Category Archives: Safiri Kenya

What the tuk-tuk?: Mombasa’s Love – hate relationship with the little three-wheeled hardy vehicle

There are lots of things to expect once you land in Mombasa. Cultural diversity, a city rich in history, scenic beaches, a myriad of touristic destinations, warm people…

And then, there is the tuk-tuk.

There’s no missing the tuk-tuk.

tuk tuk zuru kenya
Source: thirdlocal.com

Swiftly maneuvering the old city’s narrow cobbled and congested streets, the little sputtering three-wheeled motorized vehicle has undoubtedly become very symbolic of Mombasa. They are everywhere! A multitude of them!

Preferred for their compact size and swift maneuverability, tuk-tuks make wheezing around Mombasa such a breeze. Their ability to negotiate tight corners and park almost anywhere is perhaps one of the reasons that locals favor them as a short-distance mode of transport which allows for convenient door-to-door service. Tourists would especially enjoy the tuk-tuk experience with their small canopy and windowless body providing for full view of the scenic sites while enjoying a breezy ride through the city at a much lower cost.

 tuk-tuk zuru kenya
Source: thirdlocal.com

This little three-wheeler with a capacity for three passengers (but just like a taxi, mostly boards one passenger at a time) has a little space at the back allocated for luggage and in case of bad weather, there’s a drop-down side flap that covers the windowless frame. You will also come to notice that tuk-tuks in Mombasa have a personality of their own, no two are the same. Well of course there are those drivers who prefer to stick with the tuk-tuks original outlook whereas others tend to get a bit more creative with their autos; tricking them out with bumpin’ speakers, flashing neon, graffiti amongst other forms of ‘bling’.

tuk-tuk zuru kenya
Source: travelstart.co.ke
tuk tuk zuru kenya
source: Graphic World

With the much expediency that tuk-tuks offer, why would anyone have a problem with them?

Here’s why,

The tuk-tuk invasion if you like, has primarily been a thorn in the side of the county government for a while now with several attempts to steer them clear of some parts of the central business district having been futile. Not only are they noisy but they are also believed to be a major contributor to the congestion of the city’s main streets. Getting rid of them has however not been an easy feat. This is especially so when a large number of passengers utilize them to traverse from one point to another within the CBD itself.

tuk-tuk zuru kenya
source: Daily Nation

Did I mention Noisy? Many residents tend to fume about the noise pollution and rightly so! The puttering noise that these hardy vehicles make is simply unbearable! Especially if you have to listen to it every second of every day bearing in mind that Mombasa city is not only a business area but also a residential area that houses a large number of locals. Sound proofing makes for a good investment if one resides within the city.

In case you are yet to embark on your own tuk-tuk experience within Mombasa city, we’ve listed some tips below to help smooth along your first encounter.

tuk tuk zuru kenya
Source: monitor.co.ke

Things to note:

  1. Don’t just board and pay at your drop-off point.  

Have you ever boarded a tuk-tuk only to be asked to pay an outrageous amount upon alighting?

Unless you are aware of the tuk tuk fare, do not attempt the “board and pay later” tactic. As you will learn fast, locals have a way of sniffing non-locals so to be safe, always settle on the fare before you climb aboard, otherwise you will find yourself having to shell out a hefty charge at your destination. Please note that some drivers will tend to note give out the rate firsthand after you ask, responding with “just get in” instead.  Be persistent and ask again until they respond with a satisfactory rate.

  1.  Familiarize yourself with route fares.

Find out the local rates before hailing a tuk-tuk. It shouldn’t be so difficult to realize the appropriate price by asking the locals – of course some of them will give you rates above the norm but mostly you should be able to get the correct price point. Be careful not to ask the driver the distance or duration of the destination, if they see that you are new to the area they will definitely lie and overcharge you for a distance that you may not have needed to get a tuk-tuk in the first place to get there. It’s also good to note that the locals of Mombasa are majorly friendly and readily willing to assist (unless of course for some elements whom I can neither confirm nor deny to be native locals), so plenty of times responses given should be pretty legit.

  1. Its ok to negotiate!

Familiarizing yourself with the price-points gives you a good advantage at bargaining where you can easily talk the drivers down to a certain level that is satisfactory to both of you. It’s also okay to walk away if you feel the fare is super high. There are plenty of tuk-tuks lined up so if one driver doesn’t budge another one will.

