If you remember, I outlined a number of ways on how to travel on a tight budget. Group travel was one of the ways. This is where you gather a group of friends for a travel plan or you join an already organized getaway. The difference is that when you gather the group yourself, you will travel with people you know. This is interesting because you get to learn the other side of people that has probably never been manifested. On the other hand, when you join an already organized getaway, you will meet strangers and make new acquaintances. Both serve the common purpose of group travel.
Group travel gives socializing, bonding and fun new meaning. One ends up meeting crazy people, down to earth people, outgoing people and conservative people as well. At the end of a group getaway, you end up appreciating diversity in culture, behavior, orientation and lifestyle. People who do group travel often are less likely to engage in tribalism and cheap discrimination. In group travel resources are shared. You will find people sharing water, bitings and snacks, jokes and pictures. Most importantly, group travel is cheap. Costs are shared among the group members making it very affordable.
I joined a group travel plan to Naivasha, Hell’s Gate and Olkaria Geothermal Plant for 2 days whose cost was KSh 4,750 only. This is an amount you can raise in two months if you commit to putting aside KSh 600 every week. Stay put and find out the value I got from this.
Wendy Kajuju Mugambi is the Managing Director at Embrace The World Travel Agency. I’ve known her for a while now. She is my friend on Facebook and I follow her on Instagram. She created an event on Facebook and invited me. Before accepting, I keenly read the details. It was a 2 days camping getaway to Naivasha, Hell’s Gate and Olkaria Spa. The itinerary was too interesting for anyone to ignore. I clicked my favourite button 'interested'. I went further and contacted Wendy who sounded like she was expecting me. She did a very good job in convincing me to subscribe. The good thing is that this trip wasn't supposed to affect any work day as it was set for a Saturday and Sunday. Even those who worked half day on Saturday could have still made it because it was commencing after midday. I fell for Wendy's charms.
At 2:00pm I was at Jevanjee Gardens, all geared up and ready to explore. I am a time keeper and it wasn't a surprising that I was the first one to arrive. Wendy and her team were already there ready to check us in.
We left Nairobi some minutes to 3:00pm as a few people were late. There was no panic since Naivasha is only one and half hour drive from Nairobi. Since it’s the norm while using this route, we stopped at the Great Rift Valley view point. These are views that you can't just forego. The Great Rift Valley is part of an intra-continental ridge system that runs through Kenya from the north to the south. It is part of the Gregory Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift, which starts in Tanzania to the south and continues northward into Ethiopia. It is part of history. It depicts the amazing works of creation. A stopover here makes for perfect Kodak moments.
The sun can be seen slightly above Mt Longonot. We leave the view point for Naivasha. After 45 minutes, we arrived at Lake Naivasha Nature's camp. The camp has a big house- with a colonial setting- that has a lounge, bar, washrooms and a few bedrooms. It has a very large well- maintained camping ground, a swimming pool and a separate kitchen. This was our home for the night. We were allocated tents to dump our luggage.
Kevin, Wendy's colleague, summoned us for a short briefing. Immediately we were done getting acquainted, a guy from the camp announced that it was time to go for a boat ride for anyone who was interested. You can bet I was the first one in line.
The lake is a 5 minutes’ walk from the camp on a dusty road. We also passed through some horticultural farms.
On arrival at the Lake Shores, the sun was almost saying good bye. This was emotional for me. Sunsets always have a way of getting me thrilled. It is a very special moment for me watching the sun disappear down the horizon.
We got into a boat and started the ride. Before we could go further, we spotted a number of hippopotamus. We got a little scared wondering what would happen should the boat capsize. Well, the sunset gave us another reason to smile and enjoy the beauty of nature. The captain kept us busy with stories of the lake and how he spends time fishing. Some few minutes to 7:00pm, we finished the boat ride and we headed back to the camp.
