Africa XXII: Stone Town and Heading Home

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam
Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar
Africa XXI: Nomad Tours Day 9+10, Northern Zanzibar

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where I finished my 10 day portion of the tour. Erica is continuing on with the group down to South Africa, but my time was now nearing an end. I continued with the group back to Stone Town where about half the group was splitting off and ending their tour. Back in Dar es Salaam, new people would join filling their place as the tour continued on. Instead of taking the ferry back to Dar, it just made more sense to spend an extra night in Zanzibar (heaven) and fly out through the Zanzibar Airport the next day.

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Before we left Northern Zanzibar we snapped this photo above. It’s everyone from our safari truck, minus Marjan who took this photo. I spent most of my time on the tour with these guys and they are defiantly my favorites 🙂 While Robin (on the left) and my sister (on the right) continued on the tour together, Marjan, Myrna (green tank-top) and Jorien (red and black) were also staying in Stone Town for their last night. This meant I could spend some more time with them before the trip had to end.

The van made it’s way back to Stone Town and they were nice enough to drop me at my hotel for the night (the Shangani Hotel). Once I got settled in my hotel, I decided to spend the rest of the day here exploring on my own.

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I was nervous about walking alone after dark (as a single lady and all), so I decided to spend the day packed with exercise and exploring so then at night I would crash. The hotel let me borrow this map above. and I went to a local coffee shop/book store to plan out my trek. My dutch friends were staying at the Zanzibar Coffee House (which was super adorable), so I decided to figure out the maze of old Stone Town to find how to get there from my hotel.

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And I made it! After getting super lost a whole bunch, I stumbled upon it! Funny enough they were in the cafe below and waved me in. We made dinner plans and I set off on more of my self-guided tour of Stone Town.

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I just love this maze!

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This is the view from my floor of the hotel.

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Here’s the view from the other end of the hall my room was on.

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I made another stop at the Freddie Mercury house, just a stroll down the street from my hotel.

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I then looped around the tip of Stone Town seeing as much of the water as I could.

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Zanzibar is famous for their specialty doors. Check out that detailing above.

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I took a ginger ale break by the water at Tembo House Hotel. This is also where we ended up having dinner. It was yummy and cheap! This place is also a swanky hotel.

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This is the view from my hotel room above.

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Here’s Jorien, Marjan, Myrna, and me enjoying my last meal in Africa (they had an extra day here). It was so nice of them to invite me to dinner. I miss them.

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The next morning I took an early morning cab to the Zanzibar Airport. My itinerary was to fly from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam and Dar to Nairobi, Kenya (both flights via Precision Air). From Nairobi, I was to fly to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to JFK (New York) via KLM Airlines. New York was my final destination, as I decided a 2 week East Coast layover was necessary after my Africa trip. I ended up only taking 1 of my 4 scheduled flights.

I arrived at the Zanzibar Airport to see I was the only person waiting for the flight. Curious. Also, there was no one at the desk I was supposed to check-in at. When I asked the Security Guard what to do the response I got was “you’re too early”. Also curious, because  the flight was set to leave in 45 minutes… then 40 minutes… then 5 minutes.. then I officially missed the flight as I sat their waiting for anyone to come to the airline desk.

Once someone finally arrived, I was told that the fight I had booked a ticket on didn’t exist. Greaaaaat. I still had 3 additional flights to catch this same day, and already I was behind.

They were very nice and booked me on a 10:30a flight to Dar. Since I would miss my Dar to Nairobi flight, they booked me on a later flight for that leg too. I would make it into Nairobi with enough time to still catch my KLM flights. So at 7am it was already clear I would only be making 2 of my scheduled flights for the day. But alas I would still make it to NYC on schedule.

***When planning travel, especially in foreign countries, allow a TON of extra time between flights in the event that this happens. Thank goodness I allowed time for error.

So I arrive in Niarobi in time and make my scheduled KLM flight to Amsterdam. YES! Finally I made a flight I was supposed to be on. I arrive in Amsterdam to hear that KLM has canceled my 2nd flight from Amsterdam to New York. I was SO close, and yet still not home. They rebooked me on a later flight, so I had an extra 4 hours to kill at the Amsterdam Airport.

