Planning The Perfect Safari Holiday In Kenya is harder than it sounds because there are so many options! But we’re here to share everything we learnt!
Both of us love researching lots before we plan a holiday – cue weeks of reading about hotels, flights, comparing ticket prices, and the destination itself. However our route to Planning The Perfect Safari Holiday In Kenya was a little twisted. This is because we planned this trip thrice (yes thrice!) and it got cancelled due to some reason or the other – once due to unexpected work and twice due to the pandemic! So this year, we promised ourselves to make it to Kenya on a special occasion – Vid’s birthday was ideal because he loves celebrating it in remote places each year.
Here is everything we learnt and some tips for planning The Perfect Safari Holiday In Kenya!
Visas & Vaccinations for Kenya
Passport holders of most countries need an e-visa for entering Kenya. Make sure you get it before you fly to your safari holiday in Kenya. It took 3 working days for our visa to arrive – however we would suggest applying at least a week in advance. You can apply here (the total fees is USD 51)
Of course, you will need to carry a print out of your Covid Vaccination certificates with you in order to be granted entry into Kenya. We heard mixed reports about the need for yellow fever vaccinations, so we did take our certificates along. However if you are flying from India, you do not need to show yellow fever vaccination certificates anywhere – to enter or leave the country.
Who is this holiday ideal for?
A safari holiday in Kenya is ideal for most age groups, except infants and toddlers. However it is especially suited if you’re on your honeymoon or craving a romantic getaway for a special occasion like an anniversary.
It is also extremely ideal for families travelling with senior citizens – after getting to the destination, all you have to do is enjoy the fine dining and experience the sight of different animals without getting out of jeeps. No walking is required, which makes this ideal for older people.
Packing for a Safari Holiday
We would definitely suggest packing the following items for your safari holiday in Kenya. I’ve tried to link the exact items we took for your convenience below:
- This clothes steamer – if you haven’t bought a travel steamer till now do it. It’s game changing and we carry it on all our trips, no matter where we are going
- A good power bank as your phone battery is bound to get drained during long safari drives
- A good quality gimbal for your phone helps in getting better photos & videos. This is the one we use right now – would definitely recommend it
- A full-frame camera with a good zoom lens is a must if you want high quality photos on safari. I used a Sony A7c with a 200-600mm lens
- Good sunscreen that offers SPF 50 protection. Here is the link to the one both of us used on this trip
- Your favourite heavy-duty lotion or cream as skin tends to get dry – I’ve been using this one for years
- A high-quality lip balm as lips tend to get very dry and a comfortable lip tint that goes with every outfit – Revlon’s Sultry is an old favourite of mine. It’s perfect for most Indian skin-tones
- First-aid kit with band-aids, insect repellent, sanitising wipes, blister plasters etc
- Warm Jacket as evenings and early mornings can get very cold. We carried light down jackets
- Neutral coloured clothes for safari rides – avoid bright colours and also blacks as they attract flies. This is not a strict guideline – however it is preferable to carry clothes that cover your arms and legs well in order to avoid sunburn and mosquito bits. Make sure you carry comfortable clothes as you will be wearing them for long days on safari
- You can also pack regular-coloured clothes during meals, at the camp, and when you visit Maasai villages if you wish to
- A hat to protect your face from the sun
- Boots and sneakers that cover your feet and protect them from mosquitoes and ants
- Protective sunglasses as the sun is brutal
- A scarf to protect your hair and for chilly evenings
Tips for planning the Perfect Safari holiday in Kenya
Spend at least a day or two in Nairobi
Nairobi is often considered the jumping point for boarding flights to Maasai Mara. But it is a thriving city with lots to do. You should definitely spend a day or two exploring its marketplaces, taking a cooking class, or just walking along the streets absorbing the air of a new country.
If you are keen to see flamingoes, then you can also plan a day trip to Lake Nakuru National Park. The number of flamingoes varies drastically depending on migratory patterns from year to year, so check with the tour operator before going. This day trip costs approximately $150 per person for a private tour. You also have to pay an additional `$70 for entrance to the park (if you go during high season). If you are transiting through Nairobi and do not have time to fly to Maasai Mara for a safari, Nakuru National Park is also the perfect place to see White Rhinos, Zebras, Giraffes, and the elusive tree-climbing lions, that can be found only in Kenya and Tanzania. You could book with Viator etc. or could also just head to Nairobi and book with a local operator – there are plenty of them.
