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Safari glossary
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FAQ – frequently asked questions
Sections on this page:
  Safaris in general
  Seasons
  Parks and wildlife
  Accommodation
  Food
  Health and lifestyle
  Safety
  Communications and equipment
  Transports
 
 
Safaris in general

How many days is a good safari?
Most packaged safari tours are six or seven days in the bush, which is good. On shorter safaris, you may feel you haven't seen enough, and on longer safaris, you may start getting worn by rough roads, dust and the hot climate.

If you go for a shorter safari, you should go to fewer parks, or you will spend most of your time travelling between the parks.

More about safari lengths

Is 'guaranteed window seat' important?
Yes. But what you really want is 'guaranteed window seat with a roof hatch above'.

'Guaranteed window seat' means that you will have a seat next to a window in the safari vehicle. You probably want that. Only a few seats in each vehicle don't have a window; they are poor seats, and no-one should sit there.

What you really want is a window seat with a roof hatch above, allowing you to stand up during game drives. If a travel company or tour operator can't guarantee you such a seat, you should consider choosing another company/operator.

More about safari vehicles

How much money do I need during a safari?
Approximately USD 150 per person for basic costs on a one-week safari.

Most safaris are full board, i.e. they include breakfast, lunch and dinner. What you have to pay yourself is beverages [USD 70], tips (porters [USD 15], hotel/lodge staff [USD 15], driver guide [USD 35]) and any extra activities (Maasai village [USD 10], museums [USD 3–10], boat tours [USD 5–10], extra game drives or night safaris [USD 20 per drive]). Use local currency for beverages and small tips, local currency or USD for the rest.

In addition, you need to pay your visa in USD on arrival, unless you have obtained your visa before from home. The visa cost is USD 50–100, depending on your nationality.

More about money and currency
More about visas and passports

Do I need a visa?
Nationals of most non-African countries need a visa. Check with the embassy or high commission representing Kenya or Tanzania in your country if you need one.

Visas can be obtained from the embassy or high commission before you travel, or upon arrival to the main points of entry to Kenya or Tanzania. Most visitors arrive on of the following main points of entry, where you may obtain a visa: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi), Moi International Airport (Mombasa), Kilimanjaro International Airport, Julius Nyerere International Airport (Dar es Salaam), Zanzibar International Airport or the border station in Namanga (when travelling from Nairobi in Kenya to Arusha in Tanzania).

Addresses etc to Kenyan and Tanzanian ambassies/high commissions

Are there laundry services?
Yes, in most hotels, lodges and tented camps. It usually takes a day, so unless there is an express service, you need to stay in the same hotel/lodge/camp for two nights to have your laundry done.

Seasons

Which time of year is best for safaris in Kenya?
August to October is the best time if you want to see the migration in Masai Mara. The rest of the year is also fine, except for April to May, which is normally a rainy season. A short rainy season in November also brings some rain, but not too much to prevent you from going.

More about safari seasons
More about where to go

Which time of year is best for safaris in Tanzania?
December to March plus June is the best time if you want to see the migration in Serengeti. Many animals congregate in Tarangire from August to October. The rest of the year is also fine, except for April to May, which is normally a rainy season. A short rainy season in November also brings some rain, but not too much to prevent you from going.

July to October is the best time for going to southern Tanzania (Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha). The rest of the year is rainier, with a drier spell allowing for safaris in January and February.

More about safari seasons
More about where to go

Are safaris possible during rainy seasons?
Yes and no. Some lodges and camps close during rainy seasons, mainly during 'the long rains' in April to May. You can't stay there then, obviously.

Heavy rains affect the passability on bush roads, making them hard or impossible to drive. All roads inside the parks are bush roads. Roads in black cotton soil areas become slippery with just a little rain, and hopeless with heavy rains.

Game driving in rain isn't really fun, as you have to keep roof hatches and car windows closed.

The rainfall isn't too bad during 'the short rains' in November, and you can usually have a good safari then.

More about safari seasons

Parks and wildlife

Which park is the best?
It depends on the time of year.

The prime parks, Serengeti in Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya, have a very good wildlife all year round and are the best parks to see the big cats and many different species in general. Serengeti peaks in December to June, Masai Mara in August to October. You can stay for several days in these parks.

If you combine one of the above with one, two or three other parks, you'll have a more complete safari and see more species.

Where should I go to see lions?
To Serengeti in Tanzania or Masai Mara i Kenya, any time of year. We have never been there (or heard of anyone going there) without seeing lions. The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and Samburu in Kenya are also quite good parks for lions, but not as good.

