“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 among the animals?
Not really. There are a few times you will be able to walk in the parks (at the hippo pools) but in a limited capacity and never among the animals. Some of the lodges have monkeys, baboons or hyrax living around the property but remember these are still wild animals and should only be observed and left alone. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS OR BIRDS.
2. What are the Big Five animals?
The Big Five were the five most hunted animals during the ‘Great White Hunter’ era. They are Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros. You may include, Cheetah Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra as the Big Nine.
3. Will I be bothered by insects or snakes?
Throughout the globe there are insects. Kenya and Tanzania are not different. Since, most of the places you will visit are considered ‘dry’ and somewhat high in altitude, you avoid a great many insects. They are still there so using repellant is recommended. I use a repellant with 29-40% Deet which works well for me in Kenya and Tanzania. The Lemon Eucalyptus also works to a point and depends on your skin type. The exception to all this is the Tsetse fly in Tanzania (Tarangire and parts of the Serengeti). Treated clothing and really covering your exposed parts with your repellant is highly recommended. Look for a repellant with a higher percentage of Deet or look into Australian RID. You may order it from the Safari Store in the UK.Click Me 🙂
Humidity will be without much humidity which normally attracts many insects. There are times of the year that insects are more bothersome than others. Using an insect repellent with at least 25% Deet should be used to prevent insect bites. Go here for more information – DEET.
Snakes are rarely seen, if at all…really. They are there but they are very shy. I have averaged about 1 per safari… 5 of those were being eaten and one had been hit by a car on the highway.
4. Will the animals attack?
Incidents of animal attacks are very rare. Some animals are more wary than others and may take offense to the observing vans by making a mock charge. Precautions are taken by the drivers to ensure a safe distance from the animals. The incidents you hear or read about happen when people have left the confines of their vehicle or worse – their lodge.
Monkeys and baboons may be found around some lodges and park gates. The trouble begins when you get too close or try to feed them. Feeding them is PROHIBITED. If you lose an item to a monkey or baboon you will need to leave it and hope they get bored with it. Baboons, especially, have large canine teeth and 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 local people like? Will I be able to communicate with them?
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? Is this a good time of year to be on safari?
Temperatures can be quite cool in the morning and evenings (60s) and warm in the afternoon (70’s to the lower 90’s). Most days will be sunny but as anywhere you may experience some rainy days and nights even in the ‘dry season’. Our friend – GOOGLE – will have all sorts of weather sites to sort through.
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 August and departs south again in early to late October. The Serengeti migration moves to the south from October to December.
There is also an elephant 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 which run in April/May and late Oct/Nov. While the roads may be impassable during the rainy season, the landscape can be lush and full of bloom. The other months of the year are traditionally dry.
3. How strong is the dollar?
As with any currency, the Kenyan Shilling and Tanzanian Shilling fluctuates almost daily. Your friend – GOOGLE – will again, have a site that will keep you updated. To give you an idea, the Kenyan Shilling has been consistently around 100 KS to the $ and the Tanzanian Shilling is consistently around 2300 TS to the $.
4. What do I wear on safari?
Comfortable, light weight and casual clothing is best. The basics should include jeans, shorts or zip-off pants, t-shirts, light jacket (sweater or sweatshirt) and sandals/comfortable shoes. A hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for protection against the sun are essential. Layer your clothing for the early part of the morning game drive and latter part of the afternoon game drive. Plan on your clothing getting dusty.
A more detailed packing list will be provided prior to your tour.
5. 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. KLM is the only European carrier flying into Arusha with a flight time of 9:15. If you opt to travel via the southern gateway of Johannesburg, SA you can add another 4 hours to Nairobi. The new route from JFK to NBO operated by KQ is 12 hours.
The only non-stop flight from the U.S. is operated by Kenya Airways from JFK to Nairobi. The flight currently operates 5 days per week and is 12 hours in length.
6. Will I be able to watch TV and/or be able to keep up with social media?
The hotels in Nairobi and Arusha will have TV’s in each room. The lodges will not. All the places you stay will have some accessibility to WiFi. I know…phew!
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 souvenirs are there to purchase?
