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African Safari 2007


What to Expect on a Safari

Wake up about 5.30 to 6.30 followed by very brief and light breakfast and early morning drive. Back to camp somewhere between 10.30 and 11.30 for the proper breakfast that was really brunch. Break on your own during afternoon to sleep, shower, catch some sun on your veranda etc. Around 3 or 3.30 we'd be called to afternoon tea which would be some savory and sweet snacks and drinks before going out on the afternoon drive. Return to camp roughly 7 and freshen up before dinner fairly soon after return. Both drives did one break during the drive with snacks and drinks.

NEW 3/14-

  • Breakfasts were hearty and there was usually a station where they'd make scrambled eggs or omelletes. All places would make toast if you asked. You can't go wrong with toast and most places had really good homemade preserves.
  • Lunches were decent at the lodges but if you were in transit or out on an all day game drive they would pack a boxed lunch. Theboxed lunch usually consisted of stuff that shouldn't be sitting in a hot car all morning - like cheese and mayo. All boxed lunches seem to be the same, regardless of park or lodge. We tried to avoid the boxed lunch as much as possible by doing one game drive in the morning and one game drive in the afternoon and returning to the lodge in between. Lunches at the lodge were buffets, and you could always find something to fill you up.
  • Dinners were buffet style and always began with soup - very good and hearty soups like pumpkin, squash, and mushroom, and others like "essence of duck" and "bouilabaise" that I didn't try.

    You don't have to get up at the crack of dawn for every game drive. If this is a safari where you'll have a private vehicle, you can schedule your game drives whenever you like. You could alternate the schedule a bit, go out early one morning, and sleep in the next.

    In all the time I have been reading travel forums on the web, I have never read of an animal attack on anyone on a safari. There are armed guards at the lodges and camps. Some accommodations will be fenced. As of today, both Kenya and Tanzania are peaceful, politically. Many of the roads are rough and bumpy. If there hasn't been recent rain, it may be very dusty. The jeeps or vans have pop-up roofs for viewing. Everyone will have a window seat.



    On the vast, treeless planes of the Serengetti, one of earth's most impressive natural cycles plays itself out again and again, as tens of thousands of hoofed animals, driven by rhythms of survival, move constantly in search of fresh grasslands. The most numberous are the wildebeests, of which there are more than one million, and their annual migration.  During the rainy season between Dec. and May, the wildebeests are widely scattered over the southern section of the Serengeti. As these areas have few large rivers, they dry out quickly when the rains cease, nudging the widebeests to concentrate on the few remaining green areas, and to form thousands strong herds that migrate north and west in search of feed. They then spend the dry season from July to Oct. outside the Serengeti and the Masai Mara before again moving south in anticipation of the rains. Around February, the calving season, more than 8000 wildebeest calves are born per day, although about 40% of these die before thay are four months old. Lions, cheetahs leopards hyenas, jackals and especially zebras follow the wildebeests for good hunting.

    Here are some sites for viewing the migration pattern.



    7/10 Helpful information to take along
    1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
    1 centimeter = 0.3937008 inch
    1 mile = 1.6 kilometers
    1 kilometer = 0.6213712 mile
    1 yard = 0.9144 meter
    1 meter = 3 feet
    1 pound = 2.2 Kilogram
    1 kilogram = .5 pounds
    1 sq. mile = 2.59 sq kilometers
    1 sq Kilometer = .39 Sq mile
    1 gallon = 3.79 liters
    1 liter = .26 gallon


     Scan important doc's and send them to your e-mail address so that you can re-call them from anywhere in the world.

    Never pass up the opportunity to use a clean bathroom.

    Many of the places we stayed used generators and the electricity was off during part of the day and in the late evening. No TV's or phones in most rooms...but were never missed.

    Have you thought about bringing ear plugs? As thrilling as it may be to hear lions roar and elephants trumpet at night, after 1 or 2 nights of not being able to sleep due to noise, I was really glad I had earplugs.

    I used the medium and large sized airlock travel bags for all my clothes. It helped reduce the size of the clothes making them fit in my duffel bags well. Plus they stayed dust free, made it easy to unpack and they worked great to repack dirty clothes in for the trip home.

    Facial cleansing cloths- Oil of Olay Daily Facials cleansing cloths are wonderful! They are dry and you can put as many of these practically weightless squares as you need in a Ziploc bag. They remove makeup, cleanse, and moisturize without taking separate cleansers, makeup removers, washcloths, etc. Just wet one, lather and wash, then throw it away!