Where should I go to see elephants?
To Amboseli in Kenya or Tarangire in Tanzania, if you want to see many elephants. Smaller herds can be seen in most of the parks visited on most safari tours, except for Lake Nakuru and Nairobi National Park.

Where should I go to see the Big Five?
For best chances to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, African buffalo and rhinoceros), you should combine Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania or Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru in Kenya.

More about the Big Five

Where should I go to see gorillas?
To Uganda or Rwanda. They are not found in Kenya or Tanzania, but it's not too far away. You may combine a safari in Kenya or Tanzania with gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda.

Where should I go to see lemurs?
To Madagascar, a big island country east of Mozambique. They are not found in Kenya or Tanzania.

Where should I go to see tigers?
To India. They are not found in Africa. The lions are the largest cats in Africa.

Will I see lions hunting?
Most safari-goers don't, as it takes luck. Lions mainly hunt at night, when game driving is not allowed in most parks. Daytime hunting happens, though, and some safari-goers are lucky enough to be in the right place when it happens.

Which animals can I see in Kenya and Tanzania?
Lion. Leopard. Cheetah. Serval. Caracal. African wild cat. African wild dog. Jackal (3 species). Bat-eared fox. Hyaena. Genet. Civet. Mongoose (several species). Honey badger. Otter. Baboon (2 species). Monkey (several species). Chimpanzee (in western Tanzania). Elephant. Hyrax (3 species). Rhinocerus (2 species). Zebra (2 species). Hippopotamus. Warthog. Bush pigs. African buffalo. Eland (a big antelope). Bushbuck. Giraffe. Wildebeest/gnu. Hartebeest (a few species). Topi (a big antelope). Waterbuck. Reedbuck. Dikdik (a small antelope). Steenbok (a small antelope). Klipspringer (a small antelope). Duikers (several species). Oryx (a big antelope). Sable (a big antelope). Roan (a big antelope). Kudu (a big antelope). Bat (several species). Squirrel (several species). Hare and rabbit (a few species). Crocodile. Lizard (several species). Tortoise and terrapin (several species). Lots and lots of birds, ranging from little grey and brown ones to large birds like flamingos, pelicans, eagles and ostriches. And a lot more. Exactly which animals you may see depends on which area you go to.

More about where to see specific animals

Where can I go to avoid seeing other safari-goers?
Off the beaten track.

The Kenyan and Tanzanian safari industries are focused on a set (about a dozen in each country) of good and accessible parks. Going to these, you will meet other safari-goers, unless you go there during low season and have a bit of luck.

To be alone, you need to travel to less accessible areas, and mainly to less attractive parks, where you won't see as many animals. There are some good remote parks, too, but going there takes a tailored safari which will be pricey. One such remote park is Katavi in Tanzania.

More about parks in Kenya
More about parks in Tanzania

Accommodation

What's a lodge?
It's a hotel in the bush. The standard varies from basic to luxurious. You stay in a room or a bungalow and have a private bathroom. Meals are served in a restaurant. There is usually a bar and a shop, in some lodges also a swimming pool.

More about lodges and camps

What's a tented camp?
In general the same as a lodge, except that you don't stay in a room but in a safari tent. The tents are big enough for two beds or a double bed, and have a private bathroom.

More about lodges and camps

Is it dangerous staying in tents?
Generally not. Animals that appear within the tented camp are usually just passing. This usually happens at night, when you are in bed. The tents are considered safe, as animals have little interest in them, and can't open zippers to get inside, anyhow. All good tented camps have watchmen keeping an eye on the wildlife around and willing to help you, should you want an escort when walking to and from your tent.

Some tented camps in Kenya, but few in Tanzania, are fenced. Large mammals, including predators, may appear within the camp area (mainly at night). We advise you not to walk about alone in the dark, but to walk in twos or more, and to stay on lit paths, and not to hang around outdoors.

Food

Is there vegetarian food?
Yes. Most meals are buffets, and there are vegetarian dishes. When served at the table, ask for vegetarian choices. In small lodges or tented camps, you may inform the staff that you're a vegetarian when checking in, allowing the kitchen to prepare.

To have vegetarian food on your international flights, make sure to tell you want it when booking the packaged tour or flight.

Is there gluten-free food?
Yes. When having buffets, ask the staff which dishes don't contain gluten. When served at the table, ask for gluten-free choices. In small lodges or tented camps, you may inform the staff that you want gluten-free food, allowing the kitchen to prepare.

