This page is for all those who see the link or find it to give details on how safe it is to travel to and within Kenya and to also help promote Gamewatchers Safaris and their vital Adopt an Acre scheme.
Details of the adopt and acre scheme can be found here – https://www.porini.com/adopt-an-acre/
Below is a review of a safari with details of all the new procedures – correct as at 25th August 2020.
Part 1 – Before you leave, the journey and arrival
Before I start, please remember that everything here was correct when we travelled but things are changing rapidly so PLEASE check with the friendly team at Gamewatchers who will have up to date information and be able to assist with a new or return trip.
Once Covid goes away (the sooner the better) things can get back to the old normal fast we hope) but this is what we have today.
To enter Kenya, and avoid having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, you firstly have to be travelling from a country on the ‘OK’ list and that is updated regularly, and then you must have a ‘Covid Free Certificate’ dated no more than 96 hours before arrival.
We are from the UK and every country will be different on this so please talk to Gamewatchers who will be able to assist (also please do so in the UK as things are changing all the time!).
There are clinics in London where UK people can get one (the NHS does not offer the certificate service) as well as Nomad Travel (who we used) and Citidocs who can do it by post but are also opening up clinics around the country where you can call in. I am sure there are/will be more companies available as time progresses.
Once you have that certificate in hand with a negative result then you are good to go and complete other paperwork that is needed.
Make sure you check in for your flight online if you can as the next form wants seat numbers.
This online form needs to be completed (print it BEFORE you submit) and also then print the QR code you get once it has been submitted.
Also make sure you have the full postal address of your first hotel/camp and a phone number too.
Now you are all set to travel. Be prepared for sanitizer at all airports and a modified system of boarding etc that is done 5 rows at a time to allow for distancing. It was no hassle and distancing was easy pretty much all the time.
Also have plenty of masks with you – including the blue ‘surgical’ ones which you will need for Safari Link once in Kenya.
Airlines differ in what they provide and how they provide it so talk to them so you know. We flew Lufthansa who we could not fault at all. We felt safe all the time.
Once you are onboard either your direct flight or the last leg of your journey that takes you into Nairobi then more forms will be given to you on the plane. Fill them all in and have them ready to show when asked after you leave the plane. One of them is a smaller version of the health form you filled in online this is where you need the full address and phone number of your first stop.
On leaving the plane there was a person counting as busses to take you to the terminal building were a maximum of 20 people to allow for distancing. Tell them if you are in a group and they will make sure you stay together.
Once you alight at the normal place you are then asked to stand on distanced stickers and are then called forward one at a time (again let them know you are in a group and they will keep you together).
You are asked for your health form, the one you completed on the plane and given a temperature check. If that is OK you move inside where you are called forward one at a time for another temperature check and to show them your Covid Free Certificate.
If all that is in order, which I am sure it will be, then you proceed to either get a Visa on arrival or to the passport control queue if you applied online.
At no point, for us, were we asked for the QR code or online health form we had printed but I strongly advise you to have them in any case.
You then proceed as normal and after you exit the airport there will be fewer people waiting so finding your Gamewatchers driver should be much easier.
Throughout there is sanitizer available all over the place should you wish.
The only thing that is really different on arrival is that you do not get a sea of happy smiling faces as everyone has a mask on as do you.
Once you meet your driver you sanitise again and luggage will be sprayed with disinfectant. Then you head off to your first stop which for us was the Eka hotel.
Sanitizer and temperature checks on arrival. More disinfectant for the bags and check in nice and easy. Breakfast the next day we did room service for which there was no extra charge this time but the restaurant is open.
Now off to Wilson Airport – make sure you have your blue ‘surgical’ mask to hand.
Sanitising before getting in the vehicle, temperature checks before you are allowed into the departures building with yet more sanitizer.
Simplified boarding system without the coloured tiles to indicate when you board (you have a colour on your ticket instead). Boarding is the same except you have a temperature check and more sanitizer before you board and then you have to move right down the front so if you like to sit at the back, wait til last.
The aircraft is disinfected between flights too.
A nice little flight and arrival at the airstrip with, you guessed it, sanitizer and temperature checks on arrival with more disinfectant for bags.
Then finally off to camp you go – with on arrival at camp a temperature check and sanitizer.
Part 2 will talk all about safaris, dining, distancing and masks etc.
Part 2 – Camps and Safaris
Once you arrive at camp you get shown the new measures that are in place which are sanitizer a plenty, distancing signs on the floor, #becausewecare, signs in all public areas reminding you of what is expected and of course, masks are worn when around other people.
The things that are missing are all the books and magazines, more or less anything that will be touched by multiple people. We missed having them there but understand the reasons why.
In your tent it is all the same just with an added bottle of sanitizer. Drinks, pre game drive cakes etc are all the same as are snacks at sun downer but with individual bowls to avoid cross contamination. All small but sensible precautions.
Staff in camp as always live there and are tested before they are allowed to work and then tested again at regular interval with the camp manager holding certificates for each of them which they were proud to show us.
As Covid has not arrived (and long may that stay the same) in the Mara they are all keen to learn more and try to understand and will chat to you asking many questions. I think those we know well opened up more than ever as they really do want to do all they can to put guests at ease and keep them safe so we come again and encourage others to come.
That certainly worked with us.
Game drives are the same as normal just with added masks as the sanitizer was always there before.
The wildlife is, as always, plentiful though with less jeeps arounbd to share information, sometimes it was harder to find things but part of the excitement for us is the searching. Young animals, such as lion cubs, had never seen jeeps before so the reactions were different and we all kept further back to give them time and space to get used to this new noisy metal box in their lives.
The camps have all been given some updating as and where needed and there is probably more wildlife close to and in camp than before as it got used to having few humans around. The other thing we noticed that had changed was the food. It was always excellent but now it is above and beyond all expectations with many dishes served at dinner not being out of place in top European restaurants. It really was that good.
The only difference at meals is separate tables for separate groups and if the camps are busy different mal times to allow for more spacing. We missed the communal chats over dinner but it is a sacrifice we are willing to make short term. Camp fires were still lit and guests sat around those, at distance and with masks as required.
There was really nothing not to love.
Your Gamewatchers team member will be more than happy to chat to you about any concerns and will be able to put your mind at rest, of that we have no doubt.
There has never been a better time to go to Kenya and never been a more important time to do so to support the vital and wonderful work that Gamewatchers has done with the local people, habitat and wildlife.
Without visitors all of this is at risk so please if you can, book and go or book up or next year. You can also help by Adopting Acres and over a certain number will also get you a credit towards future trips in 2021 and 2022. Adopting 30 acres and more with such a credit is the best way to help now.
Part 3 – Departure and the return home.
Departure from the camps is as normal with staff waving you off – just with added masks. Fist or foot bumps replace the hearty Masaai handshakes.
When you arrive at the airstrip you are temperature checked and sanitized before you board the freshly disinfected plane to fly back to Nairobi.
Once there the same sanitising, temperature checking etc all goes on as it did on arrival.
Departure from the international airport is the same as previous, just with masks, sanitizer and temperature checks all part of the new normal and a more organised boarding gate. Distancing there was easy as the flights were not full. Another reason why now really is the best time to come.
Our safari was partly different but very special as are the people, habitats and animals in Kenya. We are returning in a couple of months as we felt totally safe and any concerns prior were easily removed.
Thank you for reading.
Matt and Ali Caldwell