A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Kenya Wildlife Safari

A bull Elephant facing the camera - Kenya Wildlife Safari


You’ve been dreaming about going to Kenya wildlife safari. Good choice. There’s no better time to go. Kenya Airways now has a direct flight from New York to Nairobi, which means the usual 22-hour journey, including a layover, is now a 14-hour direct flight. Trust me, even though it’s still a long-haul it’s so much better than going through another country to get there. (Pssst… If you want some suggestions on how to stay comfortable on long-haul flight look here.) 

With this in mind and the help of a couple of travel specialists I know, I’ve pulled together some essential information you’ll want to consider so you can make the most out of your trip.


This post contains affiliate links which means if you buy something from the links below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. .


Luxury Tent - Mara Plains Camp -Kenya Wildlife Safari_-03
Guest tent at Mara Plains Camp in the Masai Mara

What Makes Kenya Special

Kenya’s diverse terrain and breadth of wildlife are renowned and one of the key reasons Kenya is such a popular destination.

In the north, you’ll find thick forests and dense brush, Mount Kenya, and the Great Rift Valley. In some areas, plateaus of rocks give way to red soil peppered with thorny acacia. It’s rugged, arid, and captivating. In addition to the Big Five ( an old hunting term used to categorize the five species that were the hardest to kill on foot: lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino. Over the years, marketers have turned that into a sales pitch), The Special Five” live here. These are species endemic to this region and found nowhere else in Kenya: the Somali ostrich, Grevy zebra, reticulated giraffe, the long-necked geranuck, and the Beisa oryx.

Scar the Lion - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-01
Scar the lion with his ladies in the Mara Triangle.

In the southwest, is the Masai Mara, where Sydney Pollack directed Out of Africa. With its wide open spaces, big skies, and a high density of wildlife (including the Big Five) make every day an adventure. It’s here, the annual Great Migration takes place. The memory of watching hundreds (sometimes thousands) of wildebeest crossing the Mara river is one you won’t soon forget.

In the southeast is Amboseli near the Tanzanian border. It’s known for its large herds of elephants and the underground springs that flow from nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. Here, there are magical acacia forests, verdant swamps, and stark plains.

These three areas alone could keep you entertained for weeks.

Samburu woman - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-01
A Samburu woman in Laikipia, northern Kenya,

How Safaris are “Built”

When planning your safari know that it’s the norm to spend a holiday split among multiple locations. “Safaris are built to provide a mix of experiences, environments, and wildlife,” says Dan Saperstein, a leading Africa travel specialist, and a partner in Hippo Creek Safaris, in New Jersey. Staying in multiple locations guarantees a well-rounded holiday.

Most people stay for two or three nights per place. I won’t stay less than three. In certain areas where there’s a lot to see and do I might stay four. I like to get to know a place and relax. Two nights feel hurried to me. 

Here’s why: If you stay two nights you ‘ll arrive in camp the first night in the afternoon, enjoy one full day of activities the following day, and then you’re on the move again after your third day morning game drive. It’s too fast in my opinion.

Sarena Mara Safari Lodge
Guest room at Serena Mara Safari Lodge, Masai Mara / Photo: Serena website.

An Average Day on a Kenya Wildlife Safari

Every camp or lodge has its own personality but most follow a daily schedule similar to the following:

