FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT KENYA?
Kenya is a year-round destination and it is possible to see wildlife at all times of the year. Depending on your interests, certain times may be better than others. For instance, if you want to see the Great Migration, this tends to travel through Kenya between June and October. However, even this can be difficult to determine, as the movements of the wildebeest depend on rain and weather conditions.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL IN KENYA?
Kenya is one of Africa’s top tourist destinations. It is a perfectly safe country to visit, although the usual safety guidelines apply – don’t leave your luggage unattended and always keep your valuables close by or locked away.
WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION LIKE ON SAFARI?
Safari lodges have guest rooms similar to a hotel with en suite bathrooms. They are comfortably furnished with all the facilities normally associated with a 3 star hotel. Tented lodges have rooms which are tents on a platform and with a roof and also have en suite facilities with showers, flush toilets and hot and cold running water, like a hotel bathroom.
The safari lodges and bigger tented lodges can be more “touristy” and being larger establishments they can be a bit impersonal if you are travelling alone or as a couple. They suit those who prefer to have the infrastructure and facilities of a hotel and most have swimming pools and extensive grounds and gardens.
The boutique lodges and camps can be very stylish and smart in terms of design and decor, often with very spacious rooms and even going so far in some cases as having plunge pools for each room.
Eco-camps and smaller tented camps have insect-proof tents with en suite facilities including safari shower and flush toilets. They give a more authentic safari experience but the tents are comfortably furnished with proper beds and you don’t need to bring your own sleeping bag! The emphasis is usually on having excellent guides and great wildlife viewing away from the crowds. Guests often eat together and people travelling alone usually say that they found the atmosphere friendly and enjoyed meeting other like-minded travellers round the camp fire in the evening or at dinner.
The Adventure Camps are a budget option with guests bringing their own sleeping bags and towels and accommodation is in small dome tents with a mattress on the floor. Each tent has its own nearby cubicle with a flush toilet, safari shower and wash basin. The Adventure Camps are suitable only for those who don’t mind “real camping” and can put up with some degree of “roughing it”. Apart from the accommodation in simple dome tents, the meals and the guiding are at the same standard as the higher quality camps and game drives are in 4×4 safari vehicles. For those on a limited budget the Adventure Camps are a good alternative to the big tourist lodges and minibus tours for those for whom the safari experience is more important than hotel accommodation
WHAT ABOUT SECURITY AND THE THREAT FROM SOMALI PIRATES?
While there are certain inherent risks involved in any travel the chances of being involved in an incident are very small. Your safety is our foremost concern and we are constantly updated by the official government security departments and agencies and monitor any situations that may arise. It is extremely rare for tourists to be involved in pirate attacks. Piracy is mainly off the coast of Somalia targeting international shipping, with pirates aiming to take control of large vessels and holding the ship owners to ransom.
SHOULD I TAKE OUT TRAVEL INSURANCE BEFORE TRAVELLING TO KENYA?
Yes, it is highly recommended that you take out adequate travel insurance at the time of confirming your booking. This should cover any medical situation (such as hospitalisation), as well as cancellation or curtailment of arrangements and loss of your baggage.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY ON SAFARI?
In the unlikely event of illness or injury our driver-guides and most camp / lodge staff are trained in first aid procedures. Medical travel insurance is a necessity and we recommend that you purchase a policy with a supplemental benefit for emergency medical evacuation. In the event of a medical emergency an aircraft can be dispatched to lodges or camps. There are good quality medical facilities in the larger towns and cities should you require medical attention while on your trip.
DO I NEED A VISA TO TRAVEL TO KENYA?
Visas are compulsory for all visitors, including those from countries that were previously exempt, such as the USA, UK, Germany and Belgium. Visas may be applied for at a Kenyan embassy in your home country or online click here. However, it is recommended that visitors obtain their visas prior to arrival. Passports are required by all foreign visitors and must be valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. Please ensure that there are sufficient blank pages in your passport (a minimum of two is required) for any visas as well as for entry stamps upon arrival.
ARE BANKING SERVICES EASILY AVAILABLE IN KENYA?
National and international banks have branches in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Thika, Eldoret, Kericho and Nyeri, as well as most other major towns. Banks and bureaux de change at international airports are open 24 hours a day.
CAN I USE MY CREDIT CARD IN KENYA?
All major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and American Express) are widely accepted.
WHAT LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN IN KENYA?
More than 40 ethnic languages are spoken in Kenya, although the national language is Swahili. Most Kenyans also understand English which happens to be the official language.
