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Stone Town

I remember being in primary school and singing a song about Zanzibar, something about the ships going down there…whilst I don’t remember the song well (obviously). The impression Zanzibar left it my mind never faded, so being next door in Nairobi – I had to make my way to this place that had lived in my imagination for so long.

My 1st stop was Stone Town, it’s the old part of Zanzibar. The architecture mostly dates back to the 19th century, and reflects the diverse influences of the Swahili culture. There are a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements and for this reason, the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. We love a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Before slavery was abolished in Tanzania black people weren’t allowed to live within the city walls (go figure), but in the 21st century any and everyone is free to live here – in true Hakuna Matata fashion. 

Exploring Stone town you find different doors which other than offering a cheeky photo op; they show a history of the demographic within the city. The gold on the doors is a symbol for protection from elephant attacks (there aren’t elephants native to this part of Tanzania) so it is indeed a nod to the Indian influence that is part of Stone Town blood.

Walking around and exploring the deep depths of  Stone Town, doesn’t require much pre-planning as you can find a guide in the square who has a wealth of knowledge to offer for a small price.

It was awesome to spend time exploring Stone Town. 

Here’s our list of top things to do, places to see and eat in Stone Town:

Forodhani Gardensmuch like Drake, Forodhani comes alive in the nightime! It’s set right on the seafront and whether you are veggie, pesci or a serious meat-eater – there is indeed an option for you. Food is a huge part of any culture, and visiting Forodhani is a must do.

House of Wonders in Stone Town captured by sarahambitious

Visit the ‘House of Wonders’ – it was originally opened in 1883. It is the tallest and largest building in Stone Town.

Make an International Call at Jaws Corner captured by sarahambitious

Make an International Call at Jaws Corner – it works.

stack of fabrics in the market in stone town by sarah ambitious

Buy souvenirs – you’ll find something to take back for someone (any excuse, I know)

seafood platter from swahili house in stone town by sarahambitious

The Swahili Houseprovided awesome rooftop views, delicious food. If you’d like to spend time in Stone Town you can also lodge here. this seafood platter that consisted of a whole lobster, calamari, shrimps, mashed potatoes and a cup of tea ☕️ was a mere £20 🥺🥺

Fish Auction at the Darajani Markets by sarahambitious

Join the Fish Auction at the Darajani Markets. There are a variety of fresh seafood options and you have to get stuck in if you want a chance to win.

Take a Spice Tour – every spice you can think of is available. Freshhh! Take some home for your friends, your flatmate, your colleague. 

a traditional mask in swahili house in stone town, zanzibar, tanzania by sarah ambitious

Buy some coffee – everything is so fresh and pure 🥺 buy it all.

  • Prison Islandanother excursion you don’t have to neccesarily pre-book. See the Giant Tortoise and learn how prison island was built with the intention of housing prisoners; but was repurposed to help contain the bubonic plague epidemic that government officials feared would make its way on ships coming in from Egypt and Mumbai.
  • Visit the Slave Museum – if you fancy it (I opted not to, it’s not everyday relive trauma).
  • Visit Freddy Mercury‘s house! – arguably Tanzania’s most popular export.

Would you add a stop to Stone Town on your trip?

Keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj, as always x

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Diani Beach

Searching for some winter sun and a tan, (it’s always about the tan!) is what drew me to Diani. My Kenya trip was actually planned with Diani in mind 1st and then every other amazing thing came afterwards.

So in search of the beautiful coastline that I’d heard so much about I made my way down to Diani. To reach Diani from the mainland (Mombasa) you have to use the Likoni ferry, if you fly into the main Mombasa airport this is where you’ll also start your journey.

Diani beach has been rated the best beach destination since 2015 by Lonely Planet. The Indian Ocean goes on further than your eyes can sea 😉 and the white sand is almost blinding. The quieter part of the beach is where the resorts and hotels are; you can easily blag your way in or buy a drink so you can sit in one of the sun chairs and take in the island breeze under some palm trees.⁣

There’s someone selling fresh coconut, necklaces or you may even catch an impromptu performance.⁣

All part of the Diani vibe. ⁣

If you choose to stay in a hotel; the majority of them are right on beachfront. If you get an airbnb, you can easily find one 10 mins walk from beach.

Don’t leave without getting on a dhow; unmatched vibes.

The standout excursion from my time in Diani was without a doubt, the day trip to snorkel Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve. We sailed on a traditional dhow sailboat, stopping to explore two vibrant snorkel sites of coral reef. Sailing from the mainland to marine park was serene and I would say it was an eco-friendly way to experience the area. We spotted dolphins, turtles, octopus and countless fish. The cruise also included delicious Swahili seafood and drinks on Wasini Island. The service was amazing and it’s definitely something I’d recommend including on your itinerary.

