I am sure that many of you must have felt a strong urge to visit some place that you have probably never visited in your life; a kind of magnetic pull in your mind that keeps tugging away at you; something you can’t explain. Well, that’s exactly how I have always felt about Africa. I really can’t explain why except that I love nature and animals and Africa is nature in its rawest. I’ve always had this fascination and I’ve harboured this dream to travel to Africa on holiday since I can remember. I’ve always dreamt of going on an African safari and to experience the pure unadulterated wildlife. Movies like ‘The Ghost & the Darkness’ added to this urge!
I have lived in Mumbai, India for most of my life and most people in India think of South-East Asia, Europe or the US when they had reached that stage in life when they could think of world travel and afford it. No one thought of places like Africa or South America; but I when my time came to travel; I knew exactly where to go.
I was so excited while I was planning my trip; I still remember how I used to look up books & magazines as the internet was in its nascent stages at the time. I finally got all my bookings done through a friend who knew a booking agent in Nairobi. I got my Yellow fever vaccine done as it is mandatory as per UN and waited for the day of departure with bated breath.
The day finally arrived and got into the Air India flight to Nairobi from Mumbai, had a few drinks inflight to settle the nerves and dozed off on the 6 hour flight. With about 30 minutes to go, I was woken up when we flew into an air pocket and the plane suddenly lost altitude and we also ran into some air turbulence which thankfully didn’t last for long and things stabilised soon enough. The pilot announced that we were getting ready to land and I had goose bumps already! We finally landed and I got off the aircraft and stepped on the tarmac a whiff of nice cool and fresh air hit my face and I was instantly energised!
What I had been waiting for all my life was finally happening! I reached my hotel in Nairobi, the Sarova Stanley, which is an institution by itself and a landmark in Nairobi. It had a nice old world charm about it and is very conveniently located. That night I was taken to a famous restaurant for dinner called ‘Carnivore’ which is very popular for its game meats. When I entered the place the first thing that I saw was the massive roasting pit! I had never before seen such huge pieces of meat roasting on super large skewers. There was everything from Buffalo to Crocodile to Zebra meat! I was a bit overawed at first but slowly came to terms with it after a couple of rounds of a local alcoholic mix called ‘Dawa’. The system they followed was that they would keep serving you cuts of meat till you pull up the red flag on your table. All I can say is that my red flag was up quite quickly since I was not used to eating so much meat.
The next day morning I left Nairobi for Ambosili National park which is famous for its elephants. The ride through small towns and villages was amazing and just the way I had imagined it to be with clean air and great weather. It was drizzling lightly and that added to the ambience. On the way we saw the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro which was a like a dream come true. The first thing that came to my mind was Hemmingway’s short story ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ which I had read numerous times as part of my romance with Africa.
I finally reached Ambosili after a 6 hour drive; a drive though long, was enriching and fun. I guess that’s what travel is all about, enrichment. I reached Ambosili and checked into my game lodge. The people were so friendly and in spite of my long trip I was actually refreshed. I set out for my game drive and was stunned to see so many animals and to breath in such fresh air! The experience was life changing to say the least. I felt that I was in a different planet. I knew at once that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life living in a city where ever I end up settling.
After Ambosili, I also visited Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru & Aberdare National parks and I have to say that this was the best holiday I have had yet. The vast expanse of open lands, the fresh unpolluted air, the simple food, the peace; I am sure that it will touch everyone in a life changing way. For me, it was more of a spiritual journey. It was so awesome, gratifying and thrilling to get so close to the magnificent animals in their natural habitat that I was speechless. I truly believe that one will live longer and better in a place like that. I can’t wait to get back there with my family and friends and I would strongly urge people to travel to Africa on holiday and experience an inner peace that is to be experienced to be believed.