How to Plan and What to Bring for a Kenya or Tanzania Safari

A guide, a few essentials, and a good camera are among the necessities for planning an East African wildlife safari in Kenya and Tanzania’s famed game parks.

The images of East African wildlife are iconic: Pride of lion, millions of migrating wildebeest, rhinoceros, giraffes, the drama of predator and prey played out not on a high-def National Geographic T.V. special, but in real life.

Safaris to East Africa’s famed game reserves such as Serengeti, Masai Mara, Tsavo, Lake Nakura, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater offer unparalleled opportunities to see wildlife, as well as cultural and historical attractions in Kenya and Tanzania.

Planning an East African Safari

There’s no objective low-budget approach to a wildlife safari in East Africa. Travelers must enter the national parks in approved vehicles. In part, this keeps the costs high, but it’s also a safety issue: The last thing rangers and park officers want to deal with is a tourist with a flat tire next to a pride of relaxing lions. Not to mention tourists who do things like leave vehicles for a closer shot of… well, name any dangerous sizeable wild animal. Or the fact that the drivers and guides know where to look for the animals in the first place. The safari guides and fees (and related hotels) will be a big part of an east African trip’s expense, so budget for those upfronts.

Many visitors to East Africa come via a package tour company, which offers convenience by handling all the travel details. One way to maintain the cost down for independent travelers is to arrange for guides when in Africa. It not only cuts out the middleman of a non-African travel agent but ensures that the monies paid to go directly into African businesses. Inquiries can be made at Nairobi and Nakuru hotels (in Kenya) and in Moshi and Arusha (in Tanzania).

If arranging private guides, heed the advice to see animals early in the morning or near dusk. In the bright heat of mid-day, animals are doing what all sensible beings should be doing: hiding from the sun.

Safari roads are notoriously bumpy (most famously, the descent into the Ngorongoro Crater) via a steeply switchbacked, rutted, and pot-hole-riddled dirt road). Travelers prone to motion sickness should try to sit in front of the vehicle and should have motion sickness pills just in case.

Itineraries can be customized to personal interests, for instance, bird watching or photography. Travelers should bring the best cameras they have with the most extended lenses possible to get the best shot of galloping giraffes or a nursing baby elephant. Bring extra memory cards! And batteries.

Practicalities and Comfort on an East African Safari

Dust and heat are the main problems. Bring light-colored, breathable clothing, including long sleeves, long pants, and a wide-brimmed hat. It isn’t necessary to look like an advertisement for a safari outfitting company. On the other hand, those safari clothes have a purpose and can come in mighty handy when the sun burns brutally.

Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and sunglasses.

Sanitary amenities are few and far between and leave a lot to be desired. Bring tissue paper and wet wipes.

Finally: Some vocabulary: the “big five” refers to the big five game species hunters used to most want to claim (and today’s tourists most want to see and photograph): lion (Simba), elephant (Tembo), cape buffalo (nyati), leopard (chui), and rhinoceros (kifaru).

Mzuri safari (Have a pleasant journey)



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