(A guest blog by Holly Melton)
For those of you who don’t know about our adventure, Mark and I are over-landing for 8 weeks (we began January 10, finishing March 12) through 7 countries, beginning in Nairobi, Kenya. The entire adventure is planned and booked through African Expedition Support africanexpeditionsupport.com – the only touring company with this type tour. We will be driving our own Land-rover Defender 110, along with 4 other couples and our leaders (Cook and Mechanic), approximately 12,000 kilometers (or 6,000 miles) ending in Cape Town, South Africa. We will be camping 90% of the time – mostly in nice places, though a few will be very basic. We will be going through more game parks and animal sanctuaries than you can imagine.
Saturday, January 10th Mark and I had an uneventful flight from Paris to Nairobi. Arriving at the Wildebeest Eco Camp www.wildebeestecocamp.com at 11:30 at night, we collapsed into bed. Woke up the next morning to find that we were “glamping” for our first few days – cute wooden framed tents with in-tent restroom and comfortable porches overlooking the beautiful grounds. I would highly recommend the Wildebeest – in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, it was safe and delightful.
Great also to be in an English speaking country, where we are able to read all the signs and communicate easily.
As I needed a refresher on geography, I thought you might also. A few stats about the African continent:
*The African continent is 25% of the world’s landmass.
*Africa is 5 times the size of the continental U.S.
*Africa is larger than Europe, China, India, Argentina, New Zealand and the continental U.S. combined,
Pretty Impressive, huh? I will certainly come home with a greater appreciation for the vastness of this continent.
On Monday morning, January 12th, we met with the owner of the touring company, Debs, our cook and tour leader – Amanda Riechter, mechanic and guide – Jan (pronounced “yawn“), and fellow travelers, 1 couple from Britain (Mike Gaunt and Jill Birch) and 3 couples from Australia (Peter and Gill Marshall of Queensland, Reuben and Judy Crossley of Victoria, Deb and James Ray Thompson of Victoria). A couple hours orientation including many warnings about driving in Africa and dealing with police traffic stops (smiles and bribes are the rule of the land) followed.
The big excitement of the morning was getting our assigned Defender. We all loading in to our vehicles and made our first venture out on to the roads of Kenya – a 10 minute drive to the nearest shopping mail for lunch and picking last minute items. Doesn’t sound very exciting? Just remember that the Defenders are manual transmission with the steering wheel the right side of the car – as we are driving on the opposite side of the street than we do in America. Mark has done a marvelous job of adapting – it’s helped tremendously that our fellow travelers have been so kind in letting us follow them. They are a great bunch!
That afternoon, we drove to the Giraffe Centre, an education institution which is dedicated to rescuing the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Totally Fun! And Totally Educational. The entire group can now look at a giraffe in the wild and tell if it’s a Rothschild, Massai, or Reticulated giraffe, as well as the sex (by the horns on their head).
A note for my nephew, Drake: Giraffes eat a significant amount of leaves from the acacia trees. Acacia trees have long white thorns that are 3 to 5 inches long. The long tongue of the giraffe gets poked and cut frequently, but its saliva is both antibacterial and antiseptic to keep it from infections. So no worries about my hygiene after kissing the giraffe. At the giraffe park, we also saw and held a Leopard Tortoise, one of Africa‘s Little 5 animals.
Next day, we got up early and were at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage with plenty of time to spare to view the feeding and play time for the elephants. While standing waiting to enter the orphanage, we were treated to our first animal viewing in the wild – warthogs with babies came out of the bushes.
Then came the elephant babies. These are between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. At around three years old they are moved to another area of the country and reintroduced into the wild (a process that takes up to 5 years).
Next came a stop and short tour of the Kazuri bead factory. This facility was set up to provide work for single mothers -though it has been so successful that it now employs several hundred women and ship items all over the world.
We enjoyed tea in the gardens of the Karen Blixen estate and toured the small museum in her former home. Karen Blixen was the author of “Out of Africa” (Meryl Streep and Robert Redford starred in the movie).
Thus ended the “get acquainted” with our vehicles and driving in Africa portion of the tour – tomorrow we start out making our way across the Great Rift Valley to the shores of Lake Naivasha.
Our travel group – (from left to right) Holly, Jill, Jan, Mike, James Ray, Amanda, Debs (the tour company owner – not on the trip), Gill, Rueben, Debs, Peter and Judy (not pictured – Mark – he’s on the other side of the camera).