Travelling like a local in Kenya

When we travel to new places we try our best to understand the people, the way they think, the way they act and the way they live. I find that one of the best ways to meet people in a new country is to travel like they do. It might take longer, it might be uncomfortable, but it’s a time when you’re likely to have the most memorable (sometimes for both postive and negative reasons) travelling experiences.

After the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference in Nairobi, Vicky and I needed to get to the Masai Mara somehow. At first we were given two options: fly or take a private road transfer. Most foreigners who come to Kenya travel like this – mainly because of speed, convenience and safety. The problem with those options is simple: price. They are very expensive.

After a bit of investigating we discovered that you travel by bus as well – for about 100th of the price. So, ready for a RealLife Kenyan travel experience, we hopped on a bus in Nairobi and headed for the Mara. The first leg of the journey was pretty comfortable – with air conditioning, reclining seats and free water.

Travelling like a local Kenya Nairobi Narok Bus

But when I tried to put on my seatbelt I started to realise why people take the more expensive travel options…

Faulty Seatbelt Kenya Bus

At least I could charge my laptop during the trip..well, sort of ;):

Plug Bus Kenya

On the way out of Nairobi I was surprised to see a local game of cricket. I guess that part of British culture has clearly remained since Kenyan independence!

Cricket in Nairobi, Kenya

I was also surprised to see temples and so many green parks throughout the city. When I first arrived the Westgate Mall saga was still ongoing and I wasn’t too keen on leaving my hotel during the conference. This was my first taste of Nairobi – and I liked it.

Temple in Nairobi Kenya

As we left the city the landscape started to change – it became a lot drier and less developed. One thing that I’ve really noticed since coming here is the amount of action you see at the side of the roads: street sellers, markets, matatus (the local taxi vans here) and so many people walking to their next destination or just hanging out. It fascinated this little guy too:

Cute kid in Kenya

About an hour out of the city the Rift Valley suddenly sprang into view – it’s an amazing sight. So vast and seemingly never-ending.

Rift Valley Kenya

Rift Valley Kenya

Every now and then we were treated to an eyeful of colour as we passed through little towns and villages,

Colourful village Rift Valley Kenya

Travellers Inn Pub Rift Valley Kenya

and began to understand a little better how people make their livings here – through commerce:

Shops Pubs Rift Valley Kenya

and agriculture:

Cattle Herders Rift Valley Kenya

Wheat fields in the Rift Valley KenyaWhen we arrived at Narok we had to change on to our next mode of transport: the talek star. And then the fun began…

The Talek Star - travelling like a local in Kenya

We arrived a little late and the only remaining seats were on the back row. Why you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s the bumpiest place on the whole bus. And you get to share it with numerous boxes of vegetables and whatever else might be being transported that day.

Back Seat Bus Kenya

With reggae music blasting out of the speaker next to my right ear we set off for our final destination: Talek. I was warned that the ride might be a little rough but nothing prepared us for what lay ahead. Four hours of the bumpiest (and noisiest) ride imaginable:

We even had a puncture and had to get off the bus for 45 minutes. But it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t have changed that journey for anything (I don’t know about Vicky but I think she agrees!). The chats we had with the people on the bus, the changes in landscape and the things we saw were unforgettable.

Masai Mara National Reserve

During the journey we were told that the normal road had been washed out. So we had to take an unexpected detour through the Masai Mara National Reserve – our first game drive was on the back of a local bus! It was a little strange to see our first wild zebras and giraffes scattering as we shot past with what had now become hip-hop blasting out of that one speaker next to my head…

Zebras Masai Mara National Reserve

Giraffe Masai Mara National Reserve

We arrived a lot later than we would have done in a private vehicle or a plane, and with a lot more back pain. But it was all worth it!

The Talek Star - travelling like a local in Kenya


  1. i am a kenyan living in oklahoma, i found your article quite interest, excellent job.

    • Hi jared, it’s great that you liked our article. Thanks for the comment. Greetings from Greece!

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