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This happened to be the same day that Robin Williams passed away. I first heard of this while waiting in the Dar es Salaam Airport. There was one tv and it had the bbc news on. I was shocked. Then at the Amsterdam Airport I saw this headline. I can’t read it, but I know what it says. So sad. So sad.

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While in the Amsterdam Airport I had plenty of time to walk around and explore, and I saw the weirdest food flavors.

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Look at this HUGE mentos!?! I put my hand in the photo for a sense of scale. Crazy.

After waiting around wishing I were back on US soil and daydreaming of what my “first meal” would be, I made my rescheduled flight back to the US. I was sad to leave Africa but so excited to have something I really missed: CHEESE! My first meal on US soil was Chipotle! And it was sooooo good!

I must say that after contacting KLM and submitting a request for refund (which is within their rules, as if you are on a rescheduled flight that leaves 3 hours later than scheduled, you are entitled to a partial refund), they refunded part of my flight. I am very grateful, as arriving many hours later created a ripple effect making getting into Connecticut significantly more difficult and expensive (it was rush hour).

Both Precision Air and KLM messed up my flights, but both did an excellent job trying to make it right. The customer service at both companies was top notch and I appreciate their efforts to get me home.

I’m sad to say this is the end of my Africa posts… for now 🙂 Hopefully I take a trip back to do the rest of my Nomad Tour sometime in the near future. Than you for reading and be sure to email me (lifeabsorbed@gmail.com) with any questions!

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Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe

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Now it’s time to bid farewell to Kenya and make our way to Moshi, Tanzania. Moshi is the local town/city/district at the base of Kilimanjaro. I’ve had an excellent 24 hours in Nairobi and I really hope to go back and see a lot more of Kenya (especially the Masai Mara Reserve!).

Since Nairobi and Moshi aren’t THAT far apart, if you have the time and are looking to save money you can take the public bus between the two cities. Since we were tight on time, we paid for the Precision Air/Kenya Airways flight. Our ticket says it’s an hour flight, but I feel like it was only 35 minutes of actual air time. Plus the views from the air are incredible, and I had an awesome seat for it (choose the “A” or “B” seats for the best view).

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There’s Kilimanjaro from the plane. “It almost feels like we are only a few feet higher than the peak! EEk, that’s a tall mountain and we are about to start climbing it TOMORROW!” was running through my head. You can tell this is Kili due to it’s unique shape. Kili doesn’t come to a point and is more square shaped at the top.

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Kilimanjaro is off in the distance and Mt. Meru is the closer mountain above. You can tell because Mt. Meru comes to a point.

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There’s Mt. Meru as we circled around it to get to the Kilimanjaro Airport.

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Once you get below the clouds you can see the lands of Tanzania. I have no idea what I was expecting the topography to be like. I had no preconceived notions, and it was a nice unveiling as we descended through the clouds.

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There’s Erica, after we just walked off the plane.

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It’s all starting to feel real! We are doing this! You should know that once you get off the plane and walking to the entrance of the airport, there are guards checking everyone’s yellow fever certificates (proof of the vaccination). You’ll run into a snag if you don’t have one, so be sure to bring this and keep it safe with your passport.

This airport is very small (2 rooms) with the first room being where you get your Tanzania visa. It’s $100 USD for vacationers. Be sure to get clean unmarked new bills to pay this. There aren’t ATMs in here, so you have to come with this money on you.

Once past this area, we grabbed our luggage from the second room and went outside to look for a cell phone/sim card shop (they didn’t have any) and an ATM (they had this!) where we got Tanzanian shillings. We already had our stay booked with the Springlands Hotel which arranged the airport pickup. The Springlands Hotel is Zara Tours hub.

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I took the photo above and below on the drive to the hotel. I was DYING to take photos of the people, and the landscape but I know you really aren’t supposed to take photos of people and everyone else in our van restrained themselves, so I only snapped these two images. Everything was just so different and I wanted to capture it all.

