WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR KENYAN/MASAI MARA SAFARI
PASSPORTS, VISAS, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS
- A Kenyan visa is required to enter the country, but you will get this WHEN YOU LAND. There is no need to get the visa in advance.
- Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from your last day in Kenya. (This is important! I’ve had guests get to Germany and then have to turn around and fly home because they didn’t ensure their passport was valid for this time period.)
- I store copies of my passport and insurance documents on Google Drive or DropBox, so I can access them from any internet connection. Alternatively, you can take a photo of them with your phone. If those are not options for you, I recommend leaving copies with a friend or relative back home.
- When you land in Nairobi, you will de-plane on the ground (as opposed to the traditional jet way) and then be bused to customs and immigration. Upon entering the area, you may be asked to show your Yellow Fever Card. Don’t panic. If you’re arriving from the U.S., and not visiting other countries in Africa, you don’t need one. Tell them you’re coming from the U.S. or show them your U.S. passport and they will wave you through.
- On the counter just past the Yellow Fever line, you will find “Entry/Departure Declaration Form 47” which needs to be completed if your airline did not give it to you prior to landing. Where it asks for where you are staying, write the name of the hotel (“Hotel Serena”) and for the address, write “Nairobi”.
• I store copies of my passport and insurance documents on Google Drive or Drop Box, so I can access them from any internet connection. Alternatively, you can take a photo of them with your phone. If those are not options for you, I recommend leaving copies with a friend or relative back home.
ARRIVAL AT JOMO KENYATTA (NAIROBI) INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
You will de-plane on the ground (as opposed to the traditional jetway) and then be bused to customs and immigration. Upon entering the area, you may be asked to show your Yellow Fever Card. Don’t panic. If you’re arriving from the U.S., and not visiting other countries in Africa, you don’t need one. Tell them you’re coming from the U.S. or show them your U.S. passport and they will wave you through.
On the counter just past the Yellow Fever line, you will find the “Entry/Departure Declaration Form 47” which needs to be completed if your airline did not give it to you prior to landing. Where it asks for where you are staying, write the name of the hotel (“Hotel Serena”) and for the address, write “Nairobi”.
The time getting through Immigration/Visa is dependent on the number of arriving flights, so the line can be quite long at times.
Baggage claim is just past Immigration. I recommend using the free luggage carts so it’s easier to take your bags to the car.
Proceed through the “Nothing to Declare” customs line to the airport lobby. Here is where you should purchase your SIM card for your phone if you need one (more on this topic later). Proceed through the exit and down the ramp. There will be a lot of drivers holding signs with names. Your name (or possibly mine) will be on one of them. This is your driver who will take you to the hotel. You do not need to take or pay for a taxi.
Your driver will likely take you to a waiting area while he retrieves the car. Depending on where he had to park it could take up to 10 minutes for him to return.
It’s perfectly safe to wait there. Other drivers will ask if you need a ride. Politely tell them you’re already taken care of. There is a security presence in the area.
When your driver pulls up, make sure he is the ONLY ONE helping you with your bags. I learned this one the hard way. Other people will try and help load your bags into the car and then expect a tip. On my first trip, I ended up tipping two guys who weren’t with the driver!
If traffic is light, the trip to Hotel Serena is about 25-30 minutes but could be up to 60 minutes or more if traffic is heavy. Depending on Customs and traffic, from the time you exit the plane till you reach the Serena Hotel, it could take a couple of hours.
The driver has already been paid, but if you want to give him a tip of $2-$3 per person that would be a nice gesture.
ABOUT THE SAFARI
We are going to experience Tanzania’s wildlife up-close and personal. Our trip takes place during the peak wildebeest calving season. We have two private guides and safari vehicles at our disposal which allows us to make our own schedule. To have the best game viewing opportunities we will focus our drives when the animals are most active, early mornings and early evenings.
Our typical schedule will be 6:30 a.m. game drive with breakfast in the bush or at camp followed by lunch around 1:00 p.m., afternoon game drive around 4:00 p.m. and dinner around 8:00 p.m.
We will visit five parks: Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Ndutu and the Serengeti. Each park is unique and offers different viewing opportunities. They complement each other and together offer a well-rounded Tanzania safari experience.
After departing Arusha, our safari begins in Tarangire National Park, a lesser known park whose most appealing charm is its lack of visitors and sheer size. The park is famous for its tree climbing lions and high density of elephants and baobab trees.
On our way to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we will stop for lunch and a brief safari through Lake Manyara National Park. It’s an alkaline lake that lies within the riverine and palustrine wetland ecosystem with over 400 species of birds in the park. The Ngorongoro Crater is home to abundant wildlife, including approximately 25,000 large animals. Due to the enclosed nature of the Crater, it has virtually formed its own ecosystem. One of the main attractions of this area is the variety of flora and fauna found all year round. There will be a large concentration of game including East Africa’s largest population of black rhino. We will have an entire day to explore the Crater and its wildlife.
Nestled between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation area lies Ndutu, where between late January and March an estimated 500,000 young wildebeest are born! We will spend 4 nights in this area. It will be a good opportunity to spot lion, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, buffalo and more.
