What You Must Know to Journey to Africa

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A safari is on almost each traveler’s bucket record, and should you’re keen to leap by way of the required hoops to get to Africa, it may be an epic expertise. However I’ve additionally seen firsthand that planning a visit to Africa for a safari will not be for the faint of coronary heart.

Final 12 months, I traveled to the Masai Mara area of Kenya for a safari as a part of my honeymoon. The Masai Mara is, for my part, the best place to plan a safari – and probably the greatest to see essentially the most wildlife, too. It’s an awesome place to begin for anybody seeking to take a safari journey.

Even so, the planning course of felt a bit overwhelming. Ultimately our journey went off (largely) with no hitch. Now I’m right here that will help you do the identical.

In the event you’re contemplating touring to Africa, advance preparation is essential. Listed here are my safari planning suggestions that will help you put collectively a stress-free journey to the Masai Mara this 12 months or subsequent.

Why the Masai Mara?

I’m tempted to simply let a number of of my pictures reply the query: Why ought to I plan my safari journey to the Masai Mara in Kenya?

Safari Guide 

Lots went into the choice to plan my honeymoon within the Masai Mara as an alternative of one of many different common safari websites in Africa.

The Masai Mara, often known as the Mara, is among the hottest safari locations on this planet, and for good purpose. It’s a comparatively small space in comparison with the neighboring Serengeti (about 10 occasions larger than the Mara) as an example, however the animal populations there are thriving.

The Masai Mara is 583 sq. miles, so it’s not precisely an intimate setting both, however there are an estimated 850-900 lions in that space alone, and the safari guides know precisely tips on how to discover them.

The top consequence: You don’t must drive far to search out wildlife exercise within the Masai Mara.

Safari guide 

You may get proper up shut and private to the animals, too. The wildlife are used to people and are utterly unthreatened by us as a result of they’re protected. Whereas poaching and searching of those animals was once an issue, it’s been all however utterly eradicated within the area, based on our guides.

The Masai persons are strict conservationists with a religious attachment to the land. It’s a superbly maintained area of Africa, making it presumably essentially the most fertile wildlife-spotting area on this planet.

Safari Guide 

And, the entry to this land is wonderful. Each safari clothes shop and safari lodge has a fleet of vehicles just like the one above. These vehicles are sturdy and may drive nearly all over the place. We logged dozens and dozens of laborious miles on daily basis.

By laborious miles, I imply laborious miles. The roads are extraordinarily bumpy and we didn’t see a patch of pavement for 5 days whereas we’re there. (Ensure you convey dramamine if you’re susceptible to automotive illness.) However the drives are price each bump and may take you to some spectacular vistas and wildlife viewing factors.

One more reason why the Masai Mara is an ideal safari vacation spot are the lodging alternatives. Simply have a look at this Google Maps “accommodations” seek for the whole area.

Safari camps Masai Mara
(Google Maps)

There are dozens of choices for guests with designs on a Masai Mara journey at all types of worth factors.

All through Africa, you could find different actually nice safari alternatives, too. Simply to the south of the Masai Mara is the Serengeti in Tanzania, which is a a lot bigger, extra unfold out model of the Mara. In the event you’re seeking to see species of gorilla, a visit to Uganda is likely to be the best choice for you. And if you wish to see South Africa, there are many day journey wildlife excursions from there, too.

However for my cash, if you would like an immersive safari camp expertise with the most effective alternatives to see lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and extra, the Mara is the most effective wager.


Entering into Africa

In the event you’re offered on a visit to the Masai Mara, there are some issues you might want to know and get accomplished earlier than you’ll be able to enter Tanzania or Kenya. The Masai Mara is in Kenya, but it surely borders Tanzania and plenty of vacationers – together with myself – will mix the 2 international locations right into a single journey in the event that they’re making the lengthy journey to East Africa.

Once I boarded our flights to Tanzania and Kenya, I clutched a folder stuffed with paperwork and knowledge for my spouse and I, and a few of these paperwork got here at no small price.

From required vaccinations, to e-visas, and lingering COVID-19 restrictions, right here’s what you might want to know to enter Kenya or Tanzania.

Paperwork Required to Go to Kenya and Tanzania

There are some issues I all the time convey with me on worldwide journeys, like photocopies of my passport and detailed, printed out itineraries of the whole journey. However my folder was slightly additional plump heading to Africa.

