Safari Tips and Everything You Need To Know Before Your Trip To Kenya and Tanzania
What should I know before traveling to Kenya and tanzania?
Since I started posting my safari photos on Instagram, I have received many questions about it, as planning a safari trip on your own can get overwhelming. I too found it very hard to find all the information I needed in one single place, so hopefully this post will give you all the information and resources you need to plan your once-in-a-life-time Safari trip!
Do I need to stay in the national reserve to see African wildlife?
Short answer, no. There is a plethora of Safari options and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. Depending on which park you want to visit, you can either stay in the reserve or outside. The safari lodges will offer game drive at the nearby reserves regardless if they are located inside or not. If you are staying at a hotel that doesn’t provide any safari tour, you can book one through a local tour company.
On my wildlife safari trip, I stayed in a private reserve located near the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The game drives within the conservancy were included and the option to visit the national reserve was also available.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya and/or Tanzania? How safe is Kenya for tourists?
Yes and it’s generally safe for tourists, but always be alert and take precautions when you are in the city – just like any other big city. We felt very safe at the lodge and never worried about our expensive gear.
Precautions tips in the city
Carry as little cash as possible
Don’t flaunt your cash or expensive items
Don’t walk alone at night
Don’t venture into potentially dangerous neighborhoods and stay in the touristy areas
Be wary of anyone who approaches you on the street
Only take taxis from established taxi companies or hotels.
When in Kenya, avoid the border with Somalia
When in Tanzania, avoid the Burundi border
Is UBER available in Kenya or Tanzania?
Yes, UBER is available in the capital cities. We used UBER in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, but it isn’t widely available outside the main cities.
Tip: If for some reason you can't get an UBER at the airport, you can use the rate to negotiate taxi price. At Dar es Salaam, the taxi at the airport said their fee was about $35 (UBER estimated rate was $7) and they wouldn’t budge from that price. As soon as we mentioned that it was $7 for UBER they started negotiating down the price until we settled at $15.
Is the tap water safe to drink?
No, most hotels will provide bottle water for you to drink and some may even provide you with bottle water to brush your teeth. If your immune system is not used to water in a foreign country, most likely you will get an upset stomach.
What plugs are used in Kenya and Tanzania?
Kenya: Type G and the voltage is 240 V, 50 Hz frequency.
Tanzania: Type D and G and the voltage is 220 V, 50 Hz frequency.
The standard voltage in the U.S. is 120 V, that means that you will need a converter/adapter for your appliances. Some electronics may be compatible if it’s labeled 'INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz'. For example, the latest Mac computers are compatible ( Line voltage: 100–240V AC, Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz) Check the label of your electronics to see if it needs a converter too.
How much should I tip on a safari?
As a ballpark, you should tip around $10 per day to your guide and between $3-$5 per day to the rest of the staff. For people that assist you with your luggage, tip between $1-$2. At restaurants, the tip is usually 10% of the bill.
Do I need to get a visa before arriving in Kenya or Tanzania?
No, you do not need to get a visa before arrival for Kenya and Tanzania – unless you are a citizen of a handful of countries that do before arrival. Although not necessary, I do recommend applying for the eVisa beforehand to save time.
Unfortunately, at the time of my travel, the Tanzania website wasn’t working so I got it on arrival.
For additional visa information:
What’s the official Currency in Kenya and Tanzania?
The official currency in Kenya is the Kenya Shilling, and in Tanzania, the Tanzanian Shilling. Keep in mind that both have different exchange rate vs USD. If you are planning to only visit Safari during your stay, you won’t need to exchange currency as USD is widely accepted - even at the Maasai village. So make sure to bring enough cash for tips and fees.
What’s the difference between visiting private conservancy vs. national reserve?
Although I can’t speak for every private conservancy and national reserve, I will compare the difference between my experience at Olarro Conservancy and Serengeti National Park.
At Olarro Conservancy, we saw an abundance of wildlife everywhere we looked: giraffes, antelopes, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, baboons, you name it! We were mesmerized by the sheer amount of wildlife and were able to tick off most of them from our list. The only animal we didn’t see was the elusive leopard, the cheetah (both sighted before, but are very hard to spot), rhino, and hippopotamus (no population in the conservancy). On every game drive, we went, we experienced something new and exciting.
At the Serengeti National Park, a bit of patience is required. We didn’t see as many animals as they were widely spread out. You could be driving for hours before spotting an elephant or a giraffe. But we did notice a more significant population of lions compared to the conservancy, and the wildebeest migration was jaw-dropping. On our way back, we also spotted a cheetah and a leopard.
Although my boyfriend and I didn’t purposely plan it this way, I’m glad we stayed the Olarro Conservancy in Kenya first before the Four Seasons in Tanzania. The game drives at Olarro are included in their all-inclusive package, which means that we could go as many time as we wanted without extra cost. On the other hand, game drives at the Four Seasons Serengeti are not part of their all-inclusive package and carry an additional fee. Because we have already seen a good amount of wildlife in Kenya, we didn’t find the need to book more than one game drive at the Serengeti – after all we saw everything we wanted on that game drive. So we spent most of our time enjoying the property and watching the elephants come to the waterhole twice or thrice a day.
