A Travellerspoint blog

Kenya- day 2

Sunrise over Masai Mara- Maisha Morufu- Swahili for 'the good life'

sunny

We started the day with a 5:15 am wake up call, a knock on our tent door, for our sunrise balloon ride over Masai Mara. It was my first balloon ride ever and most definitely worth it. Climbing into the basket with roughly 20 others, my fear of heights returned for a brief moment. It ended up being the most spectacular experience! It was an hour and a half ride,covering roughly 15 kilometers, we ended up being very fortunate as the wind picked up to our advantage. There was a point during the ride where the sky seemed covered with colorful hot air balloons! To set the scene, we had the sunrise in the backdrop and an arial view of the park with animals scattered about. The only guarantee they offer for the balloon ride is the champagne breakfast afterwards since we are not in the zoo but we were able to see quite a variety- zebras, gazelles, lions, wildebeests etc- essentially they decided to cooperate. After being the skeptic about whether or not we should do it, I walked away so happy that we had the experience. Since the great migration is at a tails end, we decided it would be better to have this experience over doing it in the Serengeti- our next stop, and it was a great decision.
The brunch after the balloon ride was straight out of a travel magazine! We had bloody Mary's, champagne, and fresh cooked breakfast in abundance with zebras chilling in the backdrop! It was a great start to the day and was only 8am.
The remainder of the day was focused on a game drive through the park. We saw so many varieties of animals with lions and cheetahs being the most special of the lot. The baby elephants and giraffes were the cutest followed by hippos and cheetahs (hard to believe they could be so ferocious!)
Overall Masai Mara has been amazing. We can see the serengetti from the Kenyan side as it is adjoining Masai Mara and are awaiting what the safari experience will be on that side.
Tomorrow we head to lake Nakuru for the night en route to Amboseli national park for the next set of game drives on the Kenyan side.
More soon (depending on net access!)

Posted by Rits blog 08:47 Archived in Kenya Tagged mara masai Comments (3)

Kenyan safari

Nairobi/Masai Mara

semi-overcast

We have officially begun the safari portion of our trip. We arrived in Nairobi to an amazing down pour of rain, a blessing for the Kenyans given it has't rained since August 2nd and everything seemed to be quite parched. We were primarily here in transit to our safari so we only got a glimpse of the city. There is high security in the evenings and its not really recommended to roam about at night.

We left early this morning for Masai Mara, one of the most famous safaris that Kenya has to offer. It was a 6 hour bumpy journey- perhaps some of the worst roads I have experienced but well worth the drive. Masai Mara is quite large, stretching 1,500 kilometers! There is a great deal of security and rules and regulations in efforts to preserve the natural habitat. We entered the park early in the afternoon to be greeted by wildebeests, zebras, gazels, and giraffes. Not a bad start! The actual afternoon ride we took was even more successful with elephants, lions, hippos, etc. it's is absolutely majestic here and we have another 7 days of safari ahead of us. We picked a decent time of year to see the end of the great migration where animals are migrating from Tanzania to Kenya from what it looks like primarily for food. The wildebeests are moving in large packs and its quite a remarkable site.
The hotel we are staying at is situated right at the edge of the park which is very convenient. Our rooms are luxury tents and I am told we will have a natural alarm clock in the morning- the hippos in the creek outside our tent!

Tomorrow we are scheduled to do a hot air balloon ride at 6am in hopes to see some animals along with the sunrise. We will spend another evening in Masai Mara followed by our next stop- Amboseli national park.

Posted by Rits blog 11:01 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Dubai-day 1

Covering ground

sunny

With three days to spend in the UAE we did our best to maximize our time in seeing what Dubai has to offer. It's rather evident that Dubai wants to be the biggest, the fastest, the best and enjoys standing out from the rest! To provide some background, only 20 percent of the population is comprised of locals (emirates) and the rest of the population are foreign expats. The UAE does not offer foreigners citizenship as its a privelage only for locals. The benefits associated with being a local includes free education, healthcare, housing, etc. Given there is such a large foreign population you get cuisines from all over the world but yet there is no such thing as local cuisine of Dubai. The royal family has a strong presence and can be seen out in public often without body guards or any form of security. Dubai is considered one of the safest places on earth, ironic considering all the bordering countries.
On our first day we had pre-booked a visit to the burj khalifa, (highly recommend as it costs 5 times the amount to buy a ticket at the door.) The trip to the top was amazingly fast, we took an elevator roughly 100 flights in easily under a minute! The views were quite fascinating to see how the city was planned or lacking in planning! There is a ton of construction that had been commissioned over the last few years that has come to a hault due to the economic climate.
In trying to learn a bit about the culture one thing that stands out is Mall culture is a big thing here, it's out of control. We are assuming it also has to do with the weather (it's been 100 degrees plus!). You can find anything under the sun here so it's a global shopper/eaters paradise! Makes sense why so many people come to Dubai to do all their tax free shopping.
We took a drive through the city with friends to check out the other key things to see- the burj al Arab which is the one of the only 7 star hotels in the world ( by the way there is no such thing as a seven star!). The fountain show near the Dubai mall is well worthy viewing, coreographed extremely well, from Arabic musi to Andrea boccelli, the fountains literally dance and reach a height of about 30 flights up against the backdrop of the burj Khalifa.
Another key attraction worth doing is the sand dune off roading trip into the desert. Well worth the trip and an interesting experience to be in what is the outskirts of Dubai!
Overall an interesting experience to be had once.

