Passport Diaries of a Wanderlust in Africa
Author: Erica Kincaid
Living the life of a wanderlust is exciting, amazing, adventurous, life changing, and so many other words. It could literally take a full day just to detail how it feels to travel the world. However, the simplest way I always described it was fulfilling. After all, having the opportunity to travel the world is pretty fulfilling… Right? Or at least I thought it was. I mean I always came back from an adventure feeling fulfilled. I was always excited and had amazing stories to tell. The memories I made were priceless … But how fulfilling could it be when I had not checked off that top spot on my bucket list. That one place I’ve always dreamt of traveling. The one place I would give anything to visit. How could I ever feel a sense of fulfillment when I had never stepped foot on the MOTHERLAND? OMG! I was living a lie. Who was I? I began to question everything about myself. Was my favorite color really my favorite color? Do I really hate oatmeal? This really prompted me to do a lot of self-reflection.
Why had I never been to Africa? Out of all places I would have thought this would have been one of the first places I would have visited when I realized my love for travel. Oh yeah, I know why… It was never the right time. It was always way too expensive! It would have been impossible to plan! I would have had to get way too many shots and Lord knows I hate shots. These are all the excuses I gave myself for so many years but no more. It was time to put a stop to the excuses and start living my truth. It was time to own who I was. It was time to be fulfilled!
After my slightly dramatic but insightful episode, I finally made a self-commitment and decided this was the year I was going to cross off my dream trip on my bucket list.
After many conversations, I was able to convince my husband and two friends to commit and make this trip a reality. My best friend and I always envisioned ourselves exploring the beautiful island of Zanzibar so we immediately knew Tanzania would be one of our stops but we had no idea of the full adventure that was ahead of us.
The planning for this trip was fun and provided such a momentous build up for the actual trip…Minus the million vaccinations we had to get beforehand (ok maybe not a million but that’s another story for another day lol). Through collaboration, video chats, and the help of the app “TripIt” we were able to plan an amazing trip and our friends and family were able to keep up with our adventures while we were gone.
We started out this amazing journey by meeting up in Doha, Qatar (My friends were traveling from Texas and my husband and I from North Carolina). I must say Doha is such a beautiful city but boy was it HOT… and by hot I mean HOT HOT! Imagine preparing for landing and the pilot comes over the loud speaker and begins welcoming you to the city and the next thing you hear is “It is currently 112 degrees”. Excuse me? What am I supposed to do in 112 degree heat besides die? I couldn’t have been the only one having those thoughts because you could quickly hear the groans and sounds of horror begin to fill the air. Despite the heat we made the most out of our half day/overnight stay. We had a lovely well air conditioned tour of the city, during the day, which was a great break from the heat. I must say, the beauty in the architecture here is second to none. Later that evening, after it cooled down, (and by cooled down I mean 95 degrees) we ventured out to the night market to do a little shopping and indulged in a little henna before dinner. It was nice to take in a bit of the beautiful city and before we knew it, it was well after midnight. It was late and still HOT so we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel so we could be up for our early morning flight.
Day two started off just as hot as the night before. Why it would need to be 95 degrees at 5:00 in the morning was beyond me and alarming to say the least but the four of us were so excited about the journey ahead of us that the heat and sweat didn’t faze us a bit because next up was… *insert drumroll* Nairobi, Kenya!
