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For your first time to Kenya , you may want to book with a reputable company from your home country, that way you are guaranteed to get what you have paid for. Check for recommendations from multiple sources before you book and if booking with a Kenya based operator, and go with one that is a member of KATO (Kenya Assosiation of Tour Operaters} . Whilst you are on safari then check out the other tour operators by asking fellow travelers in the lodges you stay at or your beach hotel as to who they used and what was the standard to their safari. Then you will be equipped for your next trip.
Other travellers would like to do it privately. Kenya is now back to business from the very reasons
you know so the Kenyans can enjoy the fruits of tourism without needing to be in KATO. It's better for the travellers to be given the chance to choose what
they think is good for them, so then competition will be heathy.
Things you should know about parks:
The entry fee is valid for 24h. This means that if you enter at 10 am, you must leave before 10 am the day you need to depart. If you have two days to spare for a safari, plan carefully your trip.
Since animals are usually visible around sunset and sunrise, it is better to arrive early pm. That leaves time for the late pm safari, the morning one, and time to explore the park till you need to leave.If you are in Nairobi/Mombasa and head to Tsavo parks; remember it can take 3-5h to drive to the gates depending upon the gate and your starting point. For Tsavo east, there is not much to see in terms of landscape. But Tsavo West is VERY beautiful, and there are many things to see. Hence, the advice above, is more for Tsavo West. Plan you arrival at the lodge around 3 pm, which will leave you the rest of the day, the whole morning and early pm of the next day to see the animals and explore the natural wonders of the park.
The thing to remember is that when you are sold a "n" day-long safari by a tour operator or safari co, you'll spend "n-1" days in the park, as they take into account the travel time to go to the gate and back. What counts is the number of nights you spend in the park.