Kenya Lodges: Maasai Mara and Amboseli

Mara Serena Lodge

Mara Serena Lodge in Maasai Mara was the most unique hotel I’ve ever stayed at. I loved how vibrant the lobby and rooms were, it reminded me of The Flintstones. This was my favorite place to stay out of all of the lodges because it was elevated at a very high point with a view of the safari below. It was like the whole lodge was a viewing deck.

I enjoyed how the animals could come close to my balcony. There was no barrier between us and the safari, so animals could roam up to the lodge. I was informed not to leave my doors open because Baboons come in and steal your stuff. The first day I was there, I was looking out my window when I saw a bunch of baboons rush out of the room next to me with fruit in their hands. I laughed so hard because it was such a unique thing to see.

The restaurant was nice and always had buffet style like all of the lodges I stayed at. This restaurant had the best options of food. At night, I drank cocktails and wine by the bar lounge with live music played by a wonderful Kenyan musician.

The pool was amazing because you could just lounge, tan, and look out to the horizon. I would definitely recommend staying here if you are traveling to Maasai Mara.

 

 


Sarova Mara Game Camp

We drove 8 hours through Maasai Mara to get to this camp. It had glamping tents, a nice pool, and restaurant. The room was cozy with a wooden roof, sides made of tent, and a zipper as a door. At night I would hear the sound of animals but it was quite relaxing.

The restaurant was very large and had a great buffet spread. The camp grounds were spacious and beautiful. The entire camp had a barrier around it to keep wild animals out. I could see the clear difference between the greenery within the walls of the camp, and the desert-like land separated by the fence. This was because the grass and plants were able to grow without animals grazing through them.


Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge

We took a flight from Maasai Mara to Nairobi and drove for 6 hours to get to Amboseli. This lodge was near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. This lodge had red as its theme, which really fit the dry land that surrounded it. The pool area was relaxing and was near a viewing point where you could see animals grazing just nearby. The rooms were relaxing and well equipped.

I spent my last night in Kenya here and enjoyed the afternoon by drinking wine by the pool and watching the animals.

Julia Quisumbing

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Bangkok | Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn

When you go to Bangkok, it is necessary that you see one of the large temples. It was my first time to visit the city, so I decided to go to Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn.

There is an entrance fee of THB 50 per person and the temple is open daily from 8:30am – 5:30pm. To enter a temple in Thailand, men and women must cover their shoulders and knees. I was very comfortable in my outfit and glad it went well with the style and architecture of the temple. Click here to read more about my outfit of the day.

Wat Arun is situated by Chao Phraya River. The tall structure was easy to walk around because it wasn’t very wide. You could go up one of the staircases and walk around the structure at a higher level. There were also stairs going up to the top of the temple, but sadly it was barred off during my visit. The stairs were steep which made the temple look more tall and narrow. Overall, Wat Arun was beautiful and uniquely made. I’d love to get up early one day before sunrise, sit across the river, and see why it’s called “Temple of Dawn”. I’m guessing it lights up beautifully by the sun. It is also nice to walk over to the Chao Phraya River, grab a boat to the other side, and have lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants with the beautiful view of Wat Arun.

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My boyfriend, Gui, thought we should look around to see what more we could find. We stumbled upon a smaller temple while walking through the grounds of Wat Arun. We were pleasantly surprised with rows of golden Buddha. The visual symmetry was pleasing and created a calm ambiance. There were Buddhist Monks walking around, cleaning, and taking care of the temple. The center of the temple had a large structure surrounded by statues of beasts and pillars with touches of gold everywhere.

I enjoyed our little discovery and our time at Wat Arun. I’ve always seen this temple on flight promotions and in photos of Thailand so I am happy to have visited it.

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Julia Quisumbing

Palawan | The Crystal Clear Lakes in Coron

There is one place in the world that never ceases to amaze me – Palawan. It is the ultimate tropical escape. I love all areas of Palawan but Coron has always drawn my attention because of it’s two crystal clear fresh water lakes that hide behind tall rock formations, Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake.

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Barracuda Lake is every free-diver’s dream because it plummets from the surface following the beautiful walls of rock to dark depths. The fresh water allows your body to sink quickly like you were wearing weights. See my video below or click here to see how easily I sink in Barracuda Lake. The air in my lungs help me float but once I release air slowly I gradually sink faster and faster. The underwater video and photos were taken with my GoPro Hero 4.

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It’s great to snorkel in the area and even better to scuba dive. It feels as if you were exploring the moon. There are also these cute little flute fish that stroll past you when you’re in the water.

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After the underwater adventure, it’s nice to grab a life jacket and float out to the deeper end to get a 360 view of the entire lake. This is where I like to lay back and relax. It’s fun in a scary way not knowing exactly what is below you. Since they say there are Barracuda in the lake, don’t wear anything shiny because they might think you are the silvery fish that they prey on. Well, I’ve worn shiny things in that lake before but nothing has happened to me, yet!

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To get to Barracuda lake you take a short wooden staircase up and through the rock formations. Kayangan Lake is a higher hike, just a 5-10 minute walk up the steep mountain where you can take a beautiful shot of the view from the top, then climb down to the lake.

