Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to bring?

Hats, hats, hats. You need a good hat to protect your head, and most importantly the back of your neck. Sunstroke comes mostly from the head and back of the neck area, so it's important to stop the sun from boiling your blood and cooking your brain! This means a wide brim hat, or some kind of hat designed for the bush, with protection that drapes down over the neck; some even fall down onto the shoulders. You want a hat, and a spare, and I even carry a bandanna or something similar, just in case. These come in handy for other things as well, but are a good backup. There are good hats that are soft and pliable and scrunch up nicely to be packed away and will do the job. I prefer a wide brim Tilley, and my backup is a Columbia Sportswear soft hat.

Shoes. Yes, you need shoes in the bush. For both the Turkana and Samburu safaris good, sturdy trail or hiking boots are the order of the bush. Note that you don't want mountain climbing style boots, that have a stiff, mostly unbendable sole. Just normal hiking boots. You need your foot to be able to bend to some degree and contour with the rocks in Turkana, the Samburu safaris are just like hiking anywhere through hilly terrain. I actually prefer minimalist trail running shoes, as my feet feel light and nimble in them. They do have slight drawbacks though, in that they offer little protection against water, (just think morning dew on the grass), and they usually breathe very well, letting dust in, so socks are quite dirty by the end of the day. They do not work for Turkana, however, as I found out when my foot found a fallen branch it liked, liked it enough to initiate intimate contact with, sending a thorn straight through the sole with ease. Luckily I didn't put my full weight on it and it didn't pierce the skin, but I learned my lesson. Waterproof is your choice, as we aren't walking though rivers or flooded areas. Doesn't hurt to have them if you like them and your feet tolerate them, but personally I need shoes that breathe. Also, a simple, light pair of sandals are nice for camp at the end of the day to get out of your walking shoes.

Sun screen. The equatorial sun is intense, and even when it isn't particularly hot, the sun is beating down on you like an equatorial hammer. You'll want sunscreen.

Something for when you forget your sunscreen. We'll remind you frequently, but depending on how sensitive your skin, you may still burn some, (please reference Sun screen, and then Hats, hats, hats). In Samburu we occasionally find Aloe Vera, but not frequently enough to count on. In Turkana, no such luck.

Water Bottle. Especially in Turkana, you will need a one liter water bottle at your side at all times. At all times. Yes, at all times. Except at meal times and when you are sleeping, you will have that water bottle at your side. Ok, most of the time. It's not as crucial in Samburu, but we will still insist on it. I find that the old style army canteens that clip to your belt are still the best for scrambling through the bush, as the hard plastic resists the thorns and branches. This is mostly the case in Samburu, as there are precious few bushes to scramble though in Turkana. If you do get one of these though, replace the chain or wrap it in some cloth or something, as the constant clink! clink! clink! of the chain against the plastic gets annoying. And it attracts lions from great distances. Just kidding.

Clothes. At this point, you really just want clothes that you are used to for any type of camping or trek. Safari style clothing, usually with pockets, are good. Don't go overboard though and look like you just walked out of a Tarzan movie, the locals will laugh at you. The usual khakis and green/brown colors are good. Bright colors attract bugs, black absorbs heat, white is impossible to keep clean. Design your bush wardrobe accordingly. It's s good idea to have at least as many pairs of socks as the number of days in the safari. Socks get wet, and you'll want to change, and depending on the conditions, water may be scarce. Washing your self will be more important than socks, and especially in Turkana, you may only get a small amount of water for that. Like, a few cups a day. If that. Water isn't nearly as much of an issue in Samburu, so washing socks, underwear is possible. Larger pieces of clothing depends on the conditions, (again, Samburu).

A good water proof jacket and layers are really the order of the bush. In Samburu, nights do get chilly, so you'll want a few layers to keep warm, but you don't need heavy clothes. We rarely see rain in Turkana, but it does happen, and while evenings and nights are a relief from the searing heat of the day, you can still feel chilly at night, so layers are good, but you don't need as much as Samburu. For me, a t shirt, a light long underwear top and a vest fleece go under my jacket, and I'm toasty.

Cameras. Take a chance, leave it at home. Experience your safari through your own eyes instead of a lens. Actually see and process the events that unfold before you instead of seeing them after the now digitally enhanced fact. Don't lose out on the moment while you're stumbling for the correct f stop and shutter speed. Or maybe not. You will need the obvious, which is memory cards to last the trip, but you will also need batteries. We have the ability to recharge smaller cameras, but not the bigger SLR type models. Our solar and battery systems charge very, very slowly, and will take a good 6-8 hours to charge a battery that normally charges in around 2 hours. Check with us though, as we are working on bigger and better systems that will charge smaller cameras faster and larger cameras as well.

