Born out of a need to preserve the Maasai Mara ecosystem, the luxury safari camp that is Mahali Mzuri is indeed living up to its name as the “beautiful place” it was designed to be; that’s if the Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2021 is anything to go by. Voted best hotel overall worldwide, this camp located in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy is a must tick on your travel bucket list.
Part of the Virgin Limited Edition collection, Sir Richard Branson's majestic safari camp in the Masai Mara is "just perfect," according to one voter. The seemingly space-age tents somehow rise up out of the landscape and blend in with it simultaneously. Wildlife remains abundant in the surrounding bush — ideal for the twice-daily game drives — and the guides are extremely knowledgeable. One respondent raved about the "excellent service," adding that "the hospitality provided at Mahali Mzuri resembles the name," which means beautiful place in Swahili. Another reader says simply that it's "the best luxurious camp to visit on the African continent."
More info: travelandleisure
Mahali Mzuri is home to 12 no ordinary luxury tents; each fitted with an ensuite private bath, cozy bedding, leather furniture for lounging, grand clawfoot soaking tubs, and expansive windows and doors that open up to a massive deck where you can easily soak up sunrises, sundowners and everything in between. To paraphrase the establishment, The camp’s excellent location gives you a front-row seat, not just to the annual great migration, but also to the abundant game you get the pleasure of seeing all year round.
“It is an exceptional honour and dream come true to be named as the Number One Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure’s knowledgeable readers,” says General Manager Wilson Odhiambo. “Being recognized in any capacity by one of the most respected and renowned resources on travel globally is incredible in itself. Receiving two accolades, including Number One Safari Lodge alongside World’s Best, is exemplary and a recognition of the hard work and dedication that every single person in our Virgin Limited Edition team puts into Mahali Mzuri and serving its incredible guests each and every day.”
Travel + Leisure recognizes the top hotels, islands, cities, cruise lines, airlines, spas, and more, based on the results of their readers’ survey. Readers rated hotels on rooms/facilities, location, service, food and value. This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three year period.
The 2021 World’s Best Awards lists, as well as survey methodology, are currently featured on www.travelandleisure.com and will appear in the October 2021 issue of the magazine, on newsstands September 17. This year, the awards will see the Virgin Limited Edition collection triumph as Kasbah Tamadot, its beautiful retreat in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, is also named the Number One Resort in North Africa and the Middle East for the fourth year.
With a burst of wild beauty and intangible spirit, Kenya barely falls short of spots designed to give your instagram feed that travel glow-up you desire!
In case you have been struggling to locate those brag-worthy spaces, we highlight some cool spots which we believe will speak to your nomadic self. There is no reason now why your feed shouldn’t have some aesthetically pleasing travel snaps!
Peep these off-the-beaten instaworthy spots around Kenya
The Giraffe Manor, Nairobi / @karina_nigay
An Instagram favorite, the giraffe manor has seen many travel miles upon miles just to capture that wow-mazing snap with it’s resident herd of Rothschild’s giraffes at the most unforgettable bucket-list breakfast in the world.
Old Town, Mombasa/ @ashleemajormoss
Reminiscent of the days when the Arabs exerted heavy influence on the town and its culture, and especially in the architecture. Old Town is well known for its ancient buildings, extravagant art designs and curio shops that sell antique and popular Kenyan souvenirs. Here, you will be spoilt for choice with an array of backdrops available for that perfect instashot!
The Majlis, Lamu/ @spiritedpursuit
Situated on Manda Island in Lamu, The Majlis offers you the perfect blend of Luxury, style, swahili culture and western comforts. Accentuate your feed with some ultra-stylish and elegant Lamu style decor with displays of antique Swahili furniture, African paintings and sculptures.
The Brandy Bus, Nairobi / @thebrandybus
How about an old-school bus revamped into a cozy and quaint home? The tones and eccentric details that this cottage style accommodation has to offer will definitely up your instagram with some enchanting decor and colour.
Shepherds huts, Nanyuki / @onestopnanyuki
As if having Mount Kenya as a backdrop is not priceless enough, the tasteful decor in shepherds huts at One Stop Nanyuki provides for spectacular travel snaps. If your feed features some neutral tones with some hints of greenery, this is the perfect spot for you!
