Domestic Tourism Safaris | Kenya
Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya)
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Come experience an epic journey through a country of spectacular landscapes and endless possibilities for life – changing encounters. From the grazers of the Great Migration, to the heritage of the Samburu and Maasai tribes, and the cultural tapestry of the Swahili Coast, Kenya offers an unparalleled discovery through history, culture and nature’s wonders. Kenya is a cultural microcosm of Africa, a land of miraculously harmonious contrasts; tropical ice, teeming wilderness, vibrant cultures and gentle friendliness. Warm and welcoming. Kenya is the place the phrase “Hakuna Matata” (no worries) embodies the national attitude; and a smile is the most valuable currency. In the arid north, live such ethnic groups as the nomadic Maa – speaking Samburu, the camel – herding Somali and Rendille, and the age – old community of the Turkana. Along the Rift Valley live the Kalenjini, world – famous for their athletic and running prowess; around the shores of Lake Victoria (Nyanza) live the Luo and Luhya; south of Nairobi live the Akamba, world – renowned for their wood carving skills; on the slopes of Mount Kenya live the Kikuyu; across the plains stride the scarlet – cloaked Maasai, once the most feared warriors in Africa; and down on the coast live the nine tribes of the Mijikenda and the colorful Swahili people, whose cultural is a fascinating blend of African, Arab and Portuguese influence.
- Kenya Fast Facts:
Kenya has an incredibly unique of biodiversity. Such are the extremes of the Kenyan climate, which range from tropical heat to glacial ice, that it has formed a diversity of habitats found nowhere else on Earth. A vast mosaic of lion – gold savannah, rolling grasslands, ancient rainforests and volcanic plains. Kenya rises from the idyllic shores of the Indian Ocean to the Snow Capped Peaks of Mount Kenya which, at 5,199 meters above sea level, is an extinct volcano approximately three and a half million years old, and is the second highest mountain on the continent. A land of unrivalled contrast, Kenya is one of the few places in the world where you can witness volcanic geysers that hurtle jets of boiling water into the air; stand beneath the plunging waterfalls of the Aberdares, camel – trek across the painted desert of the arid north, drive through the teeming game of the vast savannah, walk amidst clouds of butterflies in the last of the coastal rainforests, and lie beneath the palm trees of the idyllic Indian Ocean Coastline. A sphere of unequalled bio – diversity, in Kenya giant Lobelia plants, taller than a man, flourish in the alpine climate of the mystic Mount Kenya; rolling canopies of tea and coffee cloak the hills; clumps of papyrus float in the Lakes of the Rift Valley; and flat topped acacia stud the plains. One of the last of the world’s great wilderness, in Kenya silken coated monkeys sway amid bamboo fronds, rust – brown elephants wallow in emerald – green swamps, savannah plains are showered in rain – flowers and ancient forests are hung with Spanish moss and trail star burst clouds of Orchids.
- Home of the Classic Safari
Without question, Kenya is the safari epicenter of the world, and offers un imaginable opportunities to encounter rare and exotic animals in incredible numbers, and from unusually intimate perspectives. Fifty – six national parks and reserves shelter magnificent cats, the world’s greatest herds of elephant, the endangered white and black rhino, and species that are found nowhere else on earth. Thundering herds of zebra and wildebeest stretch across the plain for as far as the eye can see. Rare giant hogs wallow in the cool depths of the forest. Golden cats prowl the snowy flanks of Mount Kenya. Leopard tortoises, unchanged for millions of years, lumber across the parched deserts of the Northern Frontier. Kenya is home to the greatest varieties and concentrations of wildlife populations in the world with more than 80 major animal species. A popular draw for visitors is the “Big Five”; lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. From the Mara to Amboseli, and Samburu to Lake Nakuru, each park overflows with wildlife. Kenya offers countless ways to indulge in these unparalled wildlife experiences; whether by foot, on the back of a camel, perched in a hot air balloon, cruising on a lake, via horseback, on a night game drive with infrared goggles, or on a bike, each way leaves you with indelible memories. July to February offers optimal safari conditions, with the great wildebeest migration into the Maasai Mara generally taking place from July to September.
