I recently just got home from a trip to Africa, here is my personal experience on the preparations I made to leave. When you head oversees, and especially to Africa, there are a few more steps in your planning and packing than your average trip.
Here are some of the key takeaways for getting ready for African Safari.
These are a few things that were different than most of my other travels:
My husband and I went to The Passport Health Clinic in Dallas so we could get the Yellow Fever Vaccine that was recommended. I do recommend checking with your doctor or review the CDC’s recommended Vaccines before a trip like this.
If you are traveling between Kenya and South Africa, the Yellow Fever certificate is mandatory even for passengers in transit. *Note*: this is subject to change at anytime but was current as of the time I am writing this.
It is important that you seek advice from your doctor on immunization well in advance, if possible around 6 weeks before departure.
I went 3 months in advance and it took a few different appointments, one at the Passport Health and then 2 more at our local Pharmacy to get all our shots. We were given a shot record to carry with our passports. (Vaccines and health advice are a personal choice and between you and your doctor. This is not health advice just my personal experience.)
- The Visa for your African Safari
At this time American Citizens are required to get a Visa to travel to Kenya. You will want to be prepared for this in advance.
- The packing is going to be different for this trip
I am a BIG fan of my big AWAY Suitcase! It’s my go to, but on this trip, we are carrying inexpensive barrel/sausage bags or soft sided bags not exceeding 15kgs and 65×46 cm. The safari we are going on does not allow big hard suitcases with wheels because of limited luggage space in vehicles, suitcases are unsuitable for scheduled road safaris.
This is an example of the bags we will be using- Oversized Travel Duffel Bag Waterproof Canvas Genuine Leather Weekend bag
On the Safari you should pack lite and most of the lodges either include laundry, or will do your laundry for a very cheap price.
I also suggest that you wear neutral colors, such as khaki, beige, taupe or grey. You want to blend in with the bush. Black and dark blue may attract African Flies.
You want clothes that are comfortable, and easy to pack. I also suggest to dress in layers on trips like this. If you are hot or cold you can add or take off layers.
These are examples of the clothing we are going to wear. Keep in mind we are planning to have our clothes washed at the lodges we are going to be staying at.
This is my personal packing list:
3 to 4 pairs of Columbia Convertible Pants
A light rain jacket that is easy to pack
3 or 4 cotton shirts
A Scarf and hat
2 Fleece Sweaters (for an added layer of warmth if needed)
A pair of comfy shoes or hiking boots. Then one pair of sandals or flip flops.
Do not bring new shoes. Bring shoes that you’ve already broken in for weeks or months beforehand.
I did this once and it was a terrible ideal never travel on a trip you will be walking a lot on in new shoes. I got blisters that bleed on my heels and it affected my trip.
One comfortable dress just in case
Underwear and socks and I am packing extras on these and light on everything else.
Bug Spray with DEET – you want to make sure the bug spray has DEET. You do not want to get bitten by bugs. (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure)
Sunscreen and Sunglasses
Contacts and 2 pairs of glasses- always travel with an extra pair of glasses
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Headlamp like we would use for camping in the USA – just in case there is a power outage.
Great Moisturizer and Face Wash
Power bank for my cell phone and a solar cell charger
Water Bottle with Filter – ***I would not put tap water in the bottle.***
A Good Book – to read on the plane.
Noise Canceling headphones – You do not want to be on a 20-hour flight with a screaming baby sitting a few rows back and no noise canceling headphones.
I will fly in the most comfortable clothes I have and I love these leggings for long haul flights. I like to wear black leggings, a soft black shirt, a light black jacket, comfortable socks, and then comfort shoes. I only wear clothing that feels soft and cozy. I do not care about fashion on long haul flights only comfort.
My laptop and cell phone plus the extra chargers
We are using packing cubes to pack all of our items and no plastic bags they are not allowed into Kenya (more info below).
Passport, paper copies of all travel documents, and two copies of my travel insurance policy. I will also leave a copy of our passports with a member of my family. ***I highly recommend travel insurance when traveling somewhere like Africa.*** If you have a health emergency and you were taken med-flight out of the country back to the USA, it could cost you $25,000 to a $100,000 you do not want to travel without good primary travel insurance.
If you are not one of our guests, and you only pick up one suggestion from this blog, I hope it’s that you purchase a good Travel Insurance Policy. Please do not travel outside the United States without travel insurance.
You want to make sure you work with a travel provider who lets you know ahead of time about laws like:
Kenyan government’s environmental law, that states travelers entering the country must refrain from using any and all forms of ‘disposable’ plastic carry bags.
This would include plastic being found in both the guest’s main luggage, as well as hand luggage, to prevent any inconveniences on arrival into Kenya. In addition, please kindly note that when guests purchase duty free goods before entering Kenya, they will be required to leave their duty free plastic carry bags at the port of entry.
You want to be prepared for tipping if needed for the country you are visiting and activities you are doing.
This is an example of our plan:
With such an active tourist industry, Kenya is a country where tipping is expected. In anything more than a basic eatery, 5-10% of the bill is the usual amount expected.
On safari, drivers, guides and cooks often rely heavily on tips to get by. Suggested for your driver/guide is approximately US $10 per person per day. Camp/Lodge staff truly appreciate US $5-10 per person per day.
Porters appreciate US $1-$2 per bag.
Recommended cash amount to carry: Minimum US $50 per person per day in cash for tips, drinks and personal purchases.
I always carry 25 – $1 dollar bills; 5 to 10 $5 dollar bills, and $10 dollar bills when traveling in an easy to access part of my bag so that I can tip easily. I also go to my local bank and exchange money before each trip out of the country.
You also want to check the climate and weather so that you have an idea ahead of time and you can adjust your packing if needed.
This is what we are expecting Climate wise for Kenya:
The coastal areas are tropical but tempered by monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot but mainly dry, while the highlands are more temperate with four seasons. Nairobi has a very pleasant climate throughout the year due to its altitude. Near Lake Victoria, the temperatures are much higher and rainfall can be heavy. The main tourist season is between December and February, then July and September. The hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. It’s also when Kenya’s birdlife flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. November is when most birds are in breeding plumage. June to September could be called the ‘shoulder season’ as the weather is still dry. The rains hit from March to May (and to a lesser extent from October to December). During these months, things are much quieter – places tend to have rooms available and prices drop. February is a great time to be in Kenya if you want to see lots of baby animals.
One last note – I am packing a water Filtered Water Bottle, but I will not be putting tap water into the bottle.
DRINKING WATER: Only drink water that you know is safe. Don’t drink tap water, stick to bottled or canned drinks (well-known brands are safe). Have bottled mineral waters opened in your presence, and regard all ice as unsafe.
I am super excited about my trip and my last suggestion is to work with a travel planner who has business relationships with suppliers who specialize in Africa.
What does it mean to work with Travel Planner who specializes in Africa?
It means the travel planner and supplier has a working knowledge of Africa. The Travel Planner will make sure you understand what you should pack, will send information on Visas, Local currency, what to expect when you get there. You want a seamless trip on bucket list trips. Travel Planners normally do not add to the cost of your trip, but the expertise and concierge-style service they bring to your trip are invaluable.