Sitting here on a rooftop in Nairobi I realize it was exactly 1 month ago that I arrived in Kenya. Basically waiting here for my Djibouti visa to be confirmed and to hop on my flight to country number 113. But first my story about visiting country number 112: Kenya.
It sounds odd but during my 1 month in Kenya I actually didn’t have that many travel adventures. Thinking about what this Kenya travel story was going to be about I came up with rhinos and volunteering, but that was only about 10 days in total. What happened in the other 20 days?
In Nakuru I stayed for 5 nights in a nice apartment and apart from walking around the city and checking out prices and information for my article about buying a sim card in Kenya, I basically only saw a coffee shop from the inside.
Lake Nakuru National Park is a beautiful place where people travel to from far. Safaris is the main thing to do, but I had a lot of wildlife adventures planned for my next destination: Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Editing and uploading Instagram stories took way too much time and I am already trying hard to minimize it. All in all I still spend about 4-5 hours a day updating my social media channels. My blog is my baby though and writing content and organizing Traveltomtom group trips is much more work than you may think.
My trip to Kenya
Anyway, I arrived in Nakuru coming from Molo, a little town up in the hills of the Great Rift Valley. Not a typical place where tourists go, but I will definitely add it to my list of best things to do in Kenya. Why? Volunteering!
When I crossed the border from Uganda into Kenya I had no plan whatsoever, the only thing I knew was that I was going to offer my helping hand at a feeding project in Turi. It would take me about 1,5 day to reach Molo from when I crossed the border into Kenya.
At the Uganda/Kenya border crossing in Busia I overheard two ladies talking Dutch to each other. They didn’t really look like the typical travelers and besides there is hardly anyone traveling overland these days anyway. So I was curious and obviously it was easy to connect with these two fellow Dutchies.
Another luck was that they were traveling in a bus directly to the next big city. There was still a spot available in the bus and I bought ticket from Busia to Kisumu for 5,000 KES ($5).
A couple hours later when our bus reached Kisumu the ladies invited me to have lunch together. They appeared to be expats living in Kenya that went for a weekend trip to Kampala. A local Kenyan friend of them picked us up and before I realized I was staying in her house for the night as she was owning a guesthouse. Perfect! All fell in place…
Sadly I couldn’t join the ladies to Homa Bay, a village on the shores of Lake Victoria where they were living. I would have loved to, because these kind of spontaneous change of plans are the best. However, I had given my word to the Turi Micah Project that I was coming to help out in the next days.
Therefore I only stayed for the night in Kisumu and moved on the next morning. During my big Africa overland trip I had used all kind of transportation, but here in Kenya I found a new mode of transport I hadn’t seen in other Southern and Eastern African countries: shuttles. Much more expensive than local busses, but still very affordable.
The shuttle from Kisumu to Nairobi was 1,500 KES ($15), although I only had to go half way I still needed to pay the full fare. Fair enough.
RELATED: How To Get Around Kenya!
At the cross road going to Molo I had to get off and take a 30 minute motorbike ride up into the hilly countryside before I reached my final destination in Turi. I stayed at the Turi Viewpoint Resort for $20 per night.
Volunteering at the Turi Micah Project
A couple weeks before arriving to Kenya one of my followers send me a DM on Instagram how she was running a project in a village In Kenya. After looking a little bit into it I immediately wrote her back if there was a chance to come help out and raise some awareness.
Claire, one of the founders of the project, was the one who wrote me on Instagram and a couple weeks later I showed up in Turi. She couldn’t believe I actually did, but for me it was a no brainer. Many years ago she moved to Kenya together with her husband and started a project feeding the poorest kids of the village a simple cup of porridge before going to class.
At the moment the Turi Micah Project is already feeding more than 1,600 kids every morning before going to school. For some of them it is the only meal of the day. It is an incentive for these kids to actually even attend school.
RELATED: Helping Out at the Turi Micah Project!
Click on the link above to read all about my experiences volunteering in Turi, a mountain village about 1 hour away from Lake Nakuru.
I was touched by Claire’s story and knew I was able to help out, not only physically but also by raising awareness and using my reach to collect donations.
