Kenya Safaris: FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE WORD ‘SAFARI’ MEAN?
It simply means making a journey.Initially, it was taken to be the hunting expeditions to Africa but has now become a more eco-friendly form of adventure for people of all ages and walks of life. For you travelling to Africa, Safari has become the dream vacation of a lifetime, combining adventure with total comfort to ever-increasing travellers. Visit Africa's most beautiful game reserves, seeing hundreds of rare birds and mammals from your chauffeured safari vehicle. Relax in comfortable lodges surrounded by scenic valleys and plains. Time takes on a new meaning as you learn to sit quietly listening to the sounds of Africa. The balance of nature will no longer be empty words you will see it daily in the drama of animals fighting for their survival and co-existence.

IS EVERYBODY LEGIBLE FOR AFRICAN SAFARI?

An Africa Safari is perfect vacation for people of all ages, from eight to eighty-eight. A safari is not particularly strenuous or tiring, so anyone in reasonably good health should be able to enjoy his or her stay. Because a safari has something to offer everyone, it has become an increasingly popular motivation and incentive for workers who are rewarded by corporate bodies. Its also a good way of rewarding or giving a family a treat.

WHAT GOOD THINGS WILL I SEE?
The beauty of Africa encompasses not only birds and animals of all shapes and sizes, but also the many different tribes and the exotic physical features from mountains to broad savannas, forests to rivers and deserts. Your safari has been carefully planned to include a wide variety of sights and activities.

ARE THERE A VARIETY OF ANIMALS?

In a typical day you can expect to see 15 to 20 animal species- lions, elephants, giraffes and rhinos, to name a few. Buffalo and wildebeest may be in herds of hundreds or more. Others, like the swift cheetah, are more likely to be found alone. And then there are the birds, over 300 species! Birds in Africa are particularly colorful and easy to spot. Even if you've never looked at a bird before, with the help of your driver you'll easily learn to identify twenty to thirty of the most striking and beautiful birds of Africa. Experienced birders can expect to see 60 to 100 different species in a single day.

A special thrill is in store if your safari coincides with the annual wildebeest migration. You'll see thunderous herds of wildebeest and zebra, totaling more than 1 million, stretching across the horizon. On their trail follow the predators the big cats, and the scavengers hyenas, jackals and vultures. Whenever you go, you'll see animals as you've never seen them before roaming free, just as they have for millions of years.

HOW CLOSE WILL I GET TO THE ANIMALS?
Because you are traveling in protected game reserves, many of the animals have no fear as long as you are in a vehicle. You can get surprisingly close, especially when lions are busy feeding on prey, or at rest. Elephants often walk up to and even surround a minibus. Monkeys and baboons may study you as closely as you study them. But natural behavior will only continue if you give the animals some space and are quiet. If you go too close, or talk too loudly, the animals may just leave.

Most animals will be more interesting if allowed the space to continue their natural behaviors- stalking, mating, playing with their young. Your driver will know the best viewing distance. Please do not encourage him to "stalk" or otherwise interfere with hunting or other activities crucial to the animal's survival.


WHAT DANGERS CAN ONE GUARD AGAINST?
No, not if you stay within the marked boundaries of your lodge or in your minibus. Your guide and driver know what is, and is not, safe. Incidents involving animals are rare in East Africa and are, almost without fail, the result of someone doing what they have been advised not to do. Nairobi is a big, bustling city.

Avoid wearing flashy jewelry, hold onto your purse and camera bag, beware of clever conmen and don't walk in the city at night. Do not wear money belts, since they can easily be cut off from the rear. It is always a good idea when you travel to keep a photocopy of your passport in your suitcase and another at home. The people are friendly, and the government patrols the game parks - their most treasured resource- for the safety and benefit of all.

HOW IS THE WEATHER?
Great all year round! Because of the high elevation (3000 to 8000 feet above sea level), and the fact that we are on the equator, there is pleasant weather throughout the year. The "dry" season is July through October, and December through March. During this time you may expect to find the greatest concentrations of animals because they will congregate around the remaining water holes.