Every year, magic that attracts large numbers of tourists happens. Over 2 million herbivores, acting on uumm… animal instinct – and all that pun – move homes. The grass, they note, is greener on the other side. So they migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara to enjoy a few months of pure bliss, fattening, a few births, and the usual survival of the fittest. This feat is so majestic that it has been dubbed The World Cup of Wildlife, and earned its place as one of the world’s wonders. But is that all there is to the Mara?
A little about Maasai Mara…
You cannot talk of parks in Africa without mentioning Maasai Mara. The 1.510km park lies southwest part of Kenya, and it borders the Serengeti of Tanzania. Several tented accommodations host over 100,000 visitors every year. On a random day of the peak season – usually July to October, you won’t miss at least five safari vans in the park.
Image: Maasai Mara
Here are five fascinating facts about this national reserve.
The Locals love their Mara
One of the most unique things about Maasai Mara is its connection to the local community. You see, it is named for the Maa community that has lived here since the 17th century. The local authorities are in charge of the management of most of the park, a fact that has helped resolve wildlife-human conflicts in the region.
Home to the Big Five… and then some
The Mara is home to almost 100 species of mammals. It is also where you will find all members of the Big Five: Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, and Rhinoceros. It makes sense that the park houses this large number being as it measures 1,510 km2.
Over the years, man has been unkind to wildlife, killing and exploiting game for his own benefit. However, a census done in 2017 shows the number of elephants, lions, giraffes, and almost every large mammal in the Mara to be increasing when compared to those of 2014. These good news can be attributed to the intentional conversation efforts being made by various parties, and we all laud them.
Quick fun fact: the Mara is also fondly known as the Kingdom of Lions.
Four Different Topographies
The Mara is divided into four different topographies; Ngama Hills, Oloololo Escarpment, Mara Triangle, and Central Plains. Ngama Hills is 2025 meters above sea level and is characterized by sandy soil that black rhinos seem to love. The Oloololo Escarpment was once densely populated with trees, but elephants damaged most of them so that now it’s mostly grassland. The Mara River crosses here, making this area an animal haven.
The Mara Triangle is also mostly a lush grassland that borders the Mara River and is well-loved by animals. It is quite popular with visitors. In the Central Plains, you will find antelopes and gazelles that prefer to graze in the open grassland where they can see their predators.
Bird Species – so Many Types
If you are into bird watching, then you may want tocampat the Mara for a while. This haven is home to over 450 bird species, with White-Tipped Crest, Red-Winged Schalow’s Turaco, and Orange Buff Pel’s Fishing Owl among those roaming the open savanna freely. There are about 53 species of predator birds too.
Image: Mara Engai
Filming Ground of the Big Cat Diary
That BBC Film that keeps most of us glued to Nat Geo, Big Cat Diary, is shot in the Mara – in both the reserve and conversation parts of the park. Cool, right?
Been to the Mara?
Been there yet? Nothing beats seeing these beautiful animals roaming their natural home freely. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to make a trip.
While often times, people prefer to travel and explore new destinations in groups, (because it may seem like the safest choice, perhaps even more fun-filled) we are, as of more recently, seeing adventure seekers break off from the norm by taking what some would deem a “bold step” – going at it solo. Why would anyone prefer to travel all alone devoid of any company? might there be any comfort in doing so?
I would like to think that there are people out there who solely enjoy the experience of discovering and exploring new places by their lonesome. It might be a slight concern for some that there is “no safety in numbers per se” when you plunge yourself deep into solo travel but the benefits far out way the concerns.
Read for yourself…
You Are Your Own Master
Yes, you can be your own master when you are alone. You are not answerable to anyone if you stay awake till late or wake up late. You are not forced to go to places that you do not wish to visit or do things for someone’s happiness. You can do something only that pleases you. You get a lot of ‘me’ time. This is really important. If you visit with kids, you need to plan according to them which can take a lot of your time.
