Resting in the magnificent Great Rift Valley and presided over by the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya is characterised by hauntingly beautiful natural landscapes of forested hills, patchwork farms, wooded savanna and vast forests brimming with an extraordinary abundance of wildlife. The nation’s diverse range of traditional African cultures is influenced by over 70 unique ethnic groups from the Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu, and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled on the coast. Add to this: an exquisite tropical coastline fringed with breathtaking golden sand beaches; gorgeous coral gardens providing excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities; and a slew of lively beach resorts, and it is easy to see why so many visitors flock here from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations.
Banking and Currency
The currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSh) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of KSh1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of KSh20, 10 and 5. Residents may import up to KES 500,000 and must declare if currencies exceeding US $10,000. Non-residents may import local and foreign currencies without restrictions but amounts exceeding US $10,000 must be declared.
Banking hours: Monday -Friday 09h00-15h00, and Saturdays 09h00-12h00. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas open and close half an hour earlier. Banks in airports tend to open earlier and close later; typical hours are 07h00-19h00.
ATMs are common especially in major tourist destinations.
Mastercard and Visa Credit Cards are widely accepted; American Express and Diners Club less so. Major hotels accept payment by credit card, as do major safari companies, travel agencies and restaurants.
Very few banks or foreign exchange bureaus accept travellers cheques; when they do, they charge high commissions.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport (www.kaa.go.ke). Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.
Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Air Kenya (www.airkenya.com), Fly 540 (www.fly540.com), Mombasa Air Safari (www.mombasaairsafari.com) and Safarilink (www.flysafarilink.com) serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria.
On smaller, domestic planes the baggage allowance is restricted to 10-15 kg (22-33 lbs). Arrangements can be made to leave excess luggage with hotels or airlines.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Meat in Kenya is generally outstandingly good, and ‘nyam achoma’ (barbecued meat) is ubiquitous at any major feasts or popular dining spots. Beef and chicken are readily available, but goat is the most-widely eaten among locals and certainly a must try for carnivorous visitors. Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine is also popular, as are fresh-water fish inland, and sea fish along the coast.
Drinking the tap water is not recommended as the supply is not reliable, but bottled water is available in most places. When buying bottled water, check the seal of the bottle is intact. Alternatively, bring your own reusable water bottle with a filter or use water purification tablets. Avoid ice and washed salads and fruit except in top hotels and restaurants. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Food prepared by unlicensed vendors should be avoided at all times.
Tipping is optional. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill. If they don't, a small tip is customary for good service.
Climate and Weather
Kenya has three types of climate: temperate subtropical climate in the west and southwest highlands (where Nairobi is located), hot and humid along the coast, and hot and dry in the north and east.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
For Nairobi and the coast: lightweight cotton and linens are advised. Warmer clothing is needed in June and July, while rainwear is advisable between March and June, and October and December.
For safari: loose-fitting and light neutral tones are recommended. If you are visiting a luxury lodge, pack a nice set of clothes for dinner is recommended.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in Kenya are of the ‘Type G (BS-1363)’. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in Kenya usually supply electricity at 220-240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.
Kenya is a medium sized country, that straddles the equator, on the eastern side of the African continent. The land surface is almost the size of the state of Texas. It has a population of over 50 million people. Income is derived from services, agriculture, tourism and industry. Forestry, fishing, tea, coffee, coconuts, cashews, sugarcane and corn are all important to the economy. Kenya has a better developed infrastructure than any of its neighbouring countries. It is also one of the most advanced African countries when it comes to cellular phone networks, internet access and computer skills. The agricultural sector of the economy can be negatively affected by drought. Kenya has a far northern border with Somalia and the Kenyan military has been actively engaged in anti-terror countermeasures with a high degree of success in recent years.
