Commonly asked questions about travel to East Africa
Traveling to East Africa can be a daunting experience – especially if it’s for the first time. It is natural for your clients to have a lot of questions before their adventure and we are here to offer some assistance in this regard.
Our expert team of travel professionals at Grand Africa Safaris DMC have over 50 years experience in the industry and are here to provide you with the necessary tools and travel advice to advance your skills as an Africa travel expert.
We’ve compiled a list of Safari FAQs we’ve received from clients in the past, as well as some answers that will assist you through your process. Should you or your client have any other questions that we have not covered below, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member from our team.
We are here with you every step of the way!
In the same way a DMC provides the necessary tools, on the ground support and advice to travel experts in order to make their job as seamless as possible, this too will be passed on to the client. The ease of planning a trip alongside a team of travel experts remains unsurpassed in this day and age. It is not as easy for travelers – particularly those traveling to East Africa – to simply book their flights and accommodation online, pack their bags and jet off into the unknown. The logistics of traveling in Africa can be very complicated and when traveling with a team of experts, your client will have someone to answer their questions and provide peace of mind throughout the entire trip.
Together, we act as a full service provider who can book international flights, local transfers, luxury accommodation, meal reservations, tours, activities, concierge services and more, offering personalized attention to detail and the highest level of service. What’s more, when your client is traveling, they will have access to around-the-clock support to assist with whatever their needs are, wherever they are in East Africa.
When a client asks this question, it’s best to recommend up to 3 to 4 months for low season, and 9 to 12 months for shoulder/high season. During the peak season in your destination, you’ll often find that the more exclusive luxury lodges are in high demand and have limited accommodation options, so you will want to book well in advance for your clients to avoid disappointment.
For bucket list safaris that are month dependent, like the Great Wildebeest Migration in either Kenya or Zanzibar it is recommended to book more than 12 months in advance.
However, it is important to let your client know that it is never too early to start the conversation and get plans in motion to make their travel dreams a reality. Sometimes the most unforgettable trips are the ones that happen at the spur of the moment – depending on flights of course.
A valid, machine-readable passport issued by the country of which your client is a citizen is mandatory for all international travel. This includes travelers under the age of 18.
Passports must be valid for at least six months after the return date. Your client will not be able to enter East Africa if their passport expires in less than six months.
Their passport should contain at least two consecutive blank pages for the visas and entry stamps for each country they are visiting.
NOTE: Always inform your client to make a physical copy of their passport and keep it in a safe place. It is also recommended that they make a digital copy that they can access from their email address in case of emergency.
Some of your foreign clients may be required to obtain a visa before entering any of the East African countries. If you would like more details contact a member of our team directly, or ask your client to get in touch with their local Tanzanian, Kenyan, Uganda or Rwanda embassy for the most current visa information.
Travelers should check for visa requirements pertaining to their citizenship, as entry requirements vary between countries.
It is advisable for them to obtain their tourist visas before departure whenever possible. Please note the tourist visas obtained at the port of entry are often payable only in cash – a very important point to mention.
Those clients requiring a visa to allow for multiple entries in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda can apply online for the T12 East Africa Tourist Visa. The East Africa Tourist Visa is valid for 90-days.
All visitors to any one of the East African countries (including Zanzibar), even if in transit, require a yellow fever inoculation certificate if they have visited a yellow fever endemic country.
Certificates must be produced for all travelers over the age of one year and are valid for 10 years. Failure to produce a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate at a port of entry could lead to refusal of entry, or quarantine until the traveler’s certificate becomes valid.
Quarantine will not be longer than six days.
Many commercial airlines flying into Africa still require travelers to produce a negative COVID-19 PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure.
However, with the vaccine rollout well underway across the globe, many strict protocols have been eased as the vaccine’s effectiveness has been evaluated more thoroughly.
That being said, each country in East Africa has its own set of COVID-19 entry requirements. These are being updated by our team when changes are made and can be viewed HERE.
Many East African safari destinations are only reachable via shared light aircrafts. Small aircrafts have weight and luggage restrictions that are strictly enforced for the safety of passengers:
Airlines are strict with their weight allowances and might charge extra per person with body weight over 220-264 lbs (100-120 kg). Make sure you find out the weight of your clients prior to them traveling in order to avoid any problems with this.
Each traveler is allowed no more than 15kgs / 33lbs of luggage.
All luggage must be soft sided and maneuverable. Wheels are only permissible if they are not part of a rigid structure or frame.
Maximum luggage dimensions:
W: 25cm (10 inches) wide x H: 30cm (12 inches) high
Remember to inform your clients that hard cases and overweight suitcases will not be accommodated on shared light aircrafts under any circumstances.
It can get both very hot and very cold on safari. Layers of clothing are most practical for the fluctuating day/night temperatures in East Africa.
Depending upon what time of year your client chooses to go on safari, lightweight clothing of cotton and cotton blends is most suitable.
During the winter months it can become very cold and a warm jacket will be needed for their early morning and evening game viewing activities. We recommend a down or insulated jacket as they are lightweight and don’t take up a lot of space in luggage.
During the summer months, we recommend a lightweight water and windproof jacket. Except for sudden rain storms the temperatures are very warm.
For evenings, lightweight long-sleeved clothing as protection from mosquitoes is vital.
Neutral colors such as khaki, beige/cream or olive green are appropriate, and are less conspicuous to the animals.
We also recommend that your clients bring closed shoes, to protect their feet from the cold in open vehicle drives. Heavy walking boots are unnecessary unless they are wanting to do a walking safari. Simple, lightweight shoes or trainers are the most sensible options.
