower nozzle. Also a lot of Camps do not have running water in the individual tents, or even 24 hours electricity. However, all this serves to bring you closer to nature and you will enjoy your safari even more.

  1. Driving there

paws vehicle

If taking a road safari, the ride is likely to be bumpy and not very comfortable, as you will be travelling in a 4WD safari vehicle, more suited to savanna grasslands than tarmac roads.

  1. Flying there

airkenya

Flying to the various game parks and reserves is an awesome experience, but do know that if travelling in East Africa, these small planes can make upto 3 stops before landing at your airstrip. This is to drop off and pick up passengers from other Camps & Lodges, and is true for the return journey as well. If you are nervous about flying in smaller aircraft, you need to check on this to take this into consideration.

  1. Mobile reception

mobile internet

Most places in the bush have poor cell phone reception, so more often than not, you will not be able to upload pictures and other digital data. In extreme cases, even calling out is difficult and you may need to stand in a certain spot to capture the elusive signal, just to make a phone call. Once you are out on a game drive, the reception seems to get better.

  1. Bugs, bugs and more bugs

dungbeetle

There will be bugs in your room, your bathroom and your vehicle, as well as the dining and reception areas of the Camp/Lodge. If going on a walk, you will be accosted by flies, mosquitoes and all sorts of flying insects. Well, this is Africa ….so get used to them.

  1. Food, glorious food

You will never go hungry on safari – there is an abundance of food, starting from the early morning cookie with your wake up tea/coffee, to the breakfast buffet, salad lunches, decadent afternoon teas, sundowner nibbles, and delicious dinner menus. Your day is filled with fresh, tasty and yummy cuisine.

  1. Early starts

Being on safari means waking up before dawn and leaving your tent as the sun starts to show in the sky. However, don’t worry….you won’t be sent out without sustenance as early morning tea/coffee is served in your tent before you leave for your early morning game drive, or balloon safari.

  1. Rest room stops

There are no toilets on game drives which could last upto 4 hours, and the only alternative is to use the bush. Don’t forget to carry spare tissues and practice your squats beforehand. If you are squeamish about going in the bush, try to restrict your fluid intake until you are back at the Camp/Lodge.

  1. Extremes of weather

aws-the-nest-early-morning-tea

You may be exposed to extreme weather conditions, ranging from chilly early mornings on morning game drives and balloon safaris where you will need a light jacket or sweater, or gloriously hot, sunny late mornings and early afternoons, where even a t-shirt is an intrusion. Temperatures will drop at sunset, so if heading out for a night game, don’t forget the blankets, Maasai or otherwise. The key to comfort here, is layering.

  1. Hydration

Drop Falling into Water

It is very easy to slip into a routine where drinking water does not play a role, especially in Camps & Lodges where soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits are included in the cost. But do remember to keep hydrated as this will prevent illnesses that come about due to dehydration.

 

Take these 10 things into consideration for your African safari, and get ready for an epic safari!

 

 

5 TIPS FOR GORILLA TREKKING

A gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda is an unforgettable experience, and to ensure success on your trek, we have crossed all the Ts and dotted the Is for you…here is a list of great tips for a successful gorilla trek.

Dress for success

Be prepared for muddy trails and changeable weather so dress in layers, ensuring that the outermost layer is rain proof as rainstorms can happen at any time.  Opt for long pants rather than shorts, and tuck pants in socks to avoid ants (it is common to find red ants along the trail).

Your footwear needs to cover your ankles as you may have to wade through ankle deep mud, so get a pair of high hiking boots with good traction. Wear gloves to protect you from insects and the nettles and also to help grip the vegetation. Carry some insect repellant.

gorilla trekking

Carry some food & water

Once you enter the park, there is no place to buy food or water so make sure you carry some snacks (i.e energy bars) and water in a small backpack. Some treks last well into the afternoon so you will need some snacks to keep you going.

 

Communicate your fitness level to your guide

Rwanda is situated on a high altitude (1500 m above sea level), and the hike can take you to over 3000m. The treks are anything from an hour to over 8 hours so communicate your level of fitness to the guide to ensure you are placed in the right group. This will avoid you slowing down the group and struggling to keep up. Having said that, expect a long hike so be in the best physical shape you can be before the trip. Most people ask to trek to the Susa group as this is the group that Dian Fossey studied, but it is the most difficult one to trek to.

