|The Sarova Stanley||Nairobi||1 night|
|Serena Mountain Lodge||Mount Kenya||1 night|
|Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge||Nakuru||1 night||FB|
|Sarova Mara Game Camp||Masai Mara||2 nights|
|Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers||Dubai||5 nights||B&B|
Situated in along the Nairobi River in beautiful Kenya, the capital of Nairobi is East Africa's most cosmopolitan city. It serves as an excellent starting point for African safari trips around Kenya. Nairobi is Africa’s 4th largest city and is a vibrant and exciting place, and although it has developed a reputation which keeps tourist visits brief, there are some fascinating attractions: its cafe culture, unbridled nightlife, the National Museum, the Karen Blixen Museum and most notably just 20 minutes from the city centre wild lions and buffalo roam in the world’s only urban game reserve. Make sure you pay a visit to the elephant orphanage operated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Rising up from the heart of the Kenyan landscape, the snow-capped Mount Kenya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Africa's second highest mountain reaching an impressive 5199 metres in height, which is an awe-inspiring sight. Visitors can explore its surrounding forests, trout-filled streams and game reserve; or for the more adventurous, summit the peak. While Mount Kilimanjaro is an easier climb, Mount Kenya is more of a challenge as it has a higher technical difficulty, however, Point Lenana can be easily reached by a fit hiker. Visitors can look forward to a variety of wonderful activities such as: cave exploration, mountain climbing, camping, and game viewing. Commonly spotted wildlife include: elephant, mongoose, duiker, bushbuck, eland and over 130 bird species.
Nakuru is a city on the shores of western Kenya’s Lake Nakuru, within a reserve that sprawls across almost 200 square kilometres. It is the capital of Nakuru County, located in the Great Rift Valley. Ten kilometres from town lies the massive Menengai Crater. A hiking trail leads up to the rim of this ancient caldera, offering bird’s eye views over the lake and surrounds then plunges 400 metres down to the floor below, where you will find ancient forests. Lake Nakuru National Park, surrounding Nakuru, is home to exceptional birdlife, as well as over 50 varieties of mammals. These include lion, leopard, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, rhino, antelope and various primates.
The Masai Mara together with Tanzania’s Serengeti form Africa’s most famous wildlife park, the Masai Mara National Reserve. The image of acacia trees dotting endless grass plains epitomises Africa for many, then add a Maasai warrior and some cattle to the picture and the conversation need go no further. The undeniable highlight of the Masai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly the annual wildebeest migration traversing the vast plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. It is known as the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet – with more than a million animals following the rains. Large prides of lions, elephants, giraffes, gazelles and eland can also be spotted in the reserve. Aside from horse riding safaris and traditional vehicle safaris, hot-air ballooning over the Mara plains has become almost essential.
Set in the United Arab Emirates, the luxurious city of Dubai is synonymous with size and pushing the limits – first, largest, tallest. Aside from this, the pull of Dubai is a dreamy world of attractions and unheard of luxuries; shopping centres, nightlife and cutting-edge hotels. Famous constructions include Burj Khalifa, The Palm, Burj Al Arab, The World Island. Although Dubai strictly safeguards its traditional practices, it allows space for other religions to breathe, a rare quality amongst the conservative Arab world. The combination of all this means Dubai has emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis, a global city and a travel, business and cultural hub of the Middle East.
Resting in the magnificent Great Rift Valley and presided over by the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya is characterised by hauntingly beautiful natural landscapes of forested hills, patchwork farms, wooded savanna and vast forests brimming with an extraordinary abundance of wildlife. The nation’s diverse range of traditional African cultures is influenced by over 70 unique ethnic groups from the Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu, and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled on the coast. Add to this: an exquisite tropical coastline fringed with breathtaking golden sand beaches; gorgeous coral gardens providing excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities; and a slew of lively beach resorts, and it is easy to see why so many visitors flock here from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations.
The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSh). 1 Kenyan Shilling = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of KSh1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of KSh20, 10 and 5.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at the major banks, bureaux de change or authorised hotels. The banks at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport have 24-hour exchange services. The easiest currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Pounds Sterling and Euros.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding US$5,000 or equivalent must be declared.
