My Memorable Summer Vacation in Africa
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As you are aware that temperatures can be very gruesome during the summer in the US and particularly in Kansas, where my family lives. Tired of the same old routine of going to San Francisco to visit our grandparents, we needed something fresh and out of the norm.
Although we only knew about it when summertime came, my mom and dad had already hatched a plan to take us far away from this nation. It turns out we were to spend our summer vacation in Africa. We all came to a consensus that we would be visiting Kenya, the East African nation that our former president, Barrack Obama’s father hailed from.
When the time came for us to leave, I had a diary with me to keep tabs with what was to occur in that foreign land. My dad and younger brother each had a digital camera. My mother carried her own personal possessions, but she made sure not to forget her Bible.
We were going to a foreign nation, we did not know what to expect and the least we could be was prayerful. From Kansa City International Airport to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it took us more than 20 hours to cover a distance of approximately 8500 miles. So, we reached Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. And contrary to our expectations, the nation is fairly modernized.
We were booked into the Norfolk Hotel within the Business District to get some rest. My father pondered through the wide array of travel agencies within the nation that would take us to various iconic places. He found one that he fancied. We only learnt that it was very expensive from our mum when she completely objected to the idea.
But, my father who is naturally optimistic, said you can never put a price tag on anything when it comes to family. The agency set a date for us- we were to begin the tour after two days. So, in those two days we spent scurrying through the City of Nairobi. The people are naturally welcoming to outsiders and we did not get any form of racial discrimination during a whole month stay in the nation.
While in Nairobi, we visited the Nairobi National Park, which is divided into a sanctuary for orphaned animals and a national park. This is the first time I ever saw a lion in real life. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. They were large and moved freely within their confinement. The highlight of the day came when we were treated to a spectacle of them feeding a large chunk of beef. Baboons and warthogs are the only creatures left to wander freely within the premises.
We had a one on one encounter with them just walking past us. The male baboons were large (like 3 feet in height) and were very aggressive. The females were smaller, submissive and had baby baboons on their backs. The largest male baboon was the alpha/leader, he led the way, as others followed.
While the baboons were confined within the park, the warthogs would confidently pass through the gates without any resistance from the Game Rangers and just go on their own adventures within the local communes, crossing busy highways in the process. The warthogs are never harmed by neighboring residents, because of the strict laws in the nation that forbid game hunting. We were also treated to hilarious stories of baboons rushing through office windows in search of bananas and sugars and how people would scamper for safety outside until the rangers came back to salvage their offices.
The most exciting part of the park is the Safari Walk. This is a wooden walking platform raised several feet high and stretching for several miles into the main park. People use this platform to view game animals in their natural habitat. We were fortunate enough to see rare animals such as the white rhino, bongo and the albino zebra. We also saw cheetahs, lions, zebras and leopards chilling out in their natural ecosystem.
Then came the long journey, but not before we visited the Nairobi Giraffe Center, where we fed giraffes from our own hands. They were large with extremely long necks, even the young ones were larger than us. That time of the year offered one of the wonders of the world: the Great Wildebeest Migration. So, it was only right that we had to include Maasai Mara (where the action takes place), as part of our destination package. Together with other tourists from around the world, our 14 day trip began with Maasai Mara Game Reserve. We are arrived just in time for lunch and we were treated to a buffet of African meals.
We were taken for a game drive the rest of the afternoon, where we came across the African elephant, buffalo, black rhinoceros, lion and the leopard- popularly known as the big five in this country. In the evening, we were treated to more African cuisine blended with indigenous music from the Maasai community. We slept at the various lodges in the reserve. The second and third day were also spent in Mara. We traversed the large plain lands of Mara watching the spectacular wildebeest migrations, stampeding through the vast lands and crossing through the Mara River in numbers, as large crocodiles tried to get a bite of their succulent meat.
We also came across the Maasai people, who live on the outskirts of the Game Reserve. They are a pastoral community that have steadily held on to their indigenous culture, despite the obvious westernization that has engulfed the whole nation. Our tour guide informed us that the Maasai people are among the most feared communities in East Africa.
They are both found in Kenya and Tanzania. As a rite of passage from a boy to a man, young initiated boys have to go and kill a lion before they can become warriors or Morans, as they are referred in the Maasai dialect. Whether this true or not we may never know. However, government regulations on game have seen to it that this courageous rite of passage is completely eradicated from their culture.
Day 4 saw us leave for Lake Naivasha National Park. The most professional thing about the travel agency personnel is that they had everything figured out so well that all our trips started after breakfast and ended at lunchtime in our intended destinations. We had the chance to go to rock climbing at Hell’s Gate in Naivasha and even enjoyed a natural spa there.
At night, there was a boat ride to see hippos, but I was not feeling well and so I did not go, but my parents were exhilarated by the experience judging by their reaction the next day. On day 5, we travelled to Lake Nakuru National Park, where we saw hundreds of pink flamingoes. There were also black rhinos, buffalos and other wild game in this park.
The trip to Bogoria on day 6 was a bit hectic, owing to the steep slopes of the Great Rift Valley that we had to meander through and the hot weather. At Lake Bogoria, we came across hot water springs that sprung into the air and could boil an egg in few minutes. We also visited Lake Baringo and took a boat trip to see ancient caves and the wide varieties of birds in the region. For the next two days we visited the Samburu National Reserve and enjoyed game drives in the scorching semi-arid region.
We reached Mt. Kenya National Park on the ninth day. This day stuck to me because I witnessed the highest mountain in Kenya and the second in Africa, after Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. We were shown Mau Mau caves, where Kenyan Freedom Fighters used to hide, as they fought British colonizers. The atmosphere here was very cold owing to the high altitude. The snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya is the closest thing to winter that Kenyan people will ever experience.
We spent day 10 and 11 in Amboseli, where we viewed game and day 12 in Tsavo West, where we were fortunate enough to visit Mzima Springs, aside from watching the wide variety of animals. Our last stop was Tsavo East National Park. The area was once infamous for the man-eating lions of Tsavo, who devoured railway constructors in the 1890s. Our glorious trip came to an abrupt end on day 14 and we had to come back to Nairobi. We spent a week or so in the capital, before we boarded a plane back to the US.
The trip was a blast for us. Communication was easy, because English is the official language of the Kenyan people and they are naturally welcoming to foreigners. The weather was not that bad generally, but there were areas that had extremely high temperatures during the day and were very cold during the night. When it came to the cuisine, it was great. The African meals were delicious and if we felt nostalgic or homesick, there was western cuisine in the menu also.
Whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore, you were abound to get something that will cater to your appetite needs. The only food that I found odd was a form of dumpling made from maize flour that is consumed with both vegetables and meat-based dishes. This Kenyan delicacy is referred to as Ugali and is their staple food. Hotel services are great, facilities are of quality and the staffs are courteous and professional. You will surely get value for your money.