Mapendano 1

Hire a porter

Porters can be found at the trek starting point and you can hire one for about US$ 10. Not only will they carry your bag, but they will help you navigate the steep & slippery slopes.

 

Ensure your camera is ready

Flash photography is not permitted as it disturbs the gorillas to make sure you know how to turn this off. Understand your camera well so as to give you the best pictures possible – photos of gorillas in the forest tend to turn out dark due to underexposure, so you need to shoot with a high ISO. Carry your camera equipment in a waterproof bag to avoid it getting wet.

camera

Now that you have everything in place, you can comfortably book your gorilla safari.

 

5 TIPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR AFRICAN SAFARI

A safari in Africa is an incredible experience, and for the safari newbie it can be a little overwhelming. The right safari etiquette will allow you to take maximum advantage of the wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as ensure your fellow travelers enjoy the trip. As a tour operator, I have witnessed literally hundreds of people on safari, and I know the importance of the right safari etiquette. If you are travelling to Africa for the first time, there are 3 articles I have identified that will help you with the right etiquette.

The first article is from GoAfrica – What NOT to do on Safari in Africa, where the writer gives some tips on things to refrain from doing on safari, based on her personal experiences as an Africa Travel Expert.

safari

The second article is from Sabi Sands Reserve in Kruger National Park – 5 Things not to do on a Safari, and this highlights some relevant safety tips while on safari.

Basecamp Eagle View 187

The third article is from Landlopers – 5 Things you should know before going on Safari. This article touches on some misconceptions people may have about African Safaris.

reserve-august

Drawing on my experience as a tour operator, I would recommend these 5 tips for correct safari etiquette on safari.

  • Don’t expect to see the Big Five on your first game drive – wildlife are unpredictable and there are no guarantees that you will see it all.
  • Keep your distance from the wildlife – remember these are wild animals, and will charge if they feel threatened.
  • Be aware of the people around you – refrain from shouting or talking too loudly and using your cell phone on a game drive as loud noises can scare away the animals. Muting your camera is a good practice.
  • Leave no trace – ensure you don’t throw away plastic and other rubbish in the bush, as the animals might eat and choke on it.
  • Always listen to your guide – he is responsible for your safety, while also looking out for the wildlife and the environment.

Follow these 5 simple tips to get the best out of your African safari.

Shaheen Therani is an experienced East African Tour Operator who runs a successful tour company, Wild Destinations. She is currently taking the Social Media Specialization Course from Coursera and North Western University. You can follow her on @WildDestination, https://www.facebook.com/wilddestinationsafrica/ and https://ke.linkedin.com/in/shaheen-therani-32a6b520 .

 

AFRICA’S BEST DESTINATIONS, BY MONTH

chobe river

So your dream is to travel to Africa….but Africa is a huge continent with a vast array of landscapes, wildlife and culture, so where do you go? How do you choose? How do you make sure you are not missing out on iconic experiences? Just for you, we have, the perfect calendar for making the most of Africa, month by month, to enable you to plan your African safari.

JANUARY

TOP PICKS

wildebeest birth raggett (1) (800x533)

The Southern Serengeti & the Western Ngorongoro Conservation Area – January heralds the start of the wildebeest calving season where thousands of wildebeest are born every day, all dropping at the same time. The predator action is intense, with huge lion prides, & great concentrations of cheetah patrolling the plains, and spectacular kills can be witnessed over the following weeks.

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia – one of the coldest months on the mountain, this is a great time to visit as the skies are very clear and there is little chance of rain.

 

FEBRUARY

TOP PICKS

diani beach

Diani Beach, Kenya – Gorgeous weather with long, hot days and balmy nights, temperatures never dropping below 30 degrees C. Perfect water clarity  and visibility in the ocean. Whale sharks visit the coastline in huge numbers during this time so this is best time to see the sharks here, when out on a snorkeling excursion.

