Lots of questions for August Kenya trip

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Jul 17th, 2003, 07:35 AM
  #1
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Lots of questions for August Kenya trip

Hello,
My wife and I are going to Kenya in 3 weeks! After finding this forum, I've got some questions that I hope you can help with. We are staying at the Salt Lick Lodge in Tsavo for 4 nights and then going to the Mara Safari Club for 2 nights.
1) Are there restrictions on what we can wear (especially women) in Nairobi?
2) Is it safe for two Americans to go to Carnivores resturaunt and should I get this scheduled through tour operator?
3) What is the dress at game camps? I'm assuming shorts for game drives and pants with collared shirt for evenings?
4) How important is it to wear long sleeves? Does it really get cool in the evenings in August?

Thank you all for your help in advance.
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Jul 17th, 2003, 08:22 AM
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LizFrazier
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Hi andyev-
I haven't stayed at either of the camps, but on the Mara in August it will be thrilling! We are going in early September for a week at Governors Camp. The migration will be there you know. We will wear long sleeves in the early morning and evening as it is cooler. It is the winter there and won't get too hot during the day. I generally do not take shorts as long pants, lightweight, are fine. It does get warm during the day. The zip off legged pants are wonderful for that purpose. Dinners are casual. We usually shower and put on the next days clothes for dinner. Collared shirts and such are not necessary, but would be fine. Wear cottons which wash and dry easily.
My husband and I will be dining at the Carnivore too. Yes it is very popular with tourists and you will be safe there. We usually go there on the way to the airport for our return flight and will do that on this trip too.
In Nairobi, casual clothes are fine too.
Kenya is a malaria area and long sleeves during the hours when the sun is down provides protection as well as comfort since it is cool.
I'm sure you will get lots of good advice so I'll let the others add their help. This is a great forum for assistance. Liz
 
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Jul 17th, 2003, 09:45 AM
  #3
nkh
 
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We were just in Kenya in June.

In order - no particular restrictions on dress in Nairobi. We did notice that everyone in our hotel and restaurant we went to seemed to take care about their appearance. Women were wearing nice slacks or skirts and blouses, men trousers and shirts, sometimes with a jacket, not necessarily a tie. This could have been the business crowd but in general in Kenya I noticed that everyone who could did try to look well groomed. Probably no ultra-short shorts or strappy/sleeveless tube tops is a good plan for your wife (or you! ).

We went to the Carnivore with 2 Americans, there were lots there as well as lots of Europeans. I wouldnt worry, it is very safe with your worst threat being either explosion from overeating or indigestion! There is actually a security checkpoint on the road before you get to the restaurant to make sure than anyone going has "genuine" business there. We scheduled it through our tour operator - it is about 20min drive from downtown Nairobi and it was nice to have someone drop us off and pick us up (taxi would work, but probably be expensive).

At the game camps casual is fine. We actually found it too cold for shorts for game drives in the morning and evening, although good for the heat of the day. On the Mara in the early morning we were wearing trousers, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, fleece and windbreaker for awhile! YES it DOES get cool in the evenings as well as mornings (I know, I didnt believe it either but am very glad that I took the fleece as well as long-sleeved shirts).

Liz is right that you probably wont need to bother with shorts for game drives. I wore all-cotton zip-off convertible trousers, a t-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over top, and fleece if necessary. If a morning/evening drive I usually ended up in trousers/t-shirt (or started there if pm). On full-day drives I only once peeled as far as shorts/t-shirt. Layers are essential.

A good hat is essential also, as is lots of sun-cream and insect repellant. Interestingly I found that with a good hat I preferred not to wear sunglasses.

Have a wonderful time! We did
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Jul 17th, 2003, 12:42 PM
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In Nairobi, people wear just about every/anything. NBO is at high altitude over 5,000 ft. and the weather is usually constant year-round (though weather worldwide has been strange these past few years) being on the Equator. The mornings and evenings are chilly, it warms by mid-day.

