In the summer of 2009 I had the privilege of transiting via Nairobi to another country in Africa. I was flying from Mumbai. The flight over Indian Ocean was uneventful, nothing special, just a vast expanse of sea. A little after 5 hours of flying, we hit landfall. Soon thereafter I could feel the gentle descent. While approaching to land I could see Mount Kilimanjaro on my left partially hidden in clouds. Nairobi airport is at 5000 feet above mean sea level approx. Finally we were on land.
My friend came to pick me up and we drove down to city. The journey out of airport was quiet with the usual wide roads, but the landscape changed once we got close to the city, with chaotic traffic jams and innumerable sign boards advertising wild life tourism, which went on to reinforce what was already in my mind, that I am well and truly in Africa.
The sight of street boys selling various items soon confronted me, while still in traffic jam. My friend gently reminded me not to lower the windows. A little later I understood the reason why – Several boys were selling daggers, sheathed in what appeared to be a small hand held bicycle pump. All one had to do was twist the cycle pump look alike and pull, which was being demonstrated – and the 10 inch blade would be out. It was a bit unnerving to see knife wielding boys near the car. But what surprised me was, why would anyone sitting in a car buy a dagger? A calculator, maybe, but not a ten inch dagger. I for one would never buy one, neither did I see anyone buy. It dawned on me a little later that, it is more for probably stealing than anything else, though I did not witness any robbery.
Free advice and cautions were many. One stood out. – don’t walk out alone at night, if you have to, then take a bit of money nothing precious or valuable. If confronted by an armed robber, never resist, but give what is demanded. And remember to say “Thank You”!!. What thanks for being robbed!! Yes I was reminded, never forget good manners.
My stay in Nairobi ended uneventfully. Try as I might, I could never get to go to Masai Mara. The two days I was there was not enough, I was told. It needs planning. It is eight hours drive to Masai Mara reserve and then lots of time is required to spot the animals, rushing in and out is no way to see Masai Mara. For witnessing something truly spectacular like a lioness hunting a gazelle or deer, you got to spend more time. Two days is just not enough.
Later I did my own little research on visiting Masai Mara reserve and it turns out my friend was right. At least fifteen days is required from the point of touch down at Nairobi, for a drive through Masai Mara trip. The Masai Mara reserve can be seen in three ways. For the daring and adventurous the favorite is walk the reserve with the help of Masai tribe animal tracking team. Driving through the reserve is the most popular, which involves staying in the reserve for several days. For the least adventurous the only option is fly over the reserve – it is expensive, but time saver.
For visitors Nairobi has wonderful weather throughout the year, cost of living is reasonable and hotels are available for different budgets, from five star to the back packer types. The best time to visit is during the annual migration of animals. I wish I had more time to explore the wild life reserve, which remains a dream unfulfilled.