There are many native wooden carvings made from a variety of woods, pottery, beaded jewelry, soapstone knick-knacks, baskets, traditional masks, batik prints, beaded jewelry, jewelry and the famous Kenya coffee to name a few. Tanzanite is a rare stone that is only found in Tanzania. You may find it for sale in both countries.The carvings can be tiny to 10 plus feet tall and weighing several hundred pounds.The souvenir shops have shipping available..
8. 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 al-fresco 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..
9. 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 rooms are available at the base hotels in Nairobi and Arusha. When you are on the safari, exercise is limited to a swimming pool and what can be accomplished on your own and within the confines of the grounds of the lodges. Resista Bands and jump ropes are easy to pack and may be an option.
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 people’s digestive system. It is still suggested to drink bottled water, however. The lodges place a thermos of water that has been boiled, and therefore potable, in each room. Bottled water is also available in the hotels, lodges and shops in Nairobi. Bottled water will be available during the entire safari which is at all lodges and restaurants. See ‘beverages’ under the ‘Lodges, Etc.’ tab.
3. What immunizations must I get?
You should check with your local travel clinic and/or doctor for any updates. You may also contact the Center of Disease Control on their site (CDC) or by phone (404)123-4567.
Yellow fever has been downgraded from mandatory to recommended only for some areas of Kenya but not where our safari will travel. If you fly into Nairobi or Arusha from either the U.S. or Europe you will not need your Yellow Fever Certificate. However, if you drive across the border from Tanzania to Kenya you will need to show you have had the Yellow Fever immunization. There is a clinic at border building that can assist you with the immunization.
Malaria pills are strongly recommended.
Tetanus is good to have even in the U.S. but not required.
Nothing else is mandatory.
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 keep you healthy. Food at the lodges is safe to eat. Food at the major restaurants in Nairobi, Arusha and all the lodges clean the food with purified water.
If you are sensitive there are few suggestions: use hot milk in your tea or coffee; eat fruit that you need to peel; brush your teeth with bottled water.
5. What happens if I get sick?
Imodium 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. Buddy up and share.
In the event of any level of illness or accident, the lodges are staffed with medical personnel. Their fees and prescription fees are quite small – $5 to $10 – for a visit.
* 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.
1. 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.
There is a large British and Indian culture in this region which influences the cuisine. Depending on the meal, you will be offered Table d’hote or buffet with the latter being the more common meal offering. Regardless of the type of meal setting you will always be offered a few types of meat and/or fish and a vegetarian option. Your meal will also include bread, soup (lunch and dinner), salad and dessert. The morning meals are plentiful with a variety of fruits, pastries, fresh juices and other breakfast foods. Coffee and tea is always available with all meals. I find the food to be very good and plenty of it. It is always all you can eat.
The lodges in the parks are structured and meals are offered at set times during the day. If you are one that needs to snack between meals then plan on bringing something with you on the safari. There aren’t any stores or shops to pick up snacks along the way.
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.
2. What are the accommodations like? Will I be able to shower?
The accommodations are very clean and all the rooms have private showers and toilets. They, actually, have a lot of character. Most of the lodges also have pools. You can find links to the lodges on your tour page.
3. Can I use my hair dryer?
Yes, however, you will need an adaptor. The voltage is 230-240v and the wall plugs are three square pins. There is a photo of the plug on the Bush Notes page. Most lodges will have hair dryers available at Reception.
4. Are beverages included with my meal?
Tea and coffee are included with all meals and for most lodges throughout the day. Most types of beverages are available for purchase (bottled water, sodas, fruit juices, liquor, beer and wine). At the lodges these purchases will go through the bar so please remember to tip (10%) directly to the server even if you are charging it to your room.
The lodges and our local tour operator will each supply a ½ liter of water per person per day.
5. 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 showing 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 or Arusha. 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.
Suggestion: If you leave anything in your room safe add a shoe. When you pack up to leave you should notice you are missing a shoe and remember you have items in the safe. 🙂
8. Any other amenities?
The lodges will stock the rooms with soap, shampoo and in most places a complimentary small bottle of water each day.
“Necessity is not an established fact, but rather an interpretation.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German-Swiss philosopher and writer.
1. Which airlines currently fly into Nairobi (NBO) or Arusha’s Kilimanjaro (JRO)?
Currently, Airlines servicing Nairobi (NBO) from their gateway – British Airways (BA), Brussels Airlines (SN), Condor Airlines (DE), Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY), Kenya Airways (KQ), KLM (KL), Lufthansa (LH), Qatar (QR), Swiss International Airlines (LX) South African Airways (SA) and Turkish Airlines (TK).
