I have always wanted to see Kenya’s very famous scenic landscapes and vast wildlife. Although, I had never been to Kenya, I have written a couple of pieces on this very beautiful country as I have on most countries in Africa. Whether I was going to see the scenic landscapes and wildlife on this trip or not, didn’t really matter to me, I was just ecstatic, when my brother and friend Didier Bayeye, the marketing manager for Africa and Indian Ocean at Sun International, invited me to compere his traditional wedding ceremony in Kenya.
I consider it proper to mention the fact that the love story that culminated into this wedding ceremony actually started at Akwaaba 2018. As most travel, tourism and hospitality practitioners in Africa usually do annually, Didier from his base in South Africa and Shirley Favour from her base in Kenya came for the 2018 edition of Akwaaba Africa Travel Market (AFTM) – which is essentially an international travel, tourism and hospitality event that holds in Eko Hotels and suites, Victoria Island Lagos, Nigeria, annually. They both came as singles who were searching for their soul mates, not knowing that exactly a year later, all roads would lead to Kenya for their traditional wedding ceremony.
Even though the wedding ceremony was scheduled to hold on 6th and 7th of September 2019 respectively, I choose to leave Nigeria a few days before the ceremony to explore Nairobi a little and to attend to a meeting that I had pre-scheduled with some friends in the corporate communications office of Kenya Airways in Nairobi. Although, I was unable to carry out my exploration as much as I would have loved to, I must say that I still had a delightful experience during my very short, first visit to Kenya.
The Kenya Airways flight number KQO535 that took me to Kenya left Nigeria at about 11:00 pm Nigerian time on the 3rd of September 2019, and arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi Kenya at about 7:30 am Kenyan time. Being an unapologetic Pan-Africanist, I firmly believe that entering into any African country should be very easy for any African, at least for those Africans who are legitimately visiting those countries. It is for this reason that in my opinion, one of the most important highlights of my trip to Kenya was the very easy way I entered into the country.
Like it is in most East African countries, it is visa on arrival for Africans at the port of entry, which in this case was the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi Kenya. One is just expected to clearly state the reasons for one’s visit to Kenya on the immigration forms provided at the immigration area of the arrival terminal of the airport. After filling and handing over the completed form along with your International passport, the immigration officer on duty just goes through the information provided on the form and if he or she is satisfied, one is then asked to pay a visa fee of $50 which is all you are expected to do before being allowed to enter into Kenya.
I got into Kenya very early on the 4th of September, and as I had travelled all night, I was tired and rested for most part of the day. By the evening, Didier and his wife Shiley Favour, insisted that we went to town together. Knowing that I love fish, the couple took me out for dinner and treated me to some lovely Malian fish dish – which was fish garnished with some salad and ‘Ugali’ also known as ‘Nsima’ and pap – a type of cornmeal porridge popular across Africa. I was also treated to a bit of ‘mutura’- which is well seasoned goat meat or beef, ‘mokimo’ – which is a mixture of boiled potatoes, boiled maize, pumpkin leaves and salt, garnished with ‘spinach’, which I soon discovered is served as part of almost all Kenyan cuisines’.
I spent a better part of the 5th of September, my second day in Kenya at the Kenyan Airways office.
Mr. Hafeeez Balogun – the country manager of Kenya Airways in Nigeria who was in Kenya at that material time facilitated easy entrance into the Corporate Headquarters of Kenya Airways for me.
Then came the 6th of September 2019 – the traditional wedding ceremony day of Mr. & Mrs. Didier Bayeye, family and friends came together from all over to celebrate the big day with them.
The ‘Masai’ are arguably among the best known peoples of Africa internationally due to their dwellings being near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes region, and their distinctive customs and dressing. For this reason, I particularly looked forward to seeing the proceedings of the ‘Masai’ traditional wedding ceremony, and I must confess I was not disappointed at all. I was blown away by the mélange of the colors and sheer beauty of the dresses of the ‘Masai’ women who welcomed us with very melodious traditional songs at the entrance of the bride’s house. Apart from the actual negations for the bride that was done quietly behind closed doors, every other part of the traditional wedding was performed with pomp and pageantry, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Immediately after breakfast on Saturday 7th September, my dear sister and friend Waturi WA Matu, Senior Director, Business Competitiveness at Trademark East Africa, took out time from her very busy schedule, came to La Maison Royale Hotel, the hotel, we lodged in and took us out on a city tour. Our first port of call was the Giraffe Centre, which was founded in 1979 by the African fund for endangered wildlife Kenya (A.F.E.W Kenya), a Kenyan non-profit organization established with the aim of educating Kenyan school children and youth on their country’s wildlife and environment, as well as give local and international visitors an opportunity to come into close contact with the world’s tallest animal species – the giraffe, just like I did. Also located in the premises of the giraffe centre, is the world’s one and only Giraffe Hotel – the ‘Marula Manor’, owned by The Safari Collection. The ‘Marula Manor’ is an exclusive boutique hotel set on a 12-acre private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest in the Langata suburb of Nairobi.
