Why I’m in love with Kenya
Yes, we have our perks as magazine writers and editors. We travel almost every month to hip cities like Seoul and New York and the glam dames Paris and Shanghai.
But it’s Kenya I still reminisce about (sorry, Saks and Eiffel Tower) – three months after I went to the East African country for The Body Shop’s Community Fair Trade Media Trip.
Here’s why I would go to Kenya again in a heartbeat:
1) The weather
Go in June — like I did — and you’ll love the amazing weather. Someone in my travelling congregation quipped: “Just like Genting Highlands!” We had lots of sunshine but temperatures hovered at about 15 degree Celsius. It felt a lot colder though because the constant winds were bone-chilling and you don’t have skyscrapers blocking out the mountain winds. It can get freezing in the early mornings and late nights so pack a puffer jacket and heat packs… no kidding. Also, the roads can get dusty so wear your largest goggle-like wraparound shades – a must especially if you have sensitive eyes.
2) The food
Before my trip, I packed lots of cookies and instant noodles as I was afraid I would go hungry in Kenya. Also, I had some dietary misconceptions: would I be having just meat — worse, game meat — there? You see, I love my fish and greens more.
Turned out I was very wrong. Game meat is banned and the Kenyan farms supply the freshest (also pesticide-free so truly organic) tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and veggies.
The yummiest breakfast at Ngong House
I am getting hungry now thinking about the super-sweet grilled mini potatoes, the sautéed steamed bananas (almost like very sweet goreng pisang but healthier) and the cleverest beetroot-and-pineapple salads that I had.
The Kenyan version of mama shops
3) The people
The Kenyans, especially those living in the more rustic and idyllic Mount Kenyan region, are friendly and approachable. Plus, they are such a beautiful people – love the way they wear their clothes bright and colourful. So Marni.
4) The safaris
Go on a safari drive and you may spot the most graceful giraffes heading to the water hole for their morning drink. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see baboons (don’t stick your head out of your vehicle or they may pounce onto you), doe-eyed deer… and if you’re really lucky (like I was), you’ll see the odd hard-to-spot majestic lion lounging around.
5) The accomodation
I had the opportunity to stay in two uber-cool places: Ngong House in Nairobi and Sweet Waters Tented Camp in Mount Kenya.
Ngong House is a private resort with different types of accommodation. The grounds are done up like someone’s sprawling old-world home.
My treehouse at Ngong House in Nairobi, Kenya
I got a two-storey treehouse (complete with wooden furniture, an antique telephone and a spiral staircase) while some of my travelling companions checked into a den-style house (a floor-to-ceiling drinks bar, anyone?) or a two-storey bungalow.
You can have your morning coffee on the verandah while enjoying the scenery: think endless greenery, a soft sunrise and the occasional sighting of wild hares (they make rather disturbing sounds like laughing kids). An American-style breakfast is served in the garden – with the resort owner’s labradors lying at your feet.
In Mount Kenya, we drove through many long dust roads and past vast open fields before arriving at the heavily gated Sweet Waters Tented Camp. It’s located in a private wildlife reserve and it’s really a huge resort with individual “tents”. Think of it as a “glamping” – that’s glam camping for you – experience.
My Sweetwaters Camp tent at Mount Kenya
Each tent is quite roomy and has tiled flooring. There isn’t a door or even a lock though. You simply zip down the tent when you enter and zip it up again when you leave. Even the mesh windows are secured with zips. In each tent, there’s an ensuite bathroom which comes with a separate zip-up “door”.
My tent was just 20 steps away from the wildlife reserve where a low-lying electrical fence prevents the animals from crossing the lines. I had a Nat Geo moment every morning, waking up to the trumpeting of elephants and the sight of grazing zebras.
As I sat on my porch sipping ginger milk tea (like teh halia) and enjoying what a fellow traveller dubbed “your living, breathing wildlife TV programme”, I thought to myself: “This is life, and heck, I’m one truly lucky woman.”
Read more about Pearlyn Tham’s Kenyan adventure in Her World, on page 314 of the September issue, out now.