A journey throughout southern Kenya

I’m catching up on my travel writing today, and I’m really excited to share our 10 day epic camping journey throughout southern Kenya. Our trip began with a long drive from Nairobi down Mombasa Road, to the Chyulu Hills. Our friends took the more adventurous and scenic route via the turnoff at Emali, but we hit the road early so we went with the familiar route via Kibwezi. As always, the Chyulus offer unbeatable views at every turn.



By the way, this trip was the maiden voyage for our new tent! We got the Kelty Trail Ridge, and WE LOVE IT. It’s easy to put up (just 3 poles, to our old tent’s whopping 9 poles), spacious, and has a super cool trick up its sleeve – more on that later!




We celebrated Easter in the Chyulus, just like last year, and the Easter egg hunt was grand as ever. Kiddos searched high and low for eggs, hidden in wheel wells, by tent pegs, and in camping chair drink holders. The kids pulled in quite the haul, and much chocolate was eaten by all.



I have hardly experienced a more enjoyable campsite than Satellite Camp high up in the Chyulus. What it lacks in facilities (it has none), it more than makes up for in sweeping, majestic views. It also has perfect camping climate – pleasant during the day, cool at night, and no sweaty armpits to be seen. (The same can not be said of our next destination on this journey!)



On our last evening, we were treated to a couple of paragliders coasting over the campsite. The kids went absolutely berserk, and I swear Claire thought the guys would give her a ride if she shouted loud enough. It was a pretty special sight at the end of our stay!



The next day, we packed up camp and headed out. We drove up and over the Chyulu Hills, and down to Tsavo West. Words cannot describe how beautiful this drive is. Emerald green hills as far as the eye can see. Kenya at its finest.

Shortly after we finished our descent, we came across our first seasonal river. This one was pretty small, and fording it was a breeze.



The second seasonal river was…. not so small. It was pretty intimidating, in fact. We were just a few kilometers from the Chyulu campsite in Tsavo West, our intended resting spot for the night. This river was too wide, too deep, and too swift to take our chances. We spent several hours on the banks of the river, waiting to see if the water would recede a bit. It didn’t…

Eventually, Dom waded in to see how deep it was, and the team decided to give it a go.

If you zoom in on the above photo, you’ll see Claire’s shocked face sitting in my lap in the passenger seat. Heidi and Jesse were in heaven. Claire and I were quaking in our boots. We made it to camp just as the sun was going down, so we quickly set up camp and got some dinner going for the kiddos. The Chyulu Camp in Tsavo West was  occupied by a large group of community rangers, who were securing Tsavo from marijuana farming (who knew?) and poaching. The rangers were more than gracious, and were very considerate neighbors. Because of our late arrival, and our desire to move on from the crowded campsite, I’ve got no photos from the camp. Moving on!




The next morning we hit the road for Lumo Conservancy, but made a quick visit to Mzima Springs on the way. Packed with hippos, crocodiles and fish, Mzima Springs was a sight to behold. The springs’ source is 50 kilometers away in the Chyulu Hills, where rain water filters through the rock, and feeds Mzima Springs with clear, cold water. The underwater viewing hut was a huge hit with the kids!

After we left Mzima Springs, we took the longest, straightest road I’ve ever seen, down along the border of Tsavo West. Once we reached the wide, smooth boulevard that is the freshly tarmacked Taveta Road, it was just a hop, skip and a jump over to Lumo.

We stayed at Cheetah Campsite, run by Lion’s Bluff Lodge. The campsite is situated on the side of the bluff, with views that go on for miles (and miles and miles…). It’s hard not to sound trite, but the scenery is simply spectacular. The campsite is very well equipped with long drop toilets, a huge kitchen shelter, and a shaded terrace.


I was hoping to see loads of animals in Lumo, but with the excessive rains, they were few and far between. Heidi was lucky enough to find a gigantic grasshopper at the campsite (we also found quite a few microscopic scorpions – yikes), and a huge herd of elephants spent hours grazing on the slopes in front of the campsite. Apart from that, Lumo was basically devoid of animals. I hear this is not always the case, so don’t let our bad game-viewing luck turn you off.