  • In the early mornings, get used to hearing “Jambo,” the Swahili term for hello, announcing the arrival of your guide or another staff member.  This is your in-person wake-up call. With them will be your favorite morning beverage and a little nibble to get you moving and to your vehicle on time.
  • You’ll go on the first of your two, three to four-hour game drives led by your guide. (Note: Unless you chose to arrange for a private vehicle, you’ll share a Landcruiser with other guests. Personally, while it’s a personality crapshoot, I like sharing with other people. It’s a great way to make friends. I’ve only wanted to throttle my jeep mates a couple of times in all the times I’ve been on safari.)
  • Your first drive will begin around sunrise, the second in the late afternoon. Why? Because during these times the animals are most active. In the middle of the day, the heat is at its peak and viewing isn’t.
  • At some point during both of your game drives, the guide will stop in a safe scenic spot so you can stretch your legs and have a snack. If you need to relieve yourself, your guide will find a proper spot.  In the a.m., the food is light (yogurt, muffins, hard-boiled eggs). You’ll either have a full hot breakfast in camp after the drive or sometimes they’ll surprise you with a spread in the bush.
  • In between game drives, and aside from lunch, you’ll have a few hours of leisure to read, nap, take a shower etc. until it’s time to hop back in your vehicle.
  • Near the end of your afternoon game drive, you’ll make another stop to enjoy a cocktail with a few nibbles and a beautiful view of the sunset as part of a wonderful tradition known as a sundowner. (Note: You’ll never go hungry during a safari and most camps will accommodate specials diets.)
  • Before dinner, you may have time for a cocktail before dinner around the fire pit, or perhaps you’ll leave it for after.
  • After dinner it’s up to you, perhaps you’ll chat with guests swapping stories about the day’s sightings, or call it a day and go back to your tent and let the sounds of the night lull you to sleep.
Samburuland landscape in northern Kenya - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-023001
The rugged landscape of northern Kenya.

Types of Accommodations

Kenya has a variety of lodges and camps, making it easier to find the perfect fit in terms of taste and budget. There are standard hotels with a lot of beds (60+) and more affordable rates and ones with fewer rooms and typically more expensive. Nine times out of ten these properties are fenced so you can walk freely without worrying about predators or it’s in a region where it’s not an issue.

More AffordableSerena Hotels and Lodges is a chain that has properties in several locations throughout the country.

Less Affordable: Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, once a private hunting club in the 1950s (no longer) owned by Actor William Holden.

Permanent Tented Camp

Permanent tented camps are just what they sound like, properties that offer guests a more “rustic” sensibility with rooms that are on a permanent foundation, usually raised, with walls and ceiling of canvas. They are the most common style of camp. Bathrooms are en-suite or an attached, open-air lavatory that’s fenced for privacy and accessed through a doorway (either an actual door or zipper pass through from your room). In some areas, tents may give way to thatched roofs more in keeping with the surroundings.

I’ve stayed in studio-sized tents that were very comfortable but basic and others that were three times the size of my New York apartment, decorated for a magazine cover, and came with a personal butler.

Alice, one of the few female guides in Kenya, at Angama Mara
Alice, from Angama Mara, one of only a few female guides in Kenya.

Rate-wise, Dan says a good rule of thumb is the smaller the camp (ie fewer the tents) the more expensive the rate. Tented camps tend are usually all-inclusive but what comes with that “all” is not standard. For example, laundry service may be free in one camp but cost extra at others.

More Affordable: Governor’s Camps and  Porini Camps, both chains that have multiple locations throughout the country.

Stepping up you have camps like Kichwa Tembo tented camp or Fairmont Mara Safari Club.

High-end examples include Mara Plains Camp or Saruni properties.

Mobile Tented Camps

Some camps move seasonally to follow animal movements such as the migration.  Bathrooms may or may not be attached to your tent and you wash in a “bush shower.” A large bag filled with heated water is placed upside down in a container with a shower head you can turn on and off with a lever.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club guest tent - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-795701
Guest tent at Fairmont Mara Safari Club.

Camps with a Unique Feature(s)

These are also camps, usually on the higher end of the spectrum, that have an extra special feature or quality. (This is not an “official” class of any kind, just something I like to point out.)

There’s Ol Malo camp in Laikipia, built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Laikipia plateau. The views are extraordinary and the room decor is half safari lodge, half Game of Thrones. On the view front, Angama Mara in the Mara Triangle is hard to beat. It’s perched nearly 1,000 feet up on the Oloololo escarpment. Looking down at the countryside, it’s so high the valley looks like a map.

