Kenya,Tanzania July,1998


Dec 21st, 1997, 12:27 PM
Jim Ferguson
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Kenya,Tanzania July,1998

I will be travelling with a group(15 people) on safari to Kenya,Tanzania in July,1998.Any tips for safety,dress,currency exchange,what to bring for exchanging,and gifts for chldren?
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Dec 31st, 1997, 11:55 PM
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Congradulations on your decision to visit Kenya. I went there two summers ago to participate in an archeaological field school and safari. One tip for the dress code is to bring warm clothes. The elevation is about a mile up in Nairobi and has cool temperatures. Temperatures only get warm if you go north of Nairobi and occasionally the Great Rift Valley will have hot temperatures. Raingear is also a good idea because thunderstorms are frequent. You don't need to spend lots of money buying the traditional safari clothing. That's only done for image reasons. Hiking boots aren't necessary, but may are preferred due to their durability. One last thing about clothing is that women wearing shorts is generally frowned upon and not encouraged in the cities. I never saw anyone have a problem, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
One general tip is to prepare yourself for continual off-roading. After you get out of Nairobi, the roads are a joke. Usually the roads are so bad that the drivers drive on the sides of the roads and everyone bounches from their seats for hours. If anyone in your group suffers back pain, be sure to take some advil. Another thing is the dust. It can be overwheleming at times, especially with hundredes of tour vans everywhere. Some sort of mouth cover or hankerchief would be appropriate for these circumstances.
In terms of the best parks to visit, I strongly reccommend that you spend a couple of days each in both the Masai Mara, and Samburu National Park. The Masai Mara is the ultimate in ecotourism ( I witnessed a cheetah and four yearling cubs bring down and adolescent wildebeest). The Samburu is great because relatively few people visit the park, and the wildlife is clustered around the river. This creates a dense animal population and the elephants let tour vans get within arms length. It's also warm their which is a nice if you've spent a few cold and wet days at Lake Nakuru.
One tip about trade items are that they love anything that's American and has english writing on it. Brand names and sport teams are extremely popular. I met a Samburu trbesman that was willing to trade one of his spears for a Chicago Bulls hat. Old tennis shoes are also great trade items, but the thing that really surprised me was their desire for good quality ball point pens. Interesting, but take a few and offer them as small gifts or trade bait. I would advise you not to buy things at the stores along the way to game parks. The drivers usually get a fee for bringing you there and the prices are really high. There is less willingness to bargain at these places. Nairobi is a good place to buy gifts and if you go to towns that are about three hours north of Nairobi, people become few and far between, but the bargains are the best. I bought a Samburu spear for about 15 dollars US. In Nairobi, I saw them for as high as 100 dollars. Remember to bargain hard and pay a price you would be satisfied with. Many of the merchants ask you for a price of what you would pay, or they write it down on a piece of paper. The first price is insultingly high and an equally low price should be offered for the item. Eventually some price in the middle will get worked out. Hope you enjoy your trip and if you have any other more specific questions, go ahead and post them, or email me.
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Jan 7th, 1998, 07:31 AM
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Having traveled in Sub-Saharan Africa, always independently, for thirty years and having visited India and other Asian countries many times, I have come to oppose taking ball point pens and small gifts to give children. We Americans are making the children of the world pestering little beggars who see us only for a handout. It is far better, I believe, to make a donation to a local charitable group. For example, you will undoubtedly go to Arusha, Tanzania. Two organizations there are doing excellent work: 1) Selian Hospital, sponored by the Lutheran Church in the U.S., and 2) The Heifer Project, based in Arkansas. I encourage you to incoporate visitation to such projects as these in with your tourist activity. For other opinions on Tanzania and Kenya, see another message which I have posted in response to someone else's question in this column.
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Jan 8th, 1998, 03:23 PM
Cliff Jensen
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I really agree on the comments re: gifts to kids, etc. Last February we toured Myanmar (Burma) and we repeatedly asked not to spoil the area by giving stuff to the kids. None-the-less several people still did it! Can you imagine, one lady was ginving out small baskets of Godiva! It was really nice to be in a place where the kids weren't begging, but unfortunately it probably won't last. I think the worst we have run into in our travels was in Bali. Such a beautiful Country, and you can't go anywhere without small children becoming real pests.
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