Posted by Rits blog 02:34 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

let the journey begin!

first stop- dubai

2012 is the year of travel for us! first stop- dubai to visit some close friends en route to the african safari. stay tuned for updates along the way.

From the very little i remember of Dubai, i think it will be quite an experience with a plethora of unique options, opulence at its best- indoor skiing, malls after malls, the infamous Burj Khalifa- the tallest building in the world, and a nightlife that many claim to be reminiscent of Las Vegas.

To orient everyone where our little adventure takes us, below is a list of the places we will be visiting:
Dubai
Kenya
Tanzania
South Africa
China
Vietnam
Cambodia
Thailand
India
Australia
New Zealand

I will be providing mini updates along the way. thanks for reading!

Posted by Rits blog 14:28 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

puerto varas

chilean lake district, patagonia

we crossed the border of argentina into chile via bus, to get a glimpse of the inner areas of patagonia and the lake district. there was so much to do but as usual too little time. we stayed in a central located hotel, right across from the water, and basically in the center of town. Puerto varas is like a small mountain village with cute little stores and restaurants and lots of outdoorsy gear stores. we decided to spend the evening checking out the town and grabbing a meal. moving from argentina to chile, the menu shifted from a focus of beef to fish which was a bit refreshing. we tried out lots of fresh seafood and ended the evening early.

the next morning we took a boat ride to a beautiful island called chiloe, known specifically for being a great spot to see penguins. we took a long drive through the island to a spectular little beach area where 10 of us packed into a small little boat for penguin sitings. it happens to the right time of the year as we saw upwards of 75. there were 2 main species, humbodlt and magellan, one of which is exstinct i believe. we learned a lot about these small little creatures-they are rather hardy animals, we saw them climbing up rocks, swimming in the ocean, etc. we were both reminded of a very special card ´courage is an accumulation of small steps.´ it was my first exposure to penguins (outside of the zoo!) and well worth the trip.

we then had a traditional chilean meal which entailed mounds of shellfish, chicken, pork and meat. oh and potato bread made with lard! the meal is cooked in the ground and covered with layers of leaves and moss and cooks in its own steam for exactly 1 hour. it all comes out tasting the equivalent of barbeque with simple flavors. after all of the eating, it was time to head back and catch the ferry. everything in south america seems to run behind schedule, so we have become used to this way of life. we returned 2 hours later than expected but in time for a new friend´s birthday celebration.

the other main attractions in puerto varas are the osorno volcano, the lagoons, and the waterfalls. its about a 45 minute journey from the center of town through picturesque windy roads but quite a spectacular site. the waterfalls are a bit different after seeing iguazu falls but still worth a quick visit.

next stop (where i am writing from- a bit behind on the blog) is santiago. more tomorrow and a happy new year to all our of friends a family.

Posted by Rits blog 13:13 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

bariloche argentina

the gateway to patagonia

travel within south america has been quite an interesting experience. it turns out our flights were cancelled as the airport tarmack in bariloche was being redone so the entire airport was shut down! we managed to make it with a 2 hour flight part way and a 6 hour slow bus ride up the mountain, arriving into bariloche at 1am! it was a beautiful ride but i think we went at about 30mph!

bariloche is a popular destination for south americans for its natural beauty, trails, beaches, etc. we took a early morning boat ride to explore victoria island and got our first glimpse of the impact of the recent volcanic activity. we were planning on doing a beautiful hike through the island but it landed up in a treck through volcanic ash, similar to an experience of hiking through sand. we landed up at beautiful beach for the end of the day and saw some of the bluest water we have seen in a while. i would take it as far as saying it resembled the water in capri!

we enjoyed the quaint town of bariloche but definately would recommend spending the better part of the time exploring the trails and the islands. we did devour one of the best steaks thus far in town after a long day.

next stop, puerto varas= the chilean lake district and the real exposure to patagonia!

Posted by Rits blog 15:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos aires part 2

The best places to cover

Buenos aires is most definately more of a European city relative to rio. The architecture is muc more ornate and city itself feels very much like new york. We manage to see the famous cemetery where the controversial Eva Peron was buried, this was the only person wee were familiar with but the cemetery itself felt like a museum. We also visited the famous pink palace in the center of the city, spent some time I'm la bocca (best to only go there during the day) home of the bocca juniors argentinian football team, the old opera house, etc.

