I’ve been lucky enough to take several safaris in Kenya since I arrived in June. I know many you haven’t had the same opportunity, which is why I’m bringing the safari to you.
So put on your safari gear (khaki, anyone?) and put away your binoculars (you won’t need them- my camera’s got a zoom lens!). Here we go:
Enter the Game Park
A Kenyan safari begins at the gate of the national park. Here, you must pay your fees in crisp US bills dated 2006 or later. The Kenya Wildlife Service is a stickler for this– we’ve actually had trouble getting into a park because our money was too old! (Counterfeiting is a big issue here, hence the desire for new bills only.)
After paying the park fees, you can pop up the top on your safari truck. And please tell me you’re taking a safari truck; it’s not worth driving through in a sedan. Same goes for hiring a guide- don’t rent a safari truck and drive yourself through the park. Since you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to see anything spectacular. A good guide knows the animals, their habits, and their habitats. You’ll see so much more if you hire an expert.
If you adore the movie Titanic, or otherwise want to feel the wind in your hair and the sand in your teeth, now’s your time to shine. You can stand up for the entire game drive, which feels like quite the novelty after being buckled in for hours on the way to the park. So stand up, and take in the view!
Take Tons of Photos
In the beginning of your drive, every animal will seem awesome. You will take about 400 photos in the first 20 minutes. Eventually, you will remember that you’re in a national park in Kenya and that animals are everywhere. But for now, go hog wild. And thank goodness for digital cameras; you don’t need to worry about wasting film.
Later in your safari, you will get more picky. You’ve seen a million warthogs and a half million elephants. You are so over elephants and warthogs. Now you want to see the Big Five. Just tell your driver what your priorities are, and he’ll try his best to find the beasts for you.
Search for The Big Five
Your driver will also talk to every other safari driver in the park, and he’ll probably listen to his radio to get tips on where to find animals. The good part: you’re bound to see something cool. The bad part: every other safari vehicle in the park will be there. It’s worth it though, if it means you can see lions hunting or giraffes fighting.
After several hours in the park, you’ll head to your hotel. By this point, you’ll probably be glad to get out of the truck and stretch your legs. You’ll also be looking forward to rinsing off all that dust in the shower. If you’re really having a good time, you can always schedule another game drive in the morning, which is a great time to see animals.
I hope you enjoyed the ride! And please feel free to share your real-life safari experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
If you decide to go on a real safari, here are some additional tips:
- Find a reputable company. In Kenya, as in most places, you get what you pay for. Cheap safaris are not usually worth it.
- Bring a camera, binoculars, water, toilet paper, and snacks. Bird watching or wildlife books are optional.
- The sun is much stronger near the Equator, so if you’re light-skinned and going on safari in Kenya, bring sun glasses, a hat, and sunscreen. You will burn if you’re not prepared.
- Kenya has a dozen different game parks, but some animals are only found in some parks. Know what you want to see, and use that to help you plan which park to visit.