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4 Myths That You Can Dispel and Travel Kenya Safely



 You don't need to be afraid to go on safari. When CNN described Kenya in 2015 as "a hotbed of terrorism," it drew attention to some of the crazy myths that must prevail to prevent travelers from coming to Kenya. I want to address some of these myths to help you put your mind at ease and feel confident to experience that bucket safari list you've always wanted. This will not be a marketing spiel; I live in Kenya, so I know the good, the bad and the ugly and I will share it all with you.


Myth 1: Kenya is full of terrorists

CNN's description of Kenya was strange, to say the least. Kenya suffered several terrorist incidents in 2013 and 2014, the most notable of which was the attack on the Westgate shopping mall. Most of the activities, however, were much smaller - grenades were thrown at bus stations, churches, and nightclubs. Two major attacks took place in April 2015 at Garissa University and in January 2019 at the DusitD2 complex. Al Shabaab, a Somali group affiliated with al-Qaeda, is believed to be the main offender.


Unfortunately today, terrorism occurs everywhere and everywhere. Over the past five years, we have seen attacks in Paris, Sydney, Brussels, and Istanbul. But travelers are still flocking to these places.


Fifty million people survive every day in Kenya, so your chances are pretty good that you will come out alive. Kenyans want peace as much as the next person. Moreover, the parts of Kenya that you, as a traveler, would frequent are not terrorist targets - there have been no attacks on national parks or game reserves to date. There is a terrorist risk near the Somali border and in parts of Nairobi.


The Australian government's current travel advisory is that only certain areas are dangerous, not the entire country. And the dangerous areas are not of much interest to the average safari boater.


Myth 2: Nairobi is "Nai-flight".

Ten years ago, carjacking, armed robbery, and assaults were relatively common in Nairobi, earning the city the nickname "Theft of Nai". But one mayor did a lot of work with street boys and today Nairobi is just as safe (or risky) as any other major city in the world. Expatarrivals.com says that crime in Nairobi is "opportunistic, unsophisticated, comparable to other world capitals. The crime rate has decreased every year since 2012 according to Standard Digital.


I have been living in Nairobi for five years and I have never been physically assaulted. One evening my phone was ripped off - but I was walking around the city center at night talking on my phone alone; it was my fault. However, everyone who saw the thief chased him and I got my phone back! Nairobians themselves are tired of crime in their city, especially towards foreigners because they don't want travelers to have a bad experience in Kenya.


Myth 3: Corruption is common and foreigners are targeted because they are thought to have more money.

I cannot say that corruption is not commonplace. It is, but as a tourist, you are unlikely to encounter it. If you book a full safari, there will be little opportunity for the police or any other official to ask you for a bribe. Tourists are rarely targeted. Foreigners are not an easy target because we tend to ask too many questions and do not always understand what is going on. It is not our habit to slip a little money in the doorknob for the traffic policeman for example. Expatriates participating in corruption means that crime goes unpunished and Kenya's development remains stalled. The expression "When in Rome? " should not apply to corruption and bribery.


President Kenyatta says the right things about cleaning up corruption in Kenya, but it will make a huge change. However, this is certainly not a reason to avoid a Kenyan safari!


Myth 4: Tour operators are dishonest and you will lose your money if you pay in advance.

Yes, there are a few briefcase companies, but in this age of the Internet, you can certainly do your due diligence and avoid being scammed. There are many exam sites online and many allow you to contact the examiners directly to ask questions about their experience. Use Trip Advisor, do your research, check prices.

The tourism industry has suffered a lot over the last decade (because of the myths I write here!) and tour operators have been desperate just to make a sale. But if park fees are included in your package, check that the total price can cover these costs. For example, it's $80 for a 24-hour ticket to the Maasai Mara. So, if you book a two-night safari to the Maasai Mara for $200, you can do some simple math and calculate that $160 is for park fees, leaving only $40 for transportation, lodging, and food. The park fees are public information so you can do some rough calculations. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is! Either your operator is paying bribes at the park gate, your vehicle has not been maintained, or your food will be substandard. Or you could get all three! Please, it does not help Kenya's fight against corruption to encourage your tour operator to pay bribes at the gate so that you can enter the park cheaply.


The Kenya Tour Operators Association and the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism are also working hard to put in place measures to combat cheaters.


The sensational media is destroying Kenya's main industry and the economy is suffering as a result. So if an African safari is on your bucket list, look beyond the headlines and see Kenya for the amazing country it is.


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