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Travel Wild Tours Blog

Expert opinions and commentaries about adventures with Travel Wild Tours

Traveling to East Africa

It is a place of myths, dreams, intrigue and adventure.  To some, it seems scary and far away.  To others

it’s a “bucket list” item.  And, to many, it’s hard to even imagine outside of a storybook or movie. 

Whatever it is to you, a trip to East Africa is within reach and well worth the time, money and effort!

“East Africa” is generally considered to be the countries between Eritrea to the north and Mozambique

to the south, and Rwanda to the west.  However, the most frequented countries in this region are Kenya

and Tanzania.  These two countries are so popular because of their accessibility, safety and the wealth

of natural attractions. 

Situated right on the equator on the far eastern coast of the continent of Africa, mountains, savannahs,

beaches and jungles can be found in Kenya and Tanzania.  The climate is greatly dependent on

elevation, proximity to the coast, and the time of year, and ranges from moderate, to arid, to rainy and

even glacial.  This part of Africa is home to some of the world’s greatest biodiversity and scientific

discoveries.  It also contains the highest points on the continent in Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340’), and Mt.

Kenya (17,057’). The largest city in Kenya is its capitol, Nairobi, with about 3.3 million residents. 

Tanzania’s largest city is Dar es Salam and sits on the Indian Ocean with a population of around 4.3

million.

The Serengeti Desert and Masai Mara National Park spans both countries and it is possible to spot

Africa’s “Big 5” (African Elephant, Black Rhino, Cape Buffalo, African Lion, African Leopard) in these

regions on safari. 

Kenya and Tanzania are former British colonies gaining their independence in 1963 and 1964

respectively.  The official languages of each country are Swahili and English, however knowing some

phrases in Swahili is helpful and also respectful.  This region of Africa has widely diverse demographics

with many different ethnic groups, religious affiliations and regional languages.  Both countries are

technically secular democracies that elect their President by popular vote. 

As previously stated, East Africa is a treasure trove of places to go and things to see.  Choosing from any

number of these options will help to map out your trip.  Flying from the United States will generally take

you through Europe or Dubai and land in Nairobi or Dar es Salam.  From any of the major cities, you can

choose to go on safari in the Rift Valley or around any number of lakes.  You can also climb Mt. Kenya or

Mt. Kilimanjaro or go to the island of Zanzibar. 

The best times of the year to go to East Africa is from December to March.  During these months, the

weather is pleasant and the wildlife viewing is the best.  The rainy season is over and the animals are in

migration patterns making for really exciting game drives throughout the region.  Every year, starting

from the months of July through to October, Travel Wild Tours arranges for Masai Mara safari tour

packages where you have a chance to see the spectacular annual wildebeest migration - dubbed the

"greatest spectacle in the animal kingdom. "  If you are interested in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt.

Kenya, the best time to climb is from mid-June through October.

When preparing for your trip, it is important that you pack for comfort.  It will be humid and warm

during the day, and milder in the evening.  At higher elevations, mosquitos are not as much of a

consideration, however, while on safari or in the Serengeti you will want to take precautions to protect

yourself.  Bug spray is always an option, but treating your clothing with a product called Permethrin is a

great idea.  You also must have a series of inoculations before traveling to this part of the world.  As part

of your entry visa, your shot records will likely be checked upon arrival.  It is incumbent on you as the

traveler to make sure that you have any and all of the current vaccinations necessary.

If you are just doing a safari, you will not be required to bring much with you other than comfortable

clothing, some layers for cooler evening, and a good camera.  If you are going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

or Mt. Kenya, you will need to be prepared for about a week of intense physical activity and be able to

provide some of your own gear such as hiking boots and clothes for a wide range of weather scenarios.

Knowing that traveling to East Africa makes for a long trip and one that can quickly grow in cost, it is

imperative that you pick the right outfitter and guide company.  Travel Wild Tours is one of the leading

tour operators in East Africa and one that is focused on taking care of their clients from beginning to

end.  They understand that for many travelers, this may be their first time in this part of the world or in

a developing country.  The owner, Dunstan, and his team of professional guides are dedicated to

making sure that you are well taken care of and are always on time (in Africa, being on time is not the

norm).

