For hundreds of years, Kenya has attracted adventurers and romantics from all over the globe. Set out on an adventure into the wilderness, learn the life of local communities and become part of an age-old safari tradition.
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Go on a Safari
Safari means “journey” in Swahili. The different types of safaris available in Kenya are simply astounding. Here are a few you may be familiar with, and a few that may be new to you:
Wildlife Game Drive
Air Balloon Safari
Quad Bike Safari
Scenic Plane Safari
From the Big Five to the Small Five, Kenya’s game parks, reserves and other wildlife protection areas host some of the wildest game in the world, thus the reason why Kenya is the home of safari. Dotted amongst the country’s unique landscapes and geographical features, a vast array of wildlife ensues. A highlight is Kenya’s annual Wildebeest Migration in the infamous Maasai Mara between August and October. This is a stunning example of the wild at its best, with thousands of wildebeests, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, topi and elands crowding the landscape.
The Giraffe Centre is located Nairobi’s Karen suburb, the center. The centre has been ostensibly set up as a breeding center for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, and now operates conservation/education programs for visitors from around the world. Get up-close and personal with these gorgeous giraffe by offering them a handful of provided giraffe treats!
David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
This elephant orphanage fosters elephant calves, rhino and giraffe from all over Kenya. The orphanage was founded by Daphne Sheldrick, the widow of one of Kenya’s best-known Game Wardens, David Sheldrick. Visit the baby elephants during feeding and play time and learn how they came to be at the orphanage. Bring USD$50 to foster your own elephant and receive monthly updates on how the calf is doing.
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Working in close conjunction with the Jane Goodall Institute, Ol Pejeta Conservancy has created a sanctuary for chimpanzees. While chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, the sanctuary opened when there was unrest in neighboring countries, and provided a safe haven for chimps rescued from traumatic situations. Visit the 250 acre area and the residing chimps.
Are you looking for the opportunity to challenge yourself in a far-off destination? Why not climb to the top of Mount Kenya, paraglide over the Kerio Valley, bike through the foothills of Mount Longonot, or better yet, climb the rocks of Hells Gate? Away from the vast savannah grasslands, Kenya’s amazing landscapes, especially on the Rift Valley and Central Kenya, are riddled with adventure trails. Perhaps opt for a mobile safari that leads you on long hikes through a conservancy to end the day at your mobile camp.
Try a Water Sport
For absolute exhilaration, the simple idea of being on or inside the Indian Ocean is unbeatable. Kenya’s wild rivers, lakes and expansive coast offer the perfect opportunity for both motorized and non-motorized water sports. Beach-goers can enjoy a wide variety of water sports; from kite surfing and stand up paddleboard to white water rafting and fishing.
Kenya has some of the most intricate beadwork that is handcrafted and dominates Kenyan fashion. Only women can bead in the Maasai culture, seen as a communal activity. Each bead is carefully thought out with certain colors symbolizing different meanings (e.g. orange represents generosity). Many bead artisans use clay as a medium in making the beads and designing the jewelry. Visitors may observe the creation of handcrafted bead designs by taking a guided tour of the Kazuri Bead Factory in Nairobi, or participate in a beading activity with a local community in the bush (select properties will offer this).
The whale shark, the world’s largest fish, is an elusive, highly migratory animal that takes seasonal ventures along a large swathe of the Kenyan coastline. Swimming with one is truly a memorable experience. The Kenyan coast has in the recent past seen an increase in whale shark population and there is almost guaranteed sightings of these elusive giants.
Malindi and Watamu
The small town of Malindi is at the center of idyllic tropical beaches offering the visitor a quiet and relaxing hideaway. Further south, the sleepy village of Watamu is fronted by wide, white beaches, making it one of the best locations for adventure water sports. This tranquil haven is home to several well-established resorts and many private guesthouses along the deserted shore.
Lamu is a place like no other. Part of the Lamu Archipelago is Lamu Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known to be one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Wind through the fascinating streets of the medieval stone town and take in the elaborate, carved doors. The tranquil island is also known as the “Island of Festivals,” counting more than 10 a year. No cars are on the island, making donkeys, foot and boat the main modes of transportation. A must-do recommendation is a dhow sundowner, taking cocktails during sunset on a traditional wooden sailing vessel, gently swaying in the water.
Kenya is home to 42 different, unique cultures and ethnic groups. Perhaps the most well-known community is Kenya’s Maasai people, with their signature red and purple shukas and high-jumping warriors. You can choose to visit the villages and experience traditional ways of life. For those who also want to experience Kenya’s urban culture, cities like Nairobi showcase a great influence from communities across the world, to help shape the country’s current identity, including Europe, Asia, India and other parts of Africa.
Kenyans love to celebrate and have fun. Kenyan festivals feature the country’s vibrant culture, heritage and most importantly, national pride.