Doing things that you have never done without anybody’s help will surely boost your confidence. Solo travelers have to book tickets and hotel rooms all by themselves. They have to find about other facilities and inquire about everything from others on their own. This helps them improve their communication and hence their confidence.
Easy to Plan
When travelling in a group every member’s opinion and likes and dislikes have to be taken into account. Someone has to forgo something for the sake of others. This compromise may rob the fun of the outing. But when it comes to solo travel, planning revolves around you. So, you can decide where you wish to go, when and how. The enjoyment factor will increase manifold.
Make New Friends with Ease
Traveling alone does not mean that you do not speak to someone. Yes, you can add new people to your friends’ list along the way when you share your thoughts and experiences and other things with them. This increases the friendship. This is solely your choice. In a group, it may not be so. You may have to give up a lot.
Get A Lot of Experience
Going about alone in a strange land amidst strange people may not be easy. You may have to learn a new language to mingle with the people. You may have to learn to eat and live like the local people. This will teach you a lot in life. These experiences will help you to grow and mature and help in nurturing your relationships.
Make Your Own Itinerary
A group decides to do things with a majority vote. A single voice crashes down. You have to go to a museum or a national park even if you wished to go to the beach instead. The whole trip you just went by someone’s wishes. Your wishes were curbed and that diminished your fun quotient. A solo traveler has freedom to go as per his or her wish.
Know Yourself Better
It is really important to know your potential and also your weaknesses. Only when you are on your own you can know about this. You are free to do what you wish. There is no pressure and reduced stress. Your performance increases and so does your efficiency. You will be surprised about yourself learning that you can accomplish a task which you dread doing.
You can learn to value many things when you are all on your own. A person who is a spendthrift and does not care about money may learn to value it especially in a new land when there is no one to help when you are short of money. This will teach you to manage your finances better. You will also learn not to spend it on unnecessary items.
You can learn to observe things better when you are alone. You need to be alert and manage everything on your own. You become responsible and also learn to take care of yourself which you may have not done all your life as someone took this responsibility. Increasing your observing skills will make you a better person.
For many people gratification does not come easily. When travelling alone almost all wishes get fulfilled and a sense of satisfaction creeps in. This feeling of gratification helps a person to grow up and makes him or her calm from inside. You tend to understand others easily and can build relationships easily.
If you are yet to attempt solo travel, try it once and learn more about yourself.
Veganism seems to be the new fad these days. Not because Vegan food is healthier than meat and stuff; but mainly because there’s a growing awareness among people in relation to a healthier ecosystem that involves non-killing and zero exploitation of animals for personal needs. The “revolution” is seemingly here to stay; with America having witnessed a skyrocketing 600% increase in converts since 2014 and the UK not being left far behind with an average 350% surge in their vegan numbers. The rest of the world is catching up too. Kenya included.
As the transition to veganism picks pace globally, it now seems increasingly easy to travel as a vegan. While Kenya has catered to plant-based diets for years, it was and still is to a large extent a bit difficult to find restaurants and/or accommodations that solely cater to herbivores – aside from Indian restaurants of course! – making it quite a difficult adjustment to your culinary tastes when you have to travel.
Experiencing other cultures and traditions is all swell – but if your interests lie more towards exploring the greener world around you as a vegan, Jenny Travens, let’s you in on 5 things you could do to not only make your trip a little bit more seamless but also benefit the planet and other people while at it.
Select the destination carefully
Give a good thought in choosing your desired destination. Research is everything! Being vegan, you obviously want to find out where the nearest vegan restaurant/café would be from where you’d be putting up – Google maps is your friend here. Your accommodation choice would also be dependent on whether the establishment offers plant-based diets or if they could recommend alternative eateries/supermarkets within their area.
Vegan restaurants galore
Even before you start, you dream of enjoying local yet tasty delicacies on your trip.
Travel bloggers believe that native and healthy foods are a prerogative of travelers. You just can’t keep them away from the popular food street. It’s like, if they haven’t tasted the favorite dishes of the region, their journey is incomplete. It is quite easy to follow a plant-based diet in Kenya as majority of our meals are vegan friendly.
Look for restaurants that serve vegan food. You can find plenty of vegetarian eateries wherever you go. Even the ones, who were serving non vegetarian food over the years, have now added meatless dishes to their menu.