Did I mention the views?


After a few days soaking in the scenery at Lumo, we broke camp again and made our way across Tsavo West to Lake Jipe. Apart from the very unfortunate placement of the KWS barracks right in front of the views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, this campsite is next to perfect. They have hot showers, some natural shade, lovely views of the lake, and (slightly obstructed, but still stunning) views of the inimitable Mt. Kilimanjaro.


Lake Jipe attracts some tremendous rainstorms, and while we never actually got rained on, we did get to see the mother of all rainstorms, and an equally impressive rainbow.

Let me pause a moment here to gush about our new tent again. Remember how I mentioned that it has a secret trick up its sleeve? It has a STARGAZING FLY. You can roll up the fly, exposing the mesh over half the tent, and sleep under an unobstructed view of starry skies. If you start to feel a little rain, you just reach out the zipper, unclip the fly, and pull it down. This came in very handy in Lumo, where we were sleeping under the stars when a pretty hefty storm rolled in. We stayed completely dry! Okay, back to the camping trip…



The sunsets at Lake Jipe were not fooling around. With so many bright clouds, the light from the setting sun had a lot to work with. Each day was like a new impressionist painting. I couldn’t get enough of it. Also, I discovered that if you walked waaaaaayyyy east of the campsite, you could get a shot of Mt. Kilimanjaro with no barracks, electricity wires, or toilets in front of it. Woo hoo!


On our last day, we took the kids on a boat ride around the lake. These calm waters hide herds and herds of hippos, which we could hear grazing, splashing and bickering from our tents at night.


After a few nights at Lake Jipe, we broke camp one last time and made our way to Amboseli for an end-of-trip treat to a night in a lodge. What a way to end a trip! Let me pause here to say that the often-elusive Mt. Kilimanjaro was NOT shy during this trip. Every day, we were treated to hours and hours of crystal clear views of the glacial snowcapped peaks. Eye candy!



We spent the night at Mada’s Kilima Camp, just outside Amboseli’s Kimana gate. Kilima Camp had great permanent safari tents, good food (typical lodge buffet fare), a fantastic pool, and a soaring game viewing tower with unparalleled views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and a busy watering hole.


From Kilima Camp, we made a leisurely drive through Amboseli, admiring the no-longer-dry lake, and watching some elephants chase off a couple of lionesses that wandered too close to the herd.

This camping trip was ambitious, and our dreams paid off. We covered a 1,000 km circuit during the 10 day trip, and camped in mountains, volcanic plains, savannahs, and marshlands. Trips like this feed my wanderlust, and make me greedy for more. Here’s to the next odyssey!

PS – for more details on camping at the Chyulu Hills, Lumo Conservancy, Tsavo West and Lake Jipe, please click through to these excellent articles by the Kenyan Camper. I am constantly inspired by his blog, and one day I hope to reach a camping destination before he does… 😉

PPS – Thanks to our friend Dominic Rebelo for several of the photos for this post, including the photo of our car fording the seasonal river, the distance shot of three cars descending the slopes of the Chyulus, the close-up of hippos, the image of elephants grazing below the Cheetah Campsite, the image of elephants grazing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the images of elephants chasing off the lionesses in Amboseli. Thanks for the incredible trip and the gorgeous photos!)

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Tinga Tinga Tales is BACK!

We went to see the revival of Tinga Tinga Tales this weekend, and it was so much fun! The whole family was floating on a post-Tinga-Tinga high all weekend, reminiscing about our favorite songs and characters. We were BIG fans the first time around, and I couldn’t wait to see the reboot. It did not disappoint!

I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but this is not the same old Tinga Tinga Tales. While the overall story arc was the same, this was not the same show. There was tons of new material: new jokes, new lines, and loads of new songs. The cast and crew put a lot of work into refreshing the show, and putting even more energy, fun, and spirit into it. I can’t really say enough about how much talent was on that stage. We were spellbound!

