Other

Tipping

Tipping is not mandatory, though it is customary. Guides, drivers, waiters and hotel staff can be tipped at your discretion. Tips can be given in the local currency or US dollars though local currency is generally preferred. In camp or at your lodge, you’ll often find a box for tips. Tips given here will generally be divided among the staff.

Some suggestions:

  • Driver/guides: $10-15 per client per day, when traveling with a few people; $5-8 per client per day when traveling with a group.
  • Camps and lodges: $5 per client per night, when traveling with a few people; $2 to $3 per client per night when traveling in a group (deposited in general tips box at lodge). When on private mobile camping trip, you may want to tip more for the staff.
  • Add 10% to the cost of a restaurant bill as a tip for the server
  • Baggage porters at hotels/lodges: $1 per client, per service

When gorilla trekiing:

  • Gorilla trekking guides and trackers: $10 per client, per trek.
  • Kibale forest guides: $3 per client, per walk

The Safari Experience

Schedule

Going on safari is a truly special experience. It’s also a unique experience schedule-wise, The rhythm of the day is designed to provide you with the best game-viewing opportunities, and thus is based on the patterns of the animals’ behavior.

Your experience will differ somewhat depending on whether you are on a mobile safari or staying at a permanent tented camp/lodge, and whether you are staying in a private concession area or in a national park. However, there tends to be some similarities to the schedule.

Typically you will:

  • Go on an early morning game drive while the animals are still active. They tend to find shade and sleep during the day, especially when it’s hot. This means an early morning wakeup (about 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., earlier in summer and later in winter). A light breakfast is generally available before departing camp or a light snack is provided during the game drive.
  • Game drives can last 3-4 hours, depending on what is happening in the bush
  • A full breakfast/brunch tends to be served when you return to camp; some camps also provide lunch, depending on their particular schedule
  • Relax at camp during mid-day
  • Afternoon tea is often served around 3pm
  • Late afternoon game drive: These typically leave camp around 4 p.m.. In national parks, you need to be back to camp by sundown; in private concessions, you’re often allowed to stay out in the evening, so afternoon game drives typically range from 2-4 hours.
  • Dinner: In private concession areas, dinners can be quite late, especially if the sightings are good on the game drive and those in the vehicle are enthusiastic to follow the activity into the night!

If you have want to know more about what to expect schedule wise with your particular itinerary, just contact us.

Note about Game Drives

The type of vehicle used for game drives is often dependent on the country you are visiting and whether you’re on private concession areas or national parks. In the national parks in East Africa, mini-vans with pop up roofs are typically used, while in Southern Africa, 4×4 open-sided vehicles are commonly used.

Unless you’ve ordered a private vehicle or have enough in your party to fill up a vehicle, you will generally go out on game drives with others at the camp. It can be quite fun to share in this experience with others from the camp. With this comes some compromise on how long to stay out, whether or not to follow one animal for some time or try to see more animals, etc. If you feel having the flexibility of having your own vehicle is important to you, contact us and we’ll be happy to let you know how much the camp/lodge charges for private vehicles.

It can be quite chilly, if not downright cold, on the early morning and evening game drives, especially in the winter months. Prepare yourself for this by packing layers (see packing list) and having a sweater/fleece and a light, wind-resistant jacket. Some camps even provide blankets and water bottles in the winter. Once the sun rises in the sky and you don’t have the wind from the vehicle, you’ll generally be quite happy in a t-shirt in both summer and winter, so layering is key!

Wildlife/Safety

Always remember that the animals you are viewing are WILD. Be sure to follow the safety precautions in each camp and when out on a drive or walk. Safety precautions need to be taken seriously and followed.

Don’t ask your guide to get closer to the wildlife. They know what is appropriate and it is not worth risking your safety along with those with you to get a better photo or view … as tempting as it may seem. The behavior of wild animals can be unpredictable, especially when they are frightened. A vehicle too close to the wildlife can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal. Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities.

Credit Cards, Banking and Currency Exchange

UGANDA: Credit cards can only be used in Uganda in the city of Kampala, at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe and at the Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. They cannot be used for cash advances, and the only credit card readily accepted is Visa. Mastercard is not readily accepted and American Express not at all. Also, ATM machines are not readily available. They are at Entebbe airport and in Kampala, but often don’t work. Uganda Shillings can be changed back to U.S. Dollars at the airport on departure. Most currency exchange services will not change coins – paper currency only.

RWANDA: There are very few places in Rwanda in which a credit card can be used and visitors are encouraged not to depend on them for making purchases. Also, there are no ATM machines.