Places to eat:

  • Tiki Bar – the food was delicious, great cocktails and a lovely vibe.

Places to visit: Kwale, Shimoni, Kisite Marine Park, Wasini Island

Luxe Out: a day trip to Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park (You can even dive if you know how to)

As always stay connected with us on @trippinwithsj x

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Mombasa

Mombasa is Kenya’s oldest and second-largest city. It sits along the coastline, so you’ll have access to fresh seafood! And beautiful coastline views.

Mombasa was one of those places that I found via Instagram, I love visiting as many places as possible in one trip. I love walking around old towns and learning all their old history, you see the things that were left behind and the parts that have been included into the present day-to-day life.

Places to visit:

13th century afro pick
  1. Fort Jesus. Mombasa offers a blend of cultures; due to the colonial past the mark of each group can be seen in the city walls. Fort Jesus which was built by the Portuguese – (well it was physically built by Kenyan slaves under the instruction of the Portuguese but I digress 👀). My guide explained how the Portuguese came very arrogantly, but their only motive was to trade. The British came and spread Christianity ✝️, the Omanis spread Islam ☪️ causing great divide amongst the coastal Kenyan people. ⁣It’s weird because a building that was used to oppress now offers a livelihood for so many in Old Town.⁣
a tortoise

2. Haller Park offers some more animal lovin’! It is the transformation of a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. Kenyans are serious about their nature conservation, (aside from it obviously making up for a significant amount of their GDP) they feel it’s their job to keep the animals and earth safe. Haller Park is a true marvel to me and one of the many things we LOVE to see. If you time your arrival well you’ll be able to see various animals at their feeding times – giraffes 🦒(not as phenomenal as the Giraffe Centre), crocodiles 🐊 , hippos 🦛 and some elderly buffalos 🐃 too. ⁣

⁣It’s a fun day out and can be tied on to the back end of your exploration of Mombasa. ⁣Insider tip: listen out for the story of the Haller millipedes.

3. Spice Market – spices, herbs, coffee or tea leaves. It would be silly to not grab a bag of something and bring it back home with you. I see it as extending your holiday ever so slightly, the Kenyan coffee and tea is the truth!

4. Moi Avenue – is known for two pairs of giant aluminium elephant tusks. The tusks were commissioned in the 50s for Queen Elizabeths visit to Kenya, they also serve as a reminder to Kenyan trade poachers that elephants should never be paoched for the ivory trade.

Places to eat: Cafesserie Mombasa

It’s also worth mentioning that if you are safari’d out, Mombasa is a great gateway to other areas of Kenya that allow you to experience some hiking and/or cycling. I genuinely think there’s something to do for every type of traveller in Kenya.

As always, keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitious x

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Nairobi

Nairobi will most likely be your first stop in Kenya if you’re flying in. Nairobi is amazing as it offers quite a few wildlife activities right in the heart of the city. Nairobi National Park is the only national park in the world to be in a capital city – on its savannah plains you can see rhinos, lions, giraffes with the city skyline as a backdrop.

There are bars and restaurants like you would expect from any capital city and the easiest way I found to get around was uber.

I spent my first night going for dinner at Carnivore, which is an open-air restaurant. Carnivore’s specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet – they offer a range of unusual meats; alligator, ostrich etc. The atmosphere was lovely, complete with a live band performance.

Area to stay: Westlands

Places to eat: Carnivore Restaurant, CJ’s 

Places to visit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park, Giraffe Centre

Luxe Out:

  • Fairmont the Norfolk – spa day
  • Carnivore Restaurant – dinner
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Maasai Mara

If you’ve watched Uncle Attenborough’s many animal documentaries, you will have heard of the Maasai Mara. The image of wildebeest and birds alike making the big migration.

Then if you love Lion King, I meannnnnn. I won’t go on too much, but my point is the idea of visiting this natural wonder has been in my mind and heart for a long time.

Now, in my experience of curating tailormade holidays; going on a safari is not cheap. So it was always a bucket list thing and I thought it would be unattainable for a while. However, when the opportunity to visit Kenya arose – I knew I couldn’t let the chance pass me by.

So, here they are – my tips on how to go on a safari in the most cost effective way. Hakuna Matata 😉

When to go: As with most trips, deciding what season you go will determine how much you spend overall.

