Our visit to Kenya last year wasn’t all a spontaneous travel adventure for us. Carlos’ sister and her family
are currently living in Nairobi so we took full advantage of the opportunity to visit them on this trip. (Our brother-in-law co-founded M-Kopa Solar, a socially-responsible, sustainable energy company that’s revolutionizing the way Kenyans gain access to electricity in some of the most remote parts of the country. Read about their amazing work here.) Naturally, we’d heard a lot of about their lives in Nairobi and the breath-taking wildlife they are surrounded by. Still, we came with little to no expectations – hanging out with our nephews for a week would be enough fun for us. So off we went, no long lists of places circled in a travel book or restaurant recommendations from Tripadvisor – zilch, nada.
For everything that Kenya was – it was mostly a big, beautiful surprise for us. Our experience in Kenya taught us that embracing the experiences in front of us and being open to the surprises ahead are all you ever need to have the adventure of a lifetime. So if you ever find yourself hopping out of a plane in Nairobi, here are 3 places you cannot miss.
Frugal Travel Tip:
Our first stop in our safari was a visit to Sanctuary Farms near the central Rift Valley. Sanctuary Farms is a unique place to visit primarily because it is right smack in the middle of a nature reserve. What sets it apart from all the other nature reserves is that there are no natural predators that roam the area! Because of this, all the animals roam free – the giraffes are peacefully grazing without a care, the herds of zebras are huddled together in a serious meeting, the monkeys are gleefully swinging on the trees above, and the wildebeests are playing in the dirt to cool off. What a sight to see! It was like being transported to the opening scenes of the Lion King where all the animals are gathering together before Pride Rock (and yes, we heard the song inside our heads!) To walk amongst these wild animals in their natural habitat, it was an experience I will never forget.
What’s our favorite memory from our visit at Sanctuary Farms? It was actually coming face to face with a charging wild hippo while on a river safari! Serves us right for coming a little too close for comfort to a protective mommy hippo.
There is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing elephants left for dead by illegal poachers after their valuable ivory. The African Elephants are fast becoming extinct because of this horrible crime.
Visiting the Wildlife Trust was a special treat for us. There, they adopt orphaned baby elephants whose mothers were victims of these heartless poachers. Once at the Wildlife Trust, they are under the care of awesome staff-members; some even take turns sleeping besides the babies because elephants are very emotional and get attached to their caregivers.
As a guest, you can watch as the baby elephants come in all in a line ready for their feeding. They are given gallon-sized bottles of milk to drink and plenty of time to play around in the cool dirt. What a playful and energetic bunch! It’s such a heart-warming sight to see and we’re very hopeful that in a short amount of time, they will grow into able, young adult elephants that will be re-introduced to the wild!
When I think of the word “glam-ping” I will forever think of this slice of heaven! Ekorian Mugie Camp is the brainchild of Donna and Josh Perrett (who has the cutest daughter, Kiara). Together, they have built an amazing eco-friendly camp from the ground up. Josh literally built the small tent-suites and the furniture off of reclaimed/repurposed wood. It is gorgeous! Donna was a classically trained chef in her past career and she brings the scrumptiousness to every meal. Together they have built a world-class camp with all the comforts of home and all the wild animals you can imagine. (It’s about a 5-8 hour drive from Nairobi or a quick 45-minute chartered helicopter ride – you pick!)
As Josh and his team of expert trackers led us on our own private game drives, we saw an abundance of wildlife in Laikipia. This wildlife reserve houses so many animals – including lions, water buffalos, zebras (and the endangered Grevy zebra), oryx, elephants, giraffes, impala, elands, hyenas, warthogs and cheetahs. Whew! I think this place ruined zoos for us forever. How can you ever appreciate wild animals caged in the zoo when you’ve come face-to-face with a fully grown lion in the wild. Amazing!
At the end of the day, you come back energized, eating freshly prepared meals with vegetables harvested from the camp’s organic garden. Then you retire in your own spacious tent (more like a small apartment) equipped with its own running water, a king-sized bed, and hot water shower. Wow!
There was so much to do – we even packed in some kayaking with wild African elephants in the dam and fishing for tilapia and catfish, and a picnic in the bush. Had we had more time, we probably would have checked out their golf-course, but we’ll save that for the next trip.
Of all the places we’ve travelled to in the world, this is probably one of our most favorite places. Sitting in front of the fire, sipping hot tea, starring into the silent Kenya night, and looking up at the stars above – there is nothing like it that we’ve ever experienced!
What's been your favorite eye-opening surprise trips? What places are on your bucket list?