Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the most obvious but not so obvious for first time travellers to Africa will be answered here. This is not an exhaustive FAQ session but as a pointer to some of the most knowledgebase questions oftenly asked. You are free to ask our tour consultants any questions you may have and we shall do our very best to answer them as comprehensively as possible.
Why should i go on safari to East Africa?
Africa remains the last outpost of raw adventure, a refuge from the modern world. From the splendor of the Serengeti to the Masai Mara teeming with herds of a million wildebeest, to the pristine beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater, to the scenic viewing of game parks and reserves; this ancient land and its people offer a travel experience truly unlike any other. Eastern Africa in particular, in our opinion, provides travelers with the highest quality African wildlife and wilderness experience available.
When is the best time to travel to East Africa to view wildlife?
Wildlife viewing is, in part, predicated on the amount of surface water available. During the rains (November through April) wildlife is scattered as there is abundant surface water (puddles, perennial rivers) to drink. Once the rains end (mid April) wildlife congregates around remaining surface water supplies (pools, lakes, and large rivers).
Kenya is a year round destination with excellent game viewing. One of Kenya’s greatest attractions is the annual wildebeest migration between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This takes place between June and September.
Traditional peak season is January to March as this is when the weather is hot and dry and most comfortable for travelling. This is a good time for bird viewing on the Rift Valley lakes. Game viewing at perennial water holes is also good at this time. April – June and October – December are the rainy seasons and flooding sometimes occurs. However, it is usually possible to get around easily during these times and the rains do not hinder visibility.
In East Africa safaris are best enjoyed during the periods mid December through the beginning of March and during the period June through mid October each year.
What is the weather like in East Africa?
In general East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) experiences dry weather during the months June through October. There are two rainy seasons - the long rains which fall March through May and the short rains which arrive in mid October and continue until mid December. Temperatures are moderate throughout the year with average daytime temperatures around 70 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. June and July are the coolest month as it is mid winter. Evenings and mornings are often chilly, with cold nighttime temperatures at Ngorongoro Crater due to altitude.
Our family wants to enjoy a safari. Are children allowed on safari?
The majority of safari lodges and camps in East Africa allow children. However some lodges such as the Ark, Larsen and Tree Tops have a minimum age limit of 8 years of age. This is because animals are situated near the water hole and might be annoyed by the noise.
Is it mandatory to have travel comprehensive insurance?
It is a good idea for all travelers to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan before trip departure. This should cover you for events such as trip cancellation, delay or interruption, lost or delayed baggage, emergency accident, sickness and evacuation, accidental death, common carrier, 24 hour medical assistance, traveller's assistance, and emergency cash transfer. Top Africa Safaris does not offer this service but could offer assistance if required when booking a safari.
Is tipping recommeded?
Tipping at restaurants (at your discretion) is 10%. Tipping on safaris, at lodges and camps is always welcomed but the amount varies greatly. It is often best to tip the drivers, guides and lodge manager who will distribute your tip amongst the lodge or camp staff. As a rough estimate you can tip US $5 to US $10 for each traveler per day at each lodge / camp. Alternatively you can give the tips to the camp or lodge manager who will make sure that all those who are involved will get a share of the money.
Should we purchase local currency?
US cash or travelers checks may changed into local currency at airports and banks. Small bills (US $1, US $5, US $10, and US $20) are best. Always keep your receipt so that when you depart you may change your money back to US dollars.
What is there to buy in East Africa?
Shopping while on safari is limited. Often lodges and camps have small curio shops where you can buy postcards, local goods such as carvings or books, clothing (hats, shirts), and film. At airports and in larger towns you will find African curio markets where you can by all sorts of carvings, masks, drums, jewelry etc...in general souvenirs and curios are inexpensive (in US dollar terms) - still, fun spirited bartering is the norm.
In most cities there are upmarket jewelers and art galleries where you can easily spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on African art. Most reputable shops offer shipping of your purchase at extra cost.
How much money should i bring in cash or travelers cheque? Are credit cards accepted?
You will need very little spending money on most safaris as the majority of meals and activities are included in your package cost. You will need to pay for lunch, dinner, and drinks when you are staying at hotels on a bed and breakfast basis as is the case at most lodges and hotels in cities. Bills may be settled by US cash, by travelers check, or by credit card (accepted at most lodges, camps, hotels).
Credit cards may be used in large towns at restaurants and shops with MasterCard and Visa being most accepted. However, use may be restricted in small towns and country areas and non-existent in small retail shops.
Automatic teller machines (ATM's) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities in East Africa, and international credit cards often can be used to withdraw currency. However, as Africa is unpredictable please do not rely on ATM machines for your currency needs.
What types of vehicles are used on safari for wildlife viewing?
Top Africa Safaris will conduct their safaris in minibuses, closed Land Cruisers seating 5 passengers or more (all with window seats) with a guide and have roof hatches specially adopted for game viewing. A number of East African safari lodges / camps offer open sided 4x4 vehicles for game viewing.
How do we get around in Africa?
While on safari you will be transferred between lodges, camps, hotels, and different national parks by road, boat and air. Air travel is the most convenient method of moving between destinations. Depending upon your choice of safari you may travel by scheduled flights. The majority of commercial airlines use modern jet or turbo prop aircraft. Alternatively guests may fly aboard smaller single, or twin, engine charter aircraft seating 6 to 10 people.