The sun rises and sets (except by a few minutes) at about 6:30am or pm daily (again the Equator). And because of the altitude in NBO, it is not a malaria area. Though malaria is a problem while out on safari.

Everyone has to eat at the Carnivore, either lunch (less expensive by about $2) or dinner. It's a wonderful experience and lots of fun. We prefer to eat outdoors in the garden (less tour groups here) and they do have "heaters" out here. You can arrange to go here through your tour operator who should provide you with the transfers to/from. Or you can do this through the hotel who should also rrange for a taxi to take you - the restaurant can arrange for a taxi back to hotel.

There is petty crime in NBO and it is not a good idea to walk around alone, though friends have done so. But, if you choose to do so, leave everything except a few small bills in your pockets (no watches, rings, jewelry or any sort). However, if you are going through a tour operator you will have a driver/guide and can arrange direct with him to take you wherever you want to go. We found this worked best for us.

You can stick to casual clothing in NBO, slacks, shirt, blazer - even the Carnivore is casual. Same holds true while out on safari. Mornings and evenings are cool and while it does warm during the day and you're tempted to wear shorts on afternoon game drives, because the sun sets early, you'll find yourself feeling chilly, so have something to change into and have a jacket/sweater for warmth.

In the evenings, remember long pants, long sleeve shirts, with sweater or jacket (even a pair of socks) - be sure to cover exposed skin with repellent (keep away from face though) - "mosquito time" is between dusk to dawn. And be sure to wash it off before going to bed. If mosquito nets are provided, use them and spray your room/tent with repellent.

And, don't forget to take your malaria meds.

As far as currency, have lots of small bills as it's easier to bargain with - if you pull out a big bill ($20 or $50) and expect change, you won't be bargaining sufficiently.

You're going to have a wonderful time. Enjoy your holiday.
 
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Jul 17th, 2003, 02:47 PM
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Liz, Sandi and all:

Thanks so much for the weather information. This will be the first time I have gone in September. In my past three trips in January it was always walking shorts and sleeveless blouses except at dinner time. Guess I'll have to re-think what I take in September. I had considered leaving my bulky fleece jacket home - but now I think I had best take it, or is a sweatshirt warm enough? Would like to get down to one suitcase this time if possible. How do you folks do it when you only take 22 pounds of gear? With all the camera gear, binoculars, gifts etc. the weight really adds up. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good duffle bag that can't be slit open and that locks. Am thinking about one for this trip but it must be secure.

Bookings have all been made. I'll stay a full week at Ol Tukai at Amboselli seeing the elephants and my friends at the lodge. Then I'll go on for another week at Satao Camp where I'm told in Sept, Oct and early November there will be 1,000 elephants every four hours at the borehole. CAN'T WAIT!!!

I never had any problems with mosquitos before and indeed stopped my antimalarial every time. However, since this will be a new season for me, I'll go prepared. The great thing about going in September is I won't be landing back in Boston in the middle of a snow storm as in the past.

