It is OK for the sun to play hide and seek during the cold season in Kenya, but totally depressing when it disappears the entire day, then for days and worse still if the biting cold persists for a week! Morning coughs and cold sniffles, grey clouds, empty streets and frozen fingers are a boring norm during this period.
From the month of June, the cold weather went on and on, it was hard to tell when it would come to an end.I had been making plans to look for sunshine but every possible suggestion was not any better from the weather in Nairobi. The weatherman’s predictions was on point. Betty warned against Lamu which was on top of my hibernation list, because she is a regular on that route. I was in Nairobi to stay,sadly.
My blank gaze and train of thoughts got interrupted by a phone call from the Safari Guy. See, the Safari Guy also known as the travel sponsor (hosted a group of other travel influencers at Voyager Beach Resort a while back for a long weekend during the Chris Brown weekend…hence the title). wanted to know if I could accompany team Heritage Hotels and a team from Procter and Gamble to Taita Taveta for a CSR gig. This was a perfect escape from the impossible weather in the capital, and a great opportunity to give back to the society.
The next thing I knew, we are at Emali junction on the Nairobi- Mombasa highway headed to Lumi Secondary School in Taita then to Ziwani Primary school. The agenda was to keep girls in school with sanitary pads and to encourage the young students to work hard in school.
Lunch at Diplomatic café
This is small hotel in Oloitoktok known for its fresh food and super-fast customer service.
Despite the fact that potatoes were drowning in the beef stew, the food was tasty. I ate matumbo. Livestock in that area fed on herbs that are said to be highly medicinal, so I guess it was safe to say I finished my annual doze of miti dawa.
Checking in at Voyager Ziwani, Tsavo West
As the safari guy put it, Voyager Ziwani is chilled, unpretentious and gives an undiluted experience with nature. I couldn’t agree more. Every inch of Voyager Ziwani imbues an unrivaled feeling of relaxation and happiness that trigger bits of curiosity and an urge to unmask what was beyond plain sight.
Voyager Ziwani; where everything jumps into life at night!
You’d be forgiven to assume that nature would take rest in a bid to prepare for a similar display of beauty and colour for the next day, given how deep in the wild we were,but no.
As a matter of fact, Ziwani comes to life at this time. A stary sky, nocturnal animals, sweet-smelling plants that wait for the dark to secrete their heavenly scents, hippos, the water from the dam yelling louder as it streamed southwards, warmth from a perfectly flamed bonfire and an eager group of Masai entertainers brings the night to life,amongst many other players.
Accommodation is purely safari-themed, made up of self-contained tented camps. Hot showers and the wall to wall mirrors in the bathroom space makes the experience even better. A little luxury in the bush goes a long way.
Game drive in the dark?
I was a bit reluctant to go for an evening game drive that had been scheduled right before dinner. How was I to see Mufasa devouring a helpless impala in the dark? What if a snake crawled beneath the safari van for warmth? It was disturbing. A quick poll was conducted on whether a game drive was necessary, and let’s just say I lost terribly. Long story short, if ever I go for a safari, evening game drives would be my thing. It is much easier to spot game at night! From the nocturnal ones to the others that rest while standing.
Dinner at Ziwani is an experience
What is dinner without the grunts, groans, and wheezes of resident hippos, a slow flaming –bonfire that burns the biting cold slowly and a powerful polyphonic symphony of the Masai entertainers that send musical chills down the spine? The French menu under the African sky tasted so good that evening.
Things not to miss when you visit when you Voyager Ziwani
- The morning nature walk
This was the part one gest to interact with nature first hand. I have done more than a dozen nature walks and truth be told, this particular one stood out from the rest.
From the extremely knowledgeable guide, to easily spotted plants,birds and animals that were far enough to ensure safety yet close enough make you feel like a jungle kid. The Ziwani dam is home to crocodiles, fish,hippos, wild geese and a whole lot birds.
The whole idea of walking in the wild was so fascinating.
2. Take a game drive to Tsavo West National Park to see elephants
If you want a first-hand encounter with elephants, then look no further than this park. The only reason we took this game drive was to look for the heavily guarded elephants and even before we finished paying park fees, a huge herd of elephants had already been spotted a few meters away. How gentle are these giants though?
3.Check out Lake Jipe
This lake borders Kenya and Tanzania and can be accessed through Tsavo West National Park as well.
3. See the ‘Sniper Tree’ and Salaita Hill
During WW1,Africans who as European Colonies were unaware of the war in Europe were forced into the battle fields to fight alongside their colonizers. War was declared between German East Africa (Tanzania ) and British East Africa (Kenya) about eleven days after the war broke in Europe.
Being right at the border of Kenya of and Tanzania, Taita Taveta became a hotbed of the war. Salaita Hill in Taita-Taveta, was one of the thirty five army camps,forts and hideouts during the four year old war. Local guides say the name was coined from the word Slaughter Hill.
The other outstanding evidence of the war is the famous Baobab tree,commonly referred to as the Sniper tree. A female German sniper hid in the hollow part of the tree and is said to have killed dozens of British soldiers to avenge the murder of her husband during the war.
The 450 year old baobab holds the record of the most shot at tree in the world.
Well, there you have it!
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Quick Guide on how to get to Voyager Ziwani…
If going from Nairobi, use Mombasa Road (A109, 124km) to Emali town. Turn to the Emali-Loitokitok highway (C102, 110Km) up to Laset (Ilaset on some maps, which is 8kms after Oloitokitok town). Turn right onto the Laset-Taveta murram road. Drive for approximately 40kms to Njukini. Look out for the sign to Voyager Ziwani on the left. It’s approximately 12kms to the camp.
An alternative route is from Nairobi, use Mombasa Road (A109, 234km) to Mtito Andei. From Mombasa, drive along the same highway to Mtito Andei (250km). At Mtito, use the Tsavo West National Park (82km) as you see the Shetani Lavas, Chyulu Hills, Mzima Springs and game along the way. As you exit the western gate of the park, you will be at the Voyager Safari Camp’s gate.
The last route is from Mombasa to Voi along Mombasa highway (A109, 155km), then turn left on to the Voi-Taveta highway (A23, 106km) and drive 100m just after Cessi, where a sign for Voyager Ziwani on the right will indicate your exit on to the murram (all weather) road on the right. There’s signage to the sanctuary gate, where you will drive a further 18kms to the camp.
NB: Photo Contributors: Alex Kamweru and Heritage Hotels.