This July (2019) we finally got a chance to visit a place that has been on our bucket list for a very long time, Africa! Sam is an animal lover, and is very against seeing animals at zoos and aquariums, and so Africa afforded us to see these magnificent creatures in their own habitat. Read on to learn how the beauty of this continent astounded us at every turn.
During our trip we visited three African countries (one on a technicality). Here is how we spent two weeks in this amazing place.
Day 1: Nairobi Markets/Restaurants
We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on July 4th in the morning. Our safari started the following day so we had a full day to explore Nairobi and get some much needed rest before our safari. The first thing we did was visit the City Market by foot. We love collecting art from all the different places we visit and so we thought the best place to find an art piece was at the market. The market was filled with many souvenirs which represented Africa. We saw paintings, carvings, jewelry, clothing, etc, etc. Something different about markets overseas vs markets here at home is that you can haggle – it is actually encouraged! We were able to get a beautiful painting for about half the price it was originally advertised for (and way cheaper for what we would have paid at home).
After picking up our painting we grabbed lunch at a seafood restaurant within the market. We had a whole fish fried, with greens and Ugali on the side.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to get some rest before dinner. Dinner was at a popular restaurant called Carnivore. Admittedly it was a bit touristy but the food was great. Carnivore is a restaurant where various meats (beef, chicken, ostrich, crocodile, etc) are brought to you until you just can’t eat another bite, similar to the Brazilian Churrascaria concept here in the States. Its about $36 USD for each person. Since it was a few days before our anniversary, the staff treated us with a magnificent Kenyan/Swahili song and dessert with a candle in it. It was so fun singing and dancing along with them. What a great way to end our first night in Nairobi!
Day 2-5: Safari in Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, and Lake Nakuru
Day one of the safari began with a very long drive from Nairobi to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. We were picked up at our airbnb and taken in a white safari van to the reserve, along with 5 other fellow safari-goers from various parts of the world. On the way we made a stop at the Great Rift Valley, which stretches 9,600 KM from the Red Sea to Central Mozambique. It was a beautiful sight to see!
After countless hours of driving we finally arrived at our camp, just outside of the Maasai Mara. We settled in to our tent, had dinner and then went on our first game drive. The tents were pretty basic, as our safari was more for the budget-conscious, but each tent did have its own toilet and a shower. The camp also had designated electricity hours for people to charge their devices but the majority of the time at camp was spent without it. It does take some getting used to but we had done things like this before on our Peru trip, so while it does sometimes present a challenge, it wasn’t anything we were unaccustomed to. (For those who want a more ‘luxury’ experience, safaris are available at all pricepoints).
In the Maasai Mara, we had one evening game drive and one full day game drive. We were able to see four of the ‘Big Five’ there (lions, leopards, elephant, and cape buffalo) and we also saw cheetah, hyena, wildebeest (migration), zebra, giraffe, hippo, guinnea fowl, alligator, crocodile, and all kinds of antelope, including impala, gazelle etc. After the Mara, we made our way to Lake Naivasha where we had a wonderful boat ride where we saw many birds, eagles, and also more hippo. Our last stop was Lake Nakuru. Here we rounded out our ‘Big Five’ sightings with black and white rhino. We also got to see baboons, a sea of flamingos, more cape buffalo, and more antelope.
Here are our favorite shots from our safari:
Crocodile and Alligator
Antelope (Eland, Waterbuck, Gazelle, Impala, Oryx, and Dik Diks)
In addition to all the animals we saw we also got some shots of the Maasai Plains, we even got to leave the Safari Truck for a photo op at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Luckily there were only Zebras around while we were out of the safety of our truck.
We also had a chance to visit a Maasai Village and spend time with the Maasai people. It was really interesting to see their homes and how basic they live. The houses were essentially just small huts, lit by sunlight and heated solarly. The Chief’s son (also named Sam!) invited us into his home and showed us the bed where his 3 kids sleep and we got to meet & hold his adorable little son. The hut basically was just a main living space and one bedroom, for him and his wife. The kids slept in the main area and there was no bathroom. Albeit a very different way than we are used to living, we were grateful for the opportunity of Sam sharing his home with us. Incredibly, both Sams got along so well, Maasai Sam invited American Sam (lol) back to go on a warrior hunt with him to hunt a lion. American Sam will probably not take him up on that offer though, lol. He did however get a Maasai Tattoo, which is basically just a brand with a hot stick, ouch! The tattoo process involves a few Maasai men rubbing sticks together and blowing on it until a flame starts, then touching the hot stick to skin, creating essentially a blister or a burn mark, which they called a ‘tattoo’. They also showed us a dance and they are known for their incredibly high jumping skills. The men try to impress the women by seeing who can jump the highest. It was very fun jumping with them! They told us that typically when they get married they have to give 10 cows to the brides family, unless they are really good jumpers. If they are really good jumpers, they get a discount on the amount of cows. American Sam asked Maasai Sam based on his jumping, how many cows would he have to give my family? Maasai Sam replied “Only 7”. So, mom and dad, if you are reading this the cows are in the mail!