Saruni Rhino in partnership with the Sera Rhino Sanctuary offers guests the opportunity to track black rhino on foot and see them in a way very few people ever will. I had the pleasure of doing this in Namibia at Desert Rhino Camp, but Saruni (as of 2017) is the only East African camp to offer it.  A portion of the guests’ room rate goes toward the Sanctuary’s conservation efforts.

Ol Malo - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-01
Guest room and view at Ol Malo in Laikipia, northern Kenya.

Activities and Extra Costs

Game drives are what safaris are known for but camps have other activities too. Some may start the day with yoga while others might mountain bike. Activities I’ve enjoyed in past include bush walks (walking with a guide into the bush. Learning about both the flora and fauna. A completely different experience than in a vehicle and worth trying); visits to local tribal villages; hot air balloon rides, photography workshops, horseback riding, and camel rides. What’s offered is dependent on the property, its location, and the season.

“It’s always a good idea to know ahead of time what’s included in your stay, as many options may come with an additional price tag,” says Linda Friedman, CEO of Custom Safaris, another great safari specialist based in DC. Also, keep in mind that you may be charged for park entry fees, laundry, premium liquors, and other amenities. Sometimes you’ll find that the so-called “cheaper” camps are not so affordable once you start adding on all the extras. But in their defense, you also only pay for what you use.

What’s Worth Paying For?

The two things worth paying more for are location and quality of guides. The smaller more expensive camps often have both, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay where Prince William proposed to Kate. The best choice, according to Dan, is where the type of experience you want intersects with the amenities you feel you must have, and your budget. “This is a trip worth doing right,” he says. ” It’s worth saving up an extra year so you can have the experience you want instead of rushing in and skimping on things.” And I would agree with that.

Susan Portnoy, the Insatiable Traveler, photographing in the Masai Mara - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-46142018110401
Yours truly photographing wildlife in Kenya.

Wildlife Viewing

When you arrive at each camp you’re assigned a guide who will be with you for the length of your stay.  You’ll be amazed at the crazy encyclopedic knowledge they have of nature. From bugs on the ground to the birds in the sky and everything in between. They know the location of recent sightings, watering holes, dens, and kills, and the areas each species frequents. Their understanding of animal behavior and the surrounding region means you’ll have the best possible chance of seeing a ton of wildlife.

That said, animals don’t appear on cue, so stay open to what the day brings. Don’t get wrapped up in the Big Five mania. There are so many amazing animals to see, don’t let others get you into the checklist game. Besides, in the bush the world can change on a dime; with a little patience, you’ll have the time of your life.

A lion in front of a safari vehicle in the Masa Mara - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-332301
A lion being viewed by a nearby safari vehicle in the Masai Mara.

Family Safari Holiday

Taking your family on safari is one of the best ways to give your children a lifelong love of wildlife and respect for the environment, and to share a life-changing experience.

In the last 10-15 years, more companies have doubled down on making lodgings more family and kid friendly with larger tents and villas and special children’s programs. For example, the Saruni camps, have a warrior training camp. Your kids can do it for a day or longer if they wish. Some of the fun things they learn are tracking animals, how to make arrows and how to shoot arrows. According to Dan, there are all kinds of kid immersion programs offered today.

On the flip side, Linda points out, it’s important to ask up front if children are allowed or if there is a minimum age requirement. If your child is very young, you may be required to arrange a private vehicle. That way, if a youngster becomes bored or has a meltdown, they won’t bother the other guests.

A gerunuk - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-032801
A gerenuk, endemic to northern Kenya only.

Safari Safety

When it comes to the bush, safety at any lodging is a top priority. Upon arrival, you’ll be given all the dos and don’ts and it’s important to follow directions. And to be clear, I in 15 safaris have never felt unsafe.

During the day you are welcome to walk in designated areas and walkways. However, at night, the staff escorts guests to and from their tents in case there are animals in camp. Don’t get cocky and think you can walk by yourself.

