Visiting the Masai Mara, set in the great plains of Africa, is certainly a trip of a life-time.
This is your opportunity to experience some of the best wild animal viewings anywhere in the African continent.
Vast grasslands studded with acacia trees and rivers will give you an overwhelming sense of space.
Preparation for this journey, if not done in an organized manner, can be a stressful task. There are too many details requiring our attention and for some people this could become a deterrent and kill the motivation to witness one of the natural wonders of the world: The Great Wildebeest Migration.
When it comes to preparing for such endeavour there is a list of items and things you will need to arrange before you start the journey.
Here you will find 9 things I deem important but if you believe I have left out some others, feel free to leave your comments at the end of this article
Disclaimer: 40ChasingFreedom has made the utmost effort to research and keep the correct and most updated information in this article. The information is mainly based on the blog’s owner personal experience. However, 40chasingfreedom makes no warranties or representations, expressed or implied, as to the timeliness, accuracy or completeness of the information contained or referenced therein. The use that, as a reader, you give to the information provided here is at your own risk and ultimately it is your responsibility to check relevant and competent organizations to obtain the most up to date and complete details for your upcoming trip. When it comes to accommodation, the information provided is not the result of my personal experience but the fruit of my own research through hotel booking platforms and references given by people I have met.
1. Visa procedures and costs
One of the first things that require our attention is the visa application. Some passport holders have virtually free access to most of the countries in the world. They just need to show up at the airport and visas will be granted on arrival. However, there are some others not so lucky and therefore some research and preparation prior to travelling needs to be done.
I will provide a list of countries which will need to apply for visas in their countries of origin at the relevant Kenyan Embassies and a link for the countries entitled to apply for e-visas. For now, let’s just go through the process from the initial moment when you land at the airport.
Do bear in mind that a passport is required for all foreign visitors and must be valid for at least six months from the moment you arrive in Kenya and the passport must have a clean and a full visa page for endorsement. In my case for example, I realized my passport was valid for another 5 months only when I was three weeks away from travelling to Kenya. Luckily, I was able to use the online premium service from the Passport office in London and get a valid document on the same day. I have to say, it was a bit scary to discover this at the very last minute because it could have been worse, and I could have easily lost a lot of money for a rather silly thing to miss.
On arrival, you must fill up the yellow entry form (it appears white below, but it is yellow) given to you either on the aircraft or you can get them at the airport.
In terms of visa, some people had already applied for the electronic e-visa but if you don’t have it you will need to fill up the blue application form (on the picture this form looks almost white, but it is a rather light blue colour). It is totally fine for you to apply for the visa on arrival. I have seen some information online where people say that visas are no longer granted at the airport. We travelled in November 2018 and we had no problems whatsoever in getting one.
The visa fee for single entry and less than 90 days is US$50 dollars. It is best if you have the exact amount of money ( Note: I have now – December 2018, checked information about visa fees at the e-visas website and the price for the single entry is US$51 ). According to the Kenyan Airports Authority website, passengers travelling under any of the following passports will need to apply for a visa in person at the Kenyan Embassy in their country of residence: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Georgia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan and Yemen.
For the full list of countries authorised to apply for e-visa online please use this link.
Below you find the addresses for the Kenyan Consulate in London and Washington
Kenya Consulate In The United
Kenya Embassy Washington DC
2249 R. Street N.W.
Washington DC 20008
Telephone: +1 (202) 387-6101
Fax: +1 (202) 462-3829
Kenya Consulate In The United Kingdom
Kenya High Commission
45 Portland Place
London, W1B 1AS
Telephone: +44 (207) 636-2371/5
Fax: +44 (207) 323-6717
2. Yellow fever vaccinations
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Some of the symptoms are fever, chills, headache, backache, and muscle aches. Roughly around 15% of people who get yellow fever develop serious illness that can sometimes be fatal. There are certain parts of South America and Africa which are at risk for yellow fever and therefore travellers are advised to get treatment before visiting. Yellow fever vaccine is the best protection against yellow fever disease. However, there are some other measurements which could help to prevent contamination:
- Use a repellent containing 20%-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin. Re-apply according to manufacturer’s directions
- Wear neutral-coloured (beige, light grey) clothing. If possible, wear long-sleeved, breathable garments
- If available, pre-soak or spray outer layer clothing and gear with permethrin
- Get rid of water containers around dwellings and ensure that door and window screens work properly
- Apply sunscreen first followed by the repellent (preferably 20 minutes later)
- Sleep in air-conditioned rooms or use beds with mosquito nets
Despite the effort I put on having my vaccination for the disease, the yellow fever card was never asked when entering the country.