The Seychelles – after the turtle nesting season, this is the time the baby turtles hatch and scuttle back to the sea. Your chance to see this in action.

MARCH

TOP PICKS

Botswana pans

Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana – a series of pans interspersed with sandy desert , these are large salt flats, believed to be one of the largest in the world. When the rains come, they transform the dry, salty clay into a water wonderland that attracts flamingoes in their thousands as well as huge numbers of zebra.

Mt Kenya region, Kenya – warm, toasty accommodation in which to take refuge from the rains. Venture up the mountain on horseback for a lovely breakfast on the slopes of Mt Kenya.

APRIL

TOP PICKS

CHYULU

Chyulu Hills, Kenya – as this is the low season in Kenya, it is the perfect time to take a flying safari to the Chyulu Hills, which is otherwise quite costly. Enjoy the pristine wilderness, with its views of Mt Kilimanjaro and the Chyulu Hills, and interact with the Maasai people while helping them retain their heritage.

Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe – the Falls are in peak flow due to the summer rains, and the tower of spray is visible from as far away as 30 miles. The spray is so thick that it rains upwards, and through the mist, you can catch glimpses of a wall of water thundering down with a roar – truly an exhilarating experience.

MAY

TOP PICKS

elephant bedroom camp

Samburu Game Reserve, Kenya – After the rains, the reserve is lush and green & the elephants are feeling  fat and frisky, the females anticipating the arrival of the dominant musth bulls.

Botswana – the weather is perfect, with warm, sunny days and mild nights, though with a touch of chill as we head into winter. Large herds of elephants start appearing in the Chobe River, and the Okavango Delta start filling up with water. Most animals head for the Delta as the rest of the plains dry up.

JUNE

TOP PICKS

lewa marathon

Lewa Conservancy, Kenya – the Lewa marathon takes place in the Conservancy on the last weekend in June. This marathon is unique in that it is run in the Conservancy, home to rhino, elephant and a large assortment of plains game, with breathtaking views of Mt Kenya in the south, and Samburu and Mt Ololokwe in the north. It draws competitors and spectators from all over the world.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda Travelling through the rainforest in the wet season, you are subjected to constant downpours and permanent damp. Travelling in June, which is one of the drier months in the region, is more comfortable for trekking and with more sunlight coming in, you will have the opportunity to take some marvelous pictures of the gorillas.

Grumeti River, Western Serengeti, Tanzania – the wildebeest herds start arriving from the Seronera into the Western corridor, and begin to bunch up at the Grumeti River. As they start crossing the river, they provide an annual feast for the crocodiles of the Grumeti River.

JULY

TOP PICKS

maasai-mara-kenya

The Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya – the Great Migration of wildebeest begins with the first herds of wildebeest rolling in, a precursor to the hundreds of thousands to follow. As the migration season is just beginning, the Mara is not as crowded as it will get in August and you will be able to enjoy the migration, with all its dramatic river crossings, in a less crowded setting.

Okavango Delta, Botswana – the Delta is now flush with water and draws to it a huge array of game, pursued by the predators like lions, cheetahs and wild dogs. The cold and clear winter air is also great for photography.

AUGUST

TOP PICKS

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda – habitat to more than half the world’s mountain gorillas, this is a good time to visit as the cool weather makes it quite comfortable for trekking.

hermanus

Hermanus, South Africa – in South Africa’s whale watching capital this is the best time to see the Southern Right whales. As these whales are extremely susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer, they shy away from the sun, and only make their way to South Africa during the winter months when the sun is weak and the waters cooler. Hermanus is best for land based whale watching as the whales come right up to the shoreline, and the cliffs offer a superb viewing point. You can also pick up whale watching cruises here.

SEPTEMBER

TOP PICKS

tarangire-safari

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania Due to the dry weather, large groups of wildlife congregate near the Tarangire River (some of the highest concentrations in Tanzania) and the park receives many elephant visitors at this time.

Namibia – waterholes and rivers are crowded with game at this time, and elephant sightings at Etosha National Park and Chobe River are high.