  • December to February – it’s not dry season but when I went in December the weather was amazing, and we saw all of the Big 5 too. This time period will allow cheaper airfares, hotel stays and possibly discounted activities 🏌🏾‍♀️ (The weather was even good enough for a hot air balloon ride, but I’ll get into that later 😁)
  • June to October – is the ‘best time’ to visit Kenya as its during the Dry season. Late June to October are meant to be the the best wildlife viewing months. The wildebeest migration usually reaches the Masai Mara in August and remains until October when they move back to the Serengeti in Tanzania. 

As Kenya sits close to the equator, its seasons are the opposite of ours. So going in December I was greeted with at 26 degrees Celcius 😍😍

Where to stay: Outside

I would recommend setting aside 3 days minimum to make the most of your time in the Maasai Mara. This way if you miss animals on one day, there’s still more opportunities to see them. 

So, I’ve just told you to spend at least 3 days on the nature reserve. You’ve checked prices for lodges and you’ve come back to tell me I’m crazy 😜 

Relax friends, relax and walk with me 😂

I too, was impressed by the price of lodges on the nature reserve! If you have the funds to splash out, definitely stay on the nature reserve you save some time driving. However, if you want to save some coins – stay on a lodge just outside the gates of the Maasai Mara! They offer all the same services; game drives, glamping etc. but for a lot less. We even booked our hot air balloon tour with our accommodation. 

We were lucky enough to spot nearly all of the Big 5 during our game drive and we only needed to go on one day 🥺. A lot of the game drives will allow you to go again for free if you don’t see them on your first try. 

What to pack: Layersss

So I made a little song and dance about how warm it was in December. But, the temperature really does drop 🥶 as soon as the sun goes down and as it’s rising.

  • Hiking boots/weatherproof boots 
  • Hat 
  • Jumpers, cardigans (anything you can layer) 
  • Mosquito spray 
  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Torchlight 

Some people will go as far as hiring their own 4×4 and trying to drive the nature reserve themselves – you can do this and it will cut costs as you’ll only need to buy a ticket for entry. However, I wouldn’t recommend; I saw too many people stuck in the mud – literally. The guides who are local people, know the routes like the back of their hands and know how to navigate the plains. (You may also have the opportunity to visit one of the local Maasai families.)

Top site to see: Great Rift Valley

Other than the Maasai Mara itself, on your way there you will pass the Great Rift Valley.  The Earth moved when Kenya was created and the evidence can be seen with the Great Rift Valley, it cuts across the country’s length. There are lakes, savannahs and volcanoes that stretches from Jordan all the way to Mozambique. The drive from the city to nature reserve is quite long, so it makes a good stop for a photo op and a toilet break. The toilet is not anything fancy, so be prepared!

Stand-out excursion: Hot air balloon ride

Once in a lifetime means there’s no second chance…*clears throat* I’m all for saving your money on certain things so you can luxe out on others! We luxed out on a hot air balloon ride, and oh boy what a dream. 

You have to get up super early and it’ll be freezing, so driving around in a 4×4 with no heating sounds like a terrible idea. The ride you’re blessed with after you see the balloons being blown up tho? So worth it. 10/10 would recommend without a question.

After your flight you get to celebrate the succesful flight with everyone you flew with – there is a buffet breakfast and unlimited champage – (yes, I made myself countless mimosas). You get a certificate and a visual souvenir of the ride itself. Your guide is ready on the otherside to pick you up and take you back to base, or you can tie on a game drive since you’re already out there.

We hope this guide helps you get started on planning your own trip, or serves as a way back to fond memories of a safari trip.

Keep up with us on: @trippinwithsj x

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What to pack…

Going on holiday to a foreign climate – the question what do you pack arises?

Nigeria is south of the equator and stays pretty hot year round, so light clothing is advisable. You will be in an air-conditioned environment a lot of the time so don’t forget to bring some cardigans.

We’ve listed some suggestions on things you shouldn’t forget to take with you.

Insect repellent
It’s a tropical climate so this is a must.
Malaria tablets
There is a risk of Malaria so ask your GP for advice on what type of precautions to take.
Sunscreen
Do not be fooled, SPF should be part of your daily regime anyway, so…
Familiar snacks
Being in a foreign country it can take some time for your guts to adjust to the new food and water.
Power bank
You’ll be out for long days so it just makes sense.
Ear plugs
It can be loud with power generators on, so if you’re a light sleeper – do the needful.

What do you usually pack on holiday? What else would you add to this list?

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Lasgidi Baby…

The plane lands and everyone erupts in applause.

You walk off the plane and as the doors open, the heat engulfs you.