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This was as we made our way into Moshi. It was about 40 minutes from the airport to our hotel. When we left the airport it was surrounded by farm lands and felt very rural. The center of Moshi looked a lot like the photo above with several 1 or 2 story buildings lining the streets. You’ll notice the main road here is paved. As we made our way to the hotel we took a busy unpaved road which seemed like a tire-buster of a road.

After offloading our luggage and being told we would have a late afternoon meeting with our Kilimanjaro guides, we rushed to get a cab and make our way to visit the Good Hope School. A friend of a friend has been working there with and we were excited to meet her and all the students.

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Our time here was really special. It began with the students each introducing themselves and describing their favorite foods and future goals. It was a great chance for them to practice their english and for us to get to know them.

Erica and I talked about our work in the entertainment industry, as many of the students expressed an interest in acting. They are going to be doing a production of the Wizard of Oz soon and sang us some songs and danced for us. This is just such a great place for these students to be. Many students walk a long distance to attend the school and do it because they want to learn. School in Moshi is a privilege and not a mandatory thing like it is in the US, so these kids are very happy to be there. Good Hope is a nonprofit community organization offering schooling to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

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When it was time for photos out in front of their school room, they were so excited. They loved posing for photos. They were all so sweet and had such a positive energy. I can see why people come to this community and want to stay to volunteer.

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(Above) Erica with one of the students.

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(Above) Erica poses with one of the mothers who started this organization and a student.

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Above is Jen, the friend of a friend we were visiting who teaches at the school. She volunteered here for a short time and loved it so much she came back and committed to a longer stay. It’s easy to see why she wanted to come back. Erica and I felt really lucky to get to meet these people and get a taste of real life in Moshi. If you want to donate, check out their website HERE (no pressure).

After spending time with the kids we took a dala-dala into town to grab a quick lunch. The dala-dala is their form of public transportation and is a minivan that they pack with people and use like a bus. Again, I wanted to take a picture of it but with the people around it I felt uncomfortable doing that. This is a good photo of a dala-dala I found online. They always pack everyone in so it’s not uncommon to sit on people’s laps.

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After a quick yummy lunch at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge (American friendly food) we made our way back to the hotel to meet up with our guides, pack and get ready as the next morning we started climbing Kilimanjaro!

Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Art Caffe

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
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In my last post I talk about the first half of my 24 hour day in Nairobi, Kenya. I spent it visiting orphaned elephants. Now it’s time for giraffes! Erica and I took our taxi to the Giraffe Center next. We hired a taxi for the day to take us around Nairobi. Split between the two of us it was an affordable flat rate and the most time saving way to see as much as possible in our 24hrs. When you meet a local driver you trust, be sure to get their phone number and call them when you need rides. Erica met a driver she liked when she was first in Nairobi so it was easy to call and get a quote for a day of touring around the city.

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We arrived at the African Fund For Endangered Wildlife Kenya (or the Giraffe Center), and paid 1000 Kshs ($11.50 USD) to enter. The center includes a cafe, gift shop and feeding platform. The photo above is the feeding platform and it is amazing. It puts you right at the height of the adult giraffes.

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Look at the feet of the giraffe above, and you can see the giraffes buddy: the warthog. The warthogs hang around the feet of the giraffes hoping to catch their scraps.

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You can see the feeding platform sits along the perimeter of a large area reserved for giraffes. Look at them eating off in the distance. They are just so gentle and sweet.

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“When I was a young warthog!!” – The Lion King

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Once I got up on the platform, an employed hands you many food pellets that the giraffes love. This giraffe came galloping over when he saw arms with pellets extended.

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That’s my hand on the left and the giraffe just grabbed a pellet from my hand with his tongue. I was nervous to feed them at first, but once you see that they don’t want to bite you, it becomes more fun. You can even pet their fur when they lean their head in.

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They have a purplish/black tongue and it’s super long. They can grab the food pellets out of your hand from a wide distance using it.

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There’s something called “kissing the giraffe”. The workers encourage doing this and it’s one of those must-do things for visiting the giraffes. Apparently giraffe’s will eat those pellets from anywhere…. anywhere. If you hold a pellet loosely between your lips, they can use their tongue to grab it. Erica got a face full of tongue above!

