This Kenya trip has been a long time coming and it's still kind of hard to process that I just got back from Africa! My best friend, David, grew up in Nairobi and we've worked together since 2009 while traveling for our jobs. Over hundreds of dinners on the road together, listening to his stories about Nairobi, Village life, his family, etc, I just couldn't wait to go see it with my own eyes. So finally, years in the making - Kenya - and Continent #6 - are checked off my bucket list!
It's hard to figure out how best to describe this trip. Kenya is still a very third world country, in many parts that we saw, and it was just a lot to take in and process. Some of the moments that got to me:
All the people on the side of the road in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa - milling around and trying to make a living selling items
The thousands of people cramming onto the Mombasa ferry - just part of their daily routine
Catching glimpses of the little kids washing clothes and bathing in a small pond of water in the village...it really tugs at your heart strings.
The trash almost everywhere and the smells of diesel, roasted corn, trash, burning piles - they all capture your senses and stay with you long after you've driven past them.
The traffic and bumpy roads - oh my! I will never complain about a bumpy road again in my life after the 2.5 hour drive out to Masai Mara on incredibly bumpy dirt roads in an uncomfortable van.
Speed bumps everywhere - why I ask...why?!
And finally the roundabouts in Nairobi that honestly made even the worst traffic amusing to sit through.
Little Boy in Masai Mara outside our camp entrance
Day 1 & 2 - September 5-6 I departed from Houston just before noon on Saturday - flew through D.C. and Zurich - and finally landed in Nairobi at 6:40pm on Sunday. After going through customs, which just took about 40 mins, David and his brother-in-law, Eric, were waiting outside for me. We sat down and waited for our friends Ryan and Eve to arrive. At 9pm we left the airport and into the crazy Nairobi Traffic we went. We got to Nancy's (David's sister) house just after 10pm and had a small meal she had prepared for us of beef stew and rice. Then we drove nearby to the apartment (Daykio at Chania Apartments) that we had rented for the trip; unpacked and went to sleep after a very long travel day.
Day 3 - September 7 This morning around 9:30am we walked over to Yaya Centre mall, which was just a 5 minute walk from our apartment, and had breakfast at Artcaffe. I would quickly learn that security is everywhere in Nairobi. To gain access to any building you generally walked through metal detectors. Driving into a parking garage - your car was inspected. Every apartment complex had an electric fence / barbed wire, a gate, and round the clock security guards. Pretty impressive. After breakfast there was a grocery store at Yaya, where we grabbed some items for the apartment, and then walked back. The rest of the day we explored Nairobi. David drove us to his primary school, Milimani, and to his boarding school, Lenana. We swung by the bank, and then picked up his sister Nancy from work and had a late lunch at Urban Eatery. Around 6:30pm we drove over to the Best Western hotel, one of the few American chains in Nairobi, and had a dinner and drinks on their roof top bar.
For Days 4, 5 and 6 - our Masai Mara Safari Experience - Click Here
Day 7 - September 11 This morning David cooked us breakfast again at the apartment and at noon our taxi picked us up to go to the airport. Our flight to Mombasa took off at 2:40pm and we got there by 3:45. By 4 we were out of the tiny airport and our driver was there waiting for us. So Mombasa was just insane! I'm glad I got to witness it once in my life, but I really hope I never see it again! So many people, traffic and trash everywhere.
And the ferry was nuts! It took over an hour to get on the ferry, and while we were waiting in line to board we were just mesmerized by the thousands of pedestrians cramming onto the ferry. We were told over 250,000 people ride the ferry per day. It's only a 5 minute crossing, but such a long process.
Once we made it across we continued our drive to Galu Beach (just past Diani Beach). Right before we got to the house we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items for the house. We finally made it to Monkey Villa (our home away from home for the next 3 nights) around 7pm. The villa was pretty amazing - almost overwhelming it was so big! 3 stories, 5 bedrooms, verandas, pool, beach access and our own personal chef! Plus round-the-clock watchmen who patrolled the property with a machete and club. Our chef made us dinner from the chicken and pasta we bought that night, and it was just so great after the hecticness of safari to sit out on the patio at the dining table and enjoy the fresh beach air.
Day 8 - September 12 A full day of R&R at Galu Beach! I woke up around 8 and immediately wanted to walk down to the beach. It was beautiful - white side, hardly anyone in sight. I'm glad I went out there in the morning, because the light for this photo with the arched limb is one of my favorites from the whole trip!
The beach was beautiful, but you had to strategically plan your walks. First of all, never go alone - safety. And secondly, watch out for the "beach boys". They would spot you from so far away and start coming over trying to sell you anything and everything. So the best plan was to make sure no one was around, go to the beach, spend less than 10 minutes and as soon as you saw them getting close, walk back up to the house. Once you were on the house property, they could not come up and bug you.
Our chef prepared us breakfast, and we ate out on the 2nd floor patio table. We were done eating and just sitting there when a monkey came into the house! You just have to watch the video to appreciate it. Totally made my morning!!
