If there is one thing you should do at least once, is take a journey to the home of safari, and discover for yourself the beautifully scenic land that inspired hit movies like the Lion King and Out of Africa. A land of contrasts and diversity, from the snow capped slopes of Mt. Kenya in the cool central highlands, to the sunny snow-white tropical beaches,the rain forests, moors and the Savannah grasslands.
Its a land that’s long been recognized as “Big Game” country, with over 40 National Wildlife Parks and Reserves, where you will find the worlds largest concentration of elephant, giraffe, antelope and zebra; plus other animals like lions, hippos, crocodiles, wildebeests, warthogs, baboons, hyenas, jackals, cape buffalo,ostriches, cranes, secretary birds, storks and many more.
Travel way back in time to witness where it all began, in the land known as the cradle of mankind, where recent fossil evidence suggests that man took his first steps in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Or wander 500 years back in time through the coastal island of Lamu, a laid-back Swahili settlement that has stayed frozen in time, and which was recently declared a world heritage site. Other less known but equally fascinating historic hot-spots include Fort Jesus, Mnarani, Jumba la Mtawa, Fort Siyu, Olorgesailie and Koobi Fora.
At least once, immerse yourself in Kenya’s rich cultural heritage, with 42 ethnic groups and each with its own language, traditional cuisines, clothings, traditional arts and crafts, architecture, oral literature and socio-economic activities. This mix includes the world renown Maasai people, archetypical african warriors with thier long thin muscular physique, clad in bright red robes, and long, red ochre stained hair , and the coastal swahili, a unique blend of african, arab,Persians, Turks, Indians, Portuguese and British cultures brought about by centuries of trade in ivory, slaves and spices.Renowned for their hospitality, Kenyan people gladly share their culture and way of living with tourists.
At least once,make a Kenyan safari and then you’ll have to do it all over again to relive the experience.
At 5,199 metres, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa. With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mount Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa. Part of the mountain’s fascination is the variation in flora and fauna as the altitude changes, ranging from dry upland forest, bamboo, alpine moorlands, glaciers, tarns and glacial morains.Many animals reside in these forest belts, like the Black and White Colobus and Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, buffalo, elephant and lower down Olive Baboon, waterbuck, black rhino, black fronted duiker, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena.
To the Kikuyu tribes people, Mt. Kenya is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Maasai and Kamba tribes. In traditional prayers and sacrifices, Ngai is addressed by the Kikuyu as Mwene Nyaga: the Professor of Brightness. The name comes from Kere Nyaga, the Kikuyu name for Mount Kenya, meaning Mountain of Brightness – Ngai’s home.
It’s possible to arrange climbs, hikes or leisurely treks around Mt. Kenya. Climbing one of it’s peaks is an effort that will be rewarded by a view of the vast plains and the hills of Kenya, which is especially priceless at dusk or dawn. The areas animal orphanage and art gallery there are definitely worth a visit. The main lodgings are at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club, with its beautiful golf course, grounds and setting.
1. Kenya Wildlife Service – Mt.Kenya
2. Mt. Kenya Organisation
Also known as Nyandarua, this scenic park in the Aberdares mountain range has a diverse topography that includes waterfalls, rain forests and rivers. At the highest elevations, the forests give way to misty moorlands at about 3350m where strange six metres tall mutants of alpine plants groundsel, erica, hypericum, lobelia and sennecio – grow in profusion. Icy rivers plunge in glorious cascades and spectacular waterfalls. Aberdares is a fairyland, awesome in its majesty and beauty.
The forest is rich in wildlife; elephant and rhino, warthog, bush pig and giant forest hog, waterbuck, lions, leopards,duiker, suni, dikdik, bongo and reedbuck are all to be seen. In the canopy the black and white colobus monkey performs its aerial acrobatics and Sykes’ monkey and the black faced vervet can also be found. Birds are not only plentiful but also dazzling. The crowned eagle (which eats monkeys) is everywhere and the forest echoes to the shrill cries of the Silvery-cheeked hornbill.
The Aberdares has two unique safari lodges (The Ark and Treetops ) which is actually built in the trees, high in the canopy above the animal waterholes and natural salt licks. Night sees an unending procession of game emerge from the forests to visit these clearings. This is an ideal opportunity for guests to unobtrusively observe game at length. Treetops is also famous as the place where visiting Princess Elizabeth became Queen of England while she was on a Kenyan safari.
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, and Topi. The Acacia forests abound with Birdlife and Monkeys. Elephants and Buffalo wallow in the wide Musiara Swamp. The Mara and Talek rivers are brimming with Hippos and Crocodiles. The big cats are represented by lions, cheetahs, and leopards. The Lions are often found in large prides and it’s not uncommon to see them hunting.