The dirt roads may be dusty, but should not prove to be a major discomfort. The relatively "rainy" season includes the month of April, May, and November. During this time the landscape is beautifully green, and there are fewer tourists. The animals are more dispersed, so will be harder to spot. Expect showers interspersed with beautiful sunny skies. Many travellers prefer to go on safari during these months. If your itinerary includes Mombasa or other coastal resort, the best times for you to visit are August through October, and December through March.

The coast is warmer and more humid than the rest of Kenya, but you'll find your beach hotel cooled by the ocean breezes. In Kenya and Tanzania the higher you are, the cooler the temperatures. Nairobi, at 5500 ft and most game parks at altitudes above 3000 feet, have ideal temperatures- between 20 and 30 degrees all year round, seldom dropping below a cool 10 degrees at night. Mt. Kenya Safari Club, the tree hotels and the rim of Ngorongoro Crater are closer to 7000 feet and can be quite chilly at night, with temperatures dropping to the mid-forties. The warmest months are December and January and coolest are July and August. Inland, even at the lowest altitudes, the air is dry, thanks to cool mountain breezes.

WHEN IS THE MIGRATION?
The " Great Migration” is the heralded movement of millions of wildebeest and zebras across Tanzania 's Serengeti plains into the Masai Mara game reserve of Kenya, from late June through early October. Tanzania's annual migration occurs March through May and October through November.

Whether you catch the migration or not, there will always be plenty of animals, more than you could ever imagine. And you could take the same safari at the same time every year and always see something different. Nothing remains the same, because the animals are constantly on the move in search of fertile grasslands.

HOW IS THE ACCOMMODATION GENERALLY?

Budget Safaris Kenya uses only the best accommodation available. Hotels in Nairobi are deluxe, with quality shops, restaurants, and amenities. The game lodges are imaginatively built with marvelous gardens and terraces. A typical lodge has bungalows spread across the grounds, a large central reception area, dining room, shops and an attractive outdoor swimming pool. Many have exercise room as well.

Each room has twin beads and private bathroom with flush toilet and shower or bath. Tree hotels, such as the Ark or Mountain Lodge, are more rustic, yet feature great views from their lofty perspective, and each bedroom has its own private facilities. Some of our safaris feature permanent tented camps, with large canvas tents erected on concrete or wood platforms. They all have sewn-in floors and net screens. Comfortable beds and a private connecting bathroom with flush toilet and shower make for a most comfortable stay.

Many even have swimming pools! Most permanent tented camps in Tanzania retain all the style and glamour of the famous mobile-tented camps. Sensitive to this fragile environment, these camps retain an elegant simplicity, yet offer every feature to ensure a comfortable stay: excellent meals: fine wines and liquors: insect proofed tents with twin beds: private hot water bucket shower: discreet safari toilet: free laundry service. Private camps are set up in private game viewing areas far from other tourists. Here you'll have a chance to view game on foot or by four-wheel drive vehicle with your highly trained naturalists guides. For most, these exclusive camps are the ultimate African experience.

HOW IS THE FOOD?

Good! All meals- buffet-style American or Continental breakfast, and sumptuous lunches and dinners- are included while on safari. In major cities, some of our safaris include only breakfast. This allows you to dine on your own at some of the outstanding local restaurants. Check the inclusions described for your specific tour.

You'll savor everything from African delicacies to international specialties on a Premier Vacations Africa safari. The meals are well prepared, the menus varied, with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meat amply provided. And food never tasted better than upon returning from an exciting day on safari.

IS THE WATER SAFE FOR DRINKING?

We recommend only bottled water. It can be purchased inexpensively throughout your trip and is good insurance for healthy, enjoyable safari. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also fine to drink.Budget Safaris Kenyaadds a sparkling touch to the fresh and delicious African fare by providing you with cool, clear bottled water with each meal on all itineraries. We will also offer you the same refreshing bottles of water on game viewing expeditions.

HOW WILL I GET AROUND KENYA & TANZANIA DURING MY VISIT?
Most of your safari will be in deluxe late-model minibuses. At most tented camps, and in the Ngorongoro Crater, you'll travel in four-wheel drive vehicles. Everyone will have a window seat for best game viewing and photography.

