Kenya and Tanzania Mini-review

We took this tour starting on August 22, 2018. I meant to post a review previously, as this forum was very helpful in preparing for the trip. Better late than never!
We flew on KLM through Amsterdam and opted to spend one night in Amsterdam at an airport hotel. We took the train into town, did a walking tour and a canal tour, had dinner and then took the train back to the hotel. A great way to break up the flights.
We had one extra evening in Arusha and had arranged for a safari of Arusha National Park the next morning. It was an excellent tour - we saw lots of giraffes, monkeys, baboons - and got into safari mode. The Tauck representatives that drove us and others from the airport upon arrival sort of talked this tour down, and we were happy that we did not opt out of it.
I will not go into detail about hotels, but will mention that the Serena hotels were my favorites - very authentic, excellent staff. My least favorite hotel was the Four Seasons - Serengeti. I know that others would disagree, but I thought it was very corporate, and the service, especially bar service in the pool area, did not meet expectations. Their safari guides, however, were excellent.
Food - we were very careful about what we ate - followed the boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it rules, and drank only bottled water. We did not have stomach or other problems, but quite a few others on the tour did have issues. This is not a gourmet food tour. For dinner, I more often than not ate the Indian food.
All of the game drives were spectacular. We saw all of the big five and more. The lions, including families, were plentiful. We did see Cheetahs too.
The balloon ride was great. Because of the time of year, we saw the front end of the Great Migration - lots of zebra and wildebeast. We did wait at a river for a possible crossing, but the animals were too skittish to make a move across the river. There were very large crocodiles waiting for them. That was a long day.
Clothing - we brought the typical travel pants and shirts in the recommended colors. We avoided blue, but the only place that the flies were an issue was near the Four Seasons. I was comfortable with a fleece jacket and a light weight windbreaker (which can be layered). I brought light weight walking shoes, and was happy with them, but most people wore gym shoes. We did bring buffs and used them, as that was a dry, dusty time of year.
I was happy to have a small travel flashlight with me. I wish I had brought (and have now added to my travel pack) a night light. It would have been useful at the Fairmont Mara and one of the Serena hotels.
Flying out of Nairobi was my least favorite part of the trip. While all of the security is appreciated, it also adds to the stress levels. The traffic to the airport is terrible.
The trip was outstanding and very well planned. Our tour guide was very organized, which is important for a trip such as this.

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Comments

  • Thank you for your mini-review. These often open up other questions which are helpful to future travelers. We go Aug/Sept 2020.

  • Thank you. We are also doing this tour end of Aug-Sept. Reviews like this get me excited. Loved our first trip to Africa

  • You are very welcome. This was our second Africa trip as well, having done the South Africa trip two years previously. Loved that trip too, and it made us want to do it again, but with more game drives. The numbers of animals we saw on the K & T tour was amazing.

  • Folks, re the nightlight...someone on some blog suggest using the battery powered mini candles as nightlights and that is what we are bringing with us this August. They work pretty well - tested them here first. Thanks for the review.

  • Unless there is a power outage, you will have lighting in your accommodation. Three of them are high end hotels too. An LED flashlight should be sufficient for an emergency back up.

  • edited July 17

    I wish I had brought a night light on this trip - never thought of a battery operated mini candle. Great idea ! It would have come in handy in our tent at the Fairmont Mara and at the Serena Hotel in Amboseli. I had a flashlight, but a night light would have been better.

  • We like to have a night light in the bathroom so that is why always bring one with us on trips. Even in the States.

  • Nedda Honig, 6:52PM. We like to have a night light in the bathroom so that is why always bring one with us on trips. Even in the States.

    Is your nightlight battery powered or dual voltage?!?!?!? If neither, you'll quickly burn out the bulb or have a fire hazard if the light isn't plugged into a special bathroom, 120 volt outlet. With the exception of these special outlets in some high end hotels, most outlets in overseas hotel rooms are 240 volts.

  • I’m still not sure why Nedda needs a night light. Is it for a bit of illumination in the room? Is it for inside the bathroom? We just leave the light on in the bathroom if we can’t see without it. not very economical I know. You could use the torch on your iPhone, it’s very bright. Or you could buy one of the Monster brand outlet strip, Alan S, you know the kind, maybe you have a picture readily available. It has quite a bright blue light on when it is plugged in. Some people even complain that is too bright.
    A converter is very heavy to pack and seems an excessive thing to just bring along to use for a nightlight. Any other electrical you need will not require a converter.
    You could buy a 220/240 nightlight on say Amazon UK and use that.
    Now I have run out of ideas.

