Vacation Report : AIP (ish) on Safari in Kenya

The Great Rift Valley – Kenya
I got home on Wednesday from a 5 day trip to Kenya and it was amazing!
I spent my junior and senior high days in Kenya, so it was great to be back home.

I traveled with three friends – we went on safari, we saw the animals and the sights & we visited my high school.
For 2 of the nights, we stayed in this really cool ‘tent.’ It was at a luxury tented camp, which basically means that they make you feel like you’re sleeping in a tent, but it was a 5 star hotel. These ‘tents’ had full bathrooms, beautiful beds, hardwood floors, carpets, electricity, and proper roofs over them. The hotel staff came around each evening and closed the flaps on the the windows, put hot water bottles in the beds and pulled down the mosquito nets (for the real safari feel).

This hotel also offered 5-star service on everything. The staff was welcoming and friendly (as Kenyans generally are), there were fires to sit around in the evening, beautiful landscaping with birds and the occasional small animal. . . and it was all right inside the Maasai Mara game park, so as soon as you were out the gate the animals were waiting to be spotted.

On our game drives we saw elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, zebra, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, warthog, ostrich, gazelles, hippo, crocodile and more.
BUT, the elephant in the room that you’re all wondering about. . .
how did I do following the AIP diet while on safari? 
Here are some things to keep in mind before you read on about my experiences:
(1) I’ve been AIP for 18 months
(2) I’ve figured out that some foods are triggers for me, but lifestyle factors (sitting too much, not getting enough sleep, and stress) are bigger triggers.
(3) I have successfully reintroduced eggs (although I rarely eat them still), green beans, dark chocolate and black pepper. Most of the time I’m ok with seed based spices and I seem to be able to handle the occasional white rice and limited amounts of nuts (cashews are still a BIG NO).
(4) I know that I can eat the occasional white potato (if I have to). It causes some pain, but not the inflammation that other nightshades and sugar and wheat all still cause.
Before going on vacation I made these decisions:
(1) I was going to relax and have fun.
(2) I took some ’emergency rations’ (tuna, etc.) but didn’t want to eat them unless I had to.
(3) I was going to enjoy the trip – including the food – but I wasn’t going to rush head first into the dessert table on the buffet.
(4) I was going to stay basically paleo, but I wasn’t going to stress out. My non-negotiables were no GLUTEN or DAIRY.
This sign at the hotel made me laugh and reminded me of the importance of watching our diet. . . and remembering that food choices can be dangerous for us and those around us. 🙂
Here are some of my food highlights from the trip:
  • On the airplane I ordered the ‘raw vegetarian meal’ – on the way there is was a fruit platter and the way back was fruit and veggies (but tomato heavy…so most was left on the tray). I also munched on a few beetroot chips that I brought with me and some dark chocolate.
  • Throughout the trip I ate more fruit than I do at home, simply because it was abundant and an easy way to stay somewhat compliant.
  • I was reminded that one of the great things about traveling to less developed places is that they typically ‘just eat real food.
  • Being in Africa, a lot of the traditional dishes that the hotel offered were made with plantain, cassava, arrowroot and sweet potato. . . so that was fun and compliant (although a couple of the dishes had a few red beans mixed in).
  • I was also pleasantly surpised to find lots of veggies and grilled meat and fish at every meal (including breakfast)
  • My biggest hotel tip is to talk to the chef and ask them for help. I just told the chef I was gluten and dairy free and he came up with some great options for me (not always AIP and some not even paleo, but they worked).
These were my hotel breakfasts: Omelets with onion and mushroom, steak, sweet potato, steamed arrowroot, bacon, sauteed kale and fruit.
For lunches we had hotel packed boxes and the chef created gluten/ dairy options for me. I got steak, chicken legs, apples, rice flour pancakes and almond flour cakes. I mainly ate the meat and fruit and just munched on the ‘treats’ a bit.
Dinners were my favorite. On this particular night I had a salad with smoked salmon, a little rice, some panfried fresh caught local tilapia, carrots, green beans and a little bit of a plantain, sweet potato and red bean mash. Other nights there were more veggies, steaks, other fish, etc. And one night there was a dairy free pudding that I enjoyed a few bites of.
As far as food was concerned, the highlight for me was getting back to the basics and remembering the importance of REAL FOOD.

On the final day of the trip, we went to visit friends who work at an orphanage in Kenya called Naomi’s Village. {side note – they are doing excellent work and if you’re looking to sponsor a child or support work like this they’d be a good group to partner with.} They live in the town of Kijabe which is where the high school I attended is located and this is their ‘farmer’s market.’ These ladies grow these fruits and veggies in their shambas (gardens) and bring them here to sell.

Their produce was beautiful – onion, cabbage, kale, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, butternut, zucchini, green beans, fresh peas, cucumber, avocado, banana, mango, oranges, etc.

Seeing these ladies selling their produce reminded me of the difference between most of the world (real food) and the highly processed western diet and I was thankful to have grown up around all this beautiful food.

Back when I lived in Kijabe, these ladies (like Teresa below) would come up to the school campus early on Saturday morning and come dorm to dorm selling produce. My friends and I would buy an onion, a couple tomatoes, a sweet potato and a few eggs and make ourselves an amazing brunch instead of going to the dining hall. It’s great to know that 20 years later, Teresa and the other ladies are still going strong growing and selling their beautiful produce.

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