In our travels we try as much as we can to organize the trips independently as the freedom this gives us enhances our experience. However, there are some countries or places, where letting someone else do all the work means you can actually enjoy the adventure.
What you should know before going on a safari:
In a safari (which means journey in Swahili) your main concern should be watching/photographing the wildlife, not driving, checking the maps not to get lost and so on. Plus, you have a myriad of local agencies that can tailor the safari according to your taste and budget. But most importantly, you are free of all the stress associated with the complex travel arrangements and you have the peace of mind that you will be looked after.
That is why we chose a safari company in Kenya.
First, you need to set your priorities in terms of the National Parks. With about 50 game parks, the choice is not so simple. You should know that some species are unique to certain parks and regions. Find out which species are specific to a particular park and choose the number of parks you want to visit, according to your time.
For example: if you focus on the elephants, to maximize the chance of seeing them you go to Amboseli National Park. If big cats are your interest, you go to Masai Mara. If you’re a bird watcher, go to Nakuru Lake. And so on…
The next important thing you need to decide on is what type of accommodation you want. You can choose fancy lodges, some even in the heart of the national park, or you can choose a tented camp. There is quite a big difference in price between the two.
From here on, it gets simpler. Do some research on tripadvisor, lonely planet, or travel blogs and find let’s say 10 travel companies with good reviews and preferably members of Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA). E-mail them your selection in terms of National Parks and ask for quote together with a VERY detailed itinerary.
After going through tens of emails back and forth, we finally decided to go with Kairi Tours, which offered us a 6 day safari in three game parks, with camp accommodation for 900$/pp. And we agreed to be dropped off at Namanga, close to the border with Tanzania, where we had to catch a shuttle to Moshi, our next destination and the base for the Kilimanjaro climb.
Note: For that price, we got a private safari for Lake Nakuru and Amboseli. The only park where we joined a group of 6 in the minivan was Masai Mara.
You can see here if we were lucky enough to see all big 5 and how our adventure developed, day by day.
Timing Tip: You can visit Kenya any time of the year. From January to February, it’s hot and dry and animals are easier to see as they gather around drinking holes. March to May is the time when short rains make everything lush and green. From March to May, the rain will transform everything into different shades of green. July to September is the time of the wildebeest migration, probably the best time to visit but also the most crowded. From October to January it’s not too hot so that’s also a good time to visit.
We went in September.
Gratuity Tip: It is a general rule to leave gratuities of about 10% for good service. Tip your driver and guide approximately US$10-US$15 per day. Many Kenyans in the tourism industry rely on tips to help support their family.
Health tip: As we all know, there is no vaccine for malaria…yet. Therefore, prevention is essential. Wear protective clothing, trousers and long-sleeved tops. Use some mosquito repellent; products which contain DEET offer the best protection. We used something like this.
As for malaria tablets, our doctor advised for Malarone, it’s the newest drug, offers the highest protection (about 98% they say), and most importantly, we didn’t experience any side effects. Whatever your doctor prescribes you, make sure you buy the drugs in your country, rather than in Kenya, as there are a lot of fake anti-malaria tablets around.