Namaqualand, South Africa – wild flowers start to bloom in this semi arid Northern Cape area, which is then transformed into an outstanding floral display in the desert. Every year, the flowers are different, depending on the weather, and you may want to stop at the local tourist bureau to find out where the best flower displays are. Remember flowers follow the sun, so drive backwards or with the sun.

OCTOBER

TOP PICKS

ruaha

Ruaha & Katavi National Parks, Tanzania the long, dry season is coming to an end, and the rivers are the only source of water for miles, causing wildlife to flock to the rivers. This high concentration of wildlife at the rivers make them easier to spot. While Katavi boasts of a high numbers of lions, Ruaha lays claim to the largest herds of elephants.

Mahale Mountains, Tanzania – considered the best time for chimpanzee viewing here as towards the end of the dry season, the forest paths are at their driest and least slippery, and the chimps are closest to the shore.

NOVEMBER 

TOP PICKS

LamuD

Lamu, Kenya – the home of the Lamu Cultural Festival  – a celebration of the past and the future which include fun events such as donkey races, dhow races,  traditional poetry, henna painting and bao competitions. It attracts visitors from all over the world who fall in love with its peaceful and relaxing lifestyle.

Seronera Valley, Serengeti Park, Tanzania – the migration to Mara is over and the herds are returning in search of fresh food and water. Patiently awaiting the herds, on the plains of the Serengeti are the biggest lion prides and great concentrations of cheetah.

Zanzibar, Tanzania – great diving as underwater visibility is at its best. As it is whale shark season, you may have the opportunity to swim with these gentle beasts.

Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks, Botswana – With the onset of the rains comes the migration of upto 25,000 zebra through these parks from the Boteti River in the north. Following on the heels of the zebra, are the large predators. Also with the rains, comes the birth of young animals, particularly the zebra.

DECEMBER 

TOP PICKS

The Kalahari Desert, Botswana – covered in greenery after the rains, this area is now brimming with birds and wildlife. Thousands of zebras, wildebeest, and even some buffalo arrive here, and into the mix, throw Springbok herds giving birth en masse, and predators like leopard, lion, cheetah, wild dogs and hyenas.

manta

Tofo & Barra, Mozambiquethese villages are located along the Mozambican coastline where you can see 2 species of Manta ray when diving – the Reef Manta and the Giant Manta. The number of mantas increases during the summer months and diving with the Mantas is an absolute thrill, but note you need to be a qualified diver to be able to do this as you will encounter them at depths of 20 – 30 m.

3 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT SAFARI OPERATOR

Choosing the right operator for your African safari can be quite confusing as there are literally thousands of them to choose from. As a participant in the Coursera and North Western University Social Marketing Program , as well as having over 20 years experience in the safari industry as a tour operator, there are 2 articles I suggest you read before making your choice.

The first article is on Wiki How  – How to Choose the Best Safari Operator for your Safari  and it gives you 5 clear and concise tips tips on the criteria you need to use to narrow down your choice of tour operator, including asking the right questions of your operator, and checking their authenticity and reputation.

lion-in-tree

The 2nd article is by Nomadic Matt  – Choosing the Right Tour Company, and although not specific to African tour operators, he shares some very relevant tips on choosing the right tour operator. He addresses the issue of responsible tourism and environmental impact, both of which are a global responsibility today.

In my experience as a tour operator, and drawing on these 2 articles, I have listed 3 critical points to consider when choosing your safari tour operator.

  • Ensure the company you sign up with is actually the company you will be travelling with – this will prevent you from falling for scams
  • Cheapest is not always best – check for hidden costs and costs not included.
  • Check the credentials of the company – most reputable companies are members of their country’s tourism association.

Follow these 3 simple tips to experience a trouble free and great African vacation.

Shaheen Therani is an experienced East African Tour Operator who runs a successful tour company, Wild Destinations. She is currently taking the Social Media Specialization Course from Coursera and North Western University. You can follow her on @WildDestination, https://www.facebook.com/wilddestinationsafrica/ and https://ke.linkedin.com/in/shaheen-therani-32a6b520 .

 

A CUP OF JOE

Kenya is home to some of the best coffee in the world, and we wanted to see how it ends up in our coffee cup, so we decided to visit the Fairview Coffee Estate. This Estate is located in Kiambu, literally on the outskirts of Nairobi, and a 10 minute drive from Runda.