WHICH ARE THE BEST PARKS AND RESERVES TO VISIT?
There are many varied parks and reserves from which to choose – each has its own unique reasons for visiting, be it a special topography or rare wildlife species. Where possible we recommend combining two, three or more parks in order to see a broad range of landscapes and animals. Some private reserves / conservancies are able to offer night game drives and walking safaris plus they offer the advantage of having few – if any – other tourist vehicles sharing the land.
ARE WE BETTER OFF STAYING INSIDE THE MARA RESERVE AND WILL WE SEE ANIMALS IF OUR CAMP IS OUTSIDE THE RESERVE?
The Mara eco-system and its wildlife extend far beyond the boundaries of the official Masai Mara National Reserve. Other game-filled wildlife reserves (conservancies) have been established in the Mara and most guests prefer the conservancy game drives as animal sightings and photo opportunities can be better than within the Reserve. The conservancies also have the advantage of offering a more private, exclusive wilderness (away from crowds of tourists) and they allow night game drives and walking safaris. Some camps (such as Porini Mara Camp and Porini Lion Camp) offer game drives in conservancies as well as in the main Reserve.
IN WHAT TYPE OF VEHICLE WILL I HAVE GAME DRIVES?
If you are booking a road safari in Kenya you can choose between an 8 seater safari minivan or a closed-sided 4×4 vehicle – both have pop-up roofs giving passengers great photo opportunities. These have 3 rows of seats behind the driver / tracker and take up to 8 guests but 6 guests of them are guaranteed a “window” seat.
HOW SAFE ARE WE FROM WILD ANIMALS IF WE SLEEP IN A TENT OR GO OUT IN OPEN-SIDED VEHICLES?
Attacks on humans are rare. Most animals are wary of the sight and smell of humans and will flee rather than attack. While on game drives you will be escorted by expert guides who are highly trained in assessing situations and avoiding danger. In addition guides in some countries carry firearms. Wildlife can wander close to camps and lodges since they are typically unfenced, but every measure is in place to ensure guest safety. For example, guests are escorted around camp after dark in many cases.
WILL THERE BE LOTS OF BUGS AND CREEPY-CRAWLIES? DO WE NEED TO BRING MOSQUITO NETS AND WHAT ABOUT SNAKES?
Many visitors are surprised to find that on safari there are often not as many bugs as there are in their home countries in summer and frequently they tell us that they did not even see a mosquito on safari! However this is Africa and there are certainly many tropical insects in the country but most are quite harmless to humans and some of them are actually very interesting! During the rainy season there are often more insects in evidence especially after a shower of rain. The lodges normally provide mosquito nets in the guest rooms but in the tented camps these are not needed if the tent is insect-proof with zipping doors and sewn in groundsheets. The important thing is to leave the lights switched off when you are out of the tent and always keep the doors zipped shut. Most people on safari do not even see an insect in their lodge room or in their tent. If you notice a gecko (small lizard) in your lodge room, these are common and absolutely harmless so they can just be ignored, especially as they eat mosquitoes and bugs. As for snakes, there are many species of snakes in East Africa, most of which are harmless to humans. Snakes are not often seen as they avoid being in the open where people are walking about and will almost always try to get away and to hide if they sense human footsteps approaching. Your guide may spot a snake and point it out from the safety of your vehicle when on a game drive but they are rarely seen in the grounds of the lodges or camps. If you do see a snake, do not approach it – simply give it a wide berth and tell your guide or a member of staff at the camp. If left alone at a safe distance, snakes do not pose a danger.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY ON SAFARI?
Each camp and lodge varies with its exact schedule, but generally safaris follow a typical pattern with two main activities each day. Activities are mainly game drives and guided walks, but in some locations can include game viewing from a river.
The morning may begin with a hot drink and light snack before the first drive / activity which starts at or just after sunrise. There are great opportunities to see wildlife at this time since it is still fairly cool and animals are most active. The morning activity usually ends by late morning with guests returning to the camp / lodge for breakfast / brunch.
Guests generally relax at the camp / lodge for the middle of the day. This is because the animals are quite inactive during the heat of the day – seeking shelter in the shade. Guests have lunch and enjoy the camp or lodge facilities (lounge / hammocks / swimming pool etc) or some properties offer short walks or visits to a hide.
The second main activity will follow afternoon tea (drink / snacks, etc) in the late afternoon and perhaps end at a scenic point to view the sunset. Some camps offer night drives after this. Guests later return to the camp / lodge for drinks and dinner.