    Be sure to take one of those inflatable neck pillows. They cost about $6 at US airport gift shops. This was the single most appreciated item on our trip. We used it for sleeping on the plane, for back cushioning on the game and overland drives, for a sleeping pillow in camps where the pillows were less than comfortable. It was the best $6 I ever invested.

    Don't go without a pair of 7x binoculars at the very least. Have a pair for each member of your party. You will really want them in order to watch animal behavior. Believe me, when you're watching a mother cheetah with her cubs no one wants to share - not even your spouse. Some tour companies will tell you that the drivers carry binoculars. They do - for their own personal use, not to share.

    Take a flashlight. We loved our mini Maglite. Small, easy to carry and puts out a bright beam. Many camp tents don't have electric lights all night.

    You'll want a small alarm clock or wrist watch with alarm feature.

    Take a good animal identification book - especially for the birds. The best we found was The National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife. The cost is about $18 US If you can't find it in a local book store, call Alfred Knopf publishers at 800-733-3000 NY. This book has actual pictures of birds and animals instead of drawings which makes identification much easier and more accurate.

    Keep a journal - if only to jot down what animals you spot each day. You won't believe how much of the first week you can forget by the second week. Memories around every corner become overwhelming.

    A small bean bag. I made one a little larger than a one pound bag of beans. These are necessary to steady your camera on the vehicle roof. We found that a mini tripod was useless as was a monopod. Many tour operators will tell you that the drivers carry bean bags - maybe yes, mostly no. Knowing what I know now, I would have made a bag a bit bigger - about the size of a hardback novel. You need something large enough to prop your camera up above the vehicle roof racks. However, those blow-up neck pillows came in handy again for this.

    A small day pack. There is limited space in the game viewing vans, so take your camera equipment in the smallest usable pack you can manage.

    My worst sunburn was on the top of my thighs through the open top of a 'closed' vehicle. I suggest that you take and use sun protection.

    When you leave your hotel in Nairobi, grab the roll of toilet paper and put it in your carry-on or daypack. You'll need it sooner or later for "bush breaks". Toilets are not always available when you need them, so squat breaks become standard procedure on game drives. Even in places where there are toilets, they will often be just a hole in the ground that is surrounded by a small circular wall. You will need your own paper.

    I also strongly advise that you take a bag full of individually wrapped moist towlettes. You will need and want them everywhere. I used them and passed them out to other travelers during the entire trip. Everything is dusty and dirty. Keep a few in your pack each day.

    Take a small bottle of the Purell-style hand sanitizer. You'll want that, too, after a few bush breaks. Its also good to use after being in an airplane toilet. The doorknobs are covered in bacteria.

    We avoided eating local greens or fruit that we could not peel ourselves. We did not drink local water, use ice cubes or brush our teeth in tap water. We ate and drank everything else with no problems at all.

    We took 30% deet, mosquito spray - hardly ever used it. But do take a small bottle. Spray is best - its nasty stuff on your hands or if you get it in your eyes.

    NEW--1/20/06- Despite what you may have read you will definitely encounter Tsetsi flies and they will bite you. However, they do not carry sleeping sickness and their bites do not itch afterwards. Their bite is similar to a pin-prick. It was only in the crater that we did not come across Tsetsi’s
    Food & drinks:
    Soft drinks are easy to come by and are actually cheaper than the local Tuskar beer. Very few places have diet drinks. Try the Bitter Lemon drink - its good.

    They make the best coffee I ever tasted. But not many camps could offer decaffeinated coffee. Tea is always available.

    The breakfasts are wonderful - eggs, meats (I loved their sausage), potatoes, pancakes, french toast, breads (wonderful everywhere), fruits, cereals (mostly granola), yogurt. (the "fruit" yogurt has no fruit in it - we used a spoonful of strawberry jam as flavor), juice, coffee, tea, milk.

    Lunch always starts with soup (usually hot), salads, warm bread, then hot meat (pork chop, lamb, veal, chicken or steak), potatoes, and vegetable. Lunch is a full, heavy meal - no sandwiches and potato chips. There are always wonderful looking deserts - which usually didn't taste as good as they looked.

    Dinner was a multi course meal. Again, the soup starter & bread, an appetizer (terrine, pate, spring rolls, shrimp, etc.), a fish course, the entree (meat, potato or rice dish, vegetables), sorbet, and deserts. The tables were set elaborately. Our joke became who had silverware left over at the dinner's end that they hadn't figured out how to use.

    -Two items really necessary to take and have on game drives are toilet paper and antibacterial handwash (the no-rinse kind. We found there was sometimes no tp at stops in parks, and also rarely running water to wash hands. Some tp in one pocket and small bottle of handwash in other made the experience much easier

    -zip lock bags for soiled tp. It is better to pack it out and leave no trace.

