Kenya Travel Advice
Kenya is famous above all else for its incredible game viewing opportunities. Most game can be seen in Kenya’s savannah bush land. In Kenya there are 59 National Parks and Game Reserves which make up 11% of the country’s total surface area. They are administered by Kenya Wild Services (KWS). The largest National Park is Tsavo, which is made up of two Parks – Tsavo East and Tsavo West. The twin parks form 10 million acres of pure wilderness, incorporating savannah, ranges and hills, acacia forest and an extensive river system. This is home to over 8,000 elephants. The proximity of Tsavo to coast makes it an ideal safari destination for those wishing to combine safari and beach holiday. Masai Mara is the most popular Game Reserve.
Kenya is located on the east coast of Africa. It has an area of 582,644 sq kilometers of which 45,240 sq km is under wildlife conservation sanctuaries. The Equator runs straight through the middle of the country.
Kenya has two major cities, Nairobi, the capital city and Mombasa, the Coastal City and the largest port in East Africa.
Kenya is bisected by the Great Rift Valley which stretches 9,000 kilometers from Jordan north of Red Sea to Mozambique in south eastern Africa.
Kenya is famous above all else for its incredible game viewing opportunities. Most game can be seen in Kenya’s savannah bush land. In Kenya there are 59 National Parks and Game Reserves which make up 11% of the country’s total surface area. They are administered by Kenya Wild Services (KWS). The largest National Park is Tsavo, which is made up of two Parks – Tsavo East and Tsavo West. The twin parks form 10 million acres of pure wilderness, incorporating savannah, ranges and hills, acacia forest and an extensive river system. This is home to over 8,000 elephants. The proximity of Tsavo to coast makes it an ideal safari destination for those wishing to combine safari and beach holiday. Masai Mara is the most popular Game Reserve. It is an extension of Serengeti Plains in neighboring Tanzania. The annual wildebeest migration, which takes place between July and October involves nearly two million animals moving up from the dry, low-lying Tanzanian plains to the greener, wetter pastures of the Mara, nearly 2,000 meters above sea level. Kenya has 480 kilometers of coastline on the Indian Ocean. Her coral reefs are spectacular and are regarded by divers as one of the world’s top three diving destinations after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea. There are numerous offshore islands including Kiwayu, Pate, Manda, Lamu, Mombasa, Chale, Funzi and Wasini.
Local time is GMT plus three hours (+3 GMT). Due to location at the Equator, days and nights are equal.
Kenya’s official languages are English and Swahili. Swahili is the lingua franca spoken by the largest number of people in Africa. French, German, Spanish and Italian are also spoken in tourism industry.
Kenya has a colourful mixture of people. The current population of 48 million is made up of 43 ethnic groups. The minority, Asians and Europeans live mainly in urban centres. This ethnic diversity has produced a harmonious mixture of people with rich cultural heritage. People live harmoniously with wildlife. This has given Kenya a unique identity. The rich cultural heritage is expressed through song, dance, art and handcraft.
Kenya is on the equator therefore we do not have seasons. The climate is very pleasant and variations in altitude and terrain can create contrasts. Generally in the highlands the climate is cool, elsewhere the temperatures can reach approximately 35°c during the day. The coast is humid and balmy.
Passport and Visa
Every visitor to Kenya must get a visa to enter. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in the country. It is now possible to get ‘eVisa’, the electronic tourist visa, but still the one can apply for a visa manually on arrival at the point of entry in Kenya. For manual application, you will need to complete an application form and pay a fee of USD 50. For electronic application, you will go to www.evisa.go.ke to do the application. You make the payment by Visa or MasterCard credit card. The visa processing fee is USD 50, and there is a service charge of USD 1. The minimum period you can apply for a Kenyan visa is three months before your travel date.
The visa application process involves uploading your passport picture along with your passport photograph. Your visa shall be issued approximately five days after you register. You shall be required to print a copy of your electronic visa, bring it with you for presentation along with your passport on arrival in Kenya.
Health and Malaria
Kenya is considered a generally healthy place to travel. Malaria prophylaxis is imperative and there are no necessary vaccines for visiting Kenya however we do recommend you contact your doctor for further advice. As with travel in any part of the world, it is advisable to know your blood type in case of an emergency. White Plains Tours clients automatically become members of the Flying Doctors Rescue Service for emergency evacuation. However, you should carry your own complete holiday/medical insurance. Please note that in Kenya we do have good medical facilities and good hospitals.
There is no national welfare scheme and visitors to Kenya are responsible for their own medical expenses. All clients are requested to leave a copy of their travel insurance with us at their briefing, along with copies of their airline tickets and passports.