- Experience Kenya’s Swahili Coast
With its remarkable beauty, rich history and abundance of wildlife, the Kenyan coast has something for everyone. Ancient civilizations and cosmopolitan resorts thrive within minutes of each other. The flavor of 16th – century Portuguese culture lives on alongside enchanting Swahili towns. Exciting sports and game – viewing share the coast with pristine beaches and blissful relaxation. With strong Arab and Indian influences, and the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping onto sandy beaches, Kenya’s coast hosts an array of culinary and cultural experiences, with the opportunity to bathe in complete tranquility. The south coast features endless white sandy beaches and Mombasa, the country’s oldest and second biggest city, is fringed by hundreds of miles of lush coral reef. Mombasa is home to the memorable Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593 to guard the port. Nearby, to the south, Shimba Hills National Reserve hosts Kenya’s last breeding population of Sable antelope, while Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary features awe – inspiring views of the Indian Ocean. Kenya’s north coast is predominantly and refreshingly unspoiled by urbanization. With stretches of palm – lined beaches and atmospheric ruins, Kenya’s northern coast reflects authentic Swahili “art de – Vivre”). Lamu Town, a recognized World Heritage Site sitting at the heart of the Lamu archipelago, conveys a rich history of Swahili culture and tradition with its old world charm, stunning architecture, and unrivaled hospitality. Several museums in LAMU display artifacts of history, culture and nature, whilst open markets and shops offer an appealing range of hand crafts.
- Kenya, the cradle of Mankind
Utterly unique, Kenya is the only land in which you can visit the “Cradle of Mankind”, sail a Swahili dhow past a 16th century Portuguese fort, and meet a Maasai warrior, his lifestyle unchanged since the dawn of time: the only destination that allows you to encounter over 40 ethnic groups, speaking 80 different dialects, each with its own distinctive heritage, music, dance art and attire. Kenya’s rich history can be traced as far back as six Million years ago with unearthed archaeological remains found near Lake Turkana. During the New Stone Age, ethnic people began growing crops in the fertile soil, while pastoral nomads arrived from Ethiopia, west – central Africa, Sudan and Somalia. For the past 2,000 years, well – established communities have occupied every geographic niche of Kenya’s landscape, from the slopes of Mount Kenya to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Traders from Arabia, Persia and China arrived along that shore in the 8th century AD. As they settled, they introduced Muslim culture to the tribal communities of Lamu, Mombasa and Malindi, and traded gold, ivory, skins, rhino horn, spices and slaves. At the beginning of the 16th century, Portuguese ships and soldiers arrived to lay claim to the region’s rich trade. From their stronghold in Mombasa, the colonists prevailed through more than 200 years of military rule and fierce battles with Arabs and Turks. At last, around 1700, the Portuguese left Kenya to the rule of Omani Arabs. Africa was divided between European powers in 1886, and in 1895, Britain’s protectorate was officially named British East Africa. In the early 20th century, coffee, tea and beer became important Kenyan exports, while literary figures Karen Blixen (also known by her pseudonym, Isaack Dinesen) and Ernest Hemingway spent time in Kenya and captivated readers with tales of their African sojourns. In 1952, the Mau Mau rebellion attempted to drive white settlers out of Kenya. In 1960, as the British government prepared to transfer power to a democratically elected African government, archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey and their team unearthed a skull of 1.8 million – year – old Homo Habilis near Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta earned Kenya’s independence in 1963 and ruled as president until his death in 1978. Today, Kenya boasts enduring spirit and tradition through its rich heritage and people. Along with ancient archaeological sites and dramatic traditional cultures, Kenya offers an exciting range of contemporary exports. Coffee lovers around the world know Kenya’s flavorful and aromatic Arabica beans. Kenya also exports specialty black teas grown primarily in the highlands of the Rift Valley. High in antioxidants, tea from Kenya has seen phenomenal growth in its export of cut flowers, and is now one of the largest exporters in the world. Two – thirds of these are roses, grown in a dazzling array of colors and known for their long – lasting vase life. Kenya’s stunning landscape has not gone undiscovered by artists or by Hollywood. Kenya plays a starring role in box office hits like out of Africa. The constant Gardener, Born Free and Tomb Raider. Nairobi’s art galleries show the finest contemporary works influenced by the nation’s rich and diverse heritage. Mombasa’s spice market is an indoor and outdoor market where one can find a variety of spices including black pepper, cinnamon bark, saffron, cardamom and masala.
