Photo by Reinier Munguia

Back from the Field: Kenya Trip Report with Reinier Munguia

Back from the Field: Kenya Trip Report with Reinier Munguia

Oct 14, 2021|Natural HistoryHolbrook in the Field| by Holbrook Travel
Tracking the Big Five in COVID times: Guest post by Reinier Munguia

Holbrook Travel connected with our friend and travel leader, Reinier Munguia of Wildstock Photography, upon his return from a safari to East Africa. His story follows and is an example of how, with proper safety guidelines and a positive attitude, the rewards can be enormous.

Origins of the Africa expedition

After postponing all of our travels for a year due to COVID-19, we decided it was time to re-start our traveling agenda this year. At first the process seemed daunting and complicated, but soon it became almost seamless and it was the right thing to do. Kenya is a bit more complicated than the other two destinations I traveled to this year, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, yet the process was not difficult. All African countries are taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus through the continent by using a unified database for test results and vaccinations. The system ensures an easy and fast entry while providing confirmation of your health status and COVID vaccination to the health ministries.

Arriving in Nairobi

Before departing the U.S. and within 96 hours of arrival in Nairobi, we were required to have a PCR test regardless of our vaccination status, which wasn’t too difficult to obtain at our local CVS or any testing clinic. Each participant uploaded their results to the Trusted Travel – African Union CDC, and a barcode was issued to be presented to health department personnel on arrival to Kenya. Additionally, a Travelers Health Surveillance form was filled out and presented upon arrival. The process was straightforward and it helped expedite clearing customs while ensuring we were all healthy to proceed.

Traveling within Kenya

Every participant on the tour had agreed to not only get vaccinated but also to wear a mask when needed and follow all regulations and mandates. Most restaurants and sites we visited in Kenya had mask requirements. Kenyans are taking the pandemic very seriously by abiding by their country’s rules and regulations.

Our destination highlights in Kenya

Kenya is one of my favorite destinations because it is rich in biological diversity. In a relatively short amount of time you can see a variety of species including the “Big Five”: leopard, rhino, buffalo, lion and elephant. Our itinerary covered the great national parks of Amboseli, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, and the Maasai Mara. We were able to get unbelievably close to these animals, capturing their beauty in the wildest and most natural form, all while exercising our photography techniques.

Colobus monkey

We saw so many different species it’s hard to single out any one moment or animal encounter. But one of my favorite moments was encountering a colobus monkey troop. Colobus monkeys rarely descend to the ground, using branches as trampolines to leap up and down and to grab the next branch. They live in territorial troops of about five to ten animals.

Visiting a Maasai village

We were lucky to spend an afternoon at a Maasai village in the Mara on our last full day in Kenya. Our guide helped facilitate communication and we shared stories and laughter. We learned about their heritage and traditions, which the Maasai take great pride in. We gathered for a group photo as we displayed our masks and they held their rungu warrior sticks.

We were then treated to an adamu, the traditional “jumping dance,” a ceremony that marks the transition of morani (junior warriors) to becoming senior warriors. Two men jump straight into the air as high as they can go. Once the warriors achieve maximum height and begin to tire, they exit and two other men take the center. The adamu carries deep meaning and is a way for a young Maasai man to demonstrate his strength and make him eligible for marriage. They have continually practiced the dance since they were young and it was an impressive display.

Exiting Kenya – Picture this testing site!

The requirements to exit Kenya included a PCR test. At the time, we were in the Maasai Mara on safari, so Holbrook had scheduled to have us tested at the lodge early one morning. But the night before, we were surprised to learn that we were going to be tested in the middle of the Mara so we could do our early morning safari. A few hours into our safari, we pulled into a remote airstrip and waited for the testing team to arrive by plane. One by one we were called to get swabbed and our samples were diligently placed in a cooler. A half hour later the plane took our samples to the lab in Nairobi. In a way, this was a highlight of the trip for many of us — getting COVID-tested in the Mara surrounded by gazelles, cheetahs and wildebeest is certainly a unique experience!

Conclusion – Follow the rules and it’s all worthwhile

While traveling abroad may appear hard to achieve, it’s a matter of knowing and abiding by the requirements established at our destinations. I invite you to travel and explore, but always following guidelines and use common sense to prevent the spread of the virus.

All photos by Reinier Munguia, Wildstock Photography