If you’ve read my post reviewing Camps International as a travel organisation then you’ll know about how amazing my month-long trip to Kenya alongside a group of my students was in 2018. The trip was organised by Camps International, however a huge part of it couldn’t have happened without the incredible hospitality and support of Rift Valley Adventures.
Rift Valley Adventures
Established in 2001, Rift Valley Adventures started providing Adventure Training for British Army groups and local school outdoor education trips. Over the years, RVA has become a leading outdoor activity and adventure company providing outstanding trips for thousands of children, and adults on international and local adventures worldwide. Our dedicated and highly trained team of instructors and administrative personnel are set apart by passion for exploration and love for the outdoors.
(Taken from Rift Valley Adventures’ website)
The staff are what really make Rift Valley Adventures and I couldn’t fault them at all during our time at Forest Camp near Ethi Village. There were three main team members that we worked with whilst we were there – Nickson and Sammy, who led us on the mountain trek, and Richie, who was responsible for a different trekking group on the mountain but did a lot with us whilst at camp. Nickson no longer works for Rift Valley but is now a freelance guide. You can find out more about what he does here.
From day one they were so helpful and accommodating, making sure that we felt settled – despite the fact that we were thousands of miles away from home, staying with people we’d never met before, and nervous of our impending mountain trek. Some might forget the emotional/mental support needed here but Rift Valley Adventures were exceptionally good at this.
The rest of the team were also brilliant, from the other staff members helping us with activities such as archery to the chefs who cooked such wonderful food – I fell in love with lime pancakes whilst I was over there!
The first task to focus on was creating a strong team – although the students knew each other they weren’t all close enough to be considered friends when we set off on our journey, plus with two schools in one team there was a lot of unfamiliarity within the group. Team building was very prevalent during our first few days at camp, with Rift Valley Adventures planning lots of different activities to help with this. Some of this was focused around project work, but many of them were also smaller activities designed to get us used to each other, such as competitive sports like archery and team quizzes/hunts. It was made sure that we were repeatedly mixed up with new people, meaning that everybody got to know each other during their stay.
As many of us had never ascended a mountain before, a practice trek was important for us to get used to walking together on Kenyan soil. This was also a good indicator of how altitude might affect us, as the Ngare Ndare forest that Forest Camp is situated in is already around 2336m above sea level – far more than what we’re used to in the low coastal region of Essex. The team taught us many things during the trek such as the correct walking formation and how often we should be taking breaks, and it was also another great way to get to know each other. Some issues were identified by doing the practice trek which enabled us to work on those before we were on the mountain for real.
The final part of our preparation for Mount Kenya was to go through our kit as a team. This was the part I found most useful, as the Rift Valley team were so knowledgeable given that they’ve accommodated so many mountain treks previously. They helped us to narrow down what we’d need whilst keeping our kit to just one 60L bag and one 35L rucksack combined, making sure we understood what was immediate (to go in the rucksack) and what could be stored in the 60L bag that would be carried by our designated porter. It turned out that so many things I’d brought along were unnecessary (including a fleece-lined mountain jacket that I’d bought especially for the trip!) but I was so glad that I didn’t have to carry it all.
During this time we also organised which tents we’d be sleeping in and each gained a designated ‘mountain buddy’ who would check on us regularly to make sure we were doing okay. I think this is a great thing to introduce and it was something I saw the students really utilise whilst we were trekking. Generally the advice we were given during this session was sound, and looking back it made all the different whilst we were on the mountain.
The Mount Kenya Trek
The five day Mount Kenya trek was the biggest part of our stay with Rift Valley Adventures, and to be responsible for an entire group of students and teaching staff is no easy feat. There wasn’t a time that I didn’t feel in safe hands whilst we were up there, and it was clear that the team knew exactly what they were doing.
As mentioned before, Nickson and Sammy were our group leaders. Both brought different things to the dynamic – Sammy went out of his way constantly to make sure that everyone in the team felt okay and supported, and Nickson’s understanding of the local area and the nature within it was incredible. He was truly a fountain of knowledge, teaching us things from survival skills that we needed whilst there to points of interest – how to identify where different animals had been, what certain plants were, and all sorts of other things. Even in thick fog he was able to navigate us to our destination, and with the amount of times he’s scaled Mount Kenya I wouldn’t be surprised if he could do the entire trek blindfolded!
Despite the difficulty of the trek, from altitude sickness to general lack of willpower, the Rift Valley team were there every step of the way to help us achieve our final goal of summiting Point Lenana. We honestly couldn’t have done it without them – not just due to their support on the mountain but also the preparation they provided us with beforehand.
Rift Valley Adventures accommodate all sorts of trekkers – not just school expeditions – and I completely recommend them as a great choice for those of you that want to scale the beautiful Mount Kenya. If I were to trek the mountain again (which I will, one day) then without a doubt they’ll be my first choice!
Have you ever done a mountain trek before? If not, which mountain do you want to do first? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!
You can read some of my other travel experience reviews here: