Lapped by the Indian Ocean, and straddling the equator Kenya is a richly rewarding place to travel. With Mount Kenya rising above a magnificent landscape of forested hills, patchwork farms and wooded savanna, the country’s dramatic geography has a lot to offer. Here is our pick of the best things to do in Kenya.
There are four main routes up Mount Kenya. From the west, the Naro Moru trail provides the shortest and steepest way to the top. The Burguret and Sirimon trails from the northwest are less well trodden.
Sirimon has a reputation for lots of wildlife. Allocate four or five days for this hike — especially if you’ve just arrived in Kenya and are used to living at sea level.
After decades of poaching, rhinos are very rare in Tsavo East, but you may be lucky enough to spot one grazing quietly somewhere — especially north of the Galana. By contrast, you are absolutely certain to see a lot of Tsavo East’s delightfully colourful elephants, be they huge, dusty-red adults, or little chocolate babies fresh out of a mud bath.
The six spacious, raised, open-fronted bandas incorporate twisting branches and wonderful views, while bandas #1 and #5 have star-beds which can be pulled out onto their decks. There’s also a small infinity pool. Guaranteed wildlife, including elephants, seen daily at the waterhole.
Kenya is the safari capital of East Africa and in our guide to the best safari lodges in Kenya you will find some of the best options.
Try this fascinating tailor-made trip to the Best of Kenya & Tanzania across the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Areas. Learn more about the traditions and cultures of the Maasai and stare in awe at the wild roaming wildlife on your several game drives in different national parks.
Depending on lake levels, the waters are either heavily silted with the topsoil of the region and appear a rusty red or streaky yellow. Or it runs through a whole range of colours from coral to purple to a brilliant aquamarine, according to the sun’s position and the state of the sky.
Baringo’s 470 species of birds are one of its biggest draws, and even if you don’t know a superb starling from an