One tip would be to go to an Indian restaurant. India is historically known for its vegetarian food habits. While in Nairobi, you can sample one of the Chowpaty restaurants – a four chain restaurant serving purely vegetarian. Rest assured you’ll find a plethora of amazing food items there.
Shopping is a must on holidays! Isn’t it?
You can never go wrong with Kenyan-made artifacts that you for sure want to carry back as souvenirs. The Masaai Market is one thing you should look forward to for your shopping.
Refrain from picking things made of leather and suede. Instead, handicrafts and artifacts of paper, cotton, jute and vegetable fiber are a good buy. Fabrics like silk, angora and wool shouldn’t be preferred either. If you love books and stationery stuff, make sure it uses hand-crafted papers which are environmentally friendly.
Such items may not be that shiny, finished and have a machine precision look but certainly add to that vintage value. Believe it or not, most things of the past are making a comeback today.
A day at the countryside
This one is my favorite, to be honest.
You can never experience the natural side of the terrain and landscape if you stay put in the city. People living in villages and back roads are always closer to nature. Immerse yourself into country living by exploring what the community-based village home-stay programs in the country have to offer. You might as well get your hands dirty with some farming and also enjoy varied cultural community practices while at it.
Promote Veganism in style
Let your entire trip be dedicated to encouraging vegan ways. Avoid partaking in events/tourism activities that may use animals or support animal exploitation such as donkey and camel riding. Also beware of products that owe their existence to the illegal wildlife trade.
Whilst you have a blast on your trip, don’t forget to let the rest of the world in on the vegan-friendly causes and activities you partake in. Social media can be a great tool to let people in on how the world is changing and growing responsibly.
Final Words –
Before winding up, let me share a cool marketing tip – Contribute to a cause and post it on Instagram. You’ll be amazed by the resultant reach and number of people you’ll appeal to!
Jenny Travens –
Jenny is a creative blog writer who has many passions and interests. Health and wellness is one area where she likes to contribute as much as she can. She is currently contributing to – HxBenefit & Remedy.
2018 has started off on a high note for us and we’re delighted to announce that Zuru Kenya has been nominated in the Kenya Travel Awards 2018 by Jumia Travel! We’re up for Best Destination Website, and we’re pretty excited about it.
The awards aim at promoting Kenya’s tourism sector, and responds to the need of encouraging hoteliers to improve the quality of their services for further advancement of their respective destinations.
“By organizing these African Travel Awards, our mission is not only to recognize and reward the merit of local tourism stakeholders, but also to provide a credible benchmark for the African tourism industry,” said Joe Falter, CEO of Jumia Travel.
We’d be thrilled if you showed your support and voted for us. The process is straightforward and voting should take just a few minutes – all you will need to do is click the link, enter a few details and submit your vote. Anyone is welcome to vote, so please do feel free to share the link with your family and friends – it would be hugely appreciated! Plus Bonus! All voters will automatically be entered into the Awards’ prize draw, where you could win a stay in the winning hotel – oh my!
Voting closes on 26th January, with winners being feted at a ceremony which will be held on February 1st, at Fairmont the Norfolk from 6PM. In other Jumia Travel countries, the awards will be held simultaneously on the 25th of January; in Lagos, Algiers, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra, Douala, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala. Vote now!
“I go by Moses Obanda, a landscape and travel photographer with six years of experience. I enjoy reading books and obviously traveling. I’m a bit socially awkward but once I’m behind the camera, I can conquer the world. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication from Africa Nazarene University, graduated in 2014.”
Zuru Kenya: When did your love for Travel photography crop up and what exactly sparked it?
Obanda: When I was a second year student in campus. That’s when I realized my heart was in Travel Photography. Before that I was into a lot of pencil drawing but once I picked up the camera, I fell in love and was amazed by the fact that I could visually illustrate what I had in my mind.
How often do you travel?
I try to travel at least once a month. Worst case scenario, once every two months dependent on whether I have the money to travel.
Since getting into travel photography, are there any hurdles that you have encountered along the way?
