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Exploring the East Africa Highlights: Kenya and Tanzania with Intrepid Review

[This is not a sponsored or paid post, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and wanted to share my experience with anyone considering the East Africa Highlights with Intrepid. However, this post does contain affiliate links for the hotels I stayed in post-tour. This means that if you chose to make a purchase via one of the links I’ve provided, I may earn as small commission at no additional cost to you.]

In September 2023, I ticked off one of the longest-standing experiences on my bucket list – a safari in Tanzania and Kenya. As a solo female traveller, who was a little anxious to travel to these countries for the first time by myself, I travelled on a group tour called East Africa Highlights with Intrepid.

So if you were thinking about going on safari or the East Africa Highlights tour with Intrepid, here’s a review of my experience and recommendations:

The tour details

Tour Name: East Africa Highlights
Tour company: Intrepid Travel
Duration of tour: 10 days (2 days are the start and end of the tour)
Group size: 1 – 16 (We had 6 people in our group)
Age restrictions: 15 and over (Our group was between 31 – 50)

East Africa Highlights with Intrepid in a nutshell

On this tour, along with your fellow travellers, we were accompanied by a tour leader, a tour driver and a tour chef. This group tour was very different to other group tours I’ve been on, which I expected, due to the type of trip it was going to be (wildlife watching, rather than sightseeing and social nights outs). Some days were very jampacked, there were long travel days and there was also some time to wind-down. This was definitely an adventure style trip.

Highlights

  • The pure surge of excitement you experience upon seeing the first wild animal on the first game drive
  • Seeing four of the “big five” on a 4×4 game drive in the Masai Mara
  • Camping in the Serengeti National Pack with no barriers between the animals and the tents
  • Spotting the last of the big five (rhino) in the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Seeing lion cubs (and watching them for over an hour)
  • Spending time with the Hadzabe Bushmen and getting an insight into their way of life
  • Chef Jeremy’s food. But especially his butternut pumpkin soup!
  • Having a small group of six allowed a more intimate experience – and a lot of space on our bus.
  • Similarly, meeting new people and bonding with strangers over shared experiences
  • Driver John’s cheery personality and for always getting us to each place safely
  • Watching a sunset over Lake Victoria
  • Spending an afternoon with Maasai Warriors and their way of life
  • Trying ugali (a traditional food made from maize flour that’s similar to polenta)
  • Tour Leader Julius for making sure the trip ran as smoothly as possibly, and making problem solving so carefree for the tour group
  • Intrepid’s Urban adventures guide located at the finishing hotel who helps you organise day trips if you’re staying a bit longer – this was so helpful!

Lowlights & Laughs

  •  Being bitten by a tsetse fly: After taking all the possible precautions and worrying about sleeping sickness, I still managed to get bitten by a tsetse fly. Ensure you are lathered in bug cream or spray, avoid blue and black clothes, and wear clothes that cover your skin.
  • Leaving my visas until last minute: I almost jeopardised my entire trip because I applied for my Kenyan visa later than I should have. Make sure you apply for these well in advance and check the government websites for current advice and delays.
  • No publics toilets on safari: This means you go where you can – which means  going “bushy-bushy” (toilet in the bush) on a game drive. Half the time I couldn’t even go because I was so worried about what might be watching me in my most compromising state!
  • ATM stole my card: Loosing my card to an ATM in Tanzania (I managed to get it back thankfully) really gave me a fright!) Be sure to read these tips to avoid it happening to you.
  • Swindling monkeys and baboons: We were warned early on to not leave truck window open or the baboons will take it as an opportunity to take what you’ve left behind. On a lunch stop one day, we saw a cheeky monkey jump through the window of another Intrepid truck and steal an apple.
  • Add-on activities can be expensive: Additional game drives ended up being more expensive than expected if not everyone on the tour wanted to go. Plus a lot of fees were not included in the prices such as transport.
  • Regrets on not booking a longer tour: I regret not doing the longer tour and carrying on to Zanzibar at the end of the trip. The tour went really quickly and for the time and money I spent travelling from Perth to join the tour, I wish I’d just gone with the extended version.
A blue plate with three slices of watermelon, spiral pasta, a colourful salad and a fork. The plate is resting on a person's knees.
Lunch before we entered the Serengeti – made at the lunch stop. One of the best salads I’ve ever tasted!

Food, accommodation and transport

FOOD

Most breakfast, lunch and dinners were included on this tour – mostly because there weren’t many restaurants near our accomodations.

My expectations of the food on this tour were not very high (mostly because I knew there would be limited facilities) – and I was a little bit nervous! As someone who is a little bit food fussy, I can honestly say that the food absolutely smashed my expectations out of the park. I don’t know if we were just very lucky to have had Jeremy as our chef, but every meal was absolutely so delicious. I’m still craving his butternut pumpkin soup and croutons (pictured above).

There was only one or two meals that were disappointing following our tour chef’s cooking and that was buffet-style meals we had at one of the hotels.