Jan
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Jul 17th, 2003, 03:45 PM
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The weight limit out of Wilson was 30 lbs (at least it was in June and early July). I put all my camera gear in a daypack that I carried with me on the plane to Nairobi- and then out to the game parks. They consider the daypack as "carry-on". I also stuffed heavy things into my pockets when I left out of Wilson - like my binoculars, etc.
The airlines are also now cutting off locks on luggage. Don't know if there are any duffles that can't be slit-- so put all valuables in a daypack that you keep with you. At the gameparks I took my camera bag everywhere with me - both for security- plus you may want a picture of that special baboon who snatched the bread of the table next to you. Or a beautiful genet cat that wanders into the dining room at dinner time.
Wilson also has now has a baggage screening machine and is checking cars. Interestingly they check your bags going out and coming back to Nairobi.
Regarding the weather - it was COLD in the morning in the Mara in June and early July- even for me- a Montana girl. I brought lightweight long underwear and a windbreaker.
Amboseli was warm for me, but the staff were "freeezzing."
Sundance
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Jul 17th, 2003, 05:15 PM
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LizFrazier
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Jan-
Some hints I picked up on www.flyertalk.com was to forget the padlocks on suitcases anymore and use those plastic strap ties that come in different sizes, use the small ones, you can get about 25 in a pack. I think they are found in electrical supplies at Home Depot, etc. Put them on in place of locks and don't put anything valuable in your case. Ever. Carry a small collapsible duffel on board with the gifts and you can fold it in your other duffel for coming home. We used the plastic ties on our recent trip to the cruise and had no problems. Then be sure to carry some fingernail clippers in your backpack to clip them when you get there. You can put an extra tie inside the bag with a note asking security to use it when they reclose the bag if they go through it. Ours weren't cut and they sure are cheaper than losing the locks.
Jan, a sweatshirt should be fine because as I recall you stayed mostly in your room by the borehole to watch. Also since the safari vehicles are closed in Kenya that should be enough. It is cold though. I saw people with down parkas in the morning and envied them. We just take jackets. Really never wore shorts though. Only one day did I unzip the legs of my pants into shorts.

You know the weight limit in Botswana was 22 pounds, but I think it is 33 pounds for Air Kenya. I will check the website for them again. Jan, we just take 3 changes of clothes and have our laundry done at the camp except for smalls with we wash each evening and hang in the shower. They are dry by morning. On this trip since we will be staying at just one camp, 2 changes should be fine for the one week we are there. Cottons are lightweight and we wear the jacket and stow it overhead on the plane.
You're making me even more excited! Liz
 
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Jul 17th, 2003, 05:28 PM
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Sundance:

Sounds like we think pretty much alike. I too carried a "backpack" with video camera, SLR, lenses, and film in a leaded bag. However, I had many video tapes plus cassettes I had transferred from US format to PAL format for my friends and all these things added up in weight. Each time I left Wilson the same gentleman told me I was overweight on my luggage. I offered to pay the difference but he let me through. Probably figured an older woman traveling alone needed all the breaks she could get!

The unlocked bag rule was a problem when I went in January. However, I got to the airport very early (more than 3 hours before flight time) and I had the place to myself. They told me to lock the bag, put it on the X-ray machine and stand by; if they saw something suspicious they would have me unlock them. They never needed to be unlocked.

However, this trip I may get a little daring. Everyone said do not pack peanut butter in your suitcase because it is solid looking and looks like plastic explosives so your bags will certainly be opened. Thus I didn't. However, I think this year I will take a small jar in my backpack. After eating three large buffet meals each day I get to the point I crave just a plain old sandwich. I don't think the Maasai know what peanut butter is. So it should be interesting.

When are you going to post your trip report? I have been eagerly awaiting it (or have I missed it on the board?).

Jan
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Jul 17th, 2003, 05:29 PM
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LizFrazier
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Jan- Another thing. When you go through customs in Kenya and they see on your passport that you were there before, they will ask you about whether you are bringing any gifts in so they can charge you duty on them.
 
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Jul 17th, 2003, 05:53 PM
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Liz:

Thanks for reminding me. Since my flight arrives in the evening, I have never had a problem with that. I should probably expect it this time though.

I hesitate to bring up this topic but since so many people are mentioning dining at the Carnivore I think I will.

One of the big problems facing Kenya (and I would guess most of Africa) is the bushmeat trade. Many species of animals are now under seige with marked decrease in population. Please see Sheldrickwildlifetrust.org and click on the desnaring button. They now have set up four desnaring teams just in Tsavo East alone to try to combat the horror of it. No animal is exempt. One of Dr. Sheldrick's orphaned elephants, Dika, now living wild came back to the stockade last year for help from the keepers. He had a large wire snare around his leg. Luckily the keepers were able to dig it out and treat him with some antibiotics before he left for the wild again.

