Africa is the land which has inspired many adventurers for generations. As soon as one hears or reads the word, one makes a visual picture of national parks, safaris, lions, giraffes, African tribes, rich culture, and vast patches of dry lands, desert area and breath-taking views. And when it comes to Kenya, what captures your imagination is beautiful, lovely, magnificent, majestic and wild. Imagine, you enter Kenya for the first time and the first sign you read is ‘Smile, you are in Kenya’. Immediately you feel welcome and the decision of coming to Kenya was not wrong. Kenya has something for everyone: from the scorching desert sun of Mandera, to the snow of Mount Kenya; from the sun-splashed white beaches of Mombasa to the damp moorland climate of Limuru. If you cannot decide where to go, just land up in Kenya and be pleasantly surprised with all that is offered. English is widely spoken thus making traveling to and staying in Kenya easier as compared to some other African nations. Kenya is well connected with all major airports of the continent. Getting into the country is not a problem. There is good connectivity by road in case one is traveling from neighboring countries and wishes to enjoy the drive through the beautiful countryside.
Exploring the Wild in Kenya When in Kenya, there is lot one can do here. Kenya has some of the world’s best game reserves where you can see some of the finest African Flora and Fauna. The parks are famous for the African Big 5 along with other animals – lions, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, huge herds of zebras, wildebeests and buffalo – and large variety of birds.
Masai Mara National reserve is one of its kind and a must visit in Kenya. Located in the South West part of the country, it is managed by the Masai peoples. The best kept secret of the Mara is the Mara Triangle which is one third of the reserve itself and is the finest game area with many animals grazing around. The annual wildebeest migration (from Masai Mara to the Serengeti in Tanzania) is an awesome sight and best experienced in a balloon safari.
Photo Courtesy: Prasit Chansareekorn
Photo Courtesy: Roger Smith
The Nakuru forest reserve is another famous game reserve of Kenya. A lake surrounded by woody and bushy grasslands, this reserve is a birdwatchers heaven. The lake is famous as the greatest bird spectacle on earth. Large numbers of fuchsia pink flamingos adorn the place. Located in central Kenya, over 450 bird species can be spotted here. Pelicans are other avian attraction along with the Flamingos.
Photo Courtesy: Prasit Chansareekorn
Another game reserve in the country is Samburu game reserve. Located on the banks of the river Ewaso Ngiro, this reserve is the home of Kamunyak, a lioness famous for adopting Oryx calves. It was in this reserve that George Adamson and Joy Adomson raised the famous Elsa, the lioness, and the bestseller which was later made into a movie – Born Free. The reserve is a home to the big cats, elephants, buffalos, hippos and over 350 bird species. The river forms the soul of this game reserve.
Photo Courtesy: Steve Safari (Flickr)
Tsavo National Park is one of the oldest and the largest park in Kenya. It gets its name from the Tsavo River which flows through it. It is considered one of the world’s biodiversity strongholds, and its popularity is mostly due to the vast amounts of diverse wildlife that can be seen, including the famous ‘big five’ consisting of masai lion, black rhino, cape buffalo, elephant and leopard. The park is also home to a great variety of bird life. Major attractions of this oldest park along with the wildlife are Mudana rock that serves as water catchment for the dam, Yatta Plateau, the world’s longest lava flow, Lugard Falls which are the white water rapids on the river Galana and Aruba Dam, whose reservoir attracts the wildlife. It is very close to Mombasa thus if you wish to experience the beach holiday and safari in one trip, Tsavo is your place.
Photo Courtesy: Google Images
The Great Rift Valley is a large trench that runs through Kenya from the north to the south. The valley contains the Cherangani Hills and a chain of volcanoes, some of which are still active. There are three inter-linked relatively shallow lakes -Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita- in the Rift Valley. The area supports some of the highest bird diversity in the world and is also home to 13 globally threatened bird species. It is an important foraging site for the Lesser Flamingo and a major nesting and breeding ground for Great White Pelicans. The place is also home to the members of the wild such as lions, cheetahs, giraffes and wild dogs
Photo Courtesy: Scott Dunn (Google)
The Explorer Kind Kenya offers much more besides the national reserves and the wild Safaris. The Equator passes through the region of Nanyunki in Kenya. There are certain spots along the road where you could have one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere. One can see The Coriolis effect (clock-wise/counter-clock-wise water draining) in action here which has some effect on ocean currents, but the roadside “professors” are just performing a trick. But then you can have fun while exploring the Equator. Also along the line, a lot of hot springs could be experienced.
