Booking a safari in Kenya independently

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8 tips for booking safari in Kenya

For our safari in Kenya, we booked everything independently without any travel agency. It worked out splendidly. We had a great time.

Here is what you need to know about planning and booking a safari in Kenya on your own.

1. Location

It depends on what you want to see and how much time you have at your disposal. Parks with airstrips will save you transfer time, but you’ll be missing out the life outside the game reserves.

Elephants in Amboseli National Park

We decided to visit Amboseli National Park, probably the top location in the world to observe elephants in big numbers, and Maasai Mara National Reserve, a place with one of the highest densities of wildlife worldwide.

2. Best time to travel

Again, it’s up to you and animals you don’t want to miss.

During the dry season in Amboseli (May-October and January to March), you don’t need to worry about the roads being splashed by massive rainfalls. On the other hand, during a long dry season, some parts of Amboseli can resemble a desert and dust is everywhere.

Gnus in Maasai Mara

Maasai Mara is at its best during the annual wildebeest migration from July to October. But, after gnus leave the savanna, it offers enough space for big elephant herds. Besides, rhinos emerge from their bush shelters.

3. Accommodation research

This part takes most of your research time once you have chosen the destinations. Most lodges and camps don’t have a price list directly on their website, so you need to write an email to every property and get an offer.

Zebras

Booking tip: For Maasai Mara, this site with property listings was handy: www.maasaimara.com. For Amboseli, www.amboseli.com provides an overview of camps and lodges. Of course, we also checked ratings on TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook.

Choosing a good location is essential.

Rhinoceros in Maasai Mara

We recommend staying inside the park/reserve. Lodges located outside are cheaper. But you’ll lose time by driving to the park, especially early in the morning.

Sneaking baby lion in Maasai Mara

Based on your itinerary, don’t forget to book a hotel for the night after arriving/before departing in Nairobi.

4. Time for planning

During high season, good and affordable camps and lodges tend to be sold out quickly. Book at least 4-6 months in advance.

5. Budget

Well, this probably is the most restrictive thing on a safari. Good safaris cost a lot. Get ready for prices starting from USD 700 per couple per night (scroll down to see what should be included in this price). But the money is worth it.

Open Landcruiser form Enkewa watching lion

Being close to the spot of action every morning is essential. In general, high-end camps with proper equipment located inside the parks offer the best sightings.

The good thing about a safari is that there’s no place to spend more money, especially if you book all-in. (Besides tips and maybe park fees of course.)

6. What to ask in your enquiry email

Asking for the price per night in your booking is obvious. However, you should always request a list of services that are included in the offer. Here are the questions we asked:

a) How many game drives are included?
Usually, it’s two per day (morning and evening).

b) How about food and drinks?
The full board is typical. Some camps offer all-inclusive for house wine and beer.

Baby lion in Maasai Mara

c) What type of car will be used for game drives?
This is crucial. There is nothing worse than being squeezed in a stinky old minivan with plastic windows, from where you can’t get a proper view.

Always ask for an open off-road vehicle (Land Cruiser or similar).

d) Is the transfer from and to Nairobi included?
Most camps will organise a transfer from Nairobi to the park. Ask if it costs extra. Usually, flying is more comfortable and better for time management. Nevertheless, a road trip will give you insights into real-life outside national parks.

e) Are park fees included?
If not, how much are park fees per person per night?

7. Patience and persistence is a virtue

During our planning, we had to write many emails about how far along is our booking and if a deposit is needed. Sometimes you’ll need to ask the same question twice or three times before getting a proper answer. Also, about four weeks before the journey, we asked again for booking confirmation. We double-checked times of our departures and arrivals with the management.

In the end, every transfer, pick up, and check-in was very well organised without any hustle.

8. Packages we booked

In Amboseli, we stayed at Ol Tukai Lodge (2 nights), booked directly with them, and paid the full price in advance via a generated online link (like PayPal). We used the ‘flying package’ from Nairobi Wilson airport to Amboseli Airstrip and back. The full board was included. We enjoyed two game drives per day in an open Land Cruiser. Because we booked directly with them, we got an upgrade for their Kibo Villa with a stunning Kilimanjaro view.

Kilimanjaro view form Ol Tukai Lodge

In Maasai Mara, we opted for Enkewa Camp (4 nights), an unfenced tended property in the southern part of the reserve. We booked via email and paid a 50% deposit via bank transfer in advance. The offer contained all-inclusive for food and house drinks (beer, house wine), unlimited game drives including bush breakfast, lunch and sundowners, and road transfers from and to Nairobi.

Sundowner in Maasai Mara

All in all, we had a wonderful time during our self-managed safari trip without bigger mishaps. The service was excellent, and everything promised in our email communication was fulfilled.

Don’t hesitate and book independently.  

7 Replies to “Booking a safari in Kenya independently”

  1. Hi
    Wonderful reading the post. Very informative.
    My query is :
    1. Can we book the lodges on our own thru booking.com or similar websites.? Then we are free to choose if we want it full board or only breakfast, whatever?
    2. In which case how do we book the Airport pick up n everyday’s Full Day Safari?
    Is there a system where you book safaris “online” thru’ the Mara website ?

    We have this system in India…to book lodges, independent of Safari booking. Safaris are organised by Forest Department.

    Any info on this will be appreciated.
    Thanx
    Dr Rao
    India.

    Like

    1. Thank you. 1) yes, for example Amboseli Ol Tukai Lodge can be booked through booking.com. The camp we chose in Masai Mara wasn’t available on booking. I think there are only half board options, although it’s not recommended – there is no place to cook / buy something in the bush.
      2) for the airport pickup just inform your Lodge when you need to be picked up and they’ll meet you at the airstrip. As for the safari rides – just ask for full day options. There very flexible. It depends on which Lodge you chose.
      3) We didn’t find any booking option through Masai Mara website.
      I hope I could help. 😉 Veronika.

      Like

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