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Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya?

Maybe it’s the way the world works these days; perhaps it’s also about old-fashioned Kenyan resilience. Whatever the reason, the fact is that Kenya is going about its daily business as it deals with the aftermath of the Nairobi shopping mall attack.

But what does that mean for the traveller planning to visit Kenya? 

Go2Africa safari expert Lauren Johansson has just returned from an extensive tour of the country and saw nothing but smiles and a business-as-usual attitude. In fact, from customs and immigration officials to lodge guides and managers, Lauren says there was genuine warmth in their greeting and a sincere focus on the future.

It really is business as usual: the annual Kenya Travel Expo has taken place in Nairobi since the Westgate tragedy along with several other high profile events, such as the International Tourism Conference, the African Hotel Investment Conference and the World Travel Awards.

Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya?
Kenya continues to provide world-class safari holidays to guests from all over the world.

That’s not to say that Kenya is downplaying safety. Lauren noticed a marked increase in security, especially at airports where the atmosphere is one of watchful efficiency. The extra manpower - in both uniforms and undercover – is obvious, she says, and there are officials who help arriving visitors to fill in forms and get through the system quickly.

Nairobi hotels and big Indian Ocean resorts have stepped up security as well. Going through a metal detector before signing in at reception might not be aesthetically pleasing but it does impart peace of mind.

Out on safari in the Masai Mara and Amboseli, the relaxed, away-from-it-all atmosphere remains unchanged. Guided walks almost always include an armed ranger but that’s a necessary precaution when walking in a wilderness where big cats and bad tempered buffalo roam free -  not a security response to the mall tragedy. Chatting to lodge staff, there is a strong sense of not giving in to the emotional impact, a determination to "keep calm and carry on".

Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya? On safari in Amboseli
While you may notice increased security in the cities, in parks like Amboseli, it's just another day in paradise.

The constancy of Kenya's superb wilderness areas is something noted by international travellers. Lauren remarked on the large number of fellow travellers she encountered, something that was confirmed by local ground handlers: people simply aren’t cancelling their Kenya holiday. Go2Africa spoke directly to some of the country's biggest operators.

Gamewatchers’ Aleema Noormohamed noted that they had had very few cancellations and said safaris were operating to the same exacting standards that have made Kenya famous. Aleema said bookings were flooding in for the migration season next year. A colleague, Mohanjeet, pointed out that similar terrorist attacks in Boston and London had little or no impact on tourist arrivals in those countries. Mohanjeet continued “The recent attack [in Nairobi] did not target tourists but was directed at the Kenyan people.”

How does this event affect travellers planning a safari or beach holiday? If you’re using the services of a travel company, keep in regular contact with your travel expert. Well-informed travellers are able to make better decisions than ill-informed ones so make sure you are relying on an Africa-based operator for current information. As Go2Africa’s Kenya travellers noted during the airport fire incident in August, having hands-on, locally based representation is vital in monitoring the situation in real time and rapidly make alternative arrangements when necessary.

Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya? Watersports & beaches
If you're travelling to Kenya in the next few months, take normal travel precautions as you would going to any other international destination.

For those who have already booked a trip to Kenya, there are no additional travel advisories and the travel advice – in place for the last 15 years remains as before: Don't go within 60kms of the Somalia border; avoid large shopping malls; avoid going into poor urban areas & townships.

Lauren’s Kenya trip was without incident, and the travellers she met seemed upbeat and almost defiant. Aleema from Gamewatchers summed it up best: “It seems that people realise that this was the sort of global terrorist incident that can happen anywhere and is not linked to any internal problem in Kenya.”

Kenya is very much open for business; its people ready to welcome you with a warm, "Karibu!".

Written by Dominic Chadbon. Connect with him on Google+.

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