Banking hours: Monday-Friday 09h00-16h00, Saturday 09h00-12h00. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas typically open and close half an hour earlier.
Credits Cards are widely accepted in all major hotels and more upmarket establishments, with the most recognized being Master Card and Visa. American Express and Diners Club cards are occasionally accepted. However, you will need some cash handy because smaller shops will only accept cash.
Almost every bank now has an ATM, and they are increasingly being installed at petrol stations in cities and large towns.
Travellers cheques are no longer accepted in Kenya.
Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport (www.kaa.go.ke). Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.
Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Air Kenya (www.airkenya.com), Fly 540 (www.fly540.com), Mombasa Air Safari (www.mombasaairsafari.com) and Safarilink (www.flysafarilink.com) serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria.
On smaller, domestic planes the baggage allowance is restricted to 10-15 kg (22-33 lbs). Arrangements can be made to leave excess luggage with hotels or airlines.
Main roads between the major cities and towns are generally in good condition, and easily navigable in a normal saloon car. Most highways in the south are paved, but that’s not the case in the north.Vehicles are driven on the left side of the road.
While major roads are generally in a good condition, most minor gravel roads have deep potholes which deteriorate further in the rainy season. Dirt roads, including those in the parks and reserves, are extremely rough, and some are only passable with a 4-wheel drive.
You can hire self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars from travel agents and international hire companies. Drivers must be at least 23 years of age. Budget (www.budget.com) and Europcar (www.europcar.com) have outlets at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Budget also has a desk at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, while Europcar has an office in town. Car hire can be expensive and rates vary significantly.
A driving licence from a home country (and a translation if this is not in English) or an International Driving Permit is required. Third-party insurance is mandatory when hiring a car and it’s recommended to take out the additional collision damage waiver. A valid credit card is also needed.
Matatus (shared minibus taxis) hop from town to town, starting and finishing at bus stations. Fares are paid to the conductor. Private taxis can also be hired for long-distance journeys.
It is not possible to rent motorbikes or mopeds but some of the beach resorts hire out bicycles.
Numerous private bus companies operate in Kenya. Most vehicles are old and tend to depart when full, which means there are no set timetables. Petty theft on the vehicles and at bus stations can be a problem. Nevertheless, buses are cheap and link all long-distance destinations. Plus, seatbelts are now mandatory, so buses are relatively safe.
Nairobi and Mombasa have efficient local bus systems and there are also frequent matatus, but reckless driving and petty theft makes them a dodgy option for tourists. Three-wheeled auto rickshaws are popular in town centres and carry up to three passengers.
The newer fleets of taxis (usually painted white with a yellow band) are reliable and have meters. The older yellow taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. In Nairobi, there is a fleet of London-style black cabs. A 10% tip is expected. Cabs cannot be hailed in the street, but can be found parked in taxi ranks.
Comfortable, casual clothing that is lightweight is the best bet while on safari. It can be quite cool in the early mornings, so you'll want to dress warmly in layers, until the sun has a chance to warm up the air. "Kenya Convertibles", khaki pants with zip-off legs, are perfect for cool early morning game drives that turn warm before you're back in camp. Walking shorts, long pants, cotton shirts and tees are just right. A cotton bush jacket or wind-breaker will be useful along with a warm sweater or fleece jacket for the cool nights. And, a hat that ties on is a must. There is not a good deal of long walking or hiking on most safaris, so a comfortable pair of walking shoes or tennis shoes and a pair of sandals should be adequate. You will need thorn-proof soles.
In Kenya's major cities the dress code is conservative but not overly formal – jeans and decent tops for women are fine. Swimsuits are acceptable on the beach but you’ll need to cover up in public places.
Bottled water is advisable for the first few weeks of your stay. When buying bottled water, check the seal of the bottle is intact. Never drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected (such as with iodine tablets). Never drink from streams, rivers and lakes. It’s also best to avoid drinking from pumps and wells – some do bring pure water to the surface, but the presence of animals can still contaminate supplies. Avoid ice and washed salads and fruit except in upmarket hotels and restaurants. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Food prepared by unlicensed vendors should be avoided at all times.