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Such a cutie.

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Me feeding my friend 🙂

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Next to the Giraffe Center is an expensive private hotel called Giraffe Manor. This hotel is also a feeding area for the giraffes. Supposedly they come right up to your hotel room windows and stick their heads in. You can also feed them from your dinner table. Knowing that this $12 Center is right next door, which gives you a similar yet much more affordable experience, I recommend it over spending all that money to stay in the hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the manor’s amazing but it’s so expensive and has to be booked so many months (years?) in advance.

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After feeding the giraffes and many “giraffe kisses”, we bid farewell to our animal friends and took our cab to the Karen Blixen Museum. Have you read the book or seen the movie Out of Africa? Karen Blixen wrote the book which is based on her life in Kenya. The museum is her actual home in Nairobi where most of the book takes place. Some of the Meryl Streep movie Out Of Africa was even filmed on these grounds.

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Much of the tour takes place inside the home, although no photos are allowed inside which is why I only included exterior photos here. The house inside is just as beautiful as you can imagine and they even have some of the clothing/props from the film.

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Karen Blixen (photo above) was a friend of the Kenyan people. She employed many people and often helped the community. Many locals would visit seeking medical and personal advice. She was loved by the Kenyan community.

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Karen owned a very large piece of property and even grew coffee beans. The above machine is used in the process of preparing the coffee.

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Once our tour ended, our taxi driver made a quick stop back at the Galleria Mall so we could get a dinner to go from Artcaffe (Erica’s favorite local restaurant good for Americans). Just a warning, security is tight at the malls in Nairobi. These malls are not nearly the size of a typical American mall, but are very large and fancy by local standards. Due to the terror attack at the Westgate Mall in 2013, there is a strong police presence at the mall. Also like many places in Africa, photography around the mall is not allowed.

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We had to try one of the Artcaffe cakes 🙂 It was delicious.

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Just to give you a sense of where we went for our 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya, here’s a map and LINK to the directions.
A) The Nairobi Airport Stopover Hotel
B) The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
C) The Giraffe Center
D) The Karen Blixen Museum
E) The Galleria Mall – Artcaffe

Africa II: Kenya Stop 1, Baby Elephants

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
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Last I left off, Erica and I were at the Nairobi Airport Stopover Hotel about to embark on our 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya. We researched ahead of time and figured out that The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (elephant and rhino orphanage) does a feeding in the morning which is the best time to go. We decided to start our day there. Next we would hit up the Giraffe Center where we could feed and pet Giraffes. After these two spots, we would visit the Karen Blixen Museum (Karen’s home where Out of Africa was based and filmed). Lastly we would visit one of Nairobi’s nicest malls (the Galleria) where we could eat dinner at Artcaffe (yummy!) which serves American food safe for tourists. This is a chain Erica and I both enjoyed, so if you are in Africa and see an Artcaffe, it’s a great place to grab a meal or coffee. The mall was also our last opportunity to purchase any gear for Kilimanjaro.

Since each of these activities above involved MANY photo taking opportunities, I will use this post to share just the images from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (elephants!) and the next post will focus on images of the giraffes and Karen Blixen museum.

If you only have 2 hours in Nairobi, go to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This was a highlight of the trip for me. I think it costs less than $10 USD and the money goes toward the orphan project. They rescue these baby elephants when either a parent has died (or been poached) or if they’ve been rejected from their group. A single baby elephant alone has a low survival rate (they can’t protect themselves), so they are saved and brought to this orphanage. Here the caretakers feed them and care for them like a mother would.

It’s a very sweet place and fascinating to see the elephant feedings. Once the elephants are old enough (and able to fend for themselves) they are released back into the wild, as this isn’t meant to be an elephant zoo or jail. It really is a place to rehab and teach these animals survival and social skills. Watching these animals interact during the feeding, you can see their personalities. Each elephant has a name and story, which is explained to us during the feeding.

Enjoy these adorable creatures:

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The elephants come from out in the protected woods area. The youngest group comes out first. They are so little!

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It was cute to see the school groups arrive and live the edge of the elephant area. The kids love to pet the animals, and the elephants love the attention.