Day 6: Nairobi Again
After our safari we got dropped off in Nairobi in the late afternoon. We decided to look for a dish that we heard was very popular with the locals, called Nyama Choma, which is basically just roasted meat. It was so tasty and along with some delicious Tusker beer and a $2 glass of wine, we’d say it was the perfect meal!
Day 7: Travel Day to South Africa
This day we spent the entire day traveling from Nairobi to Cape Town, South Africa, with a layover in Johannesburg. A pretty uneventful but necessary day. We stayed in an adorable airbnb in the Greenpoint section of the city and were super excited to take our first hot shower of the trip!
Day 8: Shark Diving in Gansbaai South Africa, Bo-Kapp, and Green Market Square
This morning we got up super early to make the 4am shark diving trip out of Gansbaai. As this had been another bucket list item for us, it was nothing short of incredible. The guide even made a video for us, which for $25 USD we were able to keep as a cool memento from the day. Here are some pictures and the video. Even cooler than the shark diving, was that we ran into our friends from back in NY, Jay and Theresa, at the shark diving place. What a coincidence! We had dinner with them later that night.
After our shark diving, we made our way to the historical Village of Bo-Kapp. Bo-Kapp is a part of town with beautifully painted colored houses. We decided it was the perfect place for a fun photo shoot, which I happily partook :). After a few hours in Bo-Kapp, we made our way to Greenmarket Square, which was another market with many different and unique trinkets, many different than what we had seen back in Nairobi.
Day 9: Table Mountain Hike and our Anniversary Dinner at VNA Waterfront
Our second full day in Cape Town had us hiking up Table Mountain. We had gotten some sandwiches at a deli near the airbnb and planned to picnic for lunch once we reached the top. Don’t be fooled by the fact the hike is only two hours; it is an intense two hours of basically being on a step climber the entire way. Once we summited we had the most romantic picnic – and just look at these killer views! Though incredibly worth it and beautiful, our legs were sore for about a week, but we are happy we did it and definitely recommend. If you still want to see the amazing views (and you should!), but hiking really isn’t your thing, there is a funicular to bring you up to the top. The funicular was actually closed when we were there but we were planning on hiking anyway so it ended up not being an issue. We try and hike whenever we can on vacations as we really feel it adds to the experience – pushing yourself and then being rewarded with an awesome view. 🙂
After our hike, we freshened up for our anniversary dinner. We went to a great restaurant on the waterfront by the name of Harbour House. It was very romantic and they had some of the best Mojitos we have ever had! Though it was not our actual anniversary (it had been a few days prior), we thought the waterfront would be the most romantic spot to celebrate one year of being old married fuddy-duddies 🙂 After dinner, we went for a ride on the ferris wheel which was fun as well. We got some cool views of Cape Town being lit up at night.
Day 10: Penguin Colony at Boulder Beach
Our last day in South Africa consisted of a 2 hour train ride to Simons Town, where nearby there is a penguin colony on a beach, called Boulder’s Beach. Seeing the South African penguins was a treat, especially since there are not many penguins found outside of Antarctica (other than in zoos and aquariums). Besides the South African penguins, the only other species found outside Antarctica, are the Galapagos penguins (which we were also lucky enough to see when we did our South America trip). The train ride is a bit long and bumpy but the scenery along the way is beautiful and certainly the penguins were delightful, so we recommend. Just make sure you carve in a window of extra time as the trains tend to be delayed in and out of Simons Town.
Day 11: Travel Day, Again!
We spent the day traveling from Cape Town back to Kenya. Sad to leave the adorable airbnb and amazing city of Cape Town! We loved every moment in this amazing city and can’t wait to come back. Cape Town and the area around it kind of reminded us of California. With its beaches, wineries, and charming towns and villages … there is so much here to like.
Day 12: David Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage
Our final day in Africa was very special to us. We spent most of the day at David Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage. The orphanage opens to the public every day from 11:00 to 12:00 for feeding time for all the elephants housed at the orphanage. It is also an opportunity to learn about the struggles the elephants of Kenya have to deal with, from being abandoned by their heard to even worse, elephant poachers. We found out about the orphanage a month earlier doing research on things to see and do in Nairobi. We were so moved by their mission, we decided to adopt a special baby elephant by the name of Mukkoka. The adoption is $50 USD per year. If you are an adopter, you have the unique opportunity to come back at 17:00 (by appointment) to put your orphan to bed. You also get a chance to get up close and personal with all the other orphans including a Coca the giraffe and even Maxwell, a blind Rhino. We enjoyed this special time with our baby and were able to take home a keepsake photo which is now happily displayed in our living room alongside pictures of Sam’s sons. They are, of course, super excited about their new elephant brother! 😉
We loved Africa and we know you will love it too. There are so many enchanting things to see and the people were warm and friendly. This is just the start of our conquering of Africa, but we hope to see more of the beautiful continent as we continue our travels.
Have a great summer & hakuna matata!
– Saif Travels