Dr. Nandini Chakraborty, Leicester, United Kingdom
As Bengalis settled in the UK, we are like the millions of ‘probashi’s who yearn for those few days a year when we meet with our parents who still live in Kolkata. Our daughter gets to meet her grandparents for those two weeks a year. It was in 2014 when we decided on a plan. We are avid travellers. Why not take the grandparents with us? Meeting up need not be only in Kolkata. This was we would continue to see new countries and spend time together at one go. So, China it was in 2014, Sri Lanka in 2017, Bangladesh in February 2019 and Kenya in July 2019.
Let me share a few logistics. There are two angles to this article- tips for an African safari and how to arrange trips for UK and Indian passport holders together.
For the latter:
- We try and select places which are shorter journeys for our parents from India, so that it is less strenuous for them. Countries closer to India or midway between India and UK are good choices.
- Visas need to be practically easy for both UK and Indian passport holders. E-visa or visa on entry are the best. Since I do all the planning and processing independently, taking on local tour companies where needed, I prefer it where I can do most of the work online myself.
- Of course, with three generations together, a lot of homework needs to go into selecting a place that will appeal to all tastes in terms of sights to see, culture to be experienced and food to be enjoyed.
Specifics for Kenya:
- Being a prime tourist spot, numerous airline fly to Nairobi. It was easy to co-ordinate Emirates flights so that we met up in Dubai. More time to spend together!
- There are plenty of tour operators in Kenya and I would suggest picking one from TripAdvisor. Have never regretted my choice there.
- To make it less hectic for our parents, I decided to stick to two national parks- Masaai Mara and Amboseli- instead of doing the usual circuit. Hence, we gave ourselves time to catch up with jet lag for one night at Nairobi, returned for a night in between transfer between the parks and then had another night before the flight back home. For the nights at Nairobi, I booked an apartment through Booking.Com. It was a wide spacious home away from home, with a cosy kitchen and a supermarket nearby within a residential area. We even managed to cook ‘khichdi’ on our last night with ingredients bought at the supermarket. It was a tiny glimpse into city life in Nairobi and shopping with the locals.
- Kenya allows visa on arrival for both British and Indian nationals. However, to play it safe, I applied for e-visas which are straightforward. Be careful of which site you are applying for though. The price is around $50. If you are being charged more, it means it is a ‘middleman site’ which is pretending to be official. At the end they are simply taking your details and applying to the Kenyan visa authorities. There is absolutely no need and no advantage in applying through a middle-man. In fact, there was a slight delay in my mother’s visa being approved. All I had to do was to ring a number and it was sorted. I must admit that in India we do get into a habit of letting agents do our work for us but in this day and age, with the internet at hand- there is no need.