The yellow fever card is valid for 10 years.
However, when the Kenyan passport control officer was questioned about it, she mentioned that we should have been asked to produce proof of vaccination and it didn’t happen because the person who was supposed to do it was just being lazy. This shows the easy-going approach from Kenyan authorities concerning yellow fever. On the other hand, though, it must have been because we arrived from Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates is not on the list of high-risk yellow fever countries (see table below).
The number 2 on the table above shows countries which are not holoendemic, but the virus is present in some areas in that country.
In London you can get the yellow fever vaccination through several medic centres, but I did get mine through boots. It is compulsory to book an appointment for the vaccination. You may have to buy some malaria tablets and get some other vaccinations as well depending on your own personal circumstances and the characteristics of your trip. In total I paid £70 for the vaccine and for 60 malaria tablets (doxycycline) which I had to start taking 2 days before my trip, every day while I was away and then for 40 days after I arrived back to the UK. There are some side effects linked to the yellow fever vaccine such as fever, head ache, confusion, tiredness, muscle pain, weakness, light-headed feeling amongst others. These side effects do not affect everyone. I did not suffer from any of them. Vaccination must be provided 10 days prior to the first day when you intend to be in Kenya.
To book an appointment for boots follow this link.
For other countries and more information about this topic, please visit the below relevant website:
Australia – www.travelclinic.com.au
Canada – www.iamat.org
Ireland – www.tmb.ie
New Zealand – www.iamat.org
United Kingdom – www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
United States – wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
3. Time to visit
Wildebeest migration in Kenya takes place between two world-wide famous National parks: The Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania. The migration moves are dictated by the rainy seasons as the herds are always in search of fresh grazing. The rainy season in Kenya starts in November so the best months to view Masai Mara’s wildlife are from late June to October, the dry season. The wildebeest migration usually reaches the Masai Mara in July and remains until October when they move back to the Serengeti in Tanzania following the rains there. If you are planning on witnessing some river crossings from these beautiful creatures as they return to Masai Mara such as the Mara river, August is the best time to see it. The crossings will continue through September – which is generally your last chance of seeing them cross the Mara River.
Photo by @deepak.shankar.photography on IG
Best Time: June to October, January to February
High Season: July to November, January and February – Masai Mara gets very crowded
Low Season: March to May (Some lodges and camps in high rainfall areas close)
Best Weather June to October (Little to no rainfall)
Worst Weather March, April and May (Peak of Wet season)
From June to October, because it is the dry season and it is hot and there is little to no rain, the bush is less dense and hence the wildlife is easier to spot. Animals gather around rivers and water holes. From November to May the story is totally the opposite. The scenery is green, and the prices are very attractive as this is the time of the year when there are less visitors, so lodges lower their rates to attract business. This is also the time of the year when you will see lots of cubs and plenty of migratory birds. The only months of the year you should try to avoid for trips to Masai Mara are March, April and May when rains can be continuous and interfere with your safaris. Some lodges close during these three months. In addition to this, in November / December and March / April roads are more difficult to navigate.
4. Local currency and exchange
The local currency is the Kenyan Shilling and is accepted to pay for most things, though dollars are accepted to pay for hotels, national park fees and airlines.
At the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and after security you will find lots of currency exchange shops and a cash point. It is best to withdraw money from the cash point and to avoid using the exchange rate offices at airports as the exchange rate given is extremely low. I usually change some decent amount of money prior to my trip, enough for me to get by during the first day and then once settled a bit more I will usually get some more money from a cash point.
