What is the weather like in East Africa and what should I pack for my East Africa tour?

The weather in Eastern Africa can vary greatly depending on the regions in which you are traveling. The coast of Kenya and Tanzania is relatively hot and humid year round, especially January to March. At higher elevations and in mountainous regions temperatures are very pleasant year round ranging from 70-85º with little humidity. This includes Arusha, Nairobi, the Ngorongoro crater or gorilla trekking in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda or Uganda. However many people underestimate how cool East Africa can be especially during the winter months of June to August. Prepare for temperatures that can drop down to 40ºF in the evenings and much colder if climbing Mt. Kenya or Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Many layers of light breathable quick dry clothing are the best way to stay comfortable as you travel through the different ecosystems of East Africa. A waterproof jacket or poncho is also a key item for your day pack. If your safari mainly includes driving, then normal shoes will suffice. However if you are planning to do any walking safari’s or trekking, then full hiking boots are the way to go. The most common complaint we get about weather is that it was colder than expected in the mornings and evenings so remember to bring a mid-weight jacket and possibly a hat and gloves for early morning game drives, particularly in June and July.

When is the best season for travel to East Africa?

East Africa’s climatic cycles are characterized by wet and dry seasons. In southern Kenya there are two wet seasons - the long rains or "masika" from late-March to mid-June and the short rains or "mvuli" from late-October to mid-December. In Northern Tanzania the wet season tends to be between December and April or May. Uganda, which is generally wetter than Kenya and Tanzania, experiences two wet seasons in the south, April to May and October to November, and one in the north from April to October. Wildlife tends to be easier to see during the dry season as they concentrate around watering holes. However, the wet season offers fewer travelers, green savannas and triggers breeding activity for a great many species. Personally, my favorite times are at the end of February, right as the wildebeest are calving in the Southern Serengeti, and mid to late June as the migration is moving northward to the Masai Mara, the dry season is starting and the landscape is still green.

What type of transportation is used on a Kosen Safari?

We use a combination of 4-wheel Land Cruisers, Land Rovers and minibuses to maximize our viewing opportunities in the field. In Tanzania and Uganda we use Land Cruisers and Land Rovers exclusively; in Kenya several of our itineraries utilize minibuses. These vehicles feature pop-top roofs for all-around visibility, and open center aisles for flexible maneuvering when stopped. All of our vehicles conform to safety regulations and are custom-built to take the rigors of a safari. All vehicles are driven by our experienced and highly knowledgeable local guides, who are integral in explaining the intricacies of the ecological principals or animal behavior that you’ll be witnessing. Our vehicles provide maximum safety as well as ease of viewing. Many of our safaris take place in national parks and reserves, whose regulations require us to stay inside our vehicles due to danger from wild animals.

What are the accommodations like on a Kosen Safaris tour?

One of the most important aspects of your safari is maximizing the amount of quality time in the field; there is so much to experience that we don’t want to miss anything. We choose not only quality lodges and luxury tented camps with en suite facilities, but consider their locations foremost in our planning. Our accommodations are located within national park and reserve boundaries whenever possible, to start each morning closer to the wildlife. The lodges we choose, as well as many of the tented camps, feature spectacular scenery, comfortable furnishings, and friendly and accommodating staff. Some even offer swimming pools for relaxing after a long safari drive! Note that while we make every effort to offer superior facilities, occasionally there may be a particular location that necessitates us to stay in more mobile tented camps.

Is it safe to travel in East Africa?

It is safe to travel to East Africa, as long as you take reasonable precautions. If you wouldn’t wander around a campsite at night in bear country at home, don’t do it while staying at a tented camp in the Serengeti. In Nairobi you should take the same precautions that you would in any large unknown city. Don’t walk around at night, and check with the bellman or concierge about areas you should avoid.

What is the wildebeest migration and when is it?

The endless plains of east Africa are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle - the 1.5 million animal ungulate (wildebeest) migrations. From the vast Serengeti plains to the champagne colored hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara over 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators, migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain ripened grass. . It usually takes about 6 weeks for all of the herds to cross into the Mara and disperse over the northern grasslands. Beginning in November they head south back into Tanzania and the southern Serengeti where calving occurs. Estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week period early each year - January and mid-March. In April the cycle begins once more. There is no real beginning or end to a wildebeest's journey. Its life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. The only beginning is at the moment of birth.

What kinds of animals will I see while in East African safari tour?

In addition to the famous "Big 5" (elephant, rhino, lion, Cape buffalo, and leopard), East Africa hosts a wide variety of animals in diverse habitats. Antelopes are notable with about 40 different species, including elands, waterbuck, gerenuk, topis, hartebeest, impala, gazelles, and the diminutive dik-diks. These, along with herds of zebras and wildebeest, serve as the main prey for the ever-hungry carnivores such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs. It is always a treat to see roving bands of mongoose and comical warthogs. East African Rivers are alive with hippopotamus and opportunistic Nile crocodiles. Primates are well-represented with olive and yellow baboons, vervet, blue and red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus and Uganda’s rare great apes - chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. The forests host a wide array of butterflies. Nile monitor, leopard tortoise and a handful of lizards are also encountered.

