Kenya Safari at Maasai Mara
In early September, Donna and I are traveling to Africa for a Kenya Safari with my good friend Ric and his wife Lisa. Why? Ric and Lisa are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and they asked us to join them. After less than a nanosecond of hesitation, I said absolutely!
Before I go any further, photo credits are due. I don’t have any photographs from Africa or Spain…yet. Ric, who has been to Africa many times for Compassion International, was kind enough to provide the Africa images for today’s post.
Also featured is a beautiful photograph taken in Barcelona by my friend Brian Furbush. Brian loves traveling as much as I do and he sent one of his photographs of Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló for me to share. Read on to see Brian’s photo and check out his outstanding work > here.
Getting to Kenya…almost free
As I have said before, get a miles reward credit card, buy everything you can on it, and pay it off every month. Trust me, it will give you tickets to the world. I have lost track of how many free flights to far away lands we have earned and used. The flights for this trip, which will collectively fly Donna and I more than 46,000 miles, cost me $283 plus 160,000 United Miles. No I did not have to spend $160,000 to get the miles. When combined with less than 25,000 miles flown for business, bonus miles tacked onto purchases, and bonuses for annual renewals, it was not difficult to build up the balance over time. I figure we saved about $5,000 on our flights!
I talk to many that don’t like managing their financial accounts to build up free miles. I think some just don’t believe it is that easy to fly free. It is easy. Because we plan ahead, we always get the destinations we want for the lowest number of miles. In fact, we are already 47,000 miles closer to our next trip for 2014. All I need is 73,000 more miles in a year and a half to fly overseas again. It will be Tuscany for three weeks if I get my way.
Even with free flights, a Kenya Safari is not cheap
It is a good thing we got our flights for almost nothing. We are using a South African travel service to manage our trip and a week in Africa is not cheap. Upon our arrival in Nairobi, we will be picked up at the airport and taken to a nice hotel for the night. The next morning we will be escorted to Wilson Field for a one-hour prop plane ride to a dirt airstrip on the northwestern edge of the Massai Mara. There we will spend three nights and four days at an all inclusive tented camp. Our experience includes all meals and drinks as well as two game drives per day and more. After our Safari, we will be flown back to Nairobi for two nights. The six nights, including three nights in Nairobi and all local transportation costs, runs about $5800 for the both of us. For reference, this is about $2,300 more than what we spend for a typical week in Europe.
If you have been to Africa for less, I would love to hear from you. I imagine there are less expensive ways to visit Kenya.
Don’t forget vaccinations
Since Donna and I have not been to a third world country before, we had to load up on vaccinations. I decided to plan ahead and start the vaccination process a little more than six months before our departure. To get the vaccinations, I called the county health department and made an appointment. The appointment included an in-depth consultation with a nurse who advised about what we needed to protect our health on the trip. It turns out that a fair number of vaccinations are recommended for travel to Kenya. The vaccinations were about $1,000 for the two of us and included the following:
- Typhoid (Oral, lasts five years)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (Combined A&B shot over three visits and six months)
- Yellow Fever
- Malaria (Oral, taken just before we leave and during our trip)
We had very few side effects from the shots but did notice some mild aches and tiredness. Nothing that kept us down though. Consult with your health department to find out what is recommended specifically for you.
Register with the State Department
Because Nairobi and Kenya are a little less settled than say, Provence, France, I registered our trip with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. You can also sign up for email updates so you can be aware of events or conditions that may impact your visit.
For instance, large political rallies are expected in the last two days before Kenya’s upcoming election. At this time, U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid demonstrations and political rallies, or large crowds of any kind during the election period. Even gatherings intended to be peaceful can turn violent with little or no warning.
Our tour company covers medical emergency evacuation but we plan to purchase trip insurance to cover trip deposits. This will protect our investment if a political situation arises that prevents us from going or our trip is delayed for any reason.
Visiting a Compassion project and off to Barcelona
After our safari, we will spend another day in Nairobi to visit a Compassion International project. My friend Ric is a video producer for Compassion and is excited to show me the work they are doing there. Compassion exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. Donna and I support this ministry and we encourage you to learn more about what they are doing to help children in impoverished nations.
After the Compassion visit, Donna and I will fly at 4am the following morning via Cairo to Barcelona for a week. Spain has been on our list for a while and it seemed like the perfect place to stop on our way home. Fortunately, United did not require any extra miles to stop off in Barcelona so it is like getting two trips for one. We have rented a very affordable apartment in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter for a week and are excited to spend time in one of Spain’s most beautiful cities.
More to come…
I plan to post more about the preparations for this trip including what I will carry in the way of camera equipment. Ultimately I want to use the trip to significantly expand my photographic portfolio and hone my wildlife photography skills.