I have found one of the best ways to explore a new place is to visit when you have someone living there. In 2014, Mark and I had an in- law living in China when we visited Shanghai. Later that year, I would do the same when I visited Nairobi, Kenya and stayed with my sister who lived there at the time. That November, while visiting family in Cameroon, I traveled from Douala to Nairobi for a short 4day visit with my sister. It was a direct flight and 4hours later, I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta airport where I processed through health clearance for Hepatitis A/Yellow fever and was issued a single-entry visa. It was so lovely getting to visit with my sister, and she had a few days and a fully booked calendar to include much tourist activity. There are so many positive things I could highlight about my trip and many memorable moments we shared but I will highlight three attractions in this blog post.
Crescent Island Game Sanctuary
This wildlife reserve is located on Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. It is home to a variety of birds, hippos, zebras, giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. To access this walking safari, one must cross the lake by boat. The sanctuary is about 10km from the town of Naivasha and a 2hour drive from Nairobi. The drive was quite scenic with a stop in route at the beautiful lookout point of Mount Longonot. Once we arrived Crescent Island and paid fees for entry and boat ride, we had a guided walking safari of several wildlife present. This safari allowed us to get a close as possible to the animals and birds. There was a covered patio and one could take a break and have some refreshments after the walking tour. Crescent Island is famous for being the filming location for “Out of Africa” and the sequel to “Tomb Raider”. Check out the pics below.
Have you ever seen a zebra give birth? Well, neither had we until we visited Ol Pajeta on a 2day safari adventure. Ol’ Pajeta is a 360km2 wildlife conservancy in Central Kenya Laikipia county, west of the equator. Once we arrived that evening, we checked into our tent which was more like cabin with electricity and running hot water showers in the bathroom. We started out the first evening with a night safari. Our guide knew just where we would find the animals at night and drove us for about an hour. We spotted a bat-eared wolf, bush baby and some rhinos too. The next day it was off to see more white rhinos, lions, elephants, zebras and more. There was a main tent where you could have dinner at scheduled times but there was also the option of private dining which we took advantage of at our own times based on the game drive. The last day, we had a beautiful breakfast spread set up right outside our tent. I have included a few pics of the wildlife sightings during our drive. The safari was the most customized activity during this trip.
Hiking Mount Kenya/Castle Forest Lodge
After our day safari at Ol’ Pajeta, we drove to Castle Forest Lodge where we would spend the night and hike the base of Mount Kenya the next day, the second tallest mountain on the continent. It took us 2.5hours driving about 115km there and when we arrived Castle Forest Lodge, it was gated. Our reservations were verified and we accessed the grounds. We started on the dirt road leading up the lodge when we came across an elephant standing on the side of the road. Against everything we had been advised should we have such an encounter, my sister stomped on the gas pedal to the Jeep and we hysterically sped up passed the elephant knowing that was probably not the best thing to do. Fortunately we got away and not looking back, we have no idea how the elephant reacted to our abrupt behavior. Once checked in to our lodge, we had dinner at the restaurant on site which served tasty local dishes.
Our accommodation at Castle Forest Lodge was modest. This facility provides several options for guests ranging from a “budget double or twin” to luxury cottage and bungalows. We stayed at their budget option which meant shared bathroom and toilet, totally fine option for one night. Interestingly enough the budget rooms are located in the main house over the kitchen and restaurant. The main house was built in 1910 with river stones and wood from the surrounding river and forest. It is told that both Jomo Kenyatta and Queen Elizabeth stayed in this house as students. This house underwent renovations almost 20years ago now to accommodate over 30guests. A nice touch to all accommodations is the cozy and quaint fireplace which is attended to by a staff member who ensures your comfort for the rest of the stay. The next morning, we had breakfast, checked out and met with our guide who would accompany us on our hike at the base of the mountain. The hike at the base of the mountain is of easy to moderate difficulty considering how narrow and slippery the trail gets in the forest at that time of year. Our guide was unique, he was very intuitive and seemed to have been communicating with the birds, knowing exact locations of the elephants in the forest. It was great to watch and listen to the stories he told. We made it to the waterfall at the base of Mount Kenya after which we returned to the lodge, explored the grounds briefly and returned to Nairobi where I would wrap up my visit and return to Cameroon.