A land of mindblowing and breathtaking vistas, an overwhelming abundance of wildlife, one of the places on earth today with the most diverse nature and culture. Kenya is one of the most developed countries in Africa and undoubtedly boasts some of the best safaris and beach thrills waiting to be explored by fun seekers, adventurers, and travelers alike.
Although there are some people in Kenya with Indian, Arabic and European heritage, coming from the British and Moorish era of colonization, the majority of Kenyans are of East African descent and much of the population is Christian.
Kenya is a culturally distinct nation consisting of diverse tribal groups each with different languages, dress code, food, and music. The Masai warriors inhabiting the famous wildlife rich grasslands and the coastal Swahili people are some of the better known tribes among others with much of its population belonging to farming communities in the north; with a family and community oriented culture influenced mostly by colonial periods like most countries in Africa, as well as by African traditions. Kenyans are also artistic and creative in nature with a number of notable and renowned musicians and writers with a well developed cultural scene including theater, music, television, dance and visual arts well represented. One of the best ways for tourists to gain insight into Kenya’s diversity in traditions and culture is to witness some of their very entertaining and colorful festivals.
The foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) advice against all but very necessary travel to the following areas:
- Garissa county
- Areas within 60km of the Kenya – Somali border
- Lamu county (excluding Lamu island and Manda island)
- Areas within Tana river county north of the Tana river itself
- Within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river.
The areas to which the foreign and commonwealth office advice against does not include Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies (including the Aberdare national park, Laikipia, Amboseli, Masai Mara, Meru, Lake Nakuru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills and Tsavo), nor does it include the beach resorts of Mombasa, Kilifi, Malidi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu island and Manda island or Mombasa (Moi international), Malindi and Manda airports. However, if you wish to travel to Lamu island or Manda island, it is highly advisable you do so by air to Mamda airport and not by road.
Curfews have been imposed in certain areas of the country in light of the security concerns, so it is advisable to check local media before you travel. Despite all of these, Kenya is still relatively safe for tourists to visit as the Kenyan security forces have taken the necessary steps to enforce private property rights and the situation has been contained.
Safety and security
Although Kenya has its share of bad reputation, the number of tourist arrivals in Kenya increased to 98045 in November from 95433 in October of 2018. Tourist arrivals in Kenya averaged 82425.96 from 2006 until 2018 reaching an all time high of 143556 in July of 2011. A naturally iconic landscape with breathtaking views of mother natures exuberance, Kenya had a record low of 36970 in February of 2008.
Kenya is undoubtedly the home of classical safari with a range of highly up to par lodges, tour guides, operators, and transport companies welcoming thousand of visitors from all over the world annually. For visitors who are budget conscious, there are overland tours in modified trucks or minibuses to fit your budget with hotel style lodge offering competitive rates while for the luxurious clientele, world class camps that rival the best in the world in terms of service, unique locations, and cuisines.
Tips to stay safe
- Be vigilant at all times and follow security advice given by your tour guide , employee or host
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
- Avoid wearing expensive watches and jewelry
- Avoid walking around after dark especially in isolated areas like empty beaches
- Always carry a form of ID with you at all times
- A copy of your passport is normally acceptable , but of recent, police officers insist on the original document
- Beware of thieves posing as police officers or security guards. Always ask to see identification and do not accept food or drinks from strangers, it may be drugged
- Always stay in tourist camps with good perimeter security
- Research the place you intend to visit if doing so by yourself. As it is in other countries. Some areas are more unsafe than others such as the slum areas of Nairobi, the old town of Mombasa and around Likoni ferry
- If you have the means, travel with a trusted Tour Operator who will take care of all the logistics for you
- If in doubt, seek advice from your tour operator or the Kenya tourism federation. (telephone : +254 20 800100)
A typical safari in Kenya can take place on foot with walks through some of the world’s most remote and isolated regions guided by tribesmen for whom these natural wonders are an ancestral home while those looking for a more adventurous thrill can run with the Masai warriors or go on hikes up to some of the highest mountain slopes in Africa to catch a birds-eye view of what the city looks like from the mountain top.
Safaris can also take place on a quad bike, on horseback, by bicycle, by boat or in a customized open safari vehicle on diverse landscapes that are mind blowing. Safari activities also include helicopter flights that reach the Pristine shores of the high altitude lakes around mount Kenya. Traditional morning and evening game drives expose you to Kenya’s rich wildlife with fly-camps consisting of small tents put together in the bush with superb dining and beds set up on high platforms in the open where guests can enjoy a magical night directly under a galaxy of stars.
One of the most awe-inspiring and thrilling natural spectacle in the world is popularly known as the annual Great Migration of wildebeests and zebras as they cross into the southern part of Kenya from Tanzania while predators such as lions, hyena, leopard, and cheetahs follow the migration preying upon the weak as they journey through the Serengeti to the Masai Mara national park. Wildlife viewing during this time is very spectacular and it is the most sought after times tourists tend to travel.
