Tips for a successful Kenyan Safari
What image comes to mind when you hear of the word Safari?
Sitting in the bush on a moonlit night, so close to a lion that you can feel the rumble of its roar in your chest?
Many travelers might conjure up visions of tented camps, gourmet meals in the wild bushes, game drives through the golden savanna, relaxation under a tree enjoying the spectacular views of the vast landscapes and sundowners at the end of the day.
The history of Safari dates back to the 19th century in colonial Kenya. The word itself is derived from the Swahili language which means ‘to travel’. As a commodity for the tourism industry, Africa and more so Kenya has become the terrain where a particular kind of experience is available to Western subjects: adventure, romance, and danger are available under a home-like control and comfort. Africa is packaged into a tour as a spectacle where difference is consumed and cultural difference erected as the provider of authentic experience.
Here are some tips for a fulfilling safari Experience:
What to pack
Travel light! Make comfort your priority and don’t overpack. Your mind is so at peace in that atmosphere, you actually don’t really care about looking flawless, you are really just embracing being in nature.
For clothing, choose colours that help you blend into the savannah, especially if you are planning on going on a walk and avoid loud colours. Also bring clothing that is suitable for the weather and that can last you a few days if laundry services are not immediately available. It is advisable to avoid wearing bright-colored attire on your safari in Kenya; instead, carry clothing of neutral colors that blends in with the bush.
Since there is a probability of mosquitoes and other insects, you need to carry repellents and also apparel that covers the maximum area of your skin like long-sleeved shirts, trouser pants, shoes and socks. Some locations such as those in the Great Rift Valley highlands e.g. Mount Kenya, Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru etc. can be cool in the night so do pack a warm layer and perhaps cozy nightwear.
The Safari Experience
Game drives are the backbone of most safaris, with the idea being to spend as many hours as possible in the bush searching for animals. A game drive can be done at any time of day, but early morning, mid-morning and late afternoon, with a break early on for breakfast, and another in the middle of the day for lunch, is the usual plan. Night drives are also an excellent way to view nocturnal animals, although they are not permitted everywhere.
A few key accessories can greatly improve the quality of your safari experience. Field guides depict the flora and fauna of a specific area alongside photos, identification pointers and distribution maps. If you are into photography, invest in a high-quality digital SLR with a 100-400mm zoom lens and a small, collapsible tripod. Finally, a quality pair of binoculars is probably the most important piece of equipment on safari – even a cheap working pair is better than none at all!
Safety while on Safari
No matter where you go in sub-Saharan Africa, there are rules and regulations you must follow when in the bush. These safari safety rules are designed to keep you and the animals alive.
- Listen to your guide: Not every situation can be safe. If your guide advises you to move on or back away, then do so.
- Keep your voices down: Animals scare easily and you wouldn’t want to miss a pride of lions because you are chatting too loudly.
- Never turn your back: This is for intrepid travelers undertaking a walking or cycling safari (one of the great joys of Africa). The only thing that turns and runs in Africa is prey, so predators like lions may chase you.
- Always stay in your vehicle. Africa is not a zoo, and its animals will eat or attack you. There have been too many terrible cases of people getting out to try and capture the perfect photo. It always ends badly.
Animals are free to roam and may not be where you want them to be, but the better informed you are, the more likely you are to see what you are after. Prime your senses, keep quiet and look for clues. Watch out for silhouettes, moving vegetation and shapes that do not fit into the landscape. Use your peripheral vision and watch where other creatures are looking. Listen for alarm calls, snorting breath, splashing water and changes in the activity of other creatures.
Finally, relax, keep quiet and give heed to your own primal instincts.
Being on safari in Kenya implies visiting the national reserves and parks to watch diversity of wildlife. However, while on safari there are a number of things to watch out. One is dangerous wild animals. While on safaris things may go wrong and tourists are advised to stay in their truck. The tourist may be tempted to get out of the vehicle to take photos. Be warned as this may end up badly.
The tourists are advised to make use of the guides. As a tourist visiting Kenya, always follow the instructions and more importantly listen to the guide. The guide knows the best places, animal movements and the terrain so do not ignore his advice.
Being in the wilderness may bring one into contact with nasty infections like sleeping sickness, malaria, dysentery and biting insects. One must ensure his or her immunization is current. The following jabs are recommended when visiting Kenya: typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis and diphtheria. Also remember to apply insect repellents to the skin to avoid insect bites.
Language is another thing to watch out. Swahili and English are official languages used in Kenya. Therefore, tourists must be knowledgeable of either two languages and if need be translators are available so do not be scared your message will pass on really well. People and culture are also worth watching. The traditions and culture in Kenya depend on where one is staying.
But Kenya is largely Christian though Islam is also practiced. While Kenyan people are very friendly, poverty drive some to engage in petty crimes. It is therefore important to take personal safety. If one carries things like expensive jewelry and fancy cameras can attract attention and thus it is advisable not to carry too much cash around, wear expensive jewels or carry cameras.
Kenya has no stable dish, so expect to be served with amazing steak. Meals are made from the fresh produce and are deliciously seasoned. However, avoid street foods as they may upset your stomach.