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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Kenya in November

Samburu to the Masai Mara

Tour Information

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: U.S. Citizens need a passport valid for at least six month past the date of entry and with at least two blank pages for entry stamps. A Kenya tourist visa and proof of a return air ticket are also required. 

Citizens of other countries should contact their nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate fortheir visa requirements. 

Proof of a valid Yellow Fever vaccination is required from people arriving in Kenya directly from an infected area. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://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 THE TOUR: Most of the days begin at first light, and we usually gather at about 6:30 a.m. We will either have a pre-breakfast walk for about an hour or have breakfast at 6:30 or earlier if required, in order to make an early start. When we are not moving on to a new lodge we will sometimes spend the morning birdwatching and return to our accommodation for lunch. We then usually 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 and we try to allow a one-hour break before we meet to do the daily checklist and have dinner. On a few days this break may be shorter or longer depending on the schedule. On one night, there will be an optional night-time game drive and bird excursion. 

Most walking is done around the grounds of the lodges where we stay. At Baringo we do level walk of several hours along the base of the Baringo cliff, which involves walking through rocky and, at times, bushy terrain. We also have a scenic walk overlooking the Masai Mara, outside of the reserve. 

There are a few travelling days where long drives are required. While all roads within the national parks and reserves are dirt tracks of varying quality, there is a lengthy trip on public dirt roads – part of the journey to  the Masai Mara – which can be bumpy at times. Some interesting birds are found along the roadsides and we may break our journeys to investigate some of these areas. 

You should be prepared to spend a lot of time in the tour vehicles because we spend a lot of time in National Parks where getting out of the vehicle is dangerous and only permitted in certain allocated areas. The sense of confinement is diminished as each passenger has equal access to the roof hatch and each person has a window seat (see TRANSPORTATION, below). The leader will organize a seating rotation so that all tour participants move to a different seat each day. 

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:  We’ll spend one night at about 7000 feet and most of the time, except on coast extensions, around 5000 feet. 

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. 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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

Updated: 18 May 2015