Travelling to Kenya is a dream come true for many and planning such a holiday can be so exciting. I visited this beautiful country back in 2013 and had such a good time that I didn’t want to come home! In today’s post, I’m going to share with you a bit of information about booking such a holiday from choosing flights and applying for the Kenya visa to where to stay and what to do. So let’s jump into it!
One of the most life changing holidays that I have ever been on was when I flew to Kenya with Thomson, who are now known as TUI. It was back in December 2013 and I’d had a really tough year with my health. I needed time to relax, chill out and rest both physically and mentally. I spotted a late deal to Kenya which combined a beach destination holiday with a safari in the Tsavo National park. The trip seemed like a dream come true and around 6 weeks later, it was brought to life.
Kenya is a holiday that I will always remember and I am so pleased that I was able to have such a life changing experience there. The landscape is beautiful, the people are some of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet and the animals are breathtaking. That’s before I’ve even got started on the incredible weather, amazing entertainment and faultless hospitality. I hope that this post will give you an insight into such a memorable trip that still sticks vividly in my mind now and why it is one holiday that I will remember for the rest of my life, as well as some tips for if you’re travelling to Kenya now or in the future.
IS KENYA SAFE TO TRAVEL TO?
First and foremost, if you’re thinking of going on holiday to Kenya from the UK, then it is very important that you check the Kenya Travel Advice page on the governments website. This will advise on threats of terrorism, security and alike. At one point not so long after my holiday, all but essential travel to Kenya was stopped from the UK and package holiday companies such as Thomson, withdrew the sale of future holidays from their site in a bid to protect holidaymakers. Situations change with destinations all over the world and different countries will have different warnings from time to time. Currently, travel to Kenya is allowed now once again and you can book this separately online or as a package holiday with companies like Virgin Holidays.
DO YOU NEED A VISA FOR KENYA?
If you’re travelling to Kenya, you will need a visa which can either be applied for online before you go or completed when you get to the airport. No one likes hanging around in the airport so my advice would be to fill out a Kenya visa application form online in advance of your travel so that you’ll reduce the amount of queuing you’ll need to do at the airport when you get there and you can focus on getting to your hotel and starting to relax!
VACCINATIONS FOR KENYA
When you’re travelling to Kenya, being adequately vaccinated is an absolute must. Check out the Kenya page on the NaTHNaC website for the most up to date information and make sure to book an appointment at your local travel clinic. Many doctors surgeries offer a travel clinic on certain days throughout the month, usually with a nurse but theres also a travel clinic service that’s available through Boots and Superdrug. This is a private service so will cost more than going to your doctor for some injections that you may be able to get on the NHS but it comes with the benefit of having more appointment times so if you’re pushed for time, you’re more likely to get one of those appointments.
I combined the two when I went to Kenya as I needed some of my routine injections brought up to date which I had through the NHS but at the time, a Yellow Fever vaccine and certificate was needed to enter Kenya and there was a shortage of the vaccine in the UK at the time so I had to go privately. My doctors didn’t have any of the vaccine but I was able to get booked in with the Boots travel clinic to have it done, this was more costly than if I’d had to pay through my doctor but it was worth it to keep me safe while travelling. You can also find a list of doctors online in your area who are able to administer this vaccine and you can call them to check their stock and to book an appointment, even if they’re not your own doctors.
When you are travelling to Kenya, anti malaria tablets are an absolute must and these need to be organised in advance of your travel as many need to be taken before you go as well as during your trip and shortly after your return. Malaria is present in Kenya and it is vital that you do not travel without the tablets and a mosquito net. No holiday is worth the risk.
In Kenya, the currency used is the Kenyan Shilling and I’d definitely recommend getting some exchanged before you travel if you think that you’re going to be spending out and about. I generally save up my spending money and get a proportion of it exchanged prior to travel and then I take the rest in pounds sterling just incase I need it. Many hotels will be able to exchange currency for you too but you’ll just need to work out how much you’ll need and what opportunities you’ll have to spend depending on your board basis and what you’ll be doing while away. Realistically if you’re travelling on an all inclusive basis, you’re not going to need that much money but I would encourage you to buy from locals if you can, especially when going on safari as there are some gorgeous hand carved models and things that you can buy from sellers who will come up to the van. There’ll also be people selling drinks and snacks at the side of the van when you’re on the ferry which are very welcome, especially after an early start and a long day on the road.