  1. Where to hail a tuk-tuk? 

Certainly, not in front of a fancy restaurant or resort I can tell you that much. Some tuk-tuk drivers have a habit of sizing people up and if they pick you up at a somewhat upscale location then that is some extra change for them. If you intend on using a tuk-tuk and are staying at a hotel, do not let the driver pick you up from the hotel’s entrance instead walk to the main road which shouldn’t be very far away. This will give you a better chance of striking a good bargain.

  1. The destination

There’s one thing in Mombasa that highly differs from Nairobi and probably other cities and towns, locals familiarize themselves with places and not street addresses. Do not expect an accurate response when you ask for Moi Avenue, Haille selassie, Nkurumah road, Nyerere Avenue or even Tom Mboya Street only a people few can pin-point that out for you if you are lucky. Instead ask for Ambalal, Posta, Nawal centre, Fort Jesus, Ferry and so on…

It is therefore more convenient to tell the tuk-tuk driver the name of the place you are going to instead of the address. The drivers have familiarized themselves with most of the hotels, touristic attractions, market places, office buildings and so on. If you give them the address, you will definitely get lost. That’s a  guarantee!

  1. Enjoy your ride!

Once you’ve gained the confidence and are now familiar with the tuk-tuk ways, just hop on, tell the driver where you want to go, give the fare and hop off. It’s that simple. We do not however promise you of a smooth ride all the time; some streets tend to be bumpy, sometimes with potholes and never ending stream of pedestrians. Just hold on tight when the tuk-tuk bounces from one lane to another as some drivers tend to be oblivious of the fact that they have passengers on board.

#Stargazers: Chasing the African Night Sky

City life tends to get us engulfed in so much that we forget to appreciate and enjoy the little things in life. One such little thing is simply looking up at the African night sky, undoubtedly one of the best things you could ever take time to do.

The city robs us of this experience, what with huge skyscrapers, light pollution among other distractions. To be honest most of us only get to appreciate the existence of the moon let alone the stars when power goes out no?!

If you are yet to marvel at the beautiful African night sky, your best bet is to travel to the remote country areas. Something the  astrophotographers below got to appreciate. We are just glad they got to bring back souvenirs from their Kenyan stargazing adventures courtesy of their night captures.

Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Turkana – ©2008 Jon Warren/World Vision
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Amboseli night sky – Nick Saglibeni
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya ©Tunc Tezel
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
African night sky – @deadmau5
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Babak Tafreshi/National Geographic Society
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
The Mara night sky – Mark Gee
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Milky Way over Mount Kilimanjaro – Dale Johnson
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Kenya Stargazing – image via flickr user Weldon Kennedy

LITTLE TRAVELERS CHAPEL ON THE HILL

Just as it is with any historical site that has stood the test of time, the four walls of the “Travelers’ Chapel” are shrouded in a lot of mystery and myth. Word goes round of a ticking clock that can be heard but is never seen. It has even been said that those who erected the structure hid their jewels and wills in the church concrete columns setting enthusiasts on a hunt for the ‘hidden treasure’. Perhaps it is these great tales – amongst others, that make this landmark of sorts intriguing. Or maybe the fascination is purely based on its miniature build.

travelers chapel zuru kenya

Listed as the smallest church in Kenya (and possibly Africa), the “Travelers’ Chapel” which is commonly referred to by its alias ‘Msikiti – mosque’ by the locals sits pretty along the Mai Mahiu-Naivasha highway. Its story dates back to the Second World War where we are told that British and imperial forces captured more than half a million Italian soldiers, sailors and airmen. Whilst having these prisoners of war (POWs) around as a symbol of military success was all good, The British soon realized that in as much as their ‘symbols of victory’ brought high standing for their ranking in the war, they also posed a few complications as they came with needs as well; one of them being having a place to worship. Seeing that the Italians were Catholics and the British Anglicans, the two parties could not worship together and so they were allocated land to build their own place of prayer.

Under the strict supervision of British colonialists, the construction of The Mai Mahiu Catholic Church popularly referred to as the “Travelers’ Chapel” came to be in 1942. The Italian Prisoners Of War (POWs) would take turns to erect the structure during breaks from the construction of the road. The building of the church was however not without any setbacks. For instance, a number of Italians succumbed to diseases and attacks from wild animals, which included poisonous snakes that allegedly live in the area to date. Several graves lie outside the church compound where the deceased were laid to rest. Thanks to well wishers, a mausoleum has since been erected in form of a cemented cross in honor of the fallen Italians.