To have gluten-free food on your international flights, make sure to tell you want it when booking the packaged tour or flight.

Health and lifestyle

Is there a risk I'll get sick during the tour?
Yes. The most common complaint is stomach problems. You should avoid drinking tap water (bottled water and other beverages are easily available), and choose what you eat wisely.

Malaria is a dangerous disease spread by mosquitoes active at night, and is found in most parts of East Africa. The medicine available is not a 100 % protection from catching the disease. You should use mosquito nets and cover your skin (using clothes and mosquito repellent) during evenings, nights and mornings.

More about eating and drinking
More about health

Which vaccinations do I need?
Consult a doctor or vaccination clinic in good time before travelling, to make sure you have appropriate vaccinations and malaria protection for East Africa.

Vaccinations often recommended include yellow fever, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, cholera, typhoid fever, meningococcemia, tuberculosis and rabies, but fore normal safari holidays, all of these may not be needed. In addition to vaccinations, you will most likely be recommended a malaria prophylaxis.

Children who have not had, or been vaccinated against, measles, mumps and rubella may need vaccinations before travelling to East Africa.

More about vaccinations

How hot does it get?
The temperatures in the main safari areas, most of them situated far inland, are 25–35+ºC/77–95+ºF during October–March, 5º/10º less during the rest of the year. Coastal temperatures vary less, and are normally around 30ºC/85ºF.

The highest temperatures we have encountered ourselves on safaris in East Africa have been just below 40ºC/104ºF.

The air in the inland areas is dry, while humid on the coast.

Are there many insects?
Not during the high seasons (July to October and December to March), when weather is usually warm and dry. More insects, including mosquitoes, are seen during rainy seasons (April to May, and November) and in humid (usually forested) areas.

Rooms and tents are usually sprayed, and are mainly free of insects.

Can I go on a safari in a wheelchair?
Yes, but there are very few options for you if you want to do it comfortably. There are some single lodges and tented camps adapted to clients in wheelchairs. If you can tolerate some hassle, and travel with someone to assist you, there are a few more lodges and camps to choose from, where steps etc are few and bathrooms spacious.

Otherwise, the 'safari style' used when designing lodges and tented camps often inludes stairs, single steps between different floor levels etc. Bathrooms may have little space, and showers are often in bath tubs. Good ground clearance is an import feature in safari vehicles, making them hard to get into from a wheelchair.

Hotels, lodges and camps have quite a lot of porter staff etc, so plenty of assistance is available.

More about wheelchairs on safaris
More about lodges and camps

Can children go on a safari?
Yes, but it of course depends on their age, and on if they can take the climate,, the poor roads, and travelling for some hours most days. We have good experience from travelling with children from 10 years.

A few lodges (where game viewing is done from the lodge, and a quiet environment is disirable) have a lower age limit, which varies between 7 and 10 years. Some safari activities, such as walking safaris, may have an age limit (for walks it's usually 15 years).

Good malaria prophylaxis may not be available for very young children. Consult a doctor or vaccination clinic before booking a tour.

When planning to travel with children, you may look for (or tailor) a safari that visits fewer park, to avoid long hours on the roads every other day. You may also look for tours that will bring you to lodges or tented camps where there's a swimming pool. Don't leave children unattended in lodges, tented camps, picnic sites etc where wild animals may be around.

More about travelling with children
Lodges in Kenya
Lodges in Tanzania

How is homosexuality looked upon?
Male homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya and Tanzania. Female homosexual acts are illegal in the state of Zanzibar (i.e. Zanzibar Island/Unguja and Pemba Island). Sentences are long, but the laws are rarely enforced.

As homosexuality violates the traditional local social patterns, it is generally not accepted. There is virtually no open gay culture.

Safety

Are Kenya and Tanzania safe?
Both countries are politically fairly stable, seen in an African perspective. Democratic elections are held, and have mainly been respected.

Events in Kenya in the beginning of 2008, when political-ethnical unrest following an election led to the death of more than a thousand people, indicate how fragile the political stability may be.

The general safety for tourists is not as good in northern Kenya as in the rest of the country and in Tanzania, but few if any tours go there.

Robberies occur, but are not common. They are most common in the major cities, in northern Kenya and on the coast. Thefts occur, but you may to a high extent avoid them by using safe deposits, keeping a good eye on necessary valuables (cameras, wallets etc) and not wearing jewellery.

