What to Pack
One of my travel mottos is that you really only need to remember your passport and credit card; the former will get you out of the country and the latter will buy you anything you left behind. That said, it’s preferable to pack wisely so that you don’t have to spend money unnecessarily; also, you might find yourself in a place where it is not easy to find either a store or the specific item(s) that you are looking for.
Packing for a two-week excursion to Kenya is actually quite a difficult task. Packing for any two-week excursion is challenging given that you can only take a finite amount of luggage but might want as many as 14 different outfits, plus extra specialty items for particularly warm or cool conditions, plus whatever other random equipment (walking poles? sports kit? photography gear?) you may require. Kenya is especially challenging because we drive around in minibuses and don’t have space for lots of luggage; although some people bring regular suitcases, we recommend a duffel or large camping/hiking backpack that can easily be transported between vehicles and tents/lodges.
In a warm place like Kenya, it doesn’t take long before your clothes become…fragrant, but when you’re on safari you don’t always have access to laundry facilities—or even sufficient water for washing your wardrobe. People vary widely in how they respond to this conundrum. Some don’t mind smelling; others pack travel-friendly items that fold down into microscopic proportions. My solution is to bring fresh shirts for each day but then recycle my trousers every few days.
Although it could be argued that I pack an excessive amount of clothing, the bulk of my duffel contains other equipment needed for the trip. My sleeping bag and pillow take up quite a lot of room, then there’s my towel, my hiking sticks, and—for the first time this year—a tripod for group shots and night photography. I’ve also got a first aid kid and a bag of various medications that might come in handy, plus another little bag full of camera batteries and other electronic “necessities.” Because I’m always hungry and am a fussy eater, I also pack my own supply of snacks; this includes granola bars, dried fruit and nut mixes, a can of pears, and canned tuna. While those last two items may sound a bit ridiculous, they’ve previously come in handy when we’ve found ourselves in places where produce is suspect or unavailable, or when I’m dying for a bit of non-goat protein.
The items mentioned above are only the bare essentials; there are many other things we recommend to make the trip more comfortable and educational, or to have on hand in case of emergencies. Our suggestions are based on knowledge acquired over the instructors’ many cumulative years in the field—in Kenya and beyond. Below is the kit we recommend for our students:
- Passport and visa, plus a photocopy of the passport
- Immunization card
- Money/credit cards
- Warm-weather and cool-weather clothing
- Stout but comfortable walking shoes/boots
- Light raincoat
- Thick socks
- Water bottle
- Sleeping bag and pillow
- Sleeping mat/bed roll
- Day rucksack/backpack
- Personal toiletries
- Hand sanitizer/disinfectant
- Personal medication, including antimalarial tablets
- Toilet roll and other sanitary items
- Sunscreen/sunburn lotion
- Insect repellent, mosquito net
- Sewing kit
- Torch/headlamp (to light the way at night and also to use for spotlighting nocturnal animals)
- Camera, film, memory card, charger
- Field guides
We’ve been taking students to Kenya for nearly a decade, over which period many good memories have been made. Unfortunately, there have also been a few bad experiences, which is why we’ve amended the checklist to include the following warnings:
- Please be aware that your clothes are going to get dirty! Evenings and high-altitude areas will become quite chilly, so please bring a warm jacket and long trousers. Make sure you have at least one long-sleeved shirt and lightweight long trousers to keep off mosquitoes and other nasty biting things. Shorts and light shirts or T-shirts will be needed for the hot places.
- Sandals/flip-flops are inappropriate. Previous students have been injured by acacia thorns which can penetrate both flip-flops and feet; scorpion stings are also a possibility. If you wear flip-flops, you will not be permitted to participate in field activities. High-ankled boots are useful not just for extra stability when hiking, but also in protecting against snakes.
- You will be highly unlikely to gain access to electricity. There may be the potential for in-car charging but, for safety reasons, staff have priority so they can charge their mobile phones. Thus, where possible, have a backup power source for cameras and phones—solar chargers may be particularly useful given that Kenya is generally quite sunny. If your electronics run on batteries, remember to bring plenty of spares!
Of course, what works for us may not work for everyone, but hopefully this information will give any fellow Kenya tourists a good head start on their packing!
Content by Dr. Caitlin Kight