Well… that went pretty damn good! In total my Instagram and blog posts about the project raised more than $3,000 USD. Therefore, I want to thank each and everyone of you who already made a donation! Simply unbelievable… THE KIDS OF TURI SAY THANK YOU!
The title of this travel blog already revealed my travel adventures in Kenya and you have read about volunteering, so only the extinct rhinos left.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Doing research for some cool things to do in Kenya I stumbled upon the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. When I looked deeper into it I realized I heard of this place before. It was where the last male northern white rhino on earth died. Sudan was his name and it was all over the news. This tragedy made the northern white rhino functionally extinct as there were only 2 female left, also living in the same conservancy.
When I looked up where Ol Pejeta was located I found it on the way to Ethiopia and that was where I was heading anyway, so Ol Pejeta and I were definitely a match.
When it comes to these kind of travel adventures I definitely consider myself lucky, as because of my brand Traveltomtom, I got invited to come stay with them and learn about what Ol Pejeta Conservancy exactly stands for.
Upon arrival I was escorted to one of the 9 accommodation options within the 90,000 acres conservancy. It was a fancy resort style luxury tented camp: Serena Sweetwaters.
Ol Pejeta set up a whole schedule for me that week with a lot of activities, but the first 1,5 day was actually filled with things like archery, bird walk, planting a tree and massages. Not that I was complaining, but I was like: guys, I am ready to go on safaris! I didn’t bring all that camera gear to Africa for nothing. ;)
I was overly excited apparently. “There is no need to go on safari when staying at Serena Sweetwaters”, the very friendly assistant manager told me, “just sit in front of your room and the animals will come to you”! He definitely wasn’t lying and I did enjoy the wildlife watching from the comfort of my room!
Check out more of my adventures during my stay at Serena Sweetwaters in Ol Pejeta in the link above and read how I finally got to see my first lion in the wild and saw the big FIVE in one day.
Unbelievable but on all those safaris around Southern Africa I never saw a lion. I also didn’t see that many rhinos so far, but that totally changed. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the biggest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and on my game drives I came across many rhinos.
But what Ol Pejeta is really famous for and why this is one of the best places to visit in Kenya are the last two northern white rhinos in the world. It sounds crazy but of this subspecies there are literally only 2 left.
Long story which I am exactly explaining I my blog about visiting the last two northern white rhinos.
It was heartbreaking to visit them, like for real I felt so emotional when I kneeled down next to one of them, it was like I wanted to say sorry for what humanity had done to them. Poaching is the only reason the northern white, who does not really have any predators in the wild has almost gone extinct. Luckily there is still hope and Ol Pejeta is doing everything in its power to save this specie. All about this story in the link above.
Something very important to mention is that this activity was not specially arranged for me, you can visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy and have the same experience like me. Definitely one of the best things to do in Kenya.
During my week in the conservancy I learned a lot about what conservancy work actually consists of and I got a behind the scenes at some places. The work that goes into wildlife conservation is something most people have no clue of and the costs about conservation are through the roof, only seeing a glimpse of the security that goes into protecting the rhinos and the wildlife from poaching is absolutely mind blowing!
Ol Pejeta’s main income source is donations and tourism. Unfortunately tourism has still not picked up while the pandemic is dragging on and Ol Pejeta is suffering like many other business. However, in the end in this case it are the endangered animals who suffer the most.
If you feel like helping then have a look at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy website and see how you can contribute.
On top of all the behind the scenes adventures I also had some incredible game drives and stayed in some really cool lodges. One of them was the Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages, an absolutely amazing private lodge with only 4 luxury tents. Sadly I came in late and left early morning, but it was enough time to discover the beauty of this place.
All the way on the eastern side of the conservancy I stayed in the Porini Rhino Camp, a pretty isolated sustainable camp with only 7 tents only and a cool hide out for some extraordinary photography. I wrote a complete blog about my stay at the Porini Rhino Camp.
On my last day in Ol Pejeta I ordered a taxi to Nanyuki, the nearby town located at 2,000 meter (6,560 ft) above sea level on the foot of Mt. Kenya. Initially I wanted to stay for 3 nights, but ended up staying there for 13 nights. I rented an apartment and worked, worked, worked, worked, worked while in the meantime I found back my mojo at the gym. Finally… it was about time after more than 6 months!
