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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Kenya: The Africa of your dreams

PERFECT SETTING: A Maasai warrior stands against the Kenyan landscape in the wild

  • Go visit Mombasa, Kenya, for spectacular islands, safaris, and the Maasai heritage
It was at around ten in the night, when I found myself in the middle of wildlife - zebras, antelopes, monkeys, giraffes and many other creatures walked around me. Our open jeep was stuck in a big mud puddle at the Tsavo West National Park, Kenya. Soon, we were moved to another jeep and happily continued our night safari.

A few years ago, I had decided that it's best to let life take me wherever it wanted. And this time, it took me to beautiful Africa. Before I left on the journey last month, my family wanted me to get the yellow fever vaccination, but somehow time did not permit it, and the Kenyan consulate assured me that it is not required. And yes, I am still safe and healthy!

While landing in the city of Mombasa early that morning, the electricity goes off. I knew then and there that this would be an exciting journey. At our beautiful hotel, the Voyager Beach Resort, we're greeted by the wonderful and warm staff, and proceed to sample some delicious local coastal food, ending the meal with freshly brewed Kenyan tea and coffee.


The next day, after a 5 am wake up call, we left our hotel to meet the Maasai tribe. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations, as they reside near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and also for their distinctive customs and dress. It was a nice experience to hear them explaining their way of life; we also danced with the locals to traditional tunes. Following the Maasai visit, we left to explore the famous wildlife at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro. The journey took a few hours and we got so hungry, that we were more than willing to return to the Maasai village and try out their traditional diet of cow's milk and cow's blood!


An African safari is one of the most spectacular experiences every traveller should have. We went for the entire gamut - the early morning, afternoon and late night safaris in the shadow of the iconic Mt Kilimanjaro. Don't miss this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the local life, wilderness and animals. Kenya's largest national park, the Tsavo East National Park, is a terrific wildlife-watching destination. 

I was tempted to join the relaxed hippopotamus and crocodiles in their bath, but my tour guide put a stop to that idea. The visually arresting landscape of Tsavo West National Park was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip. Stay in one of the lodges in the middle of the jungle. Before you sleep, you get to hear the hippos sloshing about in the nearby dam, or an occasional monkey making some noise outside your tent.


Being a complete foodie, I can say that Kenyan cuisine is healthy yet comfort food. Green, fresh vegetables, and exotic fruits are all part of the daily diet. Kenyan cuisine is an amalgam of its various cultures, thanks to the country's different communities. Ugali is the most common Kenyan food staple, usually made from cornmeal that is added to boiling water and heated until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal paste. Irio is a mashed peas and potato mix. Other delicious foods are Wali Wa Nazi (coconut rice), Sukuma Wiki (collard greens/kale), and Kenyan stew, which can include a number of different meats: beef, mutton, chicken, or any others. Dishes might also include a few other base vegetable ingredients like carrots, peppers, peas, or potatoes. Nyama Choma (roasted meat) is considered the pride of Kenyan food.


"After I lost myself in the wilderness, in my grief, I found my own way out of the woods," says Reese Witherspoon's char-acter in Wild. Give yourself an opportunity to travel to a new place, get lost in the fresh surroundings, and you will find your way out. Travelling has that power. To experience something for the first time is a magical experience. I was excited to explore African continent for the first time, and Mombasa turned out to be a perfect place for me.

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