Sunday, August 9, 2009

26 days...

So, its been 26 days of packed adventure full of excitement and adrenaline based activities mixed with rejuvenation and peace that will calm your mind & soul.

What we know for sure after 26 days…

• Dubai is luxurious if you can get past the +45’C Heat + Humidity
• Laughter is the best medicine
• Traveling to new places makes you want to travel to more new and exciting places!
• The world is full of humble people
• Life long friendships
• Mosquito nets are not just for show, they should be used to prevent bug bites on your face!
• You can’t keep the sand & dust out of your camera gear no matter what you do!
• We saw the big 5, everything in between and a Leopard!
• Shopping will result in 43 pounds of extra luggage

• Picnics are best if they are in the Masai Mara during the migration!
• Eye opening experiences
• Greater knowledge of the world
• We have new lifelong memories
• Money isn’t everything
• Having less is more
• Love does exist
• It is true that Africa is good for the soul
• Hakuna Matata
• One smile speaks more than a thousand words in every language
• We should all smile more often
• Life is truly inspiring if you open your heart to the world around you!

• 6,633 pictures/ 84.13 GB
• 3 rolls/36exp of slide film
• 1 bag/ 43pounds
• 1 bag/ 23pounds
• 1 backpack w/ computer
• 1 camera bag
• 1 purse

• 3,673 pictures
• 20 GB video/ approx. 5hrs
• 1 bag/ 47pounds
• 1 bag/ 41pounds
• 1 backpack
• 1 purse
• 1 carry on with all breakables

We are sad to say goodbye but we know for sure that this is just the first visit to a new found home, Africa. Cheers to one of the best traveling partners ever Miss Wendy- thank you for your love and friendship all of the years and to many more in the future. I think the best thing about our journey besides EVERYTHING was meeting our new friends along the way. Thank you Gina & Andrew for the amazing hook up in Dubai... 5stars+++ Thank you Sachen & Farzana for organizing such an amazing trip to Kenya and thank you Teeku for making our safari’s so personal and memorable. Africa has been a life time dream for me and for all that I imagined it to be it was more special than I will ever be able to explain. They say that once you have been to Africa it changes you, it enlightens you and ignites your soul. I speak for both of us when I say 'that it is true' … 100% true.

What we know for sure…

you are always a better person for following your dreams...

x o x o

Cheers to crossing some more things off the list!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nyumbani Watoto wa Mungu

Nyumbani Watoto wa Mungu
(Home for the children)

Every 14 seconds a child is ophaned in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On Friday Wendy and I had the opportunity to visit Nyumbani Children of God Relief Institute just outside Nairobi in a town called Karen. Wow, what a wonderful experience to spend time with such a lovely group of people. This orphanage has been running for the past 17yrs and the gentleman that took us around Protus-Chief Manager has been there for the last 15yrs. There are 109 children at the home and all of them are HIV+ orphans that have lost theirs parents to AIDS. You can hear and read about all these things happening in Africa all you want but when you see it right infront of your face it will send chills right down your spine. Protus explained that the bottom line cost of a child with HIV+ at the home cost $250US/month. It took a long time for him to finally give me the bottom line number as he never likes to give out the information like that as he says that when you tell the people how much it costs that people shy away from helping as it seems like a lot of money for one child. Imagine... $250US for one child a month for all food, school and medication-doesn't seem much at all. But, sadly there is no government funding for any of the children suffering from HIV in the country. All of the funding is from outside private sources and most of it coming from the US and United Kingdom. It was an eye opener to walk through this home... the kids are well kept, extremely friendly and the most polite individuals you have ever met. Protus knows all the children by name and all of their stories and everyone of them has a smile that speaks to every language.