italian-chapel- travelers chapel zuru kenya

The Design

The pentagon-shaped church interior has four small wooden pews and an altar with a pulpit. Measuring 15 by 8 feet, it has a capacity to sit 12 people during mass. Just like its bigger counterparts, the church has three normal doors for access.

travelers chapel zuru kenya
Source: mywalkabout.net

The inside walls are decorated with inscriptions in Latin. Above the stained glass windows and the entrance doors are painted the words, Venite Ad Memone (Come to me my people), Haec Est Victoria Quae Vincit Mundum Fides Mustra (This is the victory that has won the world by our faith), Benedicite Coeli Domino Benedicite (Blessed be the sky and blessed again) and finally Universa Germinatia In Terra Domino, which translates to, everything will germinate in the sky and also on the earth.

travelers chapel zuru kenya
Source: mywalkabout.net

Behind the altar is an old mural of the nativity scene (baby Jesus and his parents Mary and Joseph) surrounded by angels thought to have been created in early 1943. It is not very clear who painted the mural but it is nonetheless credited to Navitatis NDJC. The reason behind this lack of clarity is that “Navitatis” does not seem to have done any works of art before or after the mural at the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church. There is, however, a name inscribed on the mural that refers to Pittore R. and the date 25.02.1943. All that this confirms is the date the mural was painted – 1943. It could as well be that Pittore did the mural – this is still subject to confirmation.

The church has three steps at the entrance that according to Ann Nyakio, a caretaker, symbolizes the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are also two crosses on the roof and a compass that symbolizes that the church will stay as long as the world will turn around it.

Travelerschapel zuru kenya
Source: geocaching.com

Today, the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is management by the Italian Embassy, the Kenyan government and well wishers who pump in their resources to conserve this religious historical site. The “Travelers’ Chapel” is open to all members of the public free of charge. Interestingly though, Christians and Hindus are allowed to worship, whereas Muslims can only visit.

Fun Facts:

  • The Travelers’ Chapel is commonly referred to as msikiti – mosque by the locals because it resembles one. Furthermore, prior to the four pews, worshipers used to pray on their knees.
  • Different communities and dominions conduct their prayers here.
  • The chapel is a popular venue for weddings and photo shoots because it gives off an antique feel.
  • Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is a favorite among truck drivers on transit from Mombasa to the landlocked central African countries.

Getting There:

The Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is located on the busy Mai Mahiu – Rironi road.

Save

Save

Jumba La Mtwana: The Mysterious wonder of Mtwapa

Amidst the upbeat Mtwapa town, it’s almost unbelievable that there remains a place unscathed with the changes and developments taking place around it.

j

 

It isn’t exactly clear as to the genesis of its existence and the mystery that shrouds the place is what makes the Jumba La Mtwana ruins ( an ancient settlement with as much archaeological grandeur as the more famous Gede Ruins) even more interesting.

house of many doors

Who built these buildings and to what aim? There are no historical records on the settlement, however given the name Jumba La Mtwana “Large house of the slave”, some believe that the ruins may have played host to the slave trade. This theory however is highly dismissible there being lack thereof archaelogical evidence that suggests that this may have been the case.

DSC_1084

In an attempt to depict the mystery, what is now known of Jumba La Mtwana, has been deduced from the ruins which were excavated by James Kirkman in 1972. The remains of this 14th century settlement were likely built around 1350, inhabited and then abandoned a century later. It is not certain whether ‘Jumba la Mtwana’ was the settlement’s name at the time of occupation. However, one thing that is certain is that the inhabitants were Muslim evidenced by the ruins of 4 mosques, washing platform and water cisterns.

DSC_1049

Jumba la Mtwana also known as “Jumba Ruins” was opened to the public in 1973 and was gazetted as a national monument in 1982. It is located approximately 20km (15km north of Mombasa, 3km off the Mombasa-Malindi road, 2.8km on the road leading to the sea at the junction next to Picana factory) north of Mombasa in Mtwapa.

_DSC0887

Constitutes of the ruins: Old coral stone walls of 4 mosques, 4 domestic houses (These houses include the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The House of the Many Pools, which had three phases, and the Great Mosque) and a tomb which have survived in recognizable condition situated among huge baobab trees on grassy slopes that descend to the sea. Excavations of the site have revealed numerous artefacts including decorated local pottery and shell beads, imported Chinese and Islamic ceramics, and glass beads.

jumba ruins10

It is very likely that the site’s strategic position was selected because of the presence of fresh water, exposure to the North East and South East breezes which would keep the people cool and its safe location from external attacks by sea since it had no harbor, thus larger vessels had to anchor along way offshore, or move probably in Mtwapa creek.

