Kenya sits at the centre of the African safariexperience, with an outstanding variety of wild animals and BigFive viewing opportunities. Although safaris are its greatestattraction, it is a country of great diversity with much more tooffer.
Essentially, it is a place for outdoor living - thecoast offers beaches and water-based activities, the mountainspresent a challenge to hikers and climbers, and the rollingsavannahs are a game-viewer's paradise.
The country sits astride the equator, offeringfabulous scenery and a variety of tribal cultures. From its centrallocation, the sacred peaks of Mt Kenya reign over a landscapeprimarily covered by grasslands and thorn trees, much of itenclosed within its many national parks and reserves.
To the west, the spectacular Great Rift Valley issprinkled with lakes teeming with a variety of birdlife, whoseshores and surrounds are traversed by agricultural farmlands. Tothe east lies the promise of an idyllic beach holiday with therequisite white palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs.
Inhabiting the highlands and Rift Valley are two ofthe most well-known of the numerous African tribal cultures, theKikuyu farmers and the tall, red-clad Maasai cattle herders. Thecoast is home to ancient Swahili civilisations and old port townsthat are rich in a history of exotic spice trading andfighting.
Kenya has a sophisticated tourism infrastructure,with two major cities controlling the majority of the tourismtrade. Nairobi, the capital, is the safari and hiking hub, situatedin the cool Central Highlands, while on the east coast the hot andhumid trading port of Mombasa functions as the gateway to theresorts and pristine beaches of the area.
Sadly the heavy influence of tourism has meantexcessive prices for safaris, souvenirs, and most activities ofinterest to foreigners, as well as the constant hassle by touts,guides, and sellers to part with as much money as they can dupe theguilty traveller into spending.
There is an abundance of things to see and do inKenya, a country which boasts some of the Africa's most famous andsought-after tourist attractions. Kenya is essentially a dreamdestination for African wildlife safaris and most of itsattractions revolve around the incredible game reserves and thefamous naturalists and wildlife professionals who have worked inthe country.
Game viewing is a must, with quintessentialdestinations near Nairobi, like the Masai Mara National Reserve(where Out of Africa was filmed), while Hell's Gate National Parkis located in the Great Rift Valley. Visit Elsamere ConservationCentre, where Joy Adamson of lived, and take in the natural splendour of LakeNaivasha. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum and enjoy the GiraffeCentre and the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.
Another draw card for Kenyan tourism is the wonderfulcoastline and paradise beaches. The warm waters of the Indian Oceanare ideal for swimming and watersports, and there are somewell-preserved coral reefs to explore beneath the surface. Thereare a number of popular resorts along the Kenyan coast and Mombasais an interesting port city. Kenya has pleasant weather throughoutthe year, making this a great beach holiday destination.
Nairobi National Park was established in 1945 and is Kenya'sfirst national park. Uniquely situated on the capital's doorstep itis a well-kept, compact and beautiful area of plains and wild bushcontaining a large number of Africa's best-known animals. Largeherds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe roam the plains andblack rhino, ostrich, baboons, cheetah, leopard and lions are someof the other photogenic inhabitants.
In the park is the Animal Orphanage where sick, wounded andabandoned animals are cared for and rehabilitated into the park, aswell as an Educational Centre featuring a Safari Walk. Otherattractions include the Ivory burning site Monument and somewonderful picnic areas popular for corporate functions, weddingsand the like.
Close by is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where infantelephant and rhino (orphaned because of poaching activities) arecared for and eventually returned to the wild in Tsavo NationalPark. The centre is open every morning and visitors can watch thecalves bathing in the mud hole and being bottle fed by their humansurrogate mothers. Seeing these baby animals playing andinteracting with them is a special experience and the ElephantOrphanage is one of the top attractions in Kenya for manyvisitors.