Maralal Camel Derby
The Maralal Camel Derby is an annual event, held midyear just outside of Maralal town. This is Kenya’s best known and most prestigious camel race, attracting both local and international competitors. The event is a major draw for spectators as well as racers, and the competition is fierce.
Lamu Cultural Festival
Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of the Lamu community. Most visitors to the island fall in love with the relaxed and peaceful lifestyle. Visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous.
This unique off-road car rally is held every year to raise money for conservation of the Aberdare Ecosystem. Each competing team brings its own 4WD vehicle and competitors race to visit 13 locations in a 10-hour period. The Aberdare National Park is a sanctuary for the endangered Black Rhino and an important water catchment area, providing water to two of Kenya’s main rivers, the Tana and Athi rivers.
Lake Turkana Festival
The lake Turkana Festival takes place annually in Loiyangalani, a small town located on the south-eastern coast of Lake Turkana. It’s a celebration of culturally diverse Lake Turkana region, featuring more than 14 ethnic communities and their customs – traditional regalia, arts and crafts, dances and music.
The wild roars and nature comes alive in Kenya! Kenya’s protected areas are home to different variety of flora and fauna species. Each wilderness area is specially branded because it has something unique to offer. From the ‘World’s only Wildlife Capital’ of Nairobi, ‘Bird Watchers Paradise’ of Lake Nakuru to the ‘Kilimanjaro’s Royal Court’ of Amboseli, Kenya’s wilderness areas are the face of the wild Africa. This is why we are the home of the safari.
Eating food on a Kenyan safari usually consists of taking large pieces of roasted meat from a rotisserie-style branch. A common grilled meat is Nyama Choma, a mix of lamb and goat as well as Mutura, an African sausage. Staple foods in Kenya consist mainly of corn, maize potatoes and beans. Ugali (a porridge made of maize) and meat are typically eaten inland, while the coastal peoples eat a more varied diet (including seafood). A typical Kenyan dish that is available year-round is sukama wiki, which is collard greens, tomatoes and onions. For a sweeter dish, the Kenyan’s take on the donut is mahamri, a simple but sweet pastry.
Coffee and Tea
Much of Nairobi is surrounded by coffee and tea country. Kenya is one of the world’s top tea producing nations, a top exporter of black tea. Tea plantations can be found on the nearby hills where on lower ground, large coffee plantations produce top-grade Arabica coffee for the international and local markets.
With exhibits dating back to the prehistoric era, you can connect to the magical story of Kenya’s past in any of Kenya’s monuments and museums. Tour the Karen Blixen Museum, Koobi For a Prehistoric Site, Fort Jesus Museum, Nairobi National Museum, Lamu Museum and Gede Ruins and Museum.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is unique as it is the only protected area in the world with a variety of wild animals and birds within a capital city. Established in 1946, the national park is Kenya’s first official park. Today, it’s a principal attraction for visitors to Nairobi.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru was first gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1960 and upgraded to National Park status in 1968. The surface of the Lake Nakuru occupies about a third of the park and supports a dense bloom of the blue-green algae from which it derives its color, a food source for flamingos. During peak season hundreds of thousands of flamingos and pelicans congregate on the lake.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli lies immediately North West of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the border with Tanzania. The Park is known for its giant elephant herds that have been there for generations, as well as its stunning view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Enjoy a sundowner cocktail with elephants in the foreground and the tallest mountain in Africa on the horizon.
Meru National Park
Meru National Park is an especially beautiful area of Kenya, and one of the best-known parks in Kenya. This is one of two areas in which conservationists George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness, made famous in the best-selling book and award-winning movie, Born Free. It has diverse scenery from woodlands at 3,400 ft on the slopes of Nyambeni Mountain Range and wide-open plains with meandering riverbanks dotted with doum palms.
Hell’s Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park covers an area of 68.25 square km and is situated South of Lake Naivasha with close proximity to Nairobi. The park is named after a narrow break in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley, and includes tall rock columns known as Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower.
Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park
A rugged, hump-backed outcrop of ancient rock jutting high above the Athi Plains and hazily visible from Nairobi, Ol Donyo Sabuk is a densely forested mountain known to the local Kikuyu as ‘The Mountain of the Buffalo’, and to the Maasai as ‘The Big Mountain.’
Fort Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Mombasa’s Old Town, and highlighted as one of the most outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th-century Portuguese military fortifications. Spend a day exploring the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls. There is an excellent museum with trained guides available.
Different lakes in Kenya pose different appeals. There are lakes that are bird watchers paradises, lakes that are home to spectacular scenes of hot springs and geysers, lakes with islands, lakes Kenya shares with other countries and lakes that have some of the most interesting stories of how they came to exist. The bottom line is that natural beauty on these lakes is superb. There are also literally dozens of interesting and fun things you could do around the lakes.