Food and Water
Although tap water can be reasonably safe, whenever possible, we recommend you drink bottled water; this is available in all lodges and camps. Please advise The Safari and Conservation Company of any allergies, likes or dislikes before you embark on your holiday.
All camps and lodges have radio communication with Nairobi. Most lodges do have a mobile phone signal (Safaricom and Airtel are best) in the lodge or nearby which can be weak, so please do not always rely on it. Most lodges and hotels also have internet access in case of emergencies.
Kenya is a conservative society, particularly where there are Muslims, and much emphasis is placed on courtesy and manners. Care needs to be taken when photographing local people, always ask for permission and prepare to be asked for reward. Kenyans are easy-going, friendly, humorous and helpful, making travelling and interacting with them a real pleasure.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
This is the biggest airport in East Africa and is located 13 kilometers outside Nairobi and is the gateway to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Mombasa and Kenya’s beaches as well as Zanzibar and Tanzania. There are also good connections from here to Uganda and Rwanda.
Wilson is the hub for almost all of Kenya’s internal flights and serves its fly-in safari locations. You will need at least an hour to transfer by car from Jomo Kenyatta Airport.
Moi Mombasa International Airport
This is the gateway to the Kenyan coast and is 10 kilometers northwest of Mombasa City. Road transfers from airports and between major destinations tend to use mini buses as do scheduled safaris to popular destinations such as the Masai Mara. Sliding windows and a pop-up roof provide passengers on mini buses with ample viewing opportunities on game drives whereas safaris to more remote destinations and private conservancies use 4X4s.
Passport and Visa
Visas are required by all. Visas are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be purchased upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Visitors can pay for their visas in local currency and they must possess a passport that is valid for six months. If you plan on travelling onwards from Kenya, visas for other East African countries such as Tanzania and Uganda can generally be obtained in Nairobi for around US$50 each.
Your safari driver-guide is a part of your safari experience. You will be together the entire duration of the safari as he narrates the geography, history and of course the wildlife. The driver-guides have exceptional knowledge in areas such as local flora, fauna and tribal lore. It is customary to tip the driver-guide at the end of the safari. The amount is dependent on your evaluation of the quality of the service offered. An average of USD10 per guest per day is suggested. The amount is however at your discretion, you could provide additional compensation.
Driving Distance and Time Taken
• Nairobi to Amboseli: 240 kilometres, about 4 hours
• Nairobi to Samburu: 320 kilometers, about 6-7 hours
• Nairobi to Ol Pejeta: 220 kilometers, about 4 hours
• Nairobi to Lake Nakuru 160 kilometers, about 3 hours
• Nairobi to Lake Naivasha 100 kilometers, about 2 hours
• Nairobi to Masai Mara 265 kilometers, about 6 hours
• Amboseli to Lake Naivasha 350 kilometers, about 6-7 hours
• Lake Naivasha to Masai Mara 250 kilometers, about 4-5 hours
• Samburu to Lake Naivasha 340 kilometers, about 6-7 hours
• Mombasa to Tsavo East 120 kilometers, about 3 hours
• Mombasa to Tsavo West 240 kilometers, about 4 hours
• Tsavo West to Amboseli 100 kilometers about 2 hours
• Amboseli to Masai Mara 520kilometers, about 9 hours
• Tsavo East to Amboseli 300 kilometers about 5 hours
Tipping for good service is customary in Kenya although it is of course at your discretion – at 10%. Some of the larger hotels will add a service charge onto your bill.
Make a List
About a week or so before the trip, make a list of items you don’t want to forget. It’s easiest to have a travel list saved in Google Doc so as to access it online and edit it as needed.
Make Copies of Important Documents
Take photos of the passport and driver licenses and keep them in Google Docs and in files on your phone. You just never know when you need a backup.
Plan for the weather forecast to be wrong
Be sure to bring some extra items for weather conditions you don’t expect.
Get into the habit of using sunscreen. Use it daily, regardless of the weather. You will likely be walking a lot more than you think, and even if the sun isn’t literally shining, you can get sunburned. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your hands and arms as well as your neck, chest, and ears, and don’t forget to reapply. Take a small lightweight container of sunscreen with you in the bag.
• Pack light casual wear in neutral colours
• A pair of decent walking shoes
• Warm jacket for evening game drives
• Swimsuits for beach holiday. Most Hotels on Safari have swimming pools
• A sunhat is vital
• A camera with spare batteries or a charger
• Memory cards
• Camera bag
• Zip lock bags (dust proof ) Not plastic bags as they are banned in Kenya
• Beanbag for Camera stability during photography
• Insect repellent
• Malaria prophylactics if necessary
• Water bottle