Along the southern shore of Lake Naivasha is the former home ofnaturalist and painter Joy Adamson, author of 'Born Free', which isnow the Elsamere Conservation Centre, incorporating a guesthouseand a small museum. Visitors are invited to join the guests dailyat 4pm for a sumptuous tea on the lawns of the beautifully peacefullakeside setting, occasionally joined by the mischievous Colobusmonkeys with a taste for cheesecake. The museum has displaysportraying the true story of Joy and the lioness Elsa that sheraised from birth, and her attempts to return her to the wild, aswell as her paintings and personal artefacts. There is also a videoshown about the story of Elsa the lioness.
Lake Naivasha is a shimmering waterscape of floating hyacinthsurrounded by mountains, and the skies above are pierced by thedistinctive cries of the fish eagle. Brightly coloured kingfishersdart into the waters from their papyrus perches and ugly Maraboustorks strut along the shoreline like cantankerous sergeant majors.The trees are home to Colobus monkeys and at night the earthshudders with the movement of grazing hippos. The southern shore ofthe lake is lined with hotels, campsites and guesthouses, prettilysituated either on the shore or higher up on the slopes of themountain with fantastic views over the lake. Boat trips are apopular way to explore the lake and also the private CrescentIsland Game Sanctuary.
Named for the pair of massive red cliffs of the Njorowa Gorgethat encloses a geothermic area of hot springs and steam vents,Hell's Gate is one of the two parks in Kenya that allows visitorsto explore on foot, making it an ideal place for hiking, cycling,camping and rock climbing. It is famous for its natural steaminggeysers, and the towering cliffs provide an eagle and vulturebreeding ground. The wide plains are home to numerous animals, suchas zebra, buffalo, eland, gazelle, hartebeest, warthog and baboonand the experience of walking alongside a giraffe or past a herd ofzebra is a memorable one.
One of the most popular ways to explore the park is to hirebicycles at the park gate and ride unaccompanied down to the gorge.The bikes are not always in the best condition but they are cheapand the journey is a wonderful experience; if you do get tired orstuck with a bad bike the route is patrolled regularly by rangerswho give stragglers lifts. Upon reaching the gorge it is best tohire a guide to help you along the hike route: the guides help youtraverse the route through the canyon and explain the interestinggeological origins and features of the landscape, as well asexplaining the local mythology and Masai names given to thefeatures. After the tour you can ride back to the gate or get alift. It is also possible to camp in the park.
Although tiny, this park has a high concentration of game witheverything wildlife enthusiasts could wish for (except elephant).Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya's most important rhino sanctuaries.Apart from the rhino, there are several prides of lion and it isthe best place to spot leopard. The surface of the shallow alkalinelake covers about a third of the park and the saline concentrationsupports a blue-green algae that attracts thousands of flamingos.This pulsating pink carpet covering the fringes of the lake is abreathtaking sight and at any disturbance the air above becomes anoisy confusion of long pink legs and reddish wings in flight. Theflamingos, and generally rich birdlife, make the park extremelypopular with bird watchers, although some ornithologists havecomplained that the lake is sustaining fewer and fewer birds. Largeflocks of pelicans are also attracted to the rich food source inthe lake and waterbuck and the rare Rothschild Giraffe are commonsights along the shores. The park has several high points with goodlookouts and waterfalls, and monkeys and baboon frequent the rockycliffs. Watching the sun rise over Lake Nakuru is a specialexperience. As the park is so small, it is easy to explore it in aday.
The vast Tsavo National Park is only an hour's drive fromMombasa along the main highway to Nairobi, and for administrativepurposes is divided into the East and West. Covering 8,422 sq miles(21,812 sq km), the park is home to giraffe, buffalo, antelopes,monkeys, many exotic birds and Kenya's largest herds of elephant.The elephant often look startlingly red, covered in the dust andmud of the region's ruddy soil. Visitors are also likely to seerhinos - after being virtually wiped out by poachers in the 1980stheir population now numbers almost 200; most are found in theNgulia Rhino Sanctuary. Poaching has now practically beeneliminated and the elephant population is also increasing; thereare now around 5,000 animals, up from 3,000 in 1985, but stillshort of the 25,000 that are estimated to have roamed the park inthe 1960s. Another exciting attractions is an observation tank inone of the park's pools from which visitors can get a close-up viewof hippos, crocodiles and tropical fish in their natural habitat.Some of the roads in the park are in bad condition and it can bedifficult driving but if you head out on organised game drivesthere'll be no problem.
