Flights: Daily flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Nairobi operated by Kenya Airways, Jet Airways, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and a host of other airlines. Return tickets cost upwards of Rs. 30,000 per person.
Book flights at least 2 months in advance so as to get better fares. You can book them on www.lonelyplanet.com/kenya, www.kayak.com, www.expedia.co.in or www.ixigo.com. These portals link multiple travel booking sites and you get the most competitive fares at a given time.
Accommodation: Cities like Nairobi have many hotels, from budget to luxury whereas in safaris you can stay in lodges, permanent or tented camps. The tented camps are quite big and comfortable and have all the basic facilities one can hope for in a jungle. Hotels in cities can be booked from major travel portals such as www.lonelyplanet.com/kenya, www.kayak.com, www.hotels.com, www.venera.com etc.
Safari bookings: It is advised to book your safari from India itself so as to get a better price. All major tour operators along with their contact details can be found in the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) website. These take you on safaris across Kenya’s national parks such as Masaai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, Mount Kenya, Tsavo and many others.
Visa: A single entry visa costs USD 50 and can either be obtained before travel or on arrival at the airport. Though the visa is single entry, Kenya has a pact with Tanzania and Uganda in which you can re-enter from either of these countries on the same visa.
Currency: Kenyan shilling is the local currency but US dollars, Euros and travelers cheques are readily accepted. Major credit cards are also accepted at hotels and most lodges and camps. ATM machines, however, are rare. Changing money at banks can be time-consuming and it is not a good idea to carry cash on the streets.
Vaccinations: Yellow fever vaccination certificates is mandatory to enter Kenya. The shot needs to be taken at least 10 days prior to travel date. Government’s vaccinations centers are present in all major cities in India such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Goa, Cochin and Nagpur. Prior appointments need to be taken. Cost is Rs. 300 per person. Vaccination is considered valid for 10 years and it is needed for travels to most parts of Africa and South America.
Malaria: Consider taking malaria preventive medicines such as Mefloquine (One 250 mg tablet per week) or Doxycycline (One 100 mg capsule daily). Malarone is not yet freely available in India.
Even if the preventive medication is not taken, ensure that your arms and legs are covered and during safaris you should generally wear light coloured clothes to avoid attracting mosquitoes. Can also use mosquito repellent patches which can simply be pasted to your clothing.
Food: Food is generally provided in safaris and it ranges from simple to gourmet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, home-made soups and meats are all provided. You can also get vegetarian food upon prior request. Breakfast is generally buffet with lots of cereals, tropical fruits, breads, bacon, sausages and eggs to order.
Water: Drink bottled mineral water only and not from the taps or filters. Safari operators provide around two liters per day which is included in the safari cost. Also before reaching the national parks they will generally stop at a supermarket where you can easily buy bottled water.
Climate: Kenya enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year with daytime peaks of 26 degrees centigrade and lows of 11 degrees. Avoid April and May in which there is heavy rainfall.
Best time to witness the wildlife migration, Masai Mara: From August, the Mara’s plains are flooded with literally millions of wildebeest, along with herds of zebras, elephants and giraffes. Trailing this veritable walking buffet are prides of lions, solitary cheetahs and packs of laughing hyenas. Yes, come August in the Mara, it’s most definitely game on.
Nairobi: If you have a day or two in Nairobi then do go to the Langata Giraffe center on the outskirts, where you get up close with these giants and even feed them. Also a Nairobi city tour is a great way to spend the day. See the historic Kenyatta Conference Centre and take more than a bite at the famous ‘Carnivore’ restaurant. If time permits, then there is the Nairobi National Park as well, just 7 kilometers from the city.
The Masai Mara: Dream of Africa and you dream of the Masai Mara. This huge expanse of gently rolling grassland – specked with flat-top acacia trees and trampled by thousands-strong herds of zebra and wildebeest – is the ultimate African cliché. But for once the reality lives up to the image, and for many people this reserve is not just the highlight of their Kenyan adventure but the very reason they came in the first place. This is the ideal place to spot the Big Five – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo.
The park is a five-hour drive from Nairobi. The tour operators will take you there in their vans or jeeps.
The Great Rift Valley: En-route to Masai mara, you will cross the Great Rift Valley – a 6,000 kilometer geographic trench which runs from northern Syria to central Mozambique. The tour operator will stop here for an hour or so for you to marvel at this natural wonder of the world.
Lake Nakuru National Park: Another five-hour drive from Masai Mara and you arrive at the Lake Nakuru National Park. The lake’s population of many thousands of pink flamingos and pelicans is one of Kenya’s signature images – the sort to make you gasp at the sheer beauty of it all. This vitally important national park also protects the country’s largest population of endangered black rhinos, as well as large herds of buffalo; the black rhino is present elsewhere, but sightings are almost guaranteed here.
Nitin Gairola is a globe-trotting photographer, a back-packing trekker, a poet and a keen student of earth science, history & world cultures besides having a proclivity towards philanthropy and human rights issues. He has travelled to many parts of the world in his quest for knowing more about the planet and its inhabitants.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.