A Wedding, All Inclusive and Safari in Kenya

Articles from Kenya Mombasa, Kenya | Sep 01, 2011

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  We cautiously approached, holding our breath until we were to the bottom of the giraffe’s feet. We found him as prey, with a gaping hole where his stomach used to be. We circled the bush looking for lions with my heart beating through my chest.  

As I’m writing this, I’m suffering from an acute case of insomnia and jet lag or what I would more lovingly call as an I-cannot-get-back-to-normal feeling. Having been back from Mombassa now for the best part of a week, I’m still trying to recover from being whipped by the aggressive Kenyan winds, having a face to face encounter with a lioness – in front of her newly killed prey and the acceptance that I just did an all inclusive, for perhaps the first and last time in my life!


Let’s get back to the beginning. This one wasn’t a Kaya volunteer specific trip but a personal jaunt across the shores to attend a good friend of the family’s wedding which was set to take place the day after my birthday – the 20th August. While this post then is not volunteer related, it may be of interest to those looking to travel in their spare time to Mombassa and other areas of Kenya, so I hope it comes of interest to some of you readers!


For this trip in particular, what made sense was that everyone signed up for a 2 week package deal, the easiest to accommodate everyone and to facilitate the rest of the activities that would take place over the two weeks – wakeboarding, beach volleyball, safari... you name it, I think we may have tried to do it! While I’m not an all inclusive kind of a girl, and will not be doing that again, it actually worked really well for the purpose of this trip – to attend the wedding, and to socialise with a large portion of the wedding party! I met some wonderful characters, drank a lot of dodgy Kenyan gin (not to be recommended highly) and saw a beautiful bride walk down the aisle.


The journey began with a 24 hour trip from Tacloban to Mombassa, via Manila, Bangkok and Addis Abiba. Long cold flights (where a cheeky Chinese man stole what should have been my blankets and headphones), hard under shopped airports (this one’s for Addis I’m afraid, not Bangkok!) and a lot of stiff necks were the measure of the day, and while Ethiopian Airlines has a lot to be desired, Thai Airways was great. A slightly disorientated 24 hours later, I landed upon Kenya shores and was welcomed by a backpack less 2 pairs of RayBan sunglasses (still a sore point) and a huge JAMBO by all the local staff! Jambo is the official Kenya greeting meaning ‘hello’, followed usually by a conversation about your life and how you are and a Hakuna Matata literally meaning ‘no worries’ (if it sounds familiar that would be your early years watching the Lion King!!). Hakuna Matata was the phrase of the fortnight, with a slight variation of Filipino time to say the least! But, being in true Filipino fashion, time passed, waiting happened, the food was interesting and the sun shone!


We were based at Baburi Beach – staying at Traveller Beach Club, which was great actually. It has everything we needed and was right on the beach with lovely pools and nice big rooms. What was a shame though, was that there was a huge expanse of white sand, beautiful shallow warm waters and gorgeous scenery, but the beach was really off limits for relaxation time. The number of camels, sunglass and tat shop hagglers made that near impossible and for me, it’s a little bit of a travesty to go to the beach and not swim!! Still, the long walks and the one token run (my great fitness regime soon went downhill after, oohh, I day!) provided a great way to walk off all that food (pancakes and potatoes galore) and I’ve now shed my Filipino rice belly, for a good old potato one.


Along with time at Bamburi, we headed to the local nature trail to spot some blue-balled monkeys (real name still unknown), headed to the creek for some great snacks and drinks at The Moorings where everyone also got wet wakeboarding and jet skiing, and spent time at Vipingo Ridge for the hen-do and wedding. I definitely spent 2 weeks in Kenya as a wealthy visitor, rather than getting to know the locals, and disparity between rich and poor – as in the Philippines, is huge. While this took a number of people time to get used to and adjust, I have become quite apt at it, must to my shame I have to admit. It seems to me that the third world is made up of just that – those with money and those without. There seems to be no middle ground, and this gap between rich and poor is huge. While I enjoyed incredible activities, lovely meals out and a beautiful hotel, I still longed to get down and dirty in little villages, learning Swahili and getting to know the locals.


A real highlight was our journey to Tsavo East National Park, where we spent 2 days safari-ing. Perhaps against my better judgment (I haven’t been travel sick for a long time), I decided to take a travel sickness pill, and consequently couldn’t stop snoozing – on the bus and in the 4x4 jeeps while we were on the way to the camp in the park! I kept waking up, half out of the jeep freaking out that I was going to get munched by a lion. Anyway, sleeping pills aside, Tsavo East is a huge expanse (covering nearly 12,000 sq km) of national park, home to almost all of the big 5, and more. We had a great 2 days on early morning drives watching the sun rise, and on sundowners watching the sunset behind a camp fire in the wilderness.

A definite highlight was our all singing all dancing Sammy the Lion Spotter jeep driver one day deciding to go off alone to where he had a ‘hunch’ there would be lions about.


There are no antelopes around. He said. (This being right behind the camp).

No antelope’s equals lion and means a potential kill. No sooner has Sammy had a hunch, then we spotted giraffe legs protruding out of a bush.


Is he asleep? Someone asked.


No was the answer.


We cautiously approached, holding our breath until we were to the bottom of the giraffe’s feet. Sleeping he was not. Prey he was, with a gaping hole where his stomach used to be. We circled the bush some more knowing that the killers would be hiding in the confines of the bush and were greeted with a pair of steely eyes in less than 10 seconds. The lioness had seen us. She couldn’t care less – it was her prey after all, and she was full to the brim, but nevertheless, as her gaze locked on mine I couldn’t help by feel a shiver down my spine as the adrenaline kicked in. We stayed for a while and returned later that evening to find her lying down, cooling down presumably, outside of the bush. Her body, her face, her paws were just so big. Although I could imagine her as a killing machine she also just looked like an oversized kitty, one who you could pet and would purr back at you. Did I really believe that? Yes! Until I looked at her closer, saw the fleas on her back, the scars imbedded in her fur and that death stare again and I caught eyes with her.


I’ve been severely humbled on a few occasions in my life, and this by far, was one of the top. She knew her power – she really didn’t move an inch when she saw us. She had finished her feed for the day and was probably sat there thinking – I could have you all, only I can’t be bothered. That power in an animal, is immense.


Aside from giraffe killing lions and roars in the camp at night (I woke up thinking “is that my sister snoring or a lion roaring”), we had a giraffe who made the camp his own, a watering hole about 200m away where we could watch elephants, water bucks and zebras all day long, and an amazing do it yourself BBQ. This was good, rural, wild Kenya and it was amazing. 


Putting everything into perspective, I had a wonderful holiday and was honoured to share in the wedding of my friend. Laura was a beautiful bride, Kenya is a beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back again one day and discover more national parks, hidden treasures and wild coastlines.

Editor's Note: Nicci Hawkins is a Placement Advisor for Kaya Responsible Travel

Tags: travel , Kenya , Mombassa , Safari , Lion , beach , Africa

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