One night, a herd of buffalo came into camp and they are ornery creatures. When my guide came to pick me up for dinner he led me through the trees parallel to the walking path because the buffalo were on it. If I’d gone on my own, I could have walked right into them and that would have been unfortunate.

Leopard in a treel - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-373101
A leopard in a tree in Kenya.

At night, you’ll hear animals around camp. I’ve had at different times, a lion, buffalo, elephants and a leopard only feet from my tent. I love it. Predators and other animals are not interested in getting in your tent. Let me repeat. They are not interested in getting inside your tent. They don’t recognize your scent as food and breaking into your tent takes far more energy than any of them are willing to expend just for the heck of it. But taking a stroll alone in the middle of the night might be read as threatening to an animal so just don’t do it.

As Linda Friedman said to me one day, while safaris are safe, “These are wild animals, not kittens.”

Enough said.

Best Time to Visit Kenya

July-thru October – Great Migration: Great opportunity for a Masai Mara Safari (Dry season)

November – Mid December – (Short Rains / Shoulder season)

Late December – March – (Dry Season)

April – May (Long Rains )

The most popular times for travelers are during the dry season which also boasts more moderate temperatures. While the migration is temporary, all the other animals except the big herds of wildebeest are there year round.

There’s great viewing in January / February but it’s really hot in the middle of the day. The good thing: it’s cooler before 8:00 am and after 5:00 pm, which means the really uncomfortable weather doesn’t last that long, and most of it you’re spending in camp in downtime.

Large herd of elephants in Amboseli, Kenya
A large herd of elephant in Amboseli, Kenya move from the plains to the swamps in the early morning.

Things to Consider (What’s Right For You?)

Fenced vs not fenced

there are properties that have a perimeter fencing of some kind that keeps large animals from coming in, others allow free movement. Meaning, anything can walk through. Personally, I prefer the latter. I like the idea of animals in camp, it feels more authentic, but I also respect nature and obey all the rules. (See safety.)

If you want a greater barrier between you and Africa’s four-legged friends, then stay someplace with fencing.

Family Style Meals vs Separate Tables

As a solo traveler, I love camps that have a family-style eating policy. Big table, no assigned seats, and a lot of conversation with new people. I’m still friends with some of the people I’ve met this way.

If you’re going solo or you like to socialize with other guests, camps with family-style meals is a good option for you. If you’re on a honeymoon or prefer to have more privacy, then look for d meals served at separate tables. Besides, you can always push two together if you end up wanting to talk to another couple.

Wildlife Photography

I love iPhones but when it comes to wildlife photography, they just don’t cut it. You’d be surprised how many people think they will.  Sure, they’re great for selfies and fun videos with lions in the background, or the elephant, or the pretty tree, but the best camera for a safari is a DSLR or Mirrorless camera with a longer lens— 400mm minimum. If you don’t have a long lens, why not rent one? Companies like Borrowlenses are wonderful for just this sort of thing. (This is a piece I wrote about how to take amazing wildlife photography)

If photography isn’t central to your trip and you just want a good camera that will document your bucket-list trip, then use a point-and-shoot with the longest optical lens you can find. Don’t use the digital zoom, however, it will reduce your image quality.

(This post gives you a sense of my gear.)


Maasai Men sharing their culture around the campfire - Kenya Wildlife Safari_-460801
Maasai Men sharing their culture around the campfire – Kenya Wildlife Safari_-460801

How to Plan Your Safari

Independent Travel Specialists

There are a couple of ways to plan your safari. The first and the one that I recommend is to work with an independent Africa Travel Specialists like Hippo Creek or Custom Safaris. They are small companies who will work closely with you to make sure your trip is exactly what you’ve dreamed about.

Normally, I believe people can book their own holidays with a little quality research but in Africa, there are so many nuances and variables to consider you’re going to get the best results working with an expert who knows the safari landscape intimately. Otherwise, you’re going to spend an enormous amount of time researching all the possibilities, when a few conversations with a specialist will net you a more satisfying outcome.