Nikki xo

THE NEED Founded in 1992, Nyumbani Children's Home is an active response to the rising number of HIV infected children born in Africa every day. Because infants carry many of their mothers' antibodies through their first year of life, a number of newborns with infected mothers may give a 'false positive' and never actually develop the disease themselves. In fact, a full 75% of babies who test positive at birth will eventually be found not to have the virus. Tragically these children are often abandoned anyway, on the mistaken assumption that they are certain to develop and eventually succumb to AIDS. At Nyumbani, 'home' in Swahili, children are cared for until a definite assessment of their HIV status can be made. Children who are eventually found not to have the virus are adopted or find other homes. Children who are found to be HIV+ are given the best nutritional, medical, in particular, anti-retroviral therapy, psychological, academic, spiritual care available and live at Nyumbani until they become self-reliant. Nyumbani is home to approximately 100 children ranging in age from newborn to twenty-three years old. Our children come from all over Kenya; as far as Mombassa, Kisumu, Kakamega, Marsabit, Nakuru, Isiolo; or as close as Ngong, Dagoretti, and other areas within and around Nairobi. They represent all tribes and ethnicities of Kenya. Children are referred to Nyumbani through national hospitals and through Nyumbani's own community outreach program, Lea Toto.

Wendy with the kids in one of the houses.

Me & Catherine.. my new bf.

Nyumbani's Cemetary

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nairobi, Diani Beach & Mombasa.

The morning came early again and the traffic was still busy in Nairobi for a Saturday morning. Our driver picked us up bright and early at the Sports Club at 8:00am and we were off to the airport for our 9:30 flight to Diani Beach (just south of Mombasa). Wendy and I were trying to memorize our “home Nairobi address” in case they asked us any questions as we were travelling as residents of Kenya because the flights are ½ cheap to travel as a resident. I felt like we were back in high school memorizing our fake ID’s before we went out to a club. Thankfully, they didn’t ask us any questions and we got on our small 20 seater plane with plastic boarding tickets.
Our flight to Diani beach was short and sweet, 1hr and 10mins. We were up and down before we knew it. When we arrived to Diani beach the warm breeze and fresh smell of the salt in the water made for a quick smile on the face. This airport is small and the suitcases are wheeled on a rickshaw trolley that is made of wood and a young Kenyan runs it into where we meet our driver. There is nothing familiar in Africa, it is completely different from anything that I have ever experienced and I love every minute of it. The service is amazing and the people of Kenya are absolutely lovely.
We meet our driver and off we go into the resort. When we arrive at Pinewood Resort we are greeted by a sign at the front of the hotel that says welcome Nikki & Wendy and 3 hotel staff members. We also get a cool towel and a fresh cocktail to sip on while they give us a tour around the resort and a quick briefing of the club and what they have to offer.
The vegetation on the coast is much greener than inland and feels very tropical with lots of monkeys and beautiful birds in the trees. The area is again a mix of upper and lower class with lush green palms and fancy hotels on one side of the road and an extreme parallel of small huts and road side stands on the other.
The warm breeze coming off the Indian Ocean is soft on the skin and the pristine white beaches are filled with beach boys trying to sell local crafts that don’t take no for an answer.
We spend most of our time on the coast relaxing by the pool and beach catching up on our journals and reading. Wendy and I headed out to Mombasa the one day which was 40km north from the hotel and took us about 2 1/2hrs to get right downtown. We were told that we had to take a ferry to Mombasa and when we arrived it was hilarious. I was anticipating that the ferry ride would be a longer distance than ‘just across the way’ as we could see the other side. We asked them why they just don’t put a bridge on for this less than 1km stretch and they replied with its too expensive and many large ships cross this way so they would have to build a very tall bridge. As we approach the ferry the driver tells us to do up the windows and lock the doors and keep quiet. There had to be thousands of people around us and Wendy and I were glowing we stood out so bad! I am almost 100% sure that we were the only white folks around. It was organized chaos!!!!!!! We spent the entire day around Mombasa which was even more hectic than Nairobi- if that’s even possible.
The plane ride back to Nairobi today was insane. You ride up to this little airport with security guards that have loaded guns and dirt roads. When we go to check-in we are told that there is no power today and they are going to go through all our baggage manually. Apparently, now till October once a week they are shutting down power in some areas due to the water shortage! Don’t ask… we tried to figure it out but it really doesn’t makes sense. One would think that they would want to keep airport power up and running for security purposes… apparently not! They said, Hakuna Matata (no worries man!) Welcome to Africa…
So, we are back in Nairobi till Sunday. We have plans to go to an orphanage tomorrow!

Love nikki xoxo

Diani Beach

Traffic in Mombasa

Old Town Mombasa

Kazuri Beads, Karen


Did you know that Giraffes have blue tongues?