Pack perfectly for your safari holiday
You are allowed to take only 15 kilos of luggage in a soft duffel bag on flights to Maasai Mara, so pack your luggage accordingly. If you are travelling with bigger, hard-shell suitcases, just carry soft duffel bags in your bigger suitcases, so you can put all your luggage for your safari holiday in those.
As for your big suitcases, Air Kenya and Safari Link offer free storage facilities at Wilson airport to their passengers. You can deposit them before your flight to Maasai Mara and collect them on getting back to Nairobi. We flew with Air Kenya and had to pay around $800 for 2 people for a return flight between Nairobi Wilson and Olare Orok airstrip (it is actually just a strip of dirt track in the middle of the wilderness – was quite an experience flying in these planes and landing in the middle of nowhere with wild animals ambling along in the distance).
Budgeting for your Safari holiday in Kenya
There are some destinations in the world where you can’t experience the best the destinations have to offer on a very tight budget. For example – whenever someone asks us about a budget holiday in Maldives, I suggest picking another destination – not because it is impossible to do Maldives on a budget but because other options like Mauritius can offer SO much more to the same traveller in their budget.
This is also the case with other countries like Switzerland – instead of worrying about every meal in an expensive country like Switzerland, we always recommend visiting a more affordable country like Slovenia which has similar scenery but is a lot more affordable 🙂
For this exact reason, I would recommend planning a safari holiday in Maasai Mara when you’re not on a very tight budget. This will help you experience the best the destination has to offer. It is nice to have creature comforts and luxuries when you are in remote areas in complete wilderness. Moreover, every little expense – such as domestic flights within Kenya which cost between $800 and $1000 for 2 people – can add up quickly. That’s why Kenya is ideal if you’re celebrating a special occasion like a honeymoon, birthday, or anniversary.
Of course the exact budget will depend on the airline you choose, the hotel you pick, and where you are flying from. But as a rule of thumb, you can add up the following 6 expenses in order to estimate the total cost of your trip to Kenya
- International flights from your home country to Kenya
- Domestic transfers from Nairobi to Airstrip of your hotel which cost approximately USD 800-1000
- E-visa costs which are approximately $51 per person (as of Oct 22)
- Hotel in Nairobi – this will depend on the hotel you stay at! We stayed at the Crowne Plaza (close to the international airport) and then Hilton Double Tree (close to the domestic Wilson Airport) and both hotels were great options. We chose them due to their proximity to the airports but staff was very welcoming and rooms spacious.
- Meals & taxis in Nairobi – there are lots of restaurants, no matter where you are and Ubers are easy to find.
- Hotel in Maasai Mara – make sure the cost of your hotel includes transfers from airstrip to hotel, all safaris and all meals in addition to accommodation. This will ensure you have an exact idea of the expenditure when you book your stay.
Choose your hotel in Maasai Mara carefully
There are many lodges and camps in Kenya. However we heard from some of our friends who visited Maasai Mara last year that they couldn’t see as much wildlife as they thought they would. Upon research we found out that in many parts of the Maasai Mara, guides cannot go off-roading, which decreases the possibility of sightings. This is something to keep in mind when picking your hotel in Maasai Mara.
As for us, we chose Mahali Mzuri, which is Richard Branson’s private camp and it was so truly special. It has been accorded the status of the Number 1 Hotel in the world and I can see why! Large spacious tents are equipped with all creature comforts such as fast wifi, running hot water, large beds, showers, large patios, and bath tubs overlooking the Mara. Luxuries such as daily turndown service, an extensive mini bar, binoculars for animal sightings, twice-daily game drives, and 3 course meals are all included to make guests feel thoroughly pampered. The menu changes everyday and there are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. There’s also an option of having a picnic breakfast in the wilderness (after/during a game drive) and not to forget the stunning setting for the sundowner – sipping on your favourite cocktail as you watch Zebras and Giraffes walking into the most dramatic sunset. But the chef is so flexible in case you want something that is not even on the menu. Here I must give a shoutout to the staff – the kindest, nicest people who make everyone feel so welcome. Every guest we met at the lodge just could not stop praising the staff.
The best part? Mahali Mzuri is located in Olare Motorongi Conservancy, a special part of the Mara that offers truly unparalleled wildlife viewing experiences. And so it was. The wildlife we saw here blew our socks off – dozens of giraffes, playful zebras, leopards, cheetahs and their cubs, lions preying in their natural habitat – you name it and we saw it! These photographs will tell you more about the sightings
I hope this provides all the information you need to apply for visas and plan a safari holiday to Maasai Mara Kenya.
There you have it – everything we learnt from our incredible safari holiday in Kenya. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so make sure you reserve it for a special occasion. We fell in love with Kenya and hope you do too.