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Published: November 20th 2021
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe habour. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain
We are now home, after a LONG trip back. But first, our last evening in Mombasa, and our journey home, involving planes, trains, and automobiles!
We had a nice last dinner at the resort, at the Italian a la carte restaurant (which turned out to be tables set up by one of the pools). It was a pleasant change from the buffet though, and was more of an evening out feeling. I had minestrone soup and a spinach ricotta ravioli, and Susan had a salad and a tagliatelle alfredo with ham and peas. We also had a couple of glasses of just barely drinkable red 🤣. The wine at the resort unfortunately, isn’t very good. We had some very nice wines at the safari camps, mostly from South Africa or Chile (there are also some nice Kenyan wines), but whatever type of “cardboard-eux” they have at the resort is pretty crappy. It improved somewhat after the first glass! They make good
G&Ts at the resort, though, and the cold beer was always flowing. It started raining lightly as we were finishing, so we moved to a table with an umbrella, and then walked back to our room, stopping to watch the show (there is nightly entertainment here) on the way.
The next day dawned clear and sunny, and we had a lovely last morning. We enjoyed the excellent breakfast buffet, taking snacks for later with us, and then hit the pool. We swam, and watched the Indian Ocean from the edge of the infinity pool. I wanted to walk along the beach and go in the ocean, but I didn’t want to face the phalanx of vendors who positively pounce on you the second you come down the stairs onto the beach. It’s unfortunate they are so persistent. There are some who set up their displays just down the beach (beach dresses, sarongs, etc) but the worst are the ones trying to sell you boat rides, etc.
We reluctantly left the pool, showered, and managed to cram everything, including various purchases we’ve made during the course of the trip, into our suitcases. We had arranged to be picked up
Rhino candle holder
At our table our last dinner in Mombasa
at 12:30 for our ride to the train station, and we had enough time after checking out at noon for a last beer in the lobby bar. It was nice and breezy with the large ceiling fans turning overhead. Our ride came on time and we were off on the drive to the train station. It was a pleasant drive, much more so than the drive from the airport to the resort (during that drive it was hot, and dark outside, I was crammed in the backseat of the van, and the traffic was horrendous with construction causing long delays). This drive was in the daylight, in an air conditioned vehicle, with lots of space for us, and the traffic wasn’t bad at all. We passed the enormous port of Mombasa on the way, and arrived at the train station in lots of time for our train.
We had heard that there was a lot of security at the train station, and there certainly was. We had to put all of our bags on a designated area, then step back as the sniffer dogs went back and forth (I’m assuming they were checking for explosives, not drugs). Then all
My beaded Maasai bracelet
One of two I got at the Maasai village
items went though the security scanner. We then found where we had to print our tickets. It was an easy process and we were soon inside the terminal, being directed up to the second floor to the first class waiting area, where we were pounced on by servers offering food and drink (I’m thinking they work on commission!). We had lunch there and after a bit were told it was time to board the train, for our 5 hour trip to Nairobi. I had thought there would be a luggage car, or some way to check your luggage, but there wasn’t. We (meaning Susan) managed to haul the bags onto the overhead luggage racks.
I wasn’t that happy with our seats, since they turned out to be at the very front of the car, with the window set in front of the seats, but not directly at the seat. But if there had been a row of seats in front of us we wouldn’t really have been able to look out at all, so it could have been worse. But without seats in front of us we didn’t have a table or anything (there are drop down tables in
Indian Ocean views
On our last morning at the resort
the seat backs similar to a plane). After we got going, we realized we were on the sunny side of the train, which made it harder to see the view; also, the best view was on the other side of the train (if you are taking the train from Mombasa to Nairobi, try to sit on the right side, not the left side). The right side had views of the national parks that we passed through. I perched higher in my seat so I could see out the other side, and we did spot elephants, zebras, and cape buffalo, which was pretty cool. The sun set while we were on the train, and it soon became very dark (the sun sets so quickly in Kenya).
The train ride would have been great if we were seated on the other side, and there hadn’t been the crying child in our car (who cried/screamed for most of the 5 hour trip). I was happy to arrive in Nairobi!
A nice train attendant got our bags down from the luggage rack, and we left the train, following everyone else through a very dark area, to the exit, where we found a
taxi driver to take us to the airport. It wasn’t a very long drive, and we arrived in lots of time for our midnight flight. As you approach the airport you have to get out of the vehicle and walk through a security screening, meeting the vehicle on the other side. There was lots of security at the airport as well; we passed through security screenings at least three times, and were required to show our proof of vaccination, ArriveCAN receipt, and proof of negative COVID test.
After going through the various screenings, and checking our bags, we found a place to have a beer (and some of our snacks from the resort). I had money left on my m-Pesa account, so I used that to pay (I also paid for our lunch at the train station with m-Pesa). Our first flight (from Nairobi to Amsterdam) was about 8 1/2 hours, and left just after midnight. Soon after departure we were served dinner, and later we both managed to sleep for a few hours. This plane was configured in rows of 3-4-3, and we were in the 4 section, but there was nobody sitting next to me, which was
Last Balozi at the resort
In the lobby bar waiting for our ride to the train station
really nice. We were in economy plus (which gives you a bit more leg room than regular economy), and the flight was comfortable. We landed in Amsterdam about 6:30 am local time. We had an almost 6 1/2 hour layover, so we wandered around the airport for awhile, stretching our legs, checking out the shops, and buying a few bottles at duty free. We then went in search of a lounge in which to spend the rest of our layover. We have lounge passes with Westjet, and thought we’d be able to use them here in Amsterdam, but it turned out we can only use them when we are flying with Westjet, not with its partner airlines (like KLM). We did find a lounge we could use with Lounge Key, where we spent several pleasant hours, with drinks and snacks.