What kinds of birds can be seen on safari in East Africa?

East Africa features an amazing diversity of bird life with about 1400 species recorded. A 14-17 day bird-focused safari might yield more than 500 species. There are a large number of avian families that are endemic to Africa, including mouse birds, turacos, guinea fowl, ground hornbills, barbets, secretary birds, ostrich, shoebill and hamerkop. Many colorful species dazzle the eye - kingfishers, bee-eaters, flamingos, stunning lilac-breasted Rollers, stately grey-crowned cranes, and saddle-billed storks. Palearctic migrants from Europe and Asia spend their winters in equatorial Africa, from September through April. The crab-plover, a much sought-after migrant, can be readily found on the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts.

What are the roads like while traveling on safari in East Africa?

Many of the roads in East Africa are hard packed gravel and because of their heavy use they’re often rutted. Guides joke that it’s the “safari massage”. While there are some beautifully paved roads (from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru, Arusha to the Ngorongoro Highlands, Entebbe to Kibale Forest) in general you will be on rougher gravel roads. If you have back problems we recommend minimizing driving with internal flights.

How many people are typically on your East African safaris?

Our standard Land Cruisers allow for a maximum of six travelers, plus a guide/driver. Our maximum group size is generally 12. It is not uncommon to have group sizes smaller than 10, which will give you more exclusive time in the vehicle with your driver/guide.

What will I experience on a game drive on an East African safari tour?

There are usually two game drives per day, one in the morning lasting about 3-5 hours, and one in late afternoon which lasts about 3 hours. Our drivers are not limited by the amount of driving that they can do in a day and are masters in reading the environment to place you in the most promising locations to wildlife. In addition to seeing the wildlife, there are always opportunities for spontaneity in our tours. Whether that is stopping to speak with a Maasai heading his cattle, or part take in festivities being held a nearby village we try to stop and take in whatever is happening on that day.

How does a day on safaris look like?

Parks and reserves are typically open from sunrise to sunset. We like to maximize our time in the field, so we usually take an early breakfast and head out at 6:30 for our morning game drive, returning late-morning. While we will likely see wildlife at any time of the day, early morning gives us a better chance of finding nocturnal species such as Leopard or cats at a kill and wildlife is most active first thing in the morning. Lunch is around 12:30 and a short rest period for both participants and wildlife follows. At 3:30 we head out for our afternoon game drive returning around 6:30. We have dinner at 7:30 and complete our checklist at that time. Be prepared for a great deal of excitement!

What Kind of food do I expect while on safari?

There is a good selection of international cuisine, including vegetarian choices. Fresh fruits, tasty desserts, and hot beverages are readily available. Breakfast portions are ample, with plenty of coffee and tea. At times when we are in the field or enroute, we will bring boxed lunches with us for a picnic. Depending on the lodge meals may be buffet or plated.

What about night game drives on safari in East Africa?

National Parks do not allow anyone to be out after sunset, the official closing time is usually 6:30pm, at which time you're expected to be back in camp or at least on your way there. However, there are a few lodges that run night game drives outside National Parks and we include these as part of our itinerary whenever possible. Night game drives usually last for 2 to 3 hours beginning just after sunset or after dinner. These give us an opportunity to see a variety of nocturnal creatures such as bush babies, porcupines, genets, nightjars and owls.

Is gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda difficult?

Yes, it can be. Trekking for gorillas can be a hike of 15 minutes to 3 hours, depending on where the gorillas are located. Mountain Gorilla habitat is from 6000-9000 feet, and you will generally be hiking through forest rather than on maintained trails. If you're planning on trekking for gorillas we recommend that you be in decent shape. Consider hiring a local porter to carry your gear and bringing leather gardening gloves so that if you slip and reach out for a branch it won't matter if it's covered in thorns.

What are the visa and passport requirements for travel to East Africa?

A current passport valid for up to 6 months after the return date of your trip is needed to travel anywhere in East Africa. U.S. citizens also need a visa for entry into Tanzania, Kenya or Uganda. No visa is required for entry into Rwanda. It is highly recommended to acquire your visa prior to arrival. The standard 90 day tourist visa is valid for up to one year from the date of issue and applications and directions may be found at the respective Embassy website. For additional assistance or express service we recommend Generations Visa Service which is a third party visa obtaining service.
Kenya Embassy Website: Kenya Embassy
Tanzania Embassy Website: Tanzania Embassy
Uganda Embassy Website: Uganda Embassy
Rwanda Embassy Website: Rwanda Embassy
Generations Visa Service: Generations Visa

Will I need any vaccinations, immunizations or special medications for an East Africa safari vacation?

Certain medications and/or immunizations are recommended or required for traveler visiting East Africa. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended but not required unless you are traveling in between more than one African country. Malaria is known to occur in Tanzania and Kenya and malaria prophylaxis is recommended. When you put down a deposit for any Kosen safaris, our destination expert will provide detailed information about health precautions and possible immunizations for travel to your destination. Our staff is not licensed medical professionals, however, we do know the exact areas, environments and conditions under which you will be traveling, all of which can affect the relative risk of exposure and help you make a decision concerning immunizations and prescription medicines. All travelers should consult their physician or a travel health clinic and refer to the Center for Disease Control website for complete information on health considerations in your destination.

