• Kenya Facts
• Kenyan National Parks & Game Reserves
• Kenyan Coastal Regions
• Mount Kenya
• Kenyan Rift Valley and Lakes
• Important Travel Information
Kenya is the most popular destination for safaris in the world. It lies across the equator on the east of the African continent. Neighbouring countries are Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to east, Tanzania to south, Uganda to west and South Sudan to north-west. Safari is said to have originated here with its outstanding game viewing, picturesque landscapes and cultured tribes and people.
|Population:||Approximately 40 million – forty two ethnic origins.|
|Total land area:||582,645 sq. km (including area covered by water).|
|Language:||Official: English and Kiswahili with 75 different dialects within Kenya.|
|Nairobi Population:||Approx. 4 million|
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya is approximately 8-10 hours flying time from major European cities, and 16-20 hours flying time from North American cities.
The land stretches from the sea level (Indian Ocean) in the east, to 5,199 meters at the peak of the snow-capped Mount Kenya. From the coast, the altitude changes gradually through the coastal belt and plains (below 152 meters above sea level), the dry intermediate low belt to what is known as the Kenya Highlands (over 900 meters above sea level).
The monotony of terrain in the low belt is broken by residual hills, masses of broken boulders and inselbergs. Settlement is confined to places where water can be found. Wildlife reign over the greater part of the low belt. The famous Amboseli Game Reserve and Tsavo National Parks are situated here.
The Great Rift Valley bisects the Kenyan Highlands into east and west. Mount Kenya is on the eastern side. The Highlands are cool and agriculturally rich where both large and small scale farming is carried out. Kenya’s major cash crops are tea, coffee, pyrethrum, wheat and corn. Livestock farming is also practiced extensively.
The Lake Victoria Basin is dominated by Kano plains which are suited for farming through irrigation. The northern part of Kenya is plain and arid. Pastoralism is the main land use activity. However, a variety of food crops do well through irrigation.
Through the diversity in landscapes, Kenya offers mountains, major lakes and rivers, dry and arid savannahs and spectacular beaches.
Kenya enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeastern parts of the country.
The average annual temperature for the coastal town of Mombasa (altitude 17 meters) is 30 degrees Celsius maximum and 22.40 Celsius minimum. The capital city, Nairobi (altitude 1,661 meters) sees 25.20 Celsius maximum and 13.60 Celsius minimum. The town of Eldoret (altitude 3,085) faces temperatures of 23.60 Celsius maximum and 9.50 Celsius minimum. The drier northern plain lands (altitude 506 meters) face 34.80 Celsius maximum and 23.70 Celsius minimum.
There is plenty of sunshine all year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and when it does come it often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and coldest in July to August.
CLIMATE (ALTITUDE: 5000 FT.)
|Mean monthly Max.Temp (C)||27||28||27||26||25||24||23||23||26||27||25||25|
|Mean Monthly Min.Temp (C)||13||13||14||15||14||12||11||11||12||13||14||13|
|Mean Monthly Rainfall (mm)||49||36||85||153||126||32||13||18||21||48||132||75|
Kenya has known the presence of humankind since the very earliest development of our species.
There are sites that have documented remnants of pre-historic man through bones, tools and carbon dating verified through international anthropological associations. Moreover, the region has long been a migratory path, passed through by wave upon wave of peoples from all over Africa and, later, from the Middle East as well. By the 10th century or so, the region had developed its own lingua Franca, Swahili, which is a Bantu language heavily overlaid with Arabic. Among other familiar words, safari is Swahili, meaning simply travel.
With the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century, the East African coastal region was for a time dominated by the Europeans. However, in 1729 the Portuguese were expelled, to be replaced by two Arab dynasties. Arab rule lasted until the end of the 18th century, when Kenya passed into the British sphere of influence. The country became independent in 1963. Although it has experienced its share of internal and external strife, Kenya has in recent years been moving toward a more stable, multi-party political system.
A Kenyan Safari contains a mosaic of different cultures and traditions. The people have the natural ability to make every traveler feel at home – ‘Karibu’ a Swahili word meaning welcome is often heard! The country is famous for its rich culture and diversity and not forgetting the wonderful people. When we say ‘Hello‘we ask how you family is, you life and your love. In Kenya we get down to earth to experience life’s little pleasures. Kenya has a colorful mixture of people as well as a cocktail of cultures. The current population of about 40 million is made up of over forty ethnic groups. However, the Bantus, Nilotes and Cushites form the bulk of the population. The minority Asians, Arabs and Europeans live mainly in urban areas.
The national language, Kiswahili is widely spoken by most Kenyans. English is the official language and as such it is spoken at all levels. Besides English, French, German and Italian is also spoken in the tourism industry. Safari guides who speak all languages of the world are available and can be assigned to accompany you on request. The rich cultural heritage is expressed through song, dance, art and handicraft which are truly unique. To listen to the music or watch the festivals and ceremonies of any of these ethnic groups is truly a thrilling and unforgettable experience.
