Situated on the eastern coast of Africa, set astride the Equator and bisected from North to South by the Great Rift Valley, Kenya covers a total area of 580,530 square kilometres, including 13,395 sq. km of inland water. Its Indian Ocean coastline stretches for 480 km.. Nairobi, the capital of the country, is a colourful striking city 500 km inland from Mombasa, the major port on the Indian Ocean. Official languages are Swahili and English.
With an estimated population of more than 30 million people, this country gained full independence on 12th December 1963 and was admitted to the United Nations four days later. In 1964, the country became a sovereign republic within the Commonwealth, with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as its first president. He remained in office until his death in 1978 when President Daniel Arap Moi was elected leader of the Nation.
For the traveller Kenya is an enchanting country because few places in the world can better its varied touristic attractions. The overwhelming appeal of the wildlife sanctuaries, glorious beaches, breathtaking scenery in a vast and unspoilt land, an almost perfect climate, sophisticated accommodation and a hospitable happy people.
Kenya contains almost every known land form from true glacial ice to arid desert, mountain massifs to rich savannahs, large lakes and dense forest: Mount Kenya (5,199 m.) with its breathless snow capped peaks stands sentinel above rolling grassland plains and the fascinating semideserts are much further to the North; Lake Victoria, the first lake to be discovered and largest in Africa; Lake Turkana now known as the “Cradle of Mankind”; the Indian Ocean coast, a place of white sandy beaches, turquoise seas and archaeological antiquities…
Above all are the wildlife sanctuaries: the 25 National Parks, devoted to the absolute protection of the indigenous flora and fauna; the 29 National Reserves, where wildlife coexist from time immemorial in perfect harmony with the pastoral nomadic tribes … These wild and lovely places vary in the abundance and variety of their animals, in scenery, in climate and altitude; from the famous savannah of Masai Mara to the ornithological paradise of Lake Nakuru.
Variations in altitude and terrain create contrasts in the climate: from the hot and humid coast to the fresh, sometimes frosty mornings of the central highlands and the dry burning heat of the northern desert; however, overall, it is seldom harsh, neither too hot nor too cold with long sun filled days.
In almost every part of Kenya there are hotels which hold their own with any in the world. Many, like the famous Treetops, the Norfolk in Nairobi and Mount Kenya Safari Club are internationally know. Some are architectural masterpieces, some are tented camps, true luxury in the bush. All have one common aim, to offer the best in comfort, quality and service in true safari style.
Just south of the Equator at an altitude of 1,675 m Nairobi enjoys an almost perfect, healthy climate: warm sunny cloudless days with the temperature seldom rising above 25 C and cooler nights.
This city, born in the spirit of adventure in the days of the early pioneers, less than 100 years ago, was then an insignificant jumble of tents and ox wagons beside the Uganda Railhead, which halted here 500 km inland from the coast to gather steam for the way ahead. The good climate and the abundance of water made it grow quickly, becoming one of the most important and vibrant cities of Africa, truly a Babel Tower of races and cultures with a population of almost 3 million colourful people from many nations.
A city of great contrast, strikingly modern with tall imposing buildings, yet reminders of the early days are there. Look for the Law Courts and Parliament Buildings; Railway Station and Museum, with its steam locomotives so emotive of a more romantic age; Jamia Mosque; the City Market with its arrays of tropical fruits and flowers; the famous Norfolk Hotel, linked with Kenya´s history since 1904; Kenyatta Conference Centre built in 1983; the National Museum, founded in 1910, with its unique collections so relevant to Kenya´s early history and the prehistory of mankind; the Karen Blixen Museum, outside the city, a memorial to a woman admired both for her writing and her spirit; the Bomas of Kenya, the nation´s cultural centre where it is possible to watch a vivid display of tribal dancing in a rural lovely setting …
Throughout the country and specially in Nairobi shopping is an absorbing pastime. Look around first, there is so much on offer: wood carvings and traditional handcrafts; sensuous soapstone from Kisii; colorful sisal mats; “kiondos”, the famous Kenya bags; “kangas” and “kikois”, traditionally worn by women and these days used as tablecloths or beach wraps; batiks, as the silk ones printed by Heidi Lange or Robin Anderson … Also two gem stones originate in this part of Africa: the blue Tanzanite and the vivid green Tsavorite.
Visitors to Nairobi will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotels in and around the city. All are well appointed with spacious rooms, most have swimming pools and the service is friendly and attentive. Most of the leading hotels offer gourmet, a la carte dining in sophisticated grill rooms. For visitors who wish to dine out the choice is appealing: the Tamarind, with superb seafood from the Indian Ocean; the Ibis Grill, in the Norfolk Hotel, an exceptional meal for a special occasion; the Carnivore, famous for its exotic game meats …
Situated in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, with an area of 1,812 sq. km, limited to the East by the Talek river and Loita plains, Masai Mara, Kenya´s leading Game Reserve, lies on the border between Kenya and Tanzania and is the northern extension to the renowned Serengeti plain.
A reserve of breathless vistas, a panorama of vast rolling plains, hills and woodland groves, well watered by the Mara River, concentrating in its proximities permanent populations of wildlife: this is lion, leopard, cheetah and elephant country, with buffalo lurking in the forest and a superb abundance of plains game: zebras, Thompson and Grant gazelles, topis … But all this richness is secondary to the Mara main attraction: the annual migration, which takes place between July and September. Over a million wildebeest, more than two hundred thousand zebra with their attendant predators cross the Mara River and spread across the plains in a seemingly endless procession.
Few lakes have a more commanding or lovely setting than Lake Naivasha, the highest and purest of the Rift Valley lakes.
Ornithological paradise and home for hippopotamus it is surrounded by Mount Longonot, a extinct volcano of 2,777 m of altitude which shades the lake in misty blues and purples. At Hell´s Gate gorge with its steam jets, and Fischer´s Tower a pinnacle of soaring rock, game abounds and the rarest of Kenya´s birds of prey, the Lammergeyer nest.
Rugged and remote, with the same faunal structure, these wildlife reserves, with a total area of 428 sq. km, lie just within the fascinating semi-desert Northern Frontier District of Kenya.
The tranquil Uaso Nyiro River, flowing through Shaba and Samburu, attract a wide number of rare wildlife and provides a natural habitat for crocodile. Long necked gerenuk, Grevy´s zebra and reticulated giraffe are species not found in the less arid areas to the south. Elephant seek solace and contentment in the shallow waters of this wide sauntering river, fringed with acacia, down palms and tamarind, which together with Buffalo Springs, support a large variety of african mammals, cheetah and leopard being particularly well represented. Doves and guinea fowl abound and the giant Martial Eagle perched on some high vantage point.
The past volcanic intensity of the area is demonstrated by the formidable lava flow at the southern end of Shaba (its name comes from a cone of volcanic rock).
With a magnificent background of jagged, purple mountains, a safari in these small gems in the wildlife wilderness, will provide some of the best and most colorful gameviewing in the country.
Mount Kenya, with its snow-capped peaks 5,199 m. high, is Kenya´s highest mountain and certainly one of the most beautiful mountains anywhere. Its slopes are covered with rich deciduous and bamboo forests and open high altitude moorland just below the glaciers and snowfields. Wildlife resident within the forest includes elephant, buffalo and even lion, with several species of antelope and other smaller animals.
Within a beautiful mountain range in the central highlands of Kenya is the Aberdares National Park, a fairy tale place of dense forest, misty moorlands and alpine plants where icy rivers plunge in glorious cascades and waterfalls.
The 766 sq. km of the area are rich in wildlife. The Salient stretching out towards the nearby town of Nyeri, was once an elephant migration route, not used today. These great animals remain within the park together with buffalo, a wide variety of antelope, giant forest hog, the elusive bongo, rhino, lions and hyenas. Tacazze and Malachite Sunbird, Mountain Buzzard and African Goshawk are found in this area where the birdlife is abundant and varied.
