Our final camp in Kenya was at Mhali Mzuri, one of Richard Branson's properties. And it was awesome! The staff, the tents, the food, the guide were all awesome! We thoroughly enjoyed our 4 nights here, full of game drives and family bonding. The kids have gotten really good at hearts!
Our trip back was kind of a nightmare though. We left Mhali Mzuri and flew to Nairobi where we spent the night at Hemingway Hotel, which was super nice. We also ate at a great place for lunch called Tamarind.
The following day we flew from Nairobi back to Accra, where we had to overnight because our Delta flight didn't leave til the following day. We slept at a hotel called Tang Palace hotel. Our room smelled awful and I wish I would have had the foresight to ask for a different room but I figured one night no biggie (we had 1 room for the four of us, a suite, w a bed upstairs and 2 beds downstairs). We had dinner in the hotel that night at this Chinese restaurant. The food was pretty mediocre except for the pork dish (which I ordered) was downright nasty. I sent it back but still ate a bite.
At around 2:30am, I woke up with my glands salivating (not in a good way) and tossed and turned for a few minutes until I started gagging from the smell of the room. I ran to the bathroom and proceeded to empty the contents of my stomach. After I got to the dry heaving stage, I couldn't stay in the room w that smell so I got dressed, went to the lobby and just laid down on a couch until about 6am when I went back to the room, awoke the family and packed up and went to the airport. While waiting to board our Delta flight, we got the announcement that boarding would be delayed due to the Delta system outage. Long story short, we were delayed 4 hrs in Accra (I slept most of the time when I wasn't running to the bathroom). We finally boarded and I proceeded to sleep 9 of the 11 hours (except for the trips to the airplane bathroom, fun fun). When we landed in NY it took us about an hr to get thru customs and immigration, get our bags, re check them, then sprint to the gate where we made what we thought was final boarding for our delayed connection (we ended up sitting at the gate for an hour or so waiting for other passengers). When we finally landed in LAX at 2am, we waited 2 hours for a fucking gate! Pardon the f bomb but that was totally ridiculous. We ended up not even waiting for our baggage because we all just wanted to get home, which we did finally at 5:30am. Door to door, when we left Mhali Mzuri, we got back home 77 hours and 46 minutes later. Ouch.
Despite the rough journey home, we all had an amazing trip and will have the memories for a lifetime. Thank you all for reading. If anyone would like to see photos of the trip, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 4, 2016
We landed at Ngerende air strip and as we landed, a herd of Impala ran across the airstrip. We were literally 3 feet from hitting one. Scary!
We got our bags unloaded and saw about 5 trucks waiting for pick ups, but none of them were for our lodge. We ended up waiting about 20 minutes because they thought we were arriving to the camp by car. Kind of lame but no big deal, right? So we get to the lodge and are escorted to the reception tent. We are seated on the deck which overlooks a river with lots of sounds of Hippos barking and snorting. We wait on the deck for about 5 minutes when I finally get up to ask if we can go to our rooms. We are told the rooms aren't ready yet but that lunch will be ready soon. Another 5 minutes of waiting and then we are taken to a cool table on the cliff overlooking the river. Lunch was great and after lunch they said only one room was ready. So we all went to the one room, and got changed into our "swimming costumes" to go to the pool for a bit.
Around 5pm, we asked to go to the nearby Fairmont Lodge so we can have a drink and connect our phones (that's right, no internet at our Lodge). When we returned to our lodge around 6pm, the other room was finally ready so the kids unpacked and we met at 7:30 for a quick drive to the rivers edge to see the hippos exit the river. We only saw about 3 or 4 come out because I think they were spooked by us but it was still cool to see. Then back to the lodge for dinner. By the way, when we went to the Fairmont, I emailed out travel agent to tell her what was going on at our camp to see if she could get us into Mhali Mzuri a day early. After dinner, we retreated to our room to play hearts (we've been playing hearts all trip and it's been so fun! The kids have gotten really good at it!!).
The next day I woke up at 7:30, 45 minutes AFTER our planned wake up call. When Jacob the manager showed up at our room, he just smiled and said"we forgot". Very frustrating, especially when you are paying a small fortune to stay at these places. Anyway, we left immediately on a 2 hour game drive...we saw a bunch of giraffe's, wildebeests (also called Gnu), impala's, warthogs, etc. Came back had breakfast, then back to the room to read, relax, play hearts, etc. We then walked to a local village which we thought was going to be kind of a bust but ended up really cool. The villagers performed a traditional Masai song and dance for us (which we all participated in), including the part where you jump up as high as you can. We then toured the village including the chief's home, which is quite small, maybe 200sf and made of mud and elephant dung and sticks. We went to their daily market where Jenny & Savannah bought some bracelets and Jacob bought the chief's club made of Olive wood and the fires starter wood he used to make fire. We then toured the school which was a tree surrounded by a wall of sticks and inside was the teacher teaching about 10 children the days of the week (in English). It was really cool. They explained how big an emphasis education is today vs 30 yrs ago when the Masai people just herded cattle, hunted and traded.