THE MAASAI – probably among the best known and most easily recognized of Kenya’s people. Who are they? – The Maasai, recognized as herders and warriors, once dominated the plains of East Africa. Now however they are confined to a fraction of their former range. Since the colonial period, most of what used to be Maasai land has been taken over, for private farms and ranches, for government projects or for wildlife parks. They retain only the driest and least fertile areas. The stress this causes to their herds has often been aggravated by attempts made by governments to ‘develop’ the Maasai. These are based on the idea that they breed too many cattle for the land to sustain. However, they are in fact very efficient livestock producers and rarely have more animals than they need or that the land can carry.
How do they live? – For the Maasai, cattle are what mark the measure of how good life is. Milk and meat are primary elements in their diet. Their old ideal was to live by their cattle alone – other foods they could get by exchange – but today they also need to grow crops. They move their herds from one place to another, so that the grass has a chance to grow again; traditionally, this is made possible by a communal land tenure system in which everyone in an area shares access to water and pasture. Nowadays Maasai have increasingly been forced to settle, and many take jobs in towns. Maasai society is organized into male age-groups whose members together pass through initiations to become warriors, and then elders. They have no chiefs, although each section has a Laibon, or spiritual leader, at its head. Maasai worship one god who dwells in all things, but may manifest himself as either kindly or destructive.
KENYA – THE LEADING SAFARI DESTINATION
Wildlife is a prime attraction in Kenyan safaris that take guests to some of Africa’s most well known national parks including the Masai Mara, Tsavo, Amboseli, Samburu and Lake Nakuru.
There are more than two dozen national parks falling within Kenya’s borders, making it the most popular safari destination in all of Africa. The Kenya Wildlife Services has done much to ensure that the parks are kept pristine and the poachers are kept out. Consequently, though Kenya’s parks are the continent’s most visited, they are also among the richest in natural beauty and wildlife.
The annual migration of wildlife between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya takes place between June and September. The migration of almost two million wildebeest, zebras and other species is nature’s greatest spectacle on earth. The animal trek has been captured by filmmakers worldwide.
On average 6 to 10 days is usually adequate to do a safari covering Kenya’s key attractions. One can take more days, depending on budget and interests to cover more of the many diversities the country offers. Many people enjoy a week or more relaxing at the coast after an inland safari. Tanzania is just next door and a cross-boarder safari can be quite exciting and organised in tandem to your Kenyan safari.
MAASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Area: 1510sq. kilometres
Distance from Nairobi: 275 kilometres
HIGHLIGHTS – Exceptional game viewing: Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo, Cheetah, Mara River Hippo Pools, Traditional Maasai Culture, tremendous views across the plains & rolling Hills.
Widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve and the jewel in Africa’s crown, Maasai Mara is home to a spectacular array of wildlife. The open savannah, woodlands and tree-lined rivers create an eco-system that supports huge numbers of bird and mammal species. The western border of the park is the spectacular Siria Escarpment, dotted with acacia trees, creating scenery of stunning beauty. Lions are found in abundance throughout the park, as well as Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, and a variety of Gazelle species. Cheetahs are regularly seen and, with luck, you may also find Rhino and the elusive Leopard.
Game viewing is never dull in the Mara, and patience is often rewarded with unique sightings. The richness of fauna, this profusion of winged beauty and the untouched fragility of the landscape, are all subordinate to the Mara’s foremost attraction, the march of the wildebeest. Each year from July to September, the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti. From July to October, the promise of rain and fresh life giving grass in the north brings more than 1.3 million Wildebeest together into a single massive herd. They pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of life that stretches from horizon to horizon.
The Maasai Mara is home to members of the Maasai tribe who may be seen around the borders of the park. The Mara comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. Continuous with the plains of the Serengeti, the Mara is home to a breathtaking array of life.
BALLOON SAFARI – This is a unique experience at the Mara. Suspended in a basket beneath the rainbow coloured canopy, you take off for a game-viewing adventure with an entirely different perspective. The thing that amazes most first-time balloonists is the absolute stillness, the silence as you float above the plains, the forest and the rivers of the Maasai Mara. And if you’ve flown elsewhere, you’ve seen nothing like this. The sounds below drift clearly upwards: a lion’s roar, elephants crashing through the bush, baboons perched in the tips of the trees startled and screeching to see something above them.
For an hour or so you drift wherever the air currents take you. If you’re lucky you’ll climb high above the Mara for the view of a lifetime. Then your balloon safari finishes with a flourish. In the time honoured tradition of balloon flights the world over, you toast your return to earth with a champagne breakfast. The difference is that this breakfast happens in the bush, wherever you land, and it’s cooked before your eyes on the burners that minutes before kept you suspended in the air.
ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
Location: Lower Central Kenya, near Lake Naivasha.
HIGHLIGHTS – Beautiful scenery, Big five as well as elusive, rare creatures like the Bongo antelope. Overnight game viewing at specially lit waterholes. View of the mountains which according to Kikuyu folklore, the mountains are one of the homes of Ngai (God).
The Aberdare National Park was created in 1950 to protect the forested slopes and moors of the Aberdare Mountains. While the park has elephant, lion, rhino, black leopard and the beautiful but elusive bongo antelope, it is rarely visited by safari companies and individual travellers. There are a number of reasons for this, one is that the high rainfall turns the roads to mudslides and you need a 4×4 to get around, however this in itself is a thrilling experience.
The unique concept of tree lodges is the main attraction of the Aberdares. Both Treetops and The Ark are built above the ground beside floodlit waterholes with salt licks. Visitor check-in is at the Aberdares Country club for The Ark and the Outspan Hotel for Treetops. Visitors are transported to these tree top properties from the main camps.
Nocturnal game viewing is taken so seriously that there is a bell in each room which sounds if an unusual animal turns up at the waterhole. Elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and bushbuck are regular visitors. The hotel is reached via a gangway which takes you to the level of the forest top.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Location: Southern Kenya, bordering Tanzania near Namanga.
HIGHLIGHTS – Spectacular backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro; Take a micro light flight over the plains; See the Big five – also over 400 bird species, including the bee-eater, kingfisher, African fish eagle, marital eagle and pygmy falcon; the Maasai tribe that live in the park
The most distinguishing feature of Amboseli is its dramatic setting. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, rises a majestic 19,340 feet (5,895 meters) just across the Tanzanian border, in full view of the park. Most of the game can be found clinging to the swamps and grasslands in the center of the park, an oasis for buffalo, lions, cheetah, and over 420 species of birds. Amboseli is also one of the highly recommend parks in Kenya to see elephant, which travel in large herds near the Ekongo Narok Swamp.
MERU NATIONAL PARK
Location: Central Kenya, near Meru.
HIGHLIGHTS – Lion, elephant, leopard etc, Home of “Born Free” conservationists George and Joy Adamson; see the grave of Elsa the lioness, Luxurious jungle of forest, swamp and tall grasses.
Meru is a savannah National Park, 35km east of Maua town in the north eastern lowlands below the Nyambeni hills. Meru is part of a complex of protected areas along the Tana River that includes the adjacent Bisanadi and Mwingi National Reserves (to the east and south respectively), Kora national park and Rahole national reserve. The wetter North Western sector is hilly, with rich volcanic soils. The land flattens towards the East, where grey alluvial volcanic soils appear.
The area is crossed by numerous permanent streams, draining from the Nyambenes and flowing in parallel between tongues of lava, south eastwards towards the Tana River. As well as the many streams that cross it, the park is bounded by three large rivers: the Tana to the South, the Ura to the South West and the Rojeweru to the East. There are several prominent inselbergs of basement rock, notably Mughwango and Leopard rock.
NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
Location: Southern Kenya, outskirts of Nairobi city.
HIGHLIGHTS – Close to Nairobi, easily accessible, Big four (no elephant) – chances of spotting a rhino are good, Oldest park in the country.
Nairobi, as a capital city, is unique in having a wildlife park on its doorstep. Indeed the city abuts the park on all but the southern perimeter so it is possible to photograph a rhino, browsing peacefully among the whistling thorn with high rise office buildings in the background. Some of the wildlife is migratory and when there is grazing and water outside the park it moves out into Maasai land through the unfenced southern boundary. But there is also a resident population of plains game and carnivores so a visit at any time of the year is rewarding. Well laid out, with exceptionally well-maintained roads, the park is a model for all others, geo-physically and administratively.
Of the most popular species only the elephant is an absentee. But the rest of the Big Five – leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino – as well as a multitude of other creatures are all well represented.
Within the park’s 117 sq km there are over 80 species of mammals and more bird species than can be found in the whole of the British Isles. During the rains, both the long and the short, wild flowers are in profusion and there are places where the plains are an unending wave of yellow daisies (Bidens palustris) which seems not to be liked, as food, by any wildlife.
SAMBURU, BUFFALO SPRINGS AND SHABA NATIONAL RESERVES
Size: Together they equal around 300km²
Location: Central Kenya, near Nanyuki
HIGHLIGHTS – Parks are much less visited by tourists than Masai Mara/Amboseli, Big four – no rhino; close-up sightings of elephants, see rare animals like Grevy’s zebra, the reticulated giraffe and the beisa oryx, six meter long crocodile. Colorful Samburu tribe. Good roads that are well-maintained.