Also, travel specialists have no allegiance to specific companies, their allegiance is to you. If mix and matching camps owned by different companies will be a most satisfying trip within your budget that’s what they’ll do. If you book directly with a safari company that owns camps, they want you to have a great time but they’re incentivized to book you in their camps, even if another camp they don’t own would be better.

In addition, travel specialists spend years developing relationships that can work on your behalf when it comes to an upgrade, a free activity, or other perks.

The key to success is to really think about what you want and your budget and then speak on the phone (not email) about what you want. Do you want an active holiday or relaxation? The amenities you can’t live without (Wifi, massage, high luxury, or do you prefer to go rustic?). A good travel specialist will throw out options, activities, and ideas until they have a clear sense of your dream, and so will you.

(And if you’re wondering, I don’t have any financial relationships with travel specialists. I truly believe they are your best bet.) 

Work directly with safari companies that own and/or operate their own camps

Another option is to do what I mentioned above. Work directly with companies who own camps in multiple countries such as  Sanctuary Retreats, AndBeyond (FYI- Wilderness Safaris, with many camps only books through a travel specialist.)

A smaller company owned by award-winning wildlife filmmakers and conservationists Beverly and Dereck Joubert called Great Plains Conservation is one of my favorites. I love the look of their camps and their dedication to sustainability. Plus, because they’re filmmakers, their guides are trained to work with photographers and their modified vehicles make it easier to get the best shots.

Tour Companies

Taking a tour is another route. Companies like Abercrombie and Kent and Micato Safaris have pre-packaged trips you can take which takes care of planning worries.  The only downside is the lack of flexibility. You have no control over the itinerary or length of stay.

Don’t get me wrong, the trips are great but they don’t cater to your wants and needs. Plus, you share your experience with a bunch of other people.  This can be a pro or a con depending on what you looking for.

These companies can also plan private safaris but then you’re effectively using them as a travel specialist.

DIY

Do a lot of research online, reach out to camps, ask a lot of questions, and don’t forget to ask about logistics. How will you get from place to place? Those reservations are often the trickiest.

Baboon close up Kenya Wildlife Safari_
Portrait of a baboon taken in Amboseli.

Passport, Visas and Vaccinations

Passport

I’m going to state the obvious, you need a passport. What you might not know is that it must be valid for at least six months prior to your arrival and contain a minimum of two blank pages for stamps.

Kenya Travel Visa

You’ll also need a $50 visa. You can apply for a visa online at Evisa.go.ke or you can wait until you arrive at the airport in Kenya.

Vaccinations

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are no mandatory vaccinations for travel to Kenya though you may have to get a yellow fever shot if your travels take you through endemic zones before Kenya.

The agency also advocates being up to date on immunizations for Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, and meningitis. Additionally, consider pills for malaria.

Travel Insurance

DON’T GO TO AFRICA WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE. At the very least buy medical and evacuation insurance. You are going to remote locations in a third world country if something happens, you’ll be flown out. You can go bankrupt with the costs you’ll incur. If you pay attention to nothing else in this post, please take this to heart.

A great place to compare policies is Insuremytrip.

Note: many camps and tour companies will insist you have travel insurance. 

I’ve put together a page of resources you can find here. I recommend you bookmark it for all your journeys.

Two male zebras spar for dominance in Amboseli, Kenya
Two male zebras spar for dominance in Amboseli, Kenya

Packing

Pack enough light casual attire for a long weekend and take advantage of the same-day laundry service (weather permitting) that the majority of camps offer. It’s chilly in the morning and evening, but hot in the afternoon, so dress in layers. A good sunscreen is also a must-have, in addition to a wide brim hat and a good pair of polarized sunglasses. And flip-flops are fine for the jeep but pack a pair of comfortable sneakers for walking around.

Check out this post for a free downloadable safari packing list.

