Subject: to Eureka - Jambo and Harebuni Kenya2
Jambo Erika:

I receive a message from some friendly Toronto people that you might be the lady who corresponded with me about going to East Africa. Here some more new in addition to what I sent yesterday:

Best seasons: Usually from late October to late March the temperatures are a bit lower. Along the coast you will find tropical conditions. The weather is hot and humid at any time, but around September and October it is less hot.

Road Conditions: Most main arteries are in very good shape, but as you get into the bush roads are rough on cars and for certain areas 4-wheel drive is required.

Transport: You can rent a car, but you can also take the train, or buses. Buses are the cheapest way of getting around and you can mix and mingle with the locals. However, you would have to make different arrangements for games parks, as buses only go to villages.

An over-night train runs from Nairobi to Mombasa; sort of old colonial thing with wooden coaches, and an experience all by itself. (I used to live in the old Rhodesia for a while when I was still very young and we had the same type of trains. They make you love trains again.) In the early morning hours just after sunrise you might be able to watch big game from the train as it passes through a game park (I emphasize might). Travel 1st or 2nd class, but do not travel 3rd of 4th(if it still exists). For whatever reasons you can take a bus full of local people and no one gets upset, but if you ride a lower class on train, they think you are cheap and make you feel it.

If you know how to ride, horseback safaris are frequently offered and quite enjoyable.

The larger lakes have ships which take you anywhere you want go(tongue in cheek). However, every time I was there the border between Tanzania and Kenya via Lake Victoria was closed. That could be an interesting trip, though, but you will have to find out in Nairobi wether there is a cross-border run; make sure you get the correct information! We have a saying: Nothing ever changes in Africa, but everything changes quickly, meaning it is neither Europe nor North-America, or New Zealand. If a ship engine breaks then the route might be closed for months.

Accommodation in game parks range from super comfort and super expensive to self-catering rondavels (round houses with bed, shower, and kitchen). The Forest Department also runs low cost guest houses throughout the country. Every game park has camp grounds with showers and (often, but not all the time) kitchen access. If you are interested in camping take a small cooker with you and other kitchen utensils; just for in case. Although, you can camp anywhere in Kenya's bush, I suggest that you only stay at guarded places.

Electricity: 220V 50Hz

Lakes: If you come from Tanzania or are on the way to it you can travel via Lake Victoria located in Southern Kenya. I don't know, however, what the border situation is these days, see above explanation.

In Northern Kenya you can pay a visit to Lake Turkana, not far from Mount Kenya with its glaciers and and snow capped peak.

The Great Rift Valley is simply a must. Go to Lake Naivasha, which has an abundance of bird life. From there drive to Hell's gate with its hot springs. Continue to Nakuru, the capital of the highlands (sheepskin products used to be very cheap there, but it you are from NZ, then they are probable not what you need). Once in Nakuru you can climb to the Menengai Crater's rim, from which you have a good few over the land. While you are there pass by at Lake Nakuru with its hundreds of flamingos. Especially interesting are the forests you will encounter up there.

National Parks are plentiful throughout the country and most have big game from elephants to lions; throw in the occasional leopard.

The Tsavo National Park is enroute from Nairobi to Mombasa and holds all the big game you can possibly think of.

The Amboseli National Park and the Masai Mara National Reserve are in the south of the country and not far from Tanzania. It is also one of Kenya's best areas for big game, and you can see Mount Kilimanjaro from there. All this is Masai land and you will find plenty of cattle and their owners in between the game.

The Mount Kenya National Park has many glaciers. You can also go to the (in)famous Mount Kenya Safari Club (not my cup of tea) once you get there.

The coast: You will find good sandy beaches everywhere. Malindi is to the north of Mombasa, Diani to the south. I personally find Diani better. Both are completely commercialized, but Diani still has (had?) a personal touch.

Lakes and rivers: I mentioned some of the lakes already, but there are also many rivers that provide excellent fishing. Try to catch some river trout.

People: In the cities you better keep to yourself, never mind how world open and educated the person who approaches you seems to be. There is a whole industry of crooks out there making a living off tourist and, believe me, a good one! If you want a tour, only take an official guide from the city or tourist office. DO NOT take one off the street who shows you some sort of certificate.

The people in the small villages are a different story. That's where you will find the real Africa. They are generally very nice people. They like to laugh a lot, are helpful and they share. If you give them a little respect, level with them, and don't find their living conditions openly uneuropean, you can spend several day in a village. It is a bit noisy at night as they like to party, but you may be lucky and be able to listen to some impromptu african choirs. I stayed in villages over night from Cape Town to Kairo, but suggest people from overseas should only do it, if they feel comfortable. Give them small gifts in return for offers of food and drink. Men usually like tobacco in form of cigarettes or lose (mostly in form of a ball of leaves). They like beer too. If you give money, give within reason only. The equivalent of US$3 is sufficient.

I hate to say that, but Kenya, like most of Africa, is a man's country. No one will trouble you if you stay in a village, if you don't wish to be troubled, but it is always better to have a caucasian male companion with you, if not at least one girlfriend. Due to volunteers they got a bit more used to european females travelling alone, but it is still not comfortable.

Safety: I have come across a hundred snakes and I have never got bitten by one. Some tourists come across one and manage to end up in hospital.

1 In the bush walk slowly. Give animals time to get out of your way.

2 In game parks don't leave the car, unless an experience guide is with you. Our animals are WILD ANIMALS(!), AND I CAN'T REPEAT THIS OFTEN ENOUGH! The accident rate of local people concerning animals is almost zero, but we always have some tourists who end up in trouble. It can mean severe injuries or dead. They just don't get it.

3 If you sleep outside cities turn over your shoes in the morning and check your pockets carefully. Scorpions tend to go there and their sting is very painful.

5 If you go to the coast, start taking malaria tablets BEFORE you leave home. You might also want to take hepatitis shots in advance.

4 Other than that just common sense and plenty of anti mosquite cream, spray, whatever.

That's it for today.