As you may know, in November I had the chance to go for a five-day safari in Kenya with my mom. Five exhausting but absolutely breathtaking days that made the trip of my life for sure… I will share the photos and videos in an other article, but for now I will gibe you the most asked information about this trip…
Why a safari in Kenya?
About 15 years ago, my mom won a trip to Kenya on the radio. She loved it. She really loved it. When I asked her a few years ago what was the best trip she did in her life, she said Kenya with no hesitation.
I have always been fascinated by wildlife, I spent hours watching documentaries about life in the savannah, the migration of the wildebeests from Tanzania to Kenya, the hunting game of lions… But never did I imagine that I would see it for real one day.
As you can imagine, my mom is the most precious person I have in my life. Being realistic, she is not eternal, I am not eternal, and not my health neither hers is granted, and time keeps passing. I want to make memories with her while we both still can. When in July she asked me about my birthday gift, I told her that I would love to go for a trip with her, and Kenya was my suggestion. She loved the idea, of course, and there we were, starting to plan our journey…
Why in November?
Honestly, it has nothing to do with the destination. I had holidays in June and didn’t want to leave again so soon, and my mom wanted to enjoy the sun in winter to take a break from the French depressing weather. November isn’t the favorite season for safari as the migration happens during the dry season, from late June to October period and this is when more animals are visible. November was rainy, I think we had rain almost everyday, like heavy rain, but only for one hour. So it is not really a problem (if your driver knows the park and the vehicule perfectly haha). And to be honest, the sky, the colors and the contract were just stunning, it was perfect for the photos. The temperatures were more than correct, we were wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper only and it was enough even with the roof open. And we saw more animals than I could have ever been dreamed of! And we were lucky enough to see babies from EACH species we saw, except for the leopard, which is the rarest animal to meet and we already were blessed to see an adult one.
How did we organize the safari?
I have the chance to be part of an incredibly friendly French communauty in Dubai who has its own dedicated group on Facebook. I randomly posted on this group asking for recommendation for a guide in Kenya as I didn’t want to got to a touristic company that makes money by taking tourists to crowded places or to ZOOS even! That was not even an option to me. And I had THE BEST recommendation ever: Kassim Sharifu. He is a private guide who has his own drivers. He knows Kenya by heart, he his funny, interesting, knows a looooooot about animals and wildlife and he likes talking about it, yet he doesn’t talk too much (which is important when you spend a week sharing the same car 10 hours per day haha) and what I liked is that even though he has been doing safari every day for years, he was still amazed by what was surrounding us.
Basically, for the organization, we only communicated on WhatsApp. I told him which parks we wanted to see and how long we wanted to stay in each. He asked me if we wanted to do it in Land Cruiser just my mom and I or if we wanted to do it in a van with other people. The difference of price wasn’t much so we decided to do it just the two of us and that was the best thing to do! I will talk about transportation a bit later.
Once we agreed on the dates and everything, we sent Kassim a down payment of 160 euros through Western Union and that was it.
He booked for us all the accomodation for the five days, we really had nothing to do but wait. And book the flights. And the hotel for the first night in Nairobi. And the hotel in Diani Beach for the after-safari stay. But that’s it.
Before going to Kenya…
Vaccination: Depending where you live, the vaccination against the Yellow Fever is or is not mandatory. Living in the United Arab Emirates, I had to do it (even though no one checked that I did it 🤷🏼♀️), but for Europe and North America it is not mandatory, just highly recommended as far as I know.
After going with no appointment to Al Barsha Health Center and being told that an appointment is required (contrary to what is written on their website), I went to Union Medical Centre (also called Al Etihad Medical Centre) which is located 10 minutes walking from Business Bay metro station, seaside. No need for appointment, very nice staff there. It is 300AED and you can pay cash or card. I stayed there like one hour but only because the doctor was veeeery talkative, otherwise I think it can be done in 40 minutes.
Visa: The visa can be done online or at the Kenyan Embassy of your residency country. I did it online for 200AED, it was very easy and I got my Evisa within a few days only. Entering Kenya from Nairobi airport was easier with an E-visa, compared to my mom who had her passport stamped by the Kenyan Embassy before we travelled. You can/must to do it through the official govornmental website: http://evisa.go.ke. I wouldn’t advise to try any other website but it is up to you.
Is a safari like visiting a zoo?
Nooooo! Nope, it’s not! A few years back I pledged to PETA to never enter a zoo again in my life and I wish every one could do the same. Zoos and water parks are such a shame! And I hope this quarantine could make people realize what it is to be locked all day long, every day, in a confined space. Anyway, let’s focus on our subject.
When going for a safari, you are entering the animals’ kingdom. Even though they are living in national parks, there are no fences, no cages, no rules imposed by the humans. The animals are completely free to walk and run with no limits, they hunt, play and rest in their natural habitat. The rangers impose a distance limit to which we can approach the animals in order to not disturb them. Being honest with you, at some point we were like 10 cars around a group of five cheetahs and I really felt bad. But the rest of the time we were alone in the parks and saw the animals from a respectful distance.
How does a safari work?
Basically, during a safari you are in a car moving (almost) non-stop to observe animals in their natural habitat. You can seat or stand, it’s completely up to you. The driver stops whenever there is something interesting to look at so you have time to take pictures, don’t worry. The Jeep we had had this great feature of having an openable roof, like a lid, if I may. It’s not completely openable because you don’t want any cheetah or lion to come inside, right? (If you really love cats – big or small – you would love to have one seating next to you, I know, me too, but I don’t want to be killed though and I guess you don’t want either).
So, during a safari, we had to wake up early, like very early, around 5/6AM to leave the hotel and start the game as early as possible. We would have a quick breakfast and jump in the car with our driver and guide, and, very importantly, with our lunch bags for the day. Once we leave the hotel, we don’t come back before 6/7PM.
And from then it’s only about admiring the scenery, looking at the animals, trying to find less easily seen animals like cheetahs, leopard, elephants… From what we saw, I would say that in the Masai Mara the most common animals are the zebras, impalas, gazelles and buffalos. We saw like TONS of them 😅. In Nakuru we didn’t see much animals but we saw a group of rhinoceros with a baby and it was just amazing! While in Amboseli we mainly saw majestic elephants, with many babies.
Each park is very different in term of scenery, population, atmosphere, and I am glad we did three different parks.
That’s it for the main information. If you have any other question, just ask!
In an other article I will post photos and information about the different hotels we stayed in, and of course, photos of the animals. Thanks for reading it all!
Guide: Kassim Sharifu: +254 710 397 911 (you can text him on WhatsApp, he speaks
perfectly English and Italian)
Price: 9.400AED/2,300 euros for two (5 days, 4 nights, all meals included, parks fee included)
Deposit of 160 euros through Western Union
Parks visited: Masai Mara – Lake Nakuru – Amboseli
Hotels we stayed in: Sentrim Mara Camp (Masai mara)
Sentrim Elementaita Lodge (Nakuru)
Sentrim Ambo Camp (Amboseli)
Yellow Fever vaccination: Done at Union Medical Center, between Business Bay and
Al Wasl, no need for appointment.
Price: 300AED/75 euros – Time: about 45 minutes
You can do it at Al Barsha Health Center upon appointment
E-Visa: To be done on the official website only: http://evisa.go.ke (200AED/50 euros)
I received it by email a few days after I applied for it, it was very quick.