  • Here's the answers... a) like a night light in bathrooms, usually lights there are too bright.
    b) battery operated mini candles don't get hot and last for 120 hours for two of them
    c) normal nightlights need to be plugged in to outlets; not dual voltage so would need a converter and adapter
    d) already bringing 2 adapters, one for Tanzania, one for Kenya, each country takes a different one. These will be used for iPhones and iPads whose charging blocks are dual voltage so no converter is needed. Not bringing apple watch as that would mean another charger to bring, so bringing older battery operated watch and solar powered watch.
    d) not bringing hair dryer, mini iron, etc. roughing it!!! LOL
    Hope these answer all your questions... remember the fewer things we bring the better because of space conditions. Oh, here's one you can all laugh at....bringing a roll of TP for each of us...for when out on Safari. Very fussy about what type we use..LOL and bringing a bunch of small packs of tissues too as we use lots of them for running noses!!!!

    Trying to be as prepared as possible!

  • And if you like your pool time, be sure to bring a swimsuit. While the water was cool, we went swimming at least three times and enjoyed it.

  • Bringing TP and hand sanitizer is a good idea! Not all of the bathrooms we stooped at on safari had TP. I think you would only need a convertor if you bring a hair dryer or curling iron that isn't dual voltage - most of them are now.

  • We have done the trip twice and never carried converters. We had iPhones, iPads, camera battery charger, and nothing ever went D E D. We always found a way to stay charged without carrying a converter. We could have easily gotten along with nothing but our stuff in our Tauck duffel, cuz we rarely opened the suit case when we had it. We did each have a flashlight, and I carry a multi-plug adapter, and one with usb ports. (Monster)

  • Yes, to the swimsuit...although a friend who was on this tour last April said that after swimming she went to a veranda that overlooked a savannah and there was a swarm of animals so she sat and watched them.

    I bring several packs of wet ones as I also wiped down the airplane seats, trays, armrests, anything that I might think is not as clean as it should be and this is even in First and Business Class which is how we are flying this trip.

  • I am trying to use just our backpacks, 1 carry on each and 1 medium suitcase for this trip. I would love to eliminate the medium suitcase but the duffels take up a lot of room and even using packing cubes I don't think I can just use the backpacks and carry ons. Our fleece jackets don't fold up and roll even bigger...packing is like doing a jigsaw puzzle!!!

  • edited July 23

    • Battery operated mini candles (LED?) sound like a good idea- bring 2 and use one at a time, just in case. Second option as British says is order a (240 volt) nightlight from Amazon UK. We use little LED flashlights- with spot and flood, magnet on back and a hook to hang up. About $4.00 (often on sale for $2.50) at Harbor Freight!

    • Most converters (which convert 240v to 120v DO NOT have a sufficient current rating to work with a US hair dryer- check the specs but you will most likely let the smoke out!!

    • adapter(s) + travel size multi-outlet strip are great so you can charge all your devices at the same time.

    This one by Monster has 4 outlets. Cord also stows neatly. Can handle all your power needs. This older version has a bright blue pilot light on the back of the plug- it is so bright I cover it with tape or whatever I can find- if not covered it makes a great night light!

    This version by NTONPOWER available on Amazon has 3 outlets and 3 USB ports- cord also stows neatly. It can also handle all your power needs:

    • We did K&T in June- the temperature of the pool water at the Four Seasons took my breath away! Brrrrrrr!!!!! :o

  • Nedda, Never ever needed a converter anywhere, be aware that Tauck’s suggested packing lists remain very generic. If you buy a travel strip, you only need one adapter that is multi-way for both countries, our travel strip has four outlets on it.
    Never taken a fleece, a lightweight feather filled jacket that rolls up very small and has its own carry bag and weighs nothing is the way to go.
    How big is your backpack? Is it the sort that folds up very small, or are you talking a backpack? Because that will count as a carry on. Then you are only allowed one suitcase. I don’t think the duffels take up a lot of room. I think you must be taking too many clothes.
    Oh dear, if you are even fussy about toilet paper, you are not going to enjoy squatting down to pee pee behind the Safari vehicle. Or go to facilities by the dirt airstrip with the broken cystern and no toilet seat, but maybe things have improved. This is such a fantastic adventure.