Serengeti National Park, our final park, is the crown jewel of Tanzania’s protected areas. The park covers 5,700 square miles of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest, and woodlands. It lies in northwestern Tanzania, bordered on the north by Kenya and the Masai Mara National Reserve.
2 Days Tarangire National Park
1 Day Lake Manyara National Park
1 Day Ngorongoro Crater
4 Days Ndutu National Park
3 Days Serengeti National Park
Day 1, Thursday, February 14 – Depart U.S.
Day 2, Friday, February 15 – Arrive Nairobi
You will be met by your private driver and vehicle who will take you directly to the hotel for check-in. Overnight at Hotel Serena.
Day 3, Saturday, February 16
You will have a vehicle and driver for the entire day at your disposal for city excursions. One suggested itinerary is following breakfast visit Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Center, home to endangered Rothschild Giraffes where you may hand feed them. Proceed to lunch at either Tamambo Karen Blixen or Talisman. The rest of the afternoon at the hotel pool to relax or proceed to Mat Bronze for finer shopping as well as Kazuri Beads factory for its renowned necklaces. Overnight at Hotel Serena.
Day 4, Sunday – Tarangire National Park (approximate 3.5hr drive)
8 a.m. flight to Kilimanjaro, arriving at 9 a.m. Transfer to Tarangire, arriving in time for lunch. Our first game drive will be around 4:00 p.m. Overnight at Tarangire Balloon Camp.
Day 5, Monday –Tarangire National Park
Full day in Tarangire with morning and afternoon game drives. Overnight at Tarangire Balloon Camp.
Day 6, Tuesday – Tarangire NP to Ngorongoro Crater via Lake Manyara
Morning game drive and breakfast and then drive approximately 3hrs to Lake Manyara. Around 4:00 p.m. we will make the 1.5hr drive to Ngorongoro. Overnight at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.
Day 7, Wednesday – Full Day in Ngorongoro Crater
We will spend the entire day exploring the crater, taking breakfast and lunch with us. Overnight at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.
Day 8, Thursday – Drive to Ndutu (approximate 2.5hr drive)
Depart for Ndutu around 8:00 a.m., arriving mid-morning for an early lunch. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Lake Ndutu Luxury Tented Lodge.
Days 9, 10, 11 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) – Ndutu
We will spend three full days exploring Ndutu during the peak wildebeest calving season. This is when the mothers give birth to their young. The famous Great Migration settles on the plains here during this time. Overnight at Lake Ndutu Luxury Tented Lodge.
Day 12, Monday – Drive to Serengeti National Park (approximate 2hr drive)
Early morning game drive and breakfast followed by departure to Serengeti National park, arriving in time for lunch. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Kubu Kubu Tented Camp.
Days 13 & 14, Tuesday, Wednesday –Serengeti National Park
Two full days of morning and afternoon game drives. Overnight at Kubu Kubu Tented Camp.
Day 15, Thursday – Fly to Arusha/Nairobi for flights home
Morning game drive and late breakfast. Dropped off at the airstrip around 10am Dayroom at Lazizi Premier Hotel Late evening flight departure.
Day 16, Friday, March 1 – Arrive U.S.
We will utilize mostly smaller camps (less than 20 tents), which can provide a more intimate safari experience. All of the tents are fully equipped with full-size beds, furniture, and en-suite bathrooms. Our first two nights in Africa will be at Hotel Serena, an oasis in the city of Nairobi. In Tarangire we will be staying 2 nights at Balloon Camp, a small boutique camp with 10 safari tents. At the crater, Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge will be our home for 2 nights. While this lodge is much larger than others, it benefits from a great view of the Crater floor. Serena lodges are known for their excellent locations, consistent service, and comfortable accommodations. For the wildebeest calving season, we will spend 4 nights at Lake Ndutu Luxury Tented Lodge. They offer 20 well-appointed tents and are in a good location for game drives. In the Serengeti our home for 3 nights will be Kubu Kubu Tented Camp which has 20 tents and a convenient location for game drives. We can also take advantage of day rooms in Nairobi at Lazizi Hotel by the airport.
You may need country-specific pharmaceuticals and/or immunizations when traveling to Tanzania. Please speak with your primary care physician or local travel clinic to determine your specific needs.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for entrance into Tanzania. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after our date of return. Visa’s will be obtained upon arrival in Arusha.
The cost of the trip includes:
- Pre-trip planning meetings
- One night at The Arusha Coffee Lodge including welcome dinner and breakfast
- All ground transportation with private driver
- Flight to Nairobi or Arusha on return
- 11 nights safari lodge/camp accommodations
- All meals and beverages (including alcohol)
- Exclusive use of two private guides and Landcruisers
- Park Fees
- Unlimited game drives
- Photobook of your safari experience
The cost of the trip excludes:
- International flights
- Overnight in Nairobi and flight to Arusha, if needed.
- Tanzania Visa ($100) upon arrival
- Tips for camp staff and guides.
- Emergency medical and evacuation coverage is mandatory (about $40/person). Trip cancellation is optional. I use Squaremouth.com to purchase my insurance. They provide quotes from multiple carriers.
Your reservation is secured by a $2,500 deposit.