We wandered to our gate, where we once again had to show our proof of vaccination, ArriveCAN receipt, and proof of negative COVID test. This flight (from Amsterdam to Vancouver), was 10 hours, and once again we had upgraded to economy plus. The plane though, was definitely an older model, and the entertainment system wasn’t nearly as good as
Enjoying our last beer at the resort
While waiting for our ride to the train station
on the other flights (it had a smaller screen, and instead of being a touch screen we had to use a type of remote control). We were served lunch soon after departure, later a snack, and then breakfast before we landed. They certainly don’t want you to go hungry on these flights - it seems every few hours more food appears! I particularly enjoyed the apple tart that KLM serves. The sun never set during the flight - there was an endless sunset (or sunrise, who knows when you‘re going backwards in time zones).
We finally landed about 2 pm local time, and surprisingly didn’t have to show proof of vaccination, ArriveCAN receipt, or proof of negative COVID test. I guess it wasn’t necessary since we had to show them to get on the flights, but still, I was surprised. As we cleared customs I was advised I had been chosen for a random COVID test on arrival. I immediately went from a tired but happy traveller, to an extremely grumpy one. What?? Another freakin’ COVID test? That makes it my third test in three weeks. Mainly I was worried that it would be as uncomfortable as the test
I had had back in 2020, which was extremely uncomfortable. But, it turned out to be a breeze, quick cheek swab, quick nasal swab, and it was done. I was very relieved! Of course now I had to wait for another COVID test result (I was very sure it would be negative, but there’s always a bit of anxiety awaiting the results). Spoiler alert: negative! 😀
We got an Uber home, and were back in our condo about 4:30 pm, which was 3:30 am the following morning Nairobi time, making our door to door travel time of about 39 hours. It wasn’t really that bad of a return journey though, we treated each leg separately and didn’t look ahead to the entire journey. We greeted our cat Ella, who was very well taken care of by my co-worker Valenda who cat-sat for us (thank you so much Valenda!) We unpacked, watched a few episodes of Coronation Street, and managed to stay up till about 7 pm. It was nice to be home!
We woke up around 4 am this morning, and it will be an adjustment back to our time zone (11 hours difference from Nairobi).
had such an amazing trip! Our time in Amsterdam seems such a long time ago, since we’ve done so much since then, but it was only three weeks ago. We packed a lot into a short time.
So, would I recommend a safari, and particularly a safari in Kenya? Absolutely! Kenya is a fabulous country. The people are so friendly and welcoming and we enjoyed meeting Kenyans very much. The natural landscape, and all the amazing animals, are breathtaking. I will never forget our first game drive in Samburu, and our first sighting of elephants, zebras, and giraffes. It was truly magical. We had so many unforgettable moments on safari (lions mating right in front of our jeep!!).
Some of what we learned was heartbreaking (so many animals are critically endangered), but so many Kenyans are working so hard to ensure the world doesn’t lose these incredible animals. There is hope for humanity as long as there are people like them in the world.
From a practical standpoint, we absolutely loved the deluxe safari tents we stayed in, and the food at the camps was all excellent. A majority of Kenyans speak English, which makes travel in
Kenya easier for English speaking travellers. Our driver Stanley told us that most Kenyans speak three languages (their tribal language, Swahili, and English). They learn their tribal language at home, and Swahili and English in school.
We enjoyed travelling around the country between safari camps because we always love seeing the landscape and passing through cities and towns of countries we visit. It often wasn’t very comfortable being jounced around in the jeeps, over the very bumpy Kenyan roads, but it was really interesting seeing the varied landscape, and passing all the dusty roadside towns in Kenya.
You may wonder what it was like travelling in the time of COVID. I would say it had both its advantages and its disadvantages, but the advantages definitely outweighed the disadvantages. I am so glad we did the safari now, as travel is just starting to resume. It was so much quieter in the parks and reserves than it was pre-COVID, where we would have been surrounded by so many more jeeps. It was very peaceful during our safaris, which would not have been the case pre-COVID.
Kenya has done a very good job managing the pandemic, and their numbers
are low (lower than Canada’s). I thought that I had less chance of getting COVID in Kenya than I would have at home. Their government instituted strict restrictions, including a nationwide curfew that was only recently lifted, and face masks are mandatory. Nobody wore masks in Amsterdam, but in Kenya pretty much everybody was wearing them. Their vaccination rates are going up, and those who work in the travel/hospitality industry were vaccinated first. Virtually everyone we came in contact with had been double vaccinated.
The disadvantages of travelling in the time of COVID was, for me, increased pre-trip anxiety, and the requirement for negative COVID tests. We had to have a negative COVID test to board our flight to Kenya (we got the test in Amsterdam), and another negative test to come back to Canada. Then, for good measure, I also had the on-arrival COVID test! But those things were a small price to pay to finally travel again, and to have the opportunity for such a truly amazing trip, without the huge crowds (except for Amsterdam, which was very busy). It really was the perfect time to go on the safari, before the crowds come back.
if you are eager to travel again, then just go. I believe in the quote I started this blog entry with. Sometimes you have to sail away from the safe harbour and take some risks. The rewards are so worth it. Travel is so important to give you a wider perspective on the world. I particularly like this quote from Barak Obama “I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict
.” Travel helps people to realize what we all have in common.
So, that wraps up my Amsterdam-Kenya blog. Assante sana (thank you) Kenya!
Thanks very much for reading and commenting on my blog. 😀 I hope you have enjoyed travelling with us, and stay tuned for our next adventure, to Croatia in May 2022!!
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