How often do you see animals that were raised in the wild, coexisting with another species in peace? Do you frequently see a giraffe, a zebra and a wildebeest in one area, grazing grass and munching leaves from trees and shrubs harmoniously? I will bet my last dirham on my pocket that it’s not on a daily basis, unless you live where safari is not uncommon. It’s a shameful fact that it’s more typical to witness random arguments and unnecessary fights among us, the so-called-educated and at times, cerebral humans, than in animals that more often than not, only become wild to fight for survival. This and a string of various reasons make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to East Africa very special and truly worthwhile.
THE ARRIVAL FROM DUBAI TO NAIROBI
Last September 2015, I went on a short but meaningful journey from Dubai to Nairobi. Following email-reservation and coordination with Maasai Simba Camp for 3D2N full board accommodation with cultural immersion within their Maasai warrior tribal community; after an e-visa application via evisa.go.ke, I took a flight through Air Arabia from Sharjah in UAE to Nairobi in Kenya.
Four hour-flight after, I found myself as a stranger again not only in a new country but in a new continent. John, the brother of Kakutah (the owner of Maasai Simba Camp), and a driver picked me up from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. I asked them how long will be the drive to the camp from Nairobi airport, and how many tourists are there at present, for me to meet and mingle with. Their answers?
“It’s a three-hour-drive from here, and you’re the only guest that we have for the next 3 days because the Australians already checked out last Sunday.”
The neurotransmission of that auditory stimuli to my brain was faster than I expected. My heart raced a thousand beats! I palpitated even without consuming caffeinated drink! I had spontaneous laboured breathing, and my crazy imagination went haywire in a blink! That moment, I realised that I will be alone inside a vast camp for 3 days and 2 nights, with traditional people of East Africa who call themselves, Maasai warriors, armed with spears, and with the animals that they keep in the wild in their backyard. Did I have any worries? Ah ugh. Not at all! Hahaha!
I had no expectations but to experience safari and to meet the Maasai warriors personally, hence, I was surprised for the warm welcome and the nice reception they prepared for me. Fresh fruit juices, cold water, warm hand towel, well-ventilated and inviting reception area and friendly smiles greeted me upon arrival at the camp.
Free flowing coffee, hot chocolate and tea, books mostly about East Africa and travel magazines were in abundance at the reception and lounge area. There’s nothing more I could wish for except for a fast and free wifi access that sadly they didn’t have during the time of my visit. But who needs to go online when Mother Nature calls for your full and undivided attention?
MY ROOM FOR 3 DAYS AND 2 NIGHTS
I was provided with an entire cottage with en suite toilet and shower, that’s half-a-minute-walking distance from the reception area. They used to escort me at dusk, to go back to my room after dinner, just to make sure that I’m protected from inevitable attacks of monkeys and whatnot.
MY FOOD INSIDE SIMBA MAASAI CAMP
As mentioned earlier, I availed of full-board accommodation therefore, food and drinks (coffee, water and fruit juices from Del Monte tetra packs, with exception of soda and beer that sell for affordable prices) were included already. And what did they serve? Their Maasai chef prepared my food so well, I did not have similar dishes during my entire stay (If you have allergies, or specific preferences like vegetarian or probably, gluten-free dishes, you may opt to request in advance through email). Who needs extra craving when you’re served with food that despite its simplicity, boasts of freshest ingredients, harvested from their very own farm at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro?
The Maasai warrior chef who used to prepare and cook my food during my stay. Thank you!
My first meal inside the camp.
My first plate! Taste was very close to home.
They use freshly harvested vegetables and fruits from their own farm at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That’s the reason why string beans and other vegetables tasted so sweet and very crisp; but I had to pass with passionfruit as I’m not into it.
My other meals on the following day started with a fresh avocado salad.
Nicely seasoned fresh string beans and spaghetti. It’s delish; I kid you not.
Breakfast was equally tasteful and nourishing as the other meals I had inside the camp.
It was a pleasure to eat breakfast with the owner of the camp, Kakutah. He’s so sensible to talk to, being educated with Masters degree in the USA, and more importantly, with a strong vision and a caring heart to his own community.