This seasonal swamp of 3,810 sq. km, is one of the finest areas in the country for big game photography, attracting a vast population of wildlife. The landscape, with its parched alkaline pan and strange mirages, is everywhere dominated by the glistening majestic snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro, a extinct volcano of 5,894 m. known as the “roof of Africa”.
This is Masai country, a proud nomadic people, who have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Game viewing is an adventure in this park, with lion, cheetah and buffalo almost an assured sight and hosts of antelope, zebra and other small creatures of the wild. Bird life is abundant. But the most impressive inhabitants of this arid landscape are the elephants, moving in large columns in their daily peregrination to the water.
Forming one of the world´s largest game parks is the combined area of Tsavo East and West National Parks, together with the adjoining private sanctuary of Taita. A model national park in layout, geophysical, animal and plant diversity, situated midway between Nairobi and Mombasa.
This starkly beautiful park suffered considerable deprivation both in physical damage and animal loss in the 1970´s, but this is now well past, and today the park is thriving once more. The many natural wonders in this harsh countryside include the fascinating Mzima Springs a marvelous eruption of underground crystal waters arising in the Chyulu Hills from Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching the surface to form clear pools, a heaven for a rich wildlife pageant.
The wildlife in this park includes herds of elephant and prides of lion. Less common species include fringed-eared oryx, klipspringer, striped hyena and caracal.
South of the park is a private sanctuary with lovely lakes and waterholes, which ensures an exciting variety of animals at all times of the year. Weaver birds and their fascinating nests are found throughout the park, as are Fisher´s starling, hornbills and parrots.South of the park is a private sanctuary with lovely lakes and waterholes, which ensures an exciting variety of animals at all times of the year. Weaver birds and their fascinating nests are found throughout the park, as are Fisher´s starling, hornbills and parrots.
The tropical coastline of East Africa has been recognized by historians for a thousand years, from Ptolemy to the Turks, from the Arabs to the Portuguese who took Mombasa in the 16th Century. They stayed for over a century, building Fort Jesus, eventually being starved by the Arabs.
In the North and South coast stand some of Kenya´s finest hotels, nestling in cleared beach front areas, offering a very wide variety of watersports and activities.
The Kisite Marine Park, almost at the Tanzania border, an intriguing underwater world, can be reached from Shimoni or Wasini Island in a lovely dhow trip. In the North, Nyali, Bamburi, Shanzu and Kikambala are a paradise of sand and bright blue sea, with its calm unruffled water.
The second most important city of the country is the largest and most popular island on the Kenya coast.
This old but vibrant gateway to Kenya is a mystical mixture of ancient and modern, with a cosmopolitan population blending Africa, Arabia and Asia. But not everyone realizes that this picturesque port is an island with two deep water harbors. Evocative of the east, graceful sailing dhows unchanged throughout the centuries, arrive on the monsoon winds, while ocean liners berth just around the headland. Fringing the dhow harbor is the Old Town, dominated by the ancient Portuguese Fort Jesus, a maze of narrows streets overshadowed by high ornamental balconies of quaint shuttered houses and vibrant open bazaars.
Historically, Malindi dates back to the 9th Century with Arab occupation from the 13th Century onwards.
A rich trading centre with the near East with Arabic influence for more than 500 years, Malindi is now a popular beach resort.
18kms south of the ancient town, surrounded by the Sokokwe Forest, is situated the lost City of Gedi whose inhabitants inexplicably vanished over 300 years ago.
Two marine national parks with wonderful underwater coral gardens and thousands of tropical fish, secluded curved bays with incredible beaches that defy description.
As one of the earliest Arab settlements along the coast, Lamu has preserved his architecture and a tempo reminiscent of the 18th Century. This swahili town, last remaining bastion of the Shirazi, the oldest of the cultures on this coast, is a delightful anachronism carrying on its daily life as it has for centuries.
There are beautiful beaches, a wonderful underwater world along the reefs in the Kiunga Marine National Park and two remote hideaways on Kiwayu and Manda for those who dream of deserted tropical islands in the sun.