Feb 132015

Driver had dropped me off at the airport for my flight, and check-in was quick. Before heading through security, a quick shot of the bustling Hahaya International Airport in Comoros.


The waiting area was just one big room, but some great views onto the tarmac. Not the best shot, but a Ukrainian military helicopter…because that’s not all sorts of random in Comoros!


While we were waiting for the flight, it was also prayer time. The shot below shows how slick the floors look…nice and shiny. Which was great, until people went to the washroom to wash their feet before praying, and then headed into the waiting area to pray. Witnessed one guy slip, land flat on his back, and paramedics had to come and take him away. Rather unfortunate start to the day! You can see in the photo below just how small the airport is. Yes, this is the entire departures area.


Soon, the plane arrived right on time and it was time to board!

East Africa Safari Express flight 542
Hahaya, Comoros (HAH) to Mombasa, Kenya (MBA)
Depart 14:00, Arrive 15:30, Flight Time 90 minutes
Canadair CRJ-100, Registration 5Y-BXD, Manufactured 1994, Seat 1A

Flight was open seating, so I made a dash for the aircraft in order to try and get the bulkhead. Parked myself in 1B, and knowing from the check-in agent it was booked to 38 of 50 made sure to take up as much space as possible so as to make the seat next to me look undesirable 😉 It worked, and I ended up with both seats to myself for the short 80 minute or so flight.

Small snackbox was offered, and I decided to eat the muffin and apple (I don’t do sketchy room temperature sandwiches). Still, gotta give them credit for giving everyone a free snack! Beverages were offered, which were coke or juice. I decided to stick with water.


Disembarking in Mombasa. Nothing says “sketchy” like a solid white plane with no identifying marks on it!


Welcome to Mombasa!


Quite a long walk along the tarmac to the arrivals door, maybe 200-300 meters or so, passing a large Ethiopian jet on the way:


I was prepared for the $50 Kenya visa on arrival, but due to the fact I was only staying 24 hrs they approved a $20 transit visa instead. Saving money is always a good thing! Outside departures there were plenty of taxis, with a price list posted, so there was no scamming going on here. I’d had a difficult time deciding where to stay, and originally had planned the Serena Hotel since it looked like the most upscale option, but then I saw the Voyager Resort which was not only $100 cheaper, but also billed itself as an all-inclusive resort. I thought that was a Caribbean-only concept, so had to book it just to see!

The taxi price was 1300 Kenyan Shillings, approximately $14, and the driver told me prices were based on distance. 100 shillings per kilometer of driving. Talk about honest! It was about 30 minute driver, and my driver was fantastic. Talked about life in Mombasa, how things were safety wise etc. He was a safe driver and really nice guy, and before dropping me off I asked if he’d like to come back the next day to pick me up. He was happy to, and asked not to be paid until he’d done his job. I was impressed! It was 1300 one way, but in the end I gave him 3000 for the roundtrip based on his honesty, efficiency, and for making things easy for me.

Check in was nice, cold towel and juice offered, and I noticed the hotel had a rather corny nautical theme. Signs like “enjoy your voyage!” and referring to the groupings of rooms as “decks.” Hah! The room was clean and cool, but unfortunately the internet didn’t work in my room…it seemed to be in a dead spot. They informed me there were no other rooms available, so this was pretty disappointing. It was soon forgotten, however, when I went to the pool for a swim and to enjoy an “all-inclusive” drink. Tusker Lager on draft:


One of the several pools at the resort:


Unfortunately I was one day late. Sunday was “Swahili Day” at the resort…I would have loved to see their take on Hawaiian Day…not to mention a disco party!


Oh, there was also one bottled beer on offer as part of the all-inclusive…not good, but not awful…


The hotel seemed to be absolutely packed with German tourists, and everywhere I went I heard German being spoken. The next day when departing, there was a flight to Frankfurt leaving from the airport, so my guess is that German travel agencies arrange trips to Mombasa. It’s funny how every country seems to have its resort destinations, and for some reason Mombasa seemed to be popular with the Germans.