Kenya is a very beautiful country with a wide range of environments that can be viewed. The Indian Ocean coastline has year-round warm, clear tropical waters which offer good diving and attractive beaches. There are also several important wildlife reserves with the Mara National Reserve being a standout. The Mara is home to a fantastic assemblage of large carnivores like lions, spotted hyaena, cheetah, jackals and leopard, along with thousands of herbivores. For a few months of each year, the huge migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra are also present in the Mara. Amboseli National park is a striking reserve that is home to many elephants, and with Mount Kilimanjaro for a background.
There is no trophy hunting permitted in Kenya.
We typically leave the camp before sunrise and return in the late morning. When we are lucky, we sometimes locate good subject matter before or during sunrise, which is great for making images. Recommended camera gear would be any good quality camera models with the understanding that when the light is at its lowest, full-frame bodies generally work a little better. Once the sun has been up for a while, then camera bodies with smaller sensors do fine. At the same time, the last few years of crop-sensor cameras like the Nikon D7000, D7100, D7200, D7500 and the D500 also work really well, along with the Canon 7DMk2, the 70D and 80D. Mirrorless cameras are also quite capable of taking fantastic wildlife images but may be a little disadvantaged when it comes to capturing moving subjects. The exception to this general statement is the Sony A9 which is an excellent full-frame mirrorless cameras for all kinds of wildlife photography. At the time of writing the Canon EOS R and RP and Nikon Z6 and Z7 mirrorless camera bodies are good options for general wildlife photography but might be a bit disadvantaged with fast moving subject matter.
When it comes to lenses, focal lengths that cover from 18mm to 600mm can all be deployed. On trips like this, we generally find that our zoom lenses get lots of use, because we may photograph a variety of different animals, some larger, some smaller, and also sometimes close up and other times further away. Popular lenses would be Nikon 80-400 VR 4.5-5.6 and Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS ii telephoto zooms. The 70-200mm zoom lenses can do the job although they can be a little on the short side, as can the 70-300mm zoom lenses. You can also do well with the bigger lenses like the Canon and Nikon 200-400 f4 zooms, and the Tamron and Sigma 150-600, also Nikon’s 20-500 VR f5.6. We both handhold when shooting on trips like this, or use some part of the vehicle to rest on when we shoot. The different camps and countries that we visit have slightly different vehicle configurations, so we can provide detailed information with regard to vehicle support via email. We find that hand holding offers us the best chance for composing quickly and also following movement, so that is our preference. When we are in the private conservancies, private game reserves or concession areas, we are able to go off-road which helps us get closer to our subjects.
It is also possible to make use of a mono-pod to help stabilize the camera at an ideal height, in the vehicle. Usually tripods take up too much space and are too cumbersome to be effective in the jeeps.
There will be some beanbags supplied in the jeeps but it can be a good idea to take your own bean bag. Usually the best ones are those that are shaped in such a way that they can be used in a horizontal or vertical orientation, to allow for different seat and photographer heights. They sit well on the platforms on our vehicles. Today there are many bean bags available with lightweight, synthetic fillings that are light enough to put into checked baggage.
It is best to plan for limited or very slow Internet access during our stay. So, make sure that your computer and your image-editing program are up to date in terms of compatibility and that you have all program updates before you travel. It is also critical to ensure that you have enough storage space, both in terms of your camera cards, SD, CF, XQD or Cfast as well as on your computer or external hard drives. Many times, people end up taking more images on these trips than they thought they would, and then run out of space. We do recommend bringing an external hard drive so that you can copy to your computer and the hard drive and not have to suffer storage issues. It can be stressful when using your cards for storage or as back-ups and then ending up having to hold back on shooting opportunities in the field. Making sure your laptop computer/external drives have enough space, and are up to date for editing, will mean you can spend the time when we are not on an activity, working on your new images rather than dealing with slow-running computers etc. We will be available for part of each day to share and demonstrate editing practices and procedures. There will be charging points in the camp to make sure that we can keep all our camera batteries and laptops charged up.
Feel free to get in touch to discuss your specific camera set-up for this trip.