As you may know, the Give More, Get More contest is now on! Natural Calm retailers across the country are participating in a very exciting prize draw. Simply enter a ballot at your local participating natural health store for your chance to win a prize trip for two to Kenya.
In this post, we’ll talk about the reasons you should definitely enter a ballot (why we LOVE Kenya), we’ll share ideas for taking a safari while you’re there, and we’ll talk about who your best travel partner might be.
Ready to start imaginging yourself there? Us, too!
9 Reasons to Love Kenya
There are countless reasons to love Kenya, and you’d have to explore it for a lifetime to truly appreciate the beauty and richness of the culture. If you only have a couple of weeks, though, here are nine essentials to know:
- Kenya is home to the savannah — the golden grasslands that many picture when they picture Africa. Millions of people visit Kenya annually for the sun-soaked savannah and the remarkable animals that call it home.
- Ever hear of ‘the Big Five’? The term was originally coined by hunters to refer to the most challenging and dangerous game: lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards. Today, the term is more commonly used by those who want nothing more than photos.
- Every year, about 1.5 million wildebeests (yes, that’s the right spelling) migrate from Kenya to Tanzania. It’s one of the natural wonders of the world.
- Most of the famous, semi-nomadic Maasai tribespeople live in Kenya, and seeing how they live is one of the most unique experiences any traveller can enjoy.
- It doesn’t end with grasslands: Kenya also boasts stunning mountains, rainforest, beaches and another natural wonder: the Great Rift Valley, providing some of the most scenic views on offer.
- Within the Great Rift Valley, Lake Turkana is the largest permanent desert lake in the world. It’s been described as set within a ‘lunar’ landscape, but it’s very much alive with crocodiles.
- There are more than 50 reserves and parks to protect Kenya’s unique ecosystems. Of these, it’s difficult to identify the best safari destination. Travel experts can narrow it to the top ten, but from there you’ll have tough decisions to make.
- Kenya’s population is incredibly diverse, with over 40 ethnic tribal groups. In Mombasa, the buzzing, busy port city/vacation destination, Kenya’s eastern influences are apparent. Arab, Portugese and Persian culture is part of the fascinating mix.
- Based on the findings of some very old bones, Kenya and Tanzania may actually be the original birthplace of humanity!
A Garden of Eden? Maybe. We do know it’s a fantastic place for growing food and natural medicine.
Even in this lush, lush landscape, many of the poor in Kenya don’t grow any of their own food. They simply don’t have a system for producing enough without expensive (and earth-damaging) chemical fertilizers, irrigation and commercial seeds. We’re changing that through Organics 4 Orphans (O4O).
Read the story of how we fell in love with Africa and founded Organics 4 Orphans in Kenya here.
Now… If you go to Kenya, you absolutely must go on safari to see the stunning wildlife. To help you plan, here’s our advice.
Choosing a Kenyan Safari Excursion
If you’re dreaming of Africa…
If you’ve entered your Give More, Get More ballot…
If you’ve done a little light googling of Kenya tourist sites…
Then, you may be feeling both excited and overwhelmed becase there are over 50 parks and reserves in Africa, and for some of the big parks there are thousands of safari listing.
How should you choose?
Well, one of the very best parks is the Maasai Mara game reserve. It’s described as ‘the quintessential’ safari experience – the ‘real Out of Africa’. Picture golden grasslands, big starry skies, acacia trees, and Africa’s richest concentration of wildlife. It’s also home to the Maasai, Kenya’s cattle-herding tribes whose unique way of life is one of the cultural fascinations of the world.
For many reasons, the Mara is an excellent choice. But the tough choices don’t stop there. The Mara is 1800 square kilometers and there are hundreds of tour providers.
For the winner of the Give More, Get More trip contest, the decision won’t be completely open-ended. They will be invited to choose a three day safari that fits within the total trip budget.
We thought you might like to know what’s entailed in this kind of experience and so we’re sharing a sample itinerary here. Just to be clear, the winner and guest will choose their own itinerary, but this gives you an idea.
Day 1: Nairobi – Masai Mara
- Early morning pick up in Nairobi
- Enter the Maasai Mara Reserve in time for lunch
- After lunch embark on an evening game drive in a custom safari minibus with pop-up roof, with an English speaking guide
- Late evening, settle for dinner and overnight accommodation at a lodge or tented camp
Day 2: Masai Mara
- Spend the day on the lookout for the Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant
- Option to picnic lunch, or split the day into an early morning and late afternoon game drive
- Option to visit a local Masai village
- Dinner and overnight at lodge or tented camp
Day 3: Masai Mara – Nairobi
- After breakfast at camp, exit the park and drive to Nairobi in time for lunch.