ACCOMODATION

The accomodation was a mixed bag of portable tents, permanent tented camps, lodges and hotels. Some had wifi, swimming pools and really lovely restaurants, whereas others were very basic with cold running water and no wifi. It was definitely good to have an idea of what facilities would be available at each stop so you can prepare in advance (enjoy a nice warm shower, wash some clothes, stock up on snacks, charge devices, etc)

TRANSPORT

Our main mode of transport was a big beastly overland truck, which actually also doubled as our safari game drive truck in the Serengeti National Park. In the Maasai Mara National Reserve and Ngorongoro Crater, we switched to smaller 6-seater 4×4 safari vehicles.

The overall experience of the East Africa Highlights tour

This trip was amazing – the only thing I would do differently is stay longer! Despite the fact that no wildlife sightings are guaranteed, our group was especially lucky to have seen all of the big five on this trip. I also really enjoyed the experiences with the Maasai Warriors and the Hadzabe Bushmen, as it was really interesting and important to me to learn about the unique cultures in each of these countries. As the tour was heavily focused on wildlife, I didn’t feel as though I really go to see or experience the cities or towns as much as I would have liked – however, this was not the focus of the tour.

Alongside that, this is such great safari tour for someone who, if you’re like me, is a bit nervous to camp the entire trip but wouldn’t mind giving it a go.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, this was a bucket list trip for me and it’s one of my favourite trips I’ve been on!

Currency tips for Kenya and Tanzania

Before and after your trip with Intrepid

Getting to Nairobi City from Nairobi Airport

Three options available are an arrival transfer through Intrepid, a taxi or Uber. As a solo female traveller, I’d feel more comfortable with the first two and would feel more safe.

I organised a pre-tour transfer because that made me feel more comfortable, which set me back AUD 64. However, as of September 2023, it’s cheaper to grab a taxi at USD 25 (for the non-expressway) or USD 30 for the faster route on the expressway.

Getting to Nairobi Airport from Nairobi City

Back to the airport, I booked a taxi that I shared with another traveller from my group. The Urban Adventures guide located at the finishing hotel in Nairobi assisted us with booking it. All prices were similar or the same as above – when finishing in Nairobi.

A quick note on that: On this tour, we had the option of finishing in Arusha, Tanzania or Nairobi, Kenya. Most people chose to head back to Nairobi as more flights tend to go out of that airport versus the airport, including me.

Pre-tour accommodation recommendations in Nairobi

I stayed at Hotel Boulevard (which was the starting hotel on my trip but this could differ from future trips). This hotel was quite lovely with lush gardens and a nice pool area. There’s also a nice restaurant and bar area with indoor and outdoor seating. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful. It’s a gated hotel and not much around once you leave the hotel so I didn’t go wandering.

Post-tour accomodation recommendations in Nairobi

I stayed at the finishing hotel called Kenya Comfort Suites. This was the finishing hotel on my trip – if ending in Nairobi – but this could differ from future trips. This hotel probably a little more basic than the starting hotel but has all the same facilities (pool, restaurant, etc). I liked the location much more than the starting hotel, as there were nearby restaurants that felt safe to walk to.

Pre and post-tour activity recommendations in Nairobi

There are heaps of activities you can do before or after your tour. I didn’t do much pre-tour, but post-tour I fed the world’s tallest animal at the Giraffe Centre in Kenya. There’s also Nairobi city tours, Nairobi National Park, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Karen Blixen Museum.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does Intrepid charge a solo traveller supplement fee?
A: As of February 2024, no. There are no additional fees for solo travellers. However, you will likely be roomed with a fellow solo traveller of the same gender. If you want your own private room/ tent, there would be a supplement fee.

Q: Is East Africa safe as a solo female traveller?
A: While I felt relatively safe on my trip, I did feel uneasy when I first arrived because it was an unfamiliar place. I would advise always exercising caution, being well-prepared with your planning for this trip and always double checking your country’s government advice on a destination for current updates. (Aussies can check Smartraveller.) If you’re travelling to East Africa for the first time as a female solo traveller, I’d suggest going on a group tour. Group tours are great for solo travellers who don’t have someone to accompany them but would like the safety and comfort of travelling with others.

Q: What should I pack for my safari trip?
A: I have a guide on what to wear on your safari trip here and a more extensive packing list that I’ve written here (you can also snag my FREE printable packing list there too).

Q: How much spending money should I take on safari?
A: This really depends on your spending habits (shopping, snacks, etc), as well as what add-ons you might do. However, you can get an idea of what I spent in my complete breakdown of costs for my trip to Kenya and Tanzania. I would also highly recommend checking out these money tips you NEED to know for Kenya and Tanzania.

Is there something I missed about the tour?

Please leave any questions about East Africa Highlights with Intrepid in the comments below and I will do my best to answer your queries. Or send me a message via my contact page.

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