Every vehicle has its own professional driver/guide. One pair of binoculars and guidebooks is furnished to enhance your viewing pleasure. Roads outside major cities are often dirt or gravel and may be bumpy or dusty. You may happen to get temporarily stuck in a muddy patch if there is heavy rain. It's all part of the adventure and your driver is an expert in dealing with tough driving conditions. Some of our safaris feature short flights, thereby saving hours of surface travel. From this lofty perspective, you will appreciate the size and scope of the African plains, and enjoy the additional time allowed for game viewing drives.

WHAT IS WALKING SAFARI?
This is an opportunity to view wildlife while on foot. During a two to three hour walk your guide will help you get to see the animals in best position and surprisingly close, to see such wonderful animals such as buffaloes and elephants. A truly thrilling experience. Your guide will help you read spot and appreciate the fabulous wealth of small animals, from spiders to birds.


HOW EXPERIENCED IS MY GUIDE?
Budget Safaris Kenya staff have played host to good number of tourists. Years of first-hand experience mean that your every need has been anticipated and all our tours have been thoroughly proven. Each vehicle has its own local driver/guide. These well-trained professionals make their living by knowing every inch of ground, making sure you have a good time. Their keen eyes and experience give them the uncanny ability to spot birds and wildlife all along the way.

In addition to their wealth of knowledge about wildlife, they are happy to tell you all about life in their native land. One of the hardest parts of leaving East Africa is saying good-bye to your driver, who will have become a wonderful friend and companion. For most programs there is a naturalist guide in addition to your driver. These dedicated professionals are with you at all times to make sure that your every need is attended to, answer all your questions, and give informative briefings on the reserves you visit, the birds and wildlife you see, and the people you meet.

They can explain animal behavior, pointing out the matriarch in a herd of elephants or the zebra's unique way of listening for predators.Budget Safaris Kenya Trip is particularly proud of the outstanding quality of our guides. In Nairobi, a member of our staff will be available for you at all times.


IS THERE ANY COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS?
English is an official language in Kenya. All drivers, guides, lodge and camp staff and most people that you will meet in East Africa speak English. Budget Safaris Kenya also boasts of being one of the local companies that have multi-lingual driver guides who speak more than two foreign languages fluently! It's fun to learn a few words and phrases of Swahili or other local languages, and your guide will help you along. You'll enjoy sharing your smile and few simple courtesies with your African hosts.

CAN MIX FREELY WITH THE LOCAL PEOPLE?
Many young people will be anxious to practice their English with you, or help you with your Swahili. At some roadside stops, locals can be competitive in attempts to sell you jewelry or baskets. Bargain if you like what you see. Otherwise, firmly say, "No, thank you," or "Sitaki, Asante Sana," and move on. Never photograph locals without asking their permission first. This may require a fee, which your guide can help you negotiate.

Giving away Polaroid photos will help you get pictures that would not otherwise be possible. Please DO NOT hand out candy, ballpoint pens, or trinkets to children. It encourages them to wait for handouts from well meaning visitors rather than going to school. It's okay to barter with tee shirts and caps in the rural shops or to thank someone who's been especially helpful with a tee shirt, news magazine or paperback book, but please don't encourage these beautiful children to beg! Most Africans are extremely polite by the world standards. By keeping an open mind and going out of your way to be courteous and respectful, you'll win friends and much more likely to get your way.

DO I HAVE TO BE IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION?

If you are in good health, you should have no problems at all. If in doubt, ask your doctor. This is not a strenuous trip involving hiking, extensive stair climbing, or long periods on your feet. Most of your exercise will be walking from your room to the safari vehicle or the dining room. Those desiring to do mountain climbing should have good health.
 
WHAT WILL I DO ON SAFARI?
Your typical day on safari begins with a game drive after an early breakfast. You return to your lodge or tented camp around 11 AM. After lunch you'll have time to nap, swim or read about what you're seeing. Around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. you'll be invited on another game drive, until dusk. On some days, there is the possibility of an early sunrise drive, with tea or coffee beforehand and breakfast afterwards, or even a night game drive or a walking safari, where park rules permit. On the days that you travel to new game parks, you will generally leave right after breakfast, arriving at the next lodge in time for lunch, a swim and afternoon game drive. Often there are stops to visit interesting features along the way.