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Once the baby elephants finish their feedings and are lead away, another group of slightly older elephants comes running from the woods. They know where their food is, and they are excited to get it.

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They drink powdered milk with water added, as this is most cost effective and I think closely mimics their real milk.

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After each age group drinks their milk, they walk around and play together. Above the elephant is drinking water from a barrel.

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Some elephants lay down and roll in the dirt. They love the dirt.

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Elephant heaven- rolling in the dirt. They are so happy in the photo above.

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They are so much like people and each elephant has a different personality.

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The kids were so adorable with the baby elephants.

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Happiness!

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The largest group of elephants came out last. This group enjoyed playing with the tree branches, as they eat the leaves.

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This elephant was swinging these large branches around.

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Sneaky elephants! Above and below these elephants stole extra milk bottles. These guys knew right where the crew kept the bottles and kept sneaking over by it to find left over bottles.

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Kissing elephants.

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As our time with the elephants was coming to an end, off in the distance some Thompson Gazelles stopped by to watch the elephants. These two animals coexist together in the wild and are friendly to each other. This was my first taste of seeing African animals in the wild, and I was in awe.

Giraffe’s are up next!

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my African experience.

To start off I want to focus on the rundown of the trip and planning leading up to the trip. Then I’ll end this post with my arrival in Kenya (day 1 of the trip). My upcoming posts will follow this timeline.

Here’s the RUNDOWN of the entire 3 weeks of travel.
Day 1: getting to Kenya and meeting up with Erica (my sister and travel blogger of As Her World Turns).
Day 2: exploring Nairobi, Kenya since I only have 24 hours in this country.
Day 3: traveling to Moshi, Tanzania (Kilimanjaro’s airport and closest town/city) and meet up with the School of Good Hope, where a friend of a friend teaches children. Also meet with our Zara Tour Guides (Bruce and Thomas) to discuss the climb and get any last minute items for climbing the mountain.
Day 4: Start climbing Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route.
Day 5-11: Climbing Kilimanjaro.
Day 12: One rest day at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi.
Day 13: Take public transportation into Arusha (nearby town/city) to meet up with our Nomad Tours safari group, who we are with through the end of the trip.
Day 14 + 15: Stay in the Serengeti and spend the two days game driving.
Day 16: Stay in the Nogorogro Crater and spend the day game driving.
Day 17: Come back into Arusha for the night.
Day 18: Drive overland with our Nomad group to head toward Dar es Salaam.
Day 19: Arrive in Dar es Salaam and take a ferry to Zanzibar.
Day 20-22: Spend time in northern Zanzibar and then head back to Stone Town Zanzibar, where I had to depart the Nomad Tour and spend the night by myself at the Shangani Hotel.
Day 23: Depart Zanzibar and make my very long trek back to the US.

BUDGETING
You can see above, it was a very packed 3 weeks of travel. How do you even begin to plan all of this?! It’s helpful that my sister is a travel blogger and enjoys this sort of planning, as I just followed her lead. The first thing we did while trying to plan was figure out a goal budget and a list of places I wanted to see. This ultimately decides the number of days of the trip, as each day adds $$$. My budget when this conversation first happened was $5000 (to include hiking Kili, a safari, time in Zanzibar and all air travel), which I figured would go far in Africa, but it was all more expensive than you would think. My goal length of time was 2-3 weeks. Once the list of goal destinations was made, and after a lot of “well if I’m already here, I might as well also see here”, it ended up costing more around $6000 and being a solid 3 weeks. But if you’re going halfway around the world you might as well do it right, right?

I highly recommend making a list/spread sheet of costs because like I experienced, it gets VERY overwhelming. My spread sheet had a page just for vaccinations (and researching the best prices around LA), a page just for tracking airfare (as there were so many flights and options to consider), clothing +gear (as the climb required me to purchase more clothing and hiking aids, and the safari required a completely different set of clothing), extras (an international cell phone plan? snorkeling in Zanzibar? Travel insurance which is required for the tour, etc) and then a page tabulating all these numbers. Yikes. All these little things really add up.