At Kenya’s Western frontier lies the great expanse of Lake Victoria. This massive lake, commonly known as Nyanza, is twice the size of Wales, and forms a natural boundary between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The lake is the heart of the African continent, the source of its mightiest river, the Nile. This mighty body of water is rich in fish life, with shimmering shoals of colourful cichlids and large Nile Perch. Fishing brings many visitors to this lake, mainly in search of the Nile Perch, considered a world class game fish.
Lake Nakuru provides the visitor with one of Kenya’s best known images. Thousands of flamingo, joined into a massive flock, fringe the shores of this soda lake. A pulsing pink swathe of life that carpets the water, the flamingo are a breathtaking sight. The lake has become world famous for these birds, who visit the lake to feed on algae that forms on the lake bed. They move back and forth, feeding and occasionally and spectacularly taking to flight, filling the sky over the lake with colour. Nakuru has more than just flamingos. This is a major National Park and an important sanctuary for Rhino. Both Black and White Rhino are found here, and are often seen resting under acacias by the Lake shore. The park abounds with game. There are huge herds of waterbuck, zebra, buffalo, the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and more. This is one of your best chances of seeing Leopard in Kenya, and there are several large prides of Lion. Exploring beyond the lake is always rewarding and there are forests, cliffs, waterfalls and more to be found here.
Lake Naivasha is a beautiful freshwater lake, fringed by thick papyrus. The lake is almost 13kms across, but its waters are shallow with an average depth of five metres. Lake area varies greatly according to rainfall, with an average range between 114 and 991 sq kms. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Naivasha completely dried up and effectively disappeared. The resulting open land was farmed, until heavy rains a few years later caused the lake to return to existence, swallowing up the newly established estates. Afternoon wind and storms can cause the Lake to become suddenly rough and produce high waves. For this reason, the local Maasai christened the lake Nai’posha meaning ‘rough water’. The lake and its surroundings are rich in natural bounty, and the fertile soils and water supply have made this one of Kenya’s prime agricultural regions. Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. These forests abound with bird life, and Naivasha is known as a world class birding destination. The waters of the lake draw a great range of game to these shores. Giraffes wander among the acacia, Buffalo wallow in the swamps and Colobus monkeys call from the treetops while the Lake's large hippo population sleep the day out in the shallows. The region surrounding the Lake is well worth exploring. There are two more smaller lakes nearby, Oloidien, and Sonachi, a bright green crater lake.
Elementeita is a small soda lake, nestled in the eastern sweep of the Great Rift Valley. The Lake is surrounded by spectacular country that played an important role in the early colonial history of Kenya. Today Elementeita is a peaceful and low-key place, lying in the shadow of an impressively peaked hill known locally known as the ‘Sleeping Maasai’. The lake attracts many visiting flamingo, and its shores are grazed by zebra, gazelle, eland and families of warthog. The lake and its surrounding forests are perfect for long walks and birding
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Recently crowned an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy prides itself in its key goal of ‘conservation, community and inspiration’. Lewa offers the full package for wildlife and conservation lovers ranging from children, researchers, leisure tourists, adventure lovers and even cultural enthusiasts. Similar to Ol Pejeta, Lewa hosts an abundance of endangered flora and fauna. Aside from game drives, Lewa also offers a walk in the wild accompanied by local armed guides. This makes the wildlife experience a little more intimate and enjoyable. Many times you will enjoy this experience as you watch the Maasai morans also graze their cattle as the elephants, antelopes and zebras graze alongside a resting lion! After a game drive, a relaxing visit to a nearby Maasai or Samburu cultural village will give you the perfect opportunity to interact with the locals. Lewa Conservancy also takes social responsibility to neighboring communities very serious. If you like, you could get a chance to visit the different development projects Lewa runs. You are sure to get an appreciation of where your money goes.
Mara Naboisho Conservancy
A chance to encounter the Mara while ensuring that the wildlife corridor of the Mara does not get spoilt and the local community gets to benefit simply with your stay. Away from the crowds of Maasai Mara, Naboisho Conservancy allows you to immerse yourself into undisturbed wilderness guided by the ever knowledgeable traditionally dressed Maasai guides. The perfect place to experience true Maasai culture also presents itself with a chance to visit traditional Maasai manyattas. These cultural visits will allow you to get a deeper connection with the community, learn their culture, and make friends who will teach you a few Maa words you are sure not to forget.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy (O.P.C)
Situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and Aberdares is Kenya’s best kept conservation haven, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is one of the only wildlife protection areas that’s home to very high numbers of endangered species. Aside from the Big Five, more than a thousand different mammals and bird species roam the wild. A safari into the O.P.C will let you enjoy the company of rescued chimpanzees as you learn about the stories of torture they went through in captivity in West and Central Africa. This is actually the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees and you can have a chance to adopt one of them! On a game drive, you can visit the largest black rhino sanctuary and learn about the conservation efforts that are conducted to protect these endangered species. After the single largest translocation process with the Kenya Wildlife Services and neighboring Lewa Conservancy, the O.P.C is home to 88 black rhinos. You could also make a donation to help more conservation activities for these endangered species. Aside from black rhinos, O.P.C is also home to a founder population of 11 southern white rhinos and 4 northern white rhinos in a separate sanctuary. Visit this conservancy and appreciate the region as you explore Kenya’s wilderness with the help of well trained professional guides. Staff at the O.P.C always target to meet your personal needs. All tourists are treated as individuals. They give you a chance to set your schedules, explore at your own pace and discover the wild in your own way.
