In our travels throughout Kenya, we met some selfless and inspiring people like David and Maggie, a couple from England who save all of their vacation time for an annual trip to Kenya to visit their charity’s schools that educate over 800 students.
We also met a group of twentysomethings who put their lives on hold to take part in a three-month journey throughout Africa to do service projects.
Finally, we met Mandela, the Headmaster at Ole Keene Primary School. This school is where over 300 students from kindergarten through eighth grade are housed, fed and educated with little funding and resources.
As we traveled through the country we were struck by the poor living conditions of the population, lack of basic infrastructure and the apparent struggle to get through a lot of normal daily activities.
We sat in a traditional Maasai house made of mud and cow dung.
We toured a school made of metal sheets that had solar panels installed six months prior which provided them with electricity for the first time.
-Roadside store fronts-
Our first two nights started in Nairobi so we could get over jet lag and hit two of the top tourist attractions. At the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage we fostered a baby elephant named Mbegu, and at Giraffe Center we hand fed giraffes.
Wildebeest Eco Lodge was a perfect place to stay as we were close to the aforementioned tourist attractions, safe from the notoriously crime-plagued Nairobi, and we had our first tented camp experience.
From there, we were off to stay with Maasai warriors at Maasai Simba Camp. On the four-hour drive, we spotted our first gazelles and zebras. We went on a safari walk after arriving and learned about the birds, trees, and animals. That was a great primer for our safari at Amboseli National Park the next day.
Amboseli is at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and is known for herds of elephants. Clouds covered Kilimanjaro most of the time but we could see the slope and the peak of the top. The summer is supposed to be the best time for getting a clear picture.
Amboseli was incredible and we saw three of the big five: cape buffalo, elephant, and lion. Around each turn, there was an entirely different ecosystem and animals. The highlight was on our way to lunch when we encountered multiple elephants and hippos in a swamp. Two elephants were happily munching away at a bush, blocking the road for twenty minutes while we snapped pictures.
-Amboseli Road Block-
The next day, we took a small plane from Amboseli back to Nairobi where we would be driving an additional five hours to Mara Explorers and Backpackers Camp outside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Again we were staying with Maasai hosts who treated us with such great hospitality and service, on par with a private concierge. In addition, we had hearty and delicious Kenyan meals throughout our stay.
-Our tent at the Mara Explorers Camp…with cows!-
The Maasai Mara Reserve is connected to the Serengeti, which is in Tanzania. It’s the most spectacular and popular park in Kenya and we had two days to explore its treasures.
Our guide Jackson and driver David canvased the park for over 10 hours each day searching for big five, small five, ugly five and all things in between. They knew the name of every tree, bird and also pointed out animals we hadn’t ever heard of. Their sharp eyes and innate knowledge took us to just the right spots and got the perfect angle for some stunning pictures.
We were able to see some wildebeests lingering on the fringes of the Great Migration where the animals migrate clockwise around the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti each year.
The lucky visitors get to witness the herd crossing the crocodile infested Mara River and we were fortunate enough to see zebras doing just this! Luckily none of them fell victim to the crocs.
The second-day highlight was coming across a lion munching on a freshly killed wildebeest. We were just feet away and the only vehicle to see it. National Geeneographic cameras were rolling.
-He stopped eating and acknowledged our presence at one point. We were less than 20 feet away…intense.-
On our last day, Jackson took us to visit the local primary school. We toured the library that consisted of little more than a chalkboard and a handful of bookcases lining the walls containing a few old books and magazines.
Next door in the classroom, the kids were sitting three to a bench and eagerly asked us our names, where we lived and what celebrations we have in our country. They were all smiles and happy to have the good fortune to be able to attend school.
-One of the school houses we visited at Ole Keene Primary School.-
Mara Explorers Camp collects donations to sponsor some of the students and buys porridge to feed all students a nutritious meal ($2,000 USD/year). Our suitcases didn’t allow space to pack for a purpose but we knew we wanted to leave Africa having made a positive impact. Instead, we happily donated cash to buy books and food for the students.
If you are interested in reading more about the Ole Keene Primary School or donating please see the fundraising page for 2016.
Africa was such an educational and personally enriching trip and a great start to our year of traveling around the world. We look forward to seeing updates on Mbegu’s progress over the next year and hope to return one day.
Check out these albums for some photo highlights: