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Kenya’s Top 10

Kenya is home to the original safari and has much to offer travellers.  Here are ten of the top attractions Kenya has on offer.

  1. Lake Baringo

Home to approximately 450 species of birds, Lake Baringo is a bird watcher’s paradise where the highlight is to take an early morning cruise as the world wakes up.  The hippos wallow in one vegetated corner and African Jacanas step lightly among the lilies.  Fishermen are out in dugout canoes collecting the catch to sell at the market later.  They compete with the magnificent fish eagles for food; the sight of this large bird swooping gracefully down to fetch breakfast is amazing.

Lake Baringo, Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Lamu

Experience true Swahili culture on Lamu Island.  Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the Old Town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa.  The simple architecture of the town is characterised by inner courtyards, verandas and the famous wooden doors with their intricate carvings.  The Lamu Festival in November is a highlight in the island’s calendar.

Lamu, Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests

Kaya Kinondo is one of 11 sacred forests and has been set up as an eco-tourism project by local villagers whose ancestors used the sacred forest for traditional purposes.  You can walk through the forest, learning about the ancient culture and rituals while soaking up the sense of how special this place is to local people.  UNESCO has also recognised the importance of these forests that spread some 200km down the Kenyan coast.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Community projects

Founded by a group of young Kenyans, Amani Kibera works with young people in Nairobi’s slums.  They have established a football competition, a women’s group and a library.  The library hosts book clubs and tutorial sessions for students, while the women’s group helps get girls back to school.  Meeting Kenyans is the only way we can get a true understanding of Kenya, and visiting projects such as this is a great way to engage with locals.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Tsavo eco-system

Tsavo East and West form the largest national park in Kenya, and together with Taita Hills and Lumo Community Wildlife Sanctuary, provide a vast refuge for animals.  A great project operating in the Tsavo eco-system works around the human-wildlife conflict.  Recently a donation allowed them to purchase desks, shoes and uniforms for children in the village, bringing huge joy to the community.  Afforestation and de-snaring elephant traps are important activities that visitors can get involved with.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Amboseli

Watching the sun rise and Mt Kilimanjaro come into view is one of Kenya’s most magical experiences.  Surrounded by Maasai villages, still living their traditional lifestyles, a visit to Amboseli provides a good mix of wildlife watching and culture.  The national park, nestled at the foothills of the highest mountain in Africa, is a top destination in Kenya for wildlife.  Indeed, one of the classic images of East Africa is that of a herd of elephant strolling across the plains with the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro in the background.  It is to catch this sight that people flock to Amboseli National Park.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Samburu

In Northern Kenya, we find many different species of animals to the southern parks.  These include gerenuk, Somali ostrich, Beisa’s oryx, Reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra.  The Samburu eco-system comprises three national reserves: Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu.  The landscape offers amazing variety from open savannah to scrub desert to lush river foliage, offering fantastic opportunities for excellent wildlife encounters.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. The Great Wildebeest Migration

Each year approximately 1.3 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra, and 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle travel an 1800 kilometre circuit around Serengeti and Maasai Mara.  The rains from November to June create a magnet for game into Maasai Mara.  Between January and March about 400,000 wildebeest are born in Serengeti.  The trek begins in April as the plains dry up; herds gather and move north-west, joined by travelling lions, hyenas, and vultures.  Only one in three calves will see Serengeti again.  Herds arrive in Serengeti’s western corridor and feed until late May, then move into Maasai Mara.  By June they prepare to cross the Mara River.  Animals that cross first wait for the rest of the herd, encouraging them.  They spread out through the Maasai Mara and return to Serengeti by the end of October.  (Timings are approximate and change according to specific weather patterns for that year)

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Mount Kenya

Also featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Mt Kenya is Africa’s second highest peak after Kilimanjaro.  The extinct volcano stands at 5199 metres but at its peak of activity it is thought to have risen to 6500m.  Even though it sits almost right on the equator, there are 12 glaciers on the mountain, although they are all receding quickly.  The rugged mountain forms an impressive backdrop to surrounding national parks and reserves, as well as providing a good challenge for intrepid climbers.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

  1. Lake Turkana

This unlikely lake in the middle of Kenya’s northern desert provides a stopover for migratory water birds.  Surrounded by three national parks, the lake also serves as a major breeding ground for crocodiles, hippos and various snakes.  UNESCO has listed Lake Turkana as a World Heritage site for its incredible amount of fossil remains and the opportunities to study plant and animal communities.

Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

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Tips for Going on a Solo Backpacking Trip

Tips for Going on a Solo Backpacking Trip

Travelling solo can be one of life’s most eye-opening, mind-expanding, joyful experiences.  This article will give you some suggestions to overcome the trepidation you may experience, especially as a woman, when deciding to venture forth on your own.  The best advice: Go for it!

5 Ways to Set Yourself Free and Travel Solo

  1. Make smart decisions

You make smart decisions at home everyday about what to spend money on, whether a situation feels safe, who to trust or not, etc.  Bring these smarts with you on your travels – don’t sell your brain for a plane ticket!  Even if you are on a budget, sometimes it is better to spend a little extra to stay in a more secure hotel or take a taxi at night.

  1. Meet people

Most of my travels have been solo, yet I have rarely felt lonely.  Using networks like Couch Surfing has helped me connect with fellow travellers and hosts who have been happy to hang out and show me their home town.  In backpacker hostels, the communal spaces provide opportunities to strike up a conversation and even in hotels there is usually a pool or a bar to linger at to find someone to chat with.

  1. Use a guidebook

Lonely Planet, Let’s Go, Rough Guides, DK, Bradt…. there are so many guidebooks on the shelves of your local bookshop there is no excuse for not being well-informed about a place.  It’s true that not everything should be taken as gospel (indeed prices are often out of date even before the book is published) but it gives you a good idea of what to do, where to stay, where the good food is, where to find banks and most other information you want when you get off an overnight bus/train/plane.  Often they have some sample itineraries to help you get the best of a destination.

  1. Join a tour

If the thought of doing everything yourself and fumbling your way through a destination is totally off-putting, there are plenty of tours all over the world to suit any taste, style, and personality.  Depending on the type of tour you choose, you will be issued with six or sixty travel buddies to keep you from getting lonely during your travels.  Often taking a tour will put your family’s hearts and minds at rest as you embark on your solo trip … but don’t feel forced to take a tour if you really want to experience total freedom.

  1. Take time out

Travelling solo can be exhausting as you are making all the decisions yourself, you feel like your guard must always be up, and you are often putting yourself in uncomfortable situations (going to restaurants alone, striking up conversations with strangers, etc).  So it’s important to take time out to nurture yourself.  It’s supposed to be a holiday as well right?!

Twelve years ago I travelled solo for the first time and experienced incredible freedom that changed me forever.

Being quite shy, stepping out of my comfort zone to meet people was a massive challenge.  Couch Surfing has been my staple travel site since 2006 because it gives me the opportunity to connect with local people and get to know a place on a deeper level.  Through this network, I have made life-long friends who I know I can call on the next time I might be flitting through on a long layover.  Armed with a guidebook and a local, I feel like I get to see the best of a destination – both the tourist sites and the best restaurants, bars and other bits of ordinary life.  When I travel, my focus is on connecting with the culture, and so this style suits me.  Of course when meeting locals online one must be careful, but reading profiles and references thoroughly and trusting my instincts has kept me safe and provided me the most wonderful opportunities and experiences.

Have you travelled solo? Or are you considering taking a trip but have some worries?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

A wonderful great experience

Last August Matthew and Mathilde came to Kenya for their honeymoon and we were honoured they chose us to take them to Amboseli for the special occasion.  This is what they said about their trip:

“To start our honeymoon, we spent two days in the stunning Amboseli National Park. Tracey and Francis took wonderful care of us, and booked us into an amazing room at the Amboseli Serena Lodge. The elephants were a highlight of our whole trip, and getting up early to see Kilimanjaro was well with it.

