Staying in the Bush
Look out for lodges with a swimming pool if you have kids. Those afternoon hours whiled away during the heat of the day can really stretch on for ages. The idea is that you will get up early, go on a dawn game drive then arrive back at the lodge late morning. Next you will eat lunch and then stretch out on your bed for a read and a snooze. Anyone who has small children will know that this is seriously not going to happen! I am also an incredibly restless traveller and I find it hard to wind down. Often the last thing I feel like doing in lying on a bed inside a fairly airless tent covered in a sheen of sweat.
Game drives. We have spent literally years self driving around game parks in East Africa and seeing very little. The safari guides that you meet in the National Parks will become your best friends. Their local knowledge is invaluable and so it is always worth going on some official game drives either organised through the lodge you are staying at, or by arranging for a local Wildlife Service guide to accompany you in your own vehicle.
If you are self driving, think ahead and take a cool box with drinks and snacks so as not to miss out on that magical ‘sundowner’ moment whilst on safari.
What Shall I Pack? Bush
- 2 pairs lightweight trousers or shorts
• 2 pairs comfortable walking shoes (converse, light weight walking boots, trainers, safari boots)
• 4 t-shirts and/or long sleeved light cotton shirts are good. (they say on safari not white or bright colours as it scares the animals – but judging by what the Samburu and Masai wear, I think that this is stretching the point a bit! Animals won’t mind!)
• socks, underwear
• warm sweater/jumper/fleece for evenings and early mornings
• several outfits for evening, casual (jeans, tops – ladies a sparkly necklace to glam up for dinner!).
• bathing suit, sarong, flip flops
• camera, charger, spare battery,
• pair good quality binoculars (8×30 or 10×40)
• high factor sun screen
• lip salve
• medications (the odd panadol wont go amiss) including anti-malaria meds
• cosmetics and toiletries
• contact lenses and glasses
• Ideally a hat with wide-ish brim (though a baseball cap is better than nothing)
• plug adaptors (Kenya takes UK plugs), iphone chargers etc
• mosquito repellent
• book, favourite magazine
• pocket torch/flashlight
• sachets of Dioralyte (rehydrant) to stay energised during your safari. Regular pain killer in case of headaches.A scarf on safari is invaluable. Helps on chilli mornings, can shield your head/neck from the sun in the middle of the day and wraps around nicely when the sun goes down. In fact I always use one on a long haul plane trip too, as you never know if you are going to suddenly feel cold.
Staying at the Beach
Self catering should be interpreted in the loosest possibly way. Many self-catering houses are generally fully staffed with a cook and complement of cleaners who will make beds and service your house or apartment every day. The onus is on you to do the shopping – however, having said this, the house staff or cook can generally send out for provisions or even do a shop on your behalf (providing that you are willing to pay the added cost for transport via motorbike or tuk-tuk). Fresh fish is delivered by dealers to your door. Coastal supermarket stock is often varied, so be willing to compromise on some ingredients and ‘go with the flow’. Any favourite cereals or specific ingredients you might have should be bought ahead of time from larger malls or shopping centres.
However, having said that, I have noticed an alarming trend whereby self catering houses not providing anything. There’s no soap in the showers and you are expected to bring or buy everything down to loo roll. When you take into account the prices charged per night for these private residences, then I feel that this lack of basic provisions is pretty indefensible –however, for the time being, the situation remains. More forward thinking landlords provide games and even TV and dvds for guests but you will find that the majority are extremely tight fisted when it comes to complementary add-ons so bring your own entertainment where possible (ipads, dvds players etc).
What Shall I Pack? Beach:
It’s hard to believe but there’s no need to pack a sweater at all at the Kenya coast, ever! Be ready for high humidity.
• Swimming costume/bikinis
• Swimming t-shirt/rash vest/old t-shirt (for snorkelling, water sports or to wear when swimming)
• goggles/snorkel (you can usually borrow these on reef trips but also nice to have your own)
• Sun hat – preferably wide brim
• Sarongs/kikoys – but you can buy great ones from beach vendors here, ditto beaded leather sandals
• Flip flops or beach shoes that don’t mind going in the water for reef walks
• Shorts/miniskirts/short dresses are okay for beach and hotel
• For cultural visits wear a long skirt/3 quarter trousers and shirt/top that covers shoulders
• Thin t-shirts
• Dresses for day wear
• 2 pairs long light coloured trousers for evenings
• Khaftan tops
• Thin cotton/linen shirts with long sleeves
• Insect/mosquito repellent
• Pretty shoes
It’s all about covering exposed skin in the most comfortable way possible.
Note: dark coloured clothing attracts mosquitoes (dark colours also attract tsetse flies when on safari but these are only prevalent in certain areas).
What Shall I Pack? Nairobi:
In Nairobi it’s all about layers. Bring lots of cotton layers. It can be hot one moment, cloudy or raining the next. Evenings are always cool. You’ll find Nairobi a busy metropolis where any dress code goes, from pinstripe suit to Masai shuka, and remember ladies, people do glam up when they go out. There are lots of sophisticated shopping centres full of swanky cafes and restaurants, as well as dusty safari walks, elephant orphanages and Masai markets. It’s important to be flexible and not feel like a total ‘fancy dress’ victim wearing shades of khaki. Stay stylish people!
- Jeans for evenings
• 1 pair cotton trousers
• 2 pairs shorts/skirts
• 2 blouses/short sleeve shirts
• 2 t-shirts
• 2 or more cotton jumpers/cardigans
• A summer dress?
• Flip flops (something comfortable for muddy/dusty/uneven surfaces)
• One lightweight jacket (for layering up in evening or facing rain showers)
• Socks and Ankle boots for evenings, stops you getting bitten by mossies (girls – heels are worn in Africa!)
• Cotton scarf/sarong/light wool wrap
• Moisturizer/lip salve. Nairobi is high altitude so very drying atmosphere.
A hat that you truly feel comfortable wearing. Either a baseball cap or wide brimmed. Take your pick.
Remember to stay hydrated.
Your usual meds plus…
- Anti-histamine cream to slather on irritating bites.
- Sachets of Dioralyte (rehydrant).
- Mosquito spray. Most hotels/lodges provide it but not a bad idea to buy some in case (if you buy locally – I would suggest a brand such as Doom).
- I also swear by buying treated nets in the local supermarkets, then carrying them with you to hotels/lodges to throw over a chair in the corner of the room. This deters the mossies that carry malaria.
- Anti-malarials – often cheaper to buy once in Kenya. Local pharmacys will advise on what the current prophylactic of choice is. Take one week before travel to a malarial area, during travel and continue for 14 days after travel.
- A pain killer. High altitude can cause headaches.