DSC_1080

Seeing as people only subscribe to several theories of its existence, one can only therefore guess reasons for its eventual desertion subject to further research, namely trade interruption, hostile invasion or a failure in water supply.

DSC_1054

DSC_1088

_DSC0934  _DSC0942

_DSC0948

_DSC0950

_DSC0952

_DSC0964

DSC_1057

DSC_1060

DSC_1055

DSC_1058

Haller Park: From wasteland to Paradise

The beauty that is now ‘Haller Park’ was once an industrial wasteland. In 1970, one Dr. Rene Haller, took upon him the task of rehabilitating a barren cement quarry whose floor was hard as rock and groundwater saline.

Dr. Haller set out to transform this industrial wasteland into a flourishing natural park, something that was unheard of at the time. His vision; to establish a multitude of plants, providing food and shelter to a large variety of animals.”

Through careful observation of how plants and animals interact, and a series of trial-and-error experiments, Dr. Rene Haller achieved what many had thought was inachievable.

Over 1 million trees  planted, and having a range of insects, butterflies, birds and mammals introduced, we now have Haller Park; a serene nature enthusiasts’ haven. Each plant, insect or animal had a purpose to keep the ecosystem in balance. Now Haller Park is a beautiful Wildlife Sanctuary, home to over 30 species of endangered animals and a favorite spot for family time over the weekends.

Haller park zurukenya

Haller park zuru kenya

Haller park zurukenya

Haller Park zurukenya

Haller park zurukenya

Haller park zurukenya

haller park zurukenya

hallerpark zurukenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zurukenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

haller park zuru kenya

NB: Nearly 100,000 people visit Haller Park every year.

Entry Fee: kshs. 500 per person *subject to change

The Little Beach at Barracuda

Driving down the small trail, a Watamu local in the backseat giving us directions, I couldn’t have envisioned what awaited us. I’ve had my fair share of coastal beaches but what I was about to step into I couldn’t have imagined. This little piece of paradise sitting pretty outside the small village of Watamu, is no wonder Watamu is listed as having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Once you step on the beach, the rocky lagoons across the street instantly catch your eye. These reef-protected lagoons line the Watamu National Marine Park and Reserves, which are the oldest in East Africa and one of the best kept secrets in the world recognized internationally as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The Blue Lagoon bay where we chose to spend our christmas afternoon is known for its extraordinarily clear waters sheltering a rich marine life; ideal for snorkelling and offers great panoramic views out over the bay. Watersports, swaying hammocks and luxury beachfront resorts complete the picture – it’s the perfect definition of paradise.

Little beach at barracuda - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 1 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 2 - zuru kenya

Little beach at barracuda 3 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 4 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 5 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 6 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 7 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 8 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 9 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 10 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 11 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 12 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 13 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 14 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 15 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 16 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 17 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 18 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 19 - zuru kenya

What to anticipate: A “beach boy” or two may approach you with a boat ride offer to the Marine Park. On seeing that we weren’t interested in seeing dolphins, the guy who’d approached us offered to join him and his crew at their hangout joint, a small makuti restaurant where they look out for clients.

Here I met Hussein Guida Turistica who currently goes by the alias Brian when at work. Given the terrorist attacks that majorly hurt the tourism economy, he fears that using his real name Hussein will ward off clients and he could not afford to lose his main way of earning a living.

The little beach at barracuda 20 - zuru kenya
Hussein Guida Turistica taking me round the bay

little beach at barracuda 21 - zuru kenya

little beach at barracuda 22 - zuru kenya
Hussein Guida Turistica requested for this photo with this lovely lady when we first met him

Italian is the language of commerce here and once in a while he and his friends would shift from swahili to italian when they didn’t want us  to here what they were saying while bargaining for a boat ride to the Marine Park.

Ways to keep kids happy during a game drive

Now that we are settled on a safari this festive season, we of course have to give you tips on getting through it with ease and ensuring that you enjoy your experience to the fullest.

If your’s is a family getaway, you may be a bit worried if your kids will be safe and sound while embarking on game drives. Worry not; our tips will set you up for that perfect holiday experience.

The biggest attraction of any family safari holiday is naturally “The Big 5″: lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceros. With this in mind, guided safari drives are the safest way for children and families to maximise the magical Kenya experience. Whilst children may get very excited about seeing wildlife, patience is often needed while tracking the African game therefore the main concern here is whether your kids may or may not behave.