You make your way outside of the madness that is luggage claim and immigration; although the skyline is darkening, the streets are still so alive.

The short walk to the carpark has already caused a bead of sweat to fall down your forehead, you manage to slide into the car just in time and the ice cool AC is a welcome embrace.

Like play, like play…you’re home.

Lagos, Eko, Gidi; whatever you choose to call it – I do think you’ll have a soft spot for it and will be looking forward to returning.

I hadn’t been back to Lagos in over 10 years, so coming back as a young woman the experience was much different from how I had experienced it as a child. This trip was for the funeral of my Grandmother, she left behind 7 kids, 21 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren and an even bigger hole in our hearts. In true Naija style her funeral processions were a true celebration of her life and a welcome opportunity for many of us to come back home after being away for so long.

I took a week prior to the funeral processions to explore some of the sites Gidi had to offer me, and although it was mid-June – I promise you Gidi really doesn’t sleep.


Here’s a list of 10 things that are a must do:

Home to the longest canopy walkway in Africa, it’s a protected icon of nature conservation and a pearl of ecotourism. The fact that you enter another world just off of Lagos-Epe Expressway is a feat in itself.

Pack on the insect/mosquito repellent, slap on the sunscreen and beware of the cheeky monkeys.

Entry Cost:

Adult – N1,000/£3/$3

Children (1 -17 years) – N300/£1/$1

Canopy Walk Cost: N1,000/£3/$3

  1. Nike Art Centre

The Nike Art Centre is full of a variety of sculptures and paintings by Nigerian artists. It’s spread across 3 floors and if you fall in love with a piece there is a chance to buy something and take it with you.

You may catch Ms Nike herself, she frequents the grounds and is so accommodating with a lovely story to tell.

Entry Cost: Free

If you are interested in seeing some Nigerian theatre and learning about the history of the Theatre, this is a great place to go. You can get a good few hours out of exploring here there are cool photo ops, a mini art gallery and a restaurant so you can chop until your belle full! I took the opportunity to try some Palm Wine – I’m not fond of it but sometimes you gotta do it for the ‘gram.

Entry Cost: Free

I love the feel of old books, films, records – I blame Love Jones, so being able to step into somewhere like this in Lagos was magical. There are old prints from concerts, vinyl copies of records, it’s all so very ‘alté’ and I was living for it.

Entry Cost: Free

The decor here is absolutely beautiful inside and out, situated on a secluded street you are transported away from the busy streets. Alara is bringing your traditional favourites with a sophisticated angle.

Price: Meals start from around £23/$20

  • Balogun Market

I wouldn’t recommend going here without a local 👀 it’s BUSY, BUSY. So you need to be fast to cross, be sharp to not get pick-pocketed and it’s probably best to just look so your accent doesn’t fully give you away and get you bumped 👀.

Anything you could be looking for you can find here; waist beads, fabric, soap – you name it.

Farm City is the location for shisha, a cold drink, vibes and some serious fish 😍. If you’re not a fan of seafood then there are other menu options but if you do love seafood you won’t be disappointed.

Farm City I want to run to you, miss you 🥺

Price: Meals start from around £10/$15

There are a range of clubs on the Island, so you can club-hop to your hearts desire to find the right location, however if you want to party until the early hours Quilox is the place to go.

Entry Cost: Free, you’ll need to buy a booth to get somewhere to sit down but if you don’t mind standing just get a drink and catch a vibes.

With all the stress of day-to-day life and being stuck in Lagos traffic and you will get stuck in Lagos traffic!

Being able to have some R&R is so important, I love the Oríkì vibe and they offer a great service; pedis, manis and a range of massages.

Entry Cost: prices can be found on their website

  • Owambe

An ‘Owambe’ is the name given to a Nigerian party; a wedding party, a birthday party, any type of party. Whether rain or shine you are guaranteed to find one happening; do I start on the food? the money spraying? the live band?

The vibes are unmatched. Dress to impress and be ready to dance.

Entry Cost: Free


Flights

Direct: British Airways and Virgin Atlantic

  • Low season (February – June, September, November) ≅ £450 – £540
  • High season (December – January, July – August, October) ≅ £800 – £1200

Accommodation

Air B’n’B – ranging from £40 p/n to £150 p/n

Hotels:

  • Radisson Blu – £
  • Eko Hotel & Suites – ££
  • Lagos Continential Hotel – ££

Transport

Haggle, haggle, haggle is the way of life however if you’d rather not, the best way to get around is Uber/Taxify.

Danfo/BRT = Public bus

Keke Napep/Marua = Tuk-tuk

Okada = Motorbike

Danfo