Kenya has enthralled visitors for centuries and it is a popular safari destination. With the allure of wildlife, spectacular scenery and exotic tribes, Kenya offers a great African experience. National parks and reserves cover one-tenth of Kenya’s surface area, spanning desert, grassland, mountain forest and acacia-studded plains.
For those wanting a challenge you can hike Mount Kenya
Places to visit
Kenya’s capital is often bypassed because people want to avoid the crowded streets and busy traffic. However if you want time to recover from your flight, there are some worthwhile activities to be done. Definitely a highlight of Nairobi city is its crowded markets and trading areas, where you will need to bargain hard.
The Giraffe Centre Nairobi offers you a rare opportunity to interact with one of the most loved wild animals, the Giraffe, and even feed them by hand. The centre was opened to protect the Rothschild Giraffe, which was becoming endangered.
It is also worthwhile visiting the well-known David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is the most successful orphaned elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. It is also one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. Enjoy a visit to this elephant rescue centre and meet some of these beautiful creatures. You will be truly inspired by the work this organisation does.
Masai Mara Reserve
The Masai Mara Reserve is one of East Africa’s most renowned game viewing areas and adjoins the Serengeti Park of Tanzania. It is a land of undulating hills and rolling grasslands with a huge animal population including the “Big Five.”
An impressive feature is the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra, which migrate from Serengeti and reach the Mara’s lush grassland from late July. This migration provides the perfect hunting opportunity for predators including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. The dramatic river crossings of the migration are a must-see for tourists visiting in July – August.
Apart from the seasonal migration, game viewing is excellent year round. The Masai Mara has the largest population of lion as well as cheetah, leopard, elephant, Black Rhino, buffalo, zebra, roan antelope, white-bearded gnu, Oribi, warthog, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, hartebeest and the rivers are home to hippo and crocodiles.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli is a popular park, which is famous for its big game elephants, lions & cheetah. You will also experience a range of habitats from open plains, to yellow-barked acacia woodland, swamps and the generally dry Lake Amboseli. The landscape is dominated by the majestic snow capped peak of Mt Kilimanjaro located just over the border in Tanzania, directly south of the park. This park is the perfect inclusion if combining a safari through both Tanzania and Kenya.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is home to two special animals: the black rhino, which are protected in a defined area of the park through a Rhino sanctuary, and the Rothschild’s giraffe. This is one of Kenya’s premium national parks where it is possible to spot all of the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – as well as thousands of pink flamingos and pelicans. Lake Nakuru is world famous as the home of thousands of greater and lesser flamingos that frequently form a stunning pink ribbon along the edges of the lake. Over 400 species of birdlife have been recorded at the lake, making it a wonderful inclusion for those interested in birds.
Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve is a very peaceful national park in Northern Kenya. It attracts wildlife because of the Uaso Nyiro River that runs through it and the mixture of forest and grassland vegetation. All three big cats – lion, cheetah and leopard, can be found here, as well as elephants, buffalo and hippos. The Uaso Nyiro River contains large numbers of Nile crocodile. This reserve is not as famous as others in Kenya, but with an unusual ecosystem, you can find species that are not found anywhere else in Kenya. This includes the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe and the gerenuk.
Tsavo East & West
Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. Due to its size the park was divided into Tsavo West and Tsavo East. The Tsavo West has spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape while Tsavo East has more open savannah. Tsavo National Park is the ideal destination in Kenya for people who seek solitude and privacy as well as the chance to explore the wilderness. Tsavo East boasts herds of elephants, rhinos and other game animals however not in the same magnitude of some other Kenyan parks.
For those wanting some adventure, why not hike Mount Kenya. The superbly scenic, snow capped peak of Mount Kenya is the second highest point in Africa at 5199m.
The main summit is called Batian and the second summit Nelion, both of which are technical climbs however the third peak, named Lenana, at 4985m is more accessible and a very feasible goal for anyone with a moderate level of fitness. The hike is most commonly done over 5-7 days, depending on the route chosen.
Mombasa town over looks a large harbour, where commercial shipping blends with long-established sailing dhows. What attracts people to this region is the striking old town and its splendid Arab architecture. It has narrow snaky streets, the air often filled with the scent of spices, the local Men & women wrapped in bright coloured coastal wears ‘khanga’ and the active markets flooded with fresh fish. Capitalizing on coastal tourism, the city is well known for its exotic beach resorts and luxurious hotels. Water activities like kite surfing, scuba diving and much more are also a common site on these beaches.