Wait until your children are at an appropriate age
The key is to wait until your kids are at the point where they can take instructions (especially on when to keep still and be quiet for the safety of the group). Recommended ages is 5 and over, however ensure that you check with the accommodation first on their policies regarding children and game drives (most require children to be at least 8 years old).

Encourage participation
Children get bored easily. You definitely want to ensure that once bored, they do not start causing tantrums. Let your kids be part of the action by either letting them use a camera or a binocular, who knows they may spot the game before you do.

zuru kenya ways to keep kids happy on a game drive

Have activities ready to keep children busy during the drive
Driving to your safari destination may take a few hours and parents know that even the most patient child will get bored during the drive. You can either prepare your ‘our activity package’ with coloring sheets and quiet games, or ask your safari guide and lodge for ideas to keep children busy.

Consider a self-drive or private safari
At larger lodges where families may have to share vehicles during a game drive, keep in mind not all travelers will enjoy having children on their safari. In such cases, get a private guide and vehicle if possible.

ways to keep kids happy on a game drive - zuru kenya

Book with a reliable tour operator that accommodates kids
The family travel market is full of tour operators offering safaris to families on a budget; it may be tempting to book with a less expensive operator. Keep in mind that not all lodges accommodate children and that less expensive is not always better. Look out for a single tour operator offering an established portfolio of properties.

Pack clothing that will keep them comfortable
Most family safari game drives take place in the morning or afternoon but older children may want to take part in night drives too. If this is the case, remember to bring warm clothes in the jeep.

ways to keep kids happy during a game drive - zuru kenya

Remember your little kids are potential prey for the Big 5
Yes, it’s a scary thought that your young children could potentially be a meal for wild dogs. On her post on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel, Heather Greenwood-Davis reminds parents to weigh the prey factor. “My sons once stepped out of a jeep at a game reserve where wild dogs were being preserved and the immediate transformation of the dogs from playful puppies to hunters made me very grateful for the electric fence,” she writes.

Don’t feel pressured to go on every safari game drive
The excitement of being on a family trip can get the kids wanting to take part in all the drives and activities offered which in turn may leave them cranky and exhausted. If your children are tired, let them sleep. “Let your little ones rest when things are slow and rouse them for the highlights, tired kids make for terrible safari companions.”

ways to keep kids happy during a game drive - zuru kenya

Since safari lodges and camps offer several drives throughout the day, you and your family can still get a break from the excitement of it all and enjoy some quiet family-time together back at camp.

Image courtesy: andbeyond.com, bushtracks.

Tips for traveling with kids

August is here!! which means school term is over for a majority of the kids. Which also means that your kids will need entertaining.

For those of you planning to take your kids off to some fun destination this August, we have compiled some facts you need to put into consideration before you embark on your travels.

travel with kids zuru kenya
Image source: Kuoni

Let’s be honest. Traveling with young children during holidays is a hassle for a number of parents. This can be attributed to kids throwing tantrums, becoming disorderly and a nuisance hence messing up with the whole fun.

Traveling with small children doesn’t need to get on your nerves though. With a bit of know-how on how to manage them, good recollections can become of the road trip. Traveling with them should be a moment to ignite indelible memories of joy and provide a platform to bond well with them without much worry.

travelling with kids zuru kenya 1

Here are a number of tips you can put in place before you go for a vacation with small children.

Safety for the kids
When hitting the road, safety comes first. Is your car in good condition? Are the seat belts well fitted? Or is the children’s car seat comfortable? In case you are going to use different cars make sure the seats are comfy for them to enjoy when traveling regardless of the distance.

Look for a child friendly hotel
Quite a good number of hotels in tourist attraction sites are not child-friendly to a degree of exposing kids to stress or danger. Before settling in any of the rooms, as a parent you have to make sure the room is well lit, windows and doors are well fitted to keep the kids out of cold weather in cases of winter/cold seasons. You should also take note of those doors with noisy hinges that may wake up kids while in sound sleep. If the room has a balcony, make sure the guard rails are firmly fitted and not providing a chance for them to pass through to an extent of falling off the balcony. If not change your room real quick.

Eat at nice hotels
Remember you are on vacation and everything has to be exciting mostly for the kid(s) so as his/her attention cannot be diverted. The hotel should be appealing to the little angel(s) ask the waitress/ waiter if certain kinds of foods are offered to avoid giving the children food they are not fond of. DON’T do buffets. Some hotels have a low food turnover and this can result to food poisoning not only to the kids but also, you as an adult. To avoid this, you can look for a busy hotel where you can be sure the food served is very fresh. You can also request for a comfortable sitting arrangement that won’t ruin other people’s peace at the hotel since kids tend to pull tables or run around disrupting other people.

