Sisters-in-law Donna Boyett and Phyllis Boyett Johnson made the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya and Egypt in mid-January 2022.
Donna and Phyllis had previously traveled together to Alaska with Brian Montalbo, a photographer, travel guide, and owner of Beyond Adventures, based in Alaska. Brian was able to accommodate them on this adventure as well, since he visits Kenya two times a year. Donna and Phyllis requested they make a pit stop in Egypt, and Brian happily agreed.
Donna and Phyllis were the only two guests on this safari, originally expecting six others to join them. These six individuals decided not to travel, believed to be because of COVID-19 concerns.
The pair left Reidsville on January 18 and headed to the Atlanta International Airport, with Kenya as their first destination. They both had always wanted to visit these two places and were overjoyed to make the trip, with much preparation and two 50-pound suitcases.
In a twist of events, Donna left her passport on her copy machine at home… in Reidsville. In addition, the pair forgot their COVID-19 negative test results, but they solved that issue by getting a rapid test near the airport.
Thankfully, Donna’s granddaughter, Sarah Beth Boyett, was able to meet her in Milledgeville with the documents. Donna quickly turned around and b-lined back to Atlanta.
Phyllis proceeded with her travels, flying through the Netherlands. Donna returned to the airport, only four hours behind schedule, and purchased a new flight ticket going through Paris.
“I had no documentation or information for the Paris airport,” Donna said. “Thankfully, a lady at Delta Airlines took my phone and helped me fill out my documentation for the flight to Paris… I do not speak French, and no one spoke English. I finally found where I needed to go in the airport and had some time to spare.”
Another challenge Donna had to navigate by herself — which bathroom sign meant ‘women’ or ‘men’. After playing a guessing game, she found herself face-to-face with a Texan man who also had no clue which bathroom was for him.
The beginning of their trip started with many interesting turns of events and will make for funny stories that they will tell for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully, Donna was able to make it to Kenya while only missing one night of sleep, but they had a mighty large itinerary for the coming days.
First on the ‘to-do’ list for their 13 days in Kenya was to visit an elephant orphanage. While there, they adopted a bowlegged elephant, Rojo, for one year.
“We felt bad for little Rojo, since he had some issues with his leg,” Phyllis said.
Lions, hyenas, leopards, impalas, water buffalos, zebras, giraffes, and hippos also accompanied them on their safaris throughout the two weeks there. Most tourists do not see leopards when visiting Kenya, but Donna and Phyllis saw one on their first day and two more later in the trip.
Brian and his co-worker and owner of Perfect Wilderness Safaris, George, were great guides and gave the ladies worksheets to fill out so they could keep up with what animals they saw. They were amazed when they saw a giraffe that was just a few hours old, as well as the birth of a wildebeest.
In addition, they saw five of the eight existing Tuskan Elephants, including the largest Tuskan, Craig, who was seen in front of the famous Mount Kilimanjaro.
“Donna did not know what Mount Kilimanjaro was,” Phyllis said. “She had believed that it was the name of an elephant the entire time, so it was funny seeing her realize that it was a volcano.”
Donna also discovered a rare black, white, and red bug by sitting on it, nicknaming it ‘Tickimanjaro’. The sisters-in-law are not sure of this bug’s real name, but Donna decided that was the name of it.
They enjoyed the beautiful weather despite the bugs. While there was no electricity at night and no air conditioning, they were treated to hot water at their lodges.
The lodges that they stayed in were comfortable despite the occasional disruption of a baboon bursting in the dining room. The primates are extremely smart and love to open doors and steal a meal.
The pair enjoyed learning how Kenyans live. They have healthy food options but no plastic products.
“Kenyans are such hard workers,” Donna said. “They are so proud of what they have… everything is so clean. They are happy and appreciate the tourism.”
The ladies then flew four hours to Egypt. Little did they know, people who stay in Kenya for over ten days have to receive a yellow fever vaccination.
“Brian was vaccinated against yellow fever, so he was good to go,” Donna said. “We told the young man at the airport that we would get the vaccination when we get to Egypt, and he said, ‘no travel.’ Well, later, he spoke to his manager and came back and said that we could travel since we were over 50 years old. For once, being a senior citizen was helpful!”
After getting past another bump in the road, Donna and Phyllis were able to plant their feet on Egyptian soil. Their hotel had a beautiful rooftop view of two pyramids.
“The view was awesome,” Phyllis said.
One of their most notable experiences was a tour on the inside of two pyramids, one being in Memphis, the first capital of Egypt and where the first pyramid was built. They also toured the Museum of Civilization, viewing some of the mummies that have been discovered so far.
They had dinner on the Nile in Cairo, and the next day rode camels for 30 minutes. Their camels were connected by a rope, with Donna’s camel leading. Donna and Phyllis were both sore the next day from the camel rides.
The sisters-in-law took in so much culture while traveling, especially to Egypt.
“We met such beautiful people,” Donna said. “I spoke with a Muslim man on the plane ride there. It was interesting to hear about why he was Muslim and about their traditions. I learned this: you will find aggravating people all over the world,
and you will find good people all over the world.”
Donna does not recommend staying in Egypt for more than a few days. The ladies traveled home over a total of 30 hours, landing in Georgia on February 4, with tired and satisfied hearts.
“Once we did everything we had planned to do, we were ready to come home,” Phyllis said. “It was a great trip. We were happy we went the route we did.”