Game viewing may be the main reason why you have chosen to go on a wildlife safari in Kenya but you should be prepared on how to use a pit latrine during your travel in Kenya.
The layout and practicalities of a pit latrines give many visitors from 1st world countries a cultural shock. It doesn’t matter if you are on a cheap camping safari or top of the range luxury safari, as long as your Kenyan wildlife safari involves road travel, count on it – you will probably need to use a pit latrine. So it’s best to know before you go.
What are pit latrines? They are small sheds with wooden or concrete walls and same materials are used for the floor which is constructed over a shallow hole.
There is a rectangular aperture in the middle over which you squat or stand with one leg on each side of the hole. Neither of these two choices are easy for first time users and especially for children, the elderly or safari travelers with serious weight issues.
Ventilation is normally poor in the latrine resulting to a build-up of pungent odors which can easily knock you down. Another nuisance will be from flies which are attracted by the content in the shallow holes.
Most Kenya safaris start from Nairobi heading to either Masai Mara, Great Rift Valley, Amboseli, Tsavo or Samburu via the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya regions. On all the Kenya safari routes there are latrine stops which are numerous to list in this article.
For Kenya safaris heading in the Rift Valley, the pit latrines at the View Point on the escarpment call for a special mention, as they hang precariously on stilts at the very edge of the Great Rift valley. But they give you the best views of the expansive floor of the valley below, which hopefully compensates for the fear of using the fragile structures.
Souvenir shop owners build and maintain pit latrines as a bait for attracting tourists. The arrangement, though not obvious to tourists is a win-win for the curio shop owners and safari drivers who get a commission every time they make a stop at the shop.
The downside is that your Kenya safari driver may stop in every souvenir shop on the way, all in the pretense of giving you an opportunity to use the toilet but in truth he is looking for his commission.
Have in mind that pit latrines are provided more as a courtesy rather than as a strict hospitality item, so their hygiene may not measure up to that of the safari lodge.
5 easy to follow tips on how to use a pit latrine:
1. Use the toilets in your hotel before you start off for long Kenya safari drives. This way you may be able to hold on until you get to the next lodge or keep your visit to the pit latrines to the minimum.
2. Be as comfortable as possible when using the pit latrine. Therefore hand over your bags and jackets to people traveling with you on the Kenyan safari. Be careful not to leave your belongings unattended.
3. Whatever contraption has been put up as a door latch, give it a test and hook it up properly. You can’t afford to have the door flying open half-way your operations!
4. Carry your own toilet paper. Though some curio shops along the Kenya safari routes provide toilet paper, it is not guaranteed. No harm in realizing that you didn’t need it, than needing it and you don’t have it.
5. Finally, after using the pit latrine wash your hands thoroughly preferably with liquid soap. There may be a running tap or a water tank outside the toilet, if not use your bottled water. Where a bar soap is provided, use it only if there is a good supply of tap water, remember a bar soap can be a good depository for germs.
Finished and ready to go on with your wildlife safari? Not so quick before posing for a picture outside the pit latrine, this will be one photo that will show that you were truly there and did that!