Experience giraffes up close and personal at this wonderfulcentre dedicated to the preservation of the endangered Rothschildgiraffe. Not only can you watch them from very close but visitorscan experience the rare pleasure of hand-feeding these graceful andgentle creatures from a platform at eye-level with the animals: youcan touch them, have them take food out of your hands, or even puta pellet in your mouth and enjoy a sloppy giraffe kiss! The photoopportunities are simply superb. You can also enjoy the nature walkin a lovely area with 160 species of bird and some amazing trees.There are warthogs and giant tortoises to meet as well. This is thesingle best attraction for children in Nairobi and there are oftengroups of school kids that come for tours. Guides at the centregive educational talks and answer any questions you may have. Bettyand Jock Leslie Melville founded the Giraffe Centre in 1979 topreserve the Rothschild giraffe of which only 120 remained inexistence; it is a non-profit organisation and all fees go towardsthe conservation of these wonderful animals. The manor house on theestate is very charming and a popular venue for weddings and otherevents.
This hugely diverse museum contains some world-class attractionsamong its dusty relics and stuffed animals. The facility is home tothe great pre-historic finds from the Leakey family, includingrelics from mankind's earliest ancestors. The most famous fossil inthe museum is the skeleton of Turkana Boy, the most complete earlyhuman skeleton ever found, at 1.5 million years old (Turkana Boy isofficially classified as either homo erectus or homo ergaster).There are also fascinating sections on art, geology, wildlife andlocal history. The Nairobi National Museum is a nice lookingbuilding with lots to offer visitors. In many ways it is a bitold-fashioned, but it is a great place to learn about Kenya'sculture and history and a worthwhile attraction for visitors to thecity. Local guides are available at the museum and hiring one is agood idea because their knowledge enriches the exhibits and fillsin any gaps there may be in information.
Apart from the wealth of artefacts and information in themuseum, there are some wonderful sculptures and a herb garden inthe grounds, and there is an attached snake park where some of theworld's largest and also most venomous snakes are displayed, inaddition to other animals like tortoises and crocodiles.
Karen Blixen was a notable Kenyan personality who lived andfarmed on the outskirts of Nairobi from 1917 to 1931 when shereturned to Denmark bankrupt and heartbroken at being forced toleave Africa. Writing under the name Isak Dinesen she authoredacclaimed books including Out of Africa which inspired an Oscarwinning film of the same name. The main building of the originalfarmhouse, M'Bogani House, now houses the Karen Blixen Museum andretains much of its original furniture and other photographs anditems of interest. The museum is situated in the suburb of Karen, ashort drive from the city centre.
Those who have seen the much-loved movie, starring Meryl Streepand Robert Redford, may also be curious about the Muthaiga CountryClub featured in the film: tourists can visit the originalclubhouse, which is still active, but women won't be allowed in themembers' bar - Karen Blixen is, to this day, the only woman who hasbeen allowed to drink there. Fans of the movie should also notethat although it was designed to look like it, the house in thefilm is not M'Bogani House. The stunning landscapes of the area,however, will be instantly recognisable.
One of Africa's greatest natural spectacles is the annualwildebeest migration between Kenya's Masai Mara and Tanzania'sSerengeti national parks happening sometime between June to Octobereach year. Up to two million wildebeest and hundreds of thousandsof zebra and Thomson's gazelles make this ancient journey, seekinggreener grasses as the seasons change. The quest for new life isclosely linked with death as predators stalk the enormous,ever-moving herds, from lions in the grasslands to crocodilesduring the dramatic, frenetic river crossings.
