Tuesday, 13 May 2014

How Safe is Kenya for a Safari Vacation?

Those who have been following the news are aware that Kenya has been the target of Somali terrorist groups and, obviously, the attacks have been incredibly heartbreaking. Considering we are covering so much of the good coming out of Kenya, this writer doesn't think it's fair to leave that elephant completely out of the conversation. Admittedly, before deciding to make the journey from my home in Denver, I too wondered if it was safe to visit Kenya.
On my trip it was confirmed that, in terms of taking a safari, the answer is absolutely yes it is safe. The risk of danger in the national reserve areas like the Masai Mara and Laikipia are no greater than encountering a problem in any of America's national parks. Like here in the States, terrorism in Kenya has thus far been limited to populated places like Nairobi and Mombasa.

This is not to imply that you should be scared of visiting either. The chances of something happening to you are extremely rare, and you should not be under the impression that you are entering a war zone. That said, if you have had a Kenyan safari in mind and are a bit worried about what you've been reading, here is my advice:
Nairobi may be worth a look from a cultural standpoint, as it is the country's capital, but it doesn't necessarily behoove American travelers to spend a lot of time there. The city is still very much in transition, suffering from instability and some of the worst traffic I've ever seen. I'm not saying a visit wouldn't be enjoyable -- you would certainly learn a lot -- I'm simply saying that you could feel good about yourself if you went to Kenya and spent a majority of your time upcountry and in the reserves. In most cases, that's the primary reason you're shelling out the time and money it takes to visit from the States -- for a safari. And as you can see in the cover photo, places like the Masai Mara are about as connected to Nairobi as New York City is to the Finger Lakes.
For the record, I bookended my trip with nights in Nairobi and felt perfectly safe, but it was then that I realized it doesn't even necessarily have to be a huge part of your trip. That leaves us with the big picture: If you have dreams of a safari vacation, don't let the recent tragedies in the cities make you cross Kenya off the list. The Masai Mara is still one of Africa's premier safari destinations, and, if you feel so inclined, you can simply pass right on through Nairobi until it turns the corner.
[Photo: Will McGough]

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