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10 things you probably didn’t know you can do in Kenya
Why stop at safaris when you can get married like a Maasai warrior, take part in a bone-rattling road rally and kiss a giraffe?
Beasts of the Serengeti, exchanging pleasantries with the Maasai, camping out in the bush amid the acacias and elephant dung.
When it comes to activities in Kenya you might think you’ve heard it all before.
Read on for some lesser known experiences in Kenya.
1. Breakfast with giraffes
Tea, toast and a dash of giraffe slobber. The large windows of the sunroom at Giraffe Manor are wide open, allowing some guests to pop their heads in, rather than take a seat.
The manor is home to a herd of Rothschild's giraffe. Don’t forget to close your curtains at night -- you never know who might be looking in.
About 20 kilometers from Nairobi, this 1930s boutique hotel is set in 12 acres of private land, with a view of the Ngong hills.
As well as giraffes the ranch is home to warthogs, dik diks, birds and bushbuck. A nearby giraffe center is a breeding area for the endangered Rothschild's giraffe.
The Giraffe Manor is closed in April and May. Rates for 2013 start at US$485 per adult per night and US$325 for children. Prices include airport transfers, transportation around the area, meals and drinks (including wine, beer and spirits).
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya; email@example.com; +254 (0) 205 020 888; http://giraffemanor.com
2. Take part in a rally
If speed and endurance are more desirable, there’s this year’s East African Safari Classic Rally.
The 4,100-kilometer route starts and finishes in Mombasa, pitting some of the worlds’ best "classical" cars and drivers against tough Kenyan terrain.
Drivers dodge wildlife, try not to bust their suspension on boulders and leave competitors eating dust thrown up from Kenya’s roads.
The rally was cooked up in 2003 and aims to resurrect the glory days of the East African Safari Rally that started as an endurance race in 1953.
This year’s rally will take place in November. Entries are open until October 1, 2013. You must hold an international competition and driving license to enter. Cars have to be passenger vehicles and built before December 31, 1978.
East African Safari Rally, Nairobi, Kenya; firstname.lastname@example.org; +254 20 445 0030; www.eastafricansafarirally.com
3. Foster an elephant
Thousands of elephants are killed every year for their ivory, mainly driven by demand from Asia -- especially China and Thailand. Conservationists say more elephants are being poached now than they have been for the last decade.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants and rhinos with the aim of returning them to the wild.
Visitors to the elephant orphanage come face to face with the infant survivors of the illegal ivory trade at the trust’s Nairobi nursery. The babies play around in their daily mud bath between 11 a.m. and noon.
Entrance fee is KES 500 (US$5.80). If you’ve fallen in love with an elephant or rhino you can foster one, starting from US$50 a year.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust; Nairobi, Kenya; open daily except Christmas Day.+254 (0) 202 301 396; email@example.com; www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
4. Propose at Africa's Hogwarts
According to Kenya Airways’ in-flight magazine, Ol Malo game sanctuary is the number one place in Kenya to pop the question.
Travel Africa Magazine describes the quirky design of Ol Malo, made of stone, complete with thatched roofs and the occasional spiral staircase, “as a kind of African Hogwarts.”
Andrew, the youngest child of the lodge’s owners, the Francombe’s, proposed to his wife, Chyulu, at Ol Malo. He organized a bonfire, champagne, flowers and cushions on a rock overlooking the river.
“I thought it was a belated Valentines Day and started tucking into the bubbly -- totally unaware what a gibbering wreck Andrew was!” says Chyulu.
“Ol Malo is the perfect place to pop the question. There is so much you can do -- just out on the ranch as we did it or in some far off place by chopper.”
Ol Malo is loacted at edge of the Laikipia plateau. Prices start from US$750 per adult and US$490 per child (5-15) per night for full board. Various activities are included in the price, as is beer and wine. Ol Malo is closed in April, May and November.
The lodge seeks to give back to the community and has established the Ol Malo Trust to help conserve the culture of the Samburu people.
Ol Malo, Laikipia Plateau, Kenya; +254 62 32715; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.olmalo.com
5. Get married like the Maasai
After 46 years of marriage Roger and Laurie Moore decided to remarry -- Maasai style.
The village chief of Embiti “adopted” Roger while a family in a nearby village took Laurie under their wing.
After decking out Laurie in traditional garb, her face painted by warriors and grass put in her shoe (to symbolize food for their cattle), the bride was ready to be presented to her groom, who was equally made up.
