Enjoying The Natural Sights Of Kenya

Enjoying The Natural Sights Of Kenya

The country of Kenya is one of the equatorial countries in Africa, and also has a portion of coastline in the east of the country that helps to give it some of the most diverse and naturally beautiful terrain in Africa.  From one of the highest mountains in Africa through to the wide open plains that are a true haven for wildlife, Kenya is an absolutely enchanting place to visit for nature lovers.

Take A Safari In The Masai Mara

The Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most remarkable natural sites in the world, and is home to some of the most beautiful and rare animals.  A safari in the Masai Mara is one of the activities that all visitors to Kenya will want to do, with the opportunity to spot the ‘big five’ wild animals in the park, namely the Black Rhinoceros, Lion, African Elephant, Leopard and African Buffalo.

For those who are fortunate enough to visit the Masai Mara during the migration period of the wildebeest, topi, zebras and gazelles can witness one of the most majestic sights in the natural world.  These giant herds migrate north into the Masai Mara from the Serengeti, and their numbers can often turn the landscape into a ‘dotted’ landscape with thousands of animals visible.

Lake Nakuru National Park

This national park is to be found at the relatively high altitude of 1754 meters above sea level, and the lake itself is a ‘soda lake’ which is alkaline in content, providing a different ecosystem to many other lakes in the country.  The most distinctive memory that most people will have after a visit to Lake Nakuru is the sight of hundreds of flamingos standing on the shores of the lake in a very long line.  As well as the flamingo, there are also Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros and giraffes to be found in the park, which is a small but beautiful location just over a hundred miles north of Nairobi.

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya is a collection of volcanic peaks that are surrounded by several other high mountains and glaciers in central Kenya, which is a great demonstration of the variety of terrain to be found in the country.  The mountains rise up to a significant height from the plain, and the various forests change as the altitude increases, including several endemic species such as the giant lobelias that are to be found in the alpine forests.  While the glaciers of Mount Kenya are retreating, the snow capped mountains are becoming easier to climb with less of the ascent taking place on the glacier.

Aberdare National Park

Located quite close to the Mount Kenya region, Aberdare National Park is one of the most attractive parts of the central highlands of Kenya, and is well known for the wide range of animal species living there.  The fairly wet climate and lush undergrowth make the park a haven for herbivores, and because of these animals such as elephants and buffaloes, there are also populations of predators such as lions and leopards to be found here.  For those who enjoy fishing, the rivers in the park are teeming with brown and rainbow trout which make it a popular place among anglers visiting the country.

Locals Guide to Chester, England

To see previous City Spotlights here

The city of Chester in the north west of England is one of the most fascinating and charming cities in the UK – that’s exactly why I’ve made my home here for the past two years! As a Canadian living abroad I am perpetually amazed and in awe of the ancient history that can be seen around every corner in places like Chester, and I love learning more and more about the past everywhere I go. It might be a trek up if you’re staying in London, but the 2 hour train ride is more than worth it once you arrive in this little living museum.

What makes Chester magical?

Chester was settled by the Romans and was established as a Roman fort, or castrum, in the year 79. Since this time a city has sat along the banks of the River Dee in Cheshire, growing in size and influence all the while.

This long history means that Chester is packed full of fascinating history, from the Roman City Walls and amphitheatre, to Victorian Grosvenor Park, right up to the shops and restaurants of modern times. Just a simple stroll up the main street gives you glimpses into the city’s history, with leaning Tudor buildings mingling with elegant Georgian facades.

If I only had one day in Chester, England what would you recommend?

If you only have 1 day in Chester the first thing you have to do is take a walking tour of the Roman City Walls that still guard the city centre. These city walls are the most complete in Britain and a walk around the whole of the monument will take you no longer than an hour, including stops to read the historical interpretation provided along the way. Along the way you’ll glimpse the beautiful River Dee, go under the historic Eastgate Clock (the second most photographed clock in Britain), and pass by the magnificent Chester Cathedral. There really is no better way to see the city.

