Kenya, a country of scenic beauty, lies on the eastern coastline of Africa covering an area of 600,000 square Kilometers. The Indian Ocean borders it on the east, providing a welcoming beach-front and whispering palm trees. Tanzania is on the south; Uganda on the west; Ethiopia shoulders it on the north; with Somalia lying on the northeast. L. Victoria, the second largest lake in the world is found on the extreme west, also shared by Uganda and Tanzania. The Equator cuts through the country from east to west thus allowing almost equal hours of day and night, while the Great Rift Valley running north to south gives it its varied terrain of mountains, hills, ranges, escarpment and rolling plains, interspersed with rivers, lakes, streams and cascading falls.
Kenya’s main tourist attraction and economy earner, its wildlife, is housed in these forest covered lands defined by the various game parks and reserves. Kenya’s geographical position contributes the climate of two rainy seasons; the short rains from October to November, while the long rains are from April/May all through to July. In these months the country experiences low to moderate temperatures specially the highlands that are quite cold. The Western region, around the lake creates a climate of its own, while coastal areas have moderate temperatures to high temperatures. Northern Kenya usually undergoes periods of none to minimal rainfall.
WHAT IS THE BEST SEASON FOR A SAFARI?
Just about any time of year (see Climate below). However, the most popular seasons are mid December to mid March and July to mid September. This is because of the demand for Christmas and Winter holidays and the Summer school break timings. An increasing number of visitors are realising that June and October are ideal, benefiting from lower visitor numbers and off peak rates on the airlines.
We normally offer safaris with lower single supplements in the April/ May/June low season and may well be able to offer some good discounts for larger groups during this period- please contact us for details.
WHEN AND WHERE CAN I SEE THE GREAT MIGRATION?
The millions of wildebeest and zebras are always somewhere, but they are not always in large herds and on the move. Their location is largely dependent on the weather, which can vary considerably from year to year. In general the herds assemble south of the Serengeti during January and February, the season in which they give birth to their young. Starting around March they begin moving North and West in search of fresh grazing through the Serengeti Park. They can move in enormously long single file lines or in huge herds. The bulk of the animals reach the Masai Mara in Kenya, where they tend to remain during August/September/October, before starting their return trek south back through the Serengeti in November.
CAN I HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE VEHICLE?
Yes. All safaris can be booked with the exclusive use of a vehicle for your party. There is a supplementary charge for two clients but for a group of three the price per person is much the same as a “seat in vehicle” safari and with four or more clients travelling as a group, the cost per person will be less than the brochure price for a “seat in vehicle” safari, plus you have the privacy and flexibility of your own vehicle and driver/ guide.
CAN I HAVE MY OWN CUSTOM ITINERARY?
If you are arranging an exclusive vehicle safari then you are free to arrange whatever itinerary you choose. We present a small selection of proven itinerary favourites in this website. . We can arrange any required itinerary subject to practical and logistical considerations and will be pleased to discuss and quote for any special requirements.
SHOULD I STAY IN LODGES OR TENTED CAMPS?
This is really a matter of personal preference and choice. Most of the vehicle- based set itinerary safaris use lodges, but some include nights at tented camps and some use all tented camps. The majority of flying safaris use tented camp accommodation.
All the accommodation used for the clients is of high standard, but you should be aware that, contrary to many clients’ expectations, tented camps are in general more expensive than lodges. The main reason for this is that the tented camps are low capacity, exclusive and luxurious places with a high standard of service.
CAN I TAKE A SAFARI AS A SINGLE TRAVELLER?
Because of the size of our operator’s organisation and volume of customers, we can easily include single travellers on most set date safari departures. There is a single supplement to cover the additional cost of single accommodation. However, there is a reduced single supplement in the low season.
ARE SAFARIS SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
A safari is a wonderful trip for any child old enough to enjoy and appreciate the experience. On most safaris there are quite long trips on rough roads, and these cannot really be recommended for babies and very young children.
Children under 12 will benefit from reduced fares on scheduled airlines, and all lodges will provide an additional bed for a child sharing a room with parents at a reduced cost. A few of the more expensive permanent tented camps do not allow children under 12 years of age..
Kenya straddles the equator so there is little seasonal variation in temperature. There is much more variation between the coastal and low lying regions and the high plains and mountain regions. The game parks lie at an altitude of 5,000 to 7,000 feet and have a pleasant climate with warm days and cooler evenings year round.
There are two rainy seasons- the long rains during April and May and the short rains in November. The rest of the year is classified as dry season. In practice, the rainfall pattern has been neither regular nor predictable in recent years. In the rainy seasons, the rain often falls in heavy but brief tropical downpours during the evening or night with pleasant sunny days in between. The effects of the rain can cause some animals to disperse and may produce a few local problems with flooding of roads and bridges. On the other hand, rain makes the atmosphere clean and dust free and the vegetation beautifully lush and green.