The Travel Wild website has a list of sample itineraries for you to review, but don’t miss some of the

exciting destination in or around Nairobi.  The David Sheldrick Wildlife Elephant Orphanage is a short

drive outside of Nairobi and is an amazing trip for visitors of all ages.  You can also visit the home of

Karen Blixen and tour the old coffee plantation and walk through her home.  A visit to the Nairobi

Giraffe Center is a great way to get a close up view of giraffes at their eye level and learn about

conservation efforts related to their survival.  Finally, with East Africa being a major producer of coffee,

a stop at one of the Java House Coffee locations is a great chance to have a great cup of coffee and get

some to take home with you. 

Give Dunstan a call at +254-720-537340 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to talk about

scheduling a trip ASAP.  For the best trip, with the best service, at the best price, Travel Wild Tours is the

first option to consider!

 

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It Really IS About the Journey…

It was the famous American poet and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson that originally said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Many different versions of this quote have been coined over the years, but they speak to the same basic idea: If you focus too much on the destination, you will end up missing out on the journey. I couldn’t agree more, and in this age of seeking achievement and glory, being present in the moment – especially while working toward a goal – can be increasingly difficult.  However, I couldn’t encourage you to try and harness this mentality more than when you are climbing a mountain – specifically Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya.  

(Before you read any further, I want to make sure that you don’t misunderstand my point. A successful summit of these mountains is very doable and most people who attempt the journey do make it to the top. This is not meant to intimidate you or make you believe that attempting the climb is impossible … quite the opposite! I want you to remember the whole trip, not just the summit.)

When I first climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2009, it was not my first experience in Africa, nor my first experience at high altitude. If you have never been on Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Kenya, you actually have never experienced anything like it! One reason is because these mountains have completely unique ecosystems and plant species that are endemic to them alone. For instance, the Lobelia deckenii can only be found above 10,500’ on these mountains. Guides and porters sometimes jokingly refer to the immature plants as “Nywele za Mzungu,” which is Swahili for “white man’s hair.”  However, the famous giant groundsels that you encounter above 3350 meters (11,000’) can make you forget that you are in Africa, but rather make you feel as though you are walking through a world invented by Dr. Seuss.  

Lobelia deckenii Giant groundsels 
b2ap3_thumbnail_lobelia.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_groundsels.jpg

 

 

Besides the unique plants and wildlife that you will encounter, there are relationships that you will form with fellow climbers, guides and porters. These are the invaluable things that can only be gained and understood by those who share the experience. When I first climbed, my climbing partner and I were paired with a couple from London who we had never met before. After 8 days of knowing each other on the mountain, we were invited to be in their wedding the following year in Austria. To this day, they are dear friends that we would have never made if not for having this special and unique time together. Likewise, you rarely will find friendlier, more selfless and intelligent people than your guides and porters. Invest in getting to know them; learn from them; hear their stories. Few people will enrich your life in such a short period of time than these men and women.

I could go on and on about how I was changed by the 8 days I spent on Mt. Kilimanjaro, but you won’t hear me speak too much about my time on the summit. The reason is that out of the 11,520 minutes that I spent on the mountain (8 days x 24 hrs x 60 min), we were only on the summit for a total of 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong: reaching the summit was amazing and the sense of accomplishment is unforgettable, but what a shame it would have been for that fraction of the trip to be the difference between failure and success!  

Reaching the summit is a worthy goal (one for which I encourage any traveler to strive) but if you don’t make it to the top, your trip should not be considered a failure. An estimated 25,000 people attempt to climb each year, which means that simply stepping on the mountain puts you in a fairly elite group among the other 7 billion people on earth. 

Again, this is meant to encourage you to manage your expectations about the whole trip and not just about reaching the summit. When you travel with a reputable guiding outfit such as Travel Wild Tours, everything is done to try to make sure that every client successfully makes it to the top. Your guides are highly trained in all aspects of climbing, including mountaineering skills, native flora and fauna, wilderness first aid and simply relating to a wide range of people from an equally wide-ranging set of cultures. But don’t forget to place equal value in the journey as you do in the destination. The majority of your time is going to be spent on the journey going up and coming down.  

I was in college the first time I stepped foot out of the USA. As I was preparing to leave early that morning, my roommate lifted his head from his pillow and said to me, “Hey man, keep your eyes wide open…” Little did he know that those simple words would forever change the way I lived in the world.  I try to keep my mind and my heart wide open to experiences as well. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t be blind to all of the valuable time you spend in the ascent and descent.  Allow the destination to become the journey itself!

My watch at Uhuru Peak! 19,340 feet

 b2ap3_thumbnail_watch.jpg

Author:  Dan Robertson – Outdoor Business Pros, LLC

Edited by:  Matthew M.F. Miller

Photos by:  Dan Robertson

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