Airlines servicing Arusha (JRO) from their gateway – Condor Airlines (DE), Kenya Airways (KQ), KLM (KL), Precision Air (PW), Qatar (QR), and Turkish Airlines (TK).
Please check with your airlines web site for frequency of service and gateway city.
2. 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 which have some type of toilet facility. These facilities have made vast improvements in recent years and are kept clean for the clientele.
If nature calls while on a game drive then in nature it will be. 🙂 Your driver will find a suitable place to stop that will give you some privacy. Please pack out any personal items needed for this venture.
3. 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 when you visit either of the Samburu or Maasai tribal villages. Part of those visits is seeing the kids in their school.
4. Should I bring a point and shoot camera? Cellphone or iPod camera?
Take time to decide if you are going to take photos before you go.
If you will be taking photographs then the next step will be to decide what type of photos you want. If you just want photos for social media then you won’t need more than your cellphone or iPad.
A step up is the simple point and shoot camera which will offer more light and bring you closer to most of the wildlife. Many of these photos can be placed on your wall.
The step up from there is called a ‘bridge camera’ which, basically, is a top of the line point and shoot. Photos from these cameras can be enlarged without the grain you would get with the previous two cameras. A 24” x 36” enlargement can be quite clear and free of grain.
The top step will be the SLRs (single lens reflex). They are the most versatile and have the best processors for the deepest color and the best glass in their lenses for the best light. Light is most important in photography.
In regards to zoom lenses, a 300mm lens or larger would be optimum for your wildlife photography. More info and tips will be sent out over the coming months to help you decide.
5. Do I need visas?
Yes. There are several ways to obtain a Visa for either country:
– You can obtain these visas at their consulates in either New York City, NY or Washington D.C. either in person or by mail.
– You can obtain a Visa when you arrive at the airport in Nairobi (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport – NBO) or Arusha, Tanzania (Kilimanjaro International Airport – JRO). This has been the most popular which has made lines and wait time longer. The offices there are open 24 hours a day.
– The easiest way is the eVisa which works for both Kenya and Tanzania. This is done online no more than 90 days prior to arrival and is valid for 6 months. Once approved you will receive a PDF document that you will bring with you to East Africa. The Visa will be validated upon arrival.
– If you are traveling by road between Kenya and Tanzania you may obtain a Visa for either country at the border office building at Namanga (border town that sits in both countries).
PLEASE NOTE: Your passport will need to have a minimum of 6 months validity to obtain a Visa. Furthermore, you will not be able to ‘deal with it when you arrive’. All airlines will deny you boarding on their flight that is bound to Kenya or Tanzania.
6. Do I tip the servers and other staff? If so, how much?
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 – $3 for Nairobi and $5 for the airport transfer in Arusha.
Driver tips (your safari guide) – $15 per person per day. The minimum on my group tours will be – $120. Driver Tips for a full day excursions in Nairobi, Kenya or Arusha, Tanzania is $10.
Driver Tips for half day excursions – $5.
* Suggestion: Small change can be hard to come by so take turns with your ‘roomie’ in tipping on the meals and bags (bring $25 – $30 in singles).
7. What extra costs should I expect?
Expenses, of course, depend on each person’s spending and consumption habits. Prior to the tour you will be responsible for your visas, immunizations, airfare and any other preparatory necessities.
Extras not included while on tour will be soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, extra night’s 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 beverages to your room remember to tip your servers directly.
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 billed to your room at the lodge. The Balloon Safari operators will also accept credit/debit cards.
If you charge items to your room remember to tip your servers directly. They will not receive it otherwise.
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 – $9 per glass. Good African beer is around $4 – $5 a bottle.
Items of a personal nature – $100.
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) – $50 – $100
Kenya Visa – $50
Tanzania Visa –$100
Cash Notes: All U.S. dollars will need to be printed 2006 or later for Kenya and 2008 or later for Tanzania. The local banks/hotels/restaurants will not accept bills from you or the locals that are printed before the listed dates. Meaning, if you tip with a bill older than 2006 or 2008 the locals will not be able to use it.