Luggage Requirements

In country, you’ll take small commuter planes to reach your destinations. Don’t think about driving, distances are too big and the roads leave a lot to be desired. Some camps can’t even be reached except by plane. You’ll waste valuable time and sanity if you go this route.

Domestic carriers are sticklers about baggage restrictions. Bags have to be soft, no longer than 26 inches and wheel-free, and the total luggage weight per person cannot exceed 15 kilograms (33 pounds), including your carry-on. If you go over the limit, your best-case scenario would be paying a fee, but in a worst-case scenario, you may have to buy a separate ticket for your baggage or wait until a plane with space available.

Essential Items

Here are some of my go to’s for safaris. If you’d like to see more, visit my “Safari Must-Have’s” store on Amazon.

Eagle Creek packing cubes

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set 3Pk

Speak to almost any ardent traveler and I bet you they’re using packing cubes. They’re ideal for keeping your clothes sorted, organized, and streamlined. I use three cubes to separate my undies, tops, and bottoms. I especially love them when I’m faced with a multi-stop itinerary–packing and unpacking is infinitely easier.

UPWADE Outlet Travel Power Strip

UPWADE Outlet Travel Power Strip

I won’t be without a mini power strip. It’s probably the one thing other than my phone I always have with me when I travel. I like this model by Upwade because it has two widely spaced international outlets which provide ample room for those pesky wide plugs that come with cameras and other devices, as well as four USB ports. The cord is a little longer than I need at 5 ft but I’d rather have it longer than too short. At 6 inches in length, it fits in any purse or carry-on bag.

Ceptics International Worldwide Travel Plug Adapter 5 Piece Set,

Ceptics International Worldwide Travel Plug Adapter 5 Piece Set

A lot of people like universal cubes that contain every adapter known to man deployed by a series of sliders, and while I appreciate the concept, I’ve never found one that doesn’t break almost immediately or size-wise didn’t annoy me. Too clunky. This 5-piece set is great because I can cherry pick what I need and plop it into my Think Tank case (see below) which I pack into my carry-on. I use the case that comes with it to keep all the adapters together at home; I rarely take the whole shebang with me.

Bug X 12640 Insect Repellent Towelettes, 25-Count

Bug X Insect Repellent Towelettes, 25-Count

The best insect repellent I’ve ever used. The towelettes make it easy to pack and control. Wouldn’t use anything else.


Money Matters

Kenya shillings is the local currency. You can pick up shillings at the airport upon arrival, but U.S. dollars are also widely accepted. Keep in mind, accommodations will accept major credit cards such as Visa or MasterCard (American Express is not as widely accepted) for amenities or gift shop purchases, but you should bring cash for gratuity as well as extras, such as cultural visits to local villages or souvenirs like handmade jewelry or other trinkets from local artisans.

Gratuities

Tips are not mandatory but are customary. Put your guide at the top of your list. You should plan to pay between $15-25 per person per day for your guide. If you have a large family, less per person is acceptable. It’s also customary to distribute gratuity to staff members, most camps have a staff box where guests can leave an envelope of money.  $5-10 per person per day is good. When in doubt, ask a manager for advice.

Tip: I prepare all my tips in advance and put them in separate envelopes for each camp before my trip “Guide” and “Staff”. I’ll add the guides name and increase the gratuity in real-time if I feel an individual deserves more. It avoids last-minute hassles and the worry that you might spend your cash elsewhere beforehand.



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All you need to know to plan the best Kenya wildlife safari. From planning, packing and luggage to wildlife photography, Kids and tipping.

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88 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Kenya Wildlife Safari

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Hi Hina –
      As with any accommodation, cleanliness is variable depending on the camp. That said, I’ve never had issues with cleanliness but I’m also very specific about the camps I go to and they tend to be on the higher end. Any camp I’ve stayed at under the Wilderness Safari, Great Plains Conservation and Sanctuary Retreats umbrellas have been very clean. I hear great things about AndBeyond but haven’t stayed at one of their camps.

