Need some questions answered about Kenya safari.

Jul 20th, 2004, 03:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 12
Need some questions answered about Kenya safari.

My husband and I are going to Kenya in January 2005. This is my travel dream come true.(We fulfilled his this past January). I need some advice on what to pack. I saw a mention of "Soniya's packing list" but cannot find any links to it.

Is it safe to drink the water in the camps? What about coffee or cocktails?

If you use the pool in the afternoon, what do you do with your cash?

What is the proper attire for dinner? Should I pack a skirt or pair of nicer slacks or will khakis suffice?

What is worn while traveling from one camp to another? Can you wear shorts or do you need to protect against bugs?

How cold is it in the early morning and in the evening? Will I need a hooded fleece?

Are jeans worn or basically khakis? Do bluejeans attract tsetse flies?

How safe is it to ship something back home?

We have until October to decide if we want to extend our stay in Tanzania. Is it worth the extra money or are the animals and the scenery basically what I will be seeing in Kenya.

Is the hot air balloon ride worth it? It certainly looks like a spectacular way to see the sights!

Thank you in advance for helping. If you have any helpful hints or bits of advice for a first timer, I will certainly appreciate it.

rolngstn is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 12:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Some of this depends a lot on which camp you're staying at but:

It is safe to drink water but it's often not too nice in taste and very inexpensive to stick to the bottled variety. If you are worried about it do ensure that you ask for ICE cubes to also be made from bottled water or not have any, just have chilled drinks.

Many camps have a safe in the bedroom. Alternatively I leave stuff padlocked inside one of my luggage bags.

At most camps most visitors on't "dress" for dinner, but they will often shower after the last drive and change into a clean set of normal clothes, usually the ones they then wear the next day. Many camps offer free laundry - use it to keep your packing light.

Don't know re bugs and cold nights - I went in April.

Blue jeans are often less comfortable when sitting in a vehicle for any long length of time - I'd consider lighter trousers. Also it's easy to get mucky and jeans won't dry fast through the laundry (unless your camp has a tumble dryer, many don't). I took travel trousers from Rohan and find them more comfortable for sitting in planes and cars etc.

Didn't ship form Kenya.

I was lucky enough to win an auction bid for a balloon safari for £50. For that price I loved it. But I didn't think it was worth £300 myself. Unless you're flying over the migrating herds of wildes... But it's hard for someone else to assess "worth it" as it' such a personal thing. My trip was an hour and 15 minutes in the air then a large cooked breaky.

Kavey is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 05:49 AM
Posts: n/a
Nancy - Water is safe to drink in Urban centers only (Nairobi), but your tummy might not like it. Stick with bottled water available everywhere - city, lodges, camps and inexpensive.

Coffee is fine to drink (it's boiled water) and will likely be the best coffee ever to pass your lips - it's Kenyan coffee. Likewise cocktails and ice cubes are made from purified water used at all hotels, lodges, camps - however if you're uncomfortable doing so, don't. Recommendation: If taking a bottle or can of beer or soda or from an ice chest, do not drink directly, rather pour into a glass or drink with a straw - do not put your mouth to the can or bottle.

For dinner, most people wear clothing they plan to wear the next day; others might change to a nice casual pair of slacks or skirt with a shawl at night for women, men might put on a sport shirt with a sweater. Whatever you might feel comfortable wearing, but it is not necessary to "dress up"

Driving from camp to camp is also part of your safari, so slacks are fine. As to shorts, they're fine from about 10am - 4pm when, and if, the sun is high and temperature warm/hot enough; many travelers choose the Convertible pants that zip at the knee giving you both shorts and long pants. On only one trip did we encounter bugs (tsetses) during our drives, but the vehicle windows were closed and we were fine - rather I was fine, my friend was bitten, but as soon as repellent was applied, all was fine.

The mornings and evenings can be chilly and even cold, so you wear a windbreaker or fleece; a thermal-t below your shirt or t-shirt is to be considered, but you're in a closed vehicle with pop-top roof for picture taking. By the time you arrive back at camp for breakfast you'll be pulling the layers off. In the evenings, your need some coverup to get from your tent (if staying in tents) to the dining tent, but once here, it's warm enough inside. At a lodge, you're inside.

But the hours from dusk to dawn are mosquito biting time, so is best to be wearing long pants, long sleeves, socks and apply repellent to exposed skin. Do remember to wash off before retiring and if your room/tent has been provided with mosquito netting, coils or spray - use these.

Most people prefer not to wear jeans as if they need laundering, drying time might take a while. However, if you have light weight jeans, those already washed down to the threads, and you feel more comfortable in these, then wear them. But do remember that jeans generally weigh more than khakis and if you're flying intra-country it's something to consider since you have weight limits for these flights. I've always taken a pair or two of jeans and had no problem with laundering or weight - it's your choice. And no we were not wearing jeans when attached by tsetses - so there goes that theory!