The US embassies in Nairobi in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania were bombed in 1998. Some years later, a hotel in Mombasa in Kenya was bombed the same day as a missile was fired at (but missed) an Israeli airliner taking of from the airport in Mombasa.

More about safety

Is Nairobi safe?
Nairobi has a name of being dangerous, and has been nicknamed 'Nairobbery' by some. It's a major city in a poor country, and you can't rule out crime. Avoid walking alone, especially in unknown areas or after nightfall (this goes for all towns and cities). Keep a good eye on valuables (cameras, wallets etc) and don't wear jewellery. Ask hotel reception for advice on where in town you may go safely.

Most safari-goers visiting Nairobi only come there to stay the night. If you don't venture out from the hotel on your own, you don't really need to worry about robberies etc. To visit sights or attractions in town, you may join arranged outings or have reception get you a taxi.

Are walking safaris safe?
Walking safaris are less safe than game viewing from vehicles, but on most walks, nothing dangerous or scary happens. All walks in wildlife areas should be escorted by an armed ranger or armed local guide. His job is not only to protect you from dangerous animals, but also to make sure that dangers are avoided.

The most dangerous among the large African animals are elephants, African buffalos, hippos and crocodiles.

More about walking safaris

Are there many snakes?
Yes, but you rarely see them. When leading tours, we see a snake in about one out of four safaris. Most snakes move away when they notice you approaching. Avoid walking where you can't see where you're putting your feet, for example in high grass. Use a flashlight/torch when moving in dark places outdoors at night, as there are some snakes active at night, especially around dusk.

Communications and equipment

Is special equipment required for joining a safari?
No. But if you don't bring a pair of binoculars, you'll wish you had. Otherwise, mainly bring the same luggage as for a beach holiday, and add some warm clothes for cool mornings and high altitudes.

More about luggage
Luggage list for safaris

Can I use my mobile phone?
It depends on which operator you have. There is GSM coverage in the major towns and the major tourist areas, but it won't help you if your phone operator doesn't have the necessary deals with the local Kenyan or Tanzanian operators.

If your phone isn't tied to a specific operator at home, you may buy a local SIM card for use during the tour. It's quite cheap.

Which is the international dialing code for Kenya?
254.

Which is the international dialing code for Tanzania?
255.

Are there Internet cafés?
Yes. You'll find them in major towns and cities such as Nairobi, Arusha, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar Town, and in good hotels. Prices are fair, but connections are generally slow.

Some lodges and camps also have an Internet service. Prices are high and connections slow.

Can I charge batteries?
Yes. You'll have wall outlets in your room in most hotels and lodges. Some tented camps also have outlets in the tents. If there are no outlets in rooms and tents, you can charge your batteries in the reception or bar.

Many lodges and tented camps generate their own electricity, and switch the generator off for 5–6 hours in the middle of the night and in the middle of the day.

What kind of outlet adapter do I need?
Kenya and Tanzania have wall outlets for British 3-pin plugs with rectangular pins. The voltage is 220–240 V, 50 Hz.

Can I buy film or memory cards during the safari?
Yes, as long as you want standard types. Film and memory cards are sold by some in shops for example hotels, lodges and camps, and by park entrance gates. However, we recommend that you bring enough film or cards for the full safari (you'll probably use more than you expect), as the articles sold locally in general shops for tourists may not have been properly stored, handled etc.

Can I use a tripod for my camera?
Not in safari vehicles; there isn't room enough. You may use a bean bag instead.

Tripods can be uses in lodges and camps, at observation points and even during walks, if you have a light one.

More about tripods and bean bags

Transports

Which are the international airports in Kenya and Tanzania?
In Kenya: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO/HKJK) (Nairobi) and Moi International Airport (MBA/HKMO) (Mombasa).
In Tanzania: Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ), Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR/HTDA) (Dar es Salaam) and Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA).

How do I get from Nairobi to Arusha?
You can fly (approximately USD 150 one way, 1 hour) to Kilimanjaro International Airport, and from there go to Arusha by airport shuttle (USD 10, 45 minutes).

You can also go by shuttle bus (USD 25, 5 hours) from the airport in Nairobi to Arusha. We ourselves prefer to avoid these shuttle services for safety reasons. Speed is often too high, considering the narrow road and the poor paving.

How do I get to Zanzibar?
You can fly from Nairobi or Mombasa in Kenya (flight time approximately 1.5 hours), and from Kilimanjaro, Arusha (1 hour) and Dar es Salaam (20 minutes) in Tanzania. There are also boats from for example Dar es Salaam.

 
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Page updated 18 February 2009