Olarro Conservancy, Kenya
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
In a national reserve, there are rules that safari cars must follow. For example, cars cannot go off road and must always stay on the path. Which means that sometimes you can’t get close to the animals. There are many cars from other tours and lodges that without proper rules, they could easily cause a lot of damage. On the other hand, at the private conservancy, there aren’t many cars roaming around – at least not in Olarro – so they have no rules about driving off the road here and there and get close to the animals.
Note: During our game drive at the Serengeti, I noticed a car with a sign up that said: “Don’t follow us, we have a special permit.” Most of the time these are professional photographers or journalists with a special permit to go off-road.
One of the best things about Olarro Conservancy is the privacy it offers. You won’t see ten other cars – or possibly more during high season - all trying to catch a glimpse of the cheetah someone just spotted.
Which safari should I pick? private reserve or national reserve?
It depends on what you are looking for. Yes, you get more privacy, close encounters, and an abundance of wildlife at a private reserve. But at the national reserve, the Serengeti landscape is simply breathtaking, there’s a bigger population of big cats, and the wildebeest’s migration is simply incredible. So it’s up to you what you are looking for.
Safari Tips and Recommendations
Traveling from Kenya to Tanzania using bush plane
If you are planning to visit two countries as we did, you will soon learn that bush planes are only regional, but companies partner together to offer international flights, so a few layovers are ensured. Our lodge in Kenya was located south of the country near the border with Tanzania. From our closest airstrip (Mara Siana), we flew with Safarilink to the airstrip located right at the border (Migori Airstrip), where a car was waiting for us to take us across the border to Tanzania and drop us off at the nearby airstrip (Tarime) and flew with Coastal to our final destination (Seronera Airstrip). This is very common; so don't think that you will get lost in the transfer process.
To arrange it, you could either ask your lodge for assistance or reach out to Coastal by email and request car transfer from Migori to Tarime.
In Kenya: Safarilink : email@example.com
In Tanzania: Coastal: firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional information on flying through Tarime airstrip click here.
Bush plane luggage allowance
Safarilink and Coastal luggage allowance is a mere 15 Kgs (or 33Lbs), and that includes your personal bag. If 15 Kgs is not enough, with Safarilink you can pay $75 for the cargo fee, and it will let you bring an extra 75 Kgs (165 Lbs). With Coastal, you can purchase the premium seat, and it will allow you to bring a 30 Kgs (66 Lbs) luggage.
Although not required, they do recommend soft bags. The reason for that is that the luggage compartment is uneven and hard shell luggage makes it hard to accommodate more. During high season, if your luggage doesn't fit, they may send it on the next flight. If you are wondering how I managed to pack only 33 Lbs, stay tuned for my Safari packing post.
Yellow Fever Shot and other vaccines
Although getting the Yellow Fever shot is not required to enter Kenya if you are flying from the U.S., it will be required if you are flying from Yellow Fever risk countries like Kenya to other African countries - or vice versa.
On our Safari itinerary, because we were traveling from Kenya to Tanzania, the yellow fever shot was required. Right before crossing the border, we were asked for our yellow fever card, and again at customs in Tanzania.
There's Yellow fever risk in certain parts of Kenya and Tanzania, so the CDC recommends getting the vaccine. For more information about Yellow Fever in Kenya or Tanzania, check out the CDC official website.
For more information visit CDC’s website
It's the Yellow Fever shot required to enter Kenya or Tanzania?
No, if you…
Are flying from a Non-Yellow Fever risk country (like the U.S.) to Kenya AND you are not planning to visit any other African country.
Yes, if you…
Are flying from a Yellow Fever risk zone.
Visiting other African countries departing from Kenya or Tanzania.
For the list of countries with risk of Yellow Fever, check out the official CDC page here.
Note: Make sure to get your vaccines at least 14 days in advance for them to start taking effect. Also, A Yellow Fever certificate is valid 10 days after vaccination.
U.S. Residents: Because there's a shortage of Yellow Fever vaccine, there are very few places that offer it, and price can range from $150- $350 including consultation fees. The only place I could find it in Miami was at the Passport Clinic. Additionally, insurance does not cover these types of vaccine so it will be an additional cost that you will have to keep in mind. The upside is the vaccine is good for ten years.
The CDC also recommends immunization against the following diseases:
Talking to the local people at our lodge, they didn't seem to be too concern for many of these diseases. Our lodge in Kenya, because of the high elevation there are no mosquitoes. It also helped that there was a drought when we visited - but all of that didn't stop me from dousing in insect repellent.
However, in the Serengeti, we did encounter lots of the Tsetse flies. Their bites are as painful as a bee sting – according to my boyfriend - and they can carry trypanosomiasis, also known as African Sleeping Sickness. Thankfully, the Four Seasons Serengeti have them under control at their lodge. As you approach the property, you will see many of the tsetse fly traps hung on trees everywhere. Additionally, there's a special tree that keeps them away, so they are planted around the lodge as well. We did have to sign a release form at the Four Seasons in case we caught any disease at their property. They also had signs everywhere warning that the lodge was located in a malaria zone.
Although all the vaccines are not required, they are highly recommended by the CDC.
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