I personally think that there are more hurdles in Travel Photography than in any other form of photography. For starters, it’s quite expensive. So there’s that. Then you might find yourself treading in dangerous and unsafe places just to get the perfect shot. There’s also the issue of security when travelling to remote areas and then of course the weather is always unpredictable! All that aside, when your heart is fully in it, these obstacles become just but miner details that make your journey and the outcome even more adventurous.
What kind of DSLR do you shoot with and do you always have a camera with you?
When am not shooting with a Nikon D5300, I have with me a Canon 6D. Yes, I always have a camera with me. It’s the most essential item for me; especially when I leave town.
Which of your photographs is your personal favorite and why (what’s the story behind the making of it?
I took this photo a while back when a couple of my friends and I had gone camping in Maasai Land. We stayed there for a week and on our last day while walking back from our hike; I spotted from a distance, a Maasai herding his cows on a hill. As I wanted to capture him and the hundreds of cows by his side, I started running towards him trying to get as close as I could for the perfect shot. Unfortunately, by the time I got a clear shot, only two cows were left standing beside him. Nonetheless I was lucky to have captured it the way I did; a perfectly balanced-out piece of art. I consider it one of my most priced images.
Your 3 favorite places to photograph so far and why?
My favorite places to photograph are Maasai land, Watamu and Amsterdam. These places not only have rich histories but also conducive environments to photograph. Locals here are also always welcome to a photograph or two.
The one place in Kenya you’d go back to over and over again?
The one place in Kenya that I would go again, is Maasai Land, I have actually gone there twice and am going again next year for another expedition.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
My inspiration is drawn from ‘creatives’ in general, not just photographers. Writers, poets, singers; people who chose to pursue their passion and are excelling at it. When it comes to photography however, I’m mostly inspired by fellow young budding photographers.
Individuals like Philip Kisia of Pelz photography & Annemiek Van Der Kuil to name a few, big names in their own right, successfully paving their own path in photography. I’m very appreciative of the fact that they are always at my disposal when it comes to feedback on my work and I can certainly attribute my growth to them.
My family and friends also inspire me a lot by way of their support. My sister Doreen makes a point to like every picture that I post and that gives me life.
What do you look out for as a result when taking your photos and how do you get your photos to speak that?
I always try to capture the mood of the situation and of the people in my focus. Portraying that moment to my audience – be it a moment engulfed in sadness, happiness or despair, that very instance in time, just how I see it, is what I strive to showcase.
What are a few tips you would give someone who wants to pursue travel photography?
Make certain that this is the path you truly want to follow; it will be quite a thrill – obstacles and all. Keep in mind that you also need to be open minded. Learn about other people’s cultures every chance you get and don’t worry about money too much. As cliché as it may sound, it’s not always about the money, when you want to do something and your intentions are right then it will all fall in place eventually.
What does your next year look like in terms of places you plan to visit, and why have you picked those as the first destinations?
I’m looking to visit more African countries, probably start with Zambia. Before that though, I intend on travelling to Turkana and the North Eastern part of Kenya; those are the only places in the country that I am yet to visit hence why they top my ‘places to go’ list for next year ( God willing of course!). I’m very much into African history and would love to simply explore the continent and learn more from its history.
6.00 am – an hour to the designated pick up time, I heave a sigh of relief as I spot the very green, very modern shuttles while we approach the Mombasa Railway station. There had been stories of shuttles that would ferry passengers for free, week long after the train service launch. Pick up points would be the old Nairobi and Mombasa Railway stations. Scheduled pick up time – between 7.00 am to 8.00 am so as to allow passengers enough time to purchase their tickets at the Nairobi and Mombasa termini.
I decided to arrive an hour early just in case this shuttle business was just what it was – a story and I found myself having to organize for other means of transport to the Mombasa Terminus. Sure enough, the shuttles were there as promised, courtesy of the National Youth Service (NYS) although I highly doubt there were any shuttles left by 7.00am. I barely managed to catch the first shuttle out; it seems I wasn’t the only eager passenger.
