The safest and maybe the smartest course is to stay put.
Or maybe risk a trip to the beach for the weekend.
Many fellow CLLers have asked about the trip wondering if it
they too could take such a safari. Is it safe or is it foolhardy?
Consider the pre-trip facts:
It would take two full days with lay overs in Qatar, I would
fly across 10 time zones to land in Nairobi, AKA Ni-robbery, a high crime city
in Kenya, a country the State department says is dangerous to visit with a
terrible shortage of good medical care and way too few doctors and supplies and
then I would travel from there for seven hours or more on dangerous two lane
highways or barely maintained one lane gravel road through shallow river beds
and deep rocky pits in rumbling Land Cruisers with red dust flying and bones shaking
in what is jokingly called an African massage crossing the equator to get to a
tent camp in the middle of nowhere and then I would do the same road trips again
When you have a compromised immune system and a blood
cancer, is a trip such as this a clear sign of….
- Craziness? Maybe.
- Risk taking behavior?
- Saying no to cancer saying no to me? You bet.
- A carefully calculated gamble that turned out amazingly
This was a fantastic trip and I loved everyday of it.
I felt safe and healthy and fully alive.
So here’s my advice to others.
If your doctors say OK, do it.
And don’t believe all that you read.
I still bought travel insurance that waived the pre-existing conditions included coverage for an emergency MEDI-VAC flight if I needed to get to a good hospital back home or in London.
With a proper safari company (we used the wonderful team
from As You Like It Safaris
whom I highly recommend) we were well cared for from the moment we stepped into
the arrival lounge at the airport.
We were met at the airport and whisked away to the elegant colonial era Muthaiga Country Club
for lunch. Nairobi traffic is
infamous and street hawkers hang on to the car at every stop which are frequent and lengthy, but we never
Most western hotels in Nairobi have airport like security
with barriers for the cars entering and x-rays machines and metal detectors.
I stayed away from salads and fresh juices but most fellow safarians ate everything and did fine. All my water was boiled or bottled (listen for the
click), even for brushing my teeth. Food was great- mostly Indian for me, but
it was easier to be vegan in Kenya than in Louisiana or most of Texas.
I got all my shots. Unlike Tanzania, Kenya does not require
a the live Yellow Fever vaccination that would have made the trip a non-starter.
I was up to date on typhoid (the shots, not the live oral
form), tetanus, hepatitis A and B.
I brought antibiotics (Cipro and Zithromax and used none),
GI meds (Pepto and Imodium-AD and used none of it), pain meds, ointments and creams,
hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and a full extra week of my ibrutinib and all my
I had a note from my doctor listing all my meds.
Due to the time change, I switched to take my morning meds
in the evening and vice versa to keep the intervals between doses on the travel
days with the 10 hour time change. Ibrutinib only binds the BTK sites for about 24 hours and I didn't want to stretch that out.
I took Malarone with no side effects to protect against
malaria, wore long pants and long sleeve shirts treated with permethrin, and used high
dose DEET twice daily during game drives. I got a total of two mosquito bites
in the whole two weeks. I woke a hat and a buff for the sun and the dust.
The tent camps in the bush were marvelous and often quite
luxurious. Except for the mischievous monkeys that want to steal anything and
everything, it was very safe. Power might be intermittent and run off a
generator, but we are out in the savannah.
And the night sounds were loud, melodic and startling. I could have done without the scent from the hippo pool.
But where else would I get a Maasai warrior walking me to my tent
to guard against the wondering hippos or a Samburu villager with a sling shot
keeping away the monkeys and mongooses away from our food when we dined by the
river watching the Nile crocodiles bask in the sun or the elephants cross the
Folks left I-Pads and expensive cameras lying out and
returned to find them untouched hours later.
The Serena chain of hotels in the National Parks and Reserves
were all first class- clean, beautifully designed with gorgeous views, good
food and great service.
All the Kenyans we met were friendly and helpful. Guides/drivers
can make or break the trip and ours were encyclopedic in their knowledge of the
local flora and fauna and wise in the ways of keeping us safe and comfortable. And
kind and generous.
The wildlife doesn’t disappoint. Seeing a lion stalk and
kill a wildebeest or watching them mate (it is female initiated, very, very
quick and oft repeated every 15 minutes or so for about 3 days ), or a leopard or cheetah mom with her cubs or an
elephant family care for their young, on a gerenuk get up on its hind legs to
sample some high up tasty leaves or more colorful birds than I can remember or giraffes
spread their legs widely to reach down for a drink or vultures and Marabou stork
fight over a carcass or flamingos turn the sky pink when they all take flight
together or countless herds of zebras and gazelles and oryx and cape buffalo
and impalas living together has made me never want to go to a zoo again.
All animals need lots of room and many need their families
to live a normal life.
But the highlight of the trip had to be the wildebeest and
zebra crossing of the Mara River as part of the great migration.
More on that in a later post.
And pictures to follow.