“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” Bruce Lee (27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973) was a Chinese-American actor, philosopher.
“Animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”
George Eliot (1819-1880) British writer.
1. Will I be able to walk amongst the animals?
Not really. There are a few times you will be able to walk in the parks but that will be in a limited capacity. This will not, however, be amongst the animals. Some of the lodges have monkeys, baboons or hyrax living around the property but remember these are still wild animals and should be left alone.
2. What are the Big Five animals?
The term comes from the ‘Great White Hunter’ days and were the five most hunted animals. The Big Five are lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cape buffalo, and leopard.
You may also include giraffe, zebra, cheetah and hippo as the ‘Big Nine’.
3. Will I be bothered by insects or snakes?
Surprisingly enough there aren’t a lot of insects to deal with. Most of the places you visit have very little humidity which is what normally attracts insects. With that said: Always be prepared. There are times of the year that insects are more bothersome than others. Using an insect repellent with at least 25% Deet (ABOUT DEET) should be used to prevent insect bites.
Snakes are rarely seen, if at all…true story.
4. Will the animals attack?
Precautions are taken by the drivers to ensure a safe distance from the animals. Some animals are more wary than others and may take offense to the observing vans and make a mock charge and sometimes even a full charge. Those incidents are very rare.
Monkeys and baboons that may be found around some lodges are particularly tempting to feed. However, feeding the animals is not good for anyone or anything involved. It is also PROHIBITED.
If any of the monkeys or baboons happen to take a purse, camera bag, etc., it is suggested to leave it to them. Baboons, especially, have been known to rip up a leopard.
“What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us his?”
Emil Cioran (1911-1995) Romanian philosopher and essayist.
“We think in generalities, but we live in detail.”
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English philosopher.
1. What are the people like?
The local people are very friendly and eager to learn more about you.
They have strong traditional values that go back hundreds of years and are tied to their native tribes. In Kenya there are over 40 distinct tribes while in Tanzania there are over 125. Most of the locals will speak a minimum of three languages: their native tribal language, Swahil and English. Swahili and English are the national languages.
2. What is the temperature/weather going to be?
Temperatures can be quite cool in the morning and evenings (50’s) and warm in the afternoon (70’s to the lower 90’s). Most days will be sunny; however, you may experience some rainy days and nights.
3. How strong is the dollar?
As with any currency, the Kenyan and Tanzanian Shilling fluctuates almost daily. You will need to contact your local international bank for current rates. You may also access the current currency rates on the web: CURRENCY RATE
4. What souvenirs are there?
There are many native wooden carvings made from a variety of woods, pottery, beaded jewelry, soapstone knick-knacks, baskets, traditional masks, batik prints and the famous Kenya coffee to name a few. Tanzanite is a gemstone that is indigenous to Tanzania.
5. Will I be able to communicate with the locals?
Most locals have an understanding of some English, which is their second national language. In fact, most Kenyans and Tanzanians speak three languages: their native tribal language, Swahili and English.
6. Will I be able to watch TV and/or read a newspaper?
Most hotels in Nairobi will have television available with a limited selection of channels. Most lodges do not have television or newspapers available.
Newspapers can be found in most bookstores in Nairobi and in most of the main towns that you pass through while on safari.
7. What do I wear on safari?
Bring light weight, drip-dry casual wear. The basics should include jeans, shorts, t-shirts, jacket (sweater or sweatshirt) and sweat pants. On a game drive the colors worn should be neutral; bright colors can scare the animals. Morning game drives will start out cool, so layering is suggested. A hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for protection against the sun are essential. A more detailed packing list will be provided prior to your tour.
8. When is the best time to go to Africa?
Any time of year is good for a safari. However, you might want to plan your trip around the migration of the larger animals. Calving in the southern part of the Serengeti (Tanzania) runs from January to March after which the animals move north through May. The migration enters the Masai Mara (Kenya) around July (possibly in late June) and departs south again at the end of September or early October. The Serengeti migration moves to the south from October to December. There is also a migration in Tarangire (Tanzania) from June to December. Please note that predicting the migratory times is not an exact science but the usual patterns can be used as a guideline. Keep in mind that weather in East Africa is as unpredictable as elsewhere in the world. There are a couple of rainy seasons. The heavy rains generally occur from April to May with light rains usually in October and November. While the roads may be impassable during the rainy season, the landscape can be lush and full of bloom.