As to your cash or other important documents (airline tickets, passports) at lodges you can place these in the safe at registration desk (few lodges have individual safes); at tent camps, here too, you can put cash and other docs in the safe at registration, or simply padlock them in your luggage in your tent. It is rare if ever that one hears of theft of guest belongings - so you have options for protecting these items.

If you have the opportunity to go into Tanzania, especially the S.E.Serengeti where the wildebeest "calving" season takes place anywhere from mid-Jan to mid-February, consider it. And while you'll likely see many of the same animals - elephants, lions, and others - there are others, and both countries are completely different in landscape, local/cultural contacts. Depending on how much time you have, I would consider doing the Ngorongoro Crater and the S.E. Serengeti and maybe Lake Manyara.

I'd pass on the hot-air balloon unless you can get a price as good as Kavey did (above), or if it were Migration time in the Masai Mara (it's not in January). $400 is quite a bit of money, but your choice. Hope this helps.

Jul 21st, 2004, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 16

I have been watching the forum and the 2 replies you have received so far are from "experts". Good Answers!

I went in August/September so I won't advise as to clothes re: warmth. I will say that I felt better dressing a bit at night, but have a wrap or Jacket as in many places your dining is open air and it gets cool most of the year.

I have traveled all my life starting out as an Air Force Brat (with the emphasis on the later) and I can go with a Steamer Trunk or 2 down to a carry on. I seem to take more on shorter trips - just in case.

For my Kenya/Tanzania/London 5 week trip, I opted for a soft plain/np pocket rolling duffel which qualifies for carry on and a Lands End 19" expandable duffel which also qualifies to go onboard. These also sufficed for a 6 1/2 week trip all over Australia where we had to deal with our own bags most of the time.

Since 9/11, I pack in ziplocs and packing bags so security can see and I can get things packed back in some semblance of order. It works.

Don't know what camps you are going to, but most places provided bottle water and I never worried about valuables. As mentioned, you can always check things at reception. What do you need cash for on your drives anyway, the animals don't care.

Jeans just seem out of place on Safari besides the drying problem - and they are Heavy. Weight is definitely a consideration if you are flying from place to place. Hopefully, you are doing some of that as some of the roads are an experience to say the least.

Definitely go to the fishing section in WallyWorld and get the small bottles of spray (not aerosol) Repel 100 which has Strong DEET in it. Easy to carry and if and when the mosquitos & or flys do come a spritz of that and you will have no trouble.

Shopping is a passion of mine and getting things home is Always a problem. It depends on where you buy as to whether to trust a shop to ship.

I am embarking on a 2 month trip to places many which I probably won't go back to and I am really pondering on what to do. I always carry a fairly large duffel that folds flat for those things I have to have or to throw things in to when 1 of my bags gets to the airport and is too heavy. Your tour operator may have some information on this, but be advised that it is almost always costly so figure that into the price of your item.

I would stretch my trip for as long as possible. Ours was 3 years ago and I still think about it all the time. Where are you staying? What places are you hitting in Tanzania and if you extend, have you decided where? Depending on where you are going, I might have some suggestions.


BAMonahan is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 82
I went to Kenya and Tanzania last June.

***balloon ride - pass it up.

***definately extend trip to Tanzania. Serengeti man - it does not get any better. The Ngongoro Crater is worth any additional expense also. did not see cheetah or leapard in kenya but did in the serenget.

***went in June and did not have a bug problem (but June is their winter and it was an ideal 80 degree with no humidity)

***i only drank bottled water even when told the water was safe. didnt want to take any chances of ruining my trip of a lifetime by spending it in the bathroom

***never wore anything better than khaki's. one woman had a long skirt she wore but she was the only one I saw wearing anything but safari type pants. definate no to jeans. i say again - jeans are a bad idea.

***invest in a good hat

***shipped a crystal ball home from Tanzania. it was expensive but the package was waiting when i arrived back home.

***dont skimp on a good camera. make sure you have lots of zoom ability.

***enjoy your trip and email if you have any other questions. this was also my dream trip and i still look thru my pix all the time. it is better than your dreams.
syclark is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 10:00 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 65
It would be helpful if you listed the lodges that you will be at. I just got back last week from Kenya and wished that I had brought some warmer clothes.
katj232 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 07:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 33
Nancy, I don't know where the price figure on the balloon safari which I see thrown about above came from, since it wasn't from you. Mine was not nearly as expensive, and I'll assume you'll check to see what yours would be.

That being said, even if it had cost that much, looking back on it, it would have been worth it for me. It was an absolutely thrilling, beautiful experience, and i cringe at the thought that someone came close to talking me out of it.