IS SAFARI ALSO FOR CHILDREN?
A group safari is perfect for children 8 years or older. If you have younger children you may wish to arrange a private safari. A safari is even more fun when two or three families go together.

WHERE'S THE BEST SHOPPING?
Every place you travel in East Africa offers interesting gifts, usually at very attractive prices. Most lodges have gift shops stocked with high quality local crafts. Items such as baskets, beadwork, soapstone and woodcarvings, colorful fabrics-even spears and shields - are found in every little roadside shop. The fine stores in downtown Nairobi will tempt you with jewelry, semiprecious stones, leather goods, and traditional handicrafts. Expect to bargain everywhere in Africa- it is part of the fun. You'll know you've hit the bottom price when your vendor lets you walk out the door empty handed

WHAT SUGGESTIONS CAN ONE GET ON DRESSING CODE?
Cotton slacks and shirts are ideal, with a sweater or other layers to shed as the day heats up. A hat with a brim is essential, and a cotton bandanna useful, especially in Amboseli, Kenya, which can be dusty.Budget Safaris Kenya suggest that Khaki and cotton clothing are good for travel and pale earth colors such as tan or olive are best for viewing wildlife and birds. Camouflage clothes are illegal in many African countries. Solid-colored safari clothes, however, are practical and widely available; Comfortable walking shoes, such as topsiders or *running/tennis shoes with socks, are recommended over sandals; thorns are everywhere, and socks with your shoes deter mosquito bites. Include a lightweight raincoat or jacket, and a swimsuit (many lodges have pools.)

You may want to take flannel pajamas/a robe or a sweat suit for Kenya 's Ark , where you can chose to have a wake up call if a rhino comes to the water hole in the wee hours. A nice dress is useful for clubs, casinos and restaurants in Nairobi, where men need to wear a jacket and tie. The Mt. Kenya Safari Club will not seat dinner guests wearing T-shirts, jeans, or running shoes, (or what they call "sports shoes"*). While the Safari Club no longer insists upon a jacket and tie for men, they do enforce a dress code of "Smart Casual." Chinos and khakis work better than jeans, which take forever to try.

Safari/Bermuda shorts are unwelcome at mosques; visitors should dress conservatively in Islamic communities (Lamu, Mombasa, Zanzibar ;) long sleeves and long pants also deter mosquitoes and sunburn. Laundry service is available at most lodges and even tented camps, but be very clear about when you need your clothes returned. Take at least three changes of clothes for a week on safari, plus your own detergent to wash a few things. The best advice is to travel light, and wear cotton.

WHAT LUGGAGE SHOULD I BRING?
Travel lightly. On international flights, each person is allowed a maximum of two pieces of luggage with a combined weight not exceeding 44 pounds in most cases. We recommend two smaller bags rather than one large suitcase. "Squashable" suitcases, Overnight bags, duffel bags, etc. are ideal.

While you're on safari, additional baggage can be safely stored at your hotel. The baggage allowance on local planes within East Africa is 33 pounds. Even more important than weight is the size of the bags. Large suitcases cannot be stowed on light aircraft. Again, soft luggage is recommended. A few changes of clothes, your camera equipment, and toiletries are really all you should need. If you plan to do any trekking include a small backpack.


CAN I TAKE ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES?
If you bring along video camera, electric iron, razor or hair dryer, make sure they are adaptable to 220 AC and 50-cycle current and that you have adapter plugs for English outlets. Game lodges use generators, which shut down at bedtime. Camps in Tanzania only run generators for a few hours per day, however this usually is enough to recharge video batteries. Remember this is the Bush so don't count on electricity.

WHAT KIND OF CAMERA SHOULD I BRING?
Africa is the photographer's dream! A camera will record all those, unbelievable and spectacular sights you'll want to share with friends. We suggest a good 35 mm camera with a 35-70 mm zoom lens, and a longer lens, such as a 80-200mm to capture the multitude of rare birds you see. More and more travelers are capturing all the thrills of safari on video cameras. Most lodges and camps have facilities for recharging your batteries. You may have to pay a nominal fee in some game parks for non-commercial use of video cameras.