As of today, January 13, 2019 the exchange rate is US$1 dollar = 101
To have an idea of prices, a large margarita pizza at a restaurant in a high-end shopping centre in Nairobi will cost you around 1500 KES = US$14 dollars.
5. What to wear and pack
Deciding what to wear or pack for a safari trip to Kenya depends directly of the time of the year when you are planning to visit and the length of the trip you intend to take. You should carry clothing that is light and comfortable, and this will help you with the size of the suitcase you will need to check in. Packing light is the wisest way to travel as this will help you save money with some budget airlines and will make your life easier and much more comfortable.
Temperature changes during the day in tropical countries, so mornings and evenings can be much cooler than the early afternoon. Pack some light long-sleeved clothing that you can wear at night time but also that you can take with you onto the game drive and wear during the day. Long sleeves will protect you from the sun and from mosquito bites. Some people will prefer to wear trousers for the same reasons but in my case, I wanted to stay as cool as possible, so I decided to put on some gym shorts and opted for the mosquito repellent applied generously onto my legs. Unless you want to impress the wild game with a different attire every day, I would confidently say two pair of shorts (or perhaps pants with zip that can turn them into shorts if need be), three t-shirts and a comfortable pair of shoes will suffice for a three-day safari trip to Kenya. Three pair of socks and same for underwear should be enough as these can be easily washed and dried during the day. You can also pack some sandals or flip flops you can change into when you arrive to your camp after the game drive to give some rest to your feet.
Remember, a three-day safari trip to Kenya consists of: a first day when you start your journey from Nairobi and reach Masai Mara in the afternoon. Depending on your transport choice you may have enough time that day to do half-day safari trip inside the park or a conservancy nearby. Second day is a full-day inside the park and the third day is just half day of a morning game drive and perhaps a visit to a Masai village and then the drive back to Nairobi.
During our full-day safari we spent the whole time inside the van and were only allowed to get off during breakfast, lunch and toilet breaks (4 times in total), and this is the case for most of the visitors to Masai Mara during a full-day trip. One thing I will bring on my next visit to Masai Mara is a wide-brimmed hat, as this will protect your face and your neck from the dangerous UV rays especially between 10 am and 4 pm when they are at their strongest level. Remember, most of the vans used for game drives have no roofs so this reduces the amount of space within the car where you can seat without having the sun burning your face.
Sun cream protection is something vital during this trip as well as a nice pair of sunglasses and mosquito repellent.
If you are planning to travel in April, May, October or November, remember these are the months of the year when rains are most likely to happen so pack a raincoat that can be easily carried within your day-to-day backpack.
There is one way to pack your clothes within your bag to maximize the space and that is in rolls. At least it works for me. You need to make sure you roll your clothes as thinly as possible and use every room within your garments to pack smaller things. For example, I use my shoes to pack toiletries and socks.
Some budget lodges will not provide toiletries so you will need to check before your travel but to be on the safe side take some check-in size tooth paste, shower gel, shampoo, deodorant and hand sanitizer. Feminine hygiene supplies such as tampons and pads also need to be packed as it will be very difficult to find any store nearby where to get them from.
Depending on the caliber of your lodge, you may also want to bring some smart casual clothes to go for dinner at night time. Also, swimwear if there is a pool. In our case, this was not necessary at all as the lodge we chose was rather basic.
Another thing to bear in mind is the colour of your clothes. Dark or brightly-coloured clothing makes you more visible to mosquitoes, so it is best to dress in light colours. Khaki, beige, and olive do not attract the insects and are therefore the ones most used when in safari trips.
Most basic lodges do not offer laundry services and if they do, you may not be able to get your clothes back the same day.
First-aid items such as pain killers, band aids, anti-allergy antihistamines to counter insect bite, antiseptic ointments and pills for diarrhoea should also be taken. You never know when they may come in handy.
