January 6, 2011

How To Go On Safari [On A Budget]

Because I'm basically an expert now, I'd thought I'd let you in on how it's done...

 1. Rent your own safari van. (Ignore the fact that every other pop-top van you will be seeing will be marked with a company logo and driven by a Kenyan guide while your driver is Safari Bill, aka your father. Accept that safari ‘brand names’ are irrelevant to the actual safari experience.)

2. Borrow tents from your more camping-oriented/outdoorsy neighbors.

3. Make sure all members of your party are fully recovered from any fevers they may have had the night before and pile your tents, food, water and selves into the van. Head out of Nairobi.

4. Feel free to stop in towns along the way, especially ones with intriguing names like Sultanhamud. Because you are camping and driving your own van, you can probably afford to spend a few shillings on a blackcurrant Fanta and some peanuts, especially because even though it was supposed to be a 3½ hour drive you have already been driving for 2½ hours and are only halfway there. (Don’t be alarmed – you are, after all, operating on Africa Time).

5. Arrive at the game park. As you are in a budget-conscientious mindset, the entry fee may seem large. But remember that you are camping and driving your own van, so it is ok. Also, as you wait at the gate, there will be Maasai women at your van window, trying to get you to buy all sorts of brightly beaded things. Luckily, you have no money, so you will not be tempted to buy such things.

  Optional fun activity: in the absence of money, you could try and barter 
your watch for a Maasai’s beaded stick thing. Good luck.

6. Arrive at your campsite. Note that it is actually currently a construction site and no one else is there. Also note that the construction is still in progress, so while in a few weeks there will be a nice concrete building for restrooms, right now there is still just a tin construction housing drop toilets. Yayy. (You can also think about how much time the lack of showers will save you in the morning. Begin to get used to the feeling of being coated in several layers of dust.)

7.  Have your children set up your tents. Reward them with sandwiches you made before leaving the house.

8. Go on a game drive! If you happen to be in Amboseli, you will probably see an extreme overabundance of elephants. As in enough elephants that you never have to see another one in your lifetime. Also, Mount Kilimanjaro is there, I promise. You just need to wait until dusk for the clouds to dissipate. (This information comes from the guidebook and as it is a fun word, be forewarned that it will probably be repeated often in your van.)

Optional fun activity: award Safari Points for seeing animals first. However, 
this game may be slightly disadvantageous to members of your party who 
have poor eyesight, especially if they have older sisters who inherited 
their grandfather’s pilot vision.

9.  Remember that random experiences cost you nothing. For example, if two Maasai men (complete with dangling ear lobes and dressed in red cloths) happen to stop you and ask you to bring a jug of petrol to another Maasai man who is apparently waiting by a broken down blue car several minutes down the road, go ahead and do so.

10. When the sun has set, return to your campsite. Build a fire and cook the food you brought from home. Luckily, the food will probably be good – for example, it could be grilled pork chops, smashed potatoes, Greek salad, and grilled pineapple (Props to Madre and Safari Bill). Take a moment and look at the stars, because they are beautiful.

11. Go to sleep. Due to the fact that you are camping and not in an actual building, you might wake up in the middle of the night convinced that there are wild animals snuffling around your tent. You will probably be able to persuade yourself that it is just the wind knocking your tent around and go back to sleep.

12. Wake up at 5:45 (aka before sunrise). Make sure you are on the road for your morning game drive by 6. Prepare for more elephants. Bonus points for getting a cliché picture of said elephants in front of Kilimanjaro in the dawn lighting.

13. Return to your campsite. Light a fire for breakfast. You will probably have time to collapse back into your tent and take a quick recovery nap before the coals are hot enough to cook breakfast over.

14. Eat scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast. Yum.

15.  Dismantle the camp and repack everything into your safari van.

16. On your way out of the game park, swing by the lodge (aka freaking RESORT) that you didn’t stay on. (Note: only do this on the way out, so you do not spend your night in your tent full of bitterness). Take a moment to admire the beautifully decorated lounge and restaurant and swimming pool. Use their nice bathrooms. If you feel like splurging, stay for a bit to swim and have a coffee.

Optional fun activity: forget to close the pop-top on your safari van. 
This way you will return to find that monkeys have gotten in your van 
and discovered your packed lunch. Such excitement.

17. Drive home. Congratulations, you survived.

...A few more safari pictures:

 p.s. Sorry this post is so insanely long. I just kind of got on a roll... :]


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! Makes me wish I was on the safari with you! :)

  2. one day i think we should go on a safari on a budget together. just saying.

  3. Safari on a budget sounds very familiar. Our Ugandan version two weeks ago was similar, but involved some crazy guy scaring the sole lion so we could see it 100 feet away...

  4. Thank you, Gina!

    And Hope. That is a given.

    Joel, I didn't realize you're back in Africa! (or have been recently). Those silly tourists.

  5. Love this post! (Caroline Mills' Mom)



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