Unobstructed pictures can be taken through the roof hatch of your minibus. Remember that any vibration in the camera is magnified, so be sure to rest your arms on the body of the vehicle and request that the engine be turned off, if that's possible. Note: Taking photographs at AIRPORTS, HARBOURS, MILITARY INSTALLATIONS,STATE HOUSE OR GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS is prohibited. Your entire roll of film may be confiscated. In many tombs, temples or 'closed' museums, you may be asked to pay a fee of $3 for taking photographs, or $30 for use of a video camera. As a protective measure to protect the color of ancient art, some tombs and temples do not allow the use of a flash, or strobe

WHAT KIND OF FILM SHOULD I BRING?
The first rule is to bring plenty along 15-25 rolls. Although film is available in Nairobi and at some lodges, it can be expensive. For color slides, we recommend Kodacrome 64 and high-speed ektachrome 400, the latter for low-light conditions. For more natural colors you may prefer Fuji 400 HR. For color prints, Kodacolor or Kodak Gold 100 and 400 give excellent results. If you want to take pictures at night you'll need Kodak Ektar 1000. Take along extra batteries for your camera and cover or plastic bags to protect your camera and lenses from the dust when you are not using them.

SHOULD I BRING BINOCULARS?

Your own lightweight binoculars will greatly enhance your viewing pleasure. If you're a "birder", binoculars are essential. The best range of magnification for safari is from 6X to 8X with a lens size of 35mm.We strongly recommend.

ANY TIPS FOR JET LAG?

Try to get as much rest as possible before your flight. Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake as they add to dehydration and adversely affect sleep. Drink plenty of water, especially during and after your flight. Wear loose fitting clothes, comfortable shoes, and try to sleep during the flight. Some people find that an inflatable neck pillow helps them sleep more comfortably. After you nap, walk around the cabin, stretch your legs and move around as much as you can in your seat. Get as much sunlight and exercise as you can upon landing.

WHAT'S THE LOCAL CURRENCY?

The standard unit of currency for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda is the shilling, but their values differ greatly, and they are not interchangeable. Your local bank can give you current exchange rates. It is not necessary to change money before you leave as there are banks for currency exchange at all international airports and in most hotels. Be sure to save your receipts so you can change any leftover shillings back into dollars before you leave.
 
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I TAKE?
Aside from shopping, you need money for drinks, tips and incidentals. Experience has shown that most clients spend between $400 and $500. The shops are full of tempting items. Major credit cards and travelers checks are accepted in major hotels and stores, but some game lodges and rural shops accept only cash. We also recommend that you take traveler's checks rather than cash with you. Do not keep all valuables in one place, such as a purse, that could be lost. It's a good idea, if you have more than one credit card to keep the second in a separate pocket or locked in the hotel safe. Your airline ticket will be collected by our office upon arrival in Nairobi for reconfirmation of your return flights.

DOCTOR'S NOTES: WHAT INOCULATIONS WILL I NEED?

Generally no inoculations are required for Kenya and only a yellow fever inoculation for Tanzania. HOWEVER, CHECK WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN AS REQUIREMENTS MAY CHANGE. You should carry your health certificate with your passport at all times. Many doctors recommend yellow fever inoculation in all African countries as well as gamma globulin and tetanus. On your safari, you'll be eating and staying at the best places. Your risk of exposure to disease is small.

However, any time you travel it is a good idea to be up-to-date on all your routine inoculations. Your doctor can advise you. We do recommend that everyone obtain a prescription for anti-malaria pills. Most types are started two weeks before your arrival and continued for six weeks after your return. The most effective protection against malaria and yellow fever is to avoid mosquito bites. We recommend that wear long sleeves and slacks in the early morning and evening and use a 30% Deut based insect repellent where there are mosquitoes. Most safari lodges in East Africa where there is presence of mosquitoes are equipped with mosquito nets as a standard facility.

WHAT ABOUT THE RISK OF AIDS IN AFRICA?

We believe that our travelers are aware of the sources of transmission of AIDS. There is no greater risk of exposure on a safari than there is at home. Mosquitoes do not transmit AIDS. While no one can be certain of the purity of the blood supply at home or abroad, there are blood-screening facilities in Nairobi. These hospitals are staffed by American and European trained doctors, nurses, and technicians and have high standards of medical care.
 