The river crossings at the Grumeti River and Mara River are themost popular part of the migration to witness and there are manygreat camps set up near the rivers in the Mara. A thrilling way toexperience the migration is on a riding safari, when your horsescan actually wander among the animals, or in a hot air balloon,which gives you breathtaking views. The exact timing of themigration varies each year and is difficult to predict, althoughgenerally June to October is the best time to plan your visit. Theherds usually migrate back to the Serengeti in December and Januaryand some visitors like to try and catch the spectacle in reverse,as the animals return to Tanzania.
A gentle and relaxed holiday destination, Lamu is Kenya's oldestinhabited town and the unhurried way of life has changed littleover the centuries. Part of the Lamu Archipelago, Lamu town (onLamu Island) is reached by boat from the mainland. The narrow,winding streets are crowded with pedestrians, markets, vendors anddonkeys. Lamu's lovely old Arab houses feature intricately carveddoors and lintels, and mosques decorate the streets of one of thelast remaining Swahili towns from a civilisation that used to bethe cultural force along the coast.
A dhow trip is a mandatory holiday outing and sailing around thelittle islands or to the beautiful beaches is a memorableexperience. There are plenty of tour guides ready to show touristsaround the archipelago by dhow, and visitors can find them alongthe seafront by looking for the bright blue shirts of thePromise/Ahadi organisation. The Takwa ruins on Manda Island andancient settlements on Pate are great attractions to visit. ShelaBeach, on the north end of Lamu island, is a beautiful white sandbeach popular for sunbathing and watersports. For a sense of localhistory and Swahili culture, visitors can explore the Lamu Museum,the Swahili House Museum, or Lamu Fort.
Situated on the beach 60 miles (40km) north of Mombasa is thelazy, unashamedly hedonistic holiday resort of Malindi. For mostthe main attraction is the dazzling white sandy beaches that linethe shore. However, for the more adventurous, there is alsoexcellent fishing to be done while on holiday in Malindi. Tripsleave early in search of barracuda, tuna and marlin, before theheat of the day sets in.
One of the few authentic Portuguese relics left on the coast canbe found on the cliffs at the southern end of Malindi harbour - thecross of Vasco da Gama bears the Portuguese coat of arms andcommemorates his arrival here in 1498, definitely worth seeing onany Malindi holiday.
South of Malindi are the Watamu and Malindi Marine NationalParks. These protected areas of white coral beaches and stunningblue lagoons are a major holiday attraction for snorkellers andscuba divers. Malindi holidaymakers are also drawn here as the seais crystal clear in contrast with the Malindi holiday resorts'waters, which are muddied by the Sabaki River. Between the twomarine parks is the abandoned 15th century Swahili town of Gedi,where visitors can wander around the ruins of the palace, marketplace, houses, mosques and pillared tombs.
The hot and humid holiday destination of Mombasa is the biggestport on the east coast of Africa, serving five different countriesand located at the beginning of the only railway that crosses theKenyan interior, built by the British in 1901. Mombasa is situatedon an island linked to the mainland by bridges and surrounded by anatural harbour where commercial shipping mixes with traditionalsailing dhows.
The main Mombasa holiday attraction is the commanding16th-century fort protecting the entrance of the harbour, FortJesus, whose remnants relay the story of a historic struggle forcontrol of the coast between the Portuguese and Arabs. Behind this,on Treasury Square, is the Government Game Department's Ivory Room,exhibiting elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, hippopotamus teeth andother animal trophies confiscated from poachers or taken from deadanimals on the reserve.
Mombasa's Old Town retains a strong Arab flavour and is the trueheart of the city, with an intricate pattern of winding streetsalive with the colours of the traditional wrap-around clothing,crammed with faded houses and street sellers, and filled with theheavy scent of spices. It is best to visit the Old Town with anofficial guide when on holiday, as mugging is not uncommon.
As a large city, Mombasa operates as the holiday hub of thecoastal tourism trade, despite its lack of attractive beaches, somost visitors stay long enough to look around before heading eithernorth or south to one the beautiful beach resorts nearby.
The climate of Kenya ranges from tropical on thecoast, where the weather is hot and humid, to the temperate natureof the inland regions. It is cool and wet in the highlands, and dryin the northern areas.
