You might have read that we went on an incredible safari in October for my birthday. If not, you can catch up on our stay at Ol Donyo Lodge here, and our safari experience here. We had so many questions ahead of our trip and we read varying advice online (often contradicting each other), so I thought it might be useful to put together some of my own hints and tips together for how to prepare for safari!
Clothing: This was probably our biggest question – what should we wear on safari? We browsed through countless websites which implied that you needed the entire kit, from hats to zip up trousers, at great expense most of the time. They also said it was important to only wear natural looking green and beige colours in order to blend in with the environment. Bright colours could frighten off wildlife and full on camouflage clothing could get you in trouble with the local law, as this is their attire of choice! It seemed like a bit of a minefield. We considered buying from a specialist shop but in the end had a bargain in H&M – we managed to get a HUGE haul of clothes to take, including multiple t-shirts, trousers, shorts, t-shirt dresses (for me!), socks and hats, all in the specified colour scheme, for less than £100 for the two of us. This would have been the same cost for about one item alone from the specialist shops.
We did have to laugh at the idea of scaring off the local wildlife with bright colours, when we saw what our guide was wearing (traditional Masaii clothing). Needless to say, I don’t think we needed to be fully kitted out in olive green!
Tim did end up buying some zip trousers (which unzip at the knee, so you can wear them as shorts or trousers) which he found pretty useful, but that was our only ‘extra’ expense. We already had suitable walking shoes and fleeces. Temperature was also a question but this will obviously differ depending on the time of year that you go. We went in October and when we headed out on safari at 6am in the morning it was chilly, but our guide provided blankets in the jeep. By around 10am it was boiling hot!
Evening wear: Linked to the above, we wondered what we should be wearing in the evening. I read some blogs where people had REALLY got dressed up for dinner, but it seems this just comes down to what you feel comfortable with. At our lodge, it was a very casual vibe, despite the quality of the food, drink and service being top notch. We would have looked rather out of place if we’d got dressed up – jeans and a nice top were fine!
Luggage: We had a particularly low luggage allowance for this trip, because we would be flying on a tiny plane (just the two of us) from Kenya to Chyulu Hills. And this is standard procedure for safari, you’re usually only allowed around 15kg per person to be able to travel on the safari link planes. You’re also advised against bringing hard back luggage. You need to be able to chuck it in the back of the plane and not take up half the space for the other passengers! We bought two of these bags from Argos for £15 each, and they did the job perfectly – rucksack style but with wheels.
Binoculars: Every website we read said that we needed to take binoculars on safari which could also be pretty expensive. My recommendation would be to get in touch with your lodge/hotel and ask if they’re able to supply a set per guest, which our lodge did – there were always binoculars in our jeep. It also comes down to personal preference – I had a super zoom on one of my cameras so I was quite content to use this instead (and try to get some good snaps too!)
Tipping: Make sure you have plenty of cash with you to tip! The staff at your lodge, if they’re anything like at Ol Donyo, will make you feel like Kings and Queens, and you’ll want to thank them. The team at Ol Donyo Lodge were incredible and knew us by name, they really made us feel special. We wanted to tip various people individually (for instance, our guide, our horse riding tutor, the manager who put together bespoke itineraries for us each day, and the kitchen and serving team) but we didn’t have enough cash on us to go round. We ended up doing a credit card transaction specifying how much was for each person, but it felt a little awkward and clunky – having cash is much better!
Obviously this completely depends on where you’re travelling, but make sure you get them well in advance of your trip. We were sent around the houses a little bit, so we were grateful to have the necessary time. For Kenya we needed to have medication for cholera, typhoid, tetanus, malaria and yellow fever and these took the form of everything from injections, to tablets, to liquids we had to drink. We could get the majority via the NHS so we booked this in with our local doctor, but there were a couple that the NHS were struggling to get hold of or weren’t able to provide, so we had to go private for these. I went to the London Travel Clinic in King’s Cross and this was an easy process – simply booked an appointment online and went in the next day. It’s worth noting that none of this was cheap. It was a couple of hundred quid per person to get all of this done. Safari is an expensive holiday!
If you’re planning on going on safari and have any questions that I haven’t answered above, let me know!