- KENYA FAST FACTS At A GLANCE (Useful Kenya information)
Kenya offers a variety of enriching and unforgettable experiences. Learn a few useful resources and facts to help you prepare for your incredible journey.
- Official Name
The Republic of Kenya. Kenya is named after Mount Kenya or Kirinyaga, the Mountain of whiteness.
- Capital City
Nairobi (Nyrobi meaning “the place of cool waters in Maa”) is the highest city in East Africa at 5,672 feet (1,729m). modern, cosmopolitan and fast growing, Nairobi has the highest population of people.
- Main Cities
Mombasa is the coastal capital and the largest port on East African Coast. Other major cities and towns include Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nakuru.
- Area / Size
Kenya covers an area of 226,487 Sq.mi (586,600 Sq.km), approximately the size of Texas. Of this 4,131 mi (10, 700 km) is inland water, including part of Lake Victoria (Nyanza). The coastline is 207 mi (333 km) long.
- World Heritage Sites & Historical Sites
These include Fort Jesus, the Gedi Ruins, Koobi Fora, Mount Kenya, Hells Gate National Park and the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Kenya has over 400 historical sites ranging from Paleolithic remains, 14th century slave trading settlements, Islamic ruins and the 16th century Portuguese Fort Jesus.
Kenya regions are supplied with 220 – 240 volts AC, with standard 13 amp three square pin plugs.
- Shopping & Business Hours
In general, operating hours for most shops and businesses are 8: 30 am to 12: 30 pm and 2: 00 pm to 5: 30 pm Monday through Saturday. Many businesses are open Saturday mornings only and shops are generally closed on Saturday.
GMT + 3 all year round. Kenya maintains an almost constant 12 hours of daylight. Sunrise is typically at 6:30 am and sunset at 6:45 pm.
- Hospitals & Doctors
A broad selection of highly qualified doctors, surgeons, and dentists are available in both Nairobi and Mombasa. Most lodges and hotels offer resident medical staff and maintain radio or telephone contact with the Flying Doctor Service, which specializes in air evacuations and emergency treatment in East Africa. Travelers are however encouraged to discuss travel insurance with their travel specialist.
- Disabled Travellers
A specialized tour operator will be able to arrange travel for those with mobility, hearing or visual impairments. There are no provisions for the disabled on public transportation. Some hotels have easily accessible ground floor rooms as do tented camps.
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and indigenous religions.
Kenya is bordered by Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania.
English is the official business language and Kiswahili is the national language. In addition, there are over 40 different Kenyan tribes speaking over 8o different dialects.
Located on the equator, the weather in Kenya can vary dramatically depending on the region. Generally, the coastal areas are hot and humid, the inland cities are temperate and the northern parts are very dry. The hottest period in Kenya is from February – March. During Kenyan winter, July and August, Nairobi can become cold enough for coats and jackets. Temperatures elsewhere depend on altitude. There are two rainy seasons; “long rains” last from late March – June and the “short rains” fall from November – January. Nairobi experiences average maximum temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) and a minimum of degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius). Mombasa, which lies on the coast, enjoys a more tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) at night to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) as a maximum daily average. Typically, January – February is dry, March – May is wet, June – September is dry and October – December is wet.