Sounds wonderful, and it is!
So what time of year is best? Well, again, there’s kind of an embarrassment of riches. For us Canadians, Kenyan weather seems pretty great all year round. (Hello, equator!)
If you want to see the great migrations in the Maasai Mara (highly recommended), you’re best to go between July and October. This stunning event is the world’s largest terrestrial migration by mammals. On the move are over a million wildebeests, as well as hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelopes.
July and August are busy, and hot, but in September and October the weather becomes cooler, drier, and the crowds dissipate.
Is a winter escape what you’re after? In January and February the days are clear and hot, and the nights are warm. There are also more tourists, so book early.
I hope you’re as excited about the grand prize trip as we are! It’s such a thrill to give back to our amazing customers. Because of you we’ve been able to give over $1 million to Organics 4 Orphans and run the business that we love!
Now, you may have a partner or just automatically know who you’d bring to Kenya…
But what if you’re not sure? A travel partner has to be just right, after all. Read on for our best advice.
Choosing Your Perfect Travel Companion for an Adventurous Trip to Kenya
The lucky winner of our Give More, Get More Natural Calm Canada contest will have a few decisions to make about their trip to Kenya, not least of which will be who to bring.
If we were to dole out advice, we’d say to make it someone adventurous. Here’s why:
Just getting to Kenya is an adventure!
Direct flights from Canada to Kenya are few and far between. If you love Europe, you’re in luck. Chances are good that you’ll get to see the airport of at least one exciting European city. If you fly Air Emirates you can stop in Dubai, but that makes for one of the longest routes available.
How long are the flights? Typical duration is at least 18 hours – ranging up to more than 30. If you win the contest, there’s no need to shop for the bargain basement extra-long-haul flights.
But it’s not over when you get to Nairobi. There’s still the last leg.
From Nairobi, you’ll take a small plane (bumpity bump) – or if you’re in no hurry, a coach bus – to Kitale.
At the end, whew, breathe a big sigh of relief – you’re ‘home’: Kitale is where the winner and guest will have accommodations at a beautiful guesthouse.
Safaris are for the adventurous at heart
Now, safari experiences range from obscenely luxurious to very basic. For the prize trip, we’ll be aiming for something in-between: a reputable, high-quality, comfortable adventure.
It will, nevertheless, be an adventure. Three days in the wilderness can be a big change for city slickers. In ‘the bush’, and miles from civilization, there are none of the reassuring sounds of traffic and sirens at night: only the night creatures.
Safaris.com nicely sums up what to expect from your safari accommodations:
“Accommodations on safari are usually a combination of lodges and permanent or mobile tented camps. Lodges and permanent tented camps have complete bathroom amenities. Mobile camps, can have either private en-suite facilities or shared bathroom and shower tents.
Unless you are in a major city, there will be no TV’s or phones with outside lines. Electric lights, running on generators, are generally lit for a few hours in the early morning and from dark until 10 or 11 PM.”
If you love camping and rustic cottage life, you’ll love safari.
You need to be flexible to enjoy a trip like this
First, about the food, which is something people always notice when they travel.
At the guest house we serve healthy, homemade meals, provisioned by our own gardens. The safari tours tend to cater well, too, but if you’re used to 5-star resort dining, you might just need to adjust expectations. And in rural areas, you’ll be hard pressed to find many restaurants.
You should also be prepared for the inconveniences that come along with underfunded infrastructure: the electricity may go down; roads may flood and you’ll need to take a longer route. Adventurous people and seasoned travellers take this all in stride.
More unsettling is the poverty. Kenya’s GDP is high for Africa, and yet you’ll see poverty everywhere – from the city slums to the villages. It may break your heart.
We hope the winner of the contest will be uplifted by our Organics 4 Orphans work. There’s no obligation to visit the school, the gardens and communities, but we’ll be thrilled to show them off. O4O gives us great hope for what can happen in Africa.
We know this: visiting development projects is not your typical vacation. Many would rather plant themselves on a pool chair and sip frozen drinks for a week. But we also know that visiting the real Africa has changed us forever. Sure, we still love a cushy vacation when we can, but the real Africa is what makes us come alive.
Are you still with me? Does that safari still sound like the trip-of-a-lifetime?
Make sure you fill in a ballot at participating retailers – and while you’re dreaming of the savannah, pick your sidekick.