Need Advice: Travel to Kenya/Tanzania

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Oct 20th, 2004, 12:37 PM
  #1
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Need Advice: Travel to Kenya/Tanzania

Hello to all! I wish to take a safari trip through Guerba (Tour Company) to Kenya and Tanzania this coming January/05. I really enjoy adventure travel but because Africa has a number of potential safety risks I was seeking advice from travelers who have been to Kenya and Tanzania (especially more recently) and/or travelers who have maybe used Guerba or other adventure tour companies to provide feedback. Thank you in advance!

I am trying to get additional comfort of the following risks (and whether they should be of material concerns to me):

(1) Potential civil unrest and high crime in cities/rural areas of those countries (i.e., Nairobi). How bad is it really? And how do I put it in perspective as far as likelihood of "incidents"?

(2) Potential infectious diseases from animals/insects that may be untreatable with no cure. What is the likelihood of acquiring a disease (i.e., malaria, rabies, HIV (from accidents or insects), etc.)?

(3) Is camping in the safari relatively safe (from other humans and animals/insects)? Or is a lodge much more safer than camping in a tent?

I have the option of either (i) participatory camping (traveling with a group of up to 22 people and chipping in to do chores - cooking, cleaning, setting up tents); (ii) comfort camping (traveling with up to 15 people and there will be a hired crew that does all the cooking, cleaning and set-up of camps/tents); (iii) lodging - where you stay in a lodge/hotel in each of the parks. The price does go up in each level (plus I would expect an older crowd as well, more affluent and coupled up as you go higher up in luxury - where I will be going by myself and want to meet new single younger travelers) but I wanted to hear feedback from people who have had experience traveling there.

Thank you again for your kind advice which undoubtedly will make my decision easier.

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Oct 20th, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Ohio Boys:

I'll start the ball rolling and perhaps other Fodorites will jump on it.

As I understand it, Guerba does their safaris in the huge overland-type trucks. Are you going to be comfortable riding in one of those over very bumpy dirt roads for 6 - 8 hours every day? I don't know what sized tents they use, but many Africans say the larger the safer. If you stay in a small dome tent where your feet are real close to the entrance, be sure to zip the tent closed at night. If you are in a larger tent with a bed away from windows and entrance you probably will be safe with flaps open and just the mosquito netting part zipped. The theory is that lions do not like going into large dark places. If they were outside your tent and you are two feet away they might consider causing trouble.

Civil unrest - many of us who have traveled to Kenya and Tanzania will want to reassure you about this. No matter where you travel there is an element of risk but I certainly would not worry about it.

Crime in the cities - yes, you definitely do have to be careful. There are many muggings and robberies. I would not recommend walking around Nairobi by myself.

Infectious diseases - you should definitely take an antimalarial such as Malarone. It is expensive but some insurance companies cover it. It is now the preferred drug to take. HIV is a problem everywhere in Africa so I would think twice before engaging in sexual activity, particularly without condoms. Blood products can also be a problem in medical situations. You can join Flying Doctors for $25.00. They want to know your blood type in advance and can fly you to proper medical care if necessary and they know where "safe blood" is available.

A combination of lodges and tented camps is ideal. Admittedly in most of the places you go there will probably be few very young people. There are singles but usually in the middle to older age range.

Don't worry about all the things that might happen. Many of us have gone multiple times and nothing serious has happened. You just have to use common sense.

You will be blown away by the experiences you have.

Have fun planning.

Jan

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Oct 20th, 2004, 01:15 PM
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I was in Tanzania (and v. briefly Nairobi) this past summer. I'm not sure that 1 trip qualifies me to answer your questions, I can only say that I felt incredibly safe--as well as absolutely thrilled to be there.

We took the normal precautions. Saw a travel doctor beforehand, took all malaria meds religiously, applied copious amounts of DEET (yuck), etc. We purchased travel and medical insurance.

