Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour. It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.
TRAVEL TO NAIROBI: WINGS and Bon Voyage Travel would be happy to assist with your travel arrangements to Nairobi. If you would like assistance, please contact Bon Voyage Travel at (800) 518-7338 or (520) 825-2757 x 226, ask for Donna Nelson and identify yourself as a WINGS client.
ENTERING KENYA: A passport and visa are required for entry into Kenya. Visas may be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available for U.S. citizens. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival.
As of July 1, 2015, the fee is $50 for single-entry visas and $100 for multiple entry visas for each applicant, regardless of age and whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested, and some travelers have been turned around at immigration for not having sufficient proof of immunization.
Travelers to Kenya and neighboring African countries should ensure that the validity of their passports is at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay.
Kenyan immigration authorities require a minimum of two blank (unstamped) visa pages in the passport to enter the country; some travelers have experienced difficulties when they arrive without the requisite blank pages. Travelers should make sure there are sufficient pages for visas and immigration stamps to enter into Kenya and other countries to be visited en route to Kenya or elsewhere in the region.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City http://www.kenyaembassy.com/. Persons outside the United States should contact the nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate.
Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested.
A list of useful contact information can be found on the last page of this general information. Closer to the time of the tour, WINGS will provide you with documentation in support of your visa application. Rapid processing of visa applications is possible, but if you can, allow at least one month.
It is always a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and air ticket with you when traveling abroad. They can prove invaluable in helping you get replacements if your original documents are lost or stolen. You should pack the photocopies separately from the originals.
Customs: Import restrictions exist for the following items: 200 cigarettes or 225 gr. of tobacco; 1 bottle of wine or one bottle of spirits; 568 ml of perfume.
Leaving Kenya: When leaving the country an airport departure tax has to be paid. If you are using flights from London arranged by Sunbird this will already have been paid for you and included in your ticket.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information athttp://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/kenya.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Kenya at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html.
PACE OF TOUR: While day length on the equator prohibits very long days in the field, and 6-7 hours of sleep is possible every night, we will nevertheless be offering dawn-to-dusk birding for those who want it, with one or two optional after dinner night trips. Whenever possible the day will be divided up into optional sections, but on travel days this is usually impossible. The itinerary is designed to encounter as many species as possible, and does involve a number of long drives, and in the first part of the tour six consecutive one-night stops. Those preferring a more leisurely routine might like to consider whether our June or November tours might be more suited to their requirements.
On almost all birding tours to Kenya a fair amount of birdwatching is done from the vehicles. This is mainly because we spend a lot of time in National Parks where getting out of the vehicle is prohibited except in certain allocated areas. There are also a number of travelling days where long drives are required. Consequently, you need to be prepared to spend more time in the vehicle than you would do on tours to most other countries. As each vehicle has roof hatches and each person has a window seat, this is not as daunting as it might first appear. The leader will organise a seating rota so that all tour participants move to a different seat each day. All participants must be willing to take their turn in the back seats.
There are no strenuous walks on this tour. Most walking is done around the grounds of the lodges we stay. At Baringo we do make two walks through rocky and, at times, bushy terrain, but these are not arduous, and the leader will describe them in full beforehand. Anyone wishing to stay at the lodge during these walks will find the garden full of birds. Most of the days begin at first light, around 6.00-6.30am. We will either have a pre-breakfast walk for about an hour or have breakfast first and make an early start. In Kakamega and on the coast we have early breakfasts at 5.30am in order to be in the forest for dawn and make the most of the early morning activity. When we are not moving on to a new lodge, we will usually spend the morning birdwatching and return to our accommodation for lunch. Sometimes we have a break or go birdwatching around the grounds before going out in the vehicles again later in the afternoon. Most days will finish at dusk, which is around 7.00 in January and we try to allow a one-hour break before we meet for dinner and to do the daily checklist. Please note that on many days dinner will be fairly late – 8.00 or 8.30. On a few days the pre-dinner break may be shorter or longer depending on the schedule.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Malaria: The CDC recommends a Malaria prophylaxes. Please consult your physician for the most appropriate treatment.
