Published on December 10th, 2021

It’s the end of the year 2021 and once again, I am pleased to write the 6th edition of my blog’s year in review. Since 2016, I have written a yearly summary of my adventures on this blog. Each year-end, as I write the current year’s wrap-up, I go back to read every edition I’ve written in the past. It is always a delight to see all the adventures I, my Pen, and Mark have had over the years.

This year was a particularly great year travel-wise. I guess that’s one of the perks of living in a country that is big on tourism. Most of our travels were domestic trips within Kenya and they were all very rewarding. I managed to visit 8 of 10 domestic places I wrote down when I made my travel wishlist for the year.

As for international travel, I managed to visit two new countries – one did not appear on my wishlist. But all in all, it was a good year for travel and here’s a monthly sum-up of adventures on Travel with a Pen.

Hagia Sophia Mosque Istanbul

The Year in Review 2021: Month-by-Month Adventures on Travel with a Pen

January

We started this year’s adventures with a gruelling hike of Mount Longonot. As of January, the 5-hour hike was the most strenuous physical activity I had ever indulged in. By year-end, it would not even come close to some of the other hikes I embarked upon. But Longonot was a great experience. I can say that now in hindsight – it certainly didn’t feel like it during the hike.

After that hike, I felt like I could challenge myself more and perhaps even summit Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro in the near future. Throughout the rest of the year, I signed up and completed several hikes and when I look back on 2021, this physical and mental push is something I am very proud of.

After hiking Mount Longonot, we visited Naivasha as well. There, we enjoyed a boat ride on Lake Naivasha and saw several birds and hippos. Mark and I returned to Naivasha one more time during the year and that was equally wonderful.

Later in the month, I went on a one-week trip to Diani with Aina and Azeem, stopping briefly at Mombasa to visit the fort and enjoy the views from the waterfront. We travelled via the SGR and it was an overall great experience for me.

February

In February, we spent some time camping out with friends at the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge. It was a very nice and relaxing weekend and my first time camping in Kenya. The campsite was extremely gorgeous and I certainly recommend it if you’re looking for a place to camp outside Nairobi.

Also in February, I went hiking to Sleeping Warrior and Ugali Hills with Winnie of Justrioba.com. This hike was much easier than Mount Longonot but quite challenging still, mostly because of the heat. After hiking these hills, I decided to sign up for yet another hike in March.

March

We took a road trip to Nanyuki in March, where we visited the last two Northern White Rhinos at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Ngare Ndare Forest.

Ngare Ndare Forest was one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting this year and I’m so glad the trip happened. I was also looking forward to seeing some forest elephants and the waterfalls and pools in their natural turquoise colour.

Going in March was a bit of a gamble as the rainy season had already begun, however, we were lucky to have excellent weather throughout the weekend we visited and all my expectations were met!

We were in Nanyuki for one weekend alone and the major reason for the trip was to see the Northern White Rhinos. It was a good experience and I hope that all the conservancy and their partner’s efforts to preserve this species are successful.

Another adventure I embarked upon in March was hiking the Elephant Hill. This hike officially displaced Mount Longonot as the toughest hike of my life. It took about 8 hours to complete and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for reaching the summit.

April

April was a relatively quiet month travel-wise. The Kenyan government introduced a new set of lockdown rules within the country and the rainy season was now in full swing. The only place we managed to go to in April was the Ngong Forest for a fun dog-walking meet-up.

Ololosokuan Nature Trail Hiking with a dog
Blue and I at Ololosokuan Trail

One of the perks of walking your dog in Ngong Forest is that they can be off-leash for the most part. Karura Forest has a dog off-leash area but every time I’m there with Mark and Blue, I’m always worried about Blue running off or bothering other dogs. Since Ngong Forest isn’t nearly as popular for dog walking as Karura, I don’t have to worry too much about him being off-leash.

Anyway, April was a pretty good month regardless and it felt good to spend relaxing weekends at home.

May

May was a great travel month for us as we visited a number of places. Our first stop as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted was Ngong Hills. There, we enjoyed a picnic and a short hike. It was a great outing and once again, I was left impressed by Nairobi’s outdoor spaces.

By mid-May, we returned to Naivasha, this time visiting the Hell’s Gate National Park and camping at Camp Carnelly’s. Soon after we returned from Naivasha, I went hiking again, this time to Kenton and Nathan Hills. The trip was also organized by Winnie and I would place the difficulty level on the same scale as Sleeping Warrior & Ugali Hills.

