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Journey to the Jade Sea

Where to next?


There's a long story behind this trip – isn’t there always with our holidays?

The saga started last autumn when we booked a tour of Eritrea through a British company called Undiscovered Destinations who offer tours to... yes, you guessed it: 'undiscovered' destinations.

To cut a long story, the Eritrea trip was booked for February this year, but despite applying to the Embassy in the middle of November, we did not receive our Eritrean visas in time to be able to take the trip. Having bought a non-refundable, non-transferable flight (separate from the tour in Eritrea), we were unable to reclaim any of that cost: £1800 down the drain. "Gulp!" As for the land arrangements in Africa, we advised Undiscovered Destinations (UD for short, although David cheekily suggested that they should be abbreviated as “UnDis”) that we would like them to hold on to our money until we could pick another ('undiscovered') destination for later in the year.

A few weeks later we had chosen another holiday: travelling to Burundi in September; and accordingly booked a couple more flights. This time the visa application looked straightforward and dependable. Adventure travel, by sheer nature of its name, is however rarely that uncomplicated. What we didn't count on was civil unrest. Mere days after we had booked, the country's president announced he was going to stand for a third term in office, an unconstitutional and unpopular move. His opponents revolted, many people were killed or injured in the violent clashes that ensued, and an excess of 100,000 people fled the country. The Foreign Office changed their travel advice to “Amber Warning” and suggested that “If you don’t have an essential reason to stay in Burundi, you should leave as soon as the opportunity arises to do so safely.”


OK, so maybe Burundi isn't such a good idea either. Back to square one. I suddenly had a flash of inspiration: perhaps we can use the first leg of the flights we have already booked (London – Nairobi, missing out on the Nairobi – Burundi part) and arrange a trip in Kenya? The theory was good, and UD were able to put together a fabulous itinerary in Kenya to fit in with our flight dates. Reality, unfortunately is rarely so straight forward. Kenya Airways (as most airlines) will not allow you to use just one portion of a flight. By not taking the Nairobi – Burundi section we would be classed as a “no-show” and they would cancel the remainder of the flights. Oh. Although disappointed that my brainwave wasn't going to come to fruition, I guess it is better to find that out at this stage rather than if we try to board the plane in Nairobi for our homeward flight and find we've been bumped off it.

At this point I cannot sing the praises of UD enough: none of this was due to any failing or wrongdoing on their part. Having booked the flights separately, not through them, they could have said “tough luck” when we didn't get the visas for Eritrea; same with the FCO warnings for Burundi. They didn't. They offered us a full refund, or the funds transferred to another tour both times. I really want to travel with this company as their customer service to date has been exceptional; plus they have so many exciting looking destinations in their brochure for future trips. So I took a another deep breath and yet again booked two more flights (this is getting a little repetitive and expensive) so that we can do their Kenya itinerary.


Once more UD showed what a top-notch company they are: in order to make up for some of the money we lost from the forfeited flights, they very kindly offered us £400 off this trip plus a voucher for a further £400 off any future holidays we book through them. Considering no part of this has been their fault whatsoever, I think that is extraordinarily good customer service.


Undiscovered Destinations Website in case you want to check them out

So, we now find ourselves preparing for a bespoke trip to Kenya. When most people envisage holidays in Kenya, their first thoughts are usually a safari (been there, done that) or an Indian Ocean beach resort (been there, done that), but not UD. The hint is in their brand name. Here is how they describe this 'pioneering' trip on their website:

“On this trip we venture to the little visited northern regions, an arid land home to a number of different ethnic groups including the Samburu, Gabbra, El Moro and Rendille, all of whom adhere to very traditional and unique ways of life. We explore the haunting Chalbi Desert, an ocean of volcanic sand where only the toughest species survive; and continue to the mighty Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world. Here we find the El Molo, who hunt the hippos and giant crocodiles that they share their home with. This tour offers travellers the chance to explore parts of Kenya which see very few visitors, giving a glimpse into ways of life that have disappeared in most parts of the world.

Having since researched the places we are visiting and read other travellers' blogs about their sojourns in the area, the prospect of this trip fills me with a healthy mix of trepidation, exhilaration, apprehension, and excitement.

Bring it on!


Posted by Grete Howard 05:46 Archived in Kenya

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So impressed with what you say about this company's customer service. I'll be interested to hear what you make of the actual tour and will certainly check out their website

by Sarah Wilkie

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