Before you leave, I suggest getting $500 (as safety money) in clean bills (no rips, tears, pen marks etc) and make sure the date of the bill is 2006 or newer, and get small bills. Some places are fussy about money and you don’t want to be in a situation where you have money but they won’t accept it. If you use a debit or credit card you’ll probably be hit with fees (investigate your banks rules before you go), so having this safety money, actually saved me from being charged big fees. They take US dollars in most places (assuming it fits those rules above). I suggest bringing cash for the porter/guide tips on Kili (more on that in my Kili posts), money for food + gifts, as well as cash for visas ($50 in Kenya, $100 in Tanzania). I was traveling with about $1000 total cash, which every day that number went down. I was nervous about having that much money on me, but I always kept the money on me or locked up. We also exchanged cash in both Kenya and Tanzania for their countries shillings. I suggest getting a currency converter app to make it easier to track the amount you’re spending.

IMMUNIZATIONS
***When budgeting any international travel, be sure to budget money for immunizations. I didn’t budget the right value of these shots/meds and my budget went from $6000 to closer to $7000. I called all over Los Angeles researching where to get the best deal on these immunizations as none of it was covered by my health insurance. The best deal ended up being the Heathy Traveler in Pasadena. I made an appointment and went 1 month before my trip. Be sure to research via the CDC which immunizations are required, and which additional immunizations you want to get to feel comfortable. Most of these shots last for at least 10 years or in some cases cover you for life, so while it’s a pricy up front cost you can see it as an investment on future travel. Keep a running list of what immunizations you’ve had as it will save you money in the long run.

Since I was in Nairobi (a city) for 1 day and then at a high elevation in Moshi, I didn’t need malaria medication until I was in Arusha getting ready for the safari. I took a generic malarone medication for this, which actually was covered under my insurance (woo hoo!). This medication you take 2 days before entering a malaria area, all during your stay and then 7 days once you’ve left the area. With other meds you have to take even longer after you’ve left the infected area, so malarone is a good one to take.

To enter Tanzania and Zanzibar you have to show proof that’s you’ve gotten an immunization to Yellow Fever. Keep this paperwork forever, as you’ll need it to enter other countries too and it’s very important. I also got the hepatitis B vaccine (it’s a 2 series shot), and the typhoid fever oral vaccination (cheaper option than the shot). You’ll have to pay for the doctor’s visit to get these done, as well as pay for the meds they prescribe. Get the anti-vomit and anti-diarrhea medications and even bring imodium as I can guarantee you’ll use them here. They also offer a bunch of other immunizations, I just had to weigh my budget against the odds of getting some of these illnesses to figure out which vaccines I wanted to get.

Bring the above medicines as well as advil, advil pm/sleep meds, allergy meds (it’s very dusty), tums, benadryl, and any other meds you might need. I normally don’t take much medicine, but I took several of these meds while in Africa.

CLOTHING + GEAR
This was a challenge. I was in a tent and sleeping bag for 16 nights out of a 23 day trip. That’s a lot. This was a great way to save money but to make sure I was relatively comfortable I bought a blow-up travel pillow on amazon, and a fleece sleeping bag liner (a must for Kili). I also packed my cold weather sleeping bag, which as you can imagine sucked up a lot of space in my travel bag. On Kili, Zara Tours provided mats, and Nomad Tours provided mats on the safari, so there’s no need to purchase and carry one in your bag.

For Kilimanjaro, it’s all about hiking clothes and layers. I probably packed about 2 full changes of clothing to cover me for the 7 days (plus 7 pairs of underwear and socks). At the end of each night it felt good to change into clean underwear and socks even when your outside clothes were dirty. Keep in mind on the summit night/day you’ll probably wear everything you’ve packed (I did). Include a poncho/rain jacket as it’s always raining in the jungle portion of the climb. Bring clothes (hat/gloves/gator) that you would bring on a ski trip, and bring clothes that you would wear for a hot day of hiking and then pair them up. That’s the best advice I can give. Also pack power bars and energy boosters for the climb. Plenty of food is provided, but not mid-climb each day, so if you need an energy boost in the middle of a 6 hour hike, I suggest you pack something. I packed a power bar and Clif shot blok snack for each day of the climb and that was good for me.

