Planning An African Safari

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My advise to anyone considering a Safari vacation is to go with a reputable company who has a presence in the countries you are visiting. We used Kensington Tours because they offered customized private tours at a fairly reasonable price. We wanted to go on a private tour versus a group because we didn’t want to share our game viewing space in our vehicles with anyone and wanted the individualized attention. We also went in an off peak time, late November and early December when the crowds for safaris is really low. Which for us was a perfect time to go because the weather was pleasant each day, mosquitos were at a minimum, our accommodations were practically empty and everyone was very happy to see us. The places we stayed were Safari Lodges and Tent Camps. Both varieties were comfortable and in some cases quite luxurious. We didn’t stay in the highest end lodgings rather the mid-range options and the rooms, food and service was great.

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We were not aware that we could have flown into each National park we visited thus eliminating long, bumpy and tedious car trips. However choosing to fly rather than drive makes it difficult to experience the culture and see how the majority of Africans live. Most of the Eastern African towns we passed through were very poor with makeshift housing and stores put together with wood and aluminum siding, no sidewalks or infrastructure such as running water.

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We saw many women carrying plastic buckets that were filled from the nearest water holes and carried back to their homes. Men and mostly children would tend to the cattle and goat herds during the day while the women did the majority of the daily chores. The Masai people were easy to identify because of the colorful robes they wore and the spears that the men and boys carried. They live in primitive round or sometimes rectangular mud and cow dung huts with as many as 10 in a compound for one family.

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The men are allowed multiple wives and their wealth is assessed by the number of cattle, goats, wives and children they possess. Africans are easy to communicate with because they are taught English in the schools but talk Swahili amongst themselves. Many are knowledgeable about world affairs and are very interested in American politics especially because we have a President who comes from one of the 42 tribes present in Kenya. The other thing that struck me about the country as I drove around was how clean it was. Here are some suggestions for a pleasant African Safari adventure:

Use a reputable travel company that specializes in Safaris. You can contract with
Safari lodges and tent camps directly and they all have drivers and guides they can
refer you to but if you are short on time and want to have things in place before you leave,
it’s best to have your itinerary planned and arranged ahead of time.

-Take many small new bills for tips to your bag porters and waiters at your hotels,
lodges and tent camps. These people are very friendly and don’t make much
money. Porters should get $1.00/bag and five to ten percent of your bill is
appropriate for waiters. Additionally you can add money to a communal tip box
for other personnel.

If you don’t want to spend long periods of time in the car and you are visiting
multiple parks, consider flying to each park’s airstrip and either meeting your driver/
guide there or hire one at the airport. Internal flights can be arranged by your
tour company.

While visiting the parks, you are not allowed to leave your vehicle, you spend many hours sitting in the car while viewing the animals and then driving back to your hotel at the end of the day, so make time to do some regular
exercise during your Safari vacation.

Avoid the overpriced curio shops your driver/guide stops at for lunch or bathroom
breaks. Either buy things at the hotel gift shops which tend to stock a higher quality
merchandise or wait and shop in the main parts of large cities. In Nairobi and
Tanzania, there are Masai markets around town on certain days that sell all the
trinkets you find at large curio shops for about 60% less. Also ex-pat blogs are
good resources for information about where to shop and eat.

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