An african Safari is one of those things everyone should do! Even if you’re scared of lions, on a low budget or unsure about being in the middle of Africa surrounded by nothing else but wildlife… doesn’t it sound like a dream?
When planning the safari in Kenya, there were so many questions on the table! So I’ve put a post together for you, to help answer those questions & inspire you to go. If there is anything else you want to know, just get in touch.
Best place for safari.
In short there is no right or wrong answer. I’d say there’s nothing comparable to the absolutely stunning Masai Mara in Kenya, though I also heard from the Masai tribe that Tanzania is just as good. The main thing I recommend is to choose a natural park compared to a nature reserve. It’s important to research what African safari animals you’d like to see and what else you’d like to do. This will be a determining factor of location. For example: would you like to see the big 5? Would you like to travel to local tribal villages?
In my case, I wanted to see both of these things in Kenya. What I didn’t expect was seeing the big 5 by the end of day 1! It was absolutely amazing!
When to visit Kenya?
Timing is everything with Safari, so make sure you research what you’d like to see and the best time of year to see it. For example, the great migration was on my bucket list. I also didn’t want it to be peak tourist season, so the end of October was the best option. Weather wise you can pretty much go anytime, though it’s best to avoid the peak rainy season (mid November onwards). Outside of that, temperatures are steady during the year. Peak safari season could make a disappointing visit in terms of being in a resort full of tourists and having too many vehicles out on the Safari. That’s without talking about prices!
The end of October worked really well for me: there was a couple of downpours, though not lasting long. And watching the great migration was like watching Planet Earth live! One of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had and will never forget!
Do I need vaccines for an African safari?
Unless you’re an avid adventurer and have been having all the shots in the catalogue (I have them all!), most likely yes you will need them. The best thing to do is to check the website that NHS (England) uses to give travel health advice, so at least you know which ones to expect. Oh, and be mentally ready when the nurse tells you that you’ll need a few injections… £££
If you’re not from the UK this is still a good website to check out for advice.
Vaccines will also include anti malaria tablets. There are a few options here and I’ve tried them all. I would recommend opting for the slightly more expensive ‘Malarone’. Overall there are way less tablets to take, for a shorter period and you don’t have to avoid the sun! This sounds strange, though with Doxycycline you have to try and stay out of the sun! Don’t think I want to know why!
What to pack for a safari?
This is for the checklist lovers:
- Light jacket & jumper, shorts & joggers: the savannah is very cold at sunrise and warms up mid morning. On the drive to your safari, you’re likely to be wrapped up in a blanket, and an hour or two later, you’ll be baking in sun! Don’t underestimate this change in temperature by thinking you will grin & bear it! Wear layers you can change as the temperature changes.
- Sun screen: go for a 50 spf, light spray option, the last 2 things you need when the heat reaches 40oC is covering your body with thick suncream / putting a jumper on because you’re still burning.
- Light backpack: this will be your best friend each day. A medium size bag to fit your camera equipment, mosquito and sun screen sprays, some water and keep your jacket/jumper when it gets hot.
- Mosquito repellent: who knew there are so many options!? I found one that kept the feckers away on the trip to Vietnam, so I got the same and it worked wonders. You’ll be familiar with the brand, it may not smell great when you first put it on, and will leave a slight shiny layer on your body. Though trust me: having zero bites is worth it! It’s called Jungle Formula maximum protection.
- Hat: you can of course go for a discrete cap or a full on pamela. In the words of Madonna – Express yourself, though protect yourself! Definitely avoid a black hat!
- Sun glasses: goes without saying… fashionable or practical. You’ll be taking them off a lot to take pictures / stare in wonder at the animals. Just pick a place to put them away from the monkeys!
Where to stay: Eco lodge or resort?
For me this was an easy answer: eco lodge. I love being in the middle of it all: meeting the locals, experiencing the culture, eating traditional food & being conscious of our carbon footprint. I couldn’t be happier with the stay at Mara Engai eco lodge. All the staff are from the Masai tribe and spend monthly rotations working in the hotel / going back to their villages. I spent time with them to understand how they live and their values and traditions. I can’t lie, it’s also pretty amazing being escorted back to your lodge at night by two warriors, protecting you from any animals. So is hearing elephants grazing 50ft yards away at night or bush baby’s running on your roof! The lodges are quite literally paradise! Check out my other post on Masaai Mara to read more about this.
Meet the locals in the Masai Mara
I can’t encourage you enough to do this! Put yourself out there & get to know local people. The incredible animals are one thing and the amazing people are the second thing, equally as unforgettable! There is nothing like meeting a group of Masaai Warriors and learning their ways, even participating in a jumping competition! (Shay won and got the honour of being named ‘the white Masaai’!)
If your lodge or resort offers the opportunity to go to a Masai village, definitely go. Parts of it may feel slightly commercialised, though the reality is this is means of income for locals. You won’t regret and it will help you to put everything into perspective. It was a life-changing trip for me.
If you have any other questions or if you have some other advice or tips that you’d like to share with fellow travellers, please leave a comment below or get in touch!