Africa is mystic, it’s a paradise for nature lovers. One can experience everything, the breathtaking scenery, the diverse culture and the thrilling experience to encounter the big five in this world’s second largest and most beautiful continent.
It is home to a wildlife seeker and in December 2019, I got an opportunity to visit my dreamland. Being a wildlife and adventure seeker, I chose to visit Amboseli, Naivasha, Nakuru, Masai Mara and Uganda National Parks in 10 days duration.
I never wanted to explore Africa on a pre-package tour with a fixed itinerary. Therefore planning a dream solo trip to Africa was an exciting challenge. I took help of my old friend ‘GOOGLE’ and did an extensive search about the places, resorts and, safari organisers. After evaluating a large no. of reviews, I prepared a pros and cons list and contacted few of the safari organisers in Africa. With a good amount of communication over mails and voice, I finally decided to plan my trip with Encounter Africa Safaris. Before sharing my travel stories, I want to share few travel tips.
Here sharing a few travel tips from my experience to consider while travelling to the East Africa.
-> Solo travelling starts with planning. It can be one of the most liberating and wonderful experience if done with proper safety measures. Do an extensive search on the places you want to visit and check the Travel Advisory issued by US Department of State. If the countries you are planning to visit falls in the 4th level category ‘Do not travel’, just avoid visiting these places as there is a high risk of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping and armed conflict. Travelling to such places can turn your dream destination into a nightmare. Therefore always abide by the travel advisory guidelines. Both Kenya and Uganda falls under level 2 category.
-> Although I am not a news person but before any travel, I keep myself updated with the latest news about the planned places, to ensure there is no political or civil unrest during the duration of the visit.
-> As a best practice which I always follow, if you are travelling solo, share all your personal and travel details along with the resort address, driver-guide contact information over the mail with the Indian Embassy in these countries. Also ask the Embassy to share its emergency contact no. The Indian embassy contacted me multiple times to check my well-being in Africa.
-> Always be prepared for any unexpected situation. Keep the emergency helpline no. handy for immediate assistance in the places you are planning to visit in Africa. Check with your tour operator, if they have partnership with any other operator for the countries you are visiting, ask them to share the contact details of that operator also.
-> Some parts of Africa are not very safe to visit during the odd hours, therefore adhere to the advice of the local authorities and your travel guide.
-> Take a good Travel Insurance Policy for this part of the world because of its unique unforeseen situations where you just don’t need to be covered for medical expenses but also for emergency evacuations and repatriation.
-> This is the most critical part. Get yourself vaccinated against life threating diseases. The vaccines depends on the countries you are visiting and the duration of your stay in these places. Yellow fever and polio vaccination is a must to have from the government designated centres in your country when travelling to Africa. Take the yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before your travel date. If you are allergic to egg than the doctor will ask you to first go and do an allergy test in a recommended govt. hospital. Once you get a go-ahead report from the hospital, you are eligible for the yellow fever vaccination. This can take another 2-3 days therefore plan the vaccination at least 15-20 days prior to your travel date.
-> As per the CDC and WHO recommendations vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, meningitis is also a must when visiting Kenya and Uganda. Malaria precautions are essential in most part of Africa ,therefore you need to start taking Malaria medication a week before your travel date. Consult your doctor and take advise on the medications for Cholera along with the first-aid kit with essential medicines. Be sure to include ample medication as you won’t be getting good medical facilities in every part of Africa.
-> Carry a good hand sanitizer with at-least 70% of alcohol percentage and avoid eating any cut fruits, salads or raw meat in this part of the world.
-> Tap water is a strict ‘NO’. Always carry a packaged water bottle as the contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid etc. Ask your travel operator to provide ample supply of the packaged water, keep yourself hydrated enough throughout the journey.
-> Carry a good mosquito repellent and always apply the same when you are going out for safaris. A good sunscreen along with sunglasses and hat is a must to have.
-> Book an East Africa Tourist Visa online if you are visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. You can book an East Africa Tourist visa online from Rwanda official website, only if your arrival country in Africa is Rwanda. If you are flying to Kenya from India the facility to book an online East Africa Visa is not available, however you can book an online single entry Visa for Kenya for USD50.
Sometimes it happens you don’t receive the VISA on time, don’t panic! You can take the printout of the receipt of payment acknowledgement and the Visa can be issued to you at the airport in Africa. Cross check the same with the Kenya Embassy in India.
-> No single SIM card work across all the countries for data usage. So take the Mobile Data plan accordingly. SIM card outlets are available at the airport. You need to give a Photo ID proof along with a recent photograph to buy a SIM at the airport.
-> Carry some local currency along with dollars when travelling to East Africa. You can exchange the dollars for local currency at the airport in Africa. Do bargain to get good exchange rates, the one displayed at the exchange counter are not the final rates.
-> Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian. You will get a lot of vegetarian dishes like pulses, Indian flat bread- chapati, rice, vegetables, paneer dishes, masala chai and many more available in this part of the world to satiate your hunger and food cravings. One should try the traditional Kenyan dish Ugali with Sukuma Wiki. Ask your travel operator to arrange for Vegetarian food in the resorts you are planning to stay. I stayed at SOPA resorts where there was a wide variety of vegetarian food to choose from. All delicious!
Last but not the least carry a Good Camera
-> Africa is a dreamland for wildlife photographers. If you want to capture the wild scenic beauty of Africa carry a good DSLR camera with a standard and telephoto zoom lens along with an extra memory card and spare battery.
These are few travel tips I learned while planning my trip to Africa. Will share my travel stories of Africa in the next blog post.