Getting there was easy enough as the road is smooth tarmac and once there, we were met by the effervescent Millicent Wanderwa and her colleague George Mburu. Together, they led us to the coffee plantation…the start of it all.

Fairview Coffee Farm 012

Loving the taste of coffee as I do (it is my weekly indulgence in the fashionable cafes that seem to have sprung up everywhere in the city), I thought I knew quite a bit about coffee…not so! Here I learnt that Kenya is a producer of Arabica coffee – the higher altitudes that this species prefers, allows it to grow slower, so giving us a more flavorful and aromatic coffee. Also did you know coffee is actually a fruit? It forms delicate white jasmine-type flowers which last for about a day, giving rise to the fruit, which is red and round, much like cherries.

Fairview Coffee Farm 032

Once the ‘cherries’ are ripe,  they are picked by hand and taken to the in house factory. .. it seemed that the picking season was currently ongoing, though we arrived quite late in the day to catch this.

So the real prize, is the seed inside the ‘cherry’ – the twin coffee bean. However once the ‘cherries’ are squeezed and the seeds are removed, these are not the coffee beans we are used to ….not at all!! These coffee beans are white in colour and are coated with a sticky substance.

Fairview Coffee Farm 049

The next part of the process involves washing the seeds, grading them according to weight and then drying them which is done out in the open.

Fairview Coffee Farm 045

All this was explained to us by George, who has been with the farm for quite a while and is very learned and experienced in all things coffee. After the coffee is dried, it is then roasted, giving us the typical brown coffee bean that we all know and love.

The next stop was the Liquoring Room, where we were able to see the coffee beans put through a grinder to get the ground coffee. We tasted the AA grade coffee (which is the best) as well as the buni coffee (lowest grade) and discussed the various coffees on the market, like dark roast, medium roast, light roast and what goes into coffees like espressos, cappuccinos and lattes.

coffee

I had always believed that the dark roast was the best as it was roasted longer and so had the more intense flavor…again I found out this was not true. The dark roast has the least flavor (but is also less acidic) while the light roast was the most flavorful but also the most acidic. The medium roast, would be the one to go for, with a balance of flavor and acidity……now I can make better decisions during my weekly coffee sessions. Also espressos are mainly made from dark roast, which is why they need to be so intense.

Now came the fun part.. enjoying a cup of coffee in the beautiful gardens of the farm. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot, so we could enjoy that steaming cup of coffee. Of course, they served us the AA grade coffee, with delicious cookies….it was all so yummy.

Fairview Coffee Farm 007

 

After the coffee, they took us down to the waterfall where I almost slid into the water as the ground was quite slippery, and then to their lake surrounded, by extensive gardens which they hire out for weddings and parties.

coffe 1

It was with great reluctance that we said goodbye to Millicent and George…the farm is looking into setting up some rooms so one can stay overnight and we promised to be back for this. We left them..and drove back to the city, dreaming of  espressos, cappuccinos and mochas.

CHAMPAGNE AND CRISP MOUNTAIN AIR

Linda, tighten the reins, Clipper, keep up…….the clear voice of the head syce floated on the crisp morning air. We were on our way up the slopes of Mt Kenya on horseback….this was part of a weekend away for 4 girls and we wanted to take advantage of every possible moment.

When planning this trip, the extra activity of “Breakfast on the slopes of Mt Kenya’ caught everyone’s eye and it was a unanimous decision to book this trip as soon as we arrived at the Mt Kenya Safari Club  in Nanyuki.

We started off from the Club at 8 am this morning…the 2 syces brought out the horses and they looked impossibly high for us amateurs to mount. Luckily, the staff had foreseen this and we made use of a metal bench on the grounds to mount the horses, with lots of help from the Club staff. After some brief instructions on how to handle our horses, we were off, suitably attired in long pants, sturdy boots and helmets.

It was a gorgeous day and we walked down by the river and into the Mt Kenya National Park….a line of 6 beautiful horses, walking sedately in a line. The forest looked dark and mysterious in the morning light and we could hear lots of rustling in the trees and bushes. Don’t worry…we were told..the horses are used to the wildlife. That may be, but what about us? We surely were not used to the wildlife!!