The best way to really get a sense of the city is to walk it. Whilst its supposed to have a great metro system, we wanted to check out each and every corner possible! Dining in b.a is extremely reasonable so we enjoyed some nice meals. We went to the oldest empanadas place in an area called ricoletta which was mostly filled with locals. Steak was also on the list along the way, keeping in mind- medium here means medium rare! We are not big meat eater but I have to say its one of the (few) best steaks I have had next to my dad's. The malbec also made a good accompaniment to the meal.
In the interest in learning more about tango we decided to take a dance lesson! As the resident skeptic I was a bit unsure, but it ended up being a hysterical experience. We learned how complex of a dance it is firstly, and that coordination is an important thing, but we still managed to come home with 10 toes each! We watched a small tango show (fortunately it was a small stage with 50 people in the audience as opposed to 500 tourists) which was amazing. It reminded me a bit of the opera as they told a story along the way. It was a fun evening and good exposure to a big part of the culture.

Lastly, we spent a lot of time in an area called Palermo which had great shops, cafes, and restaurants. It was a younger part of the city that was a great place to spend the day.

We now treck to bariloche to check out the outdoorsy scene in Argentina.

Posted by Rits blog 14:09 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Buenos aires

The Paris of south America

After three wonderful days in buenos aires, we managed to cover lots of ground. A few quick tips/highlights of an amazing city:

1.flights are never on time- 12pm means 4pm Argentina standard time
2. Carry small change- fake notes are in abundance here!!
3. Catching a cab takes an average of 45 minutes in the evening- its like NYC on new years eve
4. Wine (malbec) is consumed like water and soo reasonably priced
5. No one is in any sort of rush here! Dinner starts at 10pm
6. Steak
7. Palermo soho is the best place to hang
8. Empanadas are out of this world!
9. Tango!!! It's a big part of their cultural
10. There are more restaurants and bars here than NYC!

More to come and merry Xmas eve....

Posted by Rits blog 17:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Iguazu falls

Foz de iguazu- brazil/Argentina

We left paraty early the next day with a 5 hour bumpy drive to Sao paulo to catch our flight to iguazu. The goal was to experience the falls from both sides- brazil for the breadth and panoramic views and Argentina for the up close and personal. It took an entire day of traveling but we made it in time to catch the panoramic views. The falls are located in a national park which is well equipped for all of the tourists they seem to get. We spent most of the afternoon walking through the different view points and were just blown away by all the natural beauty. It sort of knocks niagara falls out of the park! The intensity of the water and the sheer number of falls is incredible and greater than we both had expected. We took a hundred pictures and thought we had seen enough for one day.

We are staying on the brazil side about 25 minutes from the park in foz do iguazu. It's a tiny town with a main strip of 5 shops but seriously decorated for Xmas with a giant fake tree and a daily visit from Santa. We enjoyed some pizza and retired early as the next day was meant to be an intensive study of the Argentina side of the falls.

We had to bring our passports along to pass immigration to enter the park from the other side which took over an hour of wait time. The Argentina side is well adorned with their national flag making it quite clear that you are no longer in brazil!! The first expedition of the day was a high speed boat ride through the falls! It was amazing how close we got to some of the main falls and how absolutely drenched we were afterwards. The boat ride was so far one of the more memorable experiences. I was a bit scared but didn't let my fear overcome me (along with a gentle nudge from my other half not to miss out on it!). The remainder of the day was spent eating lunch at a cafe within the park, a long and extremely hot walk through the park to see other close ups, a train ride through the forest to the devils throat- the most intense portion of the falls, and a series of beautiful rainbows along the way within the mist of the falls.

It was total immersion into nature for 1 day and definately felt very therapeutic for the both of us. We are 'falled out' now and a few shades darker from the sun. Tomorrow we catch a flight to buenos aires where we will be spending the next three nights.

Posted by Rits blog 17:23 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Paraty day 2

The beautiful beaches of brazil

We lucked out with amazing weather for our boat ride along the coast. The sun was shinning and deceivingly strong (we all landed up with sun burns by the end of the day). The boat was beautiful and unlike any other boat i have been on. It was a decent size fitting about 20 of us comfortably.

We made 4 stops along the way, two private beaches, 1 public beach which still seemed only accessible by boat, and 1 specific area known for snorkeling. The water was quite clear- it was easy to see my toes! It made paraty officially ten times more worth the trip. The beaches were reminiscent of Kauai in many ways with their secluded beaches and greenery. I was definately surprised by what brazil had to offer and highly recommend exploring the coast.
We then spent an evening with a local family and ate 'home' food which was divine. Not too different from the brazilian food we had already experienced- sausage, grilled red meat, chicken, bean stew (which reminded me of indian food!!), etc. but it was slightly lighter After dinner we checked out a local bar and listened to some live bossa nova music, a great end to a warm summer evening.

We enjoyed a different pace from rio but are ready to move on to iguazu falls!

Posted by Rits blog 17:28 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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