Each year the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti. More than 1.3 million Wildebeest together into a single massive herd and pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of wildlife that stretches from horizon to horizon. At the Mara River they mass together on the banks before finally plunging forward through the raging waters, creating a frenzy as they fight against swift currents and waiting crocodiles. Watching these animals move together in mass is truly a humbling experience for human visitors.
Accommodations vary greatly in the Maasai Mara region and include all levels of convenience from tented camps to luxury lodges. Most establishments organize game drives in the early morning and late afternoon when the wildlife is most active.
Originally little more than a swampy watering hole for Maasai tribes, Nairobi grew with the advent of the railway and had became a substantial town by 1900. Today it’s one of Africa’s largest and most interesting cities, the safari capital of Africa and a good base for travel in Kenya. The city has many tourist attractions which include:
Bomas of Kenya
The Bomas are a showcase of Kenyan cultures. Located just outside Nairobi near the National park, the Bomas have been created to encapsulate several of Kenya’s traditional cultures. There are exhibits of traditional homes and artifacts, and displays of dance, music and song. This cultural centre is located in Langata, just down from Nairobi National Park. Here you can see a display of traditional homesteads, or bomas, watch traditional dances and hear songs from the country’s many ethnic groups. There are performances daily.
Nairobi National Museum
A good place to learn more about Kenyan history and culture is the Museum. The museum contains displays of fossils, tribal artifacts, and a bird gallery with more than 900 stuffed and mounted specimens.
Nairobi National Park
Where else in the world would you find lions, rhino, giraffe and other animals roaming wild and free, with the city’s skyline visible in the background ?Nairobi National Park teems with a surprising variety of animal and bird life. In the southeast of the park is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Animal Orphanage, where orphaned black rhinos and elephants are reared on-site. The national park is a short bus trip south of the city centre, near both airports.
National Railway Museum
Beside the main Nairobi Railway Station is a Museum devoted to the history of Kenya’s Railroads. Many historic engines and rolling stock from the original colonial railway are on display here. Anybody interested in knowing more about the history of the famed Kenya/Uganda railway should definitely take the time to see the museum .
Karen Blixen Museum
For anyone with an interest in Karen Blixen’s book Out of Africa or the subsequent film(which was filmed on location here) , this museum is a must see. The author lived on a coffee estate in a house known as Bogani from 1914 until 1931. This area has now developed into the modern suburb of Karen on the outskirts of Nairobi. The charming farmhouse is now a National Museum, and is maintained for visitors in its original condition.
Mombasa is Kenya second largest city, and the biggest port on the east coast of Africa serving five different countries, and sits at the beginning of the only railway that crosses the Kenyan interior, built by the British in 1901. It’s history dates back to the 15th century when it was a very influential port in the slave and ivory trades, making it one of Kenya’s oldest towns. Major tourist attractions in Mombasa include:
The true heart of Mombasa is found in the exotic old town, among the narrow winding streets and Arab architecture. It is well known for its ancient buildings, extravagant art designs and curio shops that sell antique and popular Kenyan souvenirs. The air here is always heavy with the scent of spices. and the streets are alive with the bright colors of the traditional coastal khanga and kikoy, the all purpose wrap around cloth worn by both men and women.
Fort Jesus is a monumental piece of architecture that was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, to protect the entrance to the Old Port of Mombasa. The high gun turrets, battlements and underground passages of this 16th Century Fort were the centre of a historic struggle for control of the Kenya coast between the Portuguese army and the Shirazi Arabs. In the many wars that ensued over hundreds of years and countless battles, the Fort changed hands nine times. Today it is a museum that displays various artifacts from the era where Mombasa served as a transit point for the slave trade and commodities, and which enjoyed regular visits by seafarers and the like. Its interior comprises of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were kept in captivity before being traded. Weapons such as canons, which were used to defend the fort from invading foreigners as well as rioting locals, can be seen both inside and outside of the fort.
Mamba Village, which is situated in Nyali, is East Africa’s largest crocodile farm. A tour of the farm starts with a movie on the life cycle and behaviour of crocodiles, followed by a comprehensive tour of the rest of farm, and ends with the highlight of the day: a spectacular scene of blood-thirsty crocodiles fighting for food during feeding time. Excellent cuisine is available at the Mamba Restaurant, and the house specialty is superbly grilled crocodile meat.
On the North coast of Mombasa towards the town of Malindi lays one the most pre-historic ruins found in Mombasa, called the Gede Ruins. Gedi was a small town built entirely from rocks and stones, which was inhabited by a few thousand Swahili people and ruled by a very rich Sultan. These ruins date back from the 15th century, and through careful preservation most of the original foundations can still be seen today. The ruins are designated as a National Museum by law, and their preservation are a direct reflection of the commitment of the Government to uphold the country’s cultural and historical background.
QUICK LINKS – TOURISM IN KENYA
Ministry of Tourism- www.tourism.go.ke
Kenya Tourist Board (KTB)- www.magicalkenya.com
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)- www.kws.org
Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) – www.katokenya.org