OnSafari: Great Start

OnSafari: Great Start

feedinggiraffeWe started out with a day of touring near where we’re staying, at the gorgeous Hemingways Resort in Nairobi’s suburb of Karen.

What struck me most of all about the day is how much more interesting these standard attractions have become, as the facilities and guides have improved so much.

There are always a good number of people on a tour who plan on coming early. They feel that it’s not wise to “hit the ground running” and want some down time to unwind and adjust to jetlag.

This makes imminent sense, but the great irony is that when tours are designed that way, people don’t like it! They complain that the extra day is something they can’t afford, in time and money. So the common practice today, worldwide, is for tour operators to structure as compact and active tours as possible.

But in my case, now, these are folks who are extending from the main Tanzanian safari with a 6-day Kenyan pretour. They are already committing to a longer, more expensive program, and it’s silly to play marketing games with consumers like this. It’s absolutely better that people don’t “hit the ground running” no matter what their age or vocational stresses might be.

Relax. Unwind. Homo sapiens has as much of an organic routine as corn. It needs to sleep in the dark and exercise in the light and dispensing with 6 or 7 time zones flying about the world screws this up.

So by starting our trip with two nights in Nairobi it gives everyone the option to just hang back in the hotel or join the sightseeing.

We started at the Karen Blixen Museum. Over the years I’ve watched the curators acquire more and more of the original furniture, paintings, letters, books of the original Isak Dinesen home, and today it’s truly impressive.

Today guides begin with a sit-down, rather than a walk around. They discuss the history not just of Blixen herself, but of the home. The detail of the home has become a true Kenyan treasure.

Then to Kazuri Beads, one of the great “harambe” success stories of Africa. “Harambe” means self-help. Started nearly 40 years ago with two single Moms looking to survive, the facility now employs more than 300 single women (and a half dozen highly trained and skilled potters who are mostly men). Kazuri markets worldwide, now, and has become a formidable business.

It also gave me the opportunity to discuss the unique heritage Kazuri displays, as beads were the common currency of the early explorers.

We then had lunch at a wonderful outdoor restaurant in Karen’s largest mall, a super modern complex with every kind of shop you can imagine, including Nairobi’s largest mega grocery store. How things have changed!

And after a wonderful lunch doused in carrot cake and Kenyan coffee, we hurried to the Giraffe Centre to feed the friendly creatures and learn about them, before at long last, the skies unloaded on us!

Not much driving. Lots of relaxing time at the mall and restaurant. Fascinating history, inspiring entrepreneurship and great fun with the giraffes. What better way to start!

Tomorrow we’re headed into the bush. Wifi may be limited, so come back early next week!