9. What is a tented camp?
Tented camps are generally smaller and more intimate than the lodges. All are usually well furnished and raised on concrete or wooden bases. Bathroom facilities are attached. Because they are permanent they can be equipped with flush toilets and traditional bathroom fixtures and conveniences. The public areas are usually under canvas and meals are taken alfresco around the camp fire or in dining tents. The tented camps are as comfortable as any of the lodges but also allow an added amount of romance to your adventure.
10. How long is the flight?
The length of flight time will vary depending on your departure city. The times from the European gateways range from 7:00 to 8:30 hours of flight time to Nairobi. If you decide to travel via the southern gateway of Joannesburg, SA you can count on another 4:00 to 5:00 hours to Nairobi.
11. What will I see on safari?
While out in search of the ‘Big Five’ you will encounter many types of carnivores, up to 35 types of antelopes possibly numbering in the thousands, monkeys, baboons and the most phenomenal and fascinating amount of birdlife. Throw all this in with the flavor of the local cultures and the beautiful and sometimes stunning backdrop of East Africa and a part of you will be left here forever as a part of Africa will always be with you.
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.“
Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) Founder of Buddhism.
1. Will I be able to exercise?
Exercise is limited to a swimming pool and what can be accomplished on your own within the confines of the grounds of the lodges or your room. Resista bands and jump ropes are easy to pack and may be an option for you.
The hotels in NBO offer Health Clubs.
2. Can I drink the water?
It is said the water in Nairobi is potable. However, their fluoride is somewhat different than other westernized countries and may upset some peoples digestive system. Therefore, It is still suggested to drink bottled water.
Bottled water is widely available in the hotels, lodges and shops of Nairobi. The lodges of the National Parks and Reserves will also have bottled water available for purchase.
Remember to drink lots of water while on safari.
3. What immunizations must I get?
You should check with your local travel clinic and/or doctor; yellow fever is mandatory. Malaria pills and Havrix (Hepatitis A) are strongly recommended. Tetanus is good to have but not required. Others may be recommended but not required.
You may also contact the Center of Disease Control (CDC) or (404)123-4567.
4. Will I get sick?
While there is always a chance to have digestive problems when you travel anywhere abroad there are some precautions you should take. Drinking bottled water, not having ice in your beverages and taking the required immunizations will help to keep you healthy. Food at the lodges is safe to eat. When in Nairobi be mindful of items that may have been washed in water and fruits that don’t have to be peeled.
5. What happens if I get sick?
Immodium or such over the counter medicine should be brought for minor cases of diarrhea. Cold, allergy, headache and regular medications should also be carried with you.
Remember to bring all necessary prescription.*
In the event of serious illness or accident, the lodges are staffed with medical personnel. Their fees are quite small – $5 to $10 for a visit. Prescription fees are also quite small – $5 to $10.
If you want to be totally covered, then another option for you would be to purchase FLYING DOCTOR INSURANCE. This insurance is for extreme cases only. In the event of an extreme illness or injury (one that cannot be contained by local medical staff) Flying Doctors will dispatch a doctor or nurse to administer treatment and, if necessary, fly you to a hospital in Nairobi.
For ‘normal’ illnesses or discomfort you will be referred to the medical staff at the lodge.
* We recommend bringing copies of prescriptions in case you need a refill or lose your medication during the safari.
“Where’er his fancy bids him roam, In ev’ry Inn he finds a home– . .
. . Will not an Inn his cares beguile, Where on each face he sees a smile?”
William Combe (1741 – 19 June 1823) was a British writer.
2. How is the food? I’m a vegetarian.
There is a large British and Indian influence in this region. Naturally, the cuisine has the same influence. The lodges in the parks generally have more of a buffet type of dining with choices of vegetables, meats, salads and, most important, desserts.
