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 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!