I have only good things to say about making the arrangements for the trip. Tracey always respond quickly to my emails, and we’re really pleased that we chose OTA.”

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And this year in May,Ashton and her mother Sandra travelled with Francis to the Maasai Mara, describing it as a “Great experience!”.

“We traveled with OTA for 3 days from Nairobi to Masai Mara and back and overall it was a great experience. Tracey had sent us all possible information before our trip and was very helpful and flexible with planning. Francis was extremely informative and helpful during the trip – plus the lunches that he set up under the trees overlooking the plains was just a lovely little touch. Would definitely travel with them again!”

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We are so grateful for your positive reviews and for supporting our company and Kenyan tourism!  We hope more of our friends and fans will come for a safari soon!

New reviews!

Thank you to Bo who wrote this 5 star review for us on Trip Advisor:

“We’ve been on two separate tours with OTA. First we went to Sweetwaters Tented Camp in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. We had a great trip, Francis was a very knowledgeable guide and everything was taken care of. And they were absolutely the cheapest offer we got for the exact same trip.

Second time we went to Lake Naivasha and stayed at Simba lodges. Again OTA was the cheapest. This time we had Tracey as our guide. She was super helpful and made sure we had a great trip.”

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Thank you to Richard who wrote this five star review for us on Trip Advisor:

“Last month we went on a safari trip to Sweetwater. We we went with OTA for the safari as they gave us the best all incl. price and they gave quality. Tracey and Francis really made this the best safari ever for us.”

Stefanie Thijssen

 

And finally, thank you to Pam who wrote this five star review for us:

“It was wonderful to be with Tracey and Francis and be able to have quality time with them. Especially in the evening ,dining with them to talk about the day and learn more about culture and general information about the country. It was a lot of fun!!”

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“Fantastic Family Trip for Christmas & New Years 2014”

Ashley and her family travelled with us over Christmas and New Year.  We had so much fun with them, from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha, to Maasai Mara and finally to the coast.  Here’s what she said about the trip:

“My family and I had a fantastic first experience of Kenya with Tracey and Francis. From Nairobi to Mombasa we had an incredible time, visiting various NGOs and CBOs that OTA work with as well as going on safari in the Masai Mara and seeing a lion, elephants and buffalo.
On Christmas day we spent a few hours cycling around lake Naivasha with John who showed us all of the wildlife including giraffes, zebras and warthogs. We took a boat ride spotting hippos and even managed to get close to a leopard!
New Year’s was spent with the inspirational Mama Mercy who runs a women’s empowerment group and orphanage, another part of our trip that did not disappoint.
For a family of six. aged 9 to 50+, Tracey and Francis ensured that there was something for all of us! We couldn’t have asked for more out a family holiday. Hopefully we’ll be back again someday to see a rhino!”

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http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowUserReviews-g294207-d3561827-r249596251-Overland_Travel_Adventures_Private_Day_Tours-Nairobi.html#

My 3 Favourite Recipes From Kenya

My 3 Favourite Recipes From Kenya

With 52 tribes in Kenya, extending from the coast to the Rift Valley lakes to the central highlands to the northern desert, the cuisines found in this country are many and varied.  There is also a strong Indian influence as the spice traders started coming to Africa centuries ago and have remained to trade in various other goods since.  Here I present three dishes commonly found around Nairobi.  Two – the matoke and mukimo – are traditional Kikuyu dishes from the central highlands, and the chapatti is from the coast.

