Adventures in Kenya
Mambo Vipi: for the countryman who inhabits
Jambo: for the tourist who visits
Hello: for the dreamer. Just do it.
Here’s a story about my trip to Kenya, I hope you're inspired.
In April 2015, overwhelmed by the hundreds of pages I had to read for my honors capstone thesis and so distracted by the lingering memories from my recent Greece trip, I spontaneously booked a 7 days trip to visit Kenya in November.
I tried convincing my friend who was studying with me to come on the adventure, but she would soon be a teacher and was worried about not being able to take vacation time. Me on the other hand, I had no idea what I would be doing in November. I knew I was about to graduate college, but I had no idea if I would have had a job by then, or if I would have a budget for the trip. I knew one thing — I wanted to travel.
The idea of traveling to East Africa by myself was a little terrifying given the recent terrorist attacks. I’ve never explored another country on my own and I did not know anyone living there. I posted in a few group chats about my travel plans, but by then I already made up my mind this would be my first solo trip. I figured, the world is definitely not safe. It never was and never will be so I refuse to let fear hinder me from living my dreams. I live in the United States and even here, in this black body, I’m not safe. Lukily, it turned out to not be a complete solo trip although some days I went on solo adventures.
I was so excited about my travel plans. I researched hotels, safari trips, the African Heritage House, KICC, the Maasai market, museums and historical excursions. My friends were excited for me too. They found a photograph of Kenya on Instagram and I decided to follow-up with the photographer who I now know to be Mutua Matheka. Mutua born, raised and living in Kenya is a freelance photographer and his work is amazing! I reached out on Instagram telling him about my plans to visit and my interest in learning about the people and culture. He kindly offered to show me around Nairobi and introduce me to his other photographer friends. When people would ask me about my travel plans, they understandably thought I was crazy for planning to meet up with a stranger, but I was not bothered, I had already done my due diligence. Besides, the best way to get the most from a country you’ve never been to is to have a local show you around. Do your research, let your family and friends know and go with your gut. I have no regrets.
I traveled to Kenya on my Grenadian passport so I did not need a visa to enter. However, my passport is not one usually seen by Kenyan immigration so they had to double check my no visa entry status. My first impressions about Kenyans is that they know how to prepare for their guests, they pay attention to every detail, style pattern and color coordination, and they are friendly and down to earth. After spending one night at the Hilton in Nairobi City Center I left at 5:00am for a 3 days / 2 nights safari trip to Maasai Mara.
I booked the trip with Natural World Tours and they were excellent in their service. The driver Joseph was very knowledgeable about the game reserve and very well connected with the drivers from other tour companies. He went above and beyond to help us see the animals, especially the famous leopard. At Maasai Mara, I visited one of the villages where I met Steve. Steve traveled 5 hours to Nairobi for school and is one of two in his tribe who spoke english. He explained how the Masai huts are built by the women with cow dung, mud and tiny branches, while the men go out to hunt and make jewelry. On our way back to Nairobi our little van broke down and I met another Maasai boy, John from a nearby village. We’re still in touch today.
I found myself more attentive to the self I brought along to Kenya. Maasai Mara took me back to to my to childhood days in Grenada when I saw the little children rolling the barrel rim with a piece of stick, when I saw the women hustling hard to sell their hand-made jewelry so they could make ends meet, when I saw a mechanic shop built from old galvanize and a hand-painted sign on a tire that said “auto garage.” I found myself more attentive when I saw the kids walking barefoot, and when I saw clothes lines from one pole to the next with clothes pinned so tightly waiting on the sun to work its magic. Maasai Mara gave me crystal insight of what I saw on the internet and of animals I knew existed, but never saw with the naked eye. I think the place was startled by my constant wows and awes. Kenya showed me things, places and people I would not have known if I had not illuminate my way. I would do it all over again.
After the safari, we drove 5 hours back to Nairobi and stayed at the Sarova Stanley in the city center for the next 3 days. I visited the Maasai market where I learn the real art of negotiating. I also met with Mutua and his friends and we visited Kenya’s International Conference Center where they confiscated my camera due to strict policies that were implemented since the terrorist attacks in Kenya. My final stops were Uhuru Park , Kenya's Railway Museum and Karen Blixen Museum.
Kenya is definitely on the top 3 places I been to thus far. I know some of you plan to visit this year so I would love to hear some of the things you're looking forward to.