      Re: Mosquitos. I’ve been in Kenya in August- October and I didn’t find them to be a big issue. I lived in Michigan and had more problems with mosquitos there during the summer than in Kenya. The mosquito netting in the rooms are often more about the romantic appearance than staving off mosquitos. That said, it depends on where you are staying and how close to water. If you’re booking a camp I’d ask your travel specialist or the camp manager about it. Also, every camp I’ve been to has mosquito spray in their rooms.

      A great, packable bug repellent is Bug X 30. You can find it here in my Amazon store: https://www.amazon.com/shop/insatiabletraveler?listId=1R8FU2OGLXA79

      Hope all this helps. 🙂

  1. Ana Katrina Lopez says:

    Wow! This was the most detailed Kenya safari planning guide I’ve come across! I’m currently planning a trip to Kenya and this is definitely going to be useful. I’ve only heard amazing things about Kenya. Most specially about their rich wildlife in the area and the scenic landscapes. What would you say would be the best part about safari? Looking forward to read more about your travel tips!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Hi Ana Katrina…I’m thrilled you like the guide but I’m a little confused. Don’t you write about Kenya as well? You work in the industry, no? Anywho… I couldn’t name one thing about Kenya I love, there are so many aspects to being there I adore.

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  4. angief02 says:

    Great information Susan. Thank you so much for putting this together and sharing such valuable information! Planning my trip to Kenya for next year and I’m so looking forward to it!

  5. Whitney Brown says:

    What a helpful and concise article Susan. I used a lot of info from your prior posts on Kenya…went with Linda from Custom Safaris in 2017 and absolutely loved every minute of it!! And reading this makes me want to call her again…thanks for the update!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I”m so glad Whitney, I was thrilled you found the information helpful and enjoyed yourself in Africa. It’s a spectacular place. 🙂

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  13. chrissa227 says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I’m looking at taking a safari either the summer of 2017 or summer of 2018 (so much depends on school holiday dates when you’re a teacher!), and I’m beginning to curate information now. Good information to get me started on sorting out exactly what I’d like to do.

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  15. sarahngima77 says:

    I am proudly Kenyan and I love how you are promoting tourism here which has suffered a few setbacks. It’s eye opening to see you guys enjoy what we sometimes take for granted.

  16. roseleeniij2009 says:

    I am Kenyan and am totally happy to know that you enjoy Safaris in my country…..BUT even more grateful that you have used your blog to promote tourism in Kenya (which has taken a real beating over the past few years)

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Thank you very very much. I adore Kenya and I know that it has suffered the last couple of years. I couldn’t be happier to spend time there and to share my experiences with the world. 🙂

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  18. Jane says:

    £2,000 is for 7 days, no single supplement, as I was comparing it to the safaris with WildEye. In 2014 we went for 19 days which was amazing, next year we are planning on 2 weeks just in the Mara as we are also doing a self drive of Namibia.

    • Lorenda Beumont says:

      Thanks Susan for your reply. Yes, can you believe Botswana is cheaper than the Migration trip would have been. Costs for the Migration is linked to the US$ whereas Botswana not. If I do the Migration in Aug or Sept I will be paying about R70,000 (excluding gratuities and drinks and one or two meals). I also want to do the hot-air balloon trip, which is also quoted in US$. For us South Africans the exchange rate is not at all in our favour, but for travellers from the US is the greatest time right now to come on Safari.

      My Botswana trip (seven nights) staying 2 nights Savute Elephant Lodge, 2 nights Kwai River Lodge and 3 nights Eagle Island Lodge (which apparently is now superb after a revamp), inlcuding, as you would know, ALL actitivies, and all meals, drinks and laundry is costing me R36,210.00 – excl gratuities (but including flight to Maun and transfers between camps!) . So, now you can see why I have changed my plans about doing the Migration in Tanzania in August.

