12 things you need to know before you go on a (budget) Safari in Kenya

1. It can be expensive, but also (fairly) cheap

From luxurious private safaris flying right into the parks and staying in luxurious lodges, to budget group joining safaris in a van and staying at camps. From 80$ a day, you can have a great experience that can last from one day to two weeks! Find out the cheapest way to book a safari on our post “how to book a cheap safari and not die in the attempt”!

2. No matter what company you choose, it will be exactly THE SAME.

There are dozens of Safari companies, as you can see on safaribookings.com. We went for the one with most reviews, as usually that’s a good sign. However, we talked a lot with all the people in our van and all of them had booked their safari in a different company, at a different time, and for a different price. The driver of the van does not work for any of the companies that sells the safari, so we understood that the company who you are paying to, it’s nothing but an agent. All drivers know each other, and everyone stays in the same places after all. So, don’t worry too much about where to book it, just do it!

3. Accomodation will be simple, but always enough.

We slept in Lenchada camp in Masai Mara. They have room tents, which are big tents on a concrete floor, with two beds inside, and access to a built in bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. Yes, there were some bugs in the bathroom, but at least there was water, even hot water, at all times! All beds had mosquito nets, but we did not see mosquitoes in the tent. Breakfast and dinner were simple but nice and complete, and you can always have a free tea or cocoa.

4. Take your passport!

Something they never told us, although of course most people already carry it with them. But we left part of our luggage in our hotel in Nairobi so we could have left our passports there… luckily we didn’t, because you need them to enter the parks

5. Pack some bottles of water and snacks

All companies provide you with 1L of water and three meals a day. However, you do need more water than that as it gets quite hot during the day, and food is nice but you might want some snacks sometimes and at the camps there’s not too much variety and it is a bit more expensive.

6. Don’t forget your powerbank!

When you are staying at camps, the hours of electricity are limited. In our case, it was from 7pm to 10pm and from 5:30 am to 10:00 am, and only in the canteen. They did have dozens of plugs for everyone to charge phones and cameras. But keep in mind you will spend long ours in the van taking hundreds of pictures and you do not want your battery to die! So, extra batteries and a powerbank can save the day.

7. Bring cash

If you forgot to pack your snacks, or feel like having a beer, you will need cash at the camps. Also, we read that you are welcome to give a tip to the guide, however we did not see that this was something usual in our safari. No one on our group did this and the guide never mentioned it (usually, they would friendly say something like “if I made you happy today, you can make me happy too” as we experienced in other situations….). Maybe, in a private safari, this is more common.

8. The roads can be VERY bumpy, get ready for the so called “Kenyan massage”

The road into Masai Mara park is not really a road. As the Kenyan woman on our group, Rebecca, said “these roads are made like if they did not want people to come here”. Also during the game drives, there are paths that are nicer than others. We were REALLY impressed about how far those vans can go! You can not change the roads, but you can make the way slightly more confortable by placing on your seat on of those neck pillows we usually use on airplanes. It helped!

9. If you are not a morning person, you may suffer a little bit…

Game drives start early in the morning, we usually met our driver at 6:00-6:30. So be ready to wake up at 5:30 in the morning (read as: night). This is for a good reason, since sunset is around 6pm and night drives are not allowed in most parks, so waking up early is the best way to use your time to the fullest, and enjoy a fresh chilly morning weather before the heat arrives later in the day.

10. Masai people are not that traditional anymore

Sorry to tell you… if you were expecting to see Masai people hunting for their food, you are quite some years too late. While there are still many Masai villages where they live mostly following their traditions, you will meet many Masai during your safari experience, and you will see some of them have smartphones, some wear traditional clothing and others wear shorts, and they work at the camps where you will stay. You will also find Masai women selling you souvenirs (sadly, not even handmade by them except some necklaces and bracelets). Even more, Masai are making quire a business out of tourists and safaris: on our way to the park Masai Mara, we had to cross some roads that were “blocked” (read as: there was a stick on the ground). Our driver explained that those roads are part of a land which is privately owned, so they have to pay a fee to the Masai to cross this. After handing a bill to them, they will kindly remove the stick so you can continue your way. They sure are business oriented!

11. It will be an amazing experience

Whatever your budget is, your safari will be unforgettable. You can never forget the deep sound of a lion’s roar. You will see, right in front of you, the circle of life. How animals hunt each other, for food or simply for defence. How elephants take care of each other and giraffes are almost not afraid of anything because they can watch out from far, far away. If you are lucky, you will see the incredibly beautiful leopards, or the very shy rhinos that hide from humans, sadly because they have been haunt too often…

12. And never, never buy any ivory items.

The reason why you will only see dozens of elephants instead of hundreds, is due to how much they have been haunted. The tusks are mostly sold in black markets in China. Also rhinos are in danger for this reason, and it is so hard to see them now a days…

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