Also, as we were crossing the Kenya/Tanzania border by shuttle bus, another friend advised us make "secret pockets" in the legs of the pants we were wearing that day. She is a very experienced Africa backpacker type and said borders can be a little overwhelming. We didn't find that to be the case at all, but better safe than sorry.

I am young-ish. I'd say you might enjoy comfort camping. I don't want to generalize about who stays where (it was really all over the map), but the couple of nights we camped I'd say there were more younger people. We met interesting people of all ages everywhere, though. Can't say whether they were single! (try the Thorn Tree forum on Lonely Planet for more young/fun/meeting people angles.)

I can't promise you that you'll be "safe." But it felt much less dangerous to me than I had imagined it would.

Have a wonderful time.

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Oct 20th, 2004, 03:37 PM
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Have to agree with Leely that you should check the Thorn Tree of Lonely Planet forums for information regarding the Guerba overland itineraries.

Otherwise, travel to Kenya and Tanzania aren't any more or less dangerous then other "exotic" or "adventure" destinations. You will spend little if any time in Nairobi, where except for known street crime (usually upon locals, rarely visitors) if there is any civil unrest, you won't come in contact.

All of Jan's comments regarding the type of camps should be taken to heart, especially if this is something you have not done before. And while guards will likely be posted around your campsites, you do have to remember that there are wild animals out there; so personally would prefer larger comfort tents. I would also ascertain the availablity of water at any of these camp sites for showers.

Healthwise, you have to take the precautions required for these destinations. For information see the CDC website.

On my many trips to East Africa I have never felt unsafe or that I was risking my life in any way. Hope this helps.
 
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 12:19 AM
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I took a Guerba trip in Tanzania but it was too long ago to comment on question #1. I believe I have read about problems around Lake Natron, but don't remember that being an issue when I was there. We were just extra careful in certain areas, mainly on the coast, and we avoided wearing jewelry in cities. I'm not sure that you'll be in the same kind of trucks for the whole trip. On our big open-sided truck, belongings were kept inside, which was safer than a tarp-covered trailer another company used which was slashed and robbed. Our backpacks were left at the base camp and belongings were stored in lockers on the truck. We each had our own key. Travel is extremely dusty and I can tell you that the best thing I did was pack my clothes in plastic zip-lock bags. Take lots of toilet paper.

#2. I was prepared for everything or so I thought. I didn't see a mosquito, but a little tick made part of the trip a misery.

#3. Again, I don't know how safety is today as far as camping goes. We didn't have guards but had no problems from people or animals. Personally, I hate camping, but I did it on this trip because that's how I wanted to see Tanzania. We did stay at hotels on occasion, in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, and had a few other splurges when money was left over in the kitty.

Whether you want to rough it or travel more comfortably depends on you. I found this kind of trip quite tiring. We were on the go all the time and, other than in Zanzibar, there were always chores to do ("I'm paying for this?"). On the plus side, we covered a lot of territory and had lovely long stretches of not seeing another tourist. (Ngorongoro almost seemed like Disneyland by comparison.) Most of the group was younger although ages ranged from 20s to 60s. Food with Guerba was relatively good.

To me, seeing the stars at night and bumping along in that truck was like heaven. I have never been so filthy in my life (especially when pushing the truck out of dusty ruts) but amazingly you get used to it. It became normal to just turn clothes inside out for a clean look.

Shower? I laugh. We had none on our truck. One thing this trip did was make me realize how precious water is and to this day I am very conscious about how much I use.

Now that I'm older, I would find this kind of travel very hard to handle physically. Since I've done it that way already, I look forward to next time staying put in a nice lodge somewhere that has running water. But I wanted to do the more rough style of trip while I was able and don't regret it one bit. Bumping over boulders around hairpin turns into the Great Rift Valley was a thrill.

On the other hand, my younger brother went with the comfort camping style in Kenya last year and had a great time (although some of the stories he told about Nairobi sounded more frightening than anything I encountered). Actually, I think luxury camping might be best of both worlds. But, if you want to rough it, I think Guerba is a good company.
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