Right here’s a working record of what each individual must enter each Tanzania and Kenya:

  • Well being surveillance type (COVID-19-related)
  • E-Visa (~$100)
  • Passport (with six months of validity left)
  • Yellow Fever vaccination card
  • COVID-19 vaccination card (CDC playing cards have been accepted in each international locations)

First issues first: Be sure that your passport has six months of validity previous your arrival date in Africa. Kenya and Tanzania each require vacationers to have six months of passport validity to enter the nation.

europe passport validity 

About one month earlier than our journey, my spouse found hers was not eligible, so we needed to do an Pressing Journey Passport renewal. It was aggravating, however utterly doable.

The COVID-19 well being kinds can be found on every nation’s U.S. Embassy web site. You’ll find the most recent restrictions and kinds on Kenya’s COVID-19 U.S. Embassy website and Tanzania’s COVID-19 U.S. Embassy website.

Totally vaccinated vacationers don’t want to check earlier than getting into Tanzania or Kenya.

Along with the COVID-19 necessities, each U.S. traveler to Kenya and Tanzania wants an e-visa you can full earlier than your journey. Fortunately, these e-visas are very straightforward to fill out on-line and printing out your e-visas forward of your journey will prevent precious time on the airport upon arrival.

Kenya e-visa 

You’ll must enter a bunch of details about your journey and take a headshot of your self for the e-visa, as nicely.

You’ll be able to fill out these kinds at Kenya’s e-visa web site and Tanzania’s e-visa web site.

We’re all used to COVID-19 restrictions, visas, and passports, however the trickiest entry restriction for Tanzania and Kenya is the Yellow Fever vaccine requirement.

The Yellow Fever vaccine is fairly extensively out there in the US, but it surely’s not a cheap shot. With out insurance coverage, the Yellow Fever vaccine can price wherever from $200 to $400. And it’s a must to have that yellow vaccination card with the intention to enter both nation.

My recommendation? Schedule a go to with a journey drugs physician. My spouse and I went to an appointment collectively and the physician informed us all the advisable vaccinations for the area and was in a position to administer our Yellow Fever vaccine and provides us our proof, all in a half-hour’s work.

Different Issues You’ll Want within the Masai Mara

Along with the obligatory photographs, our physician additionally advisable we take a Malaria treatment. Malaria continues to be comparatively prevalent in East Africa. The mosquito stays the deadliest animal on the continent of Africa 12 months after 12 months.

Malaria sequence differ. Ours was a capsule that we began taking a number of days earlier than the journey and continued taking each day by way of about two weeks after the journey.

Relying by yourself vaccination historical past, the physician may let you know to re-up on another vaccinations earlier than heading to Tanzania and Kenya, too. I, as an example, additionally acquired the Typhoid Fever vaccine in the course of the go to to cowl my bases.

Once more, I’d advocate reserving an appointment to deal with these items. Our physician laid out every part in clear phrases to us, together with what we wanted, what we should always have, and what we might elect to get by way of vaccinations for Africa.

The best way to Get There

Relating to planning a safari to the Masai Mara, the most effective place to fly to earlier than you join onto a bush flight is Nairobi Worldwide Airport (NBO).

NBO is an especially well-connected African hub the place almost each main airline flies. Whether or not you favor SkyTeam companions like Air France and KLM to Star Alliance companions like SWISS, Lufthansa, and Turkish or OneWorld companions like Qatar Airways, and different favorites like Emirates, you’ll have the ability to discover a connecting itinerary to NBO, no drawback.

Moreover, NBO is a hub for Kenya Airways, which has a reasonably strong route community all through Africa, Europe, Asia, and even to New York (JFK).

ZNZ airport 

For our journey to Africa, we flew Qatar Airways from Chicago (ORD) by way of Doha (DOH) to Zanzibar (ZNZ). After a number of days there, we grabbed a fast Kenya Airways flight from ZNZ to NBO.

We even acquired a glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro alongside the best way!

Mt. Kilimanjaro 

Past Nairobi, it’s also possible to fly to Dar es Salaam (DAR) in Tanzania, which has some connectivity to the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. Similar goes for Mombasa (MOI) in Kenya.

However far and away, essentially the most handy choice is to start out your journey with a flight to NBO.


Flying to the Bush

It’s potential to drive to the Kenyan bush, but it surely’s not suggested. It’s a few of the roughest bodily terrain on this planet. The roads are hardly roads. From every part we learn, it’s actually a idiot’s errand. Your finest wager for attending to the Masai Mara is to fly in on one of some airways that provide service to the area.

