I recently returned from an amazing safari experience in Kenya with Bush & Beyond, a wonderful local supplier of mine who also has a collection of family-owned lodges across the country. Africa is halfway around the world for most of us- a destination that requires at least one stop and a couple of 8-10 hour flights! As this tends to be a big bucket list trip, it’s always a great idea to be as prepared as possible and know what to expect once in Kenya.. I hope the below info is helpful!
Here are a few tips that I learned along the way!
- Vaccines – everyone knows that Africa will require some vaccines. Easiest thing to do is check the CDC website for the latest news and vaccination requirements. Also, reach out to your PCP or even better, a local health clinic like Passport Health which is very knowledgable about what you need for which countries. I personally got the following vaccines (and felt no side effects from, though some of my colleagues did):
- Yellow fever shot – this is NOT required for Kenya, but is for Botswana, South Africa, and other countries. As this shot is good for life, I went ahead and got it since I definitely plan to visit other African countries soon! 😉 You can get this shot any time before departure.
- Hepatitis A shot – from my local PCP
- Typhoid pills – strongly suggested vaccine, and it comes as 4 pills that must be taken two days apart, and completed one week before arrival to Kenya.
- Malaria pills – not required for Kenya, but strongly suggested.. I started these approx 2 days before arrival to Kenya, and continued taking daily until approx 7 days after returning home.
- Adapter – the one needed for outlets in Kenya is the same as for the UK, the three-pronged one. I always bring a single adapter, plus a multi-plug adapter (love this one from Amazon). Converters not generally needed as laptops, iphones, etc already convert the electricity inside of them.
- Packing – the smaller bush planes that we took required a soft-sided duffel. Total luggage (duffel + backpack) should be under 33 lbs total, but my backpack came in a little over that.. they just weighed the duffel. See my blog post HERE for how I packed for safari! Do not panic when you can only pack a couple of t-shirts.. the lodges will wash your clothes (hand wash and hang dry) which is a LIFESAVER. Ladies will need to wash out their undergarments with the powder detergent provided in rooms, with clothespins to hang dry as well! Tbh, I just packed enough underthings to last 12 days as I didn’t want to have to wash them all the time.Going there on AA (via London, DFW-LHR-NBO) I managed to carry-on all of it- my duffel, backpack, and small camera bag (tried to hide it covertly under my backpack). Was so grateful since I missed my connection in LHR and was rebooked on a Kenya Airways flight later that day, and no clue where a checked bag would have ended up! However, going home- British Airways made me check my duffel. Not the end of the world, but try to carry on if you can! A colleague did not get her bag on arrival and never received it at all during the trip.
- Electricity – most of the lodges in Northern Kenya that we stayed at use solar power and while we were able to charge devices with no problem, the rooms didn’t have hair dryers. A couple places had one on request to borrow, which I did once. But honestly, it felt so refreshing to not mess with blowdrying that I really enjoyed my hair au naturel for the trip. Exceptions are hotels in Nairobi and lodges in the Maasai Mara, which is more heavily touristed and better connected to the electrical grid.
- Connection – as far as phones go, I have AT&T and always use their International Plans when I travel. Many countries are on their International Day Pass plan, but Kenya is on their Passport plan. This means you pay a monthly fee for the GB you want to use, and then you can switch your phone to roaming and use it as you would at home. HOWEVER- AT&T’s 3G was not really available in Northern Kenya! That means my access was restricted to wifi at the lodges, which had it in their main houses only (not in the rooms). A colleague had Verizon, which worked much better on roaming throughout the country.
- Camera – I used this trip as an excuse to get a camera I have been wanting for over a year now, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. I chose it because it gets high rankings as a great starter “enthusiast” camera. So, just above Canon’s Rebel line, but below their professional level cameras. The kit lens worked great, but I did also get a zoom (70-300mm) which came in handy for close-ups of the animals! Yes, it is a bit heavy and a lot to pack (I brought it in its own camera case) but I love it anyway. Do you need a brand-new camera for safari? No, not necessarily, but you WILL want something more than an iphone for these pics!! Colleagues had a Fuji and a Sony point & shoot with an amazing zoom, and their photos turned out great!
- Money – in Kenya, USD is widely accepted in hotels, shops, etc. I brought $100 and used it because I had it, but also the lodge gift shops took credit cards, and I did buy quite a bit of the beautiful beaded jewelry by the Samburu and Maasai tribes! 🙂
- Weather – be comfy and prepare for a range in temps! April, May, November are Kenya’s rainiest times, but due to location at the equator, the rest of the year remains similar- cool mornings, hot days. LAYERS are key to packing! Tees and tanks with button-downs or a jacket over it. Safari vehicles have thicker blankets if it’s really chilly, and lodges have umbrellas in case of rain.
- Local schools – if you have the opportunity to visit a local school, like we did, stickers are a great gift to bring for the kids! They love them and they take up very little room in your bag.
- Getting around in Kenya – small planes are unavoidable, but truly are the most efficient way to get around! Air Kenya, Safarilink have scheduled departures, and we took two Air Kenya flights on Twin Otter aircraft (twin engine, propellers, and two pilots) that seated about 18 people. Flight length on these was not more than an hour. In the Maasai Mara, which is Kenya’s most touristed area, there are 6 air strips, and Air Kenya touches down and lets passengers on and off like a bus route here! 🙂 Getting down to the Mara took an hour, and then we were the third stop. In areas not served by Air Kenya or Safarilink, or where you just want to be able to come and go as you wish, you can take a charter flight. We had several charters with Tropic Air with one pilot (we loved him- he flew us twice and is related to the family that owns Ol Malo lodge.. I learned also that Kenya is basically just a small town.. everyone knows each other!) Charters are pricier, but great options for efficiency!
I hope this helps, and please feel free to comment with questions (or your tips!) And if you are looking to travel to Kenya, or elsewhere in Africa, Haute Holidays would LOVE to help you plan an amazing safari experience! xo