I'm on a two month trip around Africa and India and having just completed my trip around Nairobi, Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Lamu, I wanted to share things that I have learned along the way. Please email me if you need any further info and I'll be happy to respond.
- A brand new cell phone costs anywhere from 1800-10,000 shilling and is worth it to keep in touch with family back home, your driver, etc. Zain is the cheapest carrier within Kenya however Safaricom works throughout Africa. You can load minutes per your needs (we opted for 500 min for 200 shillings). Call to US or India costs about 3SH/min, text is 1 SH and incoming calls and texts are free.
- Book your travel through a local travel agent. We wanted to extend our stay in Nairobi by one day and the price given by the front desk and expedia (both quoted at 300USD/night) was more expensive than booking through a travel agent (quoted at 200USD/night including breakfast).
- Airport pick-ups can be arranged by your hotel and sometimes a lot cheaper than a travel agent (our agent quoted us 50USD versus InterCont at 30USD)
- InterCont is a decent hotel with good security. There was a guard stationed on every floor, the front lobby manned by metal detectors and body guards and cars go through a security check at entrance. The gym is small and modern and the breakfast (10USD/pp) includes some Kenyan foods (stewed matokes, steamed pumpkins, ugali porridge) but can be skipped if you have the time to grab a bite to eat along with a fantastic cup of coffee at Dorman’s or Java House.
- Highly recommend Koseve (at 24 Kimathi street) for some local Kenyan dishes. Its walking distance from the InterCont and a great way to learn the city while on foot.
- Tourists are advised to exert security measures and I highly recommend hiring a car for the day.
- I had read many fantastic reviews about Kennedy from Wayward Safari. Unfortunately Kennedy was in Mombasa and offered to arrange a taxi for us at the rate of 200 USD for 2 people. This was based on our customized itinerary of the elephant orphanage, giraffe center, Bomas of Kenya, Safari walk and dinner at Carnivore. Since Kennedy himself wasn’t available, we decided to ask our hotel concierge for recommendations. He suggested a fantastic driver for us who offered us the same itinerary with a pick up at 8am and drop off at 9pm for 160USD (feel free to negotiate rates if you are comfortable doing so). Joe can be reached at 07-227-68873 or via email email@example.com (tell him that Sarah and her mama from India recommended you to him).
- Highly recommend getting a customized safari. We thought we’d be the only ones in an 8 seater land-rover (3 of us including driver) however we saw many singles and couples who had done the same. The experience is priceless- you can ask the driver to stop whenever you want, he will take you for an up close and personal experience for animals you are most interested in photographing and the cost (about 200USD extra) far exceeds the personal benefits.
- There are many safari tours- we landed up working with Safari Trails for our game drive and InterCont reservations. The entire trip of 6 days including hotels, entrance fees, game drives and meals (only during the safari) was about 1700USD/pp. The 4 day game drive included 2 nights at the Mara Sopa Lodge, 1 night in the Flamingo Hill Camp in Nakuru, 1 night at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort. Ms. Catherine Mutula, Cel: +254 721 247376, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mara Sopa Lodge is clean with large rooms. Staff is friendly and accommodating to needs. There is no room service, meals are served buffet style and can taste terrible if you’re a foodie (no Kenyan dishes other than the Ugali porridge at breakfast, vegetarian choices are mostly Indian dishes, there is a pasta station and stir fry station at every meal). Security seems very good as evidenced by the roaming guards at all hours of the day/night. Best feature: location- it is situation right inside the Masai Mara which makes it a easy 30 min drive to the animals.
- Tipping is customary at about 100SH. Keep lots of change around since you’ll need it to tip your server, porters, etc.
- Bargaining at the markets is expected. Start as low as 10% of the initial asking price and settle for a price at 30% of the asking price (pay 30SH for an item initially quoted at 100SH).
- Stay at the Flamingo Hill Camp Hotel- its an experience to stay in one of the tents even if its for a night! The food is exquisite, the staff is very friendly and its one of the two hotels located inside the national Park
- Lamu is spectacular! We stayed in Shella village at the Kijani House. Another option is the Peponi Hotel (both properties are on the beach). Carry cash since credit cards are only accepted at the hotels (Kijani charges 5% commission).
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