KENYA: ATM machines can be found in banks within cities; however, they don’t work much of the time. The airport in Nairobi has a working ATM machine and currency exchange booths. Outside the cities, in the rural areas, credit cards are rarely used. US Dollars are more readily accepted here than traveler’s checks, though major brands of checks are negotiable in city shops and hotels. (Smaller denominations are preferred.)

TANZANIA: The country has a cash-based economy, with the US Dollar a preferred currency. Traveler’s checks can be difficult to exchange; if you choose to use them, purchase well-known brands in small denominations. Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted on a very limited basis, mainly only in the largest shops, hotels and lodges. Most smaller lodges and hotels do not accept credit cards. Credit card transactions are subject to a surcharge of 5-10% of the cost of the item(s) purchased. ATMs are scarce on the ground and usually out of order. Do not change money on the streets no matter how favorable the rate.

GENERAL INFO: Once on safari, only cash can be used for currency conversion. Larger U.S. bills earn a better rate of exchange ($50 and $100 bills).

Travelers Checks can be changed for local currency at some airports, however, they earn a lower exchange rate than cash. If using Traveler’s Checks, bring the receipt from their purchase.

U.S. Dollars must be dated 2000 or newer and must be in good condition, not torn or defaced. Exchange currency only at authorized outlets such as banks and hotels, and exchange only what you think you will spend in-country. Re-conversion on departure may be difficult. Coins cannot be reconverted.

Save all receipts from any currency exchange transaction. You may be asked to produce them when you exit the country, and they are required if you intend to reconvert local currency.

Currency Converter: www.xe.com/ucc/

Shopping

General Guidelines

  • When prices are not marked, bargaining is the accepted practice. Barter is still an accepted (though declining) marketplace practice, with western clothing the usual currency. Cash will earn you a better deal, but you might want to see what you can negotiate in trade for your t-shirt or baseball cap.
  • Take the time to read credit card charge slips-and compute the exchange rate-before you sign them.
  • Take your purchases home with you. Even airfreight can take up to a year to arrive and, when all is said and done, actual shipping charges can be many times the amount quoted in the shop.
  • Duty taxes, if applicable, are paid as you re-enter the United States. Regardless of any assurances to the contrary, merchants cannot pre-pay duty fees on your behalf. Keep all sales receipts for items purchased throughout your trip and try and pack all items you will need to declare separately.

KENYA: Traditional safari clothing can be purchased at many outlets (including hotel arcades) in Nairobi. Shops in larger cities sell good examples of the arts and crafts of Kenya and other African countries. Other favorite souvenirs include locally woven sisal baskets and bags, lengths of colorful kikoi cloth, soapstone carvings from the Kisii District, and jewelry set with amber, tanzanite and tsavorite.

TANZANIA: Popular souvenirs include leather goods, tie-dyed and batik textiles, sisal baskets and woodcarvings. Ebony woodcarvings by Makonde craftsmen have great artistic merit and are highly prized. In situations where prices are not marked, expect to bargain your way to an acceptable price. The Maasai are famous for their beaded jewelry, which can be purchased in city galleries, roadside markets and sometimes from the Maasai themselves. Made-for-the-trade tribal artifacts—spears, shields, masks and decorated gourds—are widely available from shops and street hawkers.

Photography

  • Generally, when traveling in Africa you’ll want to bring all the film, camera batteries and other equipment you will need, as supplies may be intermittent and their quality questionable, especially outside major cities.
  • Many travelers viewing this as their “trip of a lifetime” for animal photography, bring more than one camera in case of a malfunction. Experts suggest a 35mm camera with a minimum 200mm telephoto lens for wildlife photography. Sun filters will help block glare and heat haze; a wind reduction filter may be useful for video cameras. Tripods are impractical, since most photos will be taken from your safari vehicle.
  • Film speeds should vary; you’ll have occasion to use ASAs from 100 (outdoor bright daylight) to 1,000 (night shots). Flash photography is prohibited in some nighttime situations. Wait until you return home to develop your film, as processing standards in Africa are poor.
  • Pack a dust-proof case (or sealing plastic bags) and an airbrush to protect camera equipment.
  • Etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed.
  • Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of airports, government buildings and installations, bridges and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask.
  • In East Africa, please be particularly sensitive in photo situations involving members of the Maasai tribe. Always ask for permission and determine if your intended subject expects to be paid.
  • While game viewing, be respectful of animal life and your fellow travelers. Don’t startle or otherwise disturb animals or birds for the sake of a good photo, and please remember to share good lines of sight with your vehicle mates.
  • When photographing gorillas, no flash is allowed. For film cameras, we recommend taking several different speeds of film (64 to 1000) since gorillas can be found in the open sun or in the dark underbrush of the forest.