Was it really happening? Was I really about to touchdown in the motherland? To say I was excited would be an understatement. The flight seemed as if it would never end. Not because it was long because in reality it really wasn’t but the amount of anticipation I had was overwhelming. Stepping off the plane and onto the tarmac was a feeling I will never forget. It was a feeling of calmness. It was a moment that seemed to stand still. As I waited for my husband. I took a minute to close my eyes and took a deep breath. I wanted to take it all in. I wanted to breathe the air of the motherland. I opened my eyes and whispered to myself “You’re here… You’ve arrived”. We hit the ground running. We didn’t want to waist a second of an opportunity to explore so we immediately took an uber to the penthouse we rented (One thing I forgot to mention is how affordable everything is. We stayed in some of the most beautiful and amazing places and none of them broke the bank.) The next couple days we spent exploring the beautiful city that is Nairobi and we did the absolute most. Nairobi is a very up and coming city so it was exciting to see how progressive the people were. It was great to get out and explore the city while visiting some of the local bars and restaurants. During this time here we also visited both the elephant and giraffe sanctuaries. Both of these sanctuaries are great attractions but I will say the giraffe sanctuary was an amazing adventure. Not only is it located beside the world renowned giraffe manor, but where else can you go to pet, feed, and see someone get head butted by some of the most intriguing animals? Yes you read that right… head butted. Giraffes are beautiful animals but can be very aggressive so if you ever visit stay alert and be prepared to “bob and weave” at any given time lol. While in Nairobi, we also took a private cooking class. This experience was amazing and one of a kind. Normally we take our cooking classes in restaurants with chefs but this lesson was different. This lesson was special. This lesson wasn’t with a chef of a restaurant but, instead, with a lovely lady who allowed us in her home and taught us to cook some of her families most delicious recipes. We started out by taking the matatu to the local market to gather all the fresh produce we would need to prepare our meal. The matatu was a cross between a city bus and a party bus all in one and was an adventure in itself but the market was definitely an adventure where we were able to really absorb in lots of culture. Our host did a great job in explaining things to us and showing us items that she thought would be different for us. Once we were in her home it was like we were family. There was music playing in the background, we met her family, we talked and laughed while we cooked… my husband even took a nap on her couch lol. She really made us feel as if her home was our home. Did I mention the food we prepared was PHENOMENAL?!?! It truly was something we will forever remember.
On the 4th of July we made our way to Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam to be exact. My husband set us up in a beautiful private compound that he rented at a very affordable price. It was absolutely stunning. The owner were very personable and came over to meet us and offered advice on where to eat and places to visit. We were only in town for a day so we had to make the most of the one day. We took the owner’s advice and had lunch on the pier at a delicious restaurant that overlooked the water. We met up with a friend of mine that I met in a travel group, who happened live in Dar. My friend surprised us by inviting us to hang out on her yacht that she worked on. After the yacht we set out in search for the best desserts Dar had to offer then returned back to the compound. Our compound just so happen to be around the corner from the US embassy which was having a massive firework show in honor of Independence Day. We ended our night outside the gates of our compound, watching fireworks with the locals which seemed like the perfect way to end our time in Dar!
Now it was time for some relaxation. We headed to the airport the next day and took a short flight over to the beautiful island of Zanzibar. These next couple of days were going to be our time to relax and actually do a bit of vacationing (there is a huge difference in vacationing and traveling) since this was our midway point of the trip. We headed to Nungwi. The drive there was lengthy but well worth it. During the hour long drive we were able to take in some of the most amazing scenery. The jungle, the villages, the culture, everything was something you could only imagine. The culture in this part of Zanzibar was indescribable.
Our accommodations for these next few days were just as memorable as everything else. We stayed at the most amazing private owned ocean front cottages. These cottages were the cutest things. There were only about 15-20 cottages, a pool, a bar area, and an area where we were served our meals. This mini resort was the simplest yet most satisfying place ever. Here we relaxed and caught our second wind. We spent this time reflecting on the trip thus far, hanging out at the beach, and just enjoying each other’s company. I must tell you, Zanzibar has some of the most beautiful and bluest water you will ever see. It was also here we were introduced to the African bush babies as they scurried across the roof of the open dining area as we ate dinner… I can’t begin to explain how much terror these animals brought me but hey…I lived to tell the story!
After a couple of days in Nungwi we headed to Stone town. This place was one of the most unique places I have ever been. It is here you can find yourself getting lost in not only the beauty that is Stone town but also the maze that is Stone town. Stone Town had so much to offer. Here we had some of the most delicious food. We also had some of the most memorable adventures. We would just find ourselves getting lost through the maze of the streets passing some of the most beautiful mosque, all the while the call to prayer would softly be playing in the background.