Baby Elephant Orphan, Nairobi

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Samburu Safari

So, here is our entry for our journey to Samburu. I have to thank Wendy again for the wonderful, detailed entry! Gotta love traveling with a teacher that takes notes the entire time... and me the photographer to press click and capture the moment!

nikki xo


We are back in Nairobi once again and we are covered in dust and dirt from the safaris.

We left Nairobi on Sunday July 26th to head out on these treacherous roads once again to head north. The traffic in Nairobi is usually pretty crazy but being a Sunday it was quite easy to get out of the city. Along the way we drove through the country's agricultural land, Del Monte has acres of pineapple plantations that are heavily guarded. None of the good pineapples stay here; they are immediately packaged and sent to the airports to be shipped to the UK. Just past plantation, you will see the roads lined with road side fruit and veggie stands. The roads coming up here were much smoother, mostly freshly paved. It took us about 5 hours to reach Buffalo Springs and Samburu National Game Reserve. The environment in this area of Kenya (we are north of Nairobi, actually north of the equator) is very different from where we were in the Mara (which is on the South West side of Kenya on the Tanzania border). The land is very dry, hot and extremely dusty. The dust getting into everything, we need to make sure we are keeping our cameras covered as much as well can as I am sure the dust is not doing good things for them. When I open or close the lens on my video camera you can hear the sand crunching.
Huge sand hills made by ants that are up to 6ft tall.

A local matatu (bus) crash as a result of crazy, crazy driving skills!
Did I mention crazy!!!!!!

Upon entering the reserve I noticed right away how different it was, we did not see any game, where as the moment we entered the Mara the game was everywhere. Here you need to do some work to carefully spot the animals, so we immediately pop open the rooftop of our Land Cruiser and pull out the binoculars and begin looking for animals. We spot one lone Elephant, a baby. He seemed to have been lost from the herd, which is really upsetting because another herd may not pick him up and then he might not survive. We then came to the main river that separates Buffalo Springs and Samburu and it was completely dry! I have always know about droughts in countries and the massive water crisis in Africa but have not witnessed it first hand, I cant even explain how incredibly upsetting it is to see a completely dry river with thirsty animals around. Deep underneath the sandy river bed there is water, so the locals will come and dig deep to create watering holes for the animals.

Elephants walking away from the water hole.

Von der Decken's Hornbill

Zebra's in love.

A result of Zebras' in love. :)

After a short game drive we arrive at the Intrepids Samburu Tented Camp, this place is beautiful. They came and greeted us with a white cold facecloth and some freshly squeezed juice. After wiping the dust off my face my facecloth became a reddish brown. Most of the dirt here is more of a reddish brown color. They brief us on the camp and explained that it is extremely important that we secure our tent the way they show us, so that no monkeys get in the tent. The next day, I secure the tent, pulled down the first set of zippers, tied all the zippers together in a double knot, then pulled the out zippers down and tied them, then leaned a floor mat against the tent then pushed a table up against it. It was so secure, it was like Fort Knox! So we went out, we arrived back to the tent later that day the table had been moved slightly, the cords I had double knotted were undone, and there were no monkeys, but there were monkey foot prints all over the beds, I can’t believe that they actually jump on the bed! The old song is completely true! They also tried to eat my malaria pills, lucky for me, they didn’t like them! (see picture to the right for the evidence!)

When we awoke in the mornings at this camp, there was an elephant who would feed from the tree beside our tent. There were also a lot of Ververt Monkeys at this camp (these are the same monkeys that jumped on my bed) they can be a really pest, so the camp has hired a Samburu Warrior who job is to chase off the monkeys from the restaurant. When he is not chasing the monkeys, he sits on the patio and plays his flute.

Wendy reading her book in her mosquito net bed.

We had asked Teeku if we could go and see a school in one of the villages, he has a friend who has been working with this school to raise money, it is in an area called Westgate which is on the west side of Samburu. We bought pens in town to give to the school children, it was a small item but they need anything they can get their hands on. Talis one of Samburu guys from the camp came with us so he could visit his brother and sister. The school was great, the students are extremely well behaved and are very excited to see Nikki and I. Right away they wanted to touch our hair and skin, even pinch us and they all sang songs for us, I wanted to cry they have mostly nothing and they are the happiest kids. Teeku's friend who has been raising money has done a great job but there is still more that needs to be done we are going to see what we can do to get involved, so if anyone has any spare change let us know.