From the giraffe centre, we went on to visit the ‘Karen Bixen Museum’, which was original the farmhouse of Baroness Karen Christenze Von Blixen Finecke, who died on the 7th of September 1962, at the age of 77 in her home country, Germany. The museum was so named due to the positively impactful life she had lived in her early days in Kenya and the success of the Film ‘Out of Africa’, which was made in her memory in 1985. In 1986 Karen Blixen Museum was opened by the government of Kenya to tell the story of this great woman and how she had meaningfully influenced the lives of some Kenyans, particularly the lives of those who had direct contact with her.
After this very refreshing and educative experience at both the Giraffe Centre and Karen Blixen museum, we went for lunch and then to a local market in the city centre to do some shopping.
From around 7:00 pm on Saturday 7th September to the wee hours of Sunday 8th September 2019, the couple hosted family and friends to a very well planned party where there were lots of drinks and food for the guests. The music was supplied by a live band whose members clearly knew their trade and yours truly compered the event. It was truly a night to remember, the décor was exquisite and almost every guest, all of whom were gorgeously dressed in white attire, danced to the very rich mix of melodious music that the band churned out.
All through the trip, I was very careful with my diet until Sunday 8th September 2019, which was my last day on this trip, I guess it is safe to describe the day as a calorific day. I had an early flight to catch the following morning, so my plan was to rest for most part of the day, pack my luggage and prepare for my trip back to Nigeria on Monday 9th September, but according to Mr. Tonny Muiruri Mutungu, whom I fondly call ‘Oga Tonny’, “our trip to Kenya, particularly Nairobi, wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t visit the Carnivore”. Oga Tonny, is a very senior colleague in the Tourism industry in Africa, so when such a person spares time from his very busy schedule to take you out, it is completely out of line to refuse such a kind gesture.
So my leaving for the Carnivore was just a matter of being polite, but my trip there and journey back to the hotel was another matter entirely, as I was most thrilled. The Carnivore is undoubtedly a popular tourist destination; it is an open-air restaurant in the Langata suburb of Nairobi, Kenya. Carnivore’s specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet. I was told that the restaurant when it was established in 1980 by the Tamarind group, seated 350 people in 1999 with the restaurant’s 330 employees serving over 1000 people per day. The wild game, including giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich and crocodile whose meat was served then, was raised on Hopcraft Ranch, 25 miles outside Nairobi, but ever since the sale of wild game meat was banned in Kenya in 2004, the restaurant now serves meat from domestic animals such as beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, as well as farmed ostrich and crocodile meat. The meat is skewered on Masai swords, cooked on coals, and served on cast-iron plates. The restaurant does have a vegetarian option for those who don’t eat meat. It ranked 47th on Restaurant magazine‘s “World’s Best 50 Restaurants” list in 2003.
Another major highlight of my trip to Kenya was the fact that I was able to see my age long sister and friend, Fifi Josephine Rurangwa, Head of Africa Expansion and Airline Partnerships for Wakanow.com limited. It was Fifi who listed some must visit Kenya itinerary for me and said that I cannot really appreciate the nature’s splendor that Kenya’s has got to offer until I have visited the following places:
- The Masai Mara Natural Park, which is home to the Great Migration and Africa’s exceptional wildlife, the reserve according to her boasts some of the region’s most varied topography, including hilly terrain, an escarpment leading to a plateau, and wide-open central plains that form much of the reserve. Wildlife-watching is the main event there, providing for outstanding sightseeing.
- Another must visit place is the Famous Tsavo National Park East, which is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya at 13,747 square kilometres, and the place where the Legendary pair of the Tsavo Man-eating Lions lived. Situated in a semi-arid area previously known as the Taru Desert, it was opened in April 1948, and is located near the town of Voi in the Taita-Taveta County of the former Coast Province. The park is divided into east and west sections by the A109 road and a railway. It is named after the Tsavo River, which flows west to east through the national park, it borders the Chyulu Hills National Park, and the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania.
- Mombasa, which is a coastal city of Kenya along the Indian Ocean. It is the country’s oldest (circa 900 AD) and second-largest city (after the capital Nairobi), with an estimated population of about 1.5 million people in 2017. Its metropolitan region is the second largest in the country and has a population of approximately 3 million people. Mombasa is a regional cultural and economic hub; it has an extra-large port and an international airport, and is an important regional tourism center. Located on the east coast of Kenya, it is also the home to one of Kenya’s State Houses, and is considered by some as a second capital in all but name. Mombasa’s location on the Indian Ocean has made it a historical trading center and in the past had been controlled by different countries because of its strategic location.
- Naivasha, which is also a popular tourist destination. Hell’s Gate National Park (the main locations for Lion King, including Pride Rock and the Gorge, are modelled after the park), Mount Longonot National Park and Mount Longonot are nearby attractions. Tours also have included Lake Naivasha, to observe birdlife and hippopotamus behaviour, as well as other wild animals.