Fabulous Fam trip to Ethiopia and Kenya
It was 15 March, a date I and my colleague Justin, had been very much looking forward to – we were off on a fam trip to Ethiopia and Kenya. We had both been to Kenya more than once before, and really loved the country, but neither of us had ever travelled to Ethiopia so were rather excited to experience Africa’s oldest independent country.
At Heathrow we met the six travel agents we were to host on the trip; we struck gold, each and every one of the agents was friendly, warm and all had a great sense of humour – I knew we were in for a great fam trip.
The flight to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airways was very comfortable with good in-flight entertainment and meals.
On arrival in Addis we were met by Yohannes, our very friendly and professional guide for the next 2 days, and a driver, and transferred to the Golden Tulip Hotel, which was a very good standard clean, comfortable hotel just 10-15 minutes from the airport.
Two days were spent visiting ethnic museums, the Trinity cathedral, the Blue Nile Gorge as well as the largest monastery in Ethiopia, Debre Libanos. The former emperor, Haile Sellasie features very prominently in the Ethiopian culture. A drive through the Merkato Open-Air Market, said to be the biggest in Africa, was about the craziest thing I have ever experienced. Vehicles cut across each other haphazardly, swarms of people milled about with barely a millimetre between them, wares were stacked on the roofs of shacks, and there was nothing you couldn’t buy here, from spices to junk, clothes to rusty tools.
Addis Ababa is a paradox; on the one hand there is tremendous poverty and slums, yet there is a massive expansion going on in the city, with scores of modern skyscrapers being built throughout. We all agreed that probably the most outstanding thing about Ethiopia was the friendliness of the locals; always smiling and waving, absolutely delightful. This city will be unrecognisable in the near future, so I am extremely glad that we got to see it now.
Monday morning after breakfast we flew the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Mombasa in Kenya and to the delight of the 2 younger males in our group, Ethiopian Airways served a very good cooked breakfast (2 in 1 day!).
We were met in Mombasa by the delightful Duncan, who was our guide for the next 2 days. I had not travelled to Mombasa for a number of years and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements to the city. The investments in the infrastructure and the aesthetics of the town was remarkable. The new roads make the journey so much easier and the reclamation of the vast rubbish dump and turning it into a park is an absolute winner.
We checked in to the very pleasant Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa on the north coast of Mombasa, where we received a typically warm Kenyan welcome. After all our travelling and sightseeing in Ethiopia, it was great to spend some chill out time in the pool, with a cocktail or two at the swim-up bar. The meals at the hotel were delicious (I am definitely eating too much on this trip!).
The following day, a city tour of Mombasa was a great hit with our group, in particular the Akamba wood carving works, where approximately 2,000 carvers and decorators work in this busy tented co-operative; and in the afternoon we visited Haller Park, where we hand-fed giraffes (when the monkeys didn’t steal the bags of food!). We also witnessed the feeding of the hippos and the crocodiles, and a giant tortoise who had celebrated his centenary many years ago!
In the evening we enjoyed the most delicious barbecue meal which Sarova Whitesands Hotel arranged just along the beach – lobster, crayfish, prawns, salads … (totally yum!).
After a reluctant farewell to Whitesands we caught the new, modern and extremely comfortable SGR train to Voi where we were met by Joseph and Gilbert in 4×4 vehicles for a transfer to Tsavo East National Park. At the gate to the park, the antics of the monkeys all over the vehicles had us all in fits of laughter, particularly when one dropped through the pop-up roof.
We arrived at Ashnil Aruba Lodge for lunch and then went on a game drive, where we saw a host of wildlife. After which we parked up and had a sundowner accompanied by some delicious snacks all courtesy of the lodge. Although I have visited the Masai Mara and Samburu before, I had never visited Tsavo and was very impressed with the amount of wildlife visible from the grounds of the lodge, we could cool off in the swimming pool whilst watching them wander past or stopping at the waterhole.
During breakfast the next morning someone spotted a large male lion strolling past the property, so we all jumped up mid-mouthful and rushed out to see him slowly ambling on his way.
Another sad farewell before we travelled by road to Mombasa. Once again in the capable hands of Duncan we crossed the ferry to the south coast and checked into the Neptune Paradise Beach Resort & Spa. All 8 of us were in need of some relaxation, so it was great to, once again, jump into the pool and have a little tipple at the swim-up bar. The food, as seems to be a theme, was again, delicious (I will never get into my skinny jeans!).
The following day a truly glorious dhow trip with sun bathing, swimming, watching the dolphins put on a display for us, and snorkelling in Kisite Marine Park followed by a lovely lunch in a local restaurant, then a visit to the local former ‘Slave Caves’. It was the perfect last full day of what was a truly fantastic fam trip.
The next morning was free to relax, swim and pack before a final lunch and the journey to Mombasa airport. We had an uneventful and relaxing flight to Addis Ababa and then on to Heathrow on Ethiopian Airlines.
We touched down at Heathrow, no more shorts and T-shirts for us for a while, said our goodbyes and took away some absolutely amazing memories and friendships.
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All photos featured are credited to Cathy Stott and Justin Coles.