Kenya Travel Guide
- Kenya Travel Guide
- Key Points
- Kenya Travel Destinations
- The Rift Valley
- Central Highlands
- Western Kenya
- The Coast
- Northern Kenya
- Must-see attractions
- Meru National Park
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Aberdare National Park
- Samburu & Buffalo Springs National Reserve
- Amboseli National Park
- Tsavo East
- Tsavo West
- Exploring further
- When to visit
- Climate in Kenya
- June to October
- Food in Kenya
Kenya – possibly the most famous safari destination in Africa – has much to offer the traveler. The wildlife, the culture and the range of landscapes have long been attracting visitors from all over the world, and despite its fame, it is still possible to have a holiday in Kenya that takes you off the beaten track.
You can experience big game safaris on foot or in vehicles, swim in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, visit forests, mountains and lakes, and much more.
If you would like to see remote, wilderness areas, then Meru and Laikipia are two beautiful and largely unknown destinations where you can have your own unique safari.
The vast wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara is a great spectacle to behold, and one of the world’s most famous migrations. Imagine floating in a balloon over the wide-open savannah plains of the Mara, looking down over the thousands and thousands of Wildebeest.
Feeling fit? African Tours can organize a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya for you. Or perhaps you want to see the huge herds of elephant in Amboseli or spend time with the Maasai people who live there.
- Kenya has a population of nearly 40 million people
- Mount Kenya is the second-highest mountain in Africa. (Mount Kilimanjaro, which is in Tanzania along the Kenyan border, is the highest peak on the continent)
- Swahili is the official language but English is widely spoken
- Kenya offers you so much in a destination. Close Encounters Africa can help you have the trip of a lifetime to this wonderful and varied country
Kenya Travel Destinations
Having believed to be the “Cradle of Mankind” by anthropologists, Kenya is certainly a land of many facets which is created by the people (40 tribes, British and Portuguese influences during their colonial rule) that inhabit the land over the centuries. Complementing its history is the gifts of the land which offers opportunities to see wildlife in its natural habitats as well as indulge in sports. Kenya is definitely an exciting option for any traveler thinking of visiting Africa.
Nairobi is a definite place to go if you are interested in history, culture as well as catching some of the wildlife in action. For the history and cultural buffs, the National Archives will present to you the private collections of politicians and stories of Kenyan heroes. Another place of interest is the National Museum of Kenya which is a great place to learn more about pre-history with its extensive collections of exhibits and cave paintings. For those interested in art, visit the Gallery Watatu and Payapaa Arts Centre which showcase some of the best artists around.
For the adventurous, take the “Out of Africa” route which introduces you to the sights and sounds of Karen Blixen’s life which was immortalized by the film. The route consists of Ngong Hills which provides great sights, the Karen Blixen Museum which provides insight into her life as well as fixtures from the film production, Langata Giraffe Centre which allows you to get close to Giraffes and ends off with Nairobi National Park which is a great place to see some wildlife.
The Rift Valley
With its several lakes such as Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria and Lake Elementita, bird-watching is a definite must as clusters of birds of various species and every hue are often spotted in the vicinity. Another popular place for tourists is Lake Navisha and its surrounding attractions. One can go to Crater Lake Sanctuary for walking and camping, Crescent Island and Hell’s Gate National Park for walking safaris and Elsamere for lunch and staying overnight. Finally, for those interested in Prehistory, stop by Hyrax Hill as it is one of the major sites for excavations of artefacts from the Neolithic and Iron Age. The museum there provides finds from the site.
The two main attractions of the highlands are driving through the Aberdare Mountain, which provides great sights of farmland and bamboo forests, as well as hiking up Mount Kenya which provides breathtaking landscapes. Aside from that, you may want to visit the Italian Memorial Church and Cathedral Church of St James and All Martyrs in Murang’a. The former commemorates the Italian soldiers and Kenyan POWs who died during both world wars while the latter is a chilling reminder of the unfortunate fate of Christians who refuse to pledge loyalty to Mau Mau guerrillas. Another great sight to behold in the Cathedral Church is the beautiful murals depicting the Nativity as well as African settings.
Without a doubt, the crowning attraction would be the Masai Mara Reserve. The main draw of this reserve is that it is often witnessed to the mass animal migration which is a spectacular sight. Also, it is one of the best places to witness the wildlife up close all year round and offers interesting ways to see the reserve such as going in a hot-air balloon ride. Aside from the reserve, one can choose to go to Mount Elgon National Park (bushbuck, buffalo, and elephant) or Saiwa Swamp National Park (sitatunga antelope) to take a look at the various animals.