Most lodges have a swimming pool, so remember to remind your clients to bring a swimsuit.
How much should I pack?
In lieu of the strict luggage requirements for light aircraft travel in East Africa, less is more!
If your client is going to be on safari for one week or longer, they only need to pack 2 short sleeved shirts, and 2 long sleeved shirts. For a shorter duration trip, they can adjust the quantity accordingly.
A general rule of thumb is that they should usually only need 3 changes of clothing.
*Remember that most camps and lodges offer complimentary laundry services.
If you have inquiries from clients with children, it is important to note that many of the camps and lodges have a minimum age requirement. This is typically between 8 and 12 and even in some cases 16. Most of the lodges that do allow younger children won’t always allow them on game drives, both for safety and disruption reasons, unless your client books a private game vehicle.
Tanzania and Kenya are both very child friendly destinations and great options for families. With the closed safari vehicles, children are often allowed on game drives. Most of the camps also offer kids programs to keep children entertained.
If you have a client who wants to travel with children, consult a member of our team at Grand Africa Safaris. We have all the insider knowledge you will need about which lodges are child friendly, which lodges specifically cater for children, which guides work best with children and which travel experiences really appeal to kids.
While game drives are generally shared between up to six guests, some people prefer to upgrade to a private safari experience, where they can enjoy the full attention of their guide in their own private vehicle. We have increasingly found that guests enjoy this personal experience on safari. Here are two main reasons why:
The guide is such an important part of the safari experience, and a private vehicle ensures that your client has their full and personal attention for the duration of their stay.
With a private safari vehicle, your client will be able to sit with the guide at the beginning of each drive and plan the day exactly how they want it. If they choose to spend an entire day looking for lions, that’s what they’ll be able to do. Maybe they want to follow leopards all day? No problem. A personal guide makes the safari all the more enjoyable and memorable, and often guests will leave having become real friends with their guides
Longer at sightings
In the bush, patience is always rewarded with amazing sightings. Some people love to spend hours at a specific sighting while others like to stay on the move. Making a unanimous decision in a group of strangers can be tricky. In a private safari vehicle however, it’s totally up to your client how much time they want to spend with the animal. The lions might be sleeping; but if they wait a little longer, there’s a good chance they will get up and start hunting. When it’s just one group in the vehicle, they get to make those decisions together with the guide and perhaps line themselves up for the sighting of a lifetime!
Gorilla trekking is a bucket list experience for many clients looking to travel to East Africa. If your client wants to go gorilla trekking, here are some important things to note before their trip:
It is imperative that your clients are in perfect health when they arrive in Rwanda or Uganda. Mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human illness – even brief proximity to an ill person can seriously infect and potentially kill an entire gorilla family. If your client is even slightly sick, they will be denied participation in the gorilla trek.
Slots on gorilla treks are limited and non-refundable due to illness. In order for your clients to maintain their health and ensure they have the best trekking experience, you can recommend the following points:
- Ensure that they are at least moderately fit, if not fitter. Gorilla trekking can be strenuous. Depending on where the gorillas are, they can expect to hike long distances through tough terrain to find them.
- Ensure that they are up to date on all routine vaccinations and have immunizations for influenza, tetanus and diphtheria.
- If they smoke, they should consider cutting down or quitting smoking. Smoking is not allowed near the gorillas and the scent of smoke will alarm them of a foreign presence.
Strict regulations have been enacted to safeguard the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas and their habitat. It is essential that your clients know the rules and obey any direction given to them by their guide and tracker to ensure both their safety and the safety of gorillas.
It is important to note that while incidents are extremely rare thanks to the careful approach taken by highly experienced guides, if they are injured by a gorilla, they may be far from immediate medical assistance.
Best gorilla trekking practices include:
- A maximum of 8 people per family of gorillas are allowed per day. For this reason, it is important to book their trekking well in advance to secure their space.
- Only 1-hour is allowed with the gorillas. They must not put pressure on their guides to stay with the gorillas for longer.
- They must remember to maintain a distance of 7 meters (23 feet) from the gorillas at all times and listen carefully to directions provided by the guide and trackers.
- It is very important that they wash their hands before trekking as gorillas are highly susceptible to human disease.
- When in the presence of the gorillas, they must remember to keep their voices low and not make sudden or erratic movements.
- Do not litter.
- They must always stay close to the trekking group and never wander off alone as the jungle can become very disorientating.
- No eating, smoking, or drinking is permitted near the gorillas. No flash photography is permitted.
Travelers planning to go on a gorilla trekking expedition should pack lightly, but appropriately for the trekking conditions. We recommend they wear and/or bring the following items in a small day pack:
- Lightweight trousers and a long sleeve t-shirt to protect from thorns and insects
- Gloves, long socks and appropriate hiking boots
- Lightweight trekking poles that can collapse and fit into a backpack
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm
- At least 1-liter of potable water in a reusable hard plastic container.
- A mild pain reliever of choice
- A small hand towel or bandana
- Tissues or wet wipes
- A camera along with an extra battery and storage card
The best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the dry season between the months of December to March, and June to September. Not only will the terrain be easier to navigate, it will also be much easier to spot gorillas hidden within the bamboo forests. It is important to note, however, that though it may be the dry season, the weather in Rwanda is notoriously unpredictable so advise your clients to pack a raincoat and waterproof hiking gear.
Although gorilla trekking in Uganda is considered a year-round activity, the humid rainy seasons and muddy terrain can make it extra challenging and lessen the chances of spotting the gorillas. To make it easier for your client, we recommend traveling during the dry seasons from January to February and June to September.