Airways that service the Masai Mara embrace Safarilink, Air Kenya, or Mombasa Air Safari. Safarilink and Air Kenya function out of Nairobi-Wilson Airport (WIL) which isn’t to be confused with Nairobi Worldwide Airport (NBO). Mombasa Air Safari operates out of Mombasa in jap Kenya.

In an effort to fly to the Mara from Nairobi, it’s a must to get a automotive service or taxi between NBO and WIL. A one-way automotive service booked by way of Kenya Airways (our inbound flight operator from ZNZ to NBO) price us solely about $30, however the drive took near an hour. Nairobi has a few of the worst automotive visitors on this planet, so construct in a multiple-hour connection should you’re altering airports.

The easiest way to e book these airways is immediately by way of their web site. However if you wish to get a way of their approximate schedules first, you’ll be able to seek for flights to the Masai Mara on Google Flights – though the main points may be deceptive.

This desk, from Safarilink’s web site, offers you a way at how steadily they function flights from Wilson (WIL) to the Masai Mara.

Safarilink to the Mara 

These flights, whereas commonly operated, aren’t your typical point-to-point flights. In nearly each case, these planes are making a number of stops on their method to the ultimate vacation spot, even when the fare is offered as a “nonstop” flight. Safarilink masses and flies these planes based mostly on how many individuals are flying which routes.

Additionally, Nairobi-Wilson will not be your typical airport. Every airline has it’s personal “terminal” like this one we used for Safarilink.

Safarilink terminal 

It’s fashionable and good on the within, that includes a present store, an upstairs lounge for paying prospects, and a snack bar within the again proper of the photograph above. However, attending to this terminal was a visit. Each automotive goes by way of the gates of the airport into what I can solely describe as an entire free-for-all, with vehicles and persons are zig-zagging each which method.

As soon as inside, nonetheless, Safarilink made every part fairly clean. We checked in with brokers behind the counter they usually whisked our baggage away for our flight.

Safarilink check-in 

Let’s discuss baggage. On our method to Africa, flying Qatar Airways Enterprise Class, we got primarily zero restrictions about how a lot we might or couldn’t convey. That isn’t the case on these tiny Cessna planes into the Masai Mara. The luggage restrictions are extraordinarily strict, so it’s a must to pour over your fare phrases and circumstances earlier than you board.

We expertly packed our suitcases to satisfy very particular weight restrictions. Probably the most distinctive restriction: You aren’t allowed to have any hard-sided suitcases onboard Safarilink and different bush flights. That seemed to be the norm for all of the airways servicing the Masai Mara. Exhausting suitcases are harder to pack into the underbellies of the tiny planes.

Safarilink baggage 

With a baggage weight restrict of 33 kilos (or 15 kgs) per individual, I needed to buy an additional heavy bag every method that might weigh as much as 50 kilos. We saved the opposite one shut sufficient to 33 that the agent allow us to slide with only one additional bought bag.

From the terminal window, we might see our aircraft able to depart. As you’ll be able to see, it isn’t fairly the 787 we arrived to Africa on.

Safarilink Cessna 

When it was time to fly, we lined up exterior of the aircraft to board, informed a baggage handler which baggage have been ours, and he gave us a thumbs up that we might get on the aircraft. We have been assigned seats in row two. Apparently row one is for the pilots.

Safarilink airplane 

It was a cool vantage level of a flight and one thing like I’ve by no means skilled. The flight took about 45 minutes from “gate” to “gate”. We even noticed some elephants from above as we have been descending.

Safarilink onboard 

The aircraft goes by the runway very low earlier than the touchdown as there is no such thing as a air visitors management to examine the landings. Every part is visible for the pilots. After touchdown on the filth strip, we have been within the Mara. It was a really cool expertise, total.

Safarilink in the bush 

The Musiara Airstrip was the place our safari lodge informed us to fly for a free pickup. It was a sleepy little airstrip and possibly my favourite airport on this planet.

Musiara Airstrip 

The “terminal” was three related benches beneath a solar shade. No Precedence Go lounge or Hudson Information stand in sight.

Safarilink Dash 8 

Curiously, on our method again to Nairobi after the journey, Safarilink put us on a Dehavilland Sprint-8 dual-propeller aircraft, which was a lot larger than our inbound plane. With 20 rows of seats and devoted flight attendants, the best way again was a a lot totally different flight expertise.