After freshening up, a buffet dinner was set. We served and ate inside the lounge while chit chatting and bonding with each other. Dennis (an instructor at Dasagas dance crew who teaches Salsa, Kizomba, Bachata, Merengue, Rueda and Cha-cha moves) was busy fixing the music system. Salsa dance was mentioned on the itinerary. Perez (another guy with a body adapted to every dance move) called us in a circle and led us in dancing to local tunes. Everyone joined in. It was amazing to have a club setting on a getaway. As soon as Dennis was set, we stopped the music and gave him attention. He paired us up and started with Kizomba then Salsa. The excitement on people's faces at that moment gave Wendy and her team assurance that they are in the right business. We learnt Kizomba and Salsa moves for almost 2 hours.
Nyama Choma arrived at the lounge. We joined in and ate to satisfaction. The bonfire was already set and the crackling flames were calling. We all gathered at the bonfire. We played a few games here until the cold from the wind became extreme.
We decided to go back in, but this time headed to the bar. There was a dance floor with disco lights. Perez was the teacher here. We danced while sipping on our favourite drinks. I decided to call it a night some minutes to 1:00am and left a group still dancing.
The next day we were up at 8.00am. Some people wanted to swim but it was extremely cold. Moreover, the swimming pool was being treated.
By 9.00am, we had taken breakfast and were ready to roll. We left our luggage behind as we were meant to come back for them. From the camp, the drive to Hell’s Gate National Park is half an hour at snail speed. We arrived at Hell’s Gate, did our entrance formalities and we were finally in.
The park is named for the intense geothermal activities within its boundaries. It is a remarkable quarter of the Great Rift Valley. Spectacular scenery including the towering cliff, water-gouged gorges, stark rock towers, scrub clad volcanoes and belching plumes of geothermal steam makes it one of the most atmospheric parks in Africa. The drive here was amazing. We got out of the vehicle at some point and walked towards animals. We spotted animals such as zebras, Thompson's gazelles, impalas, elands, heart beasts and giraffes. The guide also informed us there usually are buffaloes at the park.
The drive took us to the gorges. We packed here and got ready for a one hour excursion. Hells Gate Gorge is lined with red cliffs which contain two volcanic plugs: Fischer's Tower and Central Tower. Off the Central Tower is a smaller gorge which extends to the south and of which a path descends into hot springs that at some places you can find rocks that will burn you. Also there is a fair amount of sulfur you can feel in the water. Walking through the Gorge is characterized by steep ups and downs. At some point it gets scary. The guide told us a story of some young guys who were caught by flash floods sometime back and died in the gorge. Everyone started looking up for any signs of heavy clouds. We passed through thin caves, trenches, the ‘Devils Bedroom’, ‘Hell's Shower’, a view point and a curio market. The trek was challenging and some people were struggling to keep up.
We got to the vehicle already feeling like we had had enough. Little did we know what was coming next. Olkaria Geothermal Spa was our next stop. This is the only natural spa in Africa. It's filled with hot water from underground. Hot water from the source is passed through a cooling reservoir before being directed to the pool. This reduces the temperature from boiling point to around 37% Celsius. How amazing is nature?
We got here and couldn't wait to jump in. The pool is Olympic size and it's divided into two; a shallow end which is 1m deep and a Deep end that is 1.5m deep. This means that even those who can't handle water more than Basin size can enjoy the spa. The water was nourishing in a way. There were several first aiders walking around the pool to make sure everyone was safe. The water is full of sulphur and there is a myth that it has medicinal values on the skin (not sure how true that is). Families are not left behind here as there is a children pool. There is a restaurant on sight where you can order food from as low as KSh 200. This is a perfect site for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Wendy had problems getting people out of the pool. The water was too relaxing to just get out of. Time was not on our side. We got out of the water, got a quick shower and left for the camp. On arrival, we got an already set buffet. We served, ate and packed ready to check out. The journey back to Nairobi was non-stop and it took us an hour and 20 minutes to be precise.
If you were the judge, am sure you would rule KSh 4,750 too little for such a trip. It was cheap because most costs were shared. The trip was characterized with fun, mingling, bonding, entertainment, and dancing together. If one took the same trip alone or as a couple, it would cost them more than that. They would also not enjoy the additions that come with group travel. Any other time you hear of an organized group trip, don't mind who and who are going. Just pay for it and get ready to meet strangers whom you will convert to friends.