    You may want to throw in some face cloths. Outside of the US or Canada they are a 'hit or miss' as to if the hotel/lodge will provide them.

    For religious reasons, African men will not wash women’s underwear. It takes a minute to swish them in soap, (you can use bar soap -Ivory is good, or buy little packets of soap powder), wring them dry, wrap them in the towel you just used, and hang them somewhere. If this is a problem, either bring enough undies for the whole trip or buy disposable panties at Magellan's ( They also sell handy clotheslines that you don't need clothespins.

    Make copies of your passport, credit card, plane tickets and hide them in your suitcase in case of loss. Make a copy of your itinerary if you have one and keep it in your luggage. Store copies of your important docs in Zip lock bags

    * Bring extra collapsible duffel bags for taking home souvenirs. Bring extra locks for these.

    Bring Carmex or other lip balm to use during game drives and on the airplane. I acquired some nasty lip blisters because the Vaseline lip protection I took just wasn't enough.

    Remember that you can always carry-on your fleece and windbreaker on flights, and they won't weigh that. You can stuff the pockets of those with stuff too! Wear your heaviest shoes/boots too.

    For your information, in Kenya, Tuskers beer is excellent.

    If you have a chance to taste passion fruit juice in the morning, do so -- it's delicious.

    If you have black luggage like 98% of the world, buy some bright colored ID tags and add a different bright colored ribbon around each handle. Makes it very easy to identify your luggage from everyone else’s.

    Take a journal with you and write in it EVERY day. Take a small voice activated tape recorder and use it to describe what you are seeing and feeling as time permits.

    Do NOT take pictures of the locals without asking permission. Some will allow you to do so but will ask you to pay them first.

    Women selling tourist trinkets there BEGGED us for our lipsticks and tried to barter for ours. A man we traveled with was always taking notes and wore a ballpoint pen attached to a colorful braided string; both men and women selling souvenirs at several tourist stops tried to barter for it. Kids and teens loved American T-shirts with logos on them.

    At the least, learn how to say Please, Thank You, Hello and Goodbye in the local language and say it with a smile. Always leave a tip in your lodging room for the person who cleans it.

    Pack light!!! Laundry is very affordable and in some camps is free of charge. We washed our underwear and socks every night.

    Bring your own shampoo, not every place supplies it.

    Take precautions against DUSTY dirt in East Africa. I used XXX large ziplock bags in addition to my camera bag.

    Eye drops are helpful.

    Restrooms are primitive in towns and non-existent on safari

    Attach a soft cord to your sunglasses so you can instantly "drop them" when a photo-op presents itself.

    Tylenol P.M. came in very handy for sleep assistance.

    Pray your van-mates don't bring beaded trinkets for the local children. Another van's occupants made countless stops to give the children toys that they had made. This is not a good thing to do. If you want to contribute to the wellness of the children, do so though the proper channels. Legitimate charities, schools, etc. You cannot bring enough to give to each child, and the sadness on some faces should be indication enough that this is a bad thing to do.

    Whenever your guide says, "Would you like to use the bathroom here?" go ahead. You never know how long before you'll see another one.

    Dollars were accepted everywhere.

    We never exchange money. The shilling and the dollar had the same value for the things and the dollar seemed preferred. There was NO place to cash a traveler's check or use a visa until we got back to the airport. Bring cash.... Especially dollar bills. You will need them when taking pictures of the people. They expect to be paid, and it was usually a dollar. Children will ask for a dollar...and you will probably want to give that when you see how they barely survive.

    I thought I could remember which animals I saw during a day. I realized within a half-hour, I needed to write down what I saw...I think the first day, we saw over 25 different animals and some were ones I never heard of.

    We color photocopied the first two pages our passport and had them laminated. We always had them with us in our wallets and most times were able to use them to cash traveler’s checks when shopping while our passports were safely stored in the hotel safe

    One tip is to bring some ziplock bags, and when you leave your lodge or camp each morning, throw into your daypack one or two of the extra bars of soap that they give you. Many times the park rest areas had sinks in the bathrooms but no soap, so it came in handy and we left them there for others to use. (In addition, at a petrol stop an elderly Maasai woman knocked on the window of our car and asked for soap, so my husband gave her some.) We also brought lots of antibacterial hand wipes with us but could have used more.

