The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has announced that effective 1st July 2011, the SmartCard, which has been the preferred mode of payment for entry to national parks and reserves in Kenya, will no longer be used in favour of the new Safari Card.

According to their website, all holders of SmartCards should move to the new Safari Card system and exhaust any value they hold in the SmartCards since this is not transferable to the Safari Card system. They however reassured the public that paper tickets will continue to be used in parks that are not connected to the Safari Card system.

The SmartCard was introduced in 2000 and quickly proved a complicated affair for many travellers. It, like the new Safari Card, was an electronic chip debit card but unlike the Safari Card, you had to acquire the card from one location, the Point of Issue (POI). You then needed to move on to another location to load money into your card, the Point of Sale (POS), so you could be able to use it to gain entry into participating parks and reserves by paying at the entrance, the Point of Access (POA).

It just never made sense why these 3 concepts were physically separated like that. The Safari Card now allows you to load and pay from one location – the park or reserve gate.

The custodian of Kenya’s wildlife also announced that the conservation fee paid will be valid for 24 hours but any subsequent re-entries will be charged as if they were new regardless of the validity of a previous payment. So do not leave the park or reserve until you are fully satisfied!

This, they said, is in accordance to a Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 95 of 24th December 2010 (Legislative Supplement No. 60) LEGAL NOTICE NO. 207 which states that “daily fee means the fee paid for a single entry of up to twenty-four hours in a National Park or National Reserve.”

By the way, did you know that if you are travelling on a package tour, you don’t need a Safari Card because your safari company will handle all this for you? It is when you are a lone ranger, needing to do all the stuff for yourself that you need the card.

Do you also know that Kenya is one of the few countries in the world that uses such a system? The rest of the world seems comfortable with the good old uncomplicated paper tickets – is there something we are missing here? Anyway, now you know.

Have you used the Safari Card? What was your experience? Is it a better, worse or similar system to the SmartCard? Share your opinion by commenting below.