Nairobi has some of the finest eating establishments in Africa. Many different cuisines and types of restaurants are available, from fast food to fancy. Many five-star hotels have excellent restaurants. Restaurants are called "hotels" and there are many in Nairobi. The local cuisine is also worth trying out, particullarly Pilau-a chicken and rice dish, cabbage and rice; and the staple food in Kenya-Ugali, made from maze flour.
Many restaurants can be found downtown and in the areas of Westlands and Hurlingham but these areas are filled with tourists and places like Ayani, Olympic, Kibera, and other places have more authentic food. Among the many cuisines available are Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, German and French restaurants. Fast food restaurants, mostly by South African chains (Steers, Nandos), are common in the larger urban areas.
Electric Power is 220V - 240V running at 50Hz. The Plug type used in Kenya is the 3 large flat prong (UK). If your appliances are compatible with 220V-240V electrical output, an adapter is all that you will need, if not a voltage converter will be necessary.
Kenya lies on the equator and has a pleasant tropical climate, but there are large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. Temperatures drop by about 6°C for every 1000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1000ft). Kenya’s daytime temperatures average between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F, but it is warmer on the coast. The coast is hot and humid all year round, but the heat is pleasant and tempered by the monsoon winds. Kenya is too close to the equator to experience a real winter and summer. There is, however, both a dry and wet season. The wet season is from November to May and the Dry season is from June to December.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, extends along part of the Gulf of Oman and the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. From glittering first-world cities to rich cultural history and breathtaking nature, the UAE provides something for every type of traveller. Chic, fast-paced Dubai provides every modern (and futuristic) comfort; Abu Dhabi is a capital of culture with its galleries, museums and traditional food; and Ajman and Fujairah offer incredible swimming, diving and watersports in their clear, warm waters. The country boasts many world records: the world’s fastest roller coaster, the tower with the greatest lean, and the largest cluster of 21st-century cultural buildings. The green Mangrove National Park, sprawling orange Dubai desert, and dramatic cliff faces of the Snoopy Islands plunging into turquoise water are only a few of the spectacular natural wonders of this abundant country.
The UAE dirham (AED) is divided into 100 fils. Coins are in 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils and AED1. Notes are in denominations of AED5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. $1 = AED3.6727 and currently £1 = AED5.9465.
It’s wise to have some local currency when you arrive to cover small purchases and taxi fares, although you might well be met at the airport by your sponsor’s staff or your new colleagues.
Currency exchanges and banking facilities are available at most major airports and many are open 24 hours a day. Exchange rates, however, are unlikely to be favourable at these outlets. More competitive rates can be obtained from city-centre financial establishments. You should avoid changing money at your hotel, as hotel rates are probably the worst on offer.
The main hub for air transport in the United Arab Emirates is Dubai airport, which is served by several major airlines, most notably Dubai-based Emirates. Direct flights connect Dubai to Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town , London,Sydney, Melbourne, Karachi, Tehran, Riyadh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hong Kong, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, Houston, Milan,Madrid, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, São Paulo and many other major cities in Europe,Asia, Australia, North America and Africa.
After Dubai, the airport at Abu Dhabi has the next best international connections. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways now offers direct flights from New York, Toronto and many other airports in Europe and Asia.
Other major airlines serving Abu Dhabi include British Airways from London-Heathrow, KLM from Amsterdam, Lufthansa from Frankfurt and Singapore Airlines from Singapore and Jeddah.
For low-cost flights, Air Arabia has set up a hub at Sharjah airport (which is very close to Dubai), and flies there from many cities in the Middle East and India.
There is road access to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia in the south and Oman in the east. All highways in the UAE are in excellent condition, but there is a huge amount of traffic between Sharjah and Dubai, as well as a 4 AED charge to cross the Salik toll gate. A prepaid Salik Tag is required for this.
There is a large network of dhows which transport goods throughout the Gulf and India. It may be possible to buy passage on one of these boats. They call at all coastal cities in the UAE, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Public transportation within most cities remains rudimentary. Dubai is building extensive Metro, monorail and tram networks, and has invested heavily in the local bus network in recent years. The other emirates offer very little public transportation. Abu Dhabi has a network of city buses that cost Dh2 per trip and are fairly reliable, but can be overcrowded for male passengers. Intercity bus services are fast, comfortable and reasonably frequent.