OUR DAILY 3-HOUR-MORNING WALK
Neither I’m not famous for sugar-coating my featured articles, nor I am hypocrite with my experiences. There’s no point in telling a lie to say that the 3-hour-morning walk in their massive backyard is similar to a walk in the park. It was physically demanding for a soon-to-be-40-year-old man like me who’s living a sedentary lifestyle (read : lazy to exercise, I know. Guilty, Your Honor!). Despite the fact that we were not in a marathon, and we were walking at our own pace, still the activity challenged my physical being.
I tried to relax in between meters that turned into kilometers of walk, and thought of the rewards would be seeing animals up close and personal. I tried to remember happy thoughts just like Peter Pan, hehehehe!
Meet one of my Maasai warrior guides who’s wearing traditional attire proudly.
John and another Maasai warrior (whose name slipped my memory, sorry!) accompanied me for the 3-hour-morning-walk for 2 days that I spent inside Simba Maasai Camp. We used to leave the camp at 7AM after I drink my cup of coffee, then we start to walk and wander within the vast Maasai land. With their impressive bionic eyes and brilliant memory to remember how to go back to the camp despite there was no road signs, we looked for wild animals that I observed and photographed in their natural habitat. It was an extraordinary experience I will never forget for as long as I live!
My two Maasai Warrior guides during our 3-hour-morning-walk.
Armed with spears and bionic eyes, I felt so safe and secured with my 2 Maasai Warrior guides.
ANIMALS WE SPOTTED IN THEIR BACKYARD
Staring contest with a Kudu.
What a refreshing sight! A group of giraffes together in the morning!
More giraffe sightings!
Giraffes and zebras coexisting harmoniously in the wild.
Striped two-tone beauties.
I learned directly from the Maasai, that goats are considered wealth in their community. During the time of my visit, a young goat could be sold at a rate of 5,000 Kenyan Shillings (49 USD), while the bigger and older ones could cost around 15,000 KES (147 USD). Imagine if you have a herd of hundreds of them, crossed bred to tolerate the environmental condition in Nairobi, you do the Math as it could cost a fortune!
A gazelle fell to her death after being attacked by cheetah the night before our walk.
MEETING WITH COUNCIL OF ELDERS – MEN AND WOMEN OF MAASAI TRIBE.
One of the highlights of my stay inside Simba Maasai Camp was meeting the councils of elderly men and women in 2 casual and separate sessions. I had the rare opportunity and a priceless privilege of asking random questions about their culture, their beliefs, their fatherhood and motherhood, their activities of daily living. John served as interpreter between me and their respected councils. I learned so much from them, but above all, they reminded me that life is what we make it. Challenges of urban living while keeping your traditions and identity alive in your bloodstream and skin are always there; it’s up you to face it simply, or with complexity.
CHILDREN OF THE MAASAI TRIBE.
I also encountered children, who unfortunately were out-of-school at the time of my visit because their teachers went on strike for more than a month. These young Maasai tribal kids deserve all the rights of a child that are being enjoyed by the others, including my own son back home.
THEIR COMMUNITY INSIDE THE CAMP
Sure, I was enjoying communing with Mother Nature while I was detached with the online world, but it came to a point of a bit saturation, or perhaps, I had difficulty to avoid not being online even for a while. Hence, I requested to be accompanied to a nearby place with wifi access, just for me to check on my emails, and yes, to update my social networks.
Nearby place with wifi access to their community means walking for more than an hour to their very own public hospital. We needed to cross a completely dried river because of drought, pass by local stores and abodes, and return to the camp using the same route. I did not complain but honestly, savoured the moment.
Another privilege they provided me was to welcome me inside their own traditionally built Maasai home. Based on their customs, it must be the matriarch of a family of Maasai warriors who must build the home for her family. And local homes mean building it using her own hands, out of branches of trees, cow-dung and mud.
SAFARI DAY TRIP TO AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
My last day with the Maasai warriors was spent inside Amboseli National Park, which was also included in the entire package that I availed. Let the photos show you my documented experiences inside that beautiful natural sanctuary.
THE ANIMALS WITHIN THE EXPANSIVE AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
The majestic, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania but its best view’s in Kenya.
The flightless bird needs no further introduction.
Wildebeests. An eye-opener for me that they’re not as wild as I expected to be.
