by Abbie Leggat
Zanzibar really is the ultimate island experience with fascinating history, colourful culture, crystal clear waters filled with colourful fish and countless long white sandy beaches. After a long flight from Cairo we found ourselves in paradise driving down dusty tracks in our 4WD passing tropical rainforests, festive fruit stalls and picturesque rice fields.
The next few days were spent in a relaxing spiral of beach combing, eating way too much papaya, kayaking at sunset, cocktails at sunrise (the Ginger Dawa is a must!) and seafood buffets.
This city is of prominent historical and artistic importance in Zanzibar and East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
The alleys are littered with independent souvenir shops and the best ones are run by NGOs like Fahari Zanzibar. Fahari Zanzibar is a social enterprise making high quality bags, jewellery and accessories.
By buying from Fahari, you will be receiving an exceptional, original product whilst supporting local women in building a sustainable future. For a pick-me-up I would recommend sugar cane juice which the locals refer to as Nature’s Red Bull and it can be found all over the old town.
Kenya – My search for the infamous Leopard
Kenya, in my eyes, was the icing on the cake of a fantastic tour. My sister and I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the safari, lodges and food but we were constantly amazed by the friendliness of the African people, the quality of service and the sheer amazement every time you come across an animal (even if it was a Dik Dik). Every park visit offered something different.
Our first stop was Mount Kenya which was a fantastic start to our trip. The lodge (Mount Kenya Lodge) was located in front of a waterhole where we saw elephants, hyenas, buffalos and warthogs. I would recommend the jungle walk which took us into the wilderness (with an armoured guard) for a 1 hour trek. This mini tour was made even better when we were met by lodge employees to enjoy an afternoon tea of cake, biscuits, coffee and tea with an optional brandy shot which keeps you warm for the trek back.
After a champagne breakfast we headed for Samburu National Reserve which would be our home for the next 2 nights. Our time here was spent doing morning and evening game drives and lazing by the fabulous pool during the day. Samburu is famous for the Grant’s Gazelle, Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and the Somali Ostrich which are only found within the park.
We then continued on a long drive to Lake Nakuru where we experienced possibly the biggest storm I have ever seen which in turn flooded most of the driving tracks. Nevertheless we ventured out and were greeted by a large heard of buffalo, Impala and Zebra. We even came fairly close (to our drivers shock) to a white Rhino which casually strolled in front of our 4WD. The highlight for me of Lake Nakuru were the flamingos, a fantastic photo opportunity for all!
After a 14 hour blackout and a romantic candlelit dinner (albeit with my sister!) we continued on our way to Lake Naivasha, the home of the hippopotamus. There were 2 things that immediately struck me as we arrived at the lake (1) I got out of the car and came face to face with crazy baboons (make sure you lock your doors) (2) how small the boat was that would be taking us to see an animal that can weigh between 1.5 and 3 tonnes and crush you in seconds. All that put aside we ventured out in our tiny boat and returned safe and dry 2 hours later with beaming smiles on our faces after discovering many pods of hippo.
The famous Masai Mara was our last stop and wow did it live up to its reputation. We had 4 safaris in the park and each one delivered as we came face to face with 2 very lazy lions, 2 very hungry lions, a group of 7 playful lion cubs, 3 cheetahs and countless elephant, zebra, giraffe and wildebeest.
Experience these amazing countries on our Cairo to Zanzibar small group tour, or browse all our Africa tours by clicking here.