Samburu offers Kenya’s greatest – and least changed – encounter with wild Africa. It is one of the most interesting places in Kenya, unique for several reasons: This harsh, beautiful wilderness depends on the steady flow of the Uaso Nyiro River for its existence, which brings the Aberdares waters, and those of the crystal clear Buffalo Springs, on the eastern side of this reserve (formed by the arise of underground streams coming from Mount Kenya)
The river waters a variety of animal species found only north of the Equator, including the majestic Beisa Oryx, the reticulated giraffe, the thin-striped Grevy’s zebra, and the ‘giraffe-necked’ gerenuk antelope, which stands on its hind legs to feed. Elephant, lion and leopard can be seen along the river. The 400-plus species of birds are spectacular.
The humid spots give rise to luxuriant vegetation, with the pre-historical-looking bi-branched doum palms, riverine forests and grasslands. The high faunal concentration at the waterholes and streams is a gift for the wildlife watcher, while animals also seem to amuse themselves staring at the tourists dipping in one of the Buffalo Springs pools, which is conditioned for bathing.
Samburu is also well known as the place where poachers murdered Joy Adamson, the famous conservationist and authoress of “Born Free” in 1980.
TSAVO EAST & WEST NATIONAL PARKS
Size: 20 812km²
Location: South Eastern Kenya.
HIGHLIGHTS – Kenya’s largest park, Elephant, rhino, lion, leopard; Not as congested as other parks, Huge variety of habitats and scenery.
The combined area of Tsavo East and West National Parks makes Tsavo one of the world’s largest game sanctuaries, larger in size than Wales in Great Britain or Jamaica in the Caribbean. It covers more than 7720 square miles and lies roughly halfway between Mombasa and Nairobi. A model National Park in both layout and its geophysical and animal and plant diversity, Tsavo West has well-maintained murram roads that lead from one natural wonder to another. Chief among these must rank the recurring marvel of Mzima Springs, replenished with twenty million litres of crystal-clear water a day, from the underground streams of the nearby Chyulu Hills. The Springs form a haven for wildlife where elephant soak half immersed in the waters, light-footed hippo’s tip-toe across the bottom and crocodiles bask on the banks.
The water from these springs has for many years provided the main supply for Mombasa. An observation platform, well-marked trails and an underwater glass tank provide varied vantage points to enjoy this remarkable oasis.
The prolific wildlife includes great herds of elephant and many lions – some undoubtedly the descendants of the famous Man Eaters of Tsavo! Among the less common animals to be found are the fringed-eared oryx, the gerenuk and Hunter’s hartebeest. In addition to lion, leopard and cheetah, the carnivores include caracal and hyena.
The landscape is dominated by the giant baobab trees which live as long as 1000 years. After the rains the park is covered in blossoms. Acacia trees, showered with white and pink flowers and the desert rose, produce flowers of striking beauty. This feast of wildlife, flora and birds combines to make Tsavo of special interest – an interest made greater perhaps by geological activity evidenced by recently extinct volcanoes and massive lava flows.
Kenya has some beautiful beaches the world over! Envision brilliant blue waters lapping against fine white sands, where you can stretch and relax. Kenyan Beaches are lined with protective coral reefs, creating ideal waters for swimming and water sports. For the more adventurous there is diving and big game fishing. From Mombasa in the south, through Malindi and Watamu and north to Lamu, the traders of Arabia, Portugal, China and India have woven a special magic through this unique coastline.
Time spent relaxing on these beaches makes the perfect end to any safari in Kenya. A stay incorporating Kenya’s beaches can be tailor-made to suit your budget and the time you have available.
FISHING: Kenya is becoming the premier destination in the World for broadbill, particularly for light tackle and enthusiasts. The months of October, November and March are ideal with the sea generally calmer during these months, but September and December also fair well for fishing. In the Pemba Channel the best strike rates to date have been during October and March.
The Kenyan fishing season runs from 15th July to 31st March, but within this there are 2 seasons, the TUNA SEASON and the BILLFISH SEASON.
TUNA SEASON: – Annually large yellow fin tuna migrate along the Kenya coast and become channeled through the Pemba Channel. The yellow fin tuna schools are followed by huge blue and black marlin as well as striped marlin, sailfish, mako shark, wahoo, dorado (mahi mahi, lampuga, coryphaen) and many other game fish. The biggest black marlin taken was 800 lb, the biggest blue marlin, 724 1/2 lb. caught in the middle of September and granders have been raised at this time. There have been many big marlin caught during August, September and October months.
BILLFISH SEASON: Six varieties of billfish can be found here including all three species of marlin – black, blue and striped – as well as sailfish, broadbill swordfish and even the rare short bill spearfish. Of the marlins, striped form the majority and huge numbers of them migrate through the channel every year. The season runs from mid-November to mid-March when the wind blows from the Northeast, although small numbers may be caught at any other time. Sailfish are present throughout this period as well, although December possibly being the peak month.