What's the best time of year to go?

Generally, most people want to do thier safaris outside of the rainy seasons, which are typically October to January, and April to September. Of course these are just guidelines, and the weather can always be unpredictable. I prefer doing the Turkana safari in August/September, as it is usually good and hot, and very dry during that time.

What about food?

On the Turkana safaris we bring all our own food, and it very basic. Only what can survive the heat of the day is brought, so we typically have rice, cabbage, onion, carrots, things like this. Lunch and dinner are usually some kind of stew made from all this, and breakfast is simple: bread and jam, fruits while they last. Tea is always the first order of business when we make camp and in the morning, and we usually have fresh milk from a local village to make something of a chai. But after a day of walking in that heat, any food is deliciuos! On the Samburu safaris we usually get meals in the villages we are in, so chapati and beans, ugali, sukumawiki, all local food.

Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!

What about wild animals? The northern part of Kenya where the safaris take place are not like the southern plains, teeming with wildlife, and therefore predators. On the Turkana safaris we see Ostrich, Baboon, Dik-Dik, Duiker and other antelope, Hyena and Crocodile when we reach the lake. There are Puff Adders, but in all my trips there I have only seen one juvenile. The short of it is that with the lack of large predators, the animals are a wonder to see, and generally not a safety issue for us.

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes and no. Especially on the Turkana safaris we boil all of our water. All the water comes from holes in dry riverbeds that either villagers have dug, or we dig ourselves. I was once told by an Italian Anthropologist there that the water is perfectly safe to drink, as all the layers of sand act as a perfect filter. I have drunk the water straight from the ground, and have never had a problem. None the less, we do boil all of our water, and if it is a concern you can certainly bring your own filter or tablets. On the Samburu safaris we typically boil the water, or even carry our own water bought at the shops in Maralal.

How long am I in the bush?

The Turkana safaris usually last 11-13 days, depending on how fast we walk, how many detours we take, and what we want to see along the way. Samburu safaris last between 2-4 days.

How long does the whole thing take?

You need to allow for about 3 weeks for the Turkana safari. Once we arrive in Maralal, (a 1 day trip from Nairobi), it takes 2-3 days just to get the supplies ready and then make the trip up to Baragoi, where we start the safaris from. Baragoi can be 1-2 days to get the donkeys rounded up and get going. We walk for 12 days or so, and end up in Loyangalani. From there it can take a day or two - or sometimes more - to then get a ride back down south to Baragoi or Maralal.

Can we speed things up?

If preparations are made beforehand, we can be ready to go with all the supplies and gear once you reach Maralal. This would need a non-refundable deposit up front to purchase all the food and needed supplies. Transport can be hired to get you to Maralal, us and the supplies to Baragoi - instead of waiting for local transport - and even from Loyangalani back to Maralal, but all this will significantly add to the cost, as hiring private transport is not cheap in the north. Note that if you have a car you've hired, all of the agencies have exclusions for taking the vehicle what they consider off road and up north, so this may be at your own risk.

What if I have a time schedule?

Then honestly, you shouldn't consider Turkana. The first time I did it I had a serious time crunch - check out my book for the details of my first adventure there - and I would not recommend it. For one thing, it takes away from one of the reasons you are there; to experience the disappearing experience of life in the bush, where the clock and calendar have no meaning. That doesn't mean that all bets are off as far as a schedule, but we may make it from Maralal to Baragoi in 2 days, or it may take 4. Why put a constraint and a worry factor on that? If time is truly an issue, and you want to experience what we have to offer, try one of the Samburu safaris first.

What kind of physical shape do I need to be in?

The Samburu safaris are somewhat laid back, and if you can carry your own pack and walk 3-4 hours a day you are fine. The Turkana safaris are a whole different game. You must be in good tough physical and mental shape to do these. Out there it is tough, and once out there, you have no choice but to keep going. There are no bailouts, once in the bush you are in the bush, and I guarantee you will find mental and physical reserves you never knew you had, because you have no choice. But that is one of the amazing things about this safari; once you are sure you cannot take one more step, the heat and wind is so unbearable that you can't possibly put one foot in front of the other, you do. And at the end of the day you are beat, exhausted, nearly devastated and exhilarated! I assure you that unless you've done it before, it is like nothing else you have ever done in your life!