Preparing for safari holiday in Africa

So two weeks ago I bought my ticket for Kenya and I have now arrived in Maasai Mara, also sometimes just called Mara. This is where I’ll be spending the next two months and try and share the expirence. With two weeks to prepare, I didn’t really have much time. Not that I did any preparation before days before departure. It’s not the first time I’m on my way to the African continent, which helps.

If you’ve never been or know anyone that has, it may seem daunting preparing for a safari holiday in Africa. It’s not that bad, I promise. Though I didn’t really have a proper check list, I’ll share with you what my check list ended up containing (if I had made it), for whoever would like to have some reference to work from.

 

PRACTICAL INFO BEFORE LEAVING

  1. VISA

Each contry has their own rules about this one, so obviously check that out beforehand.

For Kenya you have to buy a visa to enter the country, and the cost may vary depending on which passport you enter with. They have recently introduced eVisa, as we know from countries like Australia and USA. This means that your airline will remind you that this is the only way, and you have to do it before (allow for a month). However, at the moment it is still possible to get the visa when you arrive at the airport, though several internet sites say otherwise. The airport even have the documents to fill out lying along with the entry declaration (if they didn’t give you that on the plane). The biggest difference is that you don’t have to send your application and passport to the embassy to get the visa.

If you are in doubt about the visa procedure it is always worth a call to the embassy and ask. Normally they will give you the answer straight away. No need to loose sleep over it, like a girl I met on the flight had. Worrying about whether she could actually get a visa when she arrived. Just have the cash ready and filled out the form, and you’re all set for the standard tourist visa that gives you 90 days.

 

  1. All those bugs

What vaccinations needed varies between the countries. Make sure that you check that in advance and have time to get them, if you haven’t got them already. If you don’t know which you need, I’d contact someone who knows something about the area. Be that the travel agency, friends of friends, or the internet. Your own doctor may also know, but it is not always certain. Just be aware that some countries have requirements for what vaccinations that you need to enter the country and they may ask to see your yellow vaccination booklet.

Again whether you need malaria tablets or not depends on where you go. Of course if you are going to be travelling around the chances are greater that you may be in an area that have high risk of malaria. There are different malaria tablets, and all have their potential side effects. So it’s a good idea to start the treatment before to see if you get any side effects, though not all may become apparent at home (such as light sensitivity). There’s different philosophies to whether it’s worth taking or not, as you are still not 100% protected. My opinion is that if you are going on a shorter holiday (few weeks) in an area of malaria risk, then it’s better to take it.

Another bug, is the stomach bug. Whether it’s the change in food or some other reason, also bring something for different stomach problems. Chances are that you won’t need it, but you don’t want to get caught without. That can really ruin your time. Another good thing to also have with you is some anti-bacterial cream/wipes.

 

  1. Money

You can use your card in many places, but it is always good to have cash with you. Go for the local currency, but it is also useful to have US dollars or British pounds, that you can change into the local currency. Just always make sure that you divide your cash and not keep it all together. If someone takes it, it’s all gone. The moment I arrived and have my checked in luggage with me, I hide some it that, my hand luggage and my pursue. Sometimes I’ll also have some in a random jeans pocket, whether I wear them or not. Another good area to hide is in your toiletries. If you’re a girl hiding some with your tampons or pads is likely to be a place few is going to look.

 

  1. Safari gear

Camera: Of course the camera is at the top of the list. You might also check if you have a good zoom, as you can’t always get close to the animals. This is wildlife, and you don’t want to disturb them.

Binoculars: As you can’t always get close it’s nice to have binoculars. They are especially handy to get a better look at some of the beautiful (and at times small) birds.

Field guide: You may have a great guide that can give you the name of all the animals, but it’s still nice to be able to look them up. It’s also a way to keep track of all the species that you have seen, if you make a little note for the ones you see. Personally I’d especially recommend getting a good bird guide. There are so many and some very alike, and you can soon get caught up in finding out which one it is.

 

  1. Time

You may find that the concept of time is different to what you are used to. Some things go by African time. All I can say is accept it and bring some patience, and make sure to plan for some extra time. Once you do that, you’ll discover that it’s part of the charm of Africa. I love the change in pace.

 

PACKING

There’s no point in bringing a lot of clothes. Most places you can get it washed or you can wash it yourself in a sink. This doesn’t change if you are going for a short or a long period.

What I brought for 2 months:

  • 2 pairs of trousers (one of them which unzips to shorts)
  • 2 pair of shorts
  • A pair of leggings
  • A dress
  • 5 tank tops/t-shirts
  • A light shirt
  • 2 warm hoodies
  • Hiking boots (or other practical footwear)
  • Flip flops (and/or a pair of sandals)
  • 6 x socks and underwear
  • A hat (to protect your head from the sun. Bring one that’s allowed to get wet)
  • Scarf (protect your shoulders from sun or the chill/towel if you are without)

Just remember that it can get chilly in the evening and early morning, so you do want something besides t-shirts and shorts. You don’t want to bring more with you than necessary. Better have some space to bring something home from your trip (a souvenir, a gift to someone, or a new dress).

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