Bloggers said “you’ll be so dirty you won’t be able to put in your contacts so don’t bring them”. I disagree and I’m so glad I brought contacts and my glasses/sun glasses. I wore my contacts every day. I also purchased something called a P EZ (not pez like the candy), and it is hilarious. It’s to help women pee standing up (like if it’s zero degrees and you don’t want to take your layers off, or if you need to just go by the path where people might see you). I think every girl should own one for hiking but also for gross bar bathrooms. Female bloggers recommended this to me. I only used it a few times, but I was also very lucky and had a toilet on Kili (more on that in a future post). If we didn’t have that toilet, I would have been using that every day. Think about it ladies.

Footware: Bring waterproof hiking boots, but also bring a pair of sandals that your feet can slip into with socks on. For example, if it’s freezing cold and you have to use the bathroom at 2am, you can keep your four layers of socks on by just slipping into a sandal to go use the restroom it’s SO much easier. Plus after a long day of hiking it feels good to be in something other than your boots (which will get muddy and gross). It’s not a fashion show, so don’t worry about the whole socks-in-sandals thing, as you’ll want to be in those sandals with socks on by the end of day 1.

While you are climbing Kili, you are able to leave luggage at the hotel, which is a great place to ditch the safari clothing as there’s no point carrying that stuff up the mountain. Which reminds me, bring FAA approved travel locks for all your bags. There are many times that you have to separate from your bag and a travel lock will hopefully deter would-be robbers. I even kept my bags locked in the few hotels we stayed in just to be safe.

For the Nomad Safari Tour, you want to dress for the heat during the day which is light airy clothing that covers you (which prevents sun burns, over heating, and bug bites). Avoid bright white, black, navy or bright colors as these attract misquotes which can carry malaria. At night, bring a light jacket and a sweatshirt as it can get chilly in August at night (it’s their winter). Bring a hat and sunglasses as it’s bright on the Serengeti.

Our safari tour ended for me in Zanzibar, which is a beach resort island off the coast of Tanzania. It’s mostly Muslim, so bring shirts that cover your shoulders, scarves and long skirts. Bring your bathing suit, as you should feel comfortable wearing it at the beach without judgement. It’s mainly in Stone Town where you need to be respectful of their unofficial dress code.

To save on space, try to pack layers for Kili that are tan/beige and can be re-warn while on the safari. You can always do “laundry” in the sinks at hotels if you pack a little laundry detergent. Bring lots of sunscreen for both the climb and the safari as well as bug spray (just for the safari/Zanzibar). Most places have netting over the beds for sleeping, but I still managed to get 3 face bug bites on the first day of our safari.

CELL PHONE
I have a Verizon phone plan, which has a terrible international option ($25 for a small amount of data). It just didn’t make sense to do this, especially since they don’t tell you how much data you’ve used and the plan rolls over up to $400. Aka, just checking email could end up costing you $400, even though you think you’ve only spent $25. Not ok. Erica suggested getting sim cards in each country, as they often have places that are cheap and at the airport. My plan was to get one in Moshi, but the airport was so tiny and didn’t have a cell phone store (or any stores for that matter). I ended up going the whole trip keeping my cell on “airplane mode” and using the free wifi at the different places we stayed. This was SO liberating! Every few days I was able to check in with my parents and post a few photos and then turn my cell phone off. It was amazing. And for all of Kili I didn’t even pack my phone! Not only was this the cheapest option (free), but it also kept me the most in-the-moment, instead of constantly checking email etc.

TRAVEL INSURANCE
Nomad Tours requires travel insurance, just incase something doesn’t go as planned… like we miss our ferry, or the bus breaks down and we can’t do things we’ve already paid to do or something costs a lot more as a result, it covers the cost. In Africa there are so many things you can’t count on- for example at one airport while I was checking in for a flight the guy said “Oh we canceled that flight 6 months ago” (more on that in a future post). Things just aren’t very organized and you have to roll with it. I got my travel insurance from WorldNomads.com (not affiliated with Nomad Tours) and it was $85 for the whole trip.

