Booking a safari tour can be pretty daunting, especially if it’s your first time visiting East Africa. I learnt a lot along the way, so I thought I’d share the 3 most important things you need to know before you book your trip!
1. Booking a Safari in East Africa
Going on safari is expensive! I mean, it’s not exactly the same as paying 20 quid to get into London Zoo, so my biggest tip would be to never book with a travel agent in the UK.
I obtained a handful of quotes from Kenya based travel agents to compare to those I’d contacted at home. With the same dates and criteria; two nights at Ashnil Mara Camp in Maasai Mara, with a driver from Nairobi and back and 4 private game drives for two people.
The cheapest quote I had from a popular travel agent in London that specialises in East African safaris was just over £2000 for two people. On the other hand, I booked our trip with Mario Tours for just over £700 which is almost a third of the price I’d have paid in London!
Side note – I highly recommend Mario Tours. Their service was brilliant and booking a driver with them meant that we had a private safari and didn’t have to share the Landcruiser with other passengers. Our driver, Ronnie was extremely knowledgable about the Mara & great company for 3 days and so we even booked our Mombasa hotel package with them too. Definitely contact them if you’re planning a trip to Kenya.
2. The Safari Packing List Myth
I read countless ‘safari packing lists’ online before our trip. All of them told me that I can only wear certain colours so that I don’t startle the animals, or so that I can blend in with the surroundings.
Firstly, you don’t get out of the car at Maasai Mara so you’re not going to stroll past a lion while hoping he doesn’t charge at you. Secondly, the animals don’t care about your fashion choices!
Every local I mentioned this so called packing list to, laughed at me and told me they’d never heard of such a thing. These are all people that live in Africa and go on safari as often as I’d go on a day trip to Manchester (about once a year!).
In reality, people were wearing all sorts of bold prints and bright colours. The only extras I’d advise packing is a jumper of some description in case you need it for an early morning game drive, a pair of leggings for the same reason (and because they hardly take up any room) and a scarf to protect your face from the flies if it’s been raining the night before. Trust me, you will know when you need it – you’ll be covered head to toe with those pesky flies! Bleugh.
A couple of sports bras will be invaluable, particularly if you have a large bust. The roads in Kenya; both at Maasai Mara and elsewhere are incredibly bumpy with huge potholes and you’ll be grateful for the extra support. You can thank me later!
3. Other Safari spots
Maasai Mara isn’t the only safari destination in Kenya. There are loads of different safari parks to choose from..
The top parks I recommend visiting are…
- Amboseli National Park – For elephant spotting and a Mount Kilimanjiro backdrop
- Lake Nakuru – To see more than a million pink flamingoes flock on the shores
- Tsavo East National Park – The the epitome of wilderness with it’s rocky hills, natural springs, swamps, dormant volcanic cones and a lava bed
- Nairobi National Park – Walking safaris
- Hell’s Gate – Cycling safaris add a twist in this geothermal landscape.
- Lake Naivasha – Sunset cruises alongside the hippos are idyllic here
- Samburu Game Reserve – An oasis amid a lava field where you can see Samburu’s own ‘Special Five’: the Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, gerenuk and Reticulated giraffe