I found that food bought from locals was cheap but I did need to buy an extra SPF 50 while out there from the pharmacy and since it was an imported brand, it was so very expensive. Lesson learned though and now I always over pack on sun protection on every single trip. I’ve never ran out since; I’d rather take less clothes and more SPF both from a cost and a protection perspective!
I visited Kenya in December and the weather was absolutely scorching hot at around 32 degrees celsius each day and not a drop of rain, although a few days were a little overcast at times. Even at night, the air was still so hot and it really didn’t let up over the course of the trip so air conditioning, plenty of cold drinks and lots of high factor sun cream was a must. It is important to remember that Kenya is situated on the equator so the sun is very strong. I am always so careful with my SPF, I always wear either a 30 or a 50 while I’m away and when in Kenya, I wore a factor 50 for the whole trip, regularly spent time in the shade, wore a wide brimmed floppy hat and even wore a t shirt in the pool but still the sun was too strong for me and on the second day, I had the worst, most painful sun burn of my whole life. This is so dangerous and incredibly damaging to the skin. Not only does the this encourage premature skin ageing but it also puts the skin at a higher risk of skin cancer. So PLEASE learn from my pain and be extra vigilant when in the Kenyan sunshine.
WHERE TO STAY IN KENYA
For a beach holiday, I couldn’t recommend the Baobab Beach Resort and Spa more highly. It is located on Diani Beach, just south of Mombasa. Its a big hotel with plenty of buffet restaurants but its quite spread out so you don’t feel as though its too over crowded. It has 3 fabulous swimming pools that you’ll always get a comfy lounger around. Some days there would be a large reptile that would wander around the pool, seeking shade but a couple of times I saw it scale the sides of the pool and swim across! It must have been a little too hot and needed to cool off. The first few times I saw it, it gave me a fright but I quickly settled into the hotel and realised it was harmless!
Theres even a spa at the hotel which does very good treatments; I tend to like to have a massage while I’m away but this time I had a facial as my body was still recovering from an accident.
The hotel is set up high with a stunning beach in front of it. The fabulous beach is great to look at but you are surrounded and harassed to buy things from beach sellers the moment you step foot onto the beach. It’s understandable really as people are only trying to make a living but it can feel intimidating so just be wary and keep your wits about you, as you would back in the UK. The beach is beautiful to look out onto, especially as you’ll often see camels walking up it.
The entertainment at the Baobab Beach Resort and Spa is what really stood out to me during my stay. Every day the entertainment team would be out around the pool and each night the shows that the entertainment team would put on would be really stellar; very well rehearsed and executed with acrobatics, dance and different themes set to music. I particularly loved seeing the traditional African dancing. The whole open-air amphitheatre would come alive and it was clear that everyone really loved what they saw from the young kids to the adults.
The hospitality at the Baobab is second to none. The staff go above and beyond for you and are the most kind, friendly and helpful people you could ever wish to meet. Please, if you’re able to, tip them and if there are any clothes, tablets like paracetamol or beauty products, etc that you don’t really need, consider leaving them for the staff.
The rooms at the Babobab were very comfortable indeed. There were main building blocks and then smaller blocks with only two or four rooms; I was in one of these. The room was spacious with a big, comfortable four poster bed and a great shower in the bathroom.
The food at the hotel is absolutely delicious and you’ll always find something that you like. I think that even the fussiest of people would be catered for. The chefs are fantastic with each dish cooked to perfection, especially the show cooking and they’re really helpful in being able to tell you exactly whats in each dish. They have different themed nights in the restaurants too which helps to mix it up. I didn’t once get bored of the cuisine which can sometimes happen when you’re going to a buffet for two weeks. I loved going to eat a little later in the evening as the restaurants were quieter and the setting felt more intimate. I always went to the smaller of the three restaurants and it didn’t feel as though I was at a buffet at all as it was really well paced and you didn’t feel rushed to get out to let others in to dine.
Something to keep in mind with this hotel is that wild monkeys roam free which really is a sight to behold. It is such a unique experience but you do need to be careful not to leave your balcony door open as they will enter and ransack your things! One day I’d just got out of the shower and went through into the bedroom to find a small monkey sat on the balcony eating Haribo sweets from a share bag! I later discovered that they had been pinched from next doors balcony along with some of Kenya’s version of Pringles which I then saw him eating on the balcony too. Very cute although I’m not too sure monkeys should be enjoying such snacks!