Large sharks, such as tigers and hammerheads may also be taken at this time of year. Due to heavy commercial fishing in the World’s oceans, sharks are becoming endangered world-wide and we strongly encourage adopting a tag & release approach to sharks.
Mombasa, Kenya’s oldest town is a major sea gateway for eastern Africa with its origins dating back as far as 500BC and up until recent times has been Africa’s trading centre with Asia. Mombasa, which measures just over 14 sq km -less than five square miles -is a busy, frenetic place, packed with a variety of things to see and do. The town has a large population of Asians and the whole region is strongly Islamic.
The city has the oldest fort in Africa, Fort Jesus surrounded by a 40 foot deep moat, built by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. The fort is now a national museum and houses well preserved artifacts and relics, some dating back 300 years. At night a sound and light show re-enacts battles carried out at the fort centuries ago followed by an elegant and sumptuous dinner.
Mombasa’s main industry is tourism, with more and more hotels being built along the coastline, this is often the first port of call onward to a nearby seaside retreat. Sightseeing within the town can be done within a day and the main attractions are Fort Jesus, the old town with fine Arab style buildings, Mandhry mosque and the municipal market. Mombasa offers a cultural experience with the natural beauty of sun-drenched beaches, coral reefs and tropical marine life.
MALINDI & WATAMU
Both Malindi and Watamu are popular tourist resorts and have marine reserves and stunning beaches. Lamu Island is an enchanting place and worth a visit. Just north of Lamu is Kiwayu Island which has the reputation of being the beach and water sports retreat of the rich and famous. Malindi is one of the oldest towns in Eastern Africa, since the 14th century and once rivalled Mombasa for dominance in East Africa. Chinese porcelain has been found dating back to the 9th century, brought in ships from the Persian Gulf, Arabia and India, returning with ivory, mangrove poles, leopard skins and slaves.
Tourism in Kenya started in Malindi, as Europeans were looking for safari and beach holidays, in 1960 mass tourism started by charters landing in Mombasa and put Malindi on the world map. In 1980 the Italians found Malindi the “IN “place for building their private homes, followed by hotels and restaurants. Today Malindi is in the midst of a tourism boom primarily due to its spectacular beaches.
Malindi town has not changed much in the last hundred years, where old houses, small shops, beautiful beaches and friendly people can be found. Malindi enjoys a strong African center where commerce and business outside the tourist industry thrive. The local residents Arabs, Giriama’s and Swahilis are used to visitors and love to mix with them in their own unhurried pace.
Malindi is the place for kite surfing, diving, goggling, deep-sea fishing and many other water sports. The sights are spectacular although tourist wear and tear is taking its toll as errant flippers and zealous shell collectors have left their mark on the natural beauty.
Once a quiet fishing village, Watamu has gained popularity over the years as a world-class location for snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. This resort town has a coral reef and is protected as part of the 10 sq km Watumu Marine National Park which contains unparalleled marine views. The area also features crystal clear warm water and white sandy beaches. Although the tourist trade is firmly established, an authentic African village still thrives on the outskirts of the resort development.
The town of Malindi, in fact, is home to the International Bill Fishing Competition, which takes place every January. The reserve itself begins 100 feet offshore and extends three miles out to sea, its main attraction being its spectacular reef, which starts about a kilometer offshore. A particularly charming way to dive is from the deck of a dhow, which can be chartered in the ports.
Lamu is enchanting, an heir to a distinctive tradition over a thousand years old. The Swahili culture and style of Lamu are a mix of East African, Omani, Yemeni, Indian, and some Portuguese and Victorian influences. Lamu is beautiful beaches, glorious seascapes and ancient ruins, a delightful anachronism carrying on its daily life as it has done for centuries so that the visitor has a science fiction experience of being transported back through time.
Children play in the narrow streets, Muslim men chat on street corners and women in their black ‘buibui’ veils busy themselves through doorways. Most houses have a rooftop which is used as a patio – indicative of a society where ‘hanging back’ and ‘catching the breeze’ is important. The island has retained all the charm and character built up over centuries. By the 1500s it was a thriving port, exporting timber, ivory, amber, spices and slaves. Until the 19th century dawned, Lamu’s economy was hinged on slave labour.
Lamu appears to be a region almost frozen in time. The physical appearance and the character of the town have changed very little over the centuries. The narrow, winding streets accommodate only pedestrian or donkey traffic. The population of Lamu remains almost exclusively Muslim. Men still wear full length robes known as khanzus with kofia caps while women cover themselves in the black wraparound cloth common in other Islamic cultures. In the early 1970s, Lamu became famous for its reputation as an exotic, remote, and self-contained society. It became a spiritual centre of sorts for hippies and other non-conformists drawn to its undisturbed traditional culture. Some people feel that Lamu’s popularity and increased tourism will ultimately undermine the unique value system and culture of this Swahili settlement. Others argue, however, that without the tourist industry Lamu will suffer and stagnate.