It is advisable to carry copies of your passport and travel tickets as well as travel insurance, drivers license and a list of medications, in case you are taking any. Another useful thing in our case was a strong reliable padlock which we used to lock our tent when we were out in the bush. Not because we didn’t trust the people from our camp but more because of all the wild animals roaming around freely.
Finally, one more item you should think of before you travel is your camera equipment. However, I will get a friend of mine, a professional photographer, to write a small article about this topic. Don’t forget to pack your phone charger, some headphones and the relevant plug adapters for African power supply (The plugs -type G- used in Kenya are the same used in the UK, standard voltage is 240V and the frequency is 50Hz)
6. Where to stay
Deciding on a place to stay in Masai Mara can be a daunting task and even more considering the huge amount of options and price ranges you can be potentially choosing from. There are, however, certain aspects you should consider when picking up your lodge for a trip to the Kenyan bush. For us, location and price were the most important factors that helped us made our minds. We had read in several websites about the distances between the lodges and the park gates and how this distance could have an impact on the quality of your trip overall. We chose a lodge which was almost on the park border, cheap, with an excellent rating on www.booking.com and with a decent amount of reviews on this platform. The camps within the Masai Mara triangle are the most expensive ones. However, there are some others that although further away from the park gates are equally pricey.
For the purpose of this exercise I will classify the camps, according to accommodation costs, in three different types: Boutique, medium range and budget. Prices given are per night, double accommodation and for the night from the 2nd to the 3rd of October 2019.
6.1.1 Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge
Cost: US$1150 including taxes and 3 meals
It lies in the northwest border of the park. Overall rating of 9.3 but only 13 reviews on www.booking.com (As of 2 February 2019). Interesting fact: They grow their own vegetables and they also offer the opportunity for you to take part of a traditional Masai naming ceremony and receive at the end of it a certificate with your own Masai name. They also provide child minders if you need some extra help looking after the little ones while you and your other half enjoy of some deserved time to yourselves. There are two game drives per day. One at 6:30 am with light breakfast (coffee, fruits and juices) served at 6:00 and another one at 3:00 pm, departing from reception at 2:45 pm. Game drives are on a shared basis. Private ones are also available but need to be organized in advance. This lodge offers hot air balloon safaris which lasts for about an hour and quad-bike bush rides.
6.1.2 Governor’s camp
Cost: US$1080 including taxes + airstrip transfers, meals, 2 game viewing excursions daily and laundry.
This is perhaps one of the most expensive camps in Masai Mara. It is said it was one of the first permanent tented camps in the region. It is nestled in the forest along the winding banks of the Mara River. It has been doing business from 1972 and it is one of 7 camps from the same company within Kenya and Rwanda. There are 37 tents, all with en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold running water. All tents have their private veranda. There is a bar tent overlooking the Mara River. Breakfast is continental and full English buffet and so is lunch. Dinner is a la carte served in the tents. Bush dinner can be also organized at an extra cost. There are three full games per day: one in the morning, one in the late morning and the final one in the afternoon. Laundry services are included within the accommodation price. Wi-Fi is also available. Another good thing about this company is that they have their own aviation company called Governors’ Aviation, operating two flights per day ice from Nairobi Wilson Airport to Musiara Airstrip with a duration approximately of forty-five minutes. From the airstrip, Governor’s offers free transfer to their camp (approximately 15 minutes) and they also operate return flights to Nairobi Wilson airport twice daily. There is a maximum 15 kg luggage per person allowance in small air craft including hand luggage.
This accommodation can’t be booked through www.booking.com. It needs to be booked directly from the property’s website.
6.1.3 Mara Explorers tented camp
Cost: US$1960 including taxes and all 3 meals.
This is perhaps the most expensive camp in Masai Mara available for October 2019. 8 reviews in www.booking.com gives this accommodation an overall rating of 9.8. Not bad but in my case not enough reviews to make a sound decision. Pictures look amazing though. There are 10 tents in total, with en-suite bathrooms featuring spacious decks overlooking the Talek river. The tents come with a luxurious open-air Victorian bath where you can watch the wild life around while you enjoy a bubble bath. This accommodation offers a personal butler and a resident doctor. Every tent comes with their own radio communication system, complimentary insect repellent and mineral water. There is also laundry service, a private bar and library, safe deposit boxes, and telephone or email facilities by arrangement.