Some of the bushmeat is being used to simply feed ones family. However, an awful lot of it is going to restaurants and to make dog food.

Enjoy your meal at the Carnivore but perhaps have beef that was bred for the purpose of eating or chicken and leave the exotic meats alone.

If we who love Kenya so much don't take a stand to help curtail the bushmeat trade, then when we go to see the animals in a few year they might not be there. Please stop and think seriously about it.

Jan
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Jul 17th, 2003, 07:03 PM
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LizFrazier
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Jan-
I was told that the meat served at the Carnivore was not wild game but farm raised. I know the families surrounding the game parks live on the wild animals, but these are the Kenyan people and they must survive. I believe the animals are theirs.

Our ancestors survived on wild game and still in the northern states deer and elk hunting bring the states money from the licences. It also keeps the number of wild animals down so they don't starve in the winter when there is little food for them. Just part of the process I believe. Liz
 
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Jul 18th, 2003, 05:11 AM
  #12
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Thanks for all the replies. You've mentioned pants that can turn into shorts. Where do you get these? I've never heard of them. Also, can we wear our safari clothes to dinner at the lodge? How dressed up do we need to be for Nairobi and Carnivores? I don't want to pack too much and am actually trying to keep everything in a carry on bag so I don't risk the chance of the airline losing my bag.

Andy
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Jul 18th, 2003, 05:27 AM
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LizFrazier
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Andyev-
Yes you will be fine in safari clothes where ever you go. Please don't worry about that. I stayed a month in Kenya and ate out every night and only carried safari clothes. Since Nairobi is the capital city you will see lots of people on business there, but you are a tourist and have no reason to wear a jacket. We ate at the Norfolk Hotel, we were fine in safari clothes.
Columbia sportswear makes the pants as do others. There are a places on the internet you can obtain them. SusanLynne told me about them but I forget which site she recommended. I think it was REI. I bought my latest ones there. If you put "Kenya convertible pants" into Google, you should get plenty of places. Or just "convertible pants".
My husband and I each carry a duffel on board with no problem and do not check any luggage either. As I said earlier, 3 changes of outer clothes should be ample as all lodges and camps do laundry each day. Usually at no charge, or a very small charge. The camps do not have clothes dryers so you shouldn't take jeans or heavy things you want washed. Cottons dry fast when put outside. They throw them on bushes many times and you might pick up a stain or two, but what the heck, it will always remind you of Africa.
 
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Jul 18th, 2003, 05:47 AM
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Hi Andy,
Re pants: They are sometimes called "convertible pants" and they are made of an extemely light weight, easy to pack, and quick to dry fabric. Locally, you could try a backpacking or outdoor store. You can also find them at a discount at Campmor.com and you could also try REI.

Keeping everything in one bag as a carry-on is a good idea. I was forced to check in my duffle in London with Kenya Airlines- but at least I knew where the last place was that I saw my bag. I way overpacked for my trip!

Re: "dressing up": Kenyan business people dress beautifully. However, because of luggage limitations, tourists generally look like Peace Corp Volunteers. For dinner at the lodge, I had a pair of what I called my "dinner outfit" - basically a pair of dark twill pants - that I only wore to dinner and a mesh shirt (like a golf shirt).

I also had two very light weight long sleeve shirts - made of the same material the pants are. I wore one for game drives over a t-shirt - to keep the sun and dust off my arms- and because it was cool at sunup and sundown. And I kept the other one to wear over my mesh shirt in the evenings to keep the mosquitoes off.

Also, I think Jan mentioned small bills- very, very important. Get you money changed before you go out to the game lodges. They tend to have very little cash on hand and the exchange rates are poor. You will also need a stack of $1.00 bills or 100 shillings and 50 shillings notes for tipping. I know there are different philosophies on tipping - but I tipped everybody, all the time.