GettingThere1-5

You can see my long “to pack list” in the shot above. Keep in mind you’ll have to carry your own bags a lot, so do your best to keep it light. I would suggest a large canvas duffle (which works well on the safari and fits in the lockers on the truck) and a backpack that you can carry with it. I also brought a smaller purse with pockets (which could slip into my backpack if needed). I would suggest packing your bag a full week before as a dry run. By doing this I was able to see what I was lacking and gave me a week to think about what I could remove to make it lighter.

GettingThere2

Above, I took this photo in my apartment as I waited for the airport shuttle to arrive at my house. I used Shuttle2lax.com and it was $20 one way (plus $5 tip). Sure, we picked up a van full of people before I got to the airport, but I allowed plenty of time and didn’t have to pester friends for a ride- win! The photo is to give you a sense of scale of my bags. It was still pretty heavy for me, but I’m glad I didn’t pack a roller bag as those are not recommended. The red color made it easy to spot and the canvas made it malleable which was good.

GettingThere3

LAX has an awesome international terminal. This was my first time flying directly out of the country from LA and this puts the rest of the airport to shame. They even had a LAMill! And it looked like the real LAMill in Silverlake. The space is very modern with many yummy dining options and I like that they’ve incorporated LA specific restaurants like LAMill and Umami Burger.

GettingThere4

I flew from LAX to Amsterdam via KLM Airlines, then Amsterdam to Nairobi (also KLM). My flight out was on time, comfortable and since it was a 747 (huge!) it had a lot of amenities that make flying go by quickly. I prefer these long comfy flights as opposed to the 4-5 hour US flights which feel like riding a bus (no space, no food, no music, no tv). It’s nice to enjoy the meal after take off, put on a tv show, enjoy a free glass of wine and nod off. Then an hour before landing you get another meal (usually a breakfast). It’s delightful.

GettingThere5

Looky here, it’s The Newsroom in Dutch!

GettingThere6

I arrived in Nairobi around 8:30pm, and their airport has all the flights exit their planes on an exterior staircase bought right to the door of the plane, then you take a bus to the luggage terminal/immigration. Unfortunately, my stay in Kenya is just 24 hours which was long enough to require a $50 visa. Oh well, I was so glad to get to see Nairobi, so it was worth it. After waiting in a very long Visa line, at 10:30p I got my bag, went to an atm to get 3000 Kenyan shillings (like $35 US dollars) which would cover cab fair, meals and entrance fees for my 24 hour day in Kenya.

GettingThere7

Erica and I booked a room at the Nairobi Airport Stop Over House, which included a yummy breakfast, a shared bathroom, and free wifi (we each paid $36 a night). When booking with them they said for an additional fee they would send a car for us. I think it was $15 and included tip. This meant that at 10:30p, I found the guy holding a paper with my name on it and he took me directly to the hotel. Easy-peasy. He taught me a few Swahili words (“Jambo” is hi), took us through a police check-point (scary since it was my first one) and then through 2 different gates each with armed men (holding huge guns). Where am I?! Thankfully I ended up safely in the right place. Welcome to Kenya!

I’m BAAAAACK!

LionKing
(Me and my buddies on a safari)

Guess who’s back! I survived hiking Kilimanjaro, a finger infection on the Serengeti, and stomach sickness on Zanzibar (more really for like 85% of the trip). Turns out my stomach can’t digest food in Africa. I’ll admit, that put a damper on things, but I still had an incredible, invaluable time in Kenya and Tanzania.

I arrived in NYC last night and made it into Connecticut after that to see family. I downloaded most of my photos (hundreds) so it’ll take time to edit and go through all of that, but you can expect a tons of posts on Africa. First I’ll give you a “24-hours in Kenya” guide, as that was basically all the time I had in Nairobi, but it was packed with fun. Next I’ll tell you all about Kilimanjaro, the route, the meals, and our experience with Zara Tours. Then I’ll share all about the Nomad Tours safari and Zanzibar visit. I really hope these posts serve as a guide to your future Kenya/Tanzania trip. Be sure to also check out As Her World Turns, as my sister posts her experiences with Africa.