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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

 

How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity

How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity

If you have been following this blog for some time, you may remember a post from Jared at the end of 2012.  Jared was a 27-year-old Ugandan, volunteering at a palliative care clinic, but by 2012 he realised that volunteering wasn’t going to pay any bills and so he started contacting several companies asking for employment, including us at OTA.  The employment market is tough however, and he wasn’t successful.  Also his heart wasn’t totally in it – he would much rather go back to university and complete his Public Health degree.  The cost of university fees made this dream impossible, so Jared requested some assistance.  He compiled a request letter and his previous results which we published on this blog to see if anyone might be able to assist.  No one was more surprised than us when Bev answered the call!  And so we connected Jared and Bev directly to organise the sponsorship.

A university education is life-changing in East Africa but many young people miss out because of the expense.  Finding a sponsor is an incredible opportunity for a young person to break out of the poverty cycle, developing themselves and also their country.  Of course there was a bit more to the story than the abridged version above describes and so this article offers three tips to ensure your sponsorship is effective and legitimate.

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  1. Ask for references

Jared and Bev were connected through us.  Bev had travelled with Tracey in 2009 for five weeks from Beijing to Istanbul – this journey undoubtedly built a high level of trust between the two.  And Jared had been communicating online with Francis and Tracey as well as having the opportunity to meet in Kampala.  Sending school fees to random email requests is fraught with danger, but being able to check with a trust-worthy source means you can be confident that your money is headed in the right direction.

  1. Conduct regular check-ups with the university

The student should be sending the sponsor regular updates of their academic progress.  In Bev and Jared’s case, the updates flew thick and fast as they also got to know more about each other’s lives, families, and cultures.  This is not necessary but receiving the results at the end of each term or semester means there is some accountability for the student to make the most of the opportunity.  If the sponsor has the name of the university, it is sometimes also possible to check directly with the university that the student is attending classes and performing well.

  1. Be aware of requests for “extra assistance”

During 2013 Jared’s bike lost its gears and needed repairs.  Jared rode fifteen kilometres to university and found the bus cost too much.  It wasn’t until he asked for help to repair the bicycle that Bev realised more help was needed.  Since then she has sent him a monthly allowance and also ensures he can attend conferences or other university activities.  However, she is quick to stress that Jared is not a “taker” – he contributes by getting holiday jobs as a laboratory assistant.  Also she has never heard from any of Jared’s friends or family members asking for her to assist them.  This can sometimes happen where sponsors get bombarded with requests from the rest of the family asking for more.

This year, Bev came to Kenya and Uganda both to see the sights and to meet Jared in person.  The emails the two exchanged over the 18 months had brought them close enough to call each other “mum” and “son”.  Now there was the opportunity to travel together so Jared could see more of his own country and get to know his benefactor.  After the safari, Bev spent a week in Kampala seeing Jared’s life – they visited the university, met his family, saw plenty of hospitals (Jared is studying Public Health after all!) and also did the tourist highlights of the city.  The relationship was cemented and Jared can continue his studies as well as take on extra-curricular activities such as attending the East Africa Health Conference in Tanzania.

How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The Best Location to See Giraffes

The Best Location to See Giraffes

The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) in Kenya conducts conservation work throughout the country.  But, by far, their most famous project is the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi.  One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kenya’s capital, the Giraffe Centre gives us the opportunity to come eye-to-eye with these gentle, graceful creatures.

Giraffe Centre, Nairobi; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

As you mount the stairs, a ranger issues you with a handful of pellets.  Now that you are at eye (and mouth) level with these giants, you can see up close their beautiful long eyelashes and long blue tongue.  They hungrily eye off the pellets and if you are a bit slow in feeding them, you may receive a gently head-butt as a reminder.  And if you are super-keen to get personal with them, simply pop a pellet between your teeth and get a big sloppy giraffe kiss!

The centre is home to Rothschild Giraffes and the AFEW has a breeding program to prevent this endangered species from becoming extinct.  They also conduct conservation education for Kenyan youth and teachers.  Your entry fee as a tourist goes towards this work and helps the AFEW offer free entry to Kenyan children.  The staff also present information sessions at various times throughout the day for visitors, so while you are there be sure to ask them to let you know when the next session is.