After your walk along the walls head down to ground level to explore the shops and attractions that make up the city centre. At the Chester Visitors Centre you can sign up for a guided city walk which will give you insights into the city that you never would have discovered on your own. My favourite little tid-bit? It is believed that Catherine of Aragon, first with of the infamous Henry VIII spent a night in a room that is now part of a sofa shop!

 

What are your 3 favorite free things to do there?

Everyone likes to save a little while travelling, and it’s much easier to do that in the North of England than it is in London. It’s easy to find free, or inexpensive, things to do in Chester and not feel like you’re missing out.

  1. Visit the Grosvenor Museum – Many museums in the UK are free to enter and Chester’s little museum is one of them. Here you can watch a movie about the history of Chester, learn about its Roman heritage, and take a tour through a recreated Victorian household.
  2. Take in the Races – The Chester Racecourse, also known as the Roodee, is set right in the centre of the city and dates back to the 16th century. Throughout the summer there are numerous horse races held here, all of which you can watch for free from the street side.
  3. Take a Walk Along the Canal – Along with the River Dee, Chester also has a beautiful canal that winds its way through the city. On a sunny day there are few things nicer than walking along the water in the countryside, and maybe popping in to one of the local pubs for a pint in the sun!

 

A trip to Chester is great whether you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway or a family summer holiday. The city centre is compact and virtually car free so it’s easy to get around, and with North Wales, Liverpool, and Manchester just a short drive or train ride away there are endless things to do and see. Make sure that the next time you visit the UK you venture out of the capital and come and visit the little places like Chester that make the UK great.

City Spotlight: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Why Siem Reap, Cambodia is my Favorite City:

What makes Siem Reap magical?

Upon entering Cambodia, it is clear that it is a place like no other. Upon descent into the capital city, Siem Reap’s, tiny airport, you will see a sea of faint flickering lights if you are lucky enough to fly in at night. These intriguing lights are used by shacks with little or no electricity supply; not to bring light to homes, but to attract insects, which are later used for cooking. The country’s first airport, which opened internationally just six years ago, exudes a certain sense of mystery itself. Its terminal building, which resembles a traditional pagoda, is tidily lined with green grass and trees, and features a large welcome sign in native Cambodian transcript. Upon leaving the airport, the intrigue continues as you travel along one of the country’s only tarmac roads, which is lined with seemingly out-of-place large, exotic hotels and the mansions of Cambodia’s richest ambassadors.

However, upon entry into Siem Reap, visitors are greeted with a rather underwhelming high street with an obligatory KFC and McDonalds that were obviously installed to cater for the city’s increasing influx of Western back-packers. However, what is most magical about Siem Reap is the overwhelming feeling of stepping into a tiny city that remains the gateway to a country of mystery and intrigue. Each under-developed, dusty street hints at what is beyond. The larger, more established buildings in the Siem Reap’s centre quickly trail off to become modest shacks within a few hundred yards on the same road; the city quickly disintegrating into a mysterious abyss.

Best reason to visit Siem Reap

Cambodia is a Buddhist country and, as the city of Siem Reap appears friendly, enchanting and spiritual, it is easy to momentarily forget of the extreme suffering and brutality that, until only recently, was a part of everyday life for its citizens. Particularly harrowing and poignant are the stories told by the local people, which provide an unparalleled and truthful encounter of a country that was once engulfed by war and fear. Many people come to Siem Reap – and wider Cambodia – to feel enchanted and inspired, but the best reason to visit is to meet the local people, and to learn first-hand about the history behind the city. What is particularly awe-inspiring and eye-opening is the warmth expressed by many locals, and how, although they have experienced suffering beyond what most of us can imagine, they do not express bitterness or sadness, but instead promote peace and forgiveness.

Best places to eat and drink in Siam Reap. Cambodia

The centre of Siem Reap is very lively, and turns into a party destination at night. There are two main streets lined with bars, restaurants and discos offering food and alcohol at extremely low prices. These streets contain the best places to eat and drink with friends, and visitors can expect to sample a great range of authentic Cambodian hot pots, as well as a vast range of drinks. You can pick up a beer for as little as 50 American cents in most bars along the main streets.