After our monkey excitement (which happened several more times over the trip) I spent the next few hours laying by the pool and taking walks to the beach. For lunch our chef cooked us freshly caught white snapper with rice and cooked carrots and green beans. It was amazing! More R&R in the afternoon. There were a couple dogs around the property that definitely had the good life, and they would hang out with us on occassion by the pool! I love this photo at the beach of one of the dogs playing in the water, with the boat and man nearby. White sand beach, beautiful water, blue sky and puffy clouds...perfection of a day.
It was interesting watching the tide from morning to late afternoon. I've never seen a tide come in that far to the point there was no beach left...the tide came right up to the stairs of our property.
For dinner our chef made us fried calamari - another amazing meal. I wanted to take this chef home with me! I was really exhausted...from doing "nothing" all day and I turned into bed around 9:30.
Camel Ride on Diani Beach
Day 9 - September 13 Another wonderful day of R&R at Galu Beach. Lounging, reading, pool time, a walk to the beach. After breakfast from 10-1, Ryan, myself and Eve had massages lined up from the "massage lady" we met the day before. For only $10 I got an hour coconut oil massage in a lounge chair situated between the pool and beach. Heaven! More pool time and then we had lunch. As we were finishing up David spotted camels on the beach, so we went out there to check it out. The guys stopped at our stairs trying to sell rides up and down the beach, and of course David and I said yes. Touristy camel ride - check! Ok...so back to pool time and then finally we all got ready for dinner. Tonight we actually left the villa for the first time. We had dinner reservations at Ali Barbour's Cave Restaurant and they picked us up at 6:30. The restaurant was really nice...actually built into a cave. We had a great dinner, good wine and made it back home around 11pm.
Day 10 - September 14 Today was a long travel day. Our taxi picked us up at 6:30am and by 8:40 we got to the Mombasa airport. Our flight departed at 10:10 to Nairobi, and with an hour layover our next flight to Kisumu took off at 1. We arrived just before 2pm and David's cousin, Zach, picked us up and we drove to our hotel - Royal City Gardens. We rested for a while and then at 5 we went out with Zach to grab a drink and dinner. Our first stop was at a bar on Lake Victoria. We enjoyed a Tusker beer and watched the most amazing sunset over the lake! It didn't look like it would be that great of a sunset - a bit too overcast, but then before we knew it the whole sky was hot pink - wow! After that we drove to Kiboko Bay to have dinner and then called it a night.
Lake Victoria Sunset
Day 11 - September 15 We left the hotel at 10 to head to David's mom's house in the village. We got there just before noon, after a grocery store stop along the way. The village was very interesting to drive through - mud houses with metal roofs, people out and about, little markets every now and then. The hardest was seeing the adults and kids washing clothes or bathing in spots of water along the way. We finally made it to David's mom's house and surprisingly it was very different than most of what we had driven past. There was a gate to drive through and the house was very nice. No running water, but she did have electricity. We met everyone (it was so great to finally meet David's mom! And his brother, Brian). David gave us a tour of the property, and then we visited in the living room for a while as they were finishing up lunch preparations. David's nephew, Emmanual, provided great entertainment for us! Lunch was served around 2pm - and talk about a feast! Beef Stew, Chicken, Fish, Rice, Salads, Chapati, etc. It was amazing. Big kudos to David's mom and sister for the long hours involved in making that meal!! Around 3:30 we all drove over to some nearby land that David's uncle wanted him to look at. That is where our photos are taken from. And then we headed to the airport. We boarded our very short flight back to Nairobi, arriving at 4:30. That night we ate dinner at Uptown Grill, that was owned by a friend of David's.
Day 12 - September 16 Our last couple days in Nairobi were pretty low-key. We walked back over to Yaya Centre Mall this morning for breakfast at Artcaffe. Later we drove over to a mall that had a Masai Craft Market, where we honed in on our bargaining skills to buy souvenirs. We had a late lunch at a place near the mall, Galito's, and then headed back to our apartment. That night we tried out an Italian restaurant, Mambo Italian, which ended up being really great. Dinner and a bottle of wine later, we called it a night.
David's family in the village
Day 13 - September 17 Out last day in Kenya. We walked back over to our go-to spot for breakfast at Yaya Centre Mall. This time eating at Nairobi Java House. After that we drove over to Junction Mall where they were having the big Masai market. We met up with Nancy (who was our pro bargain shopper) and did some final souvenir shopping. This market was much bigger and fun to walk around. Except for being yelled at the whole time "hey sista sista...come look at my stuff". They also had a musical group there - playing the drums and dancing - which just reminded me of the Rugby Sevens games in Vegas with the Kenya team! After shopping we grabbed a quick lunch at the mall and headed back to the apartment to pack. We left at 4pm to go over to Nancy's house. Visited for a bit, including getting to meet David's brother, Kevin. Then around 5 we drove to the airport for our flights home. 31 hours later, on Friday September 18th - I finally made it back to Houston!
What an amazing trip to Kenya that I will never forget! Thanks to David for showing me so much about where he was raised, letting me meet his family, changing gears and being a "tourist" in his own country going on his first Safari and first trip to the coast, and most importantly keeping us all safe! I'm cheers-ing you with an imaginary Tusker beer right now David. :)