Not too Common Destinations
Samburu National Reserve
While Masai Mara is undoubtedly the highlight of all journeys in Kenyan safari, do not fail to enjoy the quintessential Kenyan northern safaris with access to East Africa’s wilderness with expertly guided game drives, nature walks, and bird watching trips. One of such is the Samburu national reserve, which is located northeast of Laikipia and home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in Africa. Known for its diverse terrain transitions from rolling plains to volcanic remnants, the Samburu national reserve is home to an abundance of animal species and the most notable and sought after are the the Somali ostrich, grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe and beisa oryx. More common mammals are impalas, waterbucks, dik-dik, olive baboons, Grant’s gazelle, elephants, warthogs, hippos etc, carnivores including lions, cheetahs, crocodile, leopards etc. birding enthusiasts can lose themselves with over 450 species including species from the riverine forest and northern bush.
Chyulu Hills National Park
Located on the eastern side of Kenya at Kibwezi and found in between Tsavo national park and Amboseli national park, Chyulu Hills national park is an ideal destination for adventurers and nature lovers with its blend of both a striking volcanic scenery and great wildlife with a thick forest that is home to so many wild animals and a breathtaking view of mount kilimanjaro on the western side of the park. It is easily accessible by road as it is located 19 km from Nairobi on the southeastern side and it takes approximately 5 hours to get to the park. Chyulu national park also has two airstrips allowing visitors to reach easily by air and it is famous for its caves, spectacular landscape views, great place for wildlife lovers, camping ,mountain climbing. Bird enthusiasts can also catch sights of some unique bird species such as bradypterus cinnamoneus, zoothera gurneyi, francolinus shelley, among many others.
Shimba Hill national reserve
Comprising three distinct types of terrain — coastal rainforests, woodland canopies and expansive grasslands with over half of Kenya’s indigenous plant population, Shimba Hills National Reserve is one of Kenya’s most famous attractions with special emphasis on its butterfly and bird population and it is also notable for its biodiversity as black and white colobus monkeys, sable antelopes and African elephant species can be found.
The Kenyan safari experience tends to be different in comparison to South Africa in that most safaris in South Africa are run by the accommodation/park that you’re staying in as they make use of their tour guides and their drivers to explore the area around your lodge so most of the time, you will usually be in the same location. In Kenya, however, you will mostly find yourself on the move camping at different sites exploring the parks and taking in sights of the majestic wildlife basking in the backdrop of a truly breathtaking natural setting. In terms of luxury, South Africa has fully established itself as the safari luxury destination of choice where lodges are the most popular type of safari accommodation with private, exclusive tours and reserves easier to find. Kenya offers luxury safaris as well and you can find a wide range of accommodation options to suit a variety of budgets.
Known for its clear blue waters, pure white strand of sun-baked sand with lined palm trees stretching along the Indian Ocean coast, Diani beach is a stunning setting for a perfect beach vacation located 30 km south of Mombasa with thousands of tourists visiting each year with a lot of fun activities including whale shark satellite tagging expeditions, swimming the shallow waters, snorkeling among colorful reefs, diving in deep sea canyons, kite surfing, windsurfing, jet skiing, and kayaking. Diani beach also boasts q number of land activities like beach volley, golf courses, and skydiving school. Diving safaris on traditional dhows include excursions to the kisite Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve which is a natural habitat to a huge colony of dolphins, sea turtles, whales, and over 200 species of fish.
Well known for its pristine white sand, Watamu is a stunning village along Kenya’s coastline and is a great spot for surfing, scuba diving or snorkeling plus the coral reefs are home to all types of vibrant underwater life. A perfect place to walk for miles when then the tide goes out with great restaurants and hotels just steps away from the sand.
Lamu island can be found just off the coast of Kenya and you can explore most of the island’s beaches on a dhow boat and it is known to be totally pedestrian friendly with donkeys as their most popular means of transportation. Just a stone throw away on the northern side of Lamu is the Shela beach made up mostly of shells and sand and tourists are treated with homemade tasty samosas right on the beach.
One of the most famous beach destinations in Kenya with a relaxing climate, lively nightlife spots, stunning views and plenty of hotels by the water, Malindi beach offers several fun activities like sailing, windsurfing, deep sea fishing, and snorkeling.
A relatively small and uncrowded beach in Mombasa south coast that can be accessed through Mombasa by ferry which makes it a fun means of transport. Though small, Tiwi beach boasts of recreational options and when tides are low, small tidal pools become visible and you can watch underwater creatures splash around all over the place.
Located off the Mombasa-Malindi highway, Shanzu beach is known for its clear and refreshing water, with its white sand and dotted coconut palm trees. Also home to a number of hotels and restaurants that are known for its delicious seafood.
If you haven’t been to the African continent yet, Kenya should be on your travel list this year. You are definitely going to fall in love with all the natural wonders, wildlife, and serene beaches she has to offer.