Welcome to Day 1 of our African Overland Tour. More than likely you won’t be reading this unless you’re either considering taking an overland tour through Africa, or you know Josh or Renee personally. If you’re a member of either camp, you’ll want a lot of details. And, baby, you’re going to get ‘em in spades! We’ll be going day-by-day through our 52 day journey (most posts will be more than one day, but I wanted to answer the clamors for some details ASAP), and if you want to check out why we chose to take an Overland Tour in the first place, check it out here! If you want to read about Absolute Africa, check them out here. And if you want to read an extended review of the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, check that out here. And now, on with the show…..
We began the tour in Nairobi and met the other 13 passengers on our big yellow truck. The truck sat 28 people total (we’ll be filling the bus later, don’t worry), so there was plenty of room to spread out. The truck (don’t call it a bus) was HUGE (a 3 step ladder climb was required to get up to the seating area) and attracted a lot of attention on the street, often we would find other tourists taking pictures of our bus and locals waving as we passed simply because of the pure novelty. Our other passengers were from all over the world (Six Kiwis, two Brits, two from Brooklyn, one Aussie, one Dutch girl, and two dumb Americans with a blog you somehow ended up on), and included both singles and couples. As we introduced ourselves and swapped travel stories (not surprisingly, people who sign up for a 50-70 day camping trip love to travel), our Irish travel leader Derek gave us a brief overview of the day ahead of us. Our first stop was a giraffe sanctuary, a non-profit organization who focused on conservation education for school children of Kenya. Of course, they don’t mind when tourists stop by to feed the giraffes. Yes, I said feed the giraffes.
The sanctuary houses ten adult giraffes and a couple babies, who get to roam over 120 acres (Kenyan government recommends at least ten acres per giraffe) at night, but during the day are housed in a smaller area. When we visited, two giraffes were getting up close and personal with us as the friendly staff provided us with feed for them to snag from not only our hands, but if we put a pellet between our lips, we received a faceful of giraffe tongue for our troubles. We learned some interesting facts about giraffes, such as the reason they can lick your face is their saliva is actually an antiseptic (their favorite leaves to eat are surrounded by thorns so their tongue constantly gets cut up) and they lack upper incisors so they can’t bite. There are three types of giraffes (Rothschild, Ma’asai, and Reticulated - all of which we would see within our first five days in Africa), and having our first activity in Africa be the opportunity to pet and spend time with these gentle giants was a spectacular way to prepare us for how unbelievable our time would be.
Our next stop was to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, which is only open from 11a-12p for the first feedings of these orphaned elephants, most of which were younger than three years old. If you’re planning on attending the orphanage, be sure to bring Kenyan Shillings, as the entrance fee was either $7 or 500 Kenyan Shillings (which is the equivalent of just under $5), although either amount is totally worth it. To see these young elephants up close and personal is quite a wonder, as they each have their own personality and verve, and are not scared to interact with the attendees after they have had their fill of milk from a huge baby bottle. As we watched the group of about a dozen elephants meander around, we noticed a group of warthogs running through the background of our eyeline; this was our first example of animals being EVERYWHERE in Africa. In our first week, we’ve had to stop the truck to yield to giraffes, baboons, and zebras crossing the street, not to mention the domesticated goats, cows, and donkeys which dot the highways. Oh, and I’m talking about highways here, not just the roads in the National Parks. The animals in Africa are EVERYWHERE.
The first night we camped in a campground just outside Nairobi, where we learned how to set up our tent for the first time (Super easy, takes about 7-8 minutes every time), had a tour of the bus (besides carrying an insane amount of stuff like bags for 28 riders, a full kitchen, refrigerator, and double locked safe, there is a full mechanic’s shop in order to fix the bumps and bruises the truck takes along the road), and had dinner at the campsite restaurant. After a couple of beers and some more getting to know each other, we headed back to our tents to get some sleep, as we were leaving early the next morning. But before we went to sleep, our tour leader let us know that he had just received a text from the office. There was a loose lion spotted in our area, so we needed to be careful if we needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Welcome to Africa.