Ronny Lavie reveals her top five tips for travellers wishing to make the most of Kenya, an east African nation famed for game reserves, safaris and an idyllic coast.
Spending time in Kenya was one of the most powerful and incredible experiences of my life. There are many books and travel guides that will help in deciding where to stay and what to see, so I wanted to compile a list, from personal experience, of little things I believe will enrich your experience. Here are my top five suggestions:
1. Prone to motion sickness? Reconsider
A huge majority of Kenya's roads are unpaved; not good in such a vast country. Add those two together and you get one extremely bumpy ride! I think the longest we travelled was seven hours in the safari car, being literally thrown about the vehicle. Rest stops are few and far between (though surprisingly well equipped). Of course when you get to the next amazing destination it's all worth it, but I would at the very least advise stocking up on some anti-motion sickness sweets and possibly a few plastic bags.
2. Be patient
It is highly recommended to hire a local guide/driver. They'll speak the native language and know the dos and don'ts, which in a country like Kenya is important. Also, they'll have a mini-cab like radio system in their cars which they use to inform each other of animals' whereabouts. Our driver got told of a tiger sighting and we drove to it, along with 15 other cars (we counted). After a while people started driving off, but my sister, who is cat mad, insisted on staying. When we were left on our own, the tiger jumped off its perch on one of the trees and started walking towards us, crossing the road right in front of our car. It had just started getting dark and we were there alone in the silence watching this magnificent animal from just a few feet away.
3. Beware of the monkeys
Monkeys are adorable, no question about that. However, they are also clever, capable and very greedy. Everywhere you go, you'll be advised to make sure all doors and windows in your rooms and cars are locked, as otherwise you might come back to find your valuables missing and a monkey resting in a nearby tree sporting your sun hat. Do not be fooled - yes, they have cute little faces, but you are a guest at the hotel, they live there. You are invading their territory. My sister and I attempted to coo over a small monkey on our balcony, only for it to hiss at us and look set to attack. We screeched the place down and ran back inside. Consider yourselves warned!
4. Bring toys for the Masai kids
One of the must-do experiences when in Kenya is to visit a Masai Village. My family and I had doubts as to how much of it was for the tourists' sake, but it is fascinating regardless. By far the best thing about it is the children - they don't really talk but they are very friendly and sweet. We brought small toys and, the kids' favourite, balloons. Seeing them smile at you and wave goodbye as they play with their new toys is a wonderful experience and really made our trip.
5. Appreciate where you are
With the bugs, dirt roads and humidity, it is easy to forget what's important - Kenya is absolutely stunning. Being surrounded by nature at its wildest and most primal form literally takes your breath away. We saw elephants that were several times bigger than our car, as well as ones shorter than me (and I'm not tall); lion cubs walked right by us; giraffes and hippos were in their most natural habitat right outside out hotel room door. Nothing I have ever seen compares to watching these incredible animals just going about their lives, barely even aware of our existence. It made me feel small and meek in the best possible way.
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