First Trip to Kenya
Well let’s see…in the last ten days I braved war-torn South Sudan, was hemmed up by crooked police in Burundi, got violently ill with food poisoning in Rwanda, and put in work on a mission trip in Uganda. It was finally time to chill, and that was my sole purpose in Kenya.
And chill is just what I did.
It was an overland journey from Tororo, Uganda, across the border into Kenya and over to the city of Kisumu, which sits on Lake Victoria. While the drive was long, it was very safe and scenic. We cruised through lots of little towns before arriving at the Kenyan border, where it took about 30 minutes to get us and our vehicle processed. We crossed in, entering the bustling border town of Busia, and then spent another couple hours driving before reaching our destination of Kisumu.
Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to explore the city of Kisumu, but from what I saw, I loved it! I got a great vibe from Kisumu: sunny, vibrant, clean. Lots going on. Unfortunately, time was not on my side. We arrived mid-afternoon, and would have to head back to Uganda pretty early the next day. Yep, this trip to Kenya was super short: I only have one night to pop in and pop out, just long enough to cross Kenya off the list. But I immediately surrendered the notion that this would be my last Kenya trip–I put Kenya on the list of countries I’d need to revisit and spend some real time in.
We cruised in and out of downtown Kisumu before leaving the center behind to take some side roads just a few minutes out of town before reaching the Jambo Impala EcoLodge. I wouldn’t have time to spend days inside Kenya on safari, so this was the next best thing!
The eco lodge exceeded all my expectations; really, because well, I didn’t have any expectations. I’d left this particular hotel booking completely up to my Ugandan driver Eric, who’d been taking care of me over the last three days while I was working on a mission trip in Uganda. I stayed in very simple, rudimentary hotels in Uganda, and had explained to Eric that I just had one day to drive across into Kenya and then head back. I pictured we’d stay somewhere pretty basic, as we did in Uganda, so I was blown away when I saw the eco lodge. It was awesome!
Nestled in the woods on the banks of Lake Victoria, the first thing I loved about the eco lodge was the lobby: it looked like a giant tree house, straight outta The Swiss Family Robinson; dark wood, tree trunk beams and pillars, thatched roofs, and an open, stunning view of Lake Victoria. I was instantly disappointed that I’d only have one night here.
Like the reception area, my room was absolutely surreal too. It reminded me of those cool bungalows in Tahiti that sit on stilts over the water, except this one was perched up on the bank of Lake Victoria. It was super cool, very authentic looking and with amazing views of the lake.
What was most amazing about my room, was that it was in the middle of the African wilderness; there must have been hundreds of monkeys just outside the door to my room, giant monitor lizards, and who knows what else?! These animals weren’t in cages or a separate area…they were right there, in front of my door, above my head in the trees, and even right in front of me on the path. It also looked like I was the only guest–not another soul in sight. This was just too cool!
Located a few hundred feet from the rooms (where the monkeys and lizards hung out), was the actual “park,” full of so many incredible animals. The dangerous ones were behind fenced enclosures, while the docile ones were free to roam. I was able to get really close to many amazing animals, that I’d only seen in books and TV. I wasn’t sure how close I could actually get–there were no signs–so I just used my good judgment and respect, and got as close I could without disrespecting the animals’ space.
I had a great dinner at the lodge with Eric, and then it was off to bed. I should note that the staff at the lodge were just incredible. We woke at the dawn the next morning to get an early start back to Uganda. The long journey home back home to the US was ahead. Kisumu was so cool, and Kenya was a fabulous last stop and a place that I definitely need to return to for a longer stay.
If you go:
Jambo Impala Eco Lodge
Second Time Around
I was back in Kenya 15 month later, this time transferring home through Nairobi. It was the tail end of a three and half week trip all over Africa–I have never been gone that long. Awesome trip–eleven countries–and as expected, I was wiped! This happens at the end of most of my trips: the last country I visit gets the shaft, because I’m so tired. I use the final country as the hub to travel home, and I also make sure I pack in some rest on that last day. It’s back to work as soon as I land back home, so I always try to give myself a recharge on that very last day. Unfortunately, that cheats me out of much quality time in my final country. Sorry Kenya.
Taxis Rule, Ubers Drool!
I had a miserable Uber experience at the Kenya airport. I think my driver pulled in the wrong lot and then went to sleep. 50 minutes later I waved the white flag and just got in a taxi. It was close to 5AM by the time I arrived at my hotel…my Uber driver was still “arriving soon!” I think the ride was finally cancelled three hours later. Like what the actual f___? Bad things happened in Jordan with Uber too, I don’t know what the deal is with Uber airport pickups in foreign countries, but something’s not right.
Back at the hotel, I slept until about 11AM, then it was up to see what I could salvage of a day that was almost half-over.
First off, mad props to The Tribe Hotel who allowed me check out at 7PM. They didn’t have to do that, but now I could really relax–my flight wasn’t until 11:35PM that night.
Nairobi is a massive, sprawling, spread out city. I didn’t get the feeling it was quaint, or “neat,” like some of the African cities you can explore on foot and have a great time: Djibouti City, Maputo, Dakar, etc. I could be wrong, but that’s the impression I got on my very quick trip there. What Nairobi does have, however, are a bunch of really cool nature and animal parks–there are tons! I took the lazy way out, and grabbed a taxi to take me to the nearby Karura Forest.
The Forest Through the Trees
Karura was cool and just what the doctor ordered. It was nice to have a chill walk through the forest, reflect on the last three weeks in Africa, and clear my head. The forest was certainly nothing extraordinary, but it pretty and peaceful.
Rub You The Right Way
After the walk through the forest, I went to a spa and got a massage, then headed back to the hotel to pack. Then, off to the airport, and the long road home! In hindsight, I would’ve planned my only day in Nairobi a little bit better–I missed visiting baby elephants–there are so many choices! There wasn’t anything too exciting on this stop, but it was nice to rest a little, and I’m sure I’ll be back!
And Now, the REST of the (Insta)Story!
Here’s some video of Karura Forest!