They posed like a pro; like it’s for a fashion editorial photoshoot!
It’s hard to ignore this bird’s red eye.
Among the animals I’ve seen, it’s the giraffes and the elephants that became my favorites!
While you may think of me as Narcissistic which I really don’t mind, I personally love my shots of the elephants in Amboseli National Park! It’s effortless to capture them in photos because the perfect timing presented itself. I’m overwhelmed actually of what I’ve seen and what I’ve documented on photos.
Everybody stops when Dumbo crosses the street, hahaha!
Much more if his little one follows. Isn’t that so cute?
You can’t blame me if I tell you I was really ecstatic to see such sight!
Some things don’t happen on a daily basis.
My guide and I saw a few monkeys running bersek.
Doesn’t it look so relaxing?
The zebras came in third as my favourite animal in Kenya.
Zebra and Hippo. They co-exist in peace. Humans must learn lessons from animals.
That’s me in the van before we take lunch.
You don’t say No to a view like this. This was the sight when we savoured our packed lunch.
Breathtaking, isn’t it?
My lunch mate. He really posed in front of me before I grab my sandwich.
Without going into details, this photo may explain my current personal life situation.
Because my departure from Nairobi back to Dubai was set 2 days after my stay in their camp, I requested my guide and the driver to take me to my friends in Downtown Nairobi instead of the airport. I pre-arranged with fellow Pinoy Travel Blogger, Reiza of www.wander-if-you-must.com, a 2 night-free-hosted-stay with her and her boyfriend, John. Many thanks to both of them for welcoming me to their home in Nairobi!
IN DOWNTOWN NAIROBI WITH FRIENDS, JOHN AND REIZA
While Reiza was still at her work, John cordially brought me to an Ethiopian al fresco restaurant located just off their home. Dinner was so good, and our first-time-conversation was engaging and interesting!
With the help of Reiza and John, I arranged a cab driver to take me around Nairobi the next day. Because the entire week has been meaningful and extraordinary, I chose to go to African Fund for Endangered Wild Life where giraffes are well taken cared of, and to an Elephant Orphanage established by David Sheldrick foundation.
A MORNING WITH GIRAFFES AT AFRICAN FUND FOR ENDANGERED WILD LIFE
AN AFTERNOON AT THE DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUSTS’
While some groups of people are fascinated with anything made of ivory, some are concerned to protect baby elephants from being orphaned after their mothers are murdered for ivories.
My last afternoon in Nairobi was yet another memorable one. I went to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Elephant Orphanage that cares for rescued elephants and raises them for about 3 to 5 years until they’re ready for the life in the wild.
Baby elephants need to be bottle-fed until they reach maturity of about 3 to 5 years before they become ready to be release in the wild.
Tourists like me and the kids were exposed to how nature should be taken cared of.
One of the elephants in the orphanage. You can adopt one of them for USD 50 per year via the organisation’s website.
The taxi cab driver suggested we go to Nairobi Crocodile Farm. Although I am not fond of reptiles, I succumbed to his suggestion without hesitation and simply enjoyed the day.
My lunch platter inside Nairobi Crocodile Farm. No, it ain’t croc meat! Hell, no!
With John and Reiza treating me to a Brazilian Churrasco dinner buffet! Thank you so much!
We ended my Kenyan adventure by showing me how Kenyans party the night away! Yey!
After traveling to 25 countries in 5 continents to date, I can single out that my safari experience in Kenya, and my encounter with the Maasai tribe within their own land, was certainly an eye-opener. Although I did not do any volunteer work, or did not pay great amount of donations for the animals except for my entrance fees, the weeklong journey to Nairobi may be short, but undoubtedly unforgettable! It’s a sensory experience that I will never gain with simply reading travel books and browsing travel magazines. Kenya obviously enriched not only my travel experiences, but my life’s perceptions and my entire being.
*This featured post contains photos taken by the author himself using his mirrorless camera, Fuji XA2. Although some links are mentioned on the post, this article and the author’s trip to Kenya were not sponsored by any of them, rather were provided for readers’ information. Air Arabia sponsored the author’s Russian trip, not this one in Kenya.
For sponsorships and partnerships, you may contact Doc Gelo via this blog’s contact page. Thank you!