Travelling to Kenya and Cottar’s

Following the successful launch of our Autumn Webinar Series on Wednesday with “Kenya & Cottar’s are Open”, we wanted to compile a summary of what we discussed addressing the subject of travelling to Kenya and Cottar’s in this new world of travel.


Kenya has been quick to respond to the Covid 19 Pandemic putting procedures and protocols in place in order to make travel safe for guests, employees and residents.  Every camp or lodge has to pass a health certification which  includes an inspection of the property and is only valid for three months before checks need to be administered again.


We heard from Louise Cottar (Co-owner and Managing Director of Cottar’s), Douglas Ngai (Head of the Cottar’s Covid Protocols) and Dr Linda Thorpe (a family physician with over 20 years of experience and who is currently supporting the EU in Kenya in an advisory and medical role in relation to the Covid Pandemic).  Below is a summary of their experiences and everything you need to know about travelling to Kenya, internal logistics and a guest’s experience at Cottar’s.


We want to make booking Kenya and Cottar’s as straight forward as possible but also give your guests the confidence of everything being looked after so they just have to focus on having the most incredible time. If you have any questions or queries then please do contact us as we are always here to help.
Flying to Kenya from Europe – Louise Cottar
Travelling from Europe you need need to take a Covid 19 PCR test prior to travelling.  The test results have to be negative and taken within 96 hours of flying.  You must take your negative PCR certificate with you when you travel to show the Kenyan Authorities.  You must also fill in a Ministry of Health form which is a standard from, which generates a QR form.  We would strongly advise having a printed copy and a digital copy with you when travelling.  Visitors to Kenya also need an E-visa, travel insurance inclusive of Medivac cover and a face mask.


On arrival into Jomo Kenyatta Airport we were let out in tranches, so not all at the same time.  We were met by a health official and had to show them our QR code.  We then had our temperature taken and then we were through.  Jomo Kenyatta was quite quiet so getting through security was extremely quick.  Through out the airport there are hand sanitisers everywhere and spacial markers.


The Kenyan Government are taking Covid 19 very seriously and have put a series of safety standards for hotels and camps to achieve in order to mitigate any risks.  Cottar’s was one of the first to go through the process and pass.  If you are sending guests to Kenya do make sure that the property has obtained this certificate.


Flying domestically was incredibly well run and social distancing was well applied around check in and the waiting areas .  The light aircraft was disinfected before we embarked, we had to use hand sanitiser and wear face masks on the flight.  My aircraft wasn’t full and they will not be leaving seats free and will be running at capacity when demand increases.
Leaving Kenya we were not checked although this may not always be the case.  Departing visitors must fully understand the return requirements of their country.  To return to the UK I had to fill in another government form and then I was quarantined for two weeks.
Guest Experience in Camp – Douglas Ngai
We want to keep guests at Cottar’s as safe as possible but not spoil their holiday. There are a lot of regulations that we have to meet but many of them we will keep behind the scenes so that the guests won’t be aware.


Arrival at Cottar’s: From the moment guests arrive at the airstrip they are given face masks and there is hand sanitiser on offer.  On arrival at camp guests will wash their hands and we will take guests’ temperatures.  Their temperatures will be recorded and taken every day by their guide.  Guests will be shown to the dining area and briefed about the preventative measures and all paper work is now done online.


A stay at Cottar’s: Guests will get allocated a specific team consisting of guide, tracker, waiters, kitchen staff and house keeping (where possible).  Staff will wear masks around the camp and the guides will wear masks on safari.  Tents and communal areas will be disinfected three times a day especially focussing on high touch areas.  Hand washing facilities have been put outside each tent and around the camp.  Wearing a mask in public areas is compulsory except when guests are eating and we do emphasis social distancing in the communal areas.


Kitchens will be cleaned and disinfected before and after each meal preparation.  We now have separate dining tables rather than communal dining and guests will be well spaced out around the mess tent or even around the camp often eating in different locations.  Guests will be asked if they want to be hosted by their guide at meal times.


Activities:  Each group of guests will have their own exclusive vehicle and guide at no additional charge.  Guests will be provided with masks however, it is the guest’s choice whether they wear them on game drives or game walks.  The game viewers are cleaned and disinfected after every game activity.  A perspex screen has been put between guests and the guide.  The screen can easily be removed if the guests do require it.  We are continuing to do bush lunches and bush dinners which will be done by group.  We space out activities such as the spa and the warrior school so we have time to disinfect areas.  Cultural visits are organised early in advance so that they are expecting us.  Social distancing is a requirement and we supply the community with masks ahead of a visit.


Isolation tent:  If we have a suspected case of Covid at camp we have an isolation tent.  We also have a virtual doctor access point where guests can check in daily.  We also request that guests have AMREF or Medivac Cover should they need to be flown to Nairobi.  AMREF have an air evacuation system specifically designed for Covid 19 in the rare case of a seriously ill patient.
Kenya and Covid 19 – Dr Linda Thorpe 
The EU asked me to be an advisor on the ground back in March, which has enabled me to watch the situation through my work in hospitals and through my clinic.  Back in March the hospitals, private and public, in Kenya set up Covid wards for asymptomatic to critically ill patients.  Kenya saw a steady rise in Covid numbers until July with patients being admitted to hospitals and ICU beds.  Numbers were also rising in local clinics with people having mild symptoms.  To compare Kenya to European countries there have been 36,205 cases and 624 deaths recorded in Kenya to date. Since July there has been a 17 per cent decrease and it has tailed off despite Kenya opening up its borders and lifting lock down restrictions.  Kenya isn’t testing as much but they are also not seeing the severe respiratory cases as much either.  Kenya has an average age of about 20 in comparison to Europe which is more like 60/70.  This would explain why the Kenyan mortality rate has been a lot less than European countries and only 0.1 percent of Covid cases will end up in ICU.  The three main hospital in Nairobi; Aga Khan, Nairobi Hospital and MP Shah, have mobilised 338 Covid ICU beds and are set up as per WHO regulations and at the moment only have 38 beds occupied.  The treatment of Covid can be monitored closely through measuring a patients oxygen levels, which can indicate if a patient should be mobilised to hospital or not.  The quality of care here in Kenya is very good and comparable to the UK, so an international visitor would receive a high standard of care.
The “Stay Longer” Package and a huge thank you for your support
To entice guests we have added a Stay Longer safari in the Maasai Mara to help clients mitigate further covid-19 risks of moving from one camp to another and from one flight to another.


It has been an incredibly challenging few months for us all at Cottar’s in particular ensuring the team and  conservancy were looked after but it seems there are some green shoots appearing. The last week since opening has been wonderfully motivating and a real boost for everyone with the guests we have enjoyed in camp.


Calvin and Louise want to send out their personal thanks to you all for your ongoing support as do I and we hope very much to see you out in Kenya on safari again very soon.