The giraffes have a large acreage on which to roam and at the other end of the land is the Giraffe Manor.  This high-end accommodation offers a unique experience for a city stay, with the Manor lawns extending out to the acreage.  There are no fences, giving the giraffes free reign over the space.  And they take advantage of it!  It is not uncommon to have a giraffe pop its head through the window while you are enjoying breakfast or afternoon tea.  You think that only happens for the promotional photos, but believe me, it happens when the camera isn’t there as well!

Do you fancy sharing afternoon tea with a giraffe, or perhaps getting a kiss from one?  OTA can help you plan your Kenyan adventure, so contact us today: www.ota-responsibletravel.com.

Giraffe Centre, Nairobi; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Have you met the Samburu Five?

Have you met the Samburu Five?

Situated at the southern corner of the Samburu district in the Rift Valley province, the Samburu ecosystem comprises three national reserves: Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu.  These parks are not as famous as others in Kenya, but within this ecosystem are species found nowhere else in the country, including the Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Reticulated Giraffe and Gerenuk.

OTA Turkana Festival Tour, Kenya www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The landscape offers amazing variety from open savannah to scrub desert to lush river foliage, offering fantastic opportunities for excellent wildlife encounters.  Steep-sided gullies and rounded hills formed on the lava plain describe the terrain.  Vegetation in the reserve area is dominated by umbrella acacia woodland with intermittent bush-, grass- and scrub-land. Near the river, Doum Palm dominates the landscape. The fruits of the Doum are eaten by monkey, baboon and elephant.

The climate in this area is typically dry and hot.  Temperatures can reach 40°C in the day with an average low of 20°C at night.  The rainy season occurs during the hotter months between April and June and also November and December, with November usually being the wettest month.  Between January and March it is very hot and dry; July to October is also dry.  The elevation in the park ranges from 800 to 1,230 metres.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are separated by 32 km of the Uaso Nyiro River, which winds its way through Kenya from the Aberdare Mountains to the Loriam Swamp near the Somali border.  The river is the lifeline of this arid region, drawing the water-dependent animals to it during the dry season.  In the Samburu language, “Uaso Nyiro” means “River of Brown Water”.

Located 345km north of Nairobi is Archer’s Gate, the main entrance to Samburu National Reserve.  Established in 1948, the Reserve is relatively small at 170 square kilometres, making animals a bit easier to find than in other parks.  Entry fees for foreigners are currently US$70 per day (2014).

OTA Turkana Festival Tour, Kenya www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Monkey, olive baboon, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, monitor lizard and Nile crocodile are the most commonly seen residents of Samburu.  Lodges in the reserve have attracted the normally reclusive leopards with bait for several years, so the chances of seeing one are greater than in other parks.  As well as these mammals and reptiles, there are over 300 species of birds, including large flocks of Helmeted and Vulturine Guineafowl.  The five endemic species to the area are: Gerenuk, also known as the “giraffe-necked antelope” as it has a stretched neck adapted for browsing high into the bushes; Grevy’s Zebra, with wide black stripes and a completely white belly; Beisa Oryx; Reticulated Giraffe; and the blue-legged Somali Ostrich.

Accommodation in and around Samburu National Reserve varies in luxury and budget.

Umoja Women’s Campsite is our favourite budget option just outside the park gate at Archer’s Post.  It is a community campsite with bandas (small huts) and simple meals.  It is attached to a women’s village that provides refuge for Samburu women fleeing domestic violence.  Proceeds from the campsite support the women, and you can visit the village to learn more about Samburu culture.  Meet the Chairwoman and Founder, Rebecca Lolosoli, in this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1zuCNemmPo.

Samburu Intrepids is an eco-friendly option inside the reserve.  They have financed the development of a school, a bee-keeping project and medical services in the community.

Larsens Camp, Samburu Game Lodge, Saruni Samburu, Sasaab Samburu and Elephant Bedroom Camp are other lodges in the area.

The town of Archer’s Post has simple, budget guesthouses and restaurants.

