In the midst of all the uncertainty of recent months during this terrible pandemic, travel has never seemed more precious and more vital. Thus, when we have the chance to create an unforgettable travel experience for our clients, or to head on a memorable vacation ourselves, we need to take it. While it may seem counterintuitive to plan a vacation in the midst of a pandemic, we need to avail ourselves of the opportunity to make the most of the situation we’re presented with. The reopening of Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania to tourists is one such opportunity. While there are safety procedures to consider, and uncertainty about the situation back home, there is no doubt that an East African safari remains as life-changing as ever, and that right now is an ideal time to plan one.
This fact doesn’t seem immediately obvious. It’s not like there are more flights into Kenya and Tanzania than before. And every trip outside one’s home brings with it the uncertainty of encountering other people in the midst of a pandemic. But unlike so many vacations, an East African safari is a vacation that does not rely on the presence of other people. In fact, it thrives off the absence of others. It lives in the silence and space that allows travellers to connect with the natural world and feel the presence of the wild deep in their hearts.
The Masai Mara and the Serengti are among the most enchanting natural locations on the planet. But sharing the golden savannah with half a dozen other tour vehicles or jockeying over others for the best view of a cheetah racing across the horizon can sometimes diminish the experience. This period of change and pause allows travellers to experience the East African savannah without the same number of tourists. It lets them be alone with the majestic animals that usually draw people from across the globe. If a traveller has ever wished to have the Masai Mara or the slopes of Kilimanjaro to him or herself, this is the time they can make that dream come true.
As well, such a pause in travel has also lowered prices and created great deals on trips across Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Usually, safaris are expensive compared to most vacations, but they are currently discounted across budget levels, meaning that an accommodation upgrade or private travel experience is more affordable than ever before. This offers travellers the chance to slow down their travel pace and spend more time in one place, whether the Ngorongoro Crater with its biodiverse caldera or the swampy plains of Amboseli where elephants roam freely. Travellers can upgrade to a private safari vehicle and guide, extend the stay, or splurge on a luxury lodge for a night or two.
Of course, the safety of travellers remains paramount. No travel experience is worth getting sick over, but there is a way to mitigate the risk so that it’s safer than heading to the grocery store back home. Physical distancing is easy when you’re one of only a few individuals on a wide stretch of golden prairie, but travellers can also rest assured that all tourism organisations in East Africa abide by high hygiene standards, including frequent sanitization and masks in transit. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has issued Safe Travel Stamps to Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, recognizing their commitment to the highest health and safety standards that makes safe travel possible during this time.
There are some procedures that travellers need to keep in mind when travelling to East Africa. Kenya requires travellers to take a COVID-19 test within 96 hours of arrival and present proof of their negative result upon arrival. The test needs to be PRC, so be sure to check with whoever is doing the testing to make sure the test meets the necessary criteria. Rwanda also requires a COVID-19 test with a negative result within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers also need to take a second test upon arrival at Kigali Airport and wait in transit hotels for up to 24 hours for speedy results.
Tanzania does not officially require a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, but many airlines that travel into the country do. Body temperature scanners monitor all guests arriving into Tanzania. Travellers who show indications of symptoms will be required to take a test, and if positive, will be required to quarantine. As always, travel insurance is also a necessity. And travellers need to bring a mask with them to wear during transit and whenever around other people in locations where physical distancing is not possible.
Every travel experience during this time brings with it some uncertainty, but there are ways that travellers can mitigate these risks and embark on unforgettable vacations that favour physical distancing and natural encounters far from tourist crowds. East Africa is a place where travellers can get in touch with nature and experience the healing power of the natural world. Surely, this kind of positive experience has never been more rewarding, and dare we say, essential.