Such is the safari from which we have just returned.
KENYAN SAFARI: THE NITTY-GRITTY
Getting There: Ah, here’s the rub. From Tampa to Nairobi, it took us two full days. Tampa – New York’s JFK (probably the closest to hell any of us will ever be in this mortal plain) – London’s Heathrow – Nairobi. The trick? Plan your Nairobi flight so that you have time to taxi to one of the many hotels near Heathrow for 40 winks and a shower. It makes all the difference.
Costs: As with the flights’ duration, their cost also is a bit hard to swallow. For the two of us on three airlines (Delta, Virgin, Kenya), about $3,000. The Kenyan safari itself isn’t cheap, either. (Remember, this is the trip of a lifetime!) Kenyan safaris start at about $1,500 per person. You get pretty much what you pay for. (See Kent Redding’s advice here.) We were very pleased with our stays with the Mara and Samburu Intrepids. At both these luxurious lodges, we enjoyed excellent food and service and, in spite of being in the middle of nowhere, we lacked for nothing.
Seven nights Heritage Intrepids Safari, featuring Samburu Intrepids, Great Rift Valley Lodge and Mara Intrepids, are priced from $2,325 – $3,410 per person (children at 50 percent), depending on the season.
Speaking of children, if you want to do something very, very special for your grandkids, take them on safari! The Heritage people have youth programs galore, including a “bush school” with excursions to historical sites, practical conservation work, and cultural and sporting exchanges with the local Maasai and Samburu villages. Heritage’s “Adventurers Club,” for grandkids four to 12, study the bountiful butterflies, plant a tree, cast Big Cat tracks from the real thing, even teach how to build a fire from two sticks – something I was never able to do.
Price includes one-night bed and breakfast at Nairobi hotel (ours was a beautiful Holiday Inn), full-board while on safari, all game drives, airstrip transfers and domestic airfare and park entrance fees. Price excludes Visa ($50), beverages, laundry, and tips. All facilities offer laundry service. This cuts down on the amount of stuff you must bring.
For a good overview of East African safaris (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda), check out Express Travel Group.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO AFRICA
Compiled for Suddenly Senior by Kent Redding
Like no other continent in the world, Africa offers breathtaking scenery, unparalleled wildlife, and rich cultures. For travelers with an adventurous spirit, there is no better place for your next vacation. Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia are all fantastic safari destinations.
Things to consider before you book a trip include:
When to go: In most destinations, June to October is peak season, offering the best weather and game viewing, but also peak-season pricing. To make your dollar stretch further, consider traveling in low or shoulder season.
Where to go: For a typical two-week safari, consider limiting your visit to one or two countries so you can truly experience where you are. In East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania offer huge numbers of animals, rich culture, and that wild, “National Geographic” experience. Rwanda and Uganda offer great primates (gorillas, chimps and more). In southern Africa, South Africa and Botswana offer great “up-close-and-personal” experiences with wildlife, while Namibia boasts great deserts and wildlife. Zambia is famous for walking safaris and tours in “Africa as it used to be…”
Cost: Safaris are not inexpensive. For a good safari for nine days, land-only costs can range from $2,500-$15,000 per person. To compare quotations from different countries, divide the price by the total number of nights. Make certain they include the same number of days in parks, the same accommodations, internal flights and transfers, all the same meals, etc. Don’t choose a safari company solely based on price – often a cheap price means lower quality. Competent guides, reliable vehicles, and personalized service are key, so go with a company that has excellent references.
What to bring: In general, pack light with a limited number of quick-drying, earth-tone clothes. In many areas, temperatures might be cooler than you expect. My standard bag includes two pairs of shorts, two pairs of pants, six shirts, a fleece, and a rain jacket. Other must-bring items include a sun hat, camera, and small flashlight. Most companies offer suggested packing lists.
Health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers suggested inoculations and health recommendations for all countries. Visit www.cdc.gov for more information before consulting with a travel clinic in your area. Otherwise, take all your own prescription medications with you, along with your bug spray and anti-malaria medications. Drink only bottled water.
Safety: Africans are generally friendly and hospitable people and visitors are made to feel very welcome. Like most places in the world, there are good and bad places, and some general rules to follow. In the wild, remember that you are a visitor in the “home” of the animals. Respect them. In cities and towns, stay with your guide or keep to public areas. Check the U.S. State Department’s website, www.state.gov to keep abreast of changing political climates and travel warnings.