Train travel has always been very alluring. It’s no wonder Kenyans have turned up in their thousands to sample the #MadarakaExpress for themselves since its launching. Took me back to my childhood days when holidaying meant travelling in a train. Had me wondering whether it would still feel the same as it did during the #LunaticExpress days. Sadly the only faint memory I have of the good old days was the splendid yellow long buns served in the train by the pantry boys. Those were some yummy buns.
The commencement of the train service has nonetheless not been without its tiny hitches. Those should be aired out soon enough though as service picks pace. This post however highlights observations, appreciations and tips that should serve to make the experience of other train enthusiasts seamless.
#1 The Madaraka Express Experience is a pretty sweet deal.
As if having cut down travel time by half doesn’t have you sold yet, the fare charges should have you travelling to and from coast over the weekend just coz you can afford to no?! *Although I can bet a mighty dollar that the fee is bound to go up soon enough.
Did I mention breakfast in Mombasa, lunch in Nairobi and vice versa? The train service is moreover going to provide a truly budget alternative to road transport once the sub-stations are fully functional and the trains operational.
#2 The pre-commute commute can be daunting.
Unless you live within the confines of Miritini or Syokimau, commuting to the respective terminus is inevitable. Reduce the amount of time and money spent on your pre-commute by staying within city limits of the termini.
PS. Traffic bound to be experienced to and from departure and arrival points beats the whole “convenience” of train travel time.
#3 No Signage
There is no signage to steer traffic towards the stations along the highway. I hopped into a syokimau matatu trusting that the conductor would be familiar with the terminus only to find myself at the syokimau railway station. Luckily I had enough time to spare so I walked all the way back to the Nairobi Terminus. If you are for that reason not quite familiar with the area keep in mind to be on the lookout for the station from a distance.
#4 African Timing for who?
If there ever was an invention that would help keep Kenyans in toe when it came to time keeping, this would be it. 9 O’clock sharp the train is off. If you are therefore of the African timing philosophy, you will definitely be left behind. Time waits for no man.
#5 Weekends are a rush
If you plan on travelling over the weekends, be sure to book your ticket early enough. There seems to be a plethora of people journeying to and from coast for whatever reason. Ticketing starts at 7.00 am, incase you’d rather still chance it up and book the day of, make it that you arrive early on, ticket queues start budding as early as 5.45am.
#6 Waiting rooms get crowded.
Given the number of passengers, the waiting lounge can get crowded pretty quick. The pros to booking train travel is that you can show up to the station within minutes of your train’s departure time, avoiding any uncomfortable waiting once the lounges are filled to capacity. Plus concern of being the first in line for a seat in the train is a non-issue.
#7 hit the dining car at the start of your adventure.
“The restaurant car is in coach 6. Kindly wait in your seat and someone will come and get your order shortly.”
Unless you can still sit tolerantly 3 hrs into the journey, the above announcement on rotation, with no food or person to get your order in site, darling find your way to coach 6 whilst the queue is still bearable and before all the café tables are taken. Hunger waits for no man. In my opinion, it seems the caterers are yet to adjust to the overwhelming number of mouths to feed in just one trip, so whilst others are still shuffling for their seats, sort yourself as early as possible. Food pricing is also not to everyone’s taste so if you can, carry your own snacks along.
#8 Game Drive, No park fees, Take in the sights.
Road transport robs you of the allure of long distance travel. More often than not, one would need to psyche themselves up for one tedious Nairobi – Mombasa journey. Train travel, however, has this thrill to it. 4 and a ½ hours in but boy does it pack a punch! A perfect blend of town and countryside, travelling through lush lands and savannah landscapes, in between small, quaint towns, through new construction and forgotten dilapidation, experiencing both rural and urban at one go, simply magical.
Did I say magical, how about a journey through Tsavo East and West National parks, Elephants and numerous other wildlife put in impressive appearances on your train safari. There goes that word again, magical! Perhaps the highlight of the Madaraka Express experience would be at Mtito Andei when the two trains – from Mombasa and Nairobi respectively – intersect and you get to witness just exactly how fast your own train is traversing because honestly when inside the train you barely notice that the train is moving fast paced if at all.