The capital, Nairobi, experiences cool winters andmild, pleasant summer temperatures. The best time to visit Kenya isprobably during the dry season from January to March, and July toOctober. The rainy seasons in Kenya are April to June and Octoberto early December.
The dry season is the best time for safaris in Kenyaas it is easier to see the animals when the grass is shorter andthey congregate around the water holes. The annual migration in theMasai Mara is best seen from July to October although the precisetiming of this natural phenomenon varies each year.
The weather on the coast is pleasant year round butgenerally hot and humid conditions prevail, tempered by strongonshore breezes. The best time to holiday on the coast is fromDecember to March, while April to May are the wettest months; thereis also a short rainy season from October to November. The lowlandsare hot and dry and the highlands (including Nairobi) are moretemperate and cool at night.
The unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), which isdivided into 100 cents. It is not advisable to take KenyanShillings out of the country, as they are difficult to exchangeelsewhere. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, bureaux dechange and hotels. It's easiest to exchange US Dollars, PoundsSterling or Euros. Street exchange merchants should be avoided asthey are operating illegally. Opening hours vary according to bank,but generally banks in Kenya are open Monday to Friday from 9am to3pm and on the first and last Saturday of the month. Banks andbureaux de change at the international airport stay open 24 hours.International credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels andstores, and some camps and lodges. ATMs are widely available inNairobi and other major towns.
English is the official language but Swahili is thenational language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken.
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style squarethree-pin plugs are used.
US citizens must have a passport valid for at least six monthsbeyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visa is required andcan be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum of three months,which in turn can be extended by three months.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastsix months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visa can beobtained for a maximum stay of 3 months. Passports must contain atleast one unused visa page.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visais required and can be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum stayof three months. Extensions of an additional three months arepossible.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visais required and can be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum ofthree months. Extensions of an additional three months arepossible.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visais not required for stays of up to 30 days.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastsix months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visa isrequired and obtainable on arrival for up to a maximum of threemonths. Extentions up to an additional three months arepossible.
US citizens must have a passport valid for at least six monthsbeyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visa is required andcan be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum of three months,which in turn can be extended by three months.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visais required and can be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum ofthree months. Extensions of up to three months are possible.
All foreign passengers to Kenya must hold proof of sufficientfunds (at least USD 500) to cover their stay in the country,return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation fortheir next destination. Most foreign nationals require a visa, andsome foreign nationals can obtain visas on arrival in Kenya,provided that (i) their passport is in good condition, and (ii)they have at least one blank page in their passport for the visaendorsement. The visa fee is payable in USD, GBP or EUR, cash only.On-arrival visas are valid for three months. It is also possible toobtain an e-visa prior to departure for Kenya. A valid, 90 day,multiple entry/re-entry "East African Tourist Visa" issued byRwanda or Uganda will suffice, provided the passanger in posessionof the document has previously entered the country that firstissued the visa. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificateis required to enter Kenya, if arriving within six days of leavingor transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highlyrecommended that your passport has at least six months validityremaining after your intended date of departure from your traveldestination. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travellers should get the latest medical advice on inoculationsand malaria prevention at least three weeks prior to departure. Amalaria risk exists all year round in Kenya, but more so aroundMombasa and the lower coastal areas than in Nairobi and on the highcentral plateau. Immunisation against yellow fever, polio, andtyphoid are usually recommended. A yellow fever certificate isrequired by anyone arriving from an infected area. Other risksinclude diarrheal diseases. Protection against bites fromsandflies, mosquitoes, and tsetse flies is the best preventionagainst malaria and dengue fever, as well as other insect-bornediseases, including Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness,leishmaniasis, and Chikungunya fever. Water is of variable qualityand visitors are advised to drink bottled water. There are goodmedical facilities in Nairobi and Mombasa but health insurance isalways advised.
Tipping is not customary in Kenya. However, a 10 percent servicecharge may be added to the bill in more upmarket restaurants.Otherwise, small change in local currency may be offered to taxidrivers, porters, and waiters. Note that on safari the drivers,guides and cooks often rely heavily on tips to get by, but theseare discretionary.