      However, I must add the price I gave above for the Migration is during August and September only. Outside “peak” Migration time (there are also trips in April and May coming up) the Northern Serengeti trip would cost around R36,000 (in other words what my trip to Bots is going to cost me, except drinks are excluded and I think one or two meals).

      I am going to seriously consider WildEye next year, because I have only heard excellent things about them, and I really don’t mind not staying in luxury.

      By the way, in case anyone reading is thinking of doing the same Botswana trip I am doing from the US, the price I have given is for South African Residents only – I don’t know what they would quote for people outside SA. If you are keen to find out, the company is called Explore Plus Travel & Tours.

      I CANNOT WAIT TO GO TO BOTSWANA – SUPER, SUPER EXCITED!!!!!!!!

  19. Lorenda Beumont says:

    I’m very keen to get your opinion on which country was better for you to experience the Migraton (and the actual river crossings) – Kenya or Tazania (assuming you have seen the Migration (peak) in both? I look at these photo’s of the Masai Mara and I think, wow perhaps I should go to Kenya.

    I was going to go to Tanzania in August, but have now changed my travel plans to rather go to Botswana in June because the Rand has fallen so much against the US$, and the Migration price is given in dollars. So now I have to plan my Migration trip again for next year.

    I have been to Kenya before, many years ago, and stayed in the Masai Mara, but that was in April.

    Since I might only experience the peak of the Migration (Aug/Sep) once in my life – as it is an expensive Safari -, I am now trying to find out from others whether they preferred the experience in Kenya or in Tanzania more, or doesn’t it really matter because you’re at the border anyway? I know it is a very difficult question to answer, but, personally, if you could only experience it ONCE where would you base yourself? (By the way, the Migration trip I was booked on – and might still do next year – is over seven nights, staying in three camps, the final camp, three nights, at Mara Under Canvas Tented Camp in the Northern Tanzania).

    I am incredibly drawn to The Serengeti , and although I do want to exprience the Migration and Crossings, if I had to go there right now and just sit outside my tent and look out over the vast expance of savannah and only see giraffe and thorn trees during my stay, that will be good enough for me! It’s the image imprinted on my brain of what the Serengeti is (but that trip can be done at another time).

    Another question, I have been reading up a lot on WildEye’s photo safaris, and noticed their trip to Tanzania would have cost me A LOT LESS than the organised safari I was going to go on (with SA company). I know that WildEye is excellent and their guides are very good and helpful. I assume the costs are less because you don’t stay in luxury accommodation – which, as you know, is NOT necessary – nice, but not necessary. Did you find it was a “more-intimate-with-wildlife” trip when you went with WildEye, compared with other companies? Thanks in advance, Susan!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Hi Lorenda-I’ve been to Tanzania but not for the migration, only Kenya, so I cannot provide you with an answer to your first question. I can only say that I’ve not been disappointed with my time in the Mara.

      Re: Wild Eye- I’ve always enjoyed camping so being 20 feet from the Mara River in a tent ( no luxury but very comfortable) is ideal. I highly recommend it. If you’d like an introduction to the founders there I’d be happy to do so.

      Surprised that Botswana would be cheaper- even in the Rand. It’s typically considered the most expensive county for safari. 🙂

  20. kayleecrosby says:

    Ahhh! Kenya is definitely a huge dream of mine and your article just stirred up my massive case of wanderlust! Thank you for sharing and fingers crossed I can use some of these insights in the future!! 🙂

  21. Pingback: A First – Timer’s Guide to Planning a Safari in Kenya – keystonefunds

  22. Paul says:

    Nice advice when taking a safari in Kenya. May I add…

    Take nothing but photos and memories. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.

  23. Susie Wellendorf says:

    Great advice. Also, you may be tempted to sleep in on some days, but don’t miss a single game drive or whatever adventure is offered. Otherwise, you’ll hear about that amazing wildlife sighting you missed. Safaris are still one of my all-time favorite travel experiences.

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