- Accommodation in Kenya
One of Africa’s prime tourist destinations, Kenya’s tourist infrastructure is exceptionally well established and the range of accommodation is comprehensive. The spirit of Kenya is also exemplified by its tradition of hospitality. Kenya’s hotels, lodges, tented camps and coastal resorts vary in price and facilities, and visitors are advised to consult their travel specialist for advice on the choice best suited to their needs.
Tipping is appreciated, however not mandatory throughout Kenya. Guides, drivers, waiters and hotel staff should be tipped at travelers’ discretion since most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge to the bill.
- Currency and Currency Exchange
The official currency is the Kenya Shilling: slang “bob”. The written abbreviation is KSh. Available coins are 1,5,10,20 and 40 shillings. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, foreign exchange bureaus, hotels and airports.
- Banking Hours
Banks in Nairobi and other large towns open mainly from 9:00 am – 4: 00 pm Monday to Friday and 9: 00 am – 11. 00 am on Saturday. 24 – hour access to accounts can be facilitated by ATMs countrywide. Some banks at the international airports are open 24 – hours daily as are the new foreign exchange Kiosks.
ATMs are readily available in major cities countrywide with 24 – hour access.
- Credit Cards
All major international credit cards are accepted by many hotels, travel agencies, safari companies, and restaurants throughout the country.
- Going out
Kenya’s abundance of natural produce, combined with the rich variety of cultures and traditions, have created a great culinary nation. The fertile volcanic soil of the Rift Valley produces a bounty of fresh vegetables, while the coast is a great source of tropical fruit and fresh seafood. The coast is also the home of the world renowned Swahili cuisine, a blend of Middle Eastern African cooking with a particular coastal twist. Further inland, Kenyans are formidable meat eaters. One of the best – known Kenyan specialties is Nyama choma – literally meaning “roasted meat”. There are many popular “Choma joints” in most Kenyan towns. Probably the best known is Nairobi’s carnivore, Kenya’s most famous restaurant. The meat is usually slow roasted over an open fire or charcoal, and served with a mixture of basic greens (known as Sukuma wiki) and Ugali. Ugali is the much loved staple food of Kenya. Essentially a stiff porridge of maize flour, pieces of ugali are broken off and used to eat meat, stew or vegetables. Vegetarians need not feel threatened; Kenya’s large Asian population has led to a great many Indian, Pakistani and sub – continental restaurants throughout the country. Excellent vegetarian meals can always be found alongside the best of regional Indian cuisine. Kenyan drinks feature locally made coffee and tea, and the ever – popular Tusker beer. You may not have associated Kenya with world class cuisine, but after a safari here, you most certainly will. As for entertainment, music constitutes a powerful strand in Kenya’s cultural weave. Based on drumming, it usually incorporates communal dance rhythms, humming, chanting and singing, while traditional instruments include flutes, lyres and guitars. On the coast, the traditional Taarab music features strongly, played by an Arabic orchestra. Like music, dance constitutes the bedrock of Kenyan culture. Every region has its own dance heritage, and every ceremony has its own specific dance. Among the best – known dancers are the Maasai and Samburu, famous for their effortless leaping. After you have sampled Kenya’s top safari destinations, the cities and towns keep the action going with buzzing bars and night clubs. The late night scene in Kenya’s cities and towns can be described as simply vibrant, fun and plentiful. After the sun has set, travelers and visitors can be fully entertained in some of the countries stylish and exciting bars and night clubs.
- Kenya Visa Requirements
A valid passport, not expiring for at least six months, is required for entry into Kenya. Most incoming visitors, whether for business or pleasure, require a visa. Multiple and single entry visas are available. Visas can be obtained upon arrival at the airport (visa officials are on hand to meet all international arriving flights) or prior to travel by submitting an application to your local Kenyan Embassy or Consulate, or online.