WHAT ABOUT MY BAGGAGE?
You are allowed two normal size pieces of luggage not exceeding 44 lbs. per person on the international flight. However, on chartered aircraft within Africa, the baggage allowance may be 33 lbs, and in small planes, the limit is 26 lbs, including your camera gear.

Please read your itinerary carefully and pack accordingly. In many cases you can plan to leave a larger bag behind in the capital or port of entry city, and take only a small duffle bag on safari. In most cases, arrangements have been made for storage of your luggage while on safari, but all baggage is the tour member's responsibility while on tour. If possible, we do recommend baggage insurance.

HOW DO I GET THE BEST OUT OF MY TIME IN AFRICA?
Be on time. Nothing is more irritating to other group members than to have to constantly wait for a slowpoke! Be at appointed meeting places, ready to go. You may not wish to go on all game drives or sightseeing. However, do be sure to tell your driver or guide in advance so he won't wait for you. Be quiet. Part of the beauty of the African bush is the silence and serenity. If you notice others aren't speaking, it's probably a sign they wish you weren't either.

On game drives you risk scaring away the animal you want to see by shouting or speaking loudly. Quietly point out to the driver the animals in question and be assured he'll respond appropriately. Be considerate. Some in your group may want to keep moving while others want to linger to get that perfect shot. If your group is large, you can often sort yourselves out into minibuses of people with similar habits. Don't assume that you are the only person who likes the front seat. It's always best to ask. Refrain from smoking in vehicles and during meals. Don't be a complainer. Most problems are pretty easy to rectify when the right person knows about them. If something is bothering you tell the person concerned or your guide. You're on the adventure of a lifetime!

ANY TIPS ON PHOTOGRAPHY?
Africa is a paradise for photography, but do not wait until you arrive to become familiar with new gear. Take equipment that you have used before. While film is for sale in Africa, it is expensive and limited. Be sure to take along plenty and buy it before you leave home. Take extra batteries for your light meter, and a waterproof pouch (a zip lock bag may do) to protect your camera from moisture and dust. Take extra batteries and plug-in adapters if you plan to use a video camera.

At some remote lodges and tented camps, power is produced by generators that are often turned off at night, and the current may not be powerful enough to recharge your batteries. It is smart to take a recharger that works off a vehicle battery, but bear in mind you may not be the only video buff needing a camera charged, and recharging often requires the vehicle engine be on. Larger lithium batteries that you can wear on your belt will last longer. In many tombs, temples or 'closed' museums, you may be asked to pay a fee of $3 for taking photographs, or $30 for use of a video camera. As a protective measure to protect the color of ancient art, some tombs and temples do not allow the use of a flash, or strobe.

WHAT ABOUT THE LOCAL VOLTAGE SUPPLY?
The electric current in Africa is 220-240 AC. Dual voltage appliances may still need an adapter for the plug, usually British-style flat three-prong. See plug in adaptors for the various formats. Some hardware stores sell a multi-functional adaptor that has all the basic plug in prongs.

WHAT ABOUT GOING THROUGH CUSTOMS?
You may bring into East Africa any personal effects, including cameras, and an unlimited amount of film. Products made from endangered species may not be taken out of the country. Do not be tempted to buy ivory, tortoise shell, or elephant skin products.

WHAT TRAVEL DOCUMENTS DO I NEED?
In addition to your valid passport, visas are required for Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda Premier Vacations Africa will obtain the necessary visas for a small service fee. Application forms and instructions are now available online, including photo requirements for each visa.

HOW DO I GET CASH FOR MY PERSONAL USE?
Since you will be met upon arrival at the airport and escorted to your hotel, you will not need any local currency before you reach the hotel, where you can obtain it. However, if time permits, airport exchanges often give better rates than hotels. There is now a large number of registered Forex Bureaus where you can change your money safely and at excellent rates. Major Credit Cards are often accepted in larger towns and at lodges, but in markets and with vendors along the road, cash works best, and bargaining is expected.

We recommend that you take traveler's checks rather than carrying large amounts of cash. Many travelers find it useful to carry a hand calculator to estimate dollar values while shopping. ATM machines are not widespread and may only be found in major capitals; consult your own bank before departure.

 
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