Checking in from the Masai Mara consisted of our information speeding our paperwork as much as the flight attendant, who checked us off the manifest and allowed us to board. She informed us which row to take a seat in once we acquired on.

Neptune truck at Musiara 

Right here’s one final have a look at the Musiara Airstrip parking zone and terminal as my spouse gave a ultimate look on the Mara.


The best way to Discover a Safari Lodge

When it comes time to seek for a safari lodge within the Masai Mara, I might begin with two assets.

  1. The Masai Mara’s listings of lodging
  2. After which for extra particulars about these properties: Google Resorts

Google Resorts is nice useful resource to start narrowing your search due to its filters. You’ll be able to filter for issues like “all-inclusive out there”, “pool”, by star ranking, and far, rather more.

Utilizing Google Resorts, you will get your record of potential properties all the way down to a manageable stage very quickly.

In the event you’re trying to make use of factors and miles to e book, take your search outcomes to these particular loyalty web sites. There aren’t many western lodge chains (moreover Fairmont) with safari lodges within the Masai Mara, however most of the safari lodges you’ll discover are bookable by way of journey portals the place you can use your hard-earned factors.

We used the Capital One journey portal to e book the Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp. We paid for our keep by way of the portal as we have been attempting to hit a spending bonus on the Capital One Enterprise X Rewards Credit score Card on the time, which earned us 10x factors on the keep. We additionally acquired $300 again onto my bank card assertion because of the Enterprise X’s annual journey credit score, too.

Right here’s what the itemizing appears to be like like for Neptune on the Capital One Journey Portal for a one-week’s keep in October 2023.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

As you’ll be able to see, camps like these usually are not low-cost. Per week at Neptune will price you greater than $5,000 or a half 1,000,000 Capital One factors. However almost every part is included in that charge, which may prevent a variety of complications should you select to go that route.

Ought to You E-book An All-Inclusive Safari Camp?

Reserving an all-inclusive safari camp is one of the simplest ways to go about reserving a safari, for my part.

There are only a few, if any, food and drinks choices exterior of those resorts as a result of the Masai Mara is an especially wild place! The native individuals, the Masai, are a really conventional neighborhood, which means food and drinks service is finished nearly solely on the resorts. Subsequently, the resorts can cost exorbitant quantities to visitors not staying on all-inclusive charges.

If you e book an all-inclusive fare, you don’t must sweat hour-to-hour about feeding your self. The resort takes care of all of it.

You too can e book all-inclusive lodge charges that embrace your inbound and outbound bush flights and your recreation drives, too. In our case, at Neptune, the speed we booked by way of Capital One didn’t embrace our recreation drives, which have been $75 per day plus the charge to enter the parks. (Extra on that later.)

General, the all-inclusive charges are the best choice for many vacationers, except you’re extraordinarily assured in your skill to get across the African bush and feed your self.


Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp

There’s no scarcity of epic safari lodges on this area. You’ll see many of those camps marketed on the edges of the opposite autos if you drive across the Masai on recreation drives. Governor’s Camp and Little Governor’s Camp, for instance, is among the fanciest (and priciest) choices for vacationers. Angama Mara is one other higher-end choice.

The camp we selected after weeks of looking out and pouring by way of critiques was the Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp. The primary assessment on TripAdvisor began with “We cried once we left.” I used to be offered.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp is located proper on the Mara River on the northern finish of the Masai Mara. You’ll be able to hear the hippos (safely down a steep, 30-foot embankment) oinking and grunting all day and all night time. The resort really offers you earplugs for this actual purpose, however my spouse and I delighted in listening to their hilarious symphonies.

Neptune has 20 tents on the property, every one going through the river. In the midst of the tents is a large important lodge tent, that includes a spa, a lounge space, a bar, and a eating room. There’s a swimming pool within the again between the primary tent and the river, too.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

We spent hours in the primary tent studying and stress-free throughout our journey. The service was extraordinarily immediate. I used to be provided drinks or tea the second my butt hit any of the couches or chairs.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

The workers on the resort would additionally come discover us within the night hours earlier than dinner to ask us what our plans have been for the following day, which gave us a number of hours after every day’s recreation drives to unwind and take into consideration our plan for the following morning.

The eating room was lovely. The tent partitions could be rolled up every morning for breakfast, which put your proper among the many tree tops overlooking the river.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

The meals was additionally distinctive. That is no buffet-style all-inclusive. Every four-course meal with limitless drinks was improbable, and we by no means had the identical factor twice in our 4-night keep.

