Tips for Safari to East Africa

These tips are based on ashok mahindra's personal experiences while on safari in East Africa

Health


Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for entry into East Africa.These are now valid for a life time.These are to be taken at least 10 days before date of departure.Oral polio vaccinations are required for entry into Kenya only. Tanzania is Malaria free.Valid for one year only.These are to be taken at least 4 weeks before date of travel and should be valid on the date of re-entry into India.To be done by Government hospitals and Health Organisations.You may also choose to take Malaria prophylatics.


Insect bites


Advisable to wear long trousers, full length shirt sleeves, long socks and shoes.Carry an insect bite allergy cream.In certain parts of Tanzania, like in Tarangire and Serengeti,Tsetse flies are common and an irritant and may be a health hazard. They are blood sucking flies and are attracted by blue and black colors. If bitten take an anti-histamine pill or cream which is meant for insect bites and stings, itching and plant rashes. The red blotches may remain for some time. Always use the fly swatter provided in the vehicles by some Camps during the game drives.


Chapped lips


In view of the winds in the morning safari’s you may be prone to chapped lips, so carry a lips softener.


Soft wet hand/face wipes and alcohol swabs


In safari you may have to take a toilet break or touch various unclean surfaces where water or soap is not available. Take plenty of hand soft wet wipes. Some camps provide them but not all.You may also like to carry hand alcohol swabs.


Electricity


Generally,adequate charging facilities are available in individual tents.However,in some moving camps there is only one place for charging available near the reception.If this is important check before.


Adaptor


Carry a G type International Adapter,preferably with USB ports.A portable mobile charger may be useful.


Currency


As most bookings at camps are on the basis of full package, there are no cash expenses,except for personal purchases.USD are accepted.However,for small tips carry local currency.It is KES for Kenyan Shilling in Kenya and TZS for Tanzanian Shilling in Tanzania.Just outside the JKIA,Nairobi there is a foreign exchange counter where you can exchange into local currency.


Luggage restrictions


Flights are by small aircraft with limited luggage space.Maximum 15 kg which includes hand luggage.Extra weight may be charged.Soft bags are recommended with retractable wheels.


Laundry


Laundry is included in the package with delivery usually on the same day.However, the laundry may often be unpressed and personal under-clothes not covered.Dry cleaning is unlikely to be available.


Guides


Guides are English speaking driver/guides.A few camps also have a spotter, in addition to the driver/guide, but this is not common.A guide with spotter makes a terrific combination!Guide is the single most important person, particularly if you are a wildlife photographer; so establish a good relationship and respect their judgement.Guides may be either employed by the camps or freelance.I prefer camp employed guides.


Game drives


Game drives are either in the morning and afternoon or for full day.In the National Parks there are entry and exit timings. Currently, in the Masai Mara,Kenya the entry is at 6:30 am and exit at 6:30 pm.In the Conservancies there are no timings for the game drives.


Vehicles


Vehicles for game drives are generally open from the sides with sun cover.They are usually fitted with radio, fridge,fold down wind screen and charging stations.


Gratuities


Gratuities to porters,guides/drivers,butlers and camp staff are discretionary.Each camp or travel agent will provide guidelines.The recommended rate for guides is USD 20 per couple per day.Pay more for superior service.


Conservancies


In the conservancies you can do night game drives,walking safaris, go off road and there are no timings. Four main things which are not allowed inside the National Park.


If you are a wildlife photographer?


If you are a wildlife photographer let the camp know in advance as they are usually sympathetic to wildlife photographers. They may allot you a smaller vehicle for your game drives, sometimes exclusively without charging and also give you more bean bags.


Customs clearance


If you are carrying heavy lenses and expensive cameras remember to take customs clearance at the airport.For travellers from India the clearance is usually valid for 3 years.


Connectivity between camps


Flying is the norm by small aircraft of about 12 seats between locations.There are air strips through out the Masai Mara,Kenya and Serengeti,Tanzania.In Kenya,the operators are Safari Link,Air Kenya,Governors's Aviation and others.Normally, your air strips will be that nearest your. Most airports,other than Nairobi,Kenya and Kilimanjaro,Tanzania are small sheds with no staff.
Transfers by road are also an option.This can be converted into a game drive.Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option.You can do a mix of both options.If you use road transfers for all your sectors than you will have the same guide/driver.If you take the flying option then you will change to the local guide/driver at each camp who who is more likely to have uptodate information on current sightings.You can also mix the options - flying and road transfers.


Agents or do it yourself?


Agents charge commission so that adds to the cost.Enough information is available on the internet to do the planning yourself.Hotels and camps are very helpful in providing assistance and help with airport and hotel pick ups and drops,road transfers,etc.Many will also do internal flight bookings, if they are licensed as tour operators.


Connectivity between Kenya & Tanzania


Currently, there is no direct road access from Masai Mara,Kenya to Serengeti, Tanzania, even though the two reserves are back to back.The most convenient way is to travel by air from either Wilson airport,Kenya or JKIA,Kenya to Kilimanjaro airport,Tanzania and then to Lake Manyara air strip and the air strips in Serengeti.


Connectivity between India and Kenya


Direct flights by Kenya Airways from Mumbai,India and Nairobi,Kenya,twice a day.Takes about 6 hours.


Visas


For Kenya & Tanzania, online visas can be obtained and also visa on arrival at the airport. Normally, given for three months.If you are flying from Kenya into Tanzania and then back to Kenya ask for multi-entry visa.


Hotels in Nairobi,Kenya


Choose your hotel wisely as the traffic in Nairobi is horrendous.If in transit choose hotels near the airports.The Lazizi,Premiere is a good option inside the JKIA complex.Good hotels near Wilson airport are Eka and Ole-Sereni.


Flying Doctor's Cover

Flying doctor's cover is mandatory and covers only emergency evacuation from the camp to a private hospital in Nairobi(transportation only).Evacuation is during day light only.Either Nairobi Hospital or The Aga Khan University Hospital(highly recommended as they have world class standards).