Engage the children….
It is rewarding to include the kids in activities during the outing. It is sensible that children are kept aware of the trip. Involving them in planning, shopping makes them feel part of the trip. This will help impart some sense of responsibility. When in a park, let them learn to take photo shots or if it’s a fishing escapade for instance, teach them how to do it. It will help them recollect the memories after the trip.

Finally, you can never be sure of weather patterns and though you are guaranteed of experiencing fatigue, you may not know if the kids will develop some allergy while on the trip. It’s therefore of much essence that you carry some medicine with you.

Reasons why you won’t feel like a loner, backpacking!!

Sipping my healthy smoothie by the  Kilifi Backpackers bar counter, I watch as my friend tries to get a splinter off of *James (a fellow traveller’s) foot . Poor thing went swimming at the beach and left his stuff (bag, shoes, and bicycle) unattended. Unfortunately for him, “Cha kuokota si cha kuiba” finding is not stealing, is a rule some people live by on this ends, his bag and shoes got stolen and had he not left his bicycle somewhere in the bushes, his transport back “home” would have gone too! With his shoes gone, getting his bicycle from the bushes left him with a thorny situation.

Even after cleaning his wound when he got back from the beach, *James could still feel some sharp pain on the foot and that’s when he asked us to check it out. Funny thing though about this whole situation, I doubt he would have gotten any such assistance from fellow guests in a classic or luxury travel setting, everyone keeps to themselves! Imagine you and your friends enjoying your drinks in some luxurious hotel bar, laughing with each other about jokes nobody outside of your group will understand, based on memories and past experiences you had with those friends. Now imagine some random dude approaching you and asking for help with his foot situation. What would your reaction be? weirded out perhaps?

With backpacking, things are different.  Sure, not everyone will be welcoming with open arms when you ask if you may join them for dinner, some people want to be left alone sometimes, but I guarantee you that 99% of people will say “sure, no problem”.  See even though we were not really “buddies” with James, we were not really strangers per se, we had cheered him on during the daily beach volleyball, shared conversation over breakfast,  heck we even got to “babysit” his beers!! so we were already familiar with him.

11-600x338

If you are setting out to travel on your lonesome and are worried about loneliness creeping up on you, fear not, backpacking is here!

Just like our time at Distant Relatives, you will realise that almost everyone backpacking is travelling alone as well. Moreover, everyone wants to make friends. As a matter of fact, you may have to TRY to be alone!  It does not matter how introverted you are, it is impossible not to meet new people; for instance, at times you may just be sitted by yourself wanting some alone time when a stranger joins you for conversation.

14-600x338

Whether you’re lounging in a hammock on the balcony or frying something in the communal kitchen, at any moment you could strike up a conversation with a  stranger and make a friend for life.

10488096_769463753132003_3847208001679672746_n

Aside from that, meeting new people is inevitable when staying in a hostel, or dorm rooms. You won’t have a choice but to get to know them. Just say hello and ask where they’ve been, where they’re going, how long they’ve been around and if they’d recommend anything cool to do or see.

I’m not sure it’s possible to feel lonely at a hostel and more often than not, you may end up craving some alone time.

In the backpacking world, it’s always someone’s first or last night and therefore a reason to go out – which means there’s a lot of drinking going on (A LOT!). Therefore, if parties are your thing, you will never fall short. Going out for dinner one night with several strangers and never seeing them again is part of the fun and it’s what happens. People are aware of it and it’s kind of the norm.

1618691_769032566508455_713762541137030143_n

10922727_769469239798121_4150208900195217877_n

You meet great people, and then tomorrow they are gone. Maybe you will see each other again, maybe not. In some cases though, some of these people may end up being the group you travel around with, which is a great bonus!

269528_377994088945640_1879865484_n

Backpacking is a great lifestyle; It’s fun, social, has a  youthful vibe to it and you get to meet amazing people. There will be people you meet who become your friends for a week, friends for a month and friends for life. Happy Backpacking!!!
Photo Credits: Distant Relatives Kilifi Backpackers

19 Reasons Kenya Needs to Be Higher on Your Bucket List

There are few places in the world that have the incredibly varying landscapes that Kenya has, which is what makes this small, yet breathtaking country such a magical place to visit. The range in temperatures, habitats and geography are the reason this country is home to so many different species of rare wildlife, many of which can be only be found in the grassy plains, rain forests and wooded savannas of Kenya. But it’s not just the wildlife that captivates you when you’re visiting; the incredibly rich culture, amazing food and humble and passionate people pull you in with an almost magnetic pull.