Anyway, we got back for lunch and after lunch I received a phone call from my rock star travel agent Camille Rowe who said she's arranged for an immediate transfer for us to Mhali Mzuri (MM) and to get packed and GO! It was totally awkward explaining why we were leaving early (we partially used the excuse that we couldn't be unconnected from WiFi because of Jenny's mom) but our excitement at leaving there and going to MM far outweighed any awkwardness.
So we packed, got in the jeep for the hour drive and went. On the way we stopped at a rhino sanctuary. We heard we could touch and pet the rhinos and that it was a cool experience (and it was on the way to MM). We got there, paid $30,person, and shortly thereafter found out there were a grand total of 2 rhinos in the sanctuary and both were asleep and couldn't be disturbed. A bit disappointing but the $$ goes to the sanctuary and they are trying to bring in 3 more rhinos in the future.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
The airport in Accra really sucks. Once through security/immigration, there are literally NO restaurants. There are 2 "snack bars" that served meat pie, fish pie and that's it. We opted for crap from duty free: peanut m&m's, tobblerone, potato chips and water. We did make it to the "first class" lounge, which was on par with the airport. They surprisingly had a shower, but no hot water and it was tiny. Plus, to get a towel, you had to leave your boarding pass with the reception desk which was returned when you returned your wet towel.
Once we landed in Kenya ( 6 hr red eye), we were transferred to the Wilson Airport, a much smaller version of Long Beach Airport (15 min drive). We got breakfast, which was actually pretty good and waited for our flight, a 12 seater that landed us an hour later at Lewa.
We were met at Lewa by Festus, who ended up being our guide. Festus was the Bestus. We've kept a list of every animal we saw but he just knew his stuff and took it personally if he didn't find us as many animals as possible. On our way from the airport to the Lewa Safari Camp, we saw elephants, giraffes, warthogs, rhino's (white), zebras, gazelles, and a few others. We got to camp a few hours later and were oriented by the managers, Sacha and his wife Tablyn. Also met their daughter Mela, who is 3 yrs old and adorable. Nice lunch by the pool, chicken pot pie, marguerite pizza, avocado & tomato salad. After a siesta, we went on a 4pm game drive that was filled with animal sightings, a flat tire in the bush, a flock of vultures that were feeding on a large antelope and apps and wine atop William Hill, overlooking the whole valley. awesome day, awesome Fetus.
We awoke at 6:45 the next morning for a 7am breakfast and an all day excursion to the forest. We say a pair of cheetah's on the way there, along with a bunch of animals (see list). We stopped at Lewa Conservancy headquarters on the way where we fed a black faced monkey some crackers and he was nice enough to show us his blue balls. Jacob has since made the blue balls his screen saver on his iPhone.
After we left the headquarters, we came across 2 black rhinos, a mom and her calf (AR baby rhino's called calves?). These rhinos are pretty aggressive and as we drove off the road towards them, they charged us! It was so unexpected and crazy!! Festus expertly maneuvered the vehicle so we didn't get rammed but it was close and boy can those rhinos move!! Unfortunately we didn't really get it adequately captured on film but more on this later. Holy crap, we couldn't stop talking about it and laughing!
Once we arrived at "the forest", we hiked down to a really cool waterfall, then hiked to a deep pool where we all (yes, even Jenny) jumped off the rocks into the ~50 degree water. It felt great. We dried off, hiked a bit more to the source of the falls, then drove to the canopy walk, which was about 50 yards above the ground in the tops of the trees. It was about 500 meters in length and our lunch was waiting for us at the end. On the drive back to camp all we talked about and looked for was more black rhinos but we didn't see any. However, about a mile from camp, Festus abruptly turned off the road into the bush and after about 5 minutes, we stopped under a tree to find the 2 cheetah brothers lounging into the evening. It's kind of crazy that these guides know where to look. Kind of reminds me of my deep sea fishing guide in the keys, Joe Petrucco. Listening to the chatter on the radio about what other guides are saying and making it happen. Anyway, as we sat there and took pictures of the cheetahs, Savannah decided to make a clicking noise to get the Cheetah's attention. One of the Cheetahs abruptly sat up and looked directly at us, not 6 feet from the truck. Fortunately, that was it and Savannah notched another "naughty" in her belt.
The next day we packed for our 9am flight and were on the road at 7 for a mini game drive on the way to the airstrip. Well, we got our wish. Festus spotted 2 black rhinos from about 3 miles away and we drove a bit too close (again) and again, got the double charge! This time Jacob had his camera ready and he got a great little video of it (you can see it on Instagram @wingsforcrossover). We got to the airport at 9 for our 9:20 flight. There were already 2 planes on the ground waiting for their passengers. Our guide went up to the pilots and said "I have 4 people name is Chad". The pilots were looking for a Cooper group so they took off without us. When we finally figured out the mistake, the plane had to come back and get us, which was about an hour off of our departure time (no biggie) and we were en route to Ngerende Island Lodge.