Chapatti

Ingredients (makes 15-20 chapattis):
½ litre cold water
1 kg flour
Salt
Sugar
Oil

Method:
Mix water with flour, add a handful of salt, a bit of sugar and a bit of oil (the oil makes the chapatti turn golden when it cooks).  Divide the mixture into balls the size of a child’s fist.  Roll out each ball to a flat circle about the size of a dinner plate.  Fry on a very hot, oiled chapatti pan (flat fry pan) for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Chapati; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Matoke

Ingredients:
Plantains (these are green bananas that are starchy and not sweet)
Tomatoes
Cooking oil
Potatoes
Water
Onions
Parsley
Capsicum
Salt

Method:
Peel the plantains and potatoes and soak for about half an hour.  Meanwhile fry onions, tomatoes, parsley, capsicum and salt.  Add potatoes and plantains to the fried tomato mix.  Cover with water and add salt to taste (the salt also helps soften the plantains quickly).  Stew over medium heat until the plantains and potatoes are cooked through.
To cook minji (peas), maharagwe (beans, usually red kidney) and njahi (black beans) follow a similar recipe.  Boil the peas or beans for several hours until soft.  Fry up the tomato mix described above, add potatoes and water.  Finally add the peas or beans and mix together over low heat.

Matoke; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Mukimo

Ingredients:
Beans (red kidney beans usually)
Maize kernels
Onions
Tomatoes
Potatoes

Method:
Boil beans and maize (generally equal amounts of beans and maize) until soft, this usually takes a couple of hours.  In another pot, cook onions, tomatoes and potatoes until soft.  Then add the beans and maize.  Now you have githeri another popular Kikuyu dish (my favourite!).  However, to get to mukimo, cook the stew for another 30 minutes before mashing it all together.  The maize is tough to mash so don’t worry about the kernels staying whole.  The beans and potatoes will mash easily though.
Some versions of mukimo do not use beans; instead use a leafy green vegetable such as kale or spinach which mashes with the potato to make the mukimo green.

Githeri; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The quantities depend on your taste and how many you are cooking for.  Generally for mukimo you want equal quantities of beans, maize and potatoes with the onion and tomato simply adding some taste.  For matoke the plantains should be more than the potatoes, about a 2:3 ratio.  Again the tomato fry mix is simply to add taste so you don’t need too much.  For the chapattis the flour should be twice the amount of water with sugar and salt to taste.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Kenyan food – whether you have cooked it yourself or been cooked for.  Please leave your comments below.

Explore 3 Kenyan Parks with OTA

Explore 3 Kenyan Parks with OTA

OTA is launching a series of weekend trips especially for Kenya’s citizens and the expatriate community.  This will give people living in Kenya the opportunity to explore this country’s top parks easily, conveniently and safely.

OTA's weekend trips to Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Throughout 2015, OTA will have three-day trips departing every Friday to Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu.  This is an excellent opportunity for both Kenyan citizens and expatriates to explore Kenya in the comfort of a safari vehicle fit for photography, game-viewing and touring.  Starting from 16,300KES inclusive of meals, accommodation, transport and park entry fees, these trips are affordable and fun.  Prices vary according to group size and you can visit http://bit.ly/1sUS18Q for more information.  Any group size can be catered for with transport in safari vans or overland trucks.  All trips are accompanied by an experienced English-speaking driver-guide.  For reservations and enquiries, contact Tracey and Francis on tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.

Francis Wamai, Founder and Director of OTA, says: “After a week of work, these trips offer Kenyans a great way to relax and explore their country.  Boring weekends at home are a thing of the past as you can come and meet other people and see the beauty of Kenya.”

These weekend trips give expatriates and Kenyans the opportunity to explore Kenyan parks affordably.  For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1sUS18Q or contact tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com to make a booking for you and your friends this weekend.

OTA offers trips in Kenya where you can experience the local culture, stay in villages, and engage with community development organisations as well as view the amazing wildlife and spectacular natural scenery in this amazing country.  We can cater to groups (large and small) for any budget, offering a range of accommodation from camping to luxury lodges.  Visit www.ota-responsibletravel.com for more information.

OTA's weekend trips to Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu www.ota-responsibletravel.com

 

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