| Most people can go on a safari in Kenya
The safari tours sold by most travel
companies are not adventurous expeditions, but rather outdoor holiday tours focusing
on looking for and watching the African wildlife. No previous knowledge of Africa or
animals is required, neither is experience from outdoor activities. You don't need any
special safari equipment (but a pair of binoculars is very useful).
Travelling by road
Most Kenyan and Tanzanian safaris are done by road in 4WD safari jeeps or minibuses.
These are used for game
driving, i.e. to look for wildlife in the parks,
and for travelling to and between parks.
Many safaris have ambitious itineraries, including three or four different parks during
a one-week safari. You may have to travel five to six hours getting to some of the most
remote parks on the most popular safari circuits. It is not unusual travelling 25 hours
on the Kenyan roads, or 15 hours on Tanzanian, during a week.
Road conditions vary a lot, from good tarmac roads to poor bush roads. The latter may
be dusty, corrugated, and bumpy. Combined with high day temperatures (exceeding 30ºC/85ºF),
long hours on these roads can be tiring.
Not 100 % fit?
If you are troubled by a poor back, have problems sitting for long or similar, you may
want to think twice before booking a safari, because of the poor roads. Or, you may
speak to a travel company specialized in safaris about options for tailoring a safari.
You may, for example, reduce travel time by visiting fewer parks or flying parts of
the route, and long travel distances may be split over more than one day.
You may benefit from focusing on the very best parks, and on getting there in a comfortable
way, rather than wearing yourself out on the roads to see all parks.
Avoiding poor roads by flying
Virtually all major parks may be accessed by air, which is a faster and much more comfortable
way of getting there than travelling the roads. There are daily scheduled flights to
most of these parks, apart from Mikumi in Tanzania. By chartering a plane, you may visit
any park that has an airstrip.
The flights to the parks are operated by smaller planes, such as Cessnas and Beechcrafts.
Most airstrips are grass or dirt/gravel.
Some safari tour companies have ready-made packages for visiting the most popular parks
by air, and any company specialized in East
Africa safaris can tailor such an itinerary for you.
More about safaris by road
More about safaris by air
For a single safari-goer, joining a packaged safari on your own is no problem, not even
if you have little experience from travelling the world. The local tour
operator will meet you at the airport on arrival, and from then on, you spend
the safari with the rest of the group. You are not left on your own to handle any arrangements
or problems, but can always rely on the assistance from your driver
guide or tour
If your group is not accompanied by a tour leader speaking your own language, you may
need to speak a little English to communicate with your driver guide and with staff
in hotels and lodges.
English is (together with Swahili)
also an official language of both Kenya and Tanzania, and may be used for contacts with
Some local safari operators employ driver guides that speak other foreign languages
than English, such as French, German, Spanish or Italian.
Travelling with children
Most safari-goers are adults, but children can go, too. We have seen six-month-old babies
in the bush, and five-year-olds are regularly seen. A good general age for safaris starts
at nine or ten, considering the hot weather, travelling on poor roads and road distances.
You may have an itinerary tailored for you, to adapt the activities to your children.
For example, you may want to reduce daily travelling distances, and choose lodges and
camps that have swimming pools.
Some tree lodges, where the concept is watching the animals that come to drink
from waterholes at night, may have lower age limits, to keep noise levels low. 7 years
is a normal limit, but they vary from lodge to lodge, so you need to check them up with
your tour operator. There may also be age limits for activities involving an increased
risk for its participants, such as bush walks. On such activities, the ability to act
disciplined and follow instructions may be of great importance for safety, and 15 years
is often a lower age limit.
Medical factors, for example a minimum age for using malaria prophylaxis, may be a reason
not to bring too young children for safaris.
Disabled safari-goers can expect many obstacles to overcome. Most lodges and camps have
no adaptations to allow wheelchair access (the best you can get may be a room close
to the restaurant and the reception), and many have staircases and steps, some lodges
even excessively as a design feature. Showers are often found in bathtubs, and toilets
in rooms may be inaccessible from wheelchairs, as may the tents in tented camps. There
are high steps into safari vehicles, and space for manoeuvring inside is limited. The
better hotels in the cities have elevators/lifts, but there may still be single steps
in corridors, bars or even receptions, preventing you from easy access to all parts
of the premises.
If you speak to a competent travel company specialized in safaris, with own experience
from visiting different lodges, you may be able to find places to stay where such obstacles
are few, if not absent. There are also some lodges and camps adapted to safari-goers
in wheelchairs, and even some that have special vehicles allowing wheelchairs onboard.
Travelling with special needs
Tanzania and Kenya are developing countries, and even though the tourist industry offers
easy and uncomplicated visits, special needs may not be possible to handle as easily
as they may at home. The same level of service or availability of commodities or equipment
cannot be expected.
Speak to your travel company or travel agent prior to booking, to make sure you'll be
OK on your safari.
Pharmacies, doctors etc may be available along your safari route, but not everywhere.
Bring (in your hand luggage on flights) all medicine or drugs you know that you need.
A flying doctor service based in Nairobi is available from African Medical & Research
Foundation. (See More web sites in the left column.)
Most safaris are done in the inland, where air is dry. As the best safari areas are
found at some altitude (1,6001,700 m/5,2505,575 ft for Serengeti
and Masai Mara), the air cools at night, and night
temperatures are pleasant.
If you are depending on electric equipment, remember that electricity in lodges and
camps may be generated locally, and generators switched off at night. If you need electricity
at all times, an arrangement may be required with the lodge management; you may have
to pay for running the generator when it's usually off. The best way is to have this
arranged beforehand, through your travel company.
In the cities, power failures are not uncommon, but most good hotels start their own
generator as soon as the mains goes down.
A few years ago, poor water levels in dams following a long dry spell caused an electricity
shortage in Tanzania, and electricity was rationed; it was switched off in many parts
of the country during daytime.
The Kenyan and Tanzanian networks for mobile phones have expanded a lot during the last
years, and cover most of the prime safari areas. Coverage may not be 100 %, though,
and may vary depending on which mobile operator you have at home. Network failures do
happen, even though they are not very common.
Most lodges and camps in the bush have phone connections via wire or satellite; calling
is usually possible, if expensive. Since mobile phones were introduced, the radios used
in safari vehicles mostly have limited range, usually not enough to get in touch with
There are Internet cafés in towns and cities, hotels, and some lodges (where
it is quite expensive). The connections are usually slow or very slow.
Food and beverages
There is usually no problem for safari-goers who want for example vegetarian or gluten-free
food. Many lodges, hotels and camps serve meals in form of buffets, where you may choose
yourself what to eat. The staff is available to help you identify the ingredients that
have been used. Where meals are served à la carte, vegetarian options are available,
and the staff is usually very responsive to any other requests regarding your dishes.
The international airlines offer special food on request, but you should ask for it
when booking your flight.
You order beverages for meals etc yourself, and can always decide what to drink.