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE
The local unit of currency is the Kenya Shilling which these days is freely convertible within Kenya for the U.S.$ and other currencies. There are numerous banks and bureaux de change in towns, and most lodges and hotels will exchange currency or travellers cheques at reasonable rates.
It is not possible to obtain Kenya Shillings outside the country, and it is illegal to export more than a small amount. Many items or services are priced and paid for in US dollars so do not convert more funds into the local currency than you need for incidental expenses.
Credit cards are accepted at an increasing number of establishments in Kenya but not everywhere. It is not generally possible to obtain cash on a credit card in Kenya, so it is recommended that visitors carry sufficient funds in the form of travellers cheques.
The power supply is at the UK/ European standard voltage of 220/240 , and power sockets are the U.K. square pin type. Remember if you want to use U.S. appliances you will need a voltage convertor as well as a plug convertor. Mains power supply is subject to cuts and voltage fluctuation. On safari, most lodges’ power supplies are from generators, and these are often turned off during parts of the day and night to reduce noise and fuel consumption.
Safari vehicles are equipped with two way radios, so that drivers can communicate with their base, each other and the lodges. Most lodges and hotels also have a telephone, but the service, particularly for overseas calls, is both erratic and expensive (a $50 minimum is not uncommon). More remote lodges and camps are likely to rely on radio for communications. Game parks are not within cell phone range, but satellite telephones work just about anywhere.
FOOD AND DRINK
It is generally recommended to drink only bottled mineral water which is readily available everywhere.
There are no restrictions on the sale or consumption of alcoholic drinks in Kenya. A good selection of local beers and soft drinks are available everywhere, and you will find a range of imported wines, beers and spirits in many places, although these can be expensive.
The quality and value of food in Kenya is generally very good. However, do eat sensibly particularly in the first few days of your visit.
The official language of Kenya is Kiswahili. This is spoken and understood by the great majority of the population, many of whom also speak a tribal language. There is a wide usage and understanding of English, and virtually everyone the average tourist is likely to meet in the course of the safari will be fluent.
There are some long distance coaches which are suitable for use by visitors, such as the daily Nairobi to Arusha shuttle bus. Local bus and minibus services are likely to be uncomfortable, overcrowded and potentially dangerous.
There is a railway link between Nairobi and Mombasa, but the service can be unreliable and we do not recommend using it these days.
Taxis are available everywhere in urban areas, but the condition of these can be very poor. The better hotels generally have a superior selection of taxis available, and it is suggested that you obtain one of these, particularly for longer journeys.
Self drive car and safari vehicle hire is possible but not recommended. The poor state of many of the roads in both town and on safari plus erratic driving by other road users makes driving on most routes tiring and unsafe.
We can offer a private transfer service from Nairobi airport or city centre to Arusha and return for a supplementary charge. This service is much more convenient and comfortable than the public shuttle bus and can save a considerable amount of time.
Most hotels and lodges have gift shops with a selection of local crafts and souvenirs. You will find some interesting woodcarvings, paintings and batiks. Precious stones and jewellery are also a speciality.
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP:
All tourists to Kenya require a tourist visa which costs US$50 per person and can be obtained on entry (visa fees must be paid in US cash only) or in advance from Kenya embassies abroad. A transit visa is available for a US$25 fee, but if you are returning through Kenya, you may as well obtain a full visa – make sure this is dated to include your return visit.
There is a departure tax on International flights of $40- this will generally have been included and already paid in the price of your ticket. There is a small local departure tax payable in cash at the airport/ airstrip for local flights.
Check with your doctor to get the current recommendations and advice. Anti malarial drugs are strongly recommended.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
Clothes for safari should be light, comfortable and not too brightly coloured. There is little or no requirement for anything formal. A light jacket or sweater may be needed in the evenings at higher altitudes, comfortable walking shoes are an essential, as is a hat to keep off the sun, and sunglasses. Don’t forget a swimming costume for use at the lodge pools.
Most people bring binoculars and/ or cameras and video equipment with plenty of tape or film. Zoom or telephoto lenses are likely to be useful. Film is available at the lodges.
Most of the better hotels and lodges will spray rooms and provide mosquito nets, but do bring your own insect repellent sprays.
A flashlight is always useful.
There will be no television or radio in most places, so you might want to bring a little shortwave radio or Walkman if you want to keep up with world events or listen to some music.
Remember that safari vehicles and light aircraft have tight limits on the size and weight of luggage carried. Depending on your itinerary it may be possible to leave some luggage in your hotel in Nairobi for the duration of your safari.
We require that all clients arrange personal travel insurance to cover their medical, property and other personal risks for the duration of their safari. Advice on policies or actual cover can be arranged if required. Temporary membership of the Flying Doctor Service, based in Nairobi and providing cover in Kenya and Northern Tanzania can also be arranged at a modest cost.