    Laundry service was included for us at Swala, and we also paid to have it done at Serengeti Serena Lodge which we thought was very reasonably priced at between $1-2 per item. At Serengeti Serena we were thrilled with the laundry service. At Swala I would not have it done again. They had to wash it by hand and then they dried it outside, and the clothes came back smelling like a wood fire and had some kind of bugs in them that gave both of us huge red itchy bite marks all over when we wore them! (Thank goodness we had brought some anti-itch stuff with us, and this was at the tail end of our trip, and we did have a few other things left to wear.) This was the only minor annoyance we had at Swala and all of our other experiences there more than made up for it!

    We never left anything of value in any of the rooms or tents. None of the rooms had safes. I carried my camera and our money and credit cards with me at all times, even to meals, and my husband carried our passports and all of his camera equipment in a backpack. But that was largely because we wanted our camera stuff with us all the time, not because we felt it was unsafe.

    Making Long Air Flights Comfortable

    * Bring an inflatable neck pillow so you can sleep more comfortably. Use the airline pillow to support your lower back. Take an airline blanket upon boarding in case you get cold later in the flight. It can also be used for back support or as a pillow.

    * Use earplugs and an eye mask to block distracting noise and light.

    * Wear elastic-waist pants, plus a light weight T-shirt and a sweater. Wear shoes to accommodate feet that will swell during the long flight. Change into a pair of thin socks during the trip.

    * Drink at least 1 liter of water for every two hours of flight time.

    * Combat dry cabin air by misting the face, using moisturizing eye drops, lip balm and skin moisturizer (this goes for men, too).

    * Walk around every so often to stretch your legs.

    * Bring along a small bottle of hand sanitizer to clean hands before meals.

    * Pack a toothbrush in your hand luggage. Brushing your teeth after a meal during a long flight makes life a bit easier. And you feel a lot fresher when you arrive and are met at the airport.

    sew secret pockets into the insides of every pair of trousers you're taking, passport size; more comfy than moneybelts

    • make 50% size copies of insurance policies and leave originals at home

    • * make several copies of passport and visas (if applicable); hide each copy in a different place, give one to travelmate, leave one at home with contact persons

    • * create yourself a Hotmail e-mail address (; access from any terminal with Internet in the world* put all your important info (reference numbers, phone numbers, addresses of consulates, airline offices etc) onto your Hotmail. If you have a scanner you can even put scanned copies of your important documents onto Hotmail. (just compose the mail as normal and send it to yourself). If you lose your originals and your copies you can always retrieve them from your Hotmail
    • * break in new shoes
      * cover brand names of photo camera and other expensive gear with black sticky tape (looks like cheap brand)
    • tiny padlocks to lock the zippers of your backpack

    • * cord bicycle lock to lock your backpack to bed in hotel

    sarong; use as long skirt or short skirt, table cloth, beach towel, curtain, sheet, wrap around souvenirs

    credit card size calculator

    toothpaste, shampoo etc.: caps/tops that close by twisting/turning are preferred to caps that flip open; less likely that they open by accident in your toilet bag

    NEW 3/14-Another handy little gadget that we brought was a Pac-safe retractable cable lock. We locked the camera wheelie to the backpack and locked the backpack to something sort of secure like a pipe or bedpost. Certainly not Fort Knox, but more for peace of mind and a way for us to know that nothing had been tampered with while we were out. In retrospect this doesn't make much sense when "locking up for the night" sometimes involved zipping the tent shut. Would we use it again - absolutely.

     4/26-DON'T lock your passport/tickets in your duffel and leave your duffel in your room. Take them with you at ALL times in your backpack. I speak from experience about stolen duffels with passports, tickets, cash inside. 

    TSA locks are special locks that the TSA can open. Usually there is a combination for you and the TSA has special keys to open the locks.You can use them outside the USA; they just can't be opened by foreign Security personnel. If the bag needs to be opened, they will probably cut it off, just like any other lock.

    6/28-We stopped in Arusha to exchange some money (you get a better rate here than at the lodges) and also bought extra bottled water (the safari company supplies a daily bottle of water but you will eventually run out and it costs about 4x as much to buy it at the lodges, so if you do a safari thru Arusha ask your driver to stop at the supermarket on the way out of town for water). Also some of our photographers bought beans or rice for their camera support bags.

    7/7 Things I wish I had brought: a laminated bookmark that had Fahrenheit / centigrade and miles/kilometer conversions on it; and an extra toothbrush – I was so relieved to toss the one I had by the time we got home!

    Things I’m glad I brought: Cipro (yep!), 3 camera batteries with charger, and an outdoor thermometer.

    Things I went overboard on: Hand sanitizers, bug sprays

    Something I wish I had done: changed the date/time function in my digital camera to local times.