Participants do a celebratory walk from the bride’s village to the groom’s. Dancing and singing Maasai await them and gifts are exchanged and a dowry negotiated.
Turns out Laurie was a bargain: “I was worth one cow and one goat, a very affordable bride!”
A Maasai wedding complete with food, a week-long safari, accommodation and transport will set you back around US$20,000.
Maniago Safaris; +254 20 4449461/2; www.maniagosafaris.com
6. Go on a cheese tour
Kenya and cheese -- not two things that automatically come to mind.
However, 30 minutes out of Nairobi is the award winning Brown’s Cheese factory. Its product has won many accolades, including the South African Dairy Championship and awards from the East Africa Cheese Festival.
Brown’s philosophy is to run the farm “on purely biodynamic and organic principles.” The factory tour shows how the cheese is made, after which guests can settle down to a cheese platter, followed by a three-course lunch complete with homemade chutneys, bread and homegrown salad.
Brown’s also offers cheese-making classes and, for kids, milking sessions with the factory's Friesian cows.
An afternoon at the farm costs about KES 3,500 (US$40) per person and includes up to three glasses of wine or beer. Kids under five are free, 5-11 years rate is KES 500 and 12-plus years rate is KES 1,500. Visiting hours from 12:30-4 p.m.
Brown’s Cheese, Limuru, Kenya; email@example.com; +254 (0)716 875 766; www.brownscheese.com
7. Go on the Rhino Charge
One hundred square kilometers of rough terrain, 10 hours, 13 check points, one map, one 4x4 and no set route.
Reach the most checkpoints in the shortest distance for victory. Just watch for the lions.
This is Kenya’s annual off-road motor sport competition -- the Rhino Charge.
The precise location is kept secret until a few days before so competitors don’t go on sneaky reconnaissance missions.
The event is held every May or June, organized by The Rhino Ark Charitable Trust.
The rally raises money for the conservation of Kenya’s Aberdare Ecosystem.
Only 60 vehicles can participate in order to minimize environmental damage. The more cash you can put up, the more likely you are to get a place. Crews must be between two and six people.
Rhino Charge, Nairobi, Kenya; firstname.lastname@example.org; +254 (0) 20 213 6010 or 213 6011; www.rhinocharge.co.ke
8. Tackle a snake safari
There are more than 100 snake species in Kenya, and snake safari outfit Bio-ken arranges tours to spot them in forests, riverbeds, rocky cliffs and mangroves.
The most popular package is a three-night snake safari along the banks of the Galana River. An alternative is the Big Five safari -- a search for pythons, boomslangs, puff adders, cobras and mambas.
Some of Kenya’s top reptile experts lead the trip, the aim of which is to improve awareness and education about snakes and their role in the eco-system.
Check out a video here.
The three-night snake safari costs US$1,200 per person, per night. Prices of the longer Big Five safaris are tailored according to customer preference. The average price per person, per day is around US$1,000, and includes full board and domestic transfers and flights.
Bio-ken, Watamu, Kenya; +254 42 23 32303; www.bio-ken.com
9. Be ‘eatertained’
Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi offers usual fare, such as rumps of beef, legs of lamb, chops, sausages and ribs, but also crocodile, ostrich and chicken livers and gizzards.
There's no ordering here. Guests sit down and carvers dressed in zebra aprons and straw hats bring meat hanging off Maasai swords.
Diners signal they're done by lowering the white flag on their table.
Martin Dunford, CEO of the organization behind Carnivore, The Tamarind Group, says Carnivore epitomizes “a theatrical, 'eatertainment' experience that makes your visit feel like an adventure.”
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Cost of full dinner set menu, which includes soup, salad, side dishes, dessert and coffee or tea is KES 3,265 (US$38). Carnivore does offer a vegetarian menu.
Carnivore; Nairobi, Kenya; email@example.com; 020 600 59337/6002764; www.tamarind.co.ke/carnivore
10. Eat in a cave
Welcome to Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant in Diani, thought to be around 120,000-180,000 years old.
Diners can spot stars while sitting at a table 10 meters below ground in this open-air coral cave. In bad weather, sliding covers are placed over the holes in the roof to ensure a romantic evening.
The restaurant serves international cuisine, but specializes in seafood.
Main courses start from around KES 900 (US$10) for vegetarian spaghetti. The catch of the day will set you back KES 1,450 (US$17) and lobster thermidore comes in at KES 4,300 (US$50).
Click on www.flamboyant.co/360 for a virtual tour. Reservations required. Dress code is smart-casual.