How to arrange a shared or a private safari in Kenya
Kenya is one of the most amazing countries of the whole of Africa for safari lovers and for people who want to experience close contact with wild animals for the first time. Abundant wildlife, lush and green nature, lakes plenty of birds, and breathtaking sceneries of the rift valley will leave you speechless.
When you plan a safari in Kenya, there are some decisions to take
1. First of all, the choice of the right season is quite remarkable. The best period for a game drive around the national parks is from June to October and January-February. The rains occur between March and May and October to December but, usually, do not prevent excursions. If you plan to attend the Wildebeest migration in Masai Mara, the right period is July and August. In case you want to add some relaxing days at the beach, the best period is June to September since the heat is not intense and the days are mostly sunny. From November to March it could be scorching, while from April to June there is the highest concentration of rains.
2. Decide how long you want (or can) to stay. If you have only a few days to spend, it’s better to focus your trip on a few Parks to get the most out of them instead of always being on the go. There are Parks that can be explored in a day, others, like Masai Mara, deserve at least a couple of days.
If the duration of your trip is 3 days, we suggest visiting the only Masai Mara; from 3 to 6 you can include Masai Mara, Nakuru lake and Hell’s Gate/lake Naivasha; from 6 up to 9 or more, you can have a complete tour of the main parks from both the east and west circuit. Click here to see our itinerary.
3. The third decision is whether you want to camp in budget public campsites or stay in tented camps, guest houses/hotels (when available) or in luxury tented camps/lodges. This decision will depend on your budget and comfort requisites.
4. Another important thing for your budget is whether you want a private safari or a shared safari. The choice could depend on many factors; for example, your budget, if you are travelling alone or with friends, the days you can spend in Kenya, the time you have to arrange your trip.
Shared safari vs Private safari
- Shared Safari
A shared safari is indeed a great way to meet new people if you are alone and reduce all the expenses, whether you are alone or with a friend with a low budget.
Itinerary: the group safari lasts between 3 and 6 nights with a fixed itinerary. It usually runs among the west circuit’s national parks (Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Hell’s Gate, Lake Naivasha and even Amboseli in the east). After visiting a park, you always reach a specific meeting point where your driver will pick up or drop off some customers. It means that you could share your vehicle with customers that booked more/fewer nights than you. Maybe they only visit a single park, go to a different destination and so on. For example, if the first visit is the Masai Mara NR, after leaving Nairobi, you’ll stop at a specific meeting point along the road to pick customers up coming from other destinations (and different tour agencies) and where you usually have lunch. After visiting the Masai Mara, you’ll get back to the same meeting point, and from here, after picking up or dropping off customers, you’ll proceed to your destination (probably changing your mean of transport too). The thing that you must know and that they usually don’t mention is the exact duration of the safari. Considering the Masai Mara budget safari 3D/2N (or a longer one including it), the program usually includes an afternoon safari, a full day safari and a morning safari. Unfortunately, the afternoon safari and the morning safari either last only a couple of hours. It happens because either on your way to and way back, the driver has to stop at the meeting point at an exact time to pick up and drop off customers. Two hours around a big Park like Masai Mara are nothing, and you can’t spot anything unless you are extremely lucky. The same consideration can be done for Amboseli NP.
Transportation: The mean of transport is usually an 8 seaters van with a hatch rooftop. 7 seats are in the backside of the van, and 1 is beside the driver. It means that if the van is full, the person who seats in the front seat won’t be able to enjoy the pop-up rooftop and have a privileged view of the wildlife. In case you can try to stay in the back seat anyway since the speed inside the park is quite low. The drivers usually know very well the parks, and they can communicate via radio to each other not to miss the most exciting sightings of the day.
Accommodation: basic tented camps, cheap hotel and guest houses. The tours usually include the full board (drinks not included).
Other expenses: the price also includes the entrance fees in the park. The only activities not included are the ones not mentioned in the tour, like the Masai Mara villages walk or the hot air balloon.
Shared safari price: the average cost for a 3-night tour is around 400 USD, whereas a 6-night tour ranges between 800 and 900 USD (all inclusive). As a side note, when booking your safari, it’s better to go through a major company with their own vehicles and guides because many tour agencies are only “broker”. They sell tours, but they deal for minor tour operators.
How to book: the best website to find a wide choice of agencies that offer budget safaris is safaribooking.com. Here, you can look at the prices, itineraries, general information and contact the agencies.
If your budget is low and you are alone or with a friend, it is an excellent choice to experience Kenya’s beautiful nature without spending a fortune. Anyway, you have to accept what they offer without being able to change your stay/time in the Parks because they have to respect a schedule.
- Private Safari
Indeed a private safari is more expensive, but if you are a group of friends (3 or more), the difference is not very significant (sometimes none at all, especially from 5 to 8 people). You’ll be able to benefit from full itinerary customisation, travel at your own rhythm and pace and have more free space in the car.
Itinerary: you can tailor-make your trip, and the local tour operator can eventually help you not to waste time with suggestions and indeed adjust to your wishes, preferences and budget requirements.
Transportation: they usually use a jeep 4×4 with the hatch rooftop, and sometimes they also have a minivan with a hatch rooftop (less expensive than the jeep). The price is per vehicle, so the more people you have, the lower the cost per person. The drivers know exceptionally well the parks and all the tracks. The vehicles have got the radio to communicate with each other and not to miss the most exciting sightings of the day.
Accommodation: when you contact the tour operator, it will suggest different accommodation options for each park, recommending those they believe have the best quality for their price range. The choice is vast: tented camps, simple camping safari, hotels or luxury lodges.
Other expenses: entrance fee of the parks (often included in final the price). The tour price usually consists of the full board.
How to book: you can contact Explorer Kenya Safaris, Centurion Safari, Big Time safaris, Masikio safari, Wildtouch safari, Safari Trails, Karibu Safari, Olive Safaris, Pollman’s Tour and Safari (one of the best). Alternatively, you can look for your tour on safari booking .com
This is the best option to enjoy Kenya and get the most out of your visit. You can customise your itinerary without rushing and being tied to other customers’ needs, like in the shared safari. If you are a group of friends, do not hesitate and choose a private safari.
I tried the shared safari and I agree with you. It’s good if you travel alone since you can share the expenses with other people, but the private is definitely better!
That’s very interesting. There are 3 of us hoping to visit Kenya in July and we were about to book a shared safari. Do you think is that a good idea? Reading your article it seems the other option is better.
Hi Josep, we suggest 100% a private safari! There are 3 of you and you could share the expenses for the vehicle and sleeping in the tented camp and guest houses.
That’s amazing! I’m planning a safari for the first time and Kenya seems to be the best choice!