Back in 2010, visiting the Kruger National Park in South Africa was our first tryst with the bush. What an experience…we saw a pride of twelve lions feasting after a kill! We would have loved to share the pictures with you, but we have none. It was the first time that we had held a DSLR and over 75% of the pictures were out of focus. We would have possibly done a better job had we used our simple point and shoot camera. The desire to capture wildlife through the lens was strong…strong enough to plan another trip to Africa. Considering that we have been using our Canon 70D for over three years now, we were hopeful that we would not disappoint our photographers’ soul.
Ankur skipped this trip and I went with a friend. He had to be at work and earn money…that I would gladly spend on the safari! Also, he isn’t too fond of the four legged creatures…he comes along because he is my ‘captive travel companion’…a vow that he took when we got married! Hence, this post will read in first person, singular (mostly, unless I speak for my friend and myself).
Why did I visit Kenya?
Every country in Africa has wildlife reserves. Whether to go to Tanzania or Kenya …or revisit South Africa…it was a tough call to make. Here are the reasons that took me to Kenya:
There is a direct flight by Kenya Airways from Mumbai to Nairobi, which takes ~5.5 hours. Flight times are convenient. I left Mumbai late at night and landed in Nairobi at 6:30 am local time. This meant working in office for the day and departing at night… saving a day’s leave. Moreover, a 5.5 hours flight is pretty manageable… not too long to make you feel uncomfortable.
For Indian passport holders, Kenya allows visa on arrival. The visa costs USD 50 and is stamped on your passport at the Nairobi airport. You need to have the visa fees ready in USD and all your bookings in place. You also need to have proof that you can cover your costs while you are in Kenya. I carried about USD 1000 for this purpose, but was never asked to show it.
Plenty of National Parks/Wildlife Reserves
There are over 20 national parks in Kenya, many parks being within a driving distance of about 200 km from one another. Every park is rich in wildlife. Some parks are conservatories for a particular animal, like the Nakuru National Park, which has so many rhinos that you are almost certain to see one. I saw six of them, grazing lazily! In a four day long trip, you can visit 2-3 national parks. For the water babies, the country also has a couple of marine national parks!
I did a 4 day-3 night trip and visited Lake Nakuru National Park, which is famous for rhinos and flocks of flamingos, Lake Naivasha, which has a plethora of birdlife and off course, the Masai Mara National Park, which is famous for the African ‘Big Five’.
The safari packages in Kenya were cheaper than those in Tanzania. A 4-day trip in Kenya (Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Masai Mara) was turning out to be cheaper by at least 25% when compared to a similar trip in Tanzania (Lake Manyara, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater), accommodation type and number of days being similar.
I decided to go with the less expensive destination and upgrade my accommodation from camps to comfortable, semi-luxury lodges. I got to see the animals in the wild and stay in comfort as well!
For those of you who want to do an initial survey and comparison of safari packages, I suggest using SafariBookings. I stumbled upon this site while searching for budget safaris on the internet. It has a huge list of service providers, many of them are not listed on TripAdvisor. I went with one such tour operator, Absolute Holiday Safaris and was extremely happy with the trip.
To all my buddies who have an Indian passport…
While the above reasons may excite you to book your tickets and pack your jungle pants for an African safari in Kenya, here is what you need to keep in mind well in advance as you plan a trip to Kenya…
Since the last one year of so, it is compulsory to get the OPV (Oral Polio Vaccination) at least one month prior to your date of departure. This vaccination is valid for 12 months, after which you need to take it again if you intend to visit any of the polio endemic countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria). Even if you have received this vaccination as a child, you need to get it again. Here is a list of the centres that will provide a certificate which is accepted by the immigration authorities.
It took me about half a day for the process. I needed to carry my passport in original and ticket copy. The vaccination was free…few drops of saline tasting solution. Suggest calling up the centre before showing up to understand the procedure, days on which the provide the vaccine, timings and documents to be carried.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
It is compulsory to take the yellow fever vaccination at least ten days prior to the date of departure. The cost of the vaccination, as on date, in India is INR 300 at the government authorised centres. The certificate is valid for ten years…so have it laminated and keep it safe. Here is the list of centres that provide yellow fever vaccination.
I went to the centre at Mumbai, near the international airport and would advise you to go here if you are in Mumbai (and not the one at the port). This process also took half a day. Remember to carry a copy of your passport, the original passport and a copy of your air ticket.
Do read up a little on the side effects of the yellow fever vaccinations before you get the shot. While it is a seemingly harmless shot, I developed an ugly rash on my ankles that took over two weeks to disappear. The vaccination site was a little sore for a week. That being said, you must take the shot for your own health and safety!
Don’t waste time approaching private doctors for these vaccinations..the immigration officials will not agree to any other certificate except that issued by the Government authorised bodies. You need to carry the original polio vaccination certificate and yellow fever vaccination certificate when you re-enter the country. The immigration officers may quarantine you if you do not have these documents…so keep them safely when you travel.
Planning an African safari and queries? Send me an e-mail and I would be glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!