Yellow Fever: The CDC recommends a Yellow Fever vaccination.
Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for Kenya can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/kenya.
Altitude: Nairobi is around 5,500 ft. The Rift Valley is the lowest point at around 3,000 ft. Mountain Lodge is 7,200 ft and will be our highest accommodation. In the Aderdare Mountains we will drive up to 12,000 ft and drive slowly through the moorland habitat in search of the highland specialities. Resting in the vehicle is an option for anyone who suffers at high altitudes.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Miscellaneous: Kenya is remarkably free of biting insects although mosquitoes (which are mainly active at night) and ticks occur locally – at Lake Baringo, for instance. We recommend insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET.
While water can be safe to drink, the high mineral content can be physically disruptive, especially in the Rift Valley, so it is best avoided. We shall provide bottled water for all excursions, and will always have a supply on the bus when travelling.
Most lodges (but not all) provide flasks of purified water in the rooms; bottled water is readily available at the lodges. There will be some opportunities to purchase bottled water from supermarkets etc. where it will be cheaper. Soda water, soft drinks and beer are ubiquitous and safe to drink.
Mild stomach upsets can be difficult to avoid and we strongly suggest bringing an adequate supply of a diarrhea treatment such as Imodium. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhea, and also as a quick cure for dehydration.
Finally, be sure to bring adequate supplies of all personal medication, as it may be impossible to obtain them during the tour.
CLIMATE: Despite its proximity to the equator, much of Kenya feels anything but tropical, and many people are not prepared for how chilly it can be. Much of the tour is at elevations over 5,000 feet, and highland days can be quite cool if there is cloud cover. At Mountain Lodge it can be cold in the early morning and evening. Lowland areas will be warm to hot (90°F) at mid-day, and at the coast temperatures may be even higher. Humidity is low, except at the coast. We’ll be visiting Kenya in the dry season and rain is unlikely, except in the west.
ACCOMMODATION: During the tour we’ll stay in a variety of hotels, lodges and tented camps. The tents are permanent structures with concrete floors, thatched roofs, proper beds and built-in flush-toilets and showers, and electric lights. Where a camp generator provides the power, this is usually turned off late at night and turned on again early in the morning. Hot water is usually provided by wood-fired heaters each serving several tents. It is important to remember that in the more distant tents you may need to let the water run for quite a few minutes before it gets hot. You may be surprised by the fairly dull lights used in many tented camps and lodges. This is deliberate and avoids attracting large numbers of insects. Most of the rest of the accommodation consists of good quality hotels or lodges with all the usual facilities.
FOOD: The food throughout the tour is generally good to excellent, and many people are surprised at
the high standard provided, even in the more remote parts of the country. Breakfasts are buffets offering everything from cereals and fresh fruit to full cooked breakfasts. At other meals there is almost always a choice of two or three main courses, or there is a buffet. Vegetarians are well catered to. Beer is widely available and generally reasonably priced. Wine tends to be very expensive, as it is imported.
Drinks: Bottled water, a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. Extra drinks are the responsibility of the individual.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any missed tour meals.
TRANSPORT: Transportation is in 4-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser with roof hatches for window-free viewing and photography. Our drivers are professionals, skilled at finding birds and mammals and at maintaining vehicles. Some of the driving is on unpaved roads, and while most of these are in reasonable condition, there are some bad sections, notably driving in and out of the Masai Mara. In most National Parks leaving the vehicles is prohibited. Each person will have a window seat, and the roof hatches are helpful, but come prepared to spend an unusual amount of time in the vehicles. Please note that there isn’t very much space inside the vehicles for equipment, so daypacks should be kept as small as possible; large photographic backpacks cannot be accommodated. People sitting in the front or middle rows may be asked to remove their hats, as these can block the view of those sitting in the back.
Updated: July 2015