What work for me is like? Well, there are more than 600 travel blogs full of information and valuable travel tips from more than 60 destinations around the world. Apart from creating new content I also try to update old content with new information.
Besides, the global pandemic also was a big hit for travel blogs as we provide info for travelers. Since no one was traveling, things slowed down rapidly. However, now that tourism is slowly picking up, our business is slowly growing again too.
For your reference: the months before Corona about 13,000 people visited Traveltomtom every day. In April 2020 that were suddenly only 1,000 people. That is a drop of more than 90%, which obviously had a lot of consequences.
Ethiopia border fail and Nairobi
My time in Kenya came to an end and all that rested was a trip from Nanyuki to the Ethiopia border in Moyale, which would take me about 10 hour in a shuttle. Early morning 8.00 am I showed up and we left around 09.00 am when the shuttle was full. It was cold, only like 15 degrees (60 F) in Nanyuki but that changed rapidly as everywhere north of Nanyuki is vast desert. The last couple hundred kilometers in North Kenya towards Ethiopia is desert. Driving through I even saw some camels on the side of the road.
When I reached Moyale it was already night time and dark, but I was persistent to walk to the border hotel. Moyale Members Hotel and Bar is literally right next the the actual crossing and I had to pass a Kenya border patrol security check point. When I got near the security post I already heard people screaming from the dark: “Mzungu… (white guy) border is closed, you can not cross into Ethiopia!”
Yeah, I kind of knew about it already as along the way towards Moyale I heard about the border problems: closed! When people told me in the shuttle which eventually took 13 hours by the way, it was already kind of too late. Plus, I had still hope I could actually talk my way into Ethiopia.
There were already signs of trouble as the last couple days I tried to fix an Ethiopian e-visa online and it kept on saying that their system was down. So on my way to Moyale border I roamed the internet for more info and found out they also stopped issuing visas on arrival.
Why didn’t I do this yesterday? Why was I so stubborn thinking everything will be alright, and I would be able to cross?
It were the guys at the Kenya border checkpoint at night that eventually gave the answer to all questions: “the border is closed because tomorrow there are election in Ethiopia”, the friendly guy said while adding, “it is not good now to go to Ethiopia, a lot of military on the streets, it is not safe… not at all!”
He escorted me to the hotel, which was still on the Kenya side of course while explaining me that the border would probably be closed for another week!
When I got to my room and the door closed behind me I realized: this is it, this is where my Africa overland trip ends!
The next morning I walked around the border and actually saw that the massive gate separating Kenya and Ethiopia was indeed closed. The only action on the other side were some goats and donkeys hanging out. It was a weird sight seeing a newly constructed border crossing, but no one around.
There was no other option. Leaving Kenya was only possible through Nairobi International Airport! So, the next day I prepared for an 18h long trip back to the capital via several different shuttles. I got extra money out of the ATM and already paid for my first shuttle ($10), but for 3 hours long we weren’t moving as there were no other costumers. Suddenly via via I heard about a flight from Moyale to Nairobi and tried to look online for more info: nothing!
Someone named an airliner and even on their website there was nothing. A guy said they only fly on Friday and Tuesday around noon… well, today is Tuesday and it is 11.30 am. Without hesitating I grabbed my stuff out of the car and told the guy I was trying to see if I could hop on a flight. I jumped on the back of a motorbike and 10 minutes later I reached a random gravel airstrip.
Long story short, a couple hours later I landed in Nairobi. It was a propeller flight with Freedom Airline and the airport was hilarious. Just a table outside and with pen and paper they were registering people. The guy couldn’t sell me a ticket until the last moment. He counted the seats and the sold tickets and came to the conclusion… there was 1 free seat! I paid $100, but that night I slept in Nairobi.
It was my first time visiting Nairobi so I surely did some exploring of the Central Business District but I wasn’t impressed. Most importantly I needed a new travel plan. Luckily I found it quickly: Djibouti!
Thanks for reading along with my travel adventures from every country in the world. Check out all my stories and countries in the link above.