Health

Please note that the section on Health is not meant to replace any qualified medical advice by your doctor or travel health clinic.

  • Healthcare in East Africa significantly varies depending on location, hospital and treatment required.

    Overall, healthcare is considerably below international standards, especially in rural areas, though improving.

    In major towns such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu (Kenya), Dar es Salaam and to a lesser extent Arusha (Tanzania), private health care, including dental care, can be on average good or very good.

    The Nairobi Hospital and the Aga Khan Hospital, both in Nairobi, are excellent private facilities (probably the best ones in East Africa) for diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative services. They are equipped with modern health facilities and well-trained and qualified doctors and nurses.

    In Nairobi and the other major towns above mentioned  there are also a few international standard and well-stocked pharmacies. While on safari or off the beaten track, however, there is absolutely no access to any decent standard medical facility or pharmacy.

    International standard healthcare in Kenya and Tanzania is very expensive. All consulting doctors, labs, hospitals and any other medical service providers in Africa require immediate upfront payment. Specifically, hospitalization and surgery can be extremely costly and you may be billed tens of thousands of US dollars for medical evacuations.

    You are advised to take out a comprehensive travel insurance before leaving. Read the page “Travel insurance” for more details.

  • Are there mandatory vaccinations required for entry?

     

    No, there are no vaccinations required by law to enter Kenya and Tanzania, with the exception, in some cases, of yellow fever vaccination, as explained below.

    You DO NOT NEED to show a Yellow Fever Certificate if you are arriving directly from Europe, North America or Australia.

    You NEED to show a Yellow Fever Certificate if your flight originates from a country where yellow fever is endemic, or you have transited by land through a yellow fever endemic country. For example, if your safari itinerary combines a visit to Kenya and Tanzania (or other East African countries) you will definitely need to have a Yellow Fever Certificate. The same applies if you have left the airport and made a stopover in a yellow fever endemic country en route from Europe to your final destination.

    There is confusion, however, about yellow fever requirements for travellers just transiting - without leaving the airport – in a country where yellow fever is present. You never know, for example, whether that transit in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, or Entebbe, Uganda, en route from Europe to Kenya or Tanzania counts as originating in a country where yellow fever is endemic. By law it should not, unless the transit period at the airport is 12 hours or more, but rules implementation keep on changing and different rules may be applied at one time.

    The authorities may not always check, but it is then worth having a Yellow Fever Certificate at hand even in case you have just transited, without leaving the airport, in an infected country.

    The certificate will only become valid 10 days after you have the vaccination.

    Please refer to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of yellow fever endemic countries.

  • Is there any recommended vaccinations? Do I need anti-malaria tablets?

     

    These are the most frequently asked questions by travelers.

    Unfortunately it is not easy to give a clear-cut answer. Only your doctor or travel medicine specialist can give good advice, on a case- by-case basis, depending on individual factors such as age, health condition and history, any other medicines being taken, allergies, places to visit, duration of stay and planned activities.

    According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following vaccinations are recommended for Kenya: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococica meningitis, rabies and typhoid, and boosters for tetanus, diphtheria, polio and measles. According to CDC it is also advisable to be vaccinated against yellow fever.

    However, this is just a list of all possible vaccinations that are often not appropriate for classic safari circuits. Seek your doctor’s advice on this. Time permitting, see your doctor at least 6 weeks before departure as time is needed for some vaccines to take effect and not all inoculations can be made at the same time.

  • Causes

    Malaria is a serious infectious disease typical of tropical climates.

    It is caused by a type of parasite known as Plasmodium. Transmission of the Plasmodium occurs through the bite of an infected female mosquito of the genus Anopheles. This kind of mosquito is most active from dusk to dawn. A single mosquito bite is all it takes to become infected.

    Symptoms

    Common malaria symptoms are sudden high fever, shaking chills, muscle aches, headache, general malaise and other flu-like symptoms. A definitive diagnosis of malaria can only be made through laboratory tests.

    Symptoms of the of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum (the most deadly and common type in Africa) generally occur 7 days to 2 weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito, although they can also begin a few weeks later. Symptoms of malaria caused by other types of plasmodia parasites usually take longer to appear, up to several months, a year or, occasionally, even longer. They may also follow a cyclic pattern.

    Preventing malaria

    Although there is yet no vaccine against malaria, several prophylaxis treatments are available, none ensuring 100% protection and all with a different set of potential side effects.

    Avoiding mosquito bites is then the first line of defense against malaria. In this respect a few tips follow:

    - Sleep under a mosquito net. If not, make sure that your room has been sprayed with insect repellent and is well screened against mosquitoes.
    - Switch off all lights while sleeping since light attracts mosquitoes.
    - Do not wear strong after-shave, hairspray, perfume or scented cremes.
    - After sunset and at dawn, wear long trousers and long-sleeved clothing, as well as socks and closed shoes. Apply a DEET-based insect repellent on the uncovered parts of your body.

    Treating malaria

    If malaria is diagnosed and treated promptly in an adequate manner, virtually everybody will make a relatively speedy and easy recovery.

    If not, malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum can rapidly become severe and life-threatening as early as 12 hours from the first onset of symptoms.

    You should immediately see a doctor as soon as these symptoms occur.

    Consult your doctor or preferably a travel medicine specialist regarding the advisability of carrying an emergency self-treatment in the event you suspect malaria when you are off the beaten track.

