When it comes to honeymoon destinations, most people think sandy beaches, exotic island getaways and breathtaking outdoor activities while splashing thousands, at times millions, of shillings along the way.
Not Ronnald Gedion Okoth and his bride Millicent who opted for a rather unique adventure that saw them tour marginalised parts of Northern Kenya to spread the fast-growing game of rugby.
They traversed less travelled paths, enjoying each other’s company.
The not so common honeymoon saw the newlywed couple cover 2,000 kilometres, visit Marsabit, Isiolo, Borana and Lewa where they interacted with over 800 girls and boys while inducting them to the gentleman’s game—rugby—and still had time to enjoy their first month as man and wife.
Ronnald and Millicent’s main agenda was to take the rugby gospel to the marginalised Rendile and Borana communities but they wound up having the adventure of a lifetime, learning a lot about each other and the hidden gem that is northern Kenya.
Ronnald, a rugby referee in the various leagues across Kenya, says that while considering various honeymoon ideas, he thought of combining as many things that he loves as possible, which of course was his wife, rugby and travel.
“It was amazing. It was just the two of us. There was no mobile phone network coverage and I feel that doing that was better than going to the usual honeymoon spots for a short time and not getting to do much before going back to normal life. In Lewa, we would go for swimming at the conservancy’s hotel, we also got to do picnics in the various places we visited and also camping which was a great experience,” Ronnald says.
Millicent says that the idea sounded very unique and interesting when Ronnald first broke his plans down regarding the honeymoon, and it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.
“We have known each other for a long time but we still got to learn new things about each other. For instance, I got to learn why he still loves rugby. For him it is not all about going for games then having drinks afterwards and going home late. He wants to use rugby to help young people in marginalised areas to create a better life for themselves and to inspire their peers,” Millicent says.
On July 4, Ronnald and Millicent got into a Land Rover Defender that had been given to them by African Safaris for their tour, and drove down to their first stop—Isiolo.
In Isiolo they opted to camp near Lebarua School in Leparwa area, where they were conducting coaching clinics.
Here they gave basic rugby and life lessons to over 200 girls and boys.
“Millicent would interact with the children in class, and at break time I would take them through some basic skills sessions. That way we managed to get through to several of them while also learning more about the challenges they and their parents go through daily,” Ronnald says.
The couple then made their way to Lewa, where they stayed in a cottage within the conservancy.
“The conservancy was quite an experience especially the game drive. We saw many wild animals and learnt a lot about them. Perhaps the most interesting was the fact that elephants also get married, and they also bury their dead.”
“We also got to have picnics at the spot where the United Kingdom’s Prince William proposed to his then girlfriend Kate Middleton,” Ronnald says, adding that it was quite unsettling but that is why they opted to camp near the school where they knew they would be safe.
“But it felt like being right in the middle of an action movie of some kind,” Ronnald adds.
After Lewa, Ronnald and his bride hit the road running again with Borana their next destination. Here, they interacted with their largest crowd of children—400 boys and girls.
In Borana, they camped near a school in Lokusero, so as to stay safe. The area is not the most secure part of Kenya, as communities are armed to the teeth and are almost always bickering over cattle.
“For most places that we opted to camp it was mostly because of security concerns. In some instances, we had to get security to help us move around. Like in Lokusero we would hear gunshots from fire exchanges between the Borana and Pokot communities fighting over cattle.”
“In Lokusero, we learnt that children in their early years of primary school not only know about guns but have even specialised in shooting them!” the couple adds. The couple rounded up their trip with Marsabit, where they interacted with close to 200 boys and girls.
The trip also turned into a lesson about culture and the difficulties marginalised communities undergo. While in Borana, the couple learned that locals walk up to 40 kilometres a day to seek basic amenities like food, water and even schools.
“It is definitely something that I would do again with Ronnald, as it was an eye-opener and the experience of a lifetime,” Millicent says.
Basking in post-wedding bliss with an adventure where you do not get to relax is not norm for most Kenyan couples. Travel agents who offer honeymoon packages to newlyweds say most people opt for places where they can rest.
Emily Mwangi, a travel agent at Nairobi-based African Touch Safaris (ATS) Travel, says that most couples are usually exhausted after the wedding which takes a toll on them mentally and physically.
She adds that most people tend to opt for white, sandy beaches.
“Most people are usually tired by the time they get done with the wedding, and they want to get some rest before they get back to the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life. Those who opt for physically draining activities during their honeymoon usually rest for at least a week to allow themselves some recovery time,” Ms Mwangi says.
Another Nairobi-based travel agent, Robinson Muthoni of Kanma Adventures says that there is a slight shift from the traditional honeymoon trends.
Mr Muthoni says couples these days want to throw in a few adventures.
“Things like game drives, romantic dinners, sun-downers, scuba diving, cruises and many other outdoor activities have now dominated honeymoons unlike some years back. Honeymooners have lately been keen on new experiences rather than just romance and sightseeing. The competition among service providers has also played a role in revolutionizing the packaging,” Mr Muthoni says.
David Kabugi of HolidayDealers says some newlywed couples even book a honeymoon and travel with their extended families while others decide to take long road trips across the country.
The travel agents say that many people are shifting towards having travel agencies plan their honeymoon packages.