You are going to have an awesome trip!!
Sharon
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Jul 18th, 2003, 06:22 AM
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p.s.
re Carnivore and other Nairobi trips: It was much less expensive for me to use one of the 'hotel based' taxi drivers. They often have negotiated special rates with the hotel to take people to various locations and wait for them. Often, you can use the same driver for your entire stay in Nairobi- and he may even give you a better rate.

Also, if you have some time in Nairobi. I would highly recommend that you visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. You have to be there by 11 am and can only stay an hour. But its an opportunity to get "up close and personal" with some very charming baby elephants. If they come near you - you can even pet them for a few seconds! It will only cost you the price of the taxi and a donation in the amount of your choice.

After this you can go over to the giraffe sanctuary - and feed the giraffes pellets - And have them lick you with there very very long black tongues! I can't remember what this costs - but it is inexpensive - if you arrange it with your hotel based taxi driver.
Sharon

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Jul 18th, 2003, 05:10 PM
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Liz:

You'll be happy to hear (from todays East African Standard) that security is being tightened in the Mara. All entry points, gates and airstrips will be under tight guard to ensure vistors safety. Police and GSU (general services unit that I've seen with what look like AK-47's) all will be involved.

You should also be aware that the bushmeat trade is not just poor people feeding their families. It is a huge business. KWS has an article on their webpage saying "bushmeat is one of the biggest threats to wildlife outside protected areas. KWS therefore appeals to members of the public to report persons involved in this trade".

Also in Dr. Sheldrick's 2002 newsletter is quite an explanation of what is going on. "Giraffe meat is a favorite of the poachers (to snare) and giraffe are often deliberately targeted, with snares set in trees to snag an animal around the neck. One recent desnaring patrol came across no less than four giraffe hanging in trees along a park boundary. Her teams can account for some 260,000 animals this past year alone in just one park!!

I guess it is similar to ivory. As long as people show an interest in it, poaching will continue - whether killing elephants for ivory or snaring animals for bushmeat.

I too at first thought it was poverty that was causing this. But when you stop and think of all the inpoverished people you have met who wouldn't dream of killing wildlife, then you realize that it is greed and not poverty.

Jan
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Jul 18th, 2003, 07:27 PM
  #17
LizFrazier
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Jan-
I know you are right. I just don't agree that we can go into another country and tell people what to do. After all what happened to our buffalo, our forests we chopped down for various reasons, our resources we squandered? Their resources are for them to squander or preserve. They have a government to control it and I don't want to say don't do as I do, do as I say.
I have read for a long time that people living around the parks in Kenya do rely on the meat of the wild animals just as people do here in our country. There are poachers here aplenty in Montana and Wyoming and many other states. They must be dealt with, but not by foreigners coming in and doing it. We do it with our own government. Enough on that.
Thanks for your posts. I always enjoy conversing with you. Sorry I won't meet you in Kenya, but alas, we are off to different parks.
Somehow tighter security and folks with AK-47s doesn't sound all that good to me.(Gulp!) Regards, Liz
 
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Jul 21st, 2003, 06:57 AM
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andyev: How cool at night depends, IMO, on where you live. For us here in the northeast, a "cool" night or morning in Kenya is downright balmy by our standards. I was very comfortable at night in a long-sleeve shirt. I would carry a sweatshirt with me, but never used it, even in the early mornings. We dined at Carnivore and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Keep in mind that you do not have to eat the exotic meats that are offered. If you want to stick to beef, pork or chicken, you have that option. There are security guards at the entrance, but that is not so much to protect tourists as it is to protect the cash register. Have a wonderful trip ... it will be something that you will never forget. Wish I was going in August ...
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Jul 21st, 2003, 07:35 AM
  #19
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P.S. I heard that the Carnivore also offered vegetarian food now for the group that has some vegans.
 
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Jul 21st, 2003, 01:28 PM
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Liz -

I happened to check the photos of the menu board from the Carnivore and even back in '96 and '98 they were offering vegetarian meals. What I also noticed was the price increase between those two years, but no big deal - it's still a bargain for the amount of food you can eat.
 
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