CAN WE DRINK THE WATER?
The water in many cities and small towns is purified and safe to drink, but we recommend drinking bottled water / drinks are readily available at hotels, camps and lodges.
WHAT TYPE OF FOOD WILL WE HAVE ON SAFARI?
The food available at most camps and lodges is of great quality and with an international style. Breakfasts include cereals, fruit, cold meats, eggs, bacon, sausages etc and fresh bread. Lunches and dinners may include soups, salads, cold meats, pasta, meat & fish dishes and fresh fruits and vegetables. Larger lodges tend to offer a buffet selection. Smaller camps have a more personal service with guests dining together communally. Some properties can offer bush breakfasts, lunches and dinners for an experience of dining in the wild.
DO MOBILE / CELL PHONES WORK ON SAFARI?
Mobile / cell phone coverage across Africa is generally quite good and even some of the main safari areas have a service. Your phone company will be able to tell you what service is provided in the countries you are visiting. If you use your phone during your safari please respect other guests and do not use the phone during game drives or speak loudly on your phone while in camp.
DO THE CAMPS AND LODGES HAVE WI-FI OR INTERNET ACCESS?
Not all the camps / hotels have Wi-Fi / internet available for guests. Some may have a mobile / cell phone signal through which you could access the internet (depending on your phone plan / provider) though this may be expensive. Most major hotels in Nairobi and on the coast have internet (fees may apply).
IS THERE POWER TO CHARGE A CAMERA / VIDEO CAMERA / LAPTOP / IPAD / PHONE?
Yes, the camps and lodges have power – perhaps as solar lighting and / or a generator. The power may be switched off for part of the day. At small camps and lodges you may not be able to use a hairdryer or electric shaver but batteries can be charged either in your tent / room or in a communal area. Your charger must be 220v or you will need to bring a transformer – though most electronic equipment now automatically converts from 110v to 220v. The required adaptor plugs are included in most international travel adaptor kits. For Kenya it is plug type G (the British-style 3 rectangular pin plug).
HOW CAN MY FAMILY CONTACT ME IF THERE IS AN EMERGENCY AT HOME?
Most of the properties we offer have telephones and email so one can easily be reached. Smaller (mobile) camps may use UHF/VHF radio. We recommend that you leave the contact details of your accommodation as well as our office with your friends and family so that we can assist should they need to contact you.
WHICH AIRLINES FLY TO KENYA?
Many of the major world airlines including Kenya Airways, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Swissair fly several times a week from Europe into Jomo Kenyatta International airport, Nairobi. From North America, airlines including American Airlines and Delta offer services that connect via Europe. In addition Kenya Airways lauched a direct flight from New York to Nairobi.
Other airlines include Emirates, Qatar, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air India.
ARE WE EXPECTED TO GIVE TIPS TO LODGE STAFF AND THE DRIVER-GUIDES AND IS THERE ANY ADVICE ON THE NORMAL AMOUNTS?
Tipping is entirely at your discretion but as a guideline if you wish to give a gratuity then most guests give a tip on the last day in each camp equating to around US$10 (or Kshs 900) per guest per full day to the Guide (who will share this with the spotter if they are a 2 person crew) plus around US$10 (or Kshs 900) per guest per night into the staff tip box for the rest of the staff. It may be difficult to obtain change or exchange foreign currency at the smaller camps so it is best to plan ahead and have Kenya Shillings for tips before starting a safari.
SHOULD WE BRING SWEETS, PENS OR GIFTS FOR LOCAL CHILDREN IN THE VILLAGES?
Please do not offer sweets / candy to children as with little or no dental care available it is best that they don’t develop a sweet tooth. The village chiefs and elders request that you do not give gifts directly to children, however, supplies and monetary donations to our projects are most appreciated. School supplies can be donated via your driver in Nairobi
WHAT TYPE OF BAGGAGE / LUGGAGE SHOULD WE TAKE?
Luggage should be kept to a minimum, especially if you will be travelling via light aircraft. In East Africa the limit is typically 15 kg per person, and in southern Africa it is 20kg per person. This should be in soft bags as opposed to hard suit cases in order to fit in the baggage compartment on small aircraft. On road safaris the weight and size allowance is not as important but you should still try to bring as little as possible. For game viewing it is best to wear grey, brown, khaki or green coloured clothing so the wildlife is not alerted to your presence. Camouflage clothing is not permitted in some countries. See more details on our recommended PACKING LIST