“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
When George Mallory (one of the first British mountaineers to attempt summiting Mt. Everest in the 1920s) was asked why he wanted to climb the 8,842m giant, he famously retorted saying ‘because it’s there!’ Throughout the world of travel, you will be hard-pressed to find a better, simpler reason to go somewhere and to do something than ‘because it’s there’.
We live in a world so vast and so wondrous that beautiful, previously unknown places are discovered every day. Some are discovered by adventure photographers who are brave enough to get out of their comfort zones to bring you images that not only inspire travel but also make you wonder why you haven’t been to these places yet. Some are discovered and enjoyed by indigenous peoples who, for lack of connectivity, cannot share their discoveries with the world. If you don’t go somewhere new at least once every year, how would you know what it feels like to top Mount Roraima (a table-like mountain that straddles Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana)?
How would you know what it feels like to:
- Dip your toes and take a swim in Lake Hillier, a pink coloured lake on Middle Island in Australia?
- Jump into Kuang Si Falls in Laos where the waters are so clear and so blue that you can see your future in them?
- Try to see a mermaid at Huacachina in Peru, a desert oasis whose beauty in Peru can only be shadowed by Machu Picchu?
- See a cheetah go from 0 – 60 in under 3 seconds on the plains of the African Savannah?
You are probably thinking: ‘This is all well and good but I might need Visas for those!’ The truth is that there is always going to be a reason to put off travelling.
- You are too busy
- It is too expensive
- It is overrated
- Maybe next year
- You wouldn’t know where to go
As is the case with everything else in this world, you simply have to want it to get it. And they say that travel is one of those rare things you buy that actually makes you richer. So if you are thinking maybe you want to get a whole lot richer this year, here are some travel things you could try. All of them are local so you won’t need any Visas nor will you need to break the bank:
Get to the roof of Africa
True, mountaineering is perhaps one of the most taxing of travel alternatives. You have to be fit! In some cases, you will need years of technical training and you would probably be gone for weeks at a time. But wouldn’t you want to be counted among the relatively few people who have ever stood on the roof of Africa? Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa (5,895M) is right next door. In fact, you can get beautiful glimpses of this lovable giant from the Kenyan side of the border as you enjoy your game drives through Amboseli National Park. If you are thinking you want to get to new heights this year, here’s a list of all the nearby mountains you can climb:
- Mt. Kenya
- Mt. Ruwenzori
- Ol Doinyo Lengai (The Mountain of God)
- Mt. Speke
- Mt. Meru
- Mt. Bisoke
The list goes on for quite a bit. You can easily get your mountaineering legs trained by taking a day trip to and up Mt. Longonot. Any of these opportunities gives you a chance to see nature in its most awesome and serene self.
Enter the ‘deserted’ belly of the beast
They say there is only one ‘true desert’ in Kenya: Chalbi Desert. However, a drive through ‘The Nyika’ would beg to differ. Nyiri Desert, also known as The Nyika lies about 80KM east of Lake Magadi. You might be wondering why in the name of all that is good and green would you want to visit a desert?! There is more to see and experience in these places than just barren land and dry heat. The Nyika, for example, has Baobab trees that date back to about 2,000 years. With trunks as big as 3M in diameter, these ancient plants are a sight to behold. Plus, you’ll get to see camels, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lesser kudu, impala, ostriches, Oryx and Grey zebra. The night sky is unbelievable and your survival skills will be put to the test – what more could you ask for in terms of adventure?
Lose sight of the shore and discover new lands
Kenya is abundantly blessed when it comes to water bodies. We have the Indian Ocean which breathes life into the coastal lowlands, we have inland lakes, rivers, man-made dams and even a few crater lakes, some of which have islands in them. From Mombasa itself to Lamu, Funzi, and Chale, the islands of the Kenyan coast are nothing short of spectacular. If you travel a little inland, you will find Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha or Rusinga Island to the East of Lake Victoria. You could then head north to the largest permanent desert lake in the world: Lake Turkana where you can spend some time marvelling at Nile Crocodiles in Central Island National Park or visit South Island National Park. While up there, you could get a feel for the desert life and see whether or not you might want to try out a Chalbi Desert Safari.
Stonehenge, archaeological digs and speaking stones of the past
It is said that a long, long time ago in Kalokol, Turkana, a small group of people had gathered around the evening bonfire to dance when the devil sauntered in from the desert. He told the small gathering that he had a song to sing, but before he sang it, he said that if any of them laughed, cried, or moved in any way while he sang his song, he would turn them into stone.
So the dancers stopped what they were doing, braced themselves and listened to the devil’s song. Some people thought the song was particularly hilarious and burst into laughter. They were promptly turned into stone. Some thought that it was sad and started weeping when they too were instantly frozen in place and turned to stone.
In the midst of the crowd, there was a Big Man who happened to be the chief. This man stared the devil down and for almost the entirety of the song refused to laugh, weep or even dance. But somewhere towards the end of it all, the devil saw a smile creep across his face and he too was turned into stone where he stood. To this date, when you visit the Speaking Stones of Kalokol, you will see the Big Man standing in the middle of his fallen subjects.
This story might be a myth, just as Kit Mikayi in Western Kenya is believed to be the answer to all human catastrophes and problems or it might not. You never really know with these things.
Kenya has an amalgamation of prehistoric, cultural and spiritual sites that resemble the Stonehenge in England. For lessons in cultures past, you could visit:
- Kariandusi Prehistoric Site in Elementeita
- Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site near Lake Magadi
- Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site near Nakuru
- Koobi Fora Prehistoric Site in the northern shores of Lake Turkana
Or you could just go to the Nairobi National Museum for a full list of all these interestingly ancient discoveries that shade some light into how our ancestors lived.
From forests to snow-capped mountains; low lying plains and deep blue seas, Kenya has it all. Many of these places you can simply drive to, some you would have to sail to and others you would have to climb. The country has a total of 54 national parks and game reserves all of which are home to a plethora of animal species that inspire awe. With 42 tribes spread across the map, Kenya is a melting pot of experiences, traditions, cultures, food, and attractions.
Take the time to visit the different parts of this country. Learn how to say hello in every language; learn their dances, taste their food and get a glimpse into their culture. Marvel at the differences and enjoy something other than your own company. Take the chance to travel to a new place throughout the year. Even if it is for no reason other than ‘Because it’s there!’