Particularly seeing large herds in full flight across the plain (as they tend to do--because the noise from the balloon heater scares them--but that's another issue) is just spectacular and something you would not be likely to see on balloon rides back home (well, unless they were herds of cows--not quite the same.) What struck me especially was that it seemed so natural to be up there floating, much different from airplane flight, something very special, birdlike and natural, and I think without terrain as unspoiled as we were over in the Masai Mara, it wouldn't have been the same.

I recently felt good about having done it again when I picked up a paperback copy of Patricia Schultz's "1000 Places To See Before You Die" and the very first thing mentioned was "A balloon Safari in the Masai Mara"!

I'd encourage you to go ahead and extend your trip into Tanzania. I didn't, and have regretted it. One thing that surprised me in Kenya was how different the number and variety of animals was in one game viewing area to another. Once we got to the Masai Mara, viewing was much different--and much better--than it had been in other areas of Kenya. And I understand that just across the border in Tanzania, it only gets better.
GeBo is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 08:11 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 359
GeBo is right on about the hot air balloon as far as I'm concerned. I've done 3 and would do it again. One of the best things to do in East Africa. I'd love to do one on the Serengeti too. Mine have all been from the Mara. Still great and I am thrilled each and every time I go up. You won't ever forget it. Now you have both sides, you have to decide for yourself. If you don't go and you are around those who do, you will kick yourself when you hear the stories of what they saw. There are three different companies that offer them on the Mara. It depends on which camp you are staying in. I "Googled" hot air ballooning on the Mara, and found some coupons for one of the trips. That was last year. You might try and see what you get. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Jul 21st, 2004, 08:20 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 359
Here's Soniya's packing list:
Author: soniya ([email protected])
Date: 05/19/2003, 11:43 am
Message: Sorry, i was at Universal Studios for the weekend and just got back! Here's the Packing list:

Safari Packing List:
Medium-sized soft duffel bags for luggage
A durable dust & waterproof handbag for all your camera equipment
A small bag for carrying mineral water and other necessities is recommended on safari walks
Money belts for keeping your documents, cash etc.
Neutral colored clothing
Warm sweaters or jackets (despite the season Kenya can often be cold in the early morning and late evenings especially around the Highlands & Rift Valley region). Raincoats are also advisable.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must while on safari; Flip-flops are convenient while at the lodge or on the beach.
Swimsuit, most of the safari lodges feature swimming pools and especially on hot days a swim is essential.
Warm sleeping clothes
A cap or a wide-brimmed hat
Insect-repellent spray [though most hotels already have these in rooms]
Sunscreen [20 factor plus]
Lip screen
Moist towels
Gatorade powder
Anti-diarrhea pills
If you are under medication it would be advisable to carry enough supplies of your prescribed medicine.
Small torch (flashlight)
Camera, lenses, extra batteries, cleaning fluid, beanbag tripod & dustcover
2 rolls of film per day 100-400 ASA film or
For digital cameras Floppy disks are widely available within Nairobi & Mombasa but it would be difficult to get them elsewhere, so please ensure you have a good supply of these or extra memory cards or sticks.
Carry the necessary adapters for your electric equipment such as chargers.
Spectacles and sunglasses
Contact lens solution is available at all chemists within major cities however it is almost impossible to get it in smaller cities. It would be a good idea to carry a pair of prescription glasses [if you have any] incase of a problem with your lens (such as dust)
Passport - Valid for at least six months (keep a photocopy of the passport separately from your documents)
2 passport size photos
Vaccination card
Any Visas required
Credit Card (American Express is not so common, most widely accepted is VISA)
Travelers Cheques
Small notebook and pen

Also, make sure that you have travel insurance, this is strongly recommended. Most tour operators and Southern African lodges also offer emergency evacuation services inclusive of their packages so check with yours [hopefully you will not need it but it is very assuring to have it considering the costs of Flying Doctors!]

Hope this helps!

Liz_Frazier is offline  
Aug 7th, 2004, 04:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 12
I think everyone in my family has been ill this past 2 weeks (including the dog!), so I have been inactive on the computer. After reading all of your wonderful replies, we have decided to do both the crater and the balloon. My theory was that once we were home, it was too late to wish we had. My biggest surprise was how little to pack.
Here is a tenative lodge list(we have changed one since paying our deposit)
Safari Park Hotel
Samburu Lodge
Lake Nakuru Lodge
Mara Simba Lodge
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
Stanley Hotel

Maybe a strange question but -- if you wash the bug spray off when you go to bed, do you need to re-apply it if you get up during the night to use the bathroom?
rolngstn is offline  
Aug 7th, 2004, 05:06 AM
Posts: n/a
There's often spray provided in the room or tent. Just spray the room before going to bed and that should clear the room of any flying things. You shouldn't have to reapply repellent just to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

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