As always, this is a truly interactive theatre experience. Heidi was only 2 years old the last time the show ran, so this was all new for her. She loved getting up to sing and dance with all the animals of Tinga Tinga. (And so did we!) The look on Heidi’s face as she soaked it all in was pure magic!

Tinga Tinga Tales is exactly the kind of family-friendly arts I think we need more of in Nairobi, and this show deserves all of our support! So much work goes into a production like this, and it means so much to me that my kids get to experience the magic and wonder of live theatre. Thanks to Sheba Hirst, Claudia Lloyd, Eric Wainaina and the entire cast and crew for bringing all their talent and skill to the stage for this performance.

You can catch Tinga Tinga Tales at the Kenya National Theatre through the end of September, and tickets are available on TicketSasa. Don’t miss your chance to experience the magic – go get your tickets NOW! We’ve got tickets for our second viewing next weekend. Will two times be enough? I’m honestly not sure… And once the crew wraps up here in Nairobi, they’re heading to New York to perform on Broadway! I’m so excited for the team, and I hope that New York loves them as much as we do!

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Rhino Charge 2018: A brutal race in Elangata Enterit Enkutoto

Rhino Charge Deranged Rover Car 51

As you guys know, in June we participated in the Rhino Charge, a charitable off-road race that supports the conservation of Kenya’s wildlife and mountain range ecosystems. A total of 65 teams must navigate to 13 checkpoints hidden within 100 square kilometers of rough terrain within 10 hours. Continue reading

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Happy birthday, Claire!

Happy 7th birthday to my kind, generous, girl! We celebrated Claire’s birthday out in the bush this weekend at the Rhino Charge. She got two cool new board games, a weaving loom, and a magical balancing bird toy (her favorite gift this year!). Her most unique gift – a zebra tooth! Continue reading

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Camping in Kakamega Rainforest – the nitty gritty (Part 2)

Kakamega

As you guys know, we spent New Year’s camping in Kakamega Rainforest. I was shocked at how little information we were able to get online prior to our trip, and I hope to right that situation a bit. As such, this post will be a bit of a departure from my usual material. Continue reading

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Happy birthday, Heidi!

My baby is four years old! Heidi has grown so much in the last year, and impresses us every day with her sense of humor, her intrepid spirit, and her fearlessness. She is courageous, adventurous, and sometimes a little bit wild… 😉 She loves her two-wheeler, climbing things, playing in the mud, and tickle fights. Heidi is warm, and makes me smile every day!

We love you, Heidi. May this year bring you many more adventures!

Happy birthday, sweet girl! xx

PS – Heidi at age one, two and three!

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A great holiday camp for kids who love to build!

young engineers

During school breaks, I usually try to come up with a bunch of craft ideas and projects to try with the kids while they’re home. But for the last week of this past Christmas break the girls attended holiday camp run by Young Engineers Kenya, and they loved it! Continue reading

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Ringing in the New Year in Kakamega Rainforest (Part 1)

Kakamega

Happy New Year! We just got back from an incredible trip to Kakamega Rainforest in western Kenya. We did lots of hiking, lots of bird watching, and lots of relaxing. I’ll write another post soon with a full review of the campsites in Kakamega (there is SO little information on the internet about visiting this gorgeous spot), but for now, here are some photos from our trip, if you’re interested! Continue reading

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Holiday photos: Thanksgiving at Sand Island Beach

Sand Island Beach

Last weekend we went back to our favorite beach spot, Sand Island Beach Cottages, to celebrate American Thanksgiving with some friends. It’s been a whole year since we last visited the coast, and it was so good to be back! (Remember last year’s travel fiasco?) Here are some photos, if you’d like to see… Continue reading

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Back to school (Whoopee!)

Back to school

The girls are back to school this week, and I have officially become that mom who dances in the street after saying goodbye to the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my two little rascals, but this school break was LONG, and the fights were REAL. A few hours apart will do us all a world of good – especially these battling sisters! Continue reading

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