6.2 Medium range
6.2.1 Fig Tree Camp
Cost: US$421 taxes and all meals included – Standard tent.
Located on the banks of the Talek river, in the northern border of the national reserve. There are two options for accommodation at Fig Tree: tents or chalets. Rooms overlook the plains of the reserve. It has a rating of 9.5 on www.booking.com with 7 reviews. Camp consists of 70 tents: 38 of them are safari tents with double and single beds and 22 garden chalets also with double and single beds. Rooms come with flush toilet and shower. It has a swimming pool and also, if arranged, transfers can be organized from the airstrip nearby.
6.2.2 Keekorok Lodge
Cost: US$320 taxes and all meals included. Standard double room.
Keekorok Lodge has a rating of 8.7 but with one of the highest number of reviews on www.booking.com I have seen for any type of accommodation in Masai Mara: 120. It also has 1245 reviews on tripadvisor and an overall rating of 4.5. This is pretty solid. This is perhaps because Keekorok Lodge is one of the first lodges established in Masai Mara. Opened since 1962. It offers traditional accommodation – stone-built bungalows with private balcony, overlooking the garden, pool or reserve. They are equipped with a ceiling fan, allergy free bedding and mosquito nets and a private bathroom. Swimming pool is a feature within this lodge and certainly an amazing way to relax and unwind at the end of a very busy day inside the park.
Accommodation includes morning tea or coffee, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Lunch boxes are available by prior request for guests on full-day game drives. The camp’s game drivers are qualified by the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA). There are several options to choose from when it comes to picking up your desired type of room with standard double bedroom being the cheapest, to chalets, superior king rooms, executive suite and finally the presidential suites being the most expensive ones. This lodge lies close to Keekorok’s airstrip, approximately 3 kms.
6.2.3 Julia’s river camp
Cost: US$315 tax and all meals included. Classic tent.
Situated at 8 Kms from Talek’s gate, Julia’s river camp is rated 9.1 with 8 reviews on www.booking.com. Tents look onto the Talek River and they have their own private veranda to enjoy the surrounding scenery. There are three different sections within this camp: The Hippo camp (12 Classic tents – cheapest option); the Buffalo camp (12 Classic superior tents) and finally the VIP camp (4 tents). Each tent comes with twin beds, but doubles are available upon request. All tents include sewn-in mosquito nets, wooden bedside tables and coat rack, solar powered lighting, luggage racks, and private en-suite bathroom with hot running water 24 hours and regular flushing toilet. A small safety box is built into each single bed which guests can use to store small valuable items and secure with their own padlock.
The property also offers packed lunches. There are 3 different communal mess tents where guests can relax and enjoy a drink at the end of a long day’s safari. Each mess tent is set for the three different type of guests at the three camps: Hippo, Buffalo and VIP. All rates include all meals, mineral water and tea-and-coffee facilities.
Parking is available but it is not included within the price paid for accommodation. Rates are US$70 per adult per day and US$40 per child per day.
Children under 5 years old stay for free, while children under 16 years old are required to share a tent with an adult.
6.3.1 Crocodile Camp
Cost: US$84 including taxes.
This is perhaps one of the most popular choices within the backpackers’ crowd in Masai Mara. It lies right next to Talek’s gate (200 meters) and very close to Talek’s town. It is rated 8.7 in www.booking.com with 42 reviews. The reviews about the staff and the location of the camp right next to the park are always very positive. Wild life can be seen from the tents. Food is also well regarded within their visitors and they also allow people to bring their own tents or else you can rent one from them. It is possible to book accommodation only and pay extra for the food, but you can also opt to pay for all meals included for an extra US$84 for two people. Tents are cleaned daily. They have hot showers and flush toilets and electricity is also available from 6pm to 10 pm. Wi-Fi connection doesn’t seem to have good reviews but who needs Wi-Fi anyway when you are in Masai Mara?