There is a threat from Somali terrorist groups inKenya and visitors should be vigilant in public places and touristsites. Several bombings have targeted Mombasa, Nairobi, and othercities in recent years, most blamed on the Al Qaeda-linkedAl-Shabaab group. Several governments have instituted travelwarnings and alerts for parts of Kenya and travellers are advisedto read up on the situation and which areas should be avoidedbefore visiting the country.
Nairobi is notorious for robberies and muggings, andvisitors should be alert at all times, but particularly at night.Visitors should also be vigilant in Mombasa, especially in the mainsouth coast tourist areas of Diani and Ukunda.
There is a serious threat of banditry in the northernareas and travel is only advisable with an armed escort. Recentarmed attacks in resort areas of northern Kenya near the border ofSomalia (especially Lamu Island) have occurred, including thekidnapping of foreign tourists. Several governments have advisedagainst all but essential travel to coastal areas within 150km ofthe Somalian border, and inland areas within 60km of theborder.
Piracy has also been a concern off the coast ofKenya. There have previously been incidents of attacks andhijackings of private vessels, though there have been no recentreports. Visitors should also take sensible precautions whendriving. In particular, landmines have been used in attacks aroundMoyale, close to the main A2 road south. Vehicles crossing theborder at this point should stay on the A2.
The taking of photographs of official buildings and embassies isnot advised and could lead to detention. The coastal towns arepredominantly Muslim and religious customs and sensitivities shouldbe respected, particularly during Ramadan. Dress should beconservative away from the beaches and resorts, particularly forwomen. Homosexuality is against the law. Smoking in public placesis illegal, other than in designated smoking areas, and violatorswill be fined or imprisoned.
Business in Kenya tends to be conducted formally andconservatively, with the appropriate formal attire of a jacket andtie. Patience, cultural sensitivity, tolerance for uncertainty, andthe ability to build personal relationships with businessassociates are all central to successfully doing business inKenya.
Ethnic division and corruption undermine the Kenyan economy, butthey are realities in the business world of Kenya. Despite red tapeand numerous pitfalls, Kenya is a land of business opportunity andthe IT and telecoms sectors are rapidly expanding.
The concept of harambee is important in business culture inKenya: it involves a sense of community, responsibility, and mutualassistance. Deference to seniority is important, as is socialstanding. Use of official titles is key during introductions andgreetings.
Terse statements should be avoided and controlling one'semotions is vitally important. While punctuality is key andmeetings should begin on time, they often don't end on time. Whenintroducing a new deal, it is important to illustrate respect fortradition and history. Deals generally only close when it is clearthat all the possible information has been considered anddeliberated upon.
Interpersonal relationships add to business success, andunderstanding Kenyan culture and history is a great way of buildingbusiness contacts. Building a solid business relationship isprioritised over meeting deadlines and closing deals.
English is the language of business. Business hours run from 9amto 5pm on weekdays and dress style should be formal with suits orsmart-casual wear. Gifts are important and generally expected.Taking time to greet everyone and enquire about the health of theirfamily will ensure a smooth business meeting.
Respect for elders is important and if you are invited todinner, never begin eating until the eldest member has started.Also, refrain from leaving food on your plate. In introductions,clasping an elder or key business associate's wrist with your otherhand while shaking hands conveys respect.
The international access code for Kenya is +254. Area codes arealso in use. Purchasing a local SIM card is simple and most hotels,restaurants, and cafes in tourist areas offer free wifi access.
Travellers to Kenya over 16 years do not have to pay duty on250g tobacco products; 1 bottle of alcohol; and 500ml perfume.Prohibited items include fruit, imitation firearms, and children'stoys pistols. No plants may be brought into the country without aPlant Import Permit (PIP).
Kenyan Tourist Board: +254 (0)20 271 1262 orwww.magicalkenya.com
Kenyan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 3876101.
Kenyan High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsiblefor Ireland): +44 (0)20 7636 2371.
Kenyan High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 563 1773.
Kenyan High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3622249.