Most unusual attraction in Siem Reap 

One of the most unusual and interesting parts of Siem Reap’s centre is its famous night market. For such a small city, the night market fills up very suddenly at night with hoards of locals and tourists alike. Siem Reap’s night market, situated just a couple of streets away from the city’s main bars, contains an eclectic mix of traditional Cambodian crafts, food stalls and health treatment centres. Bustling with life and multi-coloured lights, the night market offers a unique insight into how traditional Cambodia is fusing with the new, and catering to the sudden worldwide interest it is attracting. Highlights of the market include the health centres, where you can invest a dollar to receive a scalp and neck massage, and the craft stalls, where you can buy local paintings and wood carvings. Although not quite 1p deals, the bargains of the night market are not far off; you can expect to pay around $3 for a traditional, hand-drawn picture, or $2 for a locally-woven silk scarf, for example.

What to do with just one day in Siem Reap?

If you only had one day in Siem Reap, it would be highly recommended to visit Cambodia’s infamous temples. Situated just outside the city, the haunting and mystical UNESCO site of Angkor Wat is the most well-known. Built in the 11th Century by King Suryavarman, the magical empire was later forgotten, buried under mounds of trees and peat. Rediscovered in the early 20th Century, it was painstakingly restored using only original and natural materials, to reach the impressive state it stands at today. Angkor Wat is home to hundreds of temples and monasteries, each displaying a unique mix of art and architecture. The best time to visit is sunrise, where the temples’ distinctive spires form a magical silhouette on the horizon.

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If they jumped off a cliff would you?

Sorry mom, but that question started backfiring a long time ago when I cliff jumped for the first time in 2009 and haven’t stopped since!

I have an irrational fear of jumping from small heights so cliff jumping challenges me which I love! BUT since I took a fall down a marble staircase the day before fracturing my toe and receiving a gnarly bruise I opted to just take photos.

One of my favorite bruises of ALL time!

Most of the coastline on the Island of Korcula is not not sandy, it is very rugged and rocky so the thought of climbing back up the rocks barefoot with a bad foot didn’t sound remotely fun to me… such a baby right! (I kinda regret not just sacking up and doing it!)

Where have you been cliff jumping? Do you stand in terror or jump straight off without a second thought?

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Budapest through a Child’s Eyes

In the end Budapest would provide me with my most difficult traveling experience to date but not without showing me the wonders of travel through a child’s eyes.

Meet Jack.

While I was trying to figure out how the metro system in Budapest works I heard English and naturally gravitated to it and met Chris, Paul and little Jack.  They were on holiday from Brittan and kindly let me join them while we all tried to navigate through Hungary’s capital city.

Paul, Chris and Jack

Since I don’t have any kids I’ve never had the opportunity to travel abroad with a wee one and Jack’s charming personality was invigorating, I was thrilled to see this bustling city through his eyes and remained enchanted with his laughter throughout the entire day.

Here are a few photos from my day in Budapest through the ever adventurous Jack 

Overlooking Budapest & the Danube river from the Citadel

Then it was time to give Jack a chance to document his view. I told him to take pictures that I could share with my readers and he was thrilled to have a crack at it!

I bet this is a very common view for kids, always with cameras in their faces with adults trying to capture the wonder and excitement of a child.

Jack’s view of Budapest divided by the Danube River

Jack wanted to share the beautiful sky and all its clouds

 

Jack informed me that we were traveling on a “silly bus” because it is green, “What a silly bus” he kept saying.

Such a silly bus!

We even got our own silly green headphones to listen to the audio tour

Spending the day with Jack and his family really opened my eyes to how different a city is compared to an adults interests and attention span. It was fun to travel a bit differently and I am really grateful they were willing to share their travels with me. PS Paul and Chris if you are reading this please e-mail me because I lost your information :(

What’s your opinion traveling with children vs. adults?