The sad truth about Kenya, however, is that the beauty of this place remains unseen to so many groups of tourists due to the scary, and somewhat fabricated, reputation that has sprouted up due to social and economic problems recently faced by the country. For a country just recently (within the past 50 years) liberated, there are bound to be some growing pains with establishing a government and status quo that works. But isn’t that the case with many countries? Sure, there are parts of Nairobi that are dangerous and some coastal villages are facing struggles between land and state, but why should that deter you from seeing the other 99 percent of the country that is not only safe, but welcoming and hospitable? Whether you’re in the very touristy areas or off the beaten path, you’ll be welcomed to Kenya with a warmth, openness and beauty that will have you truly speechless.

And how many countries leave you at a loss for words? When I came back from my trip to Kenya, that’s exactly how I found myself. And I’ve decided that maybe words aren’t what this incredible place needs to encourage people to visit, maybe it’s just photos. As I sift through the thousands of images I took of the beautiful Masai people, the landscapes and the wildlife roaming free, the adage “a picture says 1000 words” has never rang so true.

1. Hot air balloon safaris over the plains

bucket list zuru kenya

Where else can you blend a hot air balloon ride and a game drive at the same time? Plus, most only run at sunrise or sunset, giving you insanely gorgeous views of the bright pink and orange skies over the Masai Mara. Oh and did we mention that a full breakfast and champagne cocktails conclude your trip?

2. Herds of elephants in the Amboseli

bucket list zuru kenya 1

The Amboseli National Reserve is located in the Rift Valley Peninsula of Kenya and is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-range herds of elephants. So close that one of the young, curious male’s trunks may accidentally touch the side of your face.

3. Pack of lions in the Masai Mara

bucket list zuru kenya 3

When you grow up in the U.S., the only time you see lions up close are behind the cages of your city’s zoo. When you grow up near the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya, you see packs of lions almost everyday on your way to work. And it’s surprising just how lazy these “kings of the jungle” really are.

4. The conservancies

bucket list zuru kenya 4

People crave adventure, once in a lifetime experiences and culture, which is why safaris have been a bucket list item for thousands of people for centuries. What makes a safari in Kenya especially meaningful is that you can choose to go on game drives in one of the 25 trusted conservancies, which work with the land owners and local tribes to further protect their wildlife. Instead of working against the local people, eco-tourism groups and hotels work with the owners of the land to build trusts which help protect the animals from human harm and poaching, while also helping the local people with a trusted source of income so they can better their lives and focus on education for their kids.

5. Sunsets over the conservancies

bucket list zuru kenya 5

There’s no better place to watch the sunset than over one of the twenty-five incredible conservancies in Kenya. For one, no skyscrapers or light pollution will obstruct the view. And two? You’ll see herds of zebras and wildebeest in the distance as you watch the sun dip.

6. The migration of Wildebeest from the Serengeti

bucket list zuru kenya 6

If you’re lucky enough to see the migration of the wildebeest, you’re lucky enough. Every summer (typically around August) they leave their home in the Serengeti National Reserve and migrate to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The most incredible part is that they often move in single file, very organized lines, which is beautiful to watch.

7. The bustling streets of Nairobi

bucket list zuru kenya 7

Nairobi has a bad rap, probably because you only hear about the crimes that happen in certain parts of the city. Like most growing cities, it does have crime and sections that should be avoided by tourists, but it also has parts that can’t be missed, like the National museum, the game reserve in the center of the city and the budget-friendly shopping where you grab locally made souvenirs.

8. The surprisingly delicious food

bucket list zuru kenya 8

Due to the country’s dynamic range of different cultures, tribes and backgrounds, there is no one “singular” dish that defines Kenya. Instead, the country is made up of various dishes that utilize the fresh and local produce, proteins and grains found in the area. Arguably one of the most popular dishes among locals is ugali, which is a cornmeal staple (much like polenta). You’ll also find lots of rice, beans, collard greens and rich meats like lamb, beef, chicken and goat.

9. The Hemingway Hotel

bucket list zuru kenya 9

Arguably the best hotel in Nairobi (and one of the most beautiful in all of Kenya), the Hemingway is where you want to stay when you’re spending a few days in the bustling capital. The vibe is very “5 star Indiana Jones” with stacked vintage suitcases and tufted couches. The rooms and the staff will make it very hard to leave.