Kenyan High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsiblefor New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6247 4788.
United States Embassy, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 712 3304.
British High Commission, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 284 4000.
Canadian High Commission, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 366 3000.
South African High Commission, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 282 7236.
Australian High Commission, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 427 7100.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Nairobi: +254 (0)20 235 7242.
New Zealand Consulate, Nairobi: +254 0(20) 804 5100.
Amboseli is a park of giants, renowned for its herds of mightytusked elephants presided over by the magnificent backdrop ofAfrica's highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro. One of Africa's mostunforgettable images is the picture of these large creaturesstanding in silent tribute before the gigantic snow-coveredmountain just over the border in neighbouring Tanzania. It is arelatively small park with wide plains merging with the distantskyline, affording good visibility in all directions.
Observation Hill rises from the centre for breathtaking viewsover the park and towards Mt Kilimanjaro, especially in the pinklight of dawn. Meaning 'Place of Water' in the Masai language, ithas a continuous supply from Kilimanjaro's snowmelt, formingunderground springs that feed the marshy patches and swamps home tohippos and a great variety of bird life. Predators are relativelyscarce apart from jackal and hyena, but there are large numbers ofgrazers such as wildebeest, zebra and gazelles on the grassy plainsand giraffe among the thorn trees. A popular way to take in thescenery is by way of a noiseless microlight flight, either fromNairobi or the Amboseli airstrip. There is a wide range ofaccommodation in and around the outskirts of the park for thosewanting to extend the experience.
This national park encompasses Africa's second highest mountain,Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano with a series of jaggedsnow-covered peaks. The local Kikuyu people revere the mountainthey call Kirinvaga or 'Place of Light' as the home of theirSupreme Being, Ngai, and traditionally Kikuyu homes are built toface the sacred summit. Part of the attraction is the incrediblevariation in flora and fauna found on the mountain due to thechanges in altitude and its position on the equator. The slopes arecovered in thick forest, home to a variety of animals including theblack leopard. Bamboo, moorland and alpine vegetation give way torock, ice and one of the world's rarest sights - equatorial snow.The summit is a technical climb, but Point Lenana is a populartrekkers' objective; it is the third highest peak and can bereached by a number of different scenic routes, lasting from threeto five days. The Mount Kenya National Park is a paradise forclimbers who come to summit the various peaks and test themselvesagainst the mountain. For those not wishing to climb the parkoffers a pristine wilderness, lakes and glaciers, and is good forgame viewing and hiking.
Kenya's most visited park, commonly known as the Mara, is awildly beautiful place with rolling savannah grasslands. It is anextension of the Serengeti Plains in neighbouring Tanzania. Much ofthe film Out of Africa was filmed here and it offers wonderfulviews and an extraordinary concentration of wildlife, including the'Big Five'. It has the largest population of lion in Kenya, andlarge herds of grazers also attract many other predators such ascheetah, leopard and hyena.
The annual highlight is the Great Wildebeest Migration, creatingone of the world's supreme natural spectacles, when an estimatedtwo million animals form one large herd and leave the dry plains ofTanzania to seek greener pastures in the north, arriving in theMara from late June onwards and returning again in October. Theirentrance into the Mara makes a breathtaking spectacle, as theycross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River. A once in alifetime way to experience the magic of an African dawn over such awilderness is by hot air balloon, drifting silently over the herdsbelow. These can be booked through any safari company and operatedaily from several of the lodges in the reserve.
Also within the reserve is a Masai village that holdsdemonstrations of traditional dances and music as a source oftourist income for the local communities of the Masai Mara NationalReserve. Traditionally the lands were used by the Masai for theirherds of cattle and the settlement programs set up to compensatefor their displacement have only recently been accepted, albeitreluctantly. The proud warriors have become a symbol of tribalKenya with their beadwork, feathers, spears, decorated gourds andred blankets. Today the Masai communities are allowed to hunt andgraze their animals in the reserve, and the occasional flash of redglimpsed between the thorn trees and bush on the fringes of theMara has become a natural part of the Mara's character.