Photo Courtesy: Teachandlearn (Flickr)
At 5,199m high, Mount Kenya is Africa’s second highest mountain and is a popular peak to conquer. According to Kikuyu folklore, it is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Masai and Kamba to describe God. Mount Kenya has beautiful and varying flora and fauna which attracts people from all over the world. One can trek to the top of it or ride on the back of the elephant and go to the top.
Photo Courtesy: Pablo (Flickr)
Time for some Fun in the Sun You thought Kenya was all about wild life Safaris? Think again. Kenya also has something to offer for the marine life lovers. The Watamu Marine National Park and reserve was the first marine park in Kenya. Its coral gardens are merely 300 metres from the shore and are home to approximately 600 species of fish, 110 species of stony coral and countless invertebrates, crustaceans and molluscs. The park is also home to whale sharks, manta rays, octopus and barracuda amongst the bigger species. Watamu also offers refuge to the turtles and also runs a turtle watch program.
Photo Courtesy: Google images
Another paradise for those who love the sea is the Lamu archipelago. The archipelago contains several archaeological/historical sites of great significance, such as Takwa and Manda Town. Lamu Island is a part of this archipelago and is a world heritage site. The town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by features such as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors.
Photo Courtesy: David Schweitzer (Flickr)
Mombasa is Kenya’s main tourist destination. Mombasa offers a diverse marine life, world-class hotels and friendly atmosphere. There is a tropical climate all year round which makes it a favorite amongst all travelers. When in Mombasa, one can enjoy the pristine beauty of the place, its white beaches and the marine life. While going around the town don’t forget to step into a Bombolulu workshop, a project of the physically disabled who work on jewellery, textiles, wood and leather craft. Nature walks, Safaris, kayaking, bird watching at Mtwapa creek, tidal pools, and a simple stroll around the place will keep you awed and wanting for more.
Photo Courtesy: Safari Partners (Flickr)
There are a lot of fun things which one can indulge in when in Kenya. Few of them are:
- Breakfast with Giraffes at the Giraffe manor, Nairobi
- Great Rally, Mombasa
- Foster an elephant
- Rekindle romance at Africa’s Hogwarts, Ol Malo Game sanctuary
- Get married like the Masai
- Rhino charge – the annual event
- Snake Safari
- Dining in a cave at Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant in Diani
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Swahili taarab music, Kalenjin warrior dances, Embu drumming and Kikuyu circumcision ceremonies
- Crater lake
Kenya can be visited anytime of the year. Every part of the country has something or the other to offer throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Kenya is between Jan to March and July through October. The best time for a Kenyan safari is during the annual wildebeest migration in the time of September – October. The beaches of Kenya can be best enjoyed during December to March and for Mount Kenya, the best time to go is between January – February, and July – October.
Photo Courtesy: ChellieL(Flickr)
Food Love When in Kenya, food will not be problem. Be it vegetarians, or non-vegetarians, Kenya offers a wide variety of food options for all. The street food is safe and a must try. Do treat yourself with Pilau-a chicken and rice dish and the staple food of Kenya-Ugali. Mandazi, a sort of sweet bread is often sold on the streets and is a nice snack. Grilled maze with chili on the side is also a good option. Nyama choma, meaning “barbecued meat” is Kenya’s unofficial national dish and your trip to Kenya would be incomplete if you don’t get a bite of it.
If you are a salad lover, you will find the Indian kachumber salad in Kenya with a slight twist to the name – Kachumbari and to the taste. The country offers many safe places to stay. From hotels to backpacker’s hostels to homestays, Kenya offers options for all kinds of travellers. The Kenyan hospitality is warm and they make you feel at home. The homestay options can help you experience the Kenyan culture, lifestyle from close. Many Kenyans are skilled craftsmen, as can be seen from the beautiful handcraft items being sold both locally and abroad. Multi-coloured sisal baskets and carved mahogany figures can be found all over and taken back as souvenirs for family and friends. The word ‘Magic’ has often been used to describe Kenya and capture its essence. A must pick up from Kenya is Mombassa sandals and African fabrics like lesos and kikios.
Photo Courtesy: Ignacio Palacios
When you plan to travel to Kenya, do take precautions / preventives measures against mosquitoes. After all you would not like to spoil one of the most adventurous trips because of a mosquito. It is extremely difficult to define the travel attractions of Kenya. We have tried our bit to share the best and must visits in Kenya, but no matter how hard we try, it cannot be described in brief. One has to experience Kenya to believe it.
The travel article has been contributed by Smriti Middha. She, along with her husband, runs travel stories monthly ezine – Travel Chronicles- stories of the travelers by the travelers.