There are numerous sights in and around Lamu worth exploring. The architecture of the houses and buildings is especially unique. Most buildings date back to the 18th century or before and are constructed out of local materials including coral-rag blocks for the walls, wooden floors supported by mangrove poles, makuti roofs, and intricately carved shutters for windows. The villages of Shela and Matondoni, Lamu Fort, the Swahili House Museum, and the Donkey Sanctuary should also be included on every traveller’s itinerary.
Mount Kenya, at 5199m, is the highest peak in Kenya and the second highest in Africa second to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania [5895m and quite accessible from Kenya]. The central twin peaks of Mt. Kenya namely Batian (5199 m) and Nelion (5188 m) can only be accessed by climbing, whereas the third highest peak, Point Lenana (4985 m) can usually be ascended by a suitably equipped walker. The mountain was gazetted a National Park in 1949. When you visit Mount Kenya, you visit an absolutely unique environment. It is so unique that UNESCO has declared it an International Biosphere Reserve. The high altitude equatorial environment has led to the evolution of several specially adapted species of plants, animals and birds. In the 700 square kilometres park there are 81 plant species found only on Mt. Kenya, as well as a wide variety of wildlife.
Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano, 50 km in diameter at the base that was built up by intermittent volcanic eruptions 3.1 to 2.6 million years ago. What remains now as the central peaks was the core of the volcano, all the crater rim having been eroded away. Originally the summit of Mount Kenya must have reached well over 6,500 meters.
Lying only 20 km from the equator, there are numerous glaciers due to the high altitude. These have however receded significantly in the past two decades. Vegetation include Gallery Forest, Bamboo, Giant Heath and Hagenia, Moorland Tussock Grasses, Giant Senecio (Groundsel), Thistle and Lobelia — and at the uppermost elevations, rock and ice. Several species of flora and fauna are unique to this type of high altitude equatorial environment.
There are other destinations for trekking too including the Chyulu Hills [near Tsavo] and Loita Hills [Near Maasai Mara]. Kilimanjaro climbs are also arranged form Kenya.
Kenya’s Rift valley lakes are an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot, featuring spectacular wildlife.
1. LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
Lake Nakuru is a shallow, alkaline lake, where flamingos flock to. This lake offers one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife sights – that of brilliant pink flamingos as far as the eye can see. When conditions are right, between one and two million lesser and greater flamingos feed around the shores of the shallow soda lake, together with tens of thousands of other birds. What is certain is that any visitor to Lake Nakuru is likely to encounter flocks large enough to induce absolute awe. Over four hundred species of birds have been sighted at the park and it goes without saying that this is a bird watchers paradise.
Lake Nakuru was declared a national park in 1961 and it now covers an area of some 200 km². It serves as a sanctuary for the endangered black rhino as well as being home to various other large game species, including leopard warthog, waterbuck and large numbers of impala. Other slightly shyer residents include buffalo, Rothschild giraffe, eland, lion, leopard and black rhino.
2. LAKE NAIVASHA
This beautiful freshwater lake on the floor of the Rift Valley is fringed by thick papyrus. The lake is almost 13kms across, but its waters are shallow with an average depth of five metres. Lake area varies greatly according to rainfall, with an average range between 114 and 991 sq kms. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Naivasha completely dried up and effectively disappeared. The resulting open land was farmed, until heavy rains a few years later caused the lake to return to existence, swallowing up the newly established estates.
Afternoon wind and storms can cause the Lake to become suddenly rough and produce high waves. For this reason, the local Maasai christened the lake Nai’posha means ”rough water”, which the British mis-spelt as Naivasha.
The lake and its surrounds are rich in natural bounty, and the fertile soils and water supply have made this one of Kenya’s prime agricultural regions. Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. Forests are abounding with bird life, and Naivasha is known as a world class birding destination.
3. LAKE BARINGO
Lake Baringo is a fabulous place to simply chill out. Like Lake Naivasha, the 170km² lake is fresh water and has a charming camp site and luxury lodge on its shores. Its main attraction is the fabulous bird life which abounds here and attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. The demand is such that the lodge, Lake Baringo Club, has a resident ornithologist who conducts bird walks and evening slide shows. The lake teems with crocodile and hippos invade the shore every evening and stroll within meters of the tents. If this happens it is best to stay where you are. Unthreatened they are not aggressive, but they are capable of moving extremely fast if they feel they need to protect themselves or their young. The lodge and campsite have lots of trees, which ring with bird song.