While Mombasa is the most popular city in the coastal area, one should not forget to take a boat tour around Manda’s mangroves or walk around Malindi where you can see a 16th Century Portuguese church, Juma’a Mosque which was built on the site of an old slave market or watch out for the Vasco de Gama cross which was erected in 1499. In Mombasa, a stroll through its old town allows one to see remnants of the 19th Century as the old houses are modeled after the Swahili designs. Fort Jesus is worth a quick visit to appreciate the Portuguese form of defense at the fort. Additionally, the coast does offer a variety of opportunities to get close to nature such as the Haller Park trail, Amboseli National Park, and Shimba Hills Nature Reserve.
The north is certainly a nature lover’s haven as it is filled with nature reserves. The most famous of them all is Samburu and its neighboring Buffalo Springs and Shaba. Tourists often flock to these nature reserves to catch giraffes, zebras, elephants, Beisa oryxes and gazelles. East of Meru lies another cluster of nature reserves (Meru National Park, Bisandi, Kora, North Kitui and Rahole nature reserves.) If you are considering these nature reserves, it is important to note that only Meru has visitor facilities. So do plan your trips carefully.
Whether you are looking to get close to nature or to learn about prehistory and colonial history, Kenya certainly does not disappoint as one returns to the roots and the place where humanity reportedly started.
The annual wildebeest migration is rightly famous and a most extraordinary natural spectacle, but with a total of 59 National Parks, making up 11 percent of the total land area, there are abundant wildlife and game watching opportunities in Kenya. Many visitors choose to include a stay on the coast, where the allure of sandy beaches and the warm Indian Ocean offer a chance to unwind.
Meru National Park
North-east of Nairobi and the least visited of Kenya’s National Parks, this is a rugged, beautiful and largely road-free area. It was made famous through the writings of Joy Adamson in her book ‘Born Free’.
It is its wild remoteness that attracts people to come here, and if you want to experience the big 5 while having an intrepid adventure, this is the place! It is very unlikely you will see anyone else during your stay in the Meru National Park.
A wild and sparsely populated land, Laikipia offers the visitor something more than game drives on open plains. You can experience game viewing and also other activities like horse riding and hiking, and you can learn more about traditional cultures.
Accommodation is mostly in privately owned ranches, which are largely dedicated to sustainable tourism and the re-introduction of endemic species to the area. A visit to Laikipia will definitely get you off the well-beaten paths of the National Parks.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru is situated 200km from Nairobi and is world-famous for its protection of stunning flocks of Lesser Flamingo, which literally turn the shores pink. Hippo and clawless otter live around the water, as do many species of bird. The park spans a wide range of habitats, from wooded and bush grasslands, which are home to buffalo, lion, leopard and Rothchild’s giraffe, to rocky escarpments and ridges. The woodlands and forest are home to black and white rhino – there is a sanctuary within the park where numbers are now growing, after the ravages of poaching left only two rhinos.
Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara is situated 300km from Nairobi and is one of the best-known wildlife areas in Kenya. It also offers a view of the untouched life in Africa as it has been for thousands of years. Here there are herds of elephant browsing amongst the rich, tree-studded grasslands. Thompson gazelles, zebra, eland and many more species offer a rich choice for the predatory lion, leopard, and cheetah that hunt in the reserve and surrounding areas.
The spectacle for which the Mara is renowned is the annual wildebeest migration. During the months of August and September, the sight of more than a million of these beasts moving as a great mass through the savannah is one of the most breathtaking sights nature can offer.
Aberdare National Park
The Aberdare National Park lies 200km from Nairobi and is part of the Aberdare mountain range. According to traditional Kikuyu folklore, the mountains are one of the homes of Ngai (god).
The Aberdare Rainforest area is a must for landscape lovers, with v-shaped valleys and streams and rivers cascading over spectacular waterfalls. Above the forest is a belt of bamboo, a favorite haunt of the bongo, a rare and elusive forest antelope.
Animals abound in the forest, and a fence is being built to protect this area by the Rhino Ark Trust.
Samburu & Buffalo Springs National Reserve
The Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Park is situated 350km from Nairobi in the hot and arid northern area of Kenya. It is home to the Samburu tribe and to wildlife species rarely found elsewhere, including Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk gazelle, oryx, reticulated giraffe and Somali ostrich. Some of these species are so well adapted that they can survive for long periods without water. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah and the more common game are also found here.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is 250km from Nairobi and borders onto Tanzania. It is a place of stark contrast. Meaning a place of water in Maasai, Amboseli, despite its dusty and dry appearance, has an endless source of water from the snowmelt from Mt Kilimanjaro, filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock.
During the dry season, false mirages appear over the dry water beds, punctuated by real herds of zebra and wildebeest. The principal attractions in Amboseli are the herds of elephant. There is plentiful game including zebra, wildebeest, impala, and leopard. Birdwatchers can see pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African fish eagles, and pygmy falcons.
The Kenya Wildlife Community Service works closely with the Maasai elders to develop eco-tourism attractions that benefit indigenous communities and protect the fragile eco-system.
