Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Kenya: Kakamega to the Coast. Its sole purpose is to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
TRAVEL TO KENYA: This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird, and starts and ends in Nairobi.
ENTERING KENYA: A valid passport with a Kenya tourist visa and proof of a return air ticket are required for U.S. citizens visiting Kenya as tourists. Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested. Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas, as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements, from the Embassy of Kenya. Persons outside the United States should contact the nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate. Visa services such as CIBT can take care of your needs quickly and efficiently.
KENYA MAPS AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of Kenya in the University of Texas series here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Kenya here.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend a malaria preventative; travelers to Kenya should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam®), doxycycline, or Malarone. As the situation changes fairly frequently, you should contact your doctor as to which of these drugs would be best for you.
The CDC further recommends the following vaccines (see your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect): hepatitis A or immunoglobulin (IG); typhoid; yellow fever; and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.
Due to a recent outbreak of yellow fever in Kenya, evidence of a vaccination may be required. You can review the latest CDC advisories here.
Biting insects are not numerous, though mosquitoes and ticks occur locally.
Tap water has a notably high mineral content; bottled water is readily available, and we will have a supply in the vehicle for drinking during the day. Mild stomach upsets are not infrequent in Kenya, and we suggest bringing an adequate supply of immodium or another diarrhea treatment. Also be certain to bring adequate supplies of all prescription and personal medicines, as they may be impossible to obtain during the tour.
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 10,000 ft and drive slowly through the moorland in search of the highland specialities.
ACCOMMODATION and FOOD: 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, built-in flush-toilets, 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. Most of the rest of the accommodation consists of good quality hotels or lodges with all the usual facilities.
The food throughout the tour is generally good to excellent and many people are surprised at the high standard provided, even in the remoter 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 for. Beer and bottled water are widely available and generally reasonably priced.
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, possibly, in the west.
PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: Please note that our January tour is designed for keen birders who want to see as many species of birds and mammals in Kenya as possible. 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 involves 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.
There will be a safari briefing at the start of the tour in Nairobi where the leaders will discuss various aspects of the tour and where you will have the chance to ask questions. On almost all birding tours to Kenya a fair amount of birdwatching is done from the vehicles since we spend a lot of time in National Parks where getting out of the vehicle is not allowed 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 organize a seating rotation 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 particularly 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 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 again later in the afternoon. Most days will finish at dusk, 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.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation is in 4-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruisers 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.
DRESS: Dress is informal throughout.
SMOKING: Smoking is not allowed in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, 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.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS AND SUNBIRD TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours portion of our website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Kenya in January will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.
Updated: February 2014