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Each lake has a wooden walkway for people to sit, hang out, or put their things while in the water. This site leaves you feeling relaxed and full of wonder. Even though you know many people come to this lake every day, it still seems like you have just discovered one of the most incredible places in the world.

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Coron Tour Tip:

Book a banka boat tour and make sure your package consists of Barracuda Lake, Kayangan Lake, Black Island, and one of the sunken shipwrecks. If you have to choose between lakes, I suggest making Barracuda Lake your top priority. It’s definitely worth it! Before getting on the boat, rent fins and masks with a snorkel because you’re going to want to see the beauty beneath the surface.

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Fresh Food from the Wet Market

During your day tour, you’ll need to take a break for lunch. There won’t be any restaurants on the islands so head to the wet market in Coron Town before boarding your boat. Buy fresh seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables. I always like getting Crab, Prawns, Fish, Pork (Liempo), rice, squash, carrots, zucchini, and mango. Buy soy sauce and mix it with Calamansi for a delicious dipping sauce. The boatmen can grill your food at any island you wish to stop at. I usually look out for the white sand beaches with huts and tables. Freshly grilled seafood on a tropical island is the most satisfying way to eat!

Coron Shipwrecks

Once you’re done eating, it’s time for more exploring! I usually head to one of the Coron shipwrecks. There is a shipwreck near Barracuda Lake that is shallow enough for snorkelers to see. If you’d like to go scuba diving, there are deeper and larger shipwrecks to explore in the area.

If you stop by Black Island, there’s a small cave that holds a little pond of water situated behind the beach.

All of the sights and experiences you can have in Coron are mesmerizing and thrilling. I’ve been there several times and it always seems like the photos I have taken or the memories I have never do justice. In my opinion, Palawan is one of the top destinations in the world and I plan to return many times.

Julia Quisumbing

Kenya Safari Trip

I grew up watching Discovery Channel and National Geographic because my dad is a nature freak so I became an animal lover. Going to Kenya was a dream come true! Whatever you think Kenya is like, it’s even better!

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I arrived in Nairobi City and took a shuttle through traffic to the local airport to take my flight to Maasai Mara. I flew out on AirKenya and said goodbye to the city and civilization. It was exciting flying over the vast African land because I could see herds of animals below. I landed on the Mara Serena Air Strip and I got an idea of how the rest of my trip would be as I dragged my luggage through the reddish dusty gravel – wild, free, and covered in dust! My destinations would be Maasai Mara and Amboseli for my Kenyan trip.

Safari

Every day, our guide would take us out on a game drive in our jeep. We would do 2-3 game drives a day; morning and afternoon, always returning to the lodge for a meal. I spent around 10 hours of the day in the jeep, which sounds boring but was actually incredible and exciting. These game drives were my opportunity to see the animals and find the “Big Five”; Elephant, Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion, and Leopard. I felt like I was in a discovery show because I even found the same pride of Cheetahs that were filmed in a documentary on BBC. My favorite moments of the trip was when I’d spot a mother elephant with a very tiny baby. It was amazing to see them together roaming the land for food and water. We were also lucky when we found a Leopard in a tree on our 3rd day, it was such a beautiful and elegant animal. One of the top moments of the safari was when the sun was going down and we found a beautiful pride of lionesses with cubs. The light was no longer harsh and provided a romantic setting for the experience, and I was able to get beautiful shots.

After seeing the big five, my next goal was to see a predator kill an animal. I know it sounds wrong, but in Kenya it’s nature being natural. I saw lions kill a zebra and feed their cubs and pride. There was a drought in the area, almost no plants in sight, and part of this was due to the large amounts of herbivores. The lions are a key part of the ecological balance.

I was happy to discover that Kenya wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be. The mornings and nights were cold and the afternoons were hot. If you plan a trip to Kenya and wonder what clothing to bring, please read my blog “What to Wear in October in Kenya” to get some ideas.

I thought there would be areas where I could walk around in the safari but I was sad to discover that we could never leave the vehicle, our guide said it was dangerous and against rules. I questioned why I couldn’t exit the jeep in an area that seemed open and safe. A moment after I had this thought and as we were driving with no view of animals, a ditch showed up on the side of the road, and inside the ditch was a very large hyena hiding. I thought to myself, “Oh! That’s why.” And realized I probably shouldn’t be strolling around freely here because one bite from that hyena could kill me, and that wasn’t the largest predator out there. We had to return to our lodges before dark in case we came across poachers.

I brought my Canon 70D camera to capture as many animals possible. I wished that my lens was longer and promised myself that the next time I go on a safari in Africa, I would have an extremely long lens and take National Geographic level photos! Instead, I always had binoculars around my neck to get a better view of the animals in action. I can’t imagine anyone going on a safari without binoculars, it would be so frustrating!