6.3.2 Narasha Guest House
Cost: US$65 including taxes and 3 daily meals.
This is one of the cheapest options in Masai Mara and for people who don’t like sleeping in tents, Narasha Guest house offers accommodation within their house in private and shared bedrooms. 14 reviews in www.booking.com gives this lodge an overall rating of 9.1. Excellent rating but in my humble opinion, not enough reviews yet. Within the 3 budget options I have mentioned in this article, Narasha is the further away from the Talek’s gate. Not many reviews either on tripadvisor. The only reason why I decided to include it here is because of the price and because it is one of the few options in Masai Mara where guests will be able to sleep in proper bedrooms as opposed to tented accommodation.
6.3.3 Talek Bush Camp
Cost: US$184 including taxes plus 3 daily meals.
This is the camp we stayed at. There were several reasons why we decided to stay here but perhaps the most important one was the swift response rate to our emails and the clarity in which all our enquiries were always covered. Mostafa Elbrolosy is the camp’s manager and he was always very attentive from the day we sent our first email. He is a professional photographer so for those of you who want to hone your skills at wildlife photography he will be a great support.
The camp has an excellent rate of 9.1 on www.booking.com with 31 reviews. It is in Talek’s town and only 100 meters from the Talek’s gate to the Masai Mara park. Tents have all en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets. The food was tasty and meals for a full-day game drive are provided on packed boxes for you to enjoy out in the bush. Staff were very helpful, and our guide/driver Alfred was very knowledgeable. He knew the park inside out and all the spots and times of the day where we could find different types of animals.
There is also hot water supply, electricity and Wi-Fi connection within the restaurant area. Electricity runs until 10pm same as the hot water and the Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is only available at the dinning area.
7. How to get there
There are three ways to get to Masai Mara: flying being the most expensive, followed by private transport and finally public transport as the cheapest way
To fly to Masai Mara you need to catch a light aircraft from the Wilson airport in Nairobi which is located just north of the Nairobi National Park and south of the Westlands district in Nairobi and only 17kms west from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Prices for flights with Air Kenya for February are roughly around US$360 dollars return and still the same for October when checked on January 23, 2018. Flight time is 40 minutes.
For flight prices I usually check www.opodo.co.uk so I get a comparison between different airlines but recently I have realized that I can get much better prices from www.skyscanner.com. The prices given as an example above were taken directly from www.kenya-airways.com
Private transportation needs to be arranged between the lodge you have chose and yourself. In our case, we had narrowed it down to three potential lodges, so we established email conversations with the three of them to have an idea about the prices charged for transport, accommodation and the game drives (including the car and the guide). Then we realized what the average prices were for these three components of the trip and from then on, we started our negotiating skills with the camp owners. As an average, you should expect to pay US$100 dollars return for a privately hired van for three people to pick you up from your hotel or the airport in Nairobi and take you all the way to Maasai Mara and return. The more people you travel with the cheaper this option gets (Between 4 people the same trip would have cost us US$75 dollars).
Finally, the cheapest but perhaps the hardest and most tiresome way is by using public transportation. I have written a whole separate article about this topic. Please read it here.
8. Local customs
Christianism and Islamism are the main religions practiced in Kenya with 85% and 10% of the population respectively. Visiting some places of faith should be exercised with utmost respect and following local customs especially in terms of attire. Ask before entering any religious site.
Smoking in all public places (except designated areas) is prohibited throughout Kenya. However, smoking outdoors in any public street or on the beach is not banned. If unsure, check first with any of the locals and save yourself some trouble: fines of up to 3 million Kenyan Shillings or imprisonment for up to 3 years are the penalties given to people not following these rules. Advertising and promoting cigarettes have also been banned in Kenya.