OTA Turkana Festival Tour, Kenya www.ota-responsibletravel.com

OTA is running a eight-day safari from Nairobi, Kenya to the Lake Turkana Festival via Samburu National Reserve in June.  The Lake Turkana Festival is one of the cultural highlights on Kenya’s calendar.  The tour includes game viewing in Samburu, visiting outback towns Maralal and Marsabit, and visiting the extraordinary cultural festival in Loyangalani.  Fourteen communities in this remote corner of the world coming together to celebrate their differences – don’t you want to be a part of that?!  Visit the website for more information http://www.ota-responsibletravel.com for more information, or check the event page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/OverlandTravelAdventures

OTA’s Turkana Festival Tour – cultural engagement and safari in Kenya

OTA's Lake Turkana Festival Tour www.ota-responsibletravel.com Kenya Safari

The Lake Turkana Festival has been an annual event on the Kenyan calendar for five years but in 2014, for the first time, it is being organised and facilitated by the local government.  So come and help the local economy, engage with communities, and support cultural traditions at this spectacular festival in one of the most remote corners of the globe.

OTA is leading a tour to the Lake Turkana Festival between 11 and 19 June 2014.  The tour will travel from Nairobi to Thomson’s Falls (http://www.itravel.net/travel-blogs/eastern-africa/thomson-s-fall-kenya), Maralal, Loyangalani (the venue for the Festival), Marsabit and Samburu National Reserve (https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/10391).  Travelling in a comfortable safari van with pop up roof fit for photography, game viewing and touring, this is a camping trip accompanied by an experienced driver/guide and a cook.

OTA's Lake Turkana Festival Tour www.ota-responsibletravel.com Kenya Safari

Francis Wamai, Founder and Director of OTA, says: “The Turkana Festival is special in order to learn more about the cultures of people in the Turkana region. Also it’s so nice to see the lake itself in Northern Kenya, which is mostly a large desert!”

OTA's Lake Turkana Festival Tour www.ota-responsibletravel.com Kenya Safari

OTA’s nine-day Lake Turkana Festival Tour is designed for those looking for an exceptional cultural experience to combine with their safari.  The tour cost is US$1157 per person (the trip will only run with a minimum of four people) inclusive of all meals, accommodation, entry fee to Samburu National Reserve, and an English-speaking driver and guide.  There are only six seats available so contact tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com today to reserve your seat.

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.

“Never had expected it would be so amazing!!”

We’ve had a pretty good first year of operations and we sincerely appreciate all those who have travelled with us.  We thank you so much for your support!  And we thank you even more for leaving such kind words and wonderful reviews about your trip!  This blog post is a bit of a brag, let’s be honest.  But we are so happy to receive such fantastic endorsements that we wanted to share them.

Angelique and Fred travelled with OTA for 18 days from Nairobi to Mombasa:
“Overland Travel Adventures had organized an amazing safari in Kenya of 18 days for the two of us. We only had given them our wishes about some places we wanted to see. We traveled by van with open toproof. Francis is a very experienced, excellent driver AND guide who showed us the animals in several wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries in Kenya. Tracey made everything possible, even when it seemed impossible! We were kept stress free! They had made a very nice selection of accommodations, from very sober but original (e.g. Umoja Women Camp near Samburu National Reserve, to very special ones, like Lion’s Bluff in Lumo Sanctuary. They arranged also very special adventures for us about real Kenyan culture. This all is so well chosen and personalized, so we enjoyed every moment during this long Safari. We can recommend Overland Travel Adventures to all couples or small groups (families), that want a very special and personalized trip to Afrika!”

Francis with Fred and Angelique enjoying a picnic in Samburu Reserve, Kenya, OTA www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Francis with Fred and Angelique enjoying a picnic in Samburu Reserve

Baldur came in February for a short trip which then became a longer trip:
“I had left Tanzania disheartened. My Tanzanian tour operator had been anything but service-oriented on the tour to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro the days before and the stay in Arusha had been very difficult. So upon arriving in Nairobi, I actually wondered why on earth I should do more African safaris. Wouldn’t all the tour operators be the same anyways? 

But since I still had some days to kill in Kenya, didn’t want to pay to change my ticket, and was after all interested in wildlife while knowing that I might never again get a chance to see Africa, I decided to give OTA a go. I had been in touch with Tracey (there are countless tour operators/agencies in East Africa and you can’t write to them all but I found OTA on some responsible tourism website and, being an Ecotourism graduate, this appealed to me so I only wrote to companies listed there) and I was amazed at the amount of information she put down and also the passion that shined through. These were not the short almost copy-paste response that you might expect from a larger operator. So even if my money was about to run out, I decided to forget about it and asked Tracey if they could take me to Samburu and Tsavo West.