The Maasai

While I was in Maasai Mara, I visited a village where families of Maasai lived. As I saw women walking around hunched over carrying pounds of firewood on their backs, I asked the son of the Chief Maasai what the responsibilities of the women were. He told me that they do chores such as cooking and milking, building and maintaining the houses as well as fetching water, collecting firewood, raising the children, milking the cattle and cooking for the family. So then I asked, what the men do and he said they protect the village and deal with trade. At the end of the experience through the village, we were brought to an open area in the back of the houses where the women were sitting on blankets with a spread of Maasai art and accessories for sale.
Not only were the women in charge of everything in the village, they were also in charge of creating products and selling them to create income.
I felt sad to see the men joking, laughing and sitting around while the women were hard at work. There was no balance in genders in this type of community.
As I spoke to some of the Maasai women, I learned of how strong, independent and inspiring they really were with the situation they were born in. I was extremely impressed by them.

Nearing the end of the trip, all of my personal problems and stress seemed to dissipate. Nothing seemed important anymore and I felt extremely relaxed and happy. I never thought that all I needed to have a clear head was to go, see, and experience what real struggle is in the real world – The circle of life.

Julia Quisumbing

Surf’n Siargao

My Dad is a travel nut, meaning he can’t stay sane being in one country or place for 1 month. I trust his taste in travel locations since he’s probably seen about 85% of the world already. He kept raving about Siargao in the Philippines these past few months and I kept wondering why. He said it’s a great surf spot but I thought about how we have La Union and Baler, which are only a 4-hour drive from Manila. I got curious so I told him to plan a family trip to Siargao. He agreed only because there are great birds to photograph there.

To see my travel vlog about Siargao on YouTube please click here.

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We went to Siargao for the weekend on August 24-27, 2017. We stayed at Siargao Bleu Resort. The resort was a great stay and had an amazing pool surrounded by villas. The best part about the pool was the tanning beds in the center. If I would design a pool, it would be just like this, with an extremely deep end of course.

We got there in the morning and were welcomed with coconut water out of the shell freshly opened by the staff. This was by far my favorite welcome drink of all, no added sugar, tropical, and fresh. Most of the trip we spent by the pool just relaxing, drinking wine, and swimming. My boyfriend Gui had a blast taking photos of me (sarcasm). Most boyfriends should be used to that by now with the Instagram era but mine seems to have a hard time adapting. I find it fun to torture him anyways.

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By the pool, I strutted my Mimosa (@mi.mosa.co) black minimalist One-Piece Swimwear with an Under Armour cap.

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The next day, I put on my @meninastyleph_ reversible shibori bikini and went to Cloud 9 to go surfing. I did not have a long-sleeve safe guard top, so I had to borrow a pink one from my Stepmother. That means my total upper body was sun-guarded but my bottom wasn’t. At Cloud 9, we were greeted with very energetic surf instructors. I really liked my instructor because he answered all of my questions very well, was patient and made it fun. Cloud 9 has a very interesting long wooden bridge that goes far out into the ocean. The end of the bridge has a 3-floor viewing dock also made out of wood. You walk to the end, go down the stairs into the water and paddle out to the waves.

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This was my second time to surf; I was able to stand, ride the wave to the end, and was even able to turn with the wave! Once that happened all I thought was, “I want to surf more!” And finally understood why people love it. It’s relaxing, there’s nothing else to think about or to feel except for catching the next one. There were these paddle Boarders with oars that were standing, rowing, and riding waves, which I thought was funny in a cool way. There was even this Australian girl who looked like she was around 7 months pregnant that the locals would call out to as “Mama” and “Watermelon”, and she would respond by smiling humorously. Apparently she had been living there for the past few months. I don’t know how good it is to surf when you’re pregnant but she seemed to know what she was doing. Healthy mind and healthy body means healthy baby. That baby is going to have a good life with a mom like that.

I will definitely be returning to Cloud 9 in the future since the vibe was amazing. You can watch my Siargao Surf and travel video on my youtube channel JuliaQuis.

I don’t know what’s happening lately but the sun definitely feels like it’s getting stronger. During the 2 hours of surfing, I got extremely sunburnt that it actually hurt for a week. That type of pain has never happened to me before. I was a wakeboarder before and I grew up in the Philippines on the beach so it was a shock. My upper body was safe since I was wearing a rash guard but the back of my legs were completely red and sunburnt. My surf-instructor told me not to put any sunblock on my legs since it would make it slippery. I shouldn’t have listened because I was laying on my stomach paddling majority of the time and that was for about 2 hours straight. I had to spend the rest of my Siargao trip in the shade, icing and putting aloe vera. 2 weeks later the back of my legs were peeling! I had to wear pants or jeans everywhere, it was so bad. I’ve learned my lesson with surfing; cover your entire body with 3 layers of sunblock or more! My face was a little sunburnt but I used my trusty face moisturizer, which saved me yet again.

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The second best part of Siargao was the food! There are a lot of foreigners that have bought land, and opened restaurants and resorts. Most restaurants are a fusion of Filipino-European-American. The quality of the dishes tried was a great surprise on this little island in the Philippines. If you want to know where I ate please read, “Where to eat in Siargao”.

I had a great time in Siargao and plan to go back soon, with a lot of sunblock of course!

Julia Quisumbing