The meals are structured and are only available at certain times of the day. If you are one that needs to snack between meals, bring some type of power bar, breakfast bar or whatever you prefer. There aren’t any stores or shops to pick up snacks along the way.
There are times when there is a set menu, Table d’hote. You are offered a choice of two or three entrees that are always accompanied by vegetables. Both countries offer soup and bread before the main course.
The morning meals are plentiful with a variety of fruits, pastries, fresh juices and other breakfast foods.
I find the food to be very good and there’s plenty of it. It is always all you can eat.
Due to the size of the parks in Tanzania we may take a picnic lunch with us. These are also available as a vegetarian meal.
3. What is the lodging like? Will I be able to shower?
Lodging is clean and comfortable with well maintained grounds. All rooms have private showers and toilets. Most lodges also have swimming pools.
4. Can I use a hair dryer?
You may, however, you will need an adaptor. The voltage is 230-240v and wall plugs are three square pins.
Most of the lodges and hotels have hair dryers available either in the room or at the front desk.
5. Are beverages included with my meal?
Tea and Coffee are included with all meals. Most lodges will also have a coffee and tea bar set up throughout the day. Many types of beverages (bottled water, sodas, fruit juices, liquor, beer and wine) are available for purchase.
Most of the lodges include a small bottle of water per person each day.
6. How safe will my belongings and I be?
As in all tourist destinations, the rules of common sense apply. The best policy is not wearing or displaying jewelry or excessive amounts of cash, they will attract the bad element. Keep any valuable items close to you or in the room safe. It is not suggested that you walk alone at night on any unfamiliar streets in Nairobi, however, you are fairly safe during the day. You may take taxi cabs from destination to destination. Taxi cab rates are reasonable but remember to set the price before you enter the cab.
7. May I phone home?
You may phone home on a limited basis. While in Nairobi you may place calls from your hotel but be aware they can be quite expensive. Phone cards can also be very useful but the local internet cafe’s will be the cheapest.
Most of the towns you pass through en-route to the game parks will have a post office. Within these post offices you’ll find communication stations.
While on safari, some of the lodges have the capability for making international calls. These may be expensive so be prepared. Recently, I made a call from a lodge in the Masai Mara that cost $5 per minute.
Many lodges will not have telephones and can only be contacted by two-way radio during certain times of the day.
8. May I use the internet?
Internet is limited while on safari. A few lodges offer it for a fee. Most hotels in NBO offer internet. The Stanley offers free Wi-Fi.
9. Any other amenities?
The lodges will stock the rooms with soap, shampoo and a complimentary small bottle of water (most places) each day.
“Necessity is not an established fact, but rather an interpretation.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German-Swiss philosopher and writer.
1. Should I bring gifts for the locals? If so, what?
The locals always appreciate tokens from the U.S., such as t-shirts and baseball caps. The kids like candy and pens. Pencils and paper are appreciated if you visit any of the Samburu or Maasai tribal villages.
Balloons are also a fun gift to give to the local children – both big and small.
2. Do I tip the servers and other staff? If so, what would they be?
Tipping is expected for the drivers and should be given to certain servers and staff at the hotels and lodges. Management at the hotels and lodges should not expect anything from you. Tips can be in U.S. dollars or converted into the local currency.
Expected expenditures are per person:
Driver tips (airport and city transfers) – $2.
Driver tips (your safari guide) – $100 per person on my group tours ($12 per person per day). This does not include any full day excursions you have in Nairobi, Kenya or Arusha, Tanzania.
Driver tips for half day excursions – $5.
Porter tips – $ .50 per bag*.
Meal servers – $ .50 per meal while on safari*.
* Suggestion: Small change can be hard to come by so take turns with your ‘roomie’ in tipping on the meals and bags (bring $25 to $30 in singles).
Does not apply during Kilimanjaro trek.
Tips for Guides and Porters on Kilimanjaro – $15 per hiker per day paid to the head guide at the end of the trek (the head guide will disperse your tips to the entire group of porters and guides).