The monkeys give a whole new meaning to the word cheeky monkey. They’re so playful and mischievous, often pinching the pot of sugar cubes or a croissant from elevenses. The only ones I didn’t feel so safe around were the big baboons. There wasn’t many but they did make me feel a bit unsettled. The staff are absolutely fabulous though as they are used to the wildlife so they make sure that you’re ok.
WHAT TO DO
When visiting Kenya, the one thing to do without a doubt is to go on safari. From the Baobab, I had the option of the two Tsavo reserves which came as a package with the stay at the beach hotel through Thomson however the Maasai Mara is also an option when visiting Kenya and from this region near Nairobi, it would be accessible via helicopter or a short flight, whereas the Tsavo nature reserve was a drive away.
As I’d booked the safari tour and the beach holiday through Thomson, it meant that when it came to going on the safari, I had the hassle of packing up my things, checking out of the room and leaving the majority of my possessions in my suitcase in a safe store at the hotel reception, taking only a small backpack with my essentials in with me on the safari. In hindsight, should I visit Kenya again (which I really hope to!) then I would book everything separately to get a cheaper deal, book the hotel for the full duration of the trip and book the safari while at the hotel (there was a great local tour operator guide based at the hotel) so that I could leave my things in the room without having to check out while going on the safari.
The safari at the Tsavo reserves was absolutely incredible. There was only 4 of us in an 8 seater mini van which had raised roof hatches on the top for fame viewing. The driver served as our guide and spoke fabulous English so he could be understood with ease. I stayed in a variety of lodges during the safari which lasted for 4 nights and each was comfortable and clean but basic and rustic which I did expect and only added to the character of the trip.
We saw 4 of the Big 5 in what was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Going on a safari is a life changing experience to see such incredible creatures in their natural habitat and I would urge anyone of you to make a concerted effort to go during your lifetime.
Something to keep in mind when travelling to Kenya is that the division of wealth across the whole of the African continent is so vast and especially so in Kenya. Many people are without clean running water and sanitary facilities, it is heartbreaking and really makes you appreciate what we have back in the UK that we often take for granted. I cannot fathom how we have billionaires in the world yet there are people living without clean water.
With that in mind, if you are travelling to Kenya, I would urge you to take some supplies with you that can be donated. This can be at the local orphanages or to people on the streets or surrounding fields when travelling to or from your safari.
When I travelled to Kenya, I took only a small amount of clothing and instead filled a suitcase full of toothbrushes, colouring pencils, colouring books and the like to give out to children we saw while driving back from the safari. The guide helped us to make sure that the items were evenly distributed. It was an incredibly humbling experience to see children of all ages displaying such gratitude, so happy with such a small gesture.
Since I visited right before Christmas, it made me think of the amount of kids in developed countries who would wake up disappointed at not getting the latest games console yet these children were so excited over a toothbrush. It really does put life into perspective over what is important and the love that these kids clearly had for one another and such a zest and happiness for life was unreal.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO KENYA
Always pack plenty of bottles of SPF 50 sun protection as the sun is incredibly hot and strong, so you’ll want a hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun also. Make sure you have pocket tissues and hand sanitiser with you if you leave your hotel and especially if you are going on safari. Keep in mind that while your accommodation may have western toilets, once you leave there you may not be afforded such luxuries. Always take your own mosquito net with you and plenty of repellent. I like to wear the Avon Skin So Soft Dry Body Oil coupled with a high deet spray.
Finally, it goes without saying to take your camera with you. Kenya will provide you with many incredible opportunities for photographs and capturing once in a lifetime memories that cannot be missed. Sure its best to live in the moment but it’s also great to be able to take a reminder of your time home with you.
Most of all, enjoy it. My trip to Kenya really changed me. It was such a humbling experience. The people are so beautiful and such loving, funny and generous souls and the landscape of the country is stunning. An incredible country with so much to offer that really needs to be seen to be believed.
I hope that my guide to Kenya has given you a taste of what to expect when travelling there. Should you have any questions, please do pop them down below and I’ll endeavour to answer them.
Have you travelled to Kenya before? How did you enjoy it?