Off to Kenya on Safari

I’m currently hovering approximately 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean en route to Nairobi, Kenya. My digs are a first class seat Ethiopian Airlines graciously provided as a thanks for past business. My travel companion is Kathryn Kingsbury, my communications assistant. It’s been 25 years since I flew first class (that was an upgrade and not related to business) and it is pretty swanky – right down to the menu. For lunch I started with sesame seared Ahi tuna, followed by a traditional Ethiopian course, and a main course of wild mushroom ravioli with grilled asparagus, roasted peppers, tomato and béchamel sauce. Yum!

Other than the first class food, one might wonder why travel Ethiopian Airlines. There are several considerations:

• Cost: An Ethiopian Airlines coach ticket costs $200-400 less on average than Delta/KLM (its major U.S. competition for flights to East Africa). Business/first class is usually $2,000-4,000 less.
• Arrival time: When arriving to East Africa via Ethiopian, you typically arrive in the early to late afternoon, while Delta/KLM arrives in the evening. Depending on where you’re staying the first night, a KLM arrival usually means about a 10 p.m. check-in. Tomorrow we arrive at 1 p.m. to Nairobi, which gives us a little time to acclimate to the new time zone and recover from the long flight. The downside of departing the U.S. on Ethiopian is that there is just one flight a day at 11:00 a.m. from Washington-Dulles; unless you live in the eastern part of the U.S., you’ll need to arrive the night before and overnight near the airport. This does break up an otherwise long itinerary and also reduces the likelihood that a delay or cancellation in your domestic flight will cause you to miss the international leg.
• Departure time: Ethiopian flights depart East Africa in the late afternoon, whereas KLM flights leave in the late evening. The nice thing about this is you arrive back to the U.S. a little earlier.
• The service: From check-in through the flight itself, we’ve found the personnel to be friendly, attentive and patient. They help make a 13-hour flight a lot more enjoyable.
• Ethiopian is a partner in the Star Alliance, which has 27 affiliated airlines, including United and US Airways. This opens up domestic flight options to connect to Washington-Dulles. The only other departure point in the Northern Hemisphere where Ethiopian also operates out of is Toronto, making its partnership with Air Canada another option for travel.

Technology helps with conservation

East African nations are using technology in innovative ways to help with conservation efforts:

Meet Denis Erabu, one of Ujuzi’s Uganda guides

DenisErabuBorn in Eastern Uganda, Denis is of the Kumam Tribe and grew up in a rural village where his father is a local chief. After completing secondary school, Denis moved to Kampala and became a driver for an NGO delivering relief supplies to Southern Sudan.

After four years, Denis decided to revisit his childhood interest in wildlife and made a career change to the tourism industry. Through a combination of on-the-job and formal training with the Queen Elizabeth National Park Bird Observatory and BirdLife International, Denis has gained extensive knowledge as a general interest tour guide with a specialty in birding. He has worked as a driver and guide for the past 20 years and is a member of the Uganda Driver/Guide Association and the Uganda Bird Watching Society. In his spare time, Denis loves to read and watch wildlife documentaries. He lives in Kampala with his wife and four children.

“Denis is a wonderful person, very knowledgeable and accommodating. You have a real gem in him and I cannot speak highly enough about him as trip guide.”
— Bill, July 2011

“Denis is both a great guide and a great person. As much as the amenities and everything else were excellent, he was what made our trip truly unforgettable. I can’t say enough great things about how wonderful he was in every aspect.”
— David, July 2011

Culinary Excursions: Get a Taste of East African Culture

Ujuzi African Travel is pleased to announce two new food-centered excursions available to travelers to East Africa. Whether you’re looking for authentic local dishes or gourmet cuisine that fuses the best of European and African culinary traditions, we have something for the foodie in you.

A Day in the Life of Kigali

A young Rwandan checks out the selection of avocados and bananas.
Avocados and bananas are plentiful

Vendors sell legumes in a Kigali Market.
Vendors sell legumes in a Kigali Market.

In Rwanda, spend a day in the life of a resident of Kigali. Head out with a local guide to visit a cross-section of Kigali neighborhoods, stopping in at a local hair salon and a West African tailor to watch them at work. Then arrive at the food market to marvel at the bounty of colorful produce and pick the choicest items for your dinner. Afterward, you’ll go to the guide’s home to help prepare (and eat!) a traditional Rwandan meal. It’s a delicious way to experience Rwandan culture firsthand.

Gibb’s Farm: Hyperlocal Eating at Its Best

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Another uniquely East African experience awaits you at Gibb’s Farm, an organic coffee plantation and lodge just below the rim of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. With a 10-acre vegetable garden, an onsite dairy and a bakery, Gibb’s Farm exemplifies the farm-to-table ethic. The food, farm and natural setting are all exquisite. As a guest, you can participate in preparing and roasting coffee beans, then drink from the batch. Spend time sampling herbs and fruits in the kitchen garden, or get up early in the morning to make bread with the bakers. If you’d rather eat food than prepare it, borrow one of the farm’s mountain bikes and traverse through the plantation and neighboring village to learn about the local Iraqw culture. Village residents are welcoming and eager to share their way of life with travelers. Or just spend the day relaxing on the grounds or in the spa, which incorporates traditional Tanzanian healing methods and melds them with modern Western treatments. Gourmet meals combine European and Tanzanian foods and cooking techniques to delight the palate and the senses.

Please contact me if you’d like more information about these excursions.

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