In the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, taxis are widely available. They are relatively cheap in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. A ride to anywhere within the city of Abu Dhabi will cost approximately US$10, as they charge solely by distance traveled. A night surcharge of US$3 may be added after 10PM, depending on your driver.
The legal driving age in the United Arab Emirates is 18. The UAE has a modern road system. Renting a car or driving in the UAE requires an international driver's license, which is simply a translation of your standard license and can be acquired at a local automobile association. If you have UAE residency status, you must obtain a local driver's license. This can be a simple process that must be completed and can be done in 20 min but only if you are from a specific list of countries (predominantly Western). If you are from an Asian country, you currently have to undergo 40 classes at a local driving school and get through a pretty tough license exam. This is changing, though, and it may apply to all nationalities soon.
Car rentals are slightly cheaper than in the US There is a flat fee per day for renting a car, based upon the car's size. Petrol (gasoline) is, by US and European standards, inexpensive. The road system is based along European standards, with many roundabouts and highly channeled traffic. But the signs are readily understandable and are, in most places, clear and coherent. Drivers in the UAE, particularly in the urban areas, tend to be highly aggressive and often use tactics that range from the stupid to the disastrous. This may perhaps stem from the traffic, which can be extremely congested in the urban areas, or from other factors.
People in the UAE drive extremely fast, and some are completely reckless: overtaking by the right is the rule, speed limits are ignored by many, even heavy trucks. Last-second lane change seems to be a national sport. The UAE has the third-highest death rate from traffic accidents in the world (just behind Saudi and Oman).
Be especially careful when you spot a tinted-window SUV at night: the black windows make the driver not see you and change lanes. Theoretically forbidden, tinting windows is widespread among young Arabs and is generally associated with poor driving skills and fast driving.
There are now some good local city maps, particularly for Dubai (the Explorer series of books). Be aware that construction is on-going, sometimes rapidly changing the road networks, so maps capture only a "point in time." Sharjah remains poorly mapped. A website offered the first decent online maps of the UAE. Google Earth does offer solid satellite pictures but at a level of detail good mainly for broad reference purposes. The lack of good maps or signage makes the use of a compass or GPS sometimes useful if you want to get off the highway.
Desert safaris or "wadi bashing" are good attractions in the vicinity of Dubai, but great care needs to be taken while choosing a hired vehicle; it should be a four wheel drive. Desert safaris are also generally pre-designed with travel agents and can give you good deal as well on quantity.
Layering is your best bet; wear light clothing outside and bring a jumper or sweatshirt for the heavily air-conditioned buildings around the cities. During November to March, warmer clothes are advised for the evenings. A hat and high factor sun block is also advisable - a day on the beach in the strong summer sun is an easy recipe for sunstroke and sunburn. If visiting during the summer, make like the residents and visit the beaches early in the morning and later in the evening.
Please note: Dubai and the UAE have varying degrees of tolerance to clothing styles from around the world and how to dress in the UAE. There are legal guidelines as to what is not acceptable, especially in Sharjah which has its own decency laws, but in general, residents, visitors, and tourists can mostly wear what they like within reason.
In general, most ‘normal’ clothing is tolerated as long as it is not too revealing, however, to be respectful of the UAE culture, it is better to cover knees and shoulders and everything in between.
General medical care in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah is quite good, with clinics for general and specialized care widely available, including some which are now open 24 h. Hospitals in the major centers are well-equipped to deal with any medical emergencies. There is an ambulance system in all major population centres; however, coverage can be patchy in the more remote areas. Ambulances are designed for transportation rather than providing care as first responders, so don't expect top-flight on-site care.
The main government hospital in Abu Dhabi is one of the best in the Middle East; as is the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, now managed by Cleveland Clinic.
In Dubai, the government hospitals are Rashid hospital, which has a new Trauma Centre and Dubai Hospital which are very good. Welcare Hospital American Hospital Zulekha Hospital NMC Hospital, and Belhoul Hospital in the private sector all have a good reputation. The country is free of malaria and prophylaxis is not needed. In Sharjah, the Kuwaiti (Goverrnment) Hospital accepts expatriates. The private hospitals in Sharjah are the Zahra hospital, Zulekha Hospital and Central Private Hospital. Prices including healthcare are generally cheaper in Sharjah and although all hospitals meet the Ministry of Health standards the Central Private Hospital and Zulekha Hospitals are considered more affordable.