View from my room:


After sunset, it was time to head to the restaurant for dinner. It was buffet, and I was pretty surprised just how limited the offerings were. There was plenty of food, but definitely not a super wide variety. Part of it was probably that it was Swahili night and many of the options did not look very appetizing, but even beyond that it just felt limited in choice. This was made up for, however, by a reasonably drinkable (hey, I’m used to United Airlines, ok?) red wine that was provided with a fair amount of refills. The staff seemed a bit overworked, however, and as a result a bit cold and distant.

It had been a long day, so ended up crashing right after dinner so I could could continue my journey in the morning!

Mar 022012

Initially, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to blog this trip.  After 108 countries, it felt really odd to me to do what is a bit of a stereotypical trip, and just head to a Caribbean beach resort, more or less park yourself there, and enjoy the sun, camaraderie, and cocktails.  But then again, reflecting on what an absolutely amazing trip it was…how could I not!  I’ll try and make this post an appropriate blend of airline geekery, resort reviews, and…well, everything else!

In honesty, I had no idea how to prepare for this trip.  Even after being to 108 countries, it was going to be a very new experience for me in a lot of ways.  I’m used to hopping from country to country, taking in new places.  I’m not used to parking at a resort, not planning much of anything…and just seeing what the day(s) bring.  I have to admit, it was a great experience, and I can’t wait to repeat it.  There are still several more countries in the Caribbean I need to visit, so…

Fast forward to the first flights.  Everyone had beaten me down there by a day (boo work!) so I decided to get down asap, and that meant taking the Jersey Shore express.  There was a fantastic fare which guaranteed instant upgrade on United (dba Continental) and I booked it and we were off!

ExpressJet Flight 4327 (for Continental)
Washington National (DCA) to Newark (EWR)
Depart 6:30, Arrive 7:40
Embraer ERJ-145, Registration N17984, Manufactured 2000
Seat 2A

Not terribly much if anything to say on this flight. We took off in the freezing cold 5 minutes early, landed almost 20 minutes early, and the connection at Newark was incredibly early. I think I attempted to do the crossword on the flight, but sleep definitely won out. Nothing to say, but move on to the next flight:

Continental Flight 1514
Newark (EWR) to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)
Depart 9:22, Arrive 14:17
Boeing 737-800, Registration N33262, Manufactured 2001
Seat 1B

When I booked nearly a month out, I was surprised to find only one first class seat for sale…and soon I found out why. I was on the Jersey Shore Express, with a group of 12 guys headed down there for a bachelor party soon to be followed by a wedding. It may have been 9am, but that didn’t stop this group from drinking the plane absolutely dry by the time we landed. Ok, I admit, in the last hour I tucked into the Continental secret stash that most people don’t know about – the pre-mixed margaritas. Also, coincidentally, the only alcohol left on the plane. 😉 Crew was great dealing with a very raucous group of passengers, and soon we’d landed. Unfortunately, the meal was so unmemorable I couldn’t tell you anything about it…but as fast as the flight went by that’s probably a good thing!

Upon arrival, it was a circus like I’ve never seen. I’ve dealt with some pretty messy immigration systems that give you the run around in an attempt to extract “happy weekend money” or the like, but this was just like a mass orchestrated ATM. Get in line here, pay your “tourist card” fee there, no smiles, stamp through with no questions…it just felt like they were milking the tourists, and it wasn’t honestly a great introduction. Thanks to a friend, I’d pre-arranged a taxi to the resort which was a good thing since it seems pretty much everyone arrives here as part of a package tour. They’re just not used to independent travelers showing up. More on that later!

Soon, we arrived at the Gran Bahia Principe Resort. Check-in was easy, the “all-inclusive” wristband was applied, and it was time for a bit of fun! First, some shots of the property:

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