In the event you opted for a recreation drive that acquired again round lunchtime, they’d serve you at tables proper alongside the river. Hippos and different wildlife have been seen from the desk at lunch.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

The rooms have been related to the primary tent by an extended, sweeping bridge that took you onto a strolling path. Our tent occurred to be the closest to the primary space, so our stroll was solely a couple of minute lengthy. A number of occasions we noticed tiny monkeys swinging from the timber as we walked to the tent.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

The tents aren’t rustic as they sound – you’re not sleeping on the bottom Neptune. I’d describe it as glamping on steroids.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

Every tent comes with its personal riverfront deck with a seating space exterior the place you’ll be able to sit and eat, journal, or loosen up.

The tents have tons of pure gentle because of very giant home windows that may be rolled up or down. Each reservation is assigned a butler if you test in, and that individual handles rolling up and down your home windows and turning your mattress down and cleansing your tent on daily basis. They even heat your mattress up for you with a bag of sizzling water throughout dinner.

The nights get chilly within the bush given it’s at a reasonably excessive elevation, so these touches have been wonderful.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

This is only one half of the tent. The opposite half had a wardrobe, a rest room room, a double sink, and a full stone bathe, too. I did not {photograph} that a part of the tent, however I can let you know it was a nicer toilet than 90% of the brick and mortar accommodations I’ve stayed in.

Neptune Mara Rianta 

However the single finest a part of the Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp was our information, Daniel. Daniel is the top information at Neptune and taught us a lot in our 4 days. We spent most likely three-quarters of our time within the Masai Mara with Daniel, who’s a local Masai and grew up within the area. He was humorous, sensible, and had an unbelievable eye for wildlife. Inside 5 minutes of selecting us up from the airport, Daniel discovered us some giraffe.

Daniel was extraordinary, and from speaking to the opposite visitors, there have been no slouches among the many guides at Neptune.

I can’t advocate Neptune Mara Rianta Luxurious Camp sufficient. It was an ideal safari lodge expertise. Phrase is that camps like Governor’s are really above and past, but it surely’s laborious to think about one other property doing it higher than Neptune did.


Sport Drives 101: What to Convey and Count on

Let’s get to the enjoyable half! You’ve accomplished all of the laborious work, you’ve acquired all of the photographs, and now you get to start out daydreaming concerning the recreation drives. It’s the explanation you wished to e book this loopy journey to start with.

Sport drives are excursions into the bush, often in an open-sided automobile, for the aim of viewing wildlife. Right here are some things I want I knew earlier than my first recreation drives this fall.

Safari guide 

Pack a pair of binoculars. That is embarrassing to confess, however I forgot to convey binoculars. On a safari. I do know.

You don’t want an epic pair of monster binoculars to convey alongside. A pair of pocket binoculars will suffice. The guides usually get you so shut that you just don’t want binoculars in any respect, and fortuitously ours was form sufficient to share his with us on daily basis, however it could have been good to have our personal.

Safari guide 

Convey loads of money earlier than heading into the Masai Mara. One other factor I didn’t know earlier than attending to the Mara was that every park has a cash-only entry charge. At one park entrance, we have been in a position to pay utilizing a bank card as a result of the sky was clear that day (severely), however many of the park entrances for the sport drives required money fee for park entry.

Generally, that was a $75 per individual charge, so it’s essential to have sufficient money for that. ATMs are scarce within the bush. We have been informed we might go to at least one if we wanted, however it could be an extended, bumpy drive to get there.

Mara Triangle entrance 

U.S. {dollars} are extensively accepted within the Masai Mara, so that you don’t want an excessive amount of native foreign money, however you need to have loads of money for the park entrances and for tipping your information and the resort workers.

Safari guide 

As is obvious from these pictures, there aren’t a variety of Wells Fargos and even comfort shops within the space. Having money is essential if you’re that removed from a developed metropolis.

Safari guide 

It’s each the attraction and the downside of the Mara. Ensure you’re ready in your journey earlier than you get in your bush flights.


Backside Line

A safari in Africa is really a once-in-a-lifetime expertise. However planning and making ready for a safari journey may be tough.

My very own journey to the Masai Mara area of Kenya final 12 months taught me so much about what it takes to journey to East Africa. Though the method can appear daunting, its not laborious to cowl your bases for an Africa journey should you take the best steps.

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