Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Kenya. Its purpose is solely 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 is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document sent to all tour registrants, whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING KENYA: A valid passport with a Kenya tourist visa and proof of a return air ticket are required. We recommend obtaining your visa in advance, although airport visas are available in Nairobi. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. There is a fee for the visa (US$50), whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Travelers may obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate. At the time of the tour’s confirmation (14 weeks prior to departure), WINGS will provide you with a letter confirming your participation in the tour. This letter is a necessary part of your visa application process.
Although there are fees associated with such services, we feel that visas are most easily obtained through a visa service such as those listed on the last page of this General Information. Visa services will send you all documents and materials necessary to get a visa for travel to Kenya.
Evidence of a yellow fever vaccination must be shown for entry into Kenya if you are arriving directly from an endemic zone.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends. 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.
ARRIVAL AND INTRODUCTORY MEETING: This tour will begin on the morning of Day 1 with your arrival at the Nairobi international airport. Your guides will meet you at the airport and transfer you to our group hotel to check-in, meet the other participants, and spend the rest of your day birding. If you prefer to spend extra time in Nairobi prior to the start of the tour, WINGS would be happy to help make arrangements for you.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend taking an anti-malarial drug when traveling in Kenya. Since chloroquine-resistant malaria has been detected in Kenya, atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™), doxycycline or mefloquine (Lariam™) are the currently recommended prophylaxes. The CDC also recommends getting a yellow fever vaccination, although it is not required for entry into Kenya unless you are coming directly from a country where yellow fever is known to be present. The CDC further recommends the following vaccines: hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid; and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.
Please be sure to contact your physician at least six weeks in advance of departure to complete your inoculation series, if any, and to review the latest malarial and other advisories.
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. Care must be taken to avoid getting the DEET repellent on optical equipment, as DEET dissolves rubber and plastic and can damage coated lenses. Camping supply stores and outfitters carry some reasonably effective alternatives that contain natural products and aren’t corrosive.
Products containing tick- and chigger-repelling chemicals are particularly effective. Camping supply stores sell such a product containing permethrin 0.5%, which must be applied directly to clothing in advance of wearing and allowed to dry. This non-staining, odorless chemical is non-toxic to humans and protective on clothing through several launderings. These sprays are now available in pump bottles, but be aware that most airlines no longer allow the transport of aerosol sprays.
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 are rare but can occur in Kenya and we strongly suggest bringing an adequate supply of a diarrhea treatment. Several packets of powdered drink mix can also be very useful as they replace the sugars and salts lost during bouts of diarrhea.
You may wish to bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as tetracycline, in case of a stubborn bacterial infection. Bringing a basic first-aid kit (with band aids, antibiotic ointment, etc.) is a good idea. Finally, be sure to bring adequate supplies of all personal medications, as it may be impossible to obtain them during the tour, but remember not to carry these in your checked luggage.
Please note that this information is gleaned by WINGS from websites that are dedicated to traveler’s health issues. Advisories and recommendations by agencies such as the CDC frequently change. We urge you to consult your physician, local health department or the CDC for the most up-to-date health advisories for travel to Kenya. You can check with the CDC online at: www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm.
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. Some of the tour is at elevations over 5,000 feet and highland days can be quite cool if there is cloud cover. However, when the sun does shine, it can conversely get very hot, especially in the Masai Mara and at Lake Baringo. Humidity is low. Rain is possible almost anywhere but we will probably only experience it in the highland areas and around some of the Rift Valley lakes and even then it should not be prolonged. Although Kenya has, in theory, two distinct rainy periods – a long rainy season in March and April and a short one in November and December – these can be late or early or fail altogether. Some feel the short rains add to the experience. A lightweight sweater should be adequate for some of the cool evenings and a lightweight jacket will be useful for early mornings at Mountain Lodges and at Naro Moru.
ACCOMMODATIONS: During the tour we’ll stay in two tented-camps – the rest are lodges. The tents are permanent structures with concrete floors, thatched roofs, proper beds and built-in flush-toilets and showers. They all have electric lights. Where a camp generator provides the power, this is sometimes 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 you may need to let the water run for some minutes before it gets hot.
FOOD: The food throughout the tour is generally good to excellent, and many people are surprised at the high standard, even in remote parts of the country. Many of the major tourist centers feature extraordinarily high standards in quality, presentation and variety. Breakfasts are buffets offering everything from full cooked breakfasts to cereals and fresh fruit. At other meals there is almost always a choice of two or three main courses. Vegetarians are well catered for. Our meals are generally excellent in Nairobi, Samburu, Rondo Retreat (Kakamega), Mountain Lodge and Kichwa Tembo, and very good in Baringo and Siana Springs.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any missed tour meals. While our restaurants and ground agents make every effort to insure the comfort of all participants, we cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Many restaurants offer set menus and are unable to accommodate all special requests within a group. Thus, participants with significant food allergies or special dietary needs should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be accommodated. Our tours are carefully scheduled to insure the best possible birding experience. Meal times can generally not be adjusted; any participant who needs to eat earlier or later than the times scheduled for the group should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation is in long wheel-base Defender Land Rovers with roof hatches for window-free viewing and photography. Our drivers are professionals, skilled at finding birds and mammals, and at repairing vehicles. Some of the driving is on unmade roads and while most of these are in good 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. There is always drinking water provided in the vehicles. Please note that the leader will operate a rotation system for seating in the vehicles.
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 TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours. 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 June and November 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: November 2012