Camp Carnelly's Camping Ground
Hells Gate National Park Cycling

Later in the month, Mark and I visited Lamu. It was an exciting trip with a lot of rewarding moments. We spent a total of 5 days there, our time spent between Shela, Manda Island and the Old Town. The highlight of the trip for me was the moonlight dhow cruise we went on and the crab claws I had at the Majlis.

Here’s a link to my guide to visiting. I think this turned out to be my article of the year!

June

We didn’t do any travelling in June. So I used that opportunity to get out of the house more, joining Blue and Mark on their daily morning runs in Karura Forest.

July

July began with a spectacular trip to Amboseli National Park. After my Girls’ trip to Uganda and Rwanda got cancelled, I was very excited to be exploring somewhere new.

During the trip, we stayed at the Amboseli Bush Camp which was the highlight for me. The camp had a watering hole right in front of the lounge deck. We saw so many animals come through, we almost didn’t have to go into the park for a game drive. Also, during our bush walk, we tracked and found cheetahs with our Maasai guide. It was equal parts scary and exciting!

August

The highlights of August was getting our new home furnished and getting fully vaccinated against COVID 19. Mark and I had no reactions to the first shot of the vaccine but felt ill after the second. Luckily, our symptoms were not severe and we were both better after a couple of days.

Places for picnics in Nairobi

Towards the end of the month, we visited the Nairobi National Park to enjoy a safari and a picnic in the city.

It was a pretty exciting safari and I certainly recommend it if you live in Nairobi. Also, if you’re visiting the city for a few days and have no plans to travel down to any of the other (bigger) National Parks, the Nairobi National Park may be a great alternative for a safari.

Keep in mind that Safaris are also a thing of luck but the timing of your visit may greatly improve your chances to see something exciting. My guide here gives all the details to help plan your trip.

September

After what seemed like an eternity, our trip to Turkey and belated honeymoon finally happened in September. During this month, we spent 10 wonderful days in Istanbul and Cappadocia and those days were truly magical!

Turkey surpassed every expectation I had of the country and our time there felt special. I would go on and on about our experience but I already have several posts doing just that. You can check them out here. And if you haven’t considered visiting this country, I hope the series of posts I’ve published will help change your mind.

September was also a great month professionally. I finally got a long-awaited promotion, which came right in time for our ‘trip of the year’.

October

In October, we made our way down to Nigeria. Our visit was filled with mixed emotions. First, it was wonderful seeing my family again after more than a year abroad. I also enjoyed indulging in all the Nigerian foods I had missed and spending a day out in the city with my sister.

On the other hand, it was sad to experience the drastic changes in the economy due to the high inflation rate. In addition, our visit coincided with the one year anniversary of the EndSARS protests. It’s hard to put my feelings into words, but a general feeling I had about that was heartbreak. We spent two weeks in Lagos before heading back to Nairobi.

November

I kicked off November with a 3-week stay at the Emara Ole Sereni hotel in Nairobi. I was there to deliver training to some clients from work and it was a very pleasant experience overall. The hotel faces the Nairobi National Park and the best part for me was looking outside my room to see giraffes and buffaloes wandering in the park.

Also in November, while Mark was away in the US, I got to attend my first Kenyan wedding and a thanksgiving dinner hosted by friends. It was a lovely way to wrap up the month.

December

Finally, in December, I got the opportunity to go on a month-long work trip to Kuwait. The schedule has been quite tough but it certainly feels good to be visiting a new country. I hope I get some time to explore it a bit before I leave.

Kuwait City 2021 visit
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

And that’s it for my 2021 Travel with a Pen recap! In the new year, I’ll write more about my time in Kuwait and the other places I plan to visit. I also have some end of the year gigs with noteworthy publications and institutions. I hope they are successful and I will be able to share more about them in the new year.

Thank you again for all the love you show to this blog. As usual, I have enjoyed interacting with each one of you who reads, comments, and interacts with me. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Banana House Shela

I truly hope you have enjoyed reading the articles on my blog this year and I hope that it has provided some sort of inspiration or resource you need to plan your own travels. I would also love to hear about some of your highlights from the year. They don’t have to be travel related. So, please share them with me in the comment section below and remember to Never Stop Exploring!

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