  • Nedda - you know what you are comfortable with regarding outerwear. The reason I like a fleece is that I bring it on the plane and pack my jacket. I tend to get cold on planes and in airports. It was cool when we arrived in Arusha. Some folks did bring puffy jackets. We did very well with a medium sized suitcase and a soft backpack which doubled as a carry-on and a go-bag for game drives. We used the laundry service in several hotels - very reasonable. Don't worry too much about the toilets. While some are rustic, the only one that was really bad was the facility at the border crossing into Kenya. By all means, bring your own TP if that is what you want. I relied on pockets stuffed with Kleenex. Others took the TP from the hotels. You definitely want something with you. The toilet facilities, or lack thereof, merely become a topic of conversation and laughs.

  • Hey, British, I've used the facilities at the bottom of a waterfall in the jungles of Guadaloupe! So that isn't a problem...LOL Backpack is a backpack but very flexible and lightweight. We were told by Tauck it was okay to use the suitcase(s) we were planning on using when I spoke to them on the phone.

    No need for feather filled jackets here in Florida, prefer fleece, except in January and February! I am pretty good at packing - used only a carry on and backpack when we did the Canyonlands by Rail Tauck tour - 10 days - no laundry service - mule ride etc.

    Yes, back pack will act as carry on on the game drives. Also will hold the camera and various other things.

  • Looks like you are all set Nedda

  • British, I hope so because I have been “over-thinking” everything! So different than our other vacations!!!

  • Africa is our favorite and we now think the easiest to pack for. I just hope I can still fit into my Safari gear ,since I’m on a Tauck tour now and stuffed with food.🤪

  • One hint someone posted somewhere was to use hotel shampoo to wash out your undies instead of having to carry/pack detergent. I wasn’t planning on packing any soaps or shampoos etc. This trip.

    Here’s another question... how much cash do you all suggest bringing with you in small bills?

  • In addition to shampoo, the bath gel can be used to wash clothes in the sink.

    We needed cash for the TD's gratuity, the Arusha National Park safari (before the start of the tour) and the Park entrance fee, as well as for tips for the staff who delivered our clean laundry and a few other minor tips. We used a credit card to pay amounts owed at hotels (cocktails, massage, gift shop, horseback ride). We used cash for very minor purchases at the Masai Village and at the shopping stop in Arusha. We brought one dollar bills (too many of them), fives, tens and twenties. In an abundance of caution, we brought extra cash in case of an emergency, after reading a post in which someone stated that cash was required to pay for some medication. That may have been overkill, but we were comfortable with our decision.

  • Lotus Girl, Yes, we always travel with some “extra emergency cash”! But you didn’t say how much you brought...we were told to bring the newer bills with the large “face” picture except Ones don’t have the larger face according to our bank. Don’t know whether to bring $200 or $300 etc. How did you break up the cash into denominations? Hard to decide. Yes, we have a designated credit card for “extras”. Will have an additional CC with us just in case places don’t accept Amex.

    Where did you do the horseback ride? Was that an optional / addition the TD found? We did a mule ride down the Grand Canyon which was exciting!

    Thanks for answering!

  • I brought $300 dollars in extra (not including tour director’s tip). I brought as much as I could collect in smaller bills. As for the horseback riding, you can do that at the Fairmont in Mt Kenya. It’s one of the many activities offered at the hotel. Since you have a bit of free time there, many decided to sign up for it. If my memory serves me right, it was $40 per person for an hour tour. Everyone who did it, loved it! You get to see the albino and the grevy’s zebras!

  • Nedda - the horseback ride was offered by the Fairmont Mt. Kenya. We booked it through the hotel the day we arrived there. Very enjoyable. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. I also had a massage there.
    I do not recall exactly how we broke up our cash. We did not have trouble getting small denomination from the bank, as we reside in a large city. I think we brought around $500 in emergency money.

  • THANKS both of you for the good answers re $$. I’ll have to mention it to husband re the horseback ride. We did a Dude Ranch when dating 50+ years ago. Oops now you know we are Seniors!!! LOL

  • I assume you didn’t need much cash when you purchase things at the various lodges. Just charge it to the room and pay by credit card

  • Anything at the hotel can be paid by credit card including the extras at the Fairmont Mt. Kenya. Purchases at the Cultural Center in Arusha can be paid with a credit card. We bring an emergency fund of around $500 ever since I read that if a hotel needs to get you a doctor these doctors most likely won't take a credit card. You need to pay them in cash.I had larger denominations for this fund. We also had a separate envelope with the tip for the tour director in US dollars. Finally, we brought $200 in smaller denominations for buying from the locals. I didn't spend that much.

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