Homosexuality is still taboo in the country. The Kenyan government does not recognise any relationships between persons of the same sex and same-sex marriage is banned under the Kenyan Constitution. Homosexuality is seen as a threat to the traditional heterosexual family and considered an unnatural and un-African behaviour. There is no explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Adoption is prohibited to homosexual people. Gay apps such as Grindr are used but people should exercise extreme caution before meeting others as they may be gay bashers who are hiding behind fake profiles and waiting for the opportunity to cause harm.
Trafficking with illegal substances such as Class A drugs carries heavy jail sentences of up to 10 years.
Taking photographs of official buildings, including Embassies, can lead to detention. If in any doubt, don’t photograph or film around them. Photography is also prohibited at airports.
You must get permission to carry any kind of firearm before you enter the country.
Plastic bags have been banned for environmental reasons.
It is illegal to destroy Kenyan currency.
You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable.
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade any of its parts without a licence. Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under which there’s a ban on the international commercial trade in ivory. Those caught purchasing or trafficking banned goods will be prosecuted and receive prison sentences and/or fines
9. Precautions about safety
reputation Kenya has for its beautiful coastline and stunning wild game
reserves, there are some precautions that will need to be taken to ensure your
trip is hassle free. As with any other place you travel to, being street wise
and following some common sense will suffice to keep you out of trouble.
We spent a couple of nights in Nairobi and we walked around the Westlands area at night time and we had no issues whatsoever. However, I will personally refrain from doing so again, especially in isolated and dark areas, and I much rather recommend taking a taxi to minimize any issues with thieves exercising their favourite hobbies: pickpocketing or bag snatching. Ask your hotel or host in Nairobi about safety precautions to follow before you head out. Don’t be a clueless muzungu (foreigner).
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or don’t flash around your latest purchase within the iPhone X range.
You must always carry a form of ID with you. A
copy of your passport is normally acceptable.
There are some areas within the country which are deemed to be unsafe for travelling such as any areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenyan-Somali border, the Garissa county, the Lamu County (excluding Lamu and Manda Island where it is advisable to travel by plane and not by road), areas of the Tana River county including the north area of the Tana river itself and within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river. This advise is given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
If you are travelling from the Jomo Kenyata Airport to Nairobi city you should use the Mombasa road and if you are travelling from Mombasa city into the JKIA airport at peak hours, consider that this road can get extremely busy so allow plenty of time to get to the airport and go through all relevant security checks. Adding to this time is a new vehicle security check outside the airport where all passengers from the incoming traffic onto the airport need to get off and get screened while vehicles go through the same process.
Visits to game reserves are mostly trouble-free but you should always use operators which have a good record in terms of customer service and do not buy any safari tours from people in the middle of the streets in Nairobi. You may never see neither these bad guys nor your money again. Once within the national reserves, always follow your lodge guide advise, stick to your van and do not get off unless told otherwise. There have been incidents in Masai Mara where tourists have been attacked by animals because of careless behaviour. Do not swim in rivers and lakes within the park. You never know what is lurking around and we are not only talking about the wildlife but also about water-borne diseases.
If you intend to rent a car in Kenya, exercise some extra care when on the road as road conditions and driving standards are rather poor. If you have a UK driving license, you can drive for up to three months but for longer than this, you will need to apply for a provisional Kenyan driving license. Especially at night time, drive with windows closed and doors locked. Avoid arriving at night time wherever possible. During months of rainfall, be extra vigilant on the road as there may be some localised flooding and this will make driving conditions even tougher.
If you opt to use public transport instead, check the bus operator’s safety standards. Long-distance buses and matatus (public transport vans) are notorious for being poorly maintained, badly driven and what’s worse, uninsured.
Finally, a Safety and Communication Centre operated by the Kenya Tourism Federation gives up to the minute tourist advice as well as providing help in an emergency. You can contact the Centre on +254 20 800100 or by e-mail to: email@example.com
Thanks for reading this far.
If you have recently visited Masai Mara and have any information I should add to this post, I would love to hear about it. Equally, if you have stayed at any of the camps I mentioned, it will be nice to know what your thoughts are so others can benefit from them. Use the box below to do so. And before you go anywhere else, please don’t forget to subscribe to receive more useful posts about other amazing places.
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