    The risk of malaria in Kenya and Tanzania

    Malaria is present in Kenya and Tanzania all year round. Degrees of risk vary considerably according to location and season.

    The risk is greater around Lake Victoria and the coastal regions, especially during the rainy seasons (March-May; October-November) and immediately after.

    By contrast, the risk is low in the highlands and negligible in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, and Arusha, Tanzania, and in the high altitude areas (about 2500m/ 820ft).

    In the parks we will be visiting, the risk of contracting malaria is generally moderate.

  • As for most African countries, travel health authorities usually have quite lengthy lists of diseases for Kenya and Tanzania, some of which are not vaccine-preventable!

    These lists include all potential risks present in the country. Some may not apply to the regions you intend to visit or be very low in relation to your planned activities.

    If you stick to qualified medical advice and use common sense, your stay should be trouble-free and very much enjoyable!

    Giardia, amoeba, and other parasitic diseases are among the most frequent endemic diseases to East Africa. Caused by contaminated food and water (as in the case of hepatitis A and typhoid) they might cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. Avoid potentially unsafe food and water as a preventative measure.

    Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) are other diseases carried by insects. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help prevent these diseases and also malaria.

    Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) can be contracted in fresh water. Do not worry as you will never swim in the parks’ water courses.

    Visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website  (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/kenya.htm), for more information on endemic diseases to Kenya and Tanzania.

    Useful information can also be found on the website of the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/ith/en/).

  • As a general rule:

    - Drink only bottled water, canned or bottled carbonated drinks, beer and wine, and hot beverages (such as coffee or tea) made with boiled water. Never drink tap water.
    - Brush your teeth with drinking or boiled water.
    - Always wash your hands with water and soap before eating. If not possible, use antibacterial gel or wipes.
    - Ensure your meat is fully cooked. Avoid ice, salads, fruits, ice cream and dairy products except in top hotels, camps and restaurants.
    - Do not eat food purchased from street vendors in Nairobi or any other locations.

    The safari lodges and camps where we will be staying follow very good hygiene practice. Their food, including raw food, is handled with care and is generally safe for consumption.

    Guests hardly experience any upset stomach. Having said that, traveler’s diarrhea is the most common problem encountered by travelers in Africa. The risk cannot be totally ruled out, especially if  you are susceptible to stomach problems when changing climate and/or type of food.


Security

  • Kenya and Tanzania are generally safe for tourists. Combined, over one million tourists visit the two countries each year, almost with no incidents. Kenya has one of the most developed and thriving safari sectors in Africa; in Tanzania tourism is rapidly developing and it is increasingly playing an important economic role. People in both countries are very friendly and well disposed towards visitors.

    Localised violence does occur, but it is normally not directed at visitors and is very far away from tourist routes and destinations.

    In Kenya, troubled areas are currently in the proximity of the Kenya-Somalia border, including Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island. Other hotspots include border areas with Ethiopia and South Sudan and some rural areas in the northern part of the country. At times, these areas may experience cattle rustling, banditry and ethnic clashes. Low income areas of Nairobi, including slums, are also rife with crime.

    In Tanzania, hotspots are especially along the Rwandan border, where armed bandit attacks may occur. Low income areas of urban centres are also unsafe.

    All this will have little or no effect on your photographic safari in Kenya or Tanzania. Besides, we constantly monitor local media and have an extensive local network for up-to-date information and alerts on security.

    Most parks and game reserves are generally trouble-free; actually safety here is much less of a concern than in other rural areas or large cities and towns. Reports of attacks or robberies directed at tourists are rare and not more frequent than in many North America or Europe’s touristy destinations.

    That said, no destination can claim to be 100% safe and while in Africa you should use the same travel precautions you would use in other parts of the world.

  • When in a city or town, it is advisable to follow some common safety rules:

    - Never walk at night, under any circumstances; always take a registered taxi even for very short distances. Make sure the taxi drops you within the compound area of your destination.

    - Avoid walking on your own away from your hotel, restaurant, shopping mall or tourist routes during the day unless escorted by an official guide.

    - In order not to be a temptation for thieves and pick pockets, do not wear jewellery  carry expensive-looking items, or move around with bulging pockets. You can use your hotel safety box service or room safe to store cash and other valuables.

    - If you must or want to carry your passport and money on you, keep it in a well-conceived pocket. You may want to use your wallet just to hold enough change, enough for the day.

    - Do not carry a lot of camera equipment while walking.

    - Do not travel to low income areas of town, including slum areas, due to high crime levels.

    - Make a copy of the first few pages of your passport, certificate of vaccination and any other important travel documents and keep them in your luggage away from the originals.

    - In theory, law requires to always carry your passport with you. Depending on your activities, you may consider leaving your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy instead.

    While staying at the safari lodges or camps, it is again common sense not to flaunt your cash or valuables or leave them in plain sight. Contrary to cities, it is preferable to keep your money and credit cards with you at all times as you will spend most of your time in game drives in the wilderness.

    Always follow the rules given by your guide, driver and lodge/camp staff as far as the wildlife is concerned.

    Safaris may take you into close contact with wild animals. Please also note that the majority of the safari camps are not fenced and that wildlife do move freely in and around the camps. However, this is also what will make your stay unforgettable. Charge or aggression by wild animals, unless they are disturbed, are rare. Your guide is also trained in anticipating animal behaviour and putting you in the right place.

    Overall our safaris are very safe. As long as you stick to rules and keep your wits about it, safaris will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.