3. What extra costs will there be?
Prior to the tour you will be responsible for your visas, immunizations, airfare (email Safari Express Company for details), and any other preparatory necessities.
Extras not included while on tour will be soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, extra nights hotel, optional excursions, souvenirs and any items of a personal nature. Most of these items can be charged to your room at the hotels and lodges and then paid by credit/debit card when you check out.
It you charge items to your room remember to tip your servers directly.
Expenses, of course, depend on each persons spending and consumption habits.
Average expected expenditures are per person:
Beverages (beers, sodas, wine, cocktails, extra water and bar tips (10 %)) – $15 – $20 per day (a few sodas, a few cocktails and a bottle of water). Wine and spirits can run upwards of $6 per glass. Good African beer is about $3 – $5 a bottle.
Items of a personal nature – $100.
Excursions on Safari – Some of the excursions (tribal visits) can only be set up directly with the parties involved. $35 – $70
Souvenirs (a tough call but double whatever you expect to spend) – $100 – 200. Many souvenir stands will accept credit/debit cards. If you use a credit card always verify that the amount entered on the credit card slip is the price you agreed upon.
Miscellaneous (the I overspent and/or over imbibed emergency cash) – $75
Kenya Visa – $50
Tanzania Visa – $50
If you’d like to limit the amount of cash you bring we suggest charging your souvenirs, beverages, laundry, and any personal items that can be charged to your room at your lodge. The Balloon Safari operators will also accept credit/debit cards.
You will need to have some cash for small items that can’t be purchased with a credit/debit card. The Kenya / Tanzania Visas will also need to be paid for in cash.
Souvenirs purchased in the tribal villages will also need to be in cash. No credit card machines out in the ‘bush’ – as of yet.
4. Will I be able to use a restroom between the parks? If so, what are they like?
Yes. The stops between the parks will almost exclusively be at souvenir stands and all have some type of toilet facility. These facilities have made vast improvements in recent years.
5. Do I need visas?
Yes. Visas are needed for entry into both Kenya (KENYA EMBASSY) and Tanzania (TANZANIA EMBASSY). You can obtain these visas at their consulates in either New York City, NY or Washington D.C..
One other way to obtain a Kenya visa is when you arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. The visa office there is open 24 hours a day.
Tanzania visas can also be obtained at their international airports on arrival or at Namanga. Namanga is the border town between Kenya and Tanzania.
6. Should I bring a point and shoot camera?
A point and shoot camera will serve it’s purpose with people pictures. However, a 35mm camera with a 200mm telephoto or zoom lens is strongly recommended for animal pictures. That would be an absolute minimum. A 300mm lens or larger would be optimum for your wildlife photography.
Check out our Photography Tips Page.
7. Why go on safari now?
As the continent of Africa has developed, the encroachment on the wildlife habitat has had a dramatic effect. The loss of land and migratory routes (not to mention poaching) has decreased the animal populations. Many of the local tribal people have also been affected. They are becoming more westernized resulting in a loss of their cultural traditions. That is why we say “Take the time now . . . before time takes it.” The investment you make in your safari today is the motivation that will save wildlife for future generations.
8. Which airlines currently fly into Nairobi (NBO) or Arusha (ARS)?
Currently, British Airways (BA), Brussels Airlines (SN), Kenya Airways (KQ), KLM (KL), Swiss (LX) and South African Airways (SA) have flights from their gateways into Nairobi. KLM is the only carrier serving Arusha, Tanzania.
Nairobi: BA and KQ each have non-stop service from London’s Heathrow (LHR); SN has a direct service from Brussels, Belgium (BRU); KL and KQ each have non-stop service from Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS); KQ also offers flights to CDG; LX has non-stop service from Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH); and South Africa Airways has a non-stop service from Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB).
Arusha: KL has a non-stop service from Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS).
The letters in parenthesis after each airline name is their airline code and the letters in parenthesis after each city is their airport code. Go to our ‘Related Links’ page for the links to the Airlines noted above.