Al Ain is served by a number of modern hospitals and care centers: Tawam Hospital, now managed by Johns Hopkins, and host to the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Science; Al Ain Hospital (also called Al Jimi Hospital as it is in the district of Al Jimi), now managed by the Vienna Medical University; and the private Oasis Hospital, previously known as Kennedy Hospital, which was founded and run by Christian missionaries, and which was the first hospital in the city.
The water is safe to drink in the UAE, although most people prefer bottled water for its taste. The food is clean and in most restaurants is served to Western standards, particularly in tourist areas; however, hygeine can be an issue in some establishments outside, particularly roadside stalls. That said, food poisoning does happen, so use your common sense!
The heat in summer can reach 50°C (122°F), so avoid outdoors activity at the height of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink lots of water as dehydration happens easily in such heat. If travelling off road (most of the country is desert), ensure you carry sufficient water to allow you to walk to the road should vehicles become bogged.
Although the UAE is somewhat more accommodating to handicapped travellers than other countries in the Mideast, it would nonetheless be a difficult country to navigate in a wheelchair. Curbs are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other accommodations.
Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Abu Dhabi offer a vast spread of food from most of the world's major cuisines. By Western standards most restaurants are quite affordable although it is easy to find extremely expensive food too. Most upper-end restaurants are located in hotels.
Due to the large expat populations, Indian and Pakistani restaurants abound, offering affordable and succulent choices. Also popular are Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian cuisine restaurants.
A popular favorite is grilled chicken, available at most of the open-air cafeterias by the roadside which can be relished with other accompaniments like Khubz (Arabic Bread), hummus, etc., and the most popular rice dish is Biriyani, with grilled chicken or fish or lamb. Traditional Shawarma and falafel sandwiches are readily available and are quite cheap and delicious.
Very few traditional Emirati dishes are served at restaurants; and the closest is the Mendi-style cuisine of Yemen, in which platters of fragrant rice are topped with lamb, chicken or fish that has been slow-roasted in a pit
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21.
Dubai has a burgeoning nightlife scene and even formerly straitlaced Abu Dhabi has loosened up and tried to catch up. Alcohol is available in alcohol stores, 5-star hotel restaurants and bars in all emirates except Sharjah, where you can only drink in your home or in an expat hangout called the Sharjah Wanderers. As a tourist, you are permitted to buy alcohol in bars and restaurants to drink there. If you are a resident, you're supposed to have a alcohol license (never asked for in bars) which also allows you to buy alcohol at alcohol stores (they do check).
During Ramadan, no alcohol is served during daylight (fasting) hours. Dubai and Abu Dhabi permit bars to serve alcohol at night, but bands stop playing, background music is off or quiet, no dancing is allowed and nightclubs are usually closed. On certain holy days in the Islamic calendar, no alcohol is served publicly in any of the UAE.
Do not under any circumstance drink and drive in the UAE. If by chance you are in an accident, this becomes a card for going directly to jail — especially during Ramadan. Taxis are widely available if you have been drinking and are a much safer and wiser option given the insane driving habits in the region.
For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) in the United Arab Emirates (Al-Imārāt al-‘Arabīya al-Muttaḥida) are one of three types: the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug, the "Type G" British BS-1363 or the "Type D" Indian 5 amp BS-546. It's just anybody's guess as to which of the three types will be installed at any given specific location. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
The country is extraordinarily dry, getting only a few days of rain a year. Despite that, Emiratis use water at an alarming rate: there are broad swaths of grass in the major public parks, for example, and landscaping can be extensive in the resorts or other public places. The majority of this water comes from desalinisation. Visitors do not pay for their water use. The weather from late October through mid-March is quite pleasant, with high temperatures ranging from around 27 °C (85 °F) to lows around 15°C (63 °F). It is almost always sunny. Rain can happen between November and February, and can cause road hazards when it does. In the summer, the temperatures soar and humidity is close to unbearable — it is widely suspected that the officially reported temperatures are "tweaked" to cut off the true summer highs, which can reach 50 °C (122 °F), or even higher!