The Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari Guide

Safaris are one of the most incredible experiences you can have, and we’re so excited that you’re thinking of going on one! Kenya and Tanzania are some of the top destinations for travelers to experience the beauty of safaris. Keep reading for everything you need to know to have a seamless trip.

 

Before you’re off, let’s talk about some of the cultural things you might need to know. The country has two main languages, Swahili and English, and then almost everyone speaks their tribal language. Which is fascinating, almost everyone there speaks 3 or more languages.

Most of our guides spoke an additional 3-5 languages on top of English and their national and tribal languages. In order to be a guide there, you must have a degree in African studies. All of our guides’ knowledge was extensive and impressive. I loved that they knew all the plants, animals, and birds we saw, and could explain them thoroughly to us.

The Kenyan culture is based on ‘Harambee’ which is Bantu, for pull together. Bantu is a group of Niger–Congo languages spoken in central and southern Africa, including Swahili, Xhosa, and Zulu. They have community and extended family as their central focus in life.

They care for everything as a community. This mindset is really quite lovely and makes everyone so friendly and helpful. Assistance, responsibility, effort, and community self-reliance, is the way of life there, and it shows. Tanzania, is a bit less of this, and bit more about their nuclear family, but the community pride still shows throughout everything they do.

 

I truly loved seeing solar panels everywhere and how clean everyone kept everything, especially in Tanzania, the community pride and self-reliance showed the most there. BUT Kenyans were the friendliest, so it was really cool seeing the cultural differences of Harambee from the neighboring countries.

“Pole Pole and Hakuna Matata”- slowly slowly and no worries!

Africa seems to run on its own time, something that feels like a more rigid version of Aloha time experienced in Hawaii, or Austin time, like we have in ATX. They take time to talk with one another and have coffee, there’s no rushing a greeting and general pleasantries.

There’s definitely no hurry, but there is a respected start and end time that needs to be strictly adhered to, but anything that happens in between is on its own time. Typically you’re stopping for 20 minutes, having a coffee with the drivers, or browsing the gift shop, and it’s overall a lovely and casual atmosphere.

 

Gifts are always welcome, and should be taken to give out liberally. Practical things like paper and pens and pencils for the kids, and cash tips and nice candy for the staff in hotels. I think cash is more preferable, especially in remote areas, but candy was definitely loved by the young porters.

If you’re going to someone’s home, flowers, coffee, or tea are wonderful gifts. Many choose not to drink alcohol, find out if your hosts do before getting a bottle of wine.

 

Dining is fairly formal, when in doubt watch what others are doing. Some other customs include – wash your hands before and after dinner, and don’t expect beverages if you’re eating with a family. Beverages are consumed separately from meals, but most restaurants will still provide you beverages with meals.

While eating, or just in general, don’t use your left hand, or your ‘unlucky’ hand as it is considered there.

 

A few random things to add, that might be surprising, but good to know.

People sometimes hiss to get the waiter staffs attention, and if someone is leading you somewhere, they might hold your hand. Weird, but totally normal and okay. Also, take time to do a proper greeting, about a minute of talking, longer if you’ll be spending quite a bit of time with someone up to 15 minutes, when you first meet someone.

When having a discussion or bartering, take the approach of a dignitary, find a way to say no, without saying no as much as possible.

 

Always ask before photographing anyone! Some will want money in exchange, but even more true is that some believe a photo will steal their soul. And, you definitely don’t want a freak out on your hands from stealing someone’s soul!

 

Don’t show anger, and definitely no PDA. You should be cool, calm, and friendly, anything else will give you the ‘crazy’ or ‘arrogant’ appearance there. Modest apparel is highly recommended, but is definitely important. It’s more about respect than about covering up. Displays of affection are considered ‘boastful’, same with revealing clothing.

 

Ready for an unforgettable Safari adventure? Read these blogs to be prepared:

The Best things to Do in Aswan, Egypt

What to Pack for Tanzania and Kenya

The Best Shopping in Kenya and Tanzania

Visiting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nairobi Kenya, Africa

Top Places to Visit in Cairo