While in Stone Town, we also visited the old slave trade market. This was an emotional yet rewarding experience. If you are ever in Stone town it is definitely a must see. We were able to visit one of the few slave quarters that still exist and also tour the beautiful church that has been built on top of the old market.
During our trip we had some of the most unique encounters with some of the locals. Stone Town was no different. On the way to the ATM, my husband met a guy who agreed to take us to his family’s farm. This was one of the highlights of the Stone Town leg. The farm was set back in the jungle in a small village. We were guided through the farm where we foraged through the jungle, learning and trying the freshest local fruits and vegetables (and by fresh I mean straight out the ground and off the tree). The people on this farm were so kind. They educated us on home remedies and how they survive without using any man made drugs (quick fun fact: did you know Vicks vapor rub was made from the root of a cinnamon tree… yea me neither). They dug up ginger root for us to taste, straight out of the ground. The men also climbed trees so we could taste fresh coconuts and local fruits that we would not normally get back in the states.
Of course it was all eyes on us when it was time for us to try durian. They couldn’t wait to see our reaction and boy did we give them one lol. If you ever have the opportunity to try this fruit it’s a must try. It may be your first and last time trying it but I promise it will definitely be an experience you will never forget lol. While on the farm we were also able to purchase homemade soaps, perfumes, and spices all made on the farm. It was a great experience and some of the fondest memories I have from Zanzibar.
By the end of this leg it was towards the end of our trip which meant it was time to head back to Nairobi for the finale. That’s right we saved the best for last. We went out with a bang by ending with a three day Safari in the Masa Mara. This was the perfect ending to an already amazing trip. Our driver picked us up early in the morning and we made our way down to the Masa. The drive down was rural and beautiful. Here is where we started to see the animals you would normally only see in zoo’s except here they were in their natural habitat. We would drive down the road and there would randomly be a family of baboons or a herd of zebras just hanging out on the side of the road. Here my inner kid started to come out lol. Our safari guide was amazing and very informative. He maximized every bit of time he had with us and made sure he did everything he could do so that we could see as many animals as we could to make our experience memorable. During the three days on the Masa Mara we saw Lions, Giraffes, Hippos, elephants, hyenas and just about every animal you saw in lion king lol. We had cheetahs walk right up to our jeep and look us in our eyes (how cool is that?). We stayed at one of the nicest and coolest camps on the game reserve. We slept in the most luxury tents that you could ever imagine a tent could be. Our tents were comfortable and reminded us of an upscale hotel room. We had a plush king size bed, full bathroom that include a heated shower and a seating area… yes, all inside the tent. Every night we had dinner by the campfire. The staff served us 5 star meals and did everything to make us comfortable during our stay. During dinner, they invited a local tribe to come perform tribal dances for us one night. The experience was truly amazing. While we ate dinner the staff would turn down our beds and place warmers inside to which were a great surprise. At night we could hear buffalo, zebras, hyenas, and other animals outside our tents… it truly was the most thrilling and memorable experience I have ever had. It was so excited to know the animals were out there. It was nothing to pull up to the camp and see a herd of zebras grazing by. One morning on our way to watch the sun rise, we found a set of fresh paw prints behind our tent. This safari was everything and more.
Our safari guide also allowed us the opportunity to visit the village of a local tribe. We were able to learn about their culture, go into their house and see how they lived. They taught us to make fire and welcomed us into their village with open arms. We even participated in their cultural dance and song. It was absolutely a once in a life time experience. Once our safari was over our guide took us back into the city. We took our time heading in taking in all the scenery that was afforded us. We stopped and ate lunch at a little place on the side of the road that was delicious. We handed out a few bag lunches to kids, and stopped for souvenirs. This was the perfect way to end the trip. The next day we headed to the airport and ended the trip the same way we started by going our separate ways in Doha. Now that it is all said and done… after all the planning, all the shots, all the anticipation I can truly say it was well worth the wait and I can finally say I was fulfilled!