#9 There is Room to Roam
The Madaraka Express train doesn’t cramp your style. You are more than free to walk around and explore other parts of the train as opposed to being confined to an uncomfortable seat your entire trip. Heck, you can even change seats if you want to (although as I came to realize not everyone can be as kind-hearted).
#10 Ready to mingle?
Is it that hard to spark conversations while travelling by bus or is there just something in the train’s air? Perhaps it’s the natural proclivity to converse provided for by the seating arrangement or maybe it’s the pure fascination of the rail travel revolution that has everyone talking. Either way, Madaraka Express not only offers you the comfort of a good face to face conversation, it also guarantees you a new friend or two at the end of the journey.
There’s no denying that across stations, help desks, ticketing booths, uniforms, promotional material, security and overall train service, customers get a good feel of the value-focused attitude of the SGR brand. Unlike the Lunatic “Express“which travelled at a lazy-man’s jog with frequent breakdowns, the Madaraka train service gives a whole new meaning to express. SGR offers an irresistible sense of discovery, of adventure and finer aspects of travel and thrill that long-distance buses and even budget airlines cannot afford you.
Your first #MadarakaExpress Experience is guaranteed to be a memorable one but generally the notion is that you’re responsible for your own experience.
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.
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.
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’.
With the much expediency that tuk-tuks offer, why would anyone have a problem with them?
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.
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.
Things to note:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We are honored and humbled to have been featured as one of the Top 10 African Travel Blogs listed on Africa.com Thank you very much. Read the feature below…
One of the greatest pleasures for many travelers is getting the chance to travel extensively through the great African continent. For some travel aficionados, journeying across Africa has become their unofficial career and they’ve documented their incredible travels on a variety of interesting and thrilling travel blogs. Some bloggers use their special skills for telling a great story to showcase the great continent; others tap into a more specialized skill like their experiences working with animals or local communities to add texture and context to their blogs.
All the best African travel blogs have color, personality and take you on a visual tour of Africa’s countries and cultures. The only qualifier here is that the blogs need to be independent and personal – here are some of the most outstanding African travel blogs you have to start reading now.
1. Maroc Mamma – Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, Morocco
Moroccan travel enthusiast and food lover, Amanda, is based in Marrakech and travels extensively throughout the region documenting the food, drink and varied cultures of Morocco. Her favorite part of the country includes the immense and awe-inspiring coastline, and she highly recommends taking the time to stop and sip the mint-tea while experiencing Moroccan culture.
Her blog is also packed with tips for travelling through the region and beautiful pictures of her travels. There’s also a great guide to festivals and holidays in Morocco as well as advice on tours and trips and shopping… perfect for planning your first Moroccan holiday.
2. The Incidental Tourist – Dawn Jorgensen, South Africa
Based in Cape Town, Dawn is an avid traveler and photographer with a deep love for Africa and its people. She’s been gorilla trekking in Uganda, turtle rescuing in Kenya and even tree planting in Zambia. Her background is in travel and hospitality and after selling her own travel tour company she’s spent the last few years as a professional tourist, promoting conscious and mindful travel across Africa that highlights responsible travel with respect for the cultures with which you interact.
Check out her blog’s guide to whale watching, her tips for visiting South Africa’s best malaria-free safari destinations, and her four-day hike through a rainforest in Madagascar… it’ll make you want to grab your bags and hit the road immediately.
3. Backpacking for African Beginners – Valerie Bowden , Ethiopia
In 2013, Valerie, now living in Ethiopia, backpacked all the way from Cape Town to Cairo by herself and only using public transport. Not only did she make some wonderful friends and connections on her seven month trip through the continent, but she picked up a bucket-load of useful information and practical do’s and don’ts for travelling through the continent alone and safely.
Her blog not only recounts her many travels disseminating a world-positive view of Africa and its people, but she has plenty of guides, lists and sage advice on how to plan and execute your ideal backpacking trip. Her tips include pointers on how to pack light, how to pre-plan your trip, what special travel gear and gadgets might be worth investing in, and some updates and red lights for things that can go wrong and ways to prepare for hiccups.