I can say that Tracey and Francis repaired a lot of what the Tanzanian operator had damaged. Had I not met them, I would have left Africa totally disappointed and totally disillusioned. But the two of them are just a perfect mix. Francis is a born-and-bred Kenyan whose insight into and knowledge of his country is amazing. There was not a question that he could not answer. These were also the weeks leading up to the presidential elections. Francis presented me with some very interesting views on how things might turn out and how things have been. He is also a very balanced man and a confident driver (the traffic in East Africa is horrible but Francis made me comfortable). Australia-born Tracey then offers a foreigner’s view of Kenya and is almost too keen to help out and give you honest advise.

My three weeks in East Africa were difficult as I had never been to Africa before and I learnt many things the hard way. But it would have been a much harder experience if not for Tracey and Francis. They are starting the company and will provide you with what many larger and older tour operators will not: personal attention and care.

Give them a go, you won’t regret it!”

Baldur and Francis discussing the big issues over lunch in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya, OTA www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Baldur and Francis discussing the big issues over lunch in Tsavo West National Park

Tiffany and Alex came in August to explore the Maasai Mara and Lake Naivasha.  Here’s Tiffany’s report:
“This was my first trip to Africa and didn’t know what to expect so I decided I’d feel safer with a tour. I was recommended OTA by a distant connection and was not disappointed. From the very first email inquiry to the moment we left Nairobi, Tracey and Francis gave us a safari with personal touches. They were genuine and did not treat us “like any other client”. After matching the price of another tour, it was this personal touch that tipped the scales to go with OTA. My friend and I took a private 6-day tour to Nairobi, Masai Mara and Lake Naivasha. OTA was great about listening to our needs and wants and incorporated it into the tour giving us lots of wildlife and physical activity. They also were very accommodating when we had a last minute flight change.

The only small disappointment was that OTA intended to incorporate an afternoon of volunteering for us but unfortunately, it fell through while we were there. The volunteering element was a distinguishing service from other tour companies and a key reason we chose OTA. However, they gave us alternative activities and I still feel confident that the next time I visit Africa, OTA would still be able to provide me volunteering opportunities / connections. 

Overall, I would use OTA again and highly recommend their services!”

Alex and Tiffany enjoying the sunset over the Maasai Mara, Kenya, OTA www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Alex and Tiffany enjoying the sunset over the Maasai Mara

Carolyn and her daughter Sam travelled from Nairobi to Kampala in August:
“We spent a lovely couple of weeks with Tracey and Francis. I shared this trip with my daughter who lives overseas so it was a great time together. OTA was very helpful and made sure all our needs were met. I had a free day before my daughter flew in and Tracey took good care of me by taking me to see the giraffes and the orphan elephants in Nairobi. We then did a road trip to Naivasha, Massai Mara and Lake Nakuru before travelling up into Uganda. We had a lovely day riding bicycles in Hell’s Gate and climbed Mt Longonot. OTA was excellent with all the information we needed before we left. Emails each week to get us ready. They made the tour very flexible to meet our needs and time restraints. I would be very happy to recommend them as an affordable, friendly, fun tour company.”

Scott left this endorsement after a short Maasai Mara trip with his friend Rebecca:
“OTA created a customised tour based on what I wanted to see/experience/visit. It was a fantastic trip filled with education, great service, great landscapes, wildlife and full on adventures.
These trips are authentic, respectful, honest and I felt very safe. Frances was a reliable and engaging driver, who knew a lot about his country and wider African Culture. Accomodation was great (tents and a small building in the middle of the Masaii Mara). I would not hesitate taking a trip with OTA and experiencing excellent travel.”

Francis with Rebecca and Scott returning from a big day in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, OTA www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Francis with Rebecca and Scott returning from a big day in the Maasai Mara

So thank you again to everyone who has made our year so great.  And also to our friends and supporters who have not yet had the opportunity to come – in fact Richard Mullin says of you: The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”  You do!!

See you soon.

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