4. LAKE BOGORIA NATIONAL RESERVE
This long, slender soda lake lies at the foot of the towering Laikipia Escarpment. Towards the southern end of the lake are a series of geysers, boiling pools and hot springs. The 107sq km national park also protects one of Kenya’s remaining herds of greater kudu. The lake also boasts flamingos and pelicans, but the region is best known for the physical beauty of the setting.
North of Nakuru, Lake Bogoria has stunning scenery. The shallow Soda Lake, which covers an area of 30 sq km, is shallow, with a maximum depth of 9 meters. Like other Kenyan soda lakes, it has no outlet and the intense evaporation has led to high levels of salt and minerals. As a result it has no fish but is rich in blue-green algae, which flamingos love. It also has hot springs and geysers, which spout and steam. Because of the extreme temperatures you need to be cautious and resist putting your hands into the water! Lake Bogoria is just off the B4 between Nakuru and Lake Baringo.
5. LAKE TURKANA
As the largest and most northern of the Rift Valley lakes, Lake Turkana covers an area of 7,500 sq km. The lake itself is surrounded by barren volcanic lava beds with little to no vegetation. Until 2 million years ago this great body of water was a freshwater lake fed from the north by the Oma River in Ethiopia. Today, Turkana has no outlet and the water is highly alkaline and barely drinkable. Despite the harsh climate, several tribal groups have adjusted to the desert heat including the Turkana, Rendille, Gabra, and El Molo.
Loyangalani is a remote settlement on the shores of the lake populated by Turkana tribes’ people. The whole area is part of Mount Kulal Biosphere Reserve set up by UNESCO to study arid lands. In 1967, Richard Leakey discovered the Koobi Fora fossil site on Lake Turkana. This area is protected now as an important prehistoric research site as it lies within the Sibiloi National Park.
6. LAKE VICTORIA
The second largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Victoria geographically dominates the area with its 70,000 sq km surface. Despite its huge size, the murky lake is not that deep – only 100 metres at its deepest. Although it borders on three countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – it is not common to travel between these countries via the lake.
The lake basin is home to the Luo people, who moved into the area from Sudan in the 15th century and are now Kenya’s third largest ethnic group.
Although western Kenya does not attract many tourists and is blissfully free of safari minibuses, it is an extremely scenic region with gentle hills and emerald tea plantations.
A Lake Victoria Safari will guarantee you uncrowded and private game viewing. The region is also ideal for bird watching as the lake attracts a variety of large water birds.
There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency you may bring into any of the East African countries. It is advisable to change the foreign currency into local currency only in banks and forex bureaus. Before you leave you can change the local currency back into your currency but you may be asked for the initial exchange receipt. US$ are acceptable for payments in most tourist establishments and are more commonly used than the Euros. Many hotels and all National Parks quote their rates in US$ for visitors.
The present Exchange Rate is 1 US$ = 100 kshs. Due to fluctuations it is advisable to check rates.
Credit cards are widely accepted in tourist establishments, however often a 5% surcharge for processing card payments is charged. In Kenya there are many ATMs where you can use credit cards to obtain cash. The banking system in Kenya is very advanced as compared to Uganda and Tanzania. Banking hours are usually from 8.00 am – 4.00pm from Monday – Friday. At the Airport in Nairobi the banks are open 24 hours.
Visitors arriving from yellow fever and cholera infested countries must have valid vaccination certificates. This is particularly important when crossing from one East African country to another one.
No other vaccinations are required to enter into Kenya at this time.
Malaria is rare in Nairobi and the highland but prevalent in hot and humid low altitudes around the costal region, Lake Victoria and the savannah. Malaria prophylactics should be taken when visiting East Africa and must be started 2 weeks before the intended date of travel and continued 2 weeks after departure.
It is safe to swim in the sea and swimming pools but it is not recommended in lakes, rivers and open reservoirs as they maybe infested with bilharzias parasites. Tap water is usually safe for drinking but it is advisable to use bottled water during your stay in East Africa. Bottled mineral water is widely available.
The Flying Doctor Service provides a very effective air ambulance in case of accidents and covers the whole of East Africa. We can arrange an independent rescue cover for you if this is not included in your package. East Africa’s top medical facilities are in Nairobi. At the Aga Khan Hospital and Nairobi Hospital there are highly qualified medical personnel readily available to deal with any emergency.
FOOD AND WATER
Nairobi’s international status is attested by the availability of first class service offered in its range of fine hotels. These have professional staffing from the KENYA UTALII COLLEGE, a specialized institution for training staff for the tourism industry. Standards of hygiene in hotels and lodges are high. Most lodges maintain international standards, graded by the Ministry of Tourism by star categories: Five stars are the finest, – fit for royalty – while 3 stars is an acceptable international standard. Salads are safe at international Hotels and lodges. A variety of cuisines are available at numerous restaurants in the cities. Hotels and lodges always offer international menus and may feature a few ethnic foods for guests to sample. Fruits you can peel are the safest to eat. Outside of your lodge it is advised to purchase bottled mineral water or use filtered water found in carriers in most hotels and Lodges. We supply all our clients with 2 bottles of bottled mineral water per day while on safari. The local Kenyan beer is an ideal thirst quencher too!