4. Bright Continent – Anton Crone, South Africa
Photographer, writer, editor and eco-blogger, Anton Crone, pens a blog exploring the bright cultural heritage of the African continent. From his native Cape Town, to delving into secular music in Mali, to exploring Tanzania’s Rubondo Island National Park, Crone often trails off the beaten track to highlight parts of the continent we rarely get to see. Even better, his posts are complimented with beautiful pictures from the most far-flung places.
Crone goes far beyond travel writing, his stories and accounts are insightful, often poignant, expansive and bright. His blog casts a fresh gaze on the continent, its people and cultures that creates a fresh narrative, one that is sorely needed in the travel space. Wending far off the beaten track then back again, always with a transformed perspective that make reading his blog a journey all on its own.
5. The Travel Manuel – Lauren McShane, South Africa
Lauren and Vaughan McShane are the jet-setting duo behind one of South Africa’s favorite travel blogs, The Travel Manuel. And, no, they didn’t spell ‘manual’ wrong – ‘Manuel’ is Lauren’s maiden name. Their blog describes them as digital nomads and modern day explorers. Their travels across South Africa paint a charming picture of the country and its people and the blog is definitely worth getting into.
The blog is also packed with beautiful pictures and tips for travels across Africa. They often allow guest bloggers to contribute with their own stories and helpful travel advice and they also have a nifty section with product reviews for travel friendly items.
6. Zuru Kenya – Olive Majala Maloti, Kenya
With the goal of raising the profile of Kenya and showcasing its people, diversity, food, culture, wildlife and landscapes, Olive has built up her Zuru Kenya blog into a full high quality travel and leisure website packed with information, narratives and beautiful photography about East Africa.
The blog has been gaining massive popularity and was even nominated for a BAKE Kenyan Blog Award in 2015. Along with featuring Kenya’s amazing wildlife and safaris, it also highlights culture and traditions, food and festivals, people and the history. It also showcases the different regional attractions helping visitors plan well-rounded and diverse trips to the country.
7. Duff’s Suitcase – Sarah Duff, South Africa
As the former digital editor for Getaway Magazine, Sarah Duff knows a thing or two about smart travel. Sarah travels the world, but she’s particularly insightful about the continent where she lives, telling incredible stories of people and places that paint a unique picture of Africa that will inspire your wanderlust.
Sarah’s been carving out a name for herself as an international blogger with her 500-day around the world trip and the beautiful pictures from her travels. Her blog is also packed with personal stories from her trips across Africa and abroad with some good advice for others looking to do the same.
8. Discovering Kenya – Zainab Daham, Kenya
Kenyan born and raised, Zainab Daham created her blog to highlight the beauty of her Kenya to potential visitors. Zainab does more than write about her own travels through Kenya, she also documents the stories of her fellow countrymen discussing the food, culture, fashion, and travel.
Unlike a lot of similar blogs about beautiful Kenya, Zainab goes one step further by exploring the art and fashion of Kenya and the artists that create them. She also features some of the country’s most outstanding places from spas, to lodges, to beautiful old colonial towns along its coastline.
9. The World Pursuit – Cameron Seagle and Natasha Alden, Africa
American couple, Cameron and Natasha, have been building a following with their blogs documenting their travels around the world – their narrative is fun and light and packed with information and travel tips for fellow travelers too. They took to Africa on their HashtagAfrica adventure that tracked their journey via the route and a vlog along with notes on the logistics of their travel.
The duo revealed they were interested in a cross-Africa trip partly because they found a complete dearth of information on many of the places that should have been well-mapped. They make a good point, there’s much of Africa that is still unknown to tourists and travelers – check out their blog to see where on the continent you might want to explore.
10. Mzansi Girl – Meruschka Govender, South Africa
Mzansi Girl is self-named for love of her country, Mzansi meaning “south” and a term locals often use to refer to her native South Africa – she’s taken that one step further, expanding her Twitter account that she started to document her travels across the country during the FIFA World Cup to a full blog packed with stories and travel tips from all corners of the country.
What makes Meruschka’s blog really interesting is that she writes about places many people know exist, or have even driven past, but few have stopped to explore properly. As a result she’s discovered some real treasures – check out her site to discover something new about South Africa.