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Unless you are embarking on a safari
that involves a great deal of walking or riding (and that means
on a camel, and not in a jeep), the plain truth is that most of
the above outfit, no matter how stylish, is totally redundant. For
the majority of Kenyan safaris, you actually do very little walking
at all since most of the reserves and game parks insist that you
remain in your vehicle. So the stout shoes and the comfortable socks
can probably be dispensed with unless, of course you seriously intend
to try and walk, in case, pack them. But remember, one thing about
walking in the reserve: if it is allowed, and do check with your
lodge for details, you will always have to go with a ranger. Never
set off for a walk on your own.
Before we go any further with the packing list,
a word first about luggage. You will spend a lot of time in dusty
jeeps travelling from one game park to another, so you should have
solid luggage that fastens tightly against the all pervasive dust.
Since some lodges like the Ark encourage you to take nothing more
than an overnight bag, it makes sense to pack a smaller bag for
any overnight trips when you can safely leave the bulk of luggage
at your basecamp. Soft luggage makes the best sense for travelling
in Kenya since it can be fitted into the back of a jeep with more
Remember to take padlocks and keys. For the day
time, when you go out for your game drives, a small study bag or
rucksack ids a good idea. Study, because it will get the most bouncing
of all your luggage and will be exposed to dust too. The padded
camera bag or rucksack is ideal not only for protecting your camera
gear during the drives, but you will also be able to fit in some
of the "extras" you will want to take along for the day:
paper tissues, perhaps a pack of moist towelettes, your wildlife
reference books, your binoculars and all that extra film you will
Once the luggage has been selected, what will you
pack in it for your safari? Well, first things first, there is no
need to "dress up" on safari. No one dresses for dinner,
so other than a smart out fit for the hotels and restaurants in
Nairobi and Mombasa, out in the bush you will need only loose, cool,
comfortable clothing. Light-weight cotton trousers and shorts, tee-shirts
and cotton shirts, comfortable shoes, and, for an early morning
drives and the evening, a warm sweater and an anorak.
If you are planning any bush walking, however leisurely,
do make sure that your shoes are comfortable and "broken in",
and under no circumstances should you wear sandals in the bush -
unless you wish to scratched and, possibly, stung or bitten by something.
Trousers rather than shorts and long-sleeved shirts are the most
sensible combination for they protect you from too much sun and
also from mosquitoes in the evenings.
With all that ever present red Kenyan dust round,
you will get grimy but laundry can be done overnight in most camps
and lodges so there is no need to weigh your bags down with too
many changes of outfit - save your luggage space for a wonderful
Kisii soapstone carving instead!
Do bear one thing in mind: if you are also combining
your safari with a stint on the beach at Mombasa, you will need
to pack more conservative clothing for the coast is essentially
a Muslim dominated area.beach wear will be fine for the Mombasa
beaches but definitely not for exploring the old town or for a trip
to Lamu. A way from the beaches, women should make sure that their
shoulders are covered and that they wear skirts that reach the knees
at least, and men should avoid wearing shorts.
A Comprehensive List
What else should be on your packing list? A swimming costume, for
those rare moments when you find that there is no game drive, no
wildlife checklist to be updated and no diary to be written. A good
sunhat that will shade your neck as well as your face and good subglasses.
A small torch is useful, as is an all-purpose knife, such as Swiss
Army knife. Bring any prescription medicines with you for out in
the bush there will be no chemist available, and also a small first-aid
kit for any cuts and bruises.
Do not forget to suntan lotion and after sun products,
a good moisturising cream and a lip moisturising stick for windy
and dusty rides will take their toll on your skin and lips. Sad
to say, a mosquito repellent is a must and also whatever the malaria
tablets your doctor at home prescribed - remember to start the course
before leaving for Kenya, and, imperatively, to complete it on your
Bring a sufficient amount of reading material to
tide you through your flights and those occasional evenings when
you find you have enough energy left to read after your 6.00 a.m.
start. Binoculars are invaluable. Photography enthusiasts should
make sure that they pack far more film than they expect to use,
for you will definitely take more than you think, as spare batteries
for the camera and for your flashgun, plus a camera cleaning kit.
Breakfast consists of all the usual items found
in an English-style breakfast such as eggs of all kinds, sausages
and various cold meats, bread and lots of fresh fruit, plus, of
course, tea and coffee, both of which are grown in the country.
Lunch and dinner are usually huge, lavish buffet spreads with soup,
salad, lots of meat, sometimes fish, a wide choice of vegetables,
potatoes and rice or pasta. Deserts are usually sweet and filling,
and there is always some fruit on offer.
All of this food is good, there is usually far too
much to eat and it is an even more impressive spread when you remember
that you are kilometres from anywhere, surrounded by savannah grasslands
and wild animals. Given all these constraints, it is perhaps carrying
gastronomic criticism a little too far to say that the food is bland.
You will eat copiously on your safari, you will eat well, but sad
to say, your meals will not be memorable ones.
On the drinks' front Kenyan beer is excellent and
widely available. One of the pleasures of safari life, after a shower
to rinse off all that red dust, is to sit down in the evening, slightly
sunburned and pleasantly tired, and have a glass of ice cold Tusker.