- Health Certification
Kenya is readily accessible from the United States and Canada Via Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Asia and southern Africa by numerous international air carriers. Kenya has three (3) international airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Moi International Airport in Mombasa and Eldoret International Airport in Eldoret, with Nairobi serving as the hub for the East African region. Most hotels offer airport shuttle bus services, and taxis are readily available. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required ONLY if you are arriving into Kenya from an infected area. Commonly recommended but not required vaccinations / immunizations include tetanus, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, hepatitis A and B, and Malaria. Consult with your doctor 4 – 6 weeks before your trip for up – to date information and to allow time for medications to take effect. A health – care provider who specializes in travel medicine may assist in determining what you will need based on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of Kenya you will be visiting, and planned activities.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA or NBO) is a busy hub for Kenyan tour and vacation travel, and also for the eastern and horn of African region. The airport is approximately a 30-minute drive southeast of Nairobi city’s center. Charter flights and airlines from Nairobi fly from Wilson Airport (WIL) two miles (four km) south of the city center. The Moi International Airport, Mombasa (ICAO or MBA) on the Kenyan coast is approximately ten minutes from Mombasa’s city center, although most hotels are situated to the north and south along the coastal region. Factor in an extra half hour to your journey for the Likoni ferry crossing if you are going to the south coast.
- Getting Around Kenya
Internal Air Travel
Frequent flights operate from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and from Mombasa and Malindi to many of the main towns and national parks throughout the country. Excellent air charter services can be arranged by travel providers to any destination within Kenya.
Taxis are plentiful outside the main hotels, shopping arcades, and central city points. There are a number of dial up taxi companies in all major towns. A tariff sheet should be available and it is wise to agree on the price of the journey before setting off.
- Public Transportation
The larger cities and towns operate both private and public bus services, many of which also operate long – distance routes between main urban centers. Local city buses operate in Nairobi and Mombasa at reasonably low rates. Fares are paid directly to the conductor. Most Kenyans Use “Matatus” or mini – buses as their primary method of transport, these are privately operated minibuses which follow specific local routes.
- Car Rental
Most international car hire companies are represented in Kenya. Rates may vary on a daily or weekly basis and depend on the type of vehicle (ranging from four – wheel drive to small cab). To hire a car, drivers must be over 18 and under 70 years and have had a driving license (International or common wealth) for a minimum of two years.
- Driving in Kenya
Kenyan motorists drive on the left and overtake on the right, with general European – styled traffic regulations observed. A current driving license with a photograph is accepted for up to three months stay. Self – driven four – wheel drive cars are also available for the intrepid beach, wildlife or safari traveler. Check with your car rental company for regulations on journeys into bordering countries.
- While Staying in Kenya
Kenya has many reliable internet service providers and internet service is readily available even in remote areas. Many hotels and lodges offer email and internet services and most towns offer private business centers and cyber – cafes with email and internet access.
- Cell Phones
There is good mobile phone coverage countrywide including in remote areas. Check with your mobile service provider for roaming capabilities and costs. When calling Kenya, the international dialing code is 254
- Post Offices
Kenya has a good postal service for both local and international post. Operating hours are 9: 00 am to 5 .00 pm week days and 9: 00 am to 12: 00 pm on Saturday days. Stamps can be purchased at post offices, stationery and souvenir shops, hotels and lodges.
- Public Holidays
- January 1 – New year’s Day
- March or April – Easter Holiday
- May 1 – Labout Day
- June 1 – Madaraka Day
- July – Sept – Ramadan
- October 20 – Mashujaa Day
- December 12 – Jamuhuri Day
- December 25 – Christmas Day
- December 26 – Boxing Day
To capture the best pictures of your wildlife experience, most experts recommend an SLR carriers and a 200 mm lens at minimum. A wide angle lens is also ideal for panoramic shots. If you are going to bring two lenses, experts recommend having a separate camera body for each, as dust is prevalent in safari country and wildlife tend not to wait for a change of lens. Light conditions tend to be best in the early mornings and late afternoons, which coincide with the best times for game viewing.