Lamu is a place like no other, a peaceful tropical island where life is lived at its own relaxed rhythm, and a place whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of its medieval Stone Town. The island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters. But Lamu’s real attraction is its Old Town. The town of Lamu began life as a 14th century Swahili settlement, but the island has seen many visitors and influences, including Portuguese explorers, Turkish traders and the Omani Arabs. All left their mark, but Lamu developed its own particular culture, which has ultimately endured. Lamu’s narrow streets remain unchanged, and in the markets and squares around the fort, life moves at the same pace as it always has. There are no vehicles on this island, and the donkey and the dhow remain the dominant form of transport. The people of Lamu are great believers in tradition and custom, and this is a strong society built on a respect for the past. For the traveler, Lamu is a hypnotically exotic experience, made even more enjoyable by the relaxed and welcoming attitudes of the locals. To visit Lamu is to enter another world, and the visitor finds themselves becoming a part of this world. Life slows down, and long days are spent strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town or relaxing on the beaches. Dhow safaris can take you beyond Lamu into the surrounding archipelago, where isolated villages, ancient ruins and a few luxurious and exclusive resorts lie hidden among the islands of Manda, Siyu, Pate and Kiwayu. This idyllic island speaks to the heart and soul, and a trip to Lamu is a romantic experience that can become a lifelong affair.
The Carnivore is an open-air restaurant in Nairobi known for its delicious all-you-can-eat barbequed meat buffet. The Carnivore is also known for its affable Dawa man who enthusiastically prepares and serves the traditional Dawa cocktail to those who ask.
Tamambo, Karen Blixen Coffee Garden
The elegant coffee garden is located in Nairobi’s Karen suburb, where diners have the option of sitting inside or outside in the sunny gardens where local artists have their artwork displayed. Nearby is where “Out of Africa” author, Karen Blixen’s farmhouse was located, now converted to the Karen Blixen Museum.
Visitors can buy and view different art designs by Kenya’s finest designers at the Maasai Market where designs portray Kenya’s cultural diversity. Artisans at the Maasai Market provide an alternative to current trends by selling everything from soapstone sculptures and woven baskets to sandals, shukas and beaded jewelry. Its wide range of authentic African gifts makes it the perfect spot to pick up souvenirs.
Kitengela Glass Studios
Kitengela Glass Studios, located just outside the city of Nairobi, provides the perfect location for a day trip, ideal for the entire family. Here you can truly combine the safari and shopping experience. The studio borders Nairobi National Park, and visitors can take a game drive through the park on the way to the studio to see the process of glass blowing.
At the base of the Ngong Hills, located on part of the farm once owned by Karen Blixen of ‘Out of Africa’ fame, in the leafy suburbs of Karen Nairobi is the Kazuri Bead Factory. Kazuri, which is Swahili for small and beautiful, has perfected the art of using clay as a medium in the making of beads, finished jewelry, tableware and pottery. The handcrafted pieces by local women are part of the efforts to provide and sustain employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan society.
The Village Market
The Village Market-Gigirl is a large shopping, recreation and entertainment complex in the city. It accommodates more than 150 store-outlets in addition to recreation.
Sarit Center- Westlands
Opened in 1983, Sarit Center is Kenya’s first ever shopping mall, whose “City within a City” concept of providing everything under one roof, has worked to attract a wide variety of shoppers.
Lewa Safaricom Marathon
Recognized across the globe as a race to put on your bucket list, this annual marathon tests your long-distance limits as you race through the bush. Organized by Tusk Trust and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in conjunction with Safaricom, it's an incredible fundraiser for conservation and community projects throughout Kenya.
Mount Kenya 10to4 Bike Challenge
The annual 10to4 bike challenge takes mountain bikers from 10,000 ft. above sea level, down Mt. Kenya to 4,000 ft. Held over three consecutive days, routes provide options for riders of all levels. Funds go towards conservation projects of the Mount Kenya Trust.
Safari Sevens (Rugby)
This is an international rugby tournament with seven players on each side, held annually at the Impala Club or Safaricom Kasarani Stadium.