Westgate Primary School
Samburu, Kenya

(Love this photo... so many of the kids wanted to touch the lens of the camera and this
photo captures it. These are the kids that kept pinching me and loved counting my freckles. My camera lens was soo grubby after this visit... just hilarious! Love it!!!! )

Grade 1 - Kids with nothing begging to learn.

Another one of my favs, I love the motion in this pic and her blue dress!

Wendy in the nursery with all the kids.

So our mission up here was to find the leopard! We looked everywhere for it in the Mara, but no luck. So this is our last few days to catch a glimpse of this beautiful animal. On the first day, we would see signs of the leopard, but no leopard. We decided to drive to the top of the hill to have a look and decided to sit up top of the land cruiser, crack a Tusker beer and watch the sunset. On the second day we finally spotted the leopard, wow it was awesome! At first she was chillin in a tree then decided to walk past our car and begin to stalk a Gerenuk (which is sort of an antelope) we watched as she moved carefully towards the animal and then all of a sudden the Gerenuk began to move towards her, what was the Gerenuk doing! Just as she was ready to pounce the Gerenuk spotted her and took off.

Female leopard chillin.

On the hunt for food.

Wendy & I in Africa. That simple.

The next day we left Samburu and Buffalo Springs and headed down to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is privately operated, where we stayed at Sweetwaters Tented Camp. On our way we needed some car repairs, so we stopped to see a mechanic in a town called Isiolo which is a frontier trading town. This isn’t a town most tourists stop in so we had our car swarmed with people trying to sell us, I think I have become pretty good at the bartering, I was even trading pens from Canada!
The boys selling us things out the car window in Isiola.

Ol Pejeta is south of the equator, so we stopped on the equator and there was a guy selling souvenirs and demonstrating the how the water flows down the drain in the different hemispheres, so we checked it out. In the northern hemisphere is goes down clockwise in the southern hemisphere it goes down counterclockwise. It was crazy how you could move 5 feet one way or the other and it was different.

A local riding into town to sell his vegetables in the local market.

Sweetwaters is awesome! The tents surround a watering hole there were giraffes, zebra and warthogs all around to take a drink. Our mission here is to find the white and black rhinos. (I must first mention that white rhinos are not indigenous to Kenya, they were brought here) Out on our game drive we spotted many animals we had not seen before (reedbuck, waterbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest, and bushbucks). We then spotted our white and black rhinos; the rhino population has drastically declined over the years due to poaching. In the 70s there were 30,000 in Kenya and in the 90s there were 300 now they population is up to 500. Mission accomplished!
Game Warden, Ol Pejeta

Ol Pejeta also has a Chimpanzee sanctuary where they bring in chimps that have been tortured and rehabilitate them; I would go into details about what has happened to some of these chimps but I can’t bare to think about it again right now.

Did you know that chimps share 98% of human DNA?

So we are back in Nairobi for 3 days then off to Diani Coast (just south of Mombasa) for a good 6 days of R & R.
Sunset in Samburu.

Hope you all are well.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Masai Mara...

So, here are some more pics from our safari to the Masai Mara. There are so many to choose from its crazy to try and decide which ones to upload for you to peek at! So, I hope you enjoy the ones that we have selected. Our internet connection is slow so its really difficult to upload the images to the blog. I am hoping to get some pics of our recent safari from up north in Samburu... also, out of this world!

Plus, one of the highlights of our trip... Teeku & Tilas (a Samburu Warrior) take us to visit a local Samburu school to drop off school supplies and see how the progress of the new dorms are coming along. This was one of the most memorable days of my life. I could have stayed all day and played with the kids. The pictures of the children are stunning and we have videos of them singing that will make your heart expand. The beauty of Kenya is something that is so raw and full of unimaginable limits it will remind you that anything is possible.

nikki xo

My fav... zebra

Masai Mara Migration

Masai Warriors

Zebra & Wildebeest in Migration

Hyena's having their lunch.

Vultures feeding on a dead Zebra

Hyena running through vultures



Masai Woman

Baby Giraffe

Teeku, our guide.
Freelance Photographer & Safari Guide
Born and raised in Kenya, East Africa