- What to Bring
Casual, light weight and comfortable clothing is advisable as is strong, comfortable foot wear. You may need a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings, or if you are spending time in the highlands. Naturally, if you are going to do any mountain climbing, you need the appropriate equipment. Also recommended are binoculars, plenty of sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, and a good quality insect repellant. Space in safari vehicles may be limited so please plan accordingly. In certain areas, mostly coastal, it may be considered in appropriate to wear shorts, tank tops or short – sleeved shirts. It is always best to seek local advice.
- Local Customs
Kenyans are extremely polite and helpful and visitors will often hear the Swahili words – Jambo (hello) and hakuna matata (no worries). In respect of local customs, it is considered courteous to ask people if you may take their picture before doing so, particularly in more remote areas. A small (token) payment for the photograph may be expected as a form of polite appreciation.
- Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (Business with pleasure).
Kenya is the destination of choice for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) Market – Kenya is motivation incarnate, offering an unrivalled selection of world class venues ranging from safari lodges to coastal resorts, and from tented camps to eco – lodges and modern convention centers. Most Kenyan destinations offer fully equipped conferencing facilities and all are well versed in planning everything from a candlelit bush dinner to a bonfire beach party. So when planning your next corporate event, why not break out of the board room and broker business in the bush? As for incentives, Kenya has it all: take your high achievers up Mount Kenya, out into the wilderness of Amboseli or deep into the depths of a primeval forest. Kenya is also proficient in orchestrating such customized extras as; unique African gifts, private bush barbeques, breakfast and dinners as well as themed wildlife talks and vibrant cultural interaction. Kenya leads the East African region in the sphere of eco – tourism; most of the hotels operate world class eco – tourism programs ranging from re – planting the forests to preserving such endangered creatures as the black rhino and the green leatherback turtle. Kenya also offers a spectacular range of eco – lodges, many of them built as community projects by the local communities. So if you want to ensure that your holiday or business destination has its eco – priorities in place, Kenya is the choice for you.
- Weddings and Honey Moons (The ultimate Romantic Destination)
Kenya is the place to fall in love. There are few experiences to rival watching the sun sink over the savannah together, few evenings as special as those spent around the blazing fire of a tented safari camp; and little to rival a dhow trip for two to a tropical island where lunch is served beneath a palm tree “Out of Africa” weddings are uniquely different, and charmingly varied. Choose from the classic safari – style celebration in the bush, a tropical party on the Indian Ocean beach, an elegant reception in a country house on the slopes of Mount Kenya, a Maasai celebration deep in the Mara, a Swahili feast under the stars, or an Edwardian reception on the veranda of Karen Blixen’s farm at the foot of Ngong Hills”.
- Things to do in Kenya
- Go Shopping
You can take home more than just memories of your trip to Kenya. Kenya has on offer a wide range of diverse and unique products that make ideal gifts. In many hotels, lodges and camps throughout the country, you will find well stocked gift shops offering a wide array of traditional artifacts, jewelry, Kenya’s famous tea and coffee, all purpose fabric wraps to beautiful stone and word carvings, all inspired by the diverse range of cultures within Kenya’s borders. Modern Nairobi, the safari capital of Africa, is a perfect place to combine the safari and shopping experience. Nairobi is a place of great contrasts where diverse cultures all become components of a unique Nairobi character. The city hosts several separate open markets in various locations around the city. Commonly christened the Maasai Market, this market place offers a wide range of local arts and crafts from all parts of the country in one single spot where travelers can look around and bargain at will. These colorful markets are interesting to visit and a good place to find assorted indigenous gift items suited for the festive season and all year round. Kenya is as rich in hand made treasures as it is in wildlife. From crafts and beautiful fabrics on Biashara street, to the modern stores and food courts at many of the country’s malls, from the magnificent woodcarvings in LAMU to the colorful Khanga and Kikoi textiles along the coast, Kenya’s rich culture and artisanship transpires through its shops, boutiques and markets.