Ideal clothing includes a light weight cardigan, shorts, long pants, t-shirts and a few long sleeve shirts for milder evenings. If you are coming between the months of June – August you may want to bring a slightly heavier cardigan, due to Global Warming we have seen temperatures during these months become chillier in the evenings. Sandals are fine though Safari shoes are recommended if you anticipate going on walking safaris or any adventure sports. A hat is essential for sun protection as vehicle roof hatches are left open whilst game viewing. Sunscreens are recommended, sunglasses and a swimsuit is essential for lodges with pools. Although evening wear is informal, Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki and some Nairobi restaurants do require gentlemen to wear for dinner. Please do not offend local customs by wearing very skimpy shorts or miniskirts. Note that none of the beaches in Kenya are nude beaches.
Take a small, lightweight flash light as electric generators at lodges and camps are sometimes turned off after 2300 hrs or 0000 hrs until 0500 hrs in the morning. Most lodges do provide these and candles in rooms. Carry binoculars for added pleasure in game viewing.
Most lodges outside Nairobi and Mombasa use generators. The voltage is 220-240 AC, suitable for appliances, with the exception of those manufactured in the USA and Canada. However, some generators are usually only run for short periods in the early morning and again in the evening from 1830 hrs to 2230 hrs. You would be wise to bring battery operated razors, battery operated curlers and a good quality torch with extra batteries. For those coming from the USA and Canada, an adaptor with a power converter may also be worth carrying.
Nairobi is like any major city in the world be it New York, London or Paris. Take care of your valuables concealing jewellery and watches and hold handbags tightly when walking on the streets. Gold neck chains can be snatched with ease and it’s inadvisable to wear them. Keep valuables in the hotel safe. Do not leave money, passport, jewellery or watches in the rooms or tents; carry them with you at all times. Be careful late at night in towns or whilst on a lonely beach.
Phones and fax facilities are available in Nairobi, Mombasa, Arusha, Mt. Kenya Safari Club, most lodges and major towns. However, all our vehicles have both short and long range radios with direct communication with our Nairobi office. This ensures your safety at all times and allows for easy communication for any messages you may have to receive or send. Mobile phone usage is possible within all major towns and in some national parks. A few however have not been covered on the local mobile phone networks.
East Africa is the photographer’s dreamland, abounded with wildlife and bird life in their natural habitat, magnificent scenery, colourful people and reliable and unlimited sunlight. While on safari one must remember that the animals are not tame and it is advisable to keep a distance or remain in the vehicle. When taking shots of local people permission from them should be sought and the local culture respected.
Kenya is certainly in the mainstream wildlife safari photography destinations and is photographically productive enough to warrant the time and expense it takes to travel thousands of miles to photograph wildlife there. Wildlife can easily be photographed; just ask the driver to stop and ask any questions you may have about the animals. It is advisable to carry your cameras in dust-proof bags on safari, especially in the dry season. Film is available in most hotels and lodges but it is advisable to stock up in Nairobi. Memory chips and storage cards can be found in Nairobi, though these can be pricey and hard to find.
Visa extensions can be applied for to the Principal Immigration Officer at Nyayo House in Nairobi or the immigration office in Mombasa. As long as your visa is valid, you do not need to ask for re-entry passes if you travel to Uganda or Tanzania. Tourist Visa can be obtained at most entry points though visitors are advised to obtain their visa online to avoid delay at the entry points.
The fees vary for different nationalities and between Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. When travelling between the 3 countries multiple entry visas are advisable. Visitors are not allowed to engage in any paid or unpaid employment during their stay except with written permission from the Department of Immigration
Apart from personal effects visitors may bring along with them cameras, films, binoculars, non – consumable provisions, cigarettes, perfumes and spirits in such quantities as are in the opinion the authorities consistent with the visit. Gifts are dutiable while firearms; illicit drugs and obscene literature are prohibited.
Kenya’s national carrier is Kenya Airways. This is a modern airline that flies to many destinations in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Other airlines that fly to Nairobi include British Airways (London), Qatar Airways (Doha), Emirates (Dubai), KLM (Amsterdam), SN Brussels Airlines (Brussels), and Swiss/Cross air (Zürich).
From the USA, a connecting flight to Europe or the Middle East [Dubai] must be taken. Other international airlines that fly to Nairobi include Egypt Air, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air India, Etihad and Air Arabia.
Southern Airlines has recently started flights into Nairobi. A few German airlines fly direct from Europe to Moi International Airport in Mombasa, from Münich (LTU) or Frankfurt (Condor).