We had our kickoff meeting with our Contiki guide at 6:00 PM where I met my travel group for the next 2 weeks – an unusual, but expected group exclusively comprised of Americans. The borders of the usual countries that are represented on Contiki trips (Australia, New Zealand & Canada) are all still closed. The group is a good mix of age ranges with the youngest in college and the oldest 35 years old.
During our orientation, we received an overview of Contiki’s COVID protocols & learned about the trip. We then headed to a restaurant in the mall attached to our hotel for a group dinner before calling it a night. Our group is really great!
The following morning, we woke up relatively early to hit the road out of Nairobi to our first stop, Maasai Mara National Park. It was about a 4 hour drive with a few stops including one at a beautiful overlook and another at a souvenir market. The roads were all mostly paved and it was a comfortable drive.
View from the outlook
Of course I have to show my Penn State pride
Our Contiki Family for the next 1-2 weeks
Upon arriving at the gates to the park, we paid $450 for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise the following day over the Serengeti which is something we have been told is well worth the price. We then went through the gates to our camp, which means our camp was located in the national park!
We were greeted at the camp with a traditional welcome song in Swahili, got a quick overview of the hotel & went to our rooms. The rooms are “tented cabins” which essentially are comprised of thick canvas walls with screens for windows that can be covered up with canvas attached to Velcro. The tent is high and has wooden bracing in the ceiling in addition to a more typical bathroom setup made out of more permanent materials (full walk in shower, toilet & sink). I would say this is “budget glamping”.
After checking into our rooms we grabbed lunch, which is a buffet where the staff serves you to avoid multiple people touching tongs. The lunch was very good and comprised of soup, vegetables, beef & some Kenyan food including ugali (a hard polenta type food).
We then went back to our rooms, grabbed our safari bags & headed to the van for our first game drive!