IMG-20151003-WA0000

We rode along the trail, in single file as the horses did not like being overtaken….traits of human competitiveness? On the 30 minute ride up the mountain slopes, we saw monkeys and bushbuck, while the trail winded up and down. Being total amateurs on a horse, we were advised to lean forward while going up and lean back with heels down on the downward trails. It took a little getting used to, but after a while we got the hang of it and began to enjoy the morning ride through the forest.

The mountain remained out of sight for the entire trip up, until we came to the clearing and saw the breathtaking view of the mountain. Luckily there was no cloud cover on the mountain top and there she was, revealed in all her glory…we were indeed fortunate to have seen this beautiful sight.

MKSC October 2015 088

Another beautiful sight that greeted us, was a breakfast table laid for 4, complete with crystal glasses and champagne. What a lovely start to the day. On dismounting, which proved to be easier than mounting, we settled down for our delicious champagne breakfast.

MKSC October 2015 104

Starting us off with a fruit & muesli parfait, we then moved to eggs served with salmon. It was a perfect cloudless day, and the setting was also perfect. The staff serving us breakfast were so discreet that we felt we were alone in this forest

MKSC October 2015 116

setting. After we felt we couldn’t eat another bite, they brought us platters of fresh fruit with honey….sooo delicious!

MKSC October 2015 113

Great company, good food and the mountain in front of us…..we sat there chatting for ages, catching up on events. It felt so good to just be there, so relaxing after the difficult & stressful week we had been through. They even rigged up an outdoor toilet for emergencies, complete with sweet smelling handwash and lotion.

Finally, it was time to head back and reluctantly we made our way to the horses. Here again, I wondered how we were going to mount the horses but I had underestimated the syces….we used the base of a fallen tree and this time it was easier…..maybe we will make good horsewomen one day!

Coming back to the Club seemed shorter, as is normally the case. One of the horses got spooked by a bushbaby and began cantering wildly. Luckily the rider had the presence of mind to remember the instructions given to us at the beginning, and managed to calm her horse…..didn’t I say we were on our way to becoming good horsewomen?

Riding into Club at the end of a perfect morning was a bit anticlimactic, but I reassured myself that the mountain would always be there and  promised myself I would be back soon…..

MKSC October 2015 102

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH WILDLIFE

When you go on a safari in East Africa, the traditional methods of viewing game would be on a game drive, or a game walk. Nowadays most Lodges & Camps favour the open sided Landcruisers bringing  you into very close proximity to wildlife,  some of which could be dangerous. On a game walk, you are quite vulnerable, as your only protection is the weapons carried by the rangers and tribesmen who accompany you on the walk. walking

Don’t be fooled when the animals do not run away, and seem to be very complacent when you are seated in the vehicle…this does not mean they are tame, or domesticated. Remember, this is their territory, not a cartoon fantasy where Simba, The Lion King, presides.

So how can you ensure the relative safety of yourself when on a game drive, or a game walk? Follow these simple rules for basic self preservation.

  • Opt for a professional guided safari rather than a self drive option. These safaris are led by professional tour drivers with years of experience under their belt.
  • Never agitate or shout at animals to make them do something. If you are patient and give them some space, they will move.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Never ever feed wild animals
  • Never alight from your vehicle unless specifically directed to do so by your driver/guide. Even so, remain alert for any movements.
  • Be alert to the mood of the animal. Small things can aggravate an animal and affect its behavior…a grumpy buffalo is a killer.
  • If you come across a wild animal on your game  walk, do not panic. Keep calm and remember the advice given to you by your guide at the beginning of the walk. (e.g never run away from a lion but stand your ground and make a lot of noise by clapping your hands and shouting loudly, or when you encounter a rhino or buffalo, head for the nearest tree).
  • Walk in the direction of the wind, so that the animals can smell and hear you coming, thus not being startled.
  • Always walk in open, not forested, grassland.
  • Watch out for animals with babies – the parents tend to be more aggressive.IMGP0397

This will ensure you live to tell the fascinating tale of your brush with danger!