I recently returned from an 8-day trip to Kenya/Tanzania with Intrepid Travel. I signed up for the “Serengeti Trail” tour which was a budget tour that normally costs $1200 US for the 8 days with almost all meals included. They do run discounts for last-minute sign ups, so I actually got this trip for $1,000 since I signed up two weeks before the trip left. When I was researching this trip, I had difficulty finding many reviews of this company so I vowed to write a trip report when I returned home. I hope this review is helpful to anyone considering this company.
Visa Information: You are going to need a visa when you enter Kenya and when you enter Tanzania. You do not have to fill out any paperwork or bring passport photos in advance for either visa. You just need to bring cash (US dollars) for both visas. I arrived in Nairobi on British Airways and they passed out Kenyan visa forms on the plane to fill out before arrival. I had also printed a copy off the web before I left because I wasn’t sure if you had to do it in advance. You can find the link on the TripAdvisor website. They take your picture and fingerprints at the visa station. You hand them your cash and they give you the visa. The same thing happened at the Tanzania border. One thing to know about the Tanzanian visas: It costs $100 US for Americans and only $50 US for people from England or Australia.
ATM situation: After landing, I got cash from the ATM at the airport. There is a bank of ATMs at the airport from 5 different banking companies. I couldn’t get the first one I tried to take my ATM card, but the second one did. Note: I had extreme difficulty using my Bank of America ATM card on this trip. Bank of America shut down my card for awhile because they thought it was stolen. I had to make an international call at one point to get it unfrozen. It also got stuck in an ATM at one point and I had to get a police officer to help me get it out. I would highly recommend that you bring extra US dollars in case you run into ATM issues. It was very easy to find people or banks to change money. Many stores and restaurants had no issue taking US dollars. If I were to go again, I would not rely on ATM machines to get cash.
Packing: I brought way too much stuff for this trip. I realized this when I got to the hotel in Nairobi and was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to squeeze it onto the lockers on the bus. I had one of those big backpacker backpacks and ended up leaving the backpack at the hotel and repacking my things into a smaller duffle bag to take on the trip. The hotel was willing to store luggage and it was smart to leave a clean change of clothes at the hotel because everything in my duffle bag ended up wet and stinky. I would recommend purchasing a compression sleeping bag (or some kind of sleeping bag that rolls up small) if you can. I would also highly recommend that you purchase a travel towel for the showers. Most campers had those. I had a bath towel and it not dry the entire trip and all of my stuff ended up wet and smelly by the end because of that towel.
Electronic devices: The bus actually had a row of 6 outlets in the back near the lockers. You could charge electronic devices on the road and in emergencies, the battery would actually charge things even when the bus was parked or off. If your camera was totally dead, the guide would probably let you charge something overnight. They just didn’t want everyone charging things while the bus was off because it would drain the battery. My camera battery was crap and kept dying after every two hours, so I took advantage of this many times throughout the trip.
Passengers: The bus had space for 22 people. There were only 10 of us signed up for the tour. There were 3 couples and four people who were traveling alone. Six people on the trip were Australian. Three people were British. I was the only American. Everyone on the trip was between the ages of 25-44. Because there weren’t that many of us on the trip, we had space to spread out and we each got a seat to ourselves during the wildlife viewing. It was lovely not to have to share a bus seat with anyone else.
Kivi Milimani Hotel: This is the place we started and ended the trip at. I arrived a day early and got a single room for the night. It cost $100 US and was definitely not what I expected for that money. The room did have hot water showers and a toilet, but was not very fancy beyond that. We stayed at another hotel on our first day of travel for $12 and they were pretty similar in terms of room quality. The facilities did have a pool, bar, restaurant, and wifi, so it was a decent place to start and end the trip.
Trip Day 1: Hotel Meeting at 6:00 p.m. – You get to meet the tour guide for a briefing and the people on your tour. They run through the itinerary, collect the kitty money, and check your insurance forms. After they told us what time to meet in the morning, several of us went to the hotel restaurant for dinner and beers to get to know each other.
Day 2: Depart Nairobi – Travel 9 hours on bus through Kenya – We stopped on the side of the road for lunch. When we got to the town we were staying in for the night, we went to a nice grocery store where you can purchase drinks and snacks for the trip. This was the nicest grocery store we saw on the whole trip. Later, people were sad that they didn’t buy more snacks and drinks at this place. STOCK UP! Prices are good. They take credit cards. I wish I had bought snacks for the whole week at this place because of the amazing selection. We thought every grocery store would be like this place and we were wrong. I’d also highly recommend that you buy a role or two of toilet paper for yourself at this store. You will use many toilets where there is no TP or water to wash your hands. If you have any dietary restrictions, make sure your chef knows and get yourself some extra snacks here just in case they can’t accommodate you for every meal. Beer, wine and hard liquor are sold here too. You may want to consider buying enough for the entire week. Most of us bought enough for 1 or 2 nights and then were sad we didn’t buy more there. There was an ATM machine that you could use next to the grocery store as well.