Is East Africa a good destination for family safaris?

Yes, travel to East Africa can be incredibly rewarding for families. We provide excellent kid friendly guides and try to limit the amount of time spent in a vehicle on all of our family safaris in East Africa. There are always opportunities for stops along the way to interact in local communities and visit markets or schools. For families with children 7 years and up, Tanzania and Kenya are excellent introductions into East African culture and wildlife while Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia are recommended for children 10 years and older.

As a single traveler, do I need to pay a single supplement if I am willing to share accommodations?

If we are able to pair you up with another single traveler willing to share accommodation then there will be no additional single supplement. However, if we are unable to find a suitable match prior to your trip departure then the single supplement fee will apply.

What is the local currency in East Africa? Are U.S. dollars accepted? Do I need local currency before I arrive?

In Tanzania the local currency is the shilling (TSH) and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is around 1,500:1. Kenya's currency is the Kenyan shilling (KSH) and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is around 80:1. Rwanda's currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF) and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is around 600:1. Uganda's currency is the Ugandan shilling (UGX) and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is around 2,300:1. Ethiopia's currency is the Ethiopian birr (ETB) and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is around 17:1. U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted at many of the hotels and lodges however the exchange rate is generally not as favorable compared to an exchange borough. How much cash you will need on hand depends largely upon w here you are going and how much time you will be in country. For a typical 10-12 day safari we recommend brining at least $350-500 USD total per person and exchanging $150-200 USD per person into local currency at the airport or at an exchange burrow in one of the major cities.

Can I use credit or debit cards while on an East Africa safari tour? Are ATMs available?

You can use a credit card to pay for extra hotel charges in Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali and Arusha, but it's difficult to use a credit card outside of major cities. Remember that charges will be in local currency so your credit card company may charge you a fee in addition to a poor exchange rate. Local currency of USD is the easiest form of payment in East Africa.

What is the electrical current in East Africa? Do I need plug adaptors?

Electricity is supplied at all lodges and at most permanent tented camps, however it is not available at mobile camps. Generators are run during the day to recharge video or digital camera batteries. In lodges and hotels (where it is available) electrical current is 220 or 240 volts and the outlet is a type-G British three-pin rectangular pronged plug. You will need a plug adapter and a converter may be required for some American devices, while others (computer, camera, cell phone) usually can handle up to 240 volts. Make sure to double check the voltage requirements of your device and bring a converter if necessary.

Can I drink the water when traveling in East Africa?

Tap water is generally unsafe in East Africa and it's recommended that you drink only bottled water which is widely available and relatively inexpensive. Bottled water is provided in the safari vehicles for all of our game drives and in the bathrooms at the lodges for brushing your teeth.

Is internet service available on your East Africa adventure tours?

In major cities (Arusha, Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali) some lodges or major hotels do have internet access but it is slow and not reliable. Outside of major cities you may find an internet connection but its speed will likely be extremely slow and frustrating. Plan to unplug while on an East Africa safari!

Will my cell phone work while on an East Africa safari adventure?

This is a good question for your cell phone service provider. To work internationally, you'll most likely need a cell phone which uses a "GSM" network which is most widely used globally. In the U.S. AT&T and T-Mobile operate GSM networks while Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and several smaller carriers such as U.S. Cellular use the "CDMA" network which has less worldwide coverage than GSM. You'll want to check with your service provider regarding international coverage and make sure you understand exactly what you'll be charged for making calls and, if you have a smart phone, for using data (email/internet). Rates can be extremely expensive and we've heard horror stories of travelers returning home to find unexpectedly large bills for using their phone while traveling. Due to this, we generally recommend you unplug and don't use your cell phone while traveling. Your guides will be able to give you the best options for calling home and loved ones can contact you using the local phone numbers we provide on your final itinerary or Kosen's 24-hour emergency number. We recommend reviewing CNET's World Phone Guide for more information on international cell phone coverage.

Do your East Africa safaris include international airfare? Do you have recommendations for the best routing and airlines for travel to East Africa?

International airfare is not included in our prices for East Africa safaris, but we are happy to help you with reservations and booking. If you are going on safari in Tanzania, KLM is the best carrier as they are the only carrier who has non-stop flights into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) outside of Arusha where most of our safari tours commence. If you are flying to Nairobi, Kenya there are many options including KLM, British, and Virgin Atlantic. For flights to Kigali, Rwanda KLM has daily non-stop flights from Amsterdam, many other airlines connect through Nairobi. To Entebbe, Uganda, Brussels Airlines has non-stop flights from Europe and many other airlines connect through Nairobi. Most of these airlines are partner airlines with U.S. carriers so you may be able to use airline miles or book your entire flight itinerary through a U.S. airline.

Can I create a custom safari tour of East Africa?

Yes, our safaris can be customized to focus on birding, photography, wildlife or other general interests of the participants. In fact, nearly all itineraries are developed based on the desires of our customers. Our safaris provide the perfect adventure for families, couples or individuals and we are happy to cater to special interests and requests.