Tsavo East is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest parks, situated 333km north-east of Nairobi, near the coast. Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast make safaris here popular. It is one of the world’s leading bio-diversity strongholds, from bushy grasslands and open plains to savannah and semi-arid acacia scrub. North of Galana is a true wilderness and camel safaris are a feature here.
Tsavo East is recommended for photographers, with its fabulous light and unbelievable views, particularly Mudanda Rock, Yatta Plateau and Luggard’s Falls. There are 500 recorded bird species here. Game includes elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk and zebra.
Tsavo West is smaller than Tsavo East and is nearer to Nairobi at 240km away. It is well known as a major battlefield in World War 1 and for its notorious ‘Man-Eaters of Tsavo’ lions, which preyed on the railway workmen during the building of the great Uganda Railway in 1900. It offers tremendous views, ranging from mountains and river forest to lakes and wooded grassland. Its plains border the Southern Serengeti plains in Tanzania and a wide range of game can be seen here.
The Chaimu volcanic crater can be explored, and there are a number of nature trails. Mzima Springs, which is a pool of natural spring water with underwater viewing hides for observing hippo, is a star attraction.
The island of Lamu, just off Kenya’s far north coast, is a place of great natural beauty, with long deserted beaches framed by rolling sand dunes and the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Ideal as somewhere simply to unwind, Lamu is also a cultural melting pot, whose fascinating history many visitors won’t be able to resist delving into.
This is a very small selection of the places you can see in Kenya. The network of flights, both charter and scheduled, is extensive and Close Encounters Africa will plan an interesting and varied itinerary with you for your perfect Kenya trip.
When to visit
There are two rainy seasons in Kenya, a short rainy season in November and a longer one that usually lasts from the end of March into May. It doesn’t necessarily get cold, but the roads can become impassable.
Climate in Kenya
If you are on safari you can usually see more animals during the dry season, as they congregate around the waterholes. If you wish to plan your trip around the annual migration of the wildebeest, you should visit between the end of July – September.
June to October
This is the cooler dry season. Peak tourist season is July – August, when there are excellent viewing conditions, though many roads are dusty. Wildebeest are normally encountered in the Maasai Mara in large numbers in late July through October. This is a good time of year for climbing Mt. Kenya. The average daily high temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Food in Kenya
While the African continent is not exactly known for their food, the different cultures residing in Kenya has made this country one of the exceptions. The common traveler would be exposed to a variety of foods that make it hard to decide what to eat. So here are some of our picks to help you out.
When you are in Nairobi and feeling adventurous, one must stop by Carnivore (off Langata Road) which offers barbecued game meats that will be sure to fill your stomach. As for those who prefer eastern cuisine, Bangkok (Chinese food. Amee Arcade), Kowloon Gardens (Chinese food. Nginyo Towers) and Haandi (Indian food. Westlands) are there to help satisfy your oriental cravings at varying prices with Haandi being the most expensive.
For those well-heeled visitors who want European cuisine at its finest, there are always La Belvedere (Grand Regency Hotel) and Allan Bobbie’s Bistro (Cianda House, Koinage Street) to look to for French cuisine while Mediterraneo (Junction Shopping Mall, Ngong Road) offers fine Italian cuisine. Seafood lovers will not be disappointed by Moonflower Restaurant (Palacina Palace Hotel, Kitale Lane) and Tamarind (Harambee Avenue). Both offer a great selection of seafood.
The Central Highlands area offers two great restaurants which specialty lies in trout. So if you want to have a meal consisting of trout, head on down to Kentrout (22 miles north of Nanyuki) or to Tout Tree Restaurant (12 miles south of Nanyuki).
Mombasa offers several good seafood restaurants that one must not miss. They are Ali Barbour’s Cave (cora cave, Diani), Jehazi Grill (Serena Beach Hotel), La Mediaterrano-Takaunga Creek (off Mombasa, Malindi Road) and Tamarind (the restaurant overlooks Mombasa Old Harbour). If seafood is not your thing, their alternatives such as Galaxy Chinese (Archbishop Makarios Street) which offers Chinese food, Misino Restaurant (Nyali) which offers Japanese food and La Veranda (Mwea Taberer Street, Nyali) which offers Italian food.
As for Malindi, there are always Driftwood Beach Club (Southern end of Malindi) and The Old Man and the Sea (Malindi Waterfront) if you are looking for a seafood fix. With a name such as I Love Pizza (on the beach opposite fishing club), one certainly has no trouble in finding a place for pizza. For Italian food lovers, Lorenzo’s (Italian Garden Centre) is a great place to have a meal while Surahi (Mtangani Road) provides great Northern Indian food and it takes care of vegetarians as well.
With a plethora of various cuisines on offer, Kenya certainly caters to food lovers and one certainly has no trouble in enjoying a great meal no matter which part of Kenya one might be in.