Day 3: Kisii & Lake Victoria – The Kisii soapstone carving tour was really cool. You get to see people making the carvings at all different stations. You can also use the bathroom there and purchase carvings in their gift shop. I enjoyed this stop. In the afternoon, we crossed the border to Tanzania. You will need cash to purchase your visa. Our guide told us to leave everything on the bus except for our passports, money to buy the visa, and a ballpoint pen. We had no issues at the border. After we crossed, we got back on the bus and headed to Lake Victoria. Our campsite at Lake Victoria was very nice. They had a restaurant/bar with free wifi. If you don’t want to camp, you can ask whether you can upgrade to a room for an additional fee. Beers were cheap. Wifi was great. Some of the restrooms had actual toilet seats. Showers were cold, but not terrible. We went on a walking tour of the town in the afternoon and were able to use ATMs or go to the money changer to exchange US dollars. The lake looked beautiful and very inviting, but you can’t get in the water because there are poison snails in there that will inject parasites through your skin and you’ll get violently ill or something. I don’t remember the exact story, but I saw an episode of “Monsters Inside Me” once about an American who swam in Lake Victoria and got infected with the parasite. Everyone on the trip seemed to know about the snails, so none of us chanced it.
Day 4/5: Serengeti – Amazing. We camped at one of the campsites and did the game drives in the morning and evening. Animals come into the camp at night. Don’t go outside when you can hear them outside of your tent. Always go in pairs to the bathroom. We saw zebras near the bathroom and hyenas came into our camp every night after we went to bed. I also learned that tsetse flies are attracted to the colors blue and black, so I don’t recommend wearing those colors in the Serengeti. Everything I own is pretty much blue or black and I got way more bug bites than everyone else on the trip. Also, on our first night at the campfire, this van called the “Zebra Refreshment Van” showed up out of nowhere and these guys hopped out and asked us if we wanted to buy booze, sodas or snacks. They have a fully stocked van and visit every campsite every night to sell snacks every night, so if you run out, this is a great traveling snack bar. It is expensive, but they deliver it to your campsite and it’s not like you have other options if you’re hungry or thirsty or have run out of beer. They take US dollars too.
Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater – We stopped at one more grocery store on the way to the crater, but it was very limited in what they had. On our way to the crater, we saw lots of Maasi children and people. You are supposed to pay them if you want to take a picture. If you would like to stop at a Maasi village, you have to pay $20 US per person. None of us opted to do that, but I’m sure some tours stop.
The Ngorongoro Crater was amazing and beautiful. The campsite was very peaceful and had a lot more wildlife out at night. We saw wild hogs and buffalo near our campfire at night. There were hyenas screaming near the bathrooms. You need to watch out for fire ants when you set up your tents. There seemed to be fire ant mounds all over the area and some people had to move their tents later because of the ants.
Day 7: Ngorongoro Crater tour & Meserani Snake Park – We spent the morning in jeeps touring the Ngorongoro Crater. It was amazing for wildlife viewing and we got lots of great pictures and video footage. In the afternoon, we drove to Meserani for an evening at the Snake Park. The Snake Park is actually a cool campground with a nice bar (that takes US dollars) and it has fun snake and animal exhibits. You can get a beer and go wander through the exhibits and see picture of snakes eating people and then see lots of deadly snakes and crocodiles and other animals that are being rehabilitated in the shelter. They also have a snake bite hospital and a Maasi museum are included with your $10 camping fee. The bathrooms at this place are very nice and have flushing toilets with plenty of toilet paper. There is also water to wash your hands. The showers were cold, but clean. They also have places to charge your electronic devices here. This place was amazing for $10/night.
Day 8: Travel back to Nairobi – We made a morning stop in Arusha to drop off some people who were flying out of Arusha, Tanzania and then continued on to the border and back to Nairobi, Kenya. The guides allowed us to stop at an ATM once we were back in Kenya so a few of us could get money to leave a tip. Once arriving back at the Kivi Milimani Hotel in Nairobi, we all gathered with the people staying one more night at the hotel to take a shower and use the toilets before heading back to the airport.
I made a video of my 8 days on this trip. If you’d like to see the major stops, animals, and footage of the bus, campground, and bathroom facilities, please check out my 8-min video:
Overall it was an amazing tour and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, you will find Intrepid Travel to be a really great company at a really good value.
If you have any questions, please let me know!