10. Mount Kenya

bucket list zuru kenya 10

It may not be as high as Mount Kilimanjaro, but the hike up to the peak of Mount Kenya, a staggering 5,000 meters, is no walk in the park. Located in the eastern part of the Rift Valley, Mount Kenya is the highest peak in Kenya. The hike up offers stunning views of the Rift Valley and you’ll encounter rich vegetation, deep glacial valleys and snow topped peaks on your way up. Image via Go to Mount Kenya.

11. Amboseli National Park

bucket list zuru kenya 11

Best known for their families of elephants, the Amboseli is a park you can’t miss when you’re visiting Kenya. Not only is this reserve home to elephants, but here you’ll also find exotic birds (native to only Kenya), hippos, baboons, buffalo and cheetahs. Here you’ll also find the best full view of Mount Kilimanjaro than anywhere else in the world.

12. The amazing people

bucket list zuru kenya 12

People flock to Kenya for the incredible diversity in animals, but many don’t realize that the human population is just as fascinating. There are over 40 different ethnic populations that call the country home, from the Masai, to the Kikuyu and the Luo and Kamba. Not only that, but the demographic of Nairobi is equally as diverse, with large groups of Europeans, Americans and South Africans living among the busy streets. Along with the variety, you’ll never meet more personable, humble, proud, outgoing, excitable and funny people as the Kenyans.

13. Lamu

bucket list zuru kenya 12

You have have heard of Lamu in the news recently, sadly due to some violent outbreaks caused by neighboring tribes who live in the small town. However, don’t let these very rare outbreaks deter you from visiting one of the most beautiful villages in all of Kenya.The town is one of Kenya’s oldest inhabited ones and was founded in 1370 by the Swahili tribe. I don’t know what’s more beautiful, the town center, which is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, the townspeople or the stunning seaside and beaches. Image via WM Magazine.

14. The ever-changing landscape

bucket list zuru kenya 14

The country’s dramatic geography not only makes Kenya a great home to the thousands of different wildlife who live there, but also makes it such a desirable destination for all sorts of travelers. On the coast you get white sandy beaches and aqua water, in the north you have the mountains and more rugged terrain, while in the central and south you have tall grassy plains, rain forests and stunning lakes. It’s a geographical wonderland, really.

15. The elusive leopard and cheetah

bucket list zuru kenya 15

Arguably the most remarkable moments I have from my multiple game drives in the Masai Mara, Nairobi Park and Amboseli are when we were able to watch the very elusive leopards or cheetahs sitting, walking or eating. These wild cats are very endangered and the chances of seeing them are very rare, but when you do, these beautiful creatures will absolutely take your breath away.

16. Mara Plains and Mara Toto

bucket list zuru kenya 16

Mara Plains, the big sister of the two resorts located on the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, is sophisticated enough to be a five star resort but humble and personable enough to feel like an extended home away. Mara Toto is smaller, with just 7 tents, making it the perfect place to rent if you have a big family or a friends getaway. The staff at each place make you feel like you’re family, which make every second that much more relaxing.

17. Nairobi National Reserve

bucket list zuru kenya 17

The Nairobi National Reserve is only 117 square km wide, but don’t think that means you won’t see any wildlife. On our 3 hour game drive in this beautiful park just 7 m outside of the city center, we saw giraffes, zebra, impalas, buffalo and one elusive rhino. In fact, the Nairobi National Reserve is one of the only places in the country where you’ll still find the very endangered rhino roaming around.

18. David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage

bucket list zuru kenya 18

Poaching is still one of the major causes of death for elephants and rhinos in Africa. And you are never more aware of this fact than when you visit the David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage right outside Nairobi. Baby elephants (some as young as 1 month) who are orphaned due to poaching are rescued and brought to the orphanage to receive care until they are old enough to go back into the wild. Here you can adopt an elephant, which will give you the chance to catch a feeding, where keepers feed and nourish the baby elephants with bottles.

19. The quiet, peaceful moments

bucket list zuru kenya 19

In a world so crazed with busy schedules, constant emails and nonstop pressure from colleagues, friends and social media, it’s no wonder we don’t recognize a quiet, peaceful moment when it stumbles upon us. This moment, as we floated through the sky in a hot air ballon, was one of them. My travel colleague told us to all put down our cameras and our phones and just be in that moment. It was probably the most meaningful moment I had in years. The tranquility and the serenity of the landscape and the quiet was astounding.

Claire Gallam, Huffingtonpost.