Kenya has long been the most popular East African safari destination and it continues to welcome over 1.7 million international visitors per year. The Masai Mara is the place to be during the months of July-Oct when the migration has come across the river from Tanzania. As well as the Masai Mara, you will have amazing game viewing experiences in Amboseli National Park and the chance to see the spectacular flamingos at in Lake Nakuru National Park. For the more adventurous you might like to try climbing Mount Kenya.
Republic of Kenya
Area: 583,000 sq km
Population: 41,610,000 (approx - recorded at the last census in 2011)
Borders: Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia
Time Zone: 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
Religion: Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, indigenous beliefs 10%, Muslim 10%, other 2%
Languages: English and Swahili are both official languages and are taught in school. Some local tribal languages include Luhia, Kikuyu, Luo and Kikamba.
Dialing Code: +254
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is the largest city in East Africa and acts as the region’s busy commercial hub. Here, global influences mix with local traditions in the shops, markets, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas. In Kenya there is a huge gap between the rich and poor. There is huge wealth and development in Kenya, but two-thirds of Nairobi’s 3.5 million citizens live in slums, where typical houses consist of one small room (around 3 metres square) with no electricity, running water or sanitation. In the largest shanty town of Kibera, one pit latrine can be used by up to 500 people.
Three-quarters of the Kenyan population still live in rural areas. Traditional lifestyles in the countryside revolve around subsistence farming and trips to local markets and shopping centres. However, the modern-day world is also present with mobile cinemas providing entertainment and most people have a mobile phone.
Best Time To Travel
The best time to go on safari in Kenya and experience a huge density and diversity of wildlife is when the annual migration of millions of wildebeest, zebra and gnu’s are present in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The best time to see this wildlife spectacle is from July to October. Other parks in Kenya are also excellent and the best time to visit these would be during the dry seasons – January through March and July through October. With the lack of water during the dry seasons, the animals tend to gather in more concentrated numbers around permanent water holes, rivers and lakes, so they are easier to find. The vegetation is also less lush which simply means that viewing animals from a distance is easier. The best time to enjoy Kenya’s magnificent bird life is from January to March.
Kenya has a pleasant tropical climate. As central Kenya is situated on a plateau, the altitude keeps the heat index at a comfortable level. The main rain period will happen during March-May whilst a little rain in November-December is common. For other months of the year, it is mostly clear blue skies. Temperatures in winter (June-August) will average around 18-22 degrees during the day, whilst in the summer (December-February) around 28-35 degrees. The coastal areas like Mombasa will have a higher humidity and Mount Kenya will be much colder due to the altitude.
Currency & ATM access
The main currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KSH). USD is widely accepted in tourist areas however it must be USD notes printed on/after 2003. Older notes printed before 2003 are not accepted in Kenya or many other African countries.
In major towns you will have access to ATMs and the most reliable are Barclay’s Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank.
Credit cards are becoming more accepted in tourist outlets however will incur fees. Travelers cheques are not advised, as you will pay extremely high fees to cash them.
At the time of writing AUD$1 = KSH82
Australian passport holders are required to have a Tourist Visa for Kenya. This can be organized in advance through a Kenyan Consulate however the easiest option is to get it upon arrival at the airport. This will cost USD$50 however is subject to change. You need to have your passport and USD cash (notes printed on/after 2003) as well as proof of onward or return travel.
In Kenya, the voltage is 240 and the frequency is 50 Hz. For charging cameras, phones etc, you will need a British plug adaptor, with the three rectangular blades.
Power outages are common in Kenya therefore it’s worthwhile carrying a torch with you and always recharging appliances when the power is available.
It is important to visit your travel doctor before travelling to Africa, as there are a range of vaccinations he/she may recommend based on current information.
Currently, the only mandatory vaccination is Yellow Fever and you may be asked to produce the Yellow Fever vaccination certificate upon arrival into the country. Other vaccinations that may be advisable are Hepatitis A/B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Cholera.
Taking a malaria prophylactic is also recommended and your doctor can advise which type is best suited for you.
Tipping is not common practice among Kenyans, but there’s no harm in rounding up the bill by a few shillings if you’re pleased with the service in a cheap restaurant. Most tourist guides and all safari drivers and cooks will expect some kind of gratuity at the end of your tour or trip. East Africa Safari Experts will give you guided recommendations for this.