Below are some of the frequently asked questions when preparing to visit East Africa for a wildlife tour or safari.
What transportation methods are used while on a Safari?
4X4 Land cruisers or Nisan patrols are used for road transport for pick ups and connecting national parks.
For tourist destinations that are very far apart domestic flights can be used if discussed with the Local operator.
The fees are usually added in the total trip cost and if not included you will be informed about it. Also where applicable boats are used to connect to places like islands or cross rivers.
What accommodation categories are available?
There are usually three categories of accommodation at the major tourist safari destinations. These include budget accommodation, deluxe accommodation commonly referred to as mid range accommodation and Luxury accommodation. These range from Guesthouses, Safari lodges, Safari Tented Camps and Hotels.
These are set up differently. Most hotels have self-contained rooms, lodges have self-contained cottages while Safari tented camps usually have self-contained luxury tents.
On booking a tour, clarify the accommodation category you prefer as this determines the cost of tour. Some budget accommodations are not self-contained and have shared bathrooms. In-case you don’t like that its better to clarify so that you get an affordable self-contained budget accommodation.
These accommodation facilities prepare both local and international dishes. In case you have any dietary requirements or allergies that must be noted its better to communicate them in advance.
What safari activity options are available to participate in?
Safari destinations have various tourist activities available and one can select any depending on the time they are spending there. Mountain gorilla national parks for example have gorilla tracking as the main tourist activity. It strictly starts in the morning and takes 2 to 6 hours.
Other activities include birding, other primates treks like golden monkey tracking for Volcanoes national park and Mgahinga gorilla park.
Some destinations have chimpanzees where chimpanzee tracking is done for example Kibale Forest National Park Uganda. For National Parks with savanna vegetation, game drives, nature walks, birding can be done. Parks with lakes or rivers in their vicinity offer chances for boat cruises and sport fishing.
Most activities start in the morning but can be evenly distributed depending on the time you have in that destination.
Any age limitation?
For primates like mountain gorillas and chimpanzee tracking there is an age limit. Only individuals above the age of 15 years are allowed to track gorillas and Chimpanzees in Uganda and Rwanda.
For golden monkey tracking, the age limit is 12. This is done for safety of children as the character of these primates may scare them. There is no age limit for savanna national parks and activities like game drives are done in vehicles. Mountain hiking has no age limit but people who are mature are highly encouraged because the activity is physically demanding.
For accommodation, hotels or lodges charge a fee for children who are from 12 years and above while others don’t. It’s very vital to inform them ahead of time so that they make necessary preparations in advance. They often add an extra bed in the room in-case its just a double room. There are other room categories like suites or family rooms that have a provision of kids bedrooms.
Any medical precautions needed?
Vaccinations are very important especially when traveling to East and central Africa though the requirements change from time to time.
Most required is a yellow fever vaccination as proof of yellow fever shots are most times required at the airport. In Rwanda, its no longer a major requirement for travelers from yellow non endemic countries especially Europe and north America.
Since malaria is still a major problem in the region, its always advisable to have some anti malarial drugs. With the ongoing Corona Virus, once a vaccine is developed, it will be a major necessity.
Its advisable to purchase travel/ medical insurance prior the trip. For emergency medical cover, you can purchase emergency evacuation that covers someone who falls ill or gets an injury. Safari vehicles used are insured with local insurance companies.
Safari Packing list?
This is an important aspect that determines the success of an African safari. Essentials to consider include passports, credit card or some cash for major transactions, clothing and footwear, body oil or lotion. Camera equipment, extra camera batteries, chargers, medications in case you are on prescriptions, sun glasses and swim wear.
You should know how much luggage to bring depending on the number of days you will spend on your holiday. Soft back packs, Duffle bags or light hand or tote bags are recommended.
Important to note is in-case you have domestic flights in the itinerary, they usually have a baggage limit. This must be observed therefore its important to pack the only most essentials.
What to wear?
This is vital on a wildlife safari and its very important to be very comfortable with what you are wearing. East Africa has a temperate weather and varies from one place to another. Forested and mountainous areas are cold in the morning and evenings plus places with low altitude like rift valley floors.
Open savanna places are warm and mild therefore its better to have more of light clothes like T-shirts. Long trousers, waterproof pants and ponchos are recommended if going for primate tracking. It also works for mountain climbing since the activities usually start in the morning when its cold.
Strong hiking shoes are highly recommended and one should avoid bright colors as it can irritate the wild animals. For standard African safari, shorts, short sleeved T-shirts and generally casual clothes can work but shouldn’t be in bright colors. Sweaters or a jacket is also essential as some places’ temperatures drop especially during the night.
What is the tipping Policy?
Tipping is generally accepted though is no standard tipping procedure and the amount tipped varies depending on the situation. You can choose to or not to tip depending on the level of satisfaction derived from the service being offered.
For waiters and waitresses at lodges or Hotels, there is a tip box where you can put the tip. This is if you feel one has been outstanding then you can choose to tip them separately. Park rangers, porters can be directly tipped and driver guides can be tipped at the end of the safari.
Are credit cards generally accepted?
Credit cards are often used in capital cities. As you head to the countryside, there are a few places with credit cards facilities therefore have some cash with. Since major items be cleared when paying for the safari, its better not to carry a lot of cash.
There are Forex bureaus in capital cities and at the airport where you can exchange to local currency.
What are the Visa requirements?
Countries have different visa policies, in some you can get a visa on arrival, other you have to apply online. In others you can get the visa from a diplomatic mission or embassy.
Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have an East African tourist visa that is multiple entry, valid for 90 days. This gives you access to the three countries but you must apply for it through the first country you enter.
Kindly ensure to have a passport valid for six month towards travel.
Any safety precautions to be noted?
East Africa is a secure destination but ensure to keep your essential property like passports, personal computers and gadgets safe. In-case you have them in a small hand bag never leave it unattended to. This is because it could easily be misplaced which can mess up the whole of your trip.
There are safe boxes provided in most hotels and lodges where you can safely keep some of your important items.
Can one easily do shopping or buy souvenirs?
There are many chances of shopping or buying souvenirs while on a trip in East Africa. Ask or inform your driver guide about your shopping interests as they know the best places to shop from.
There are craft villages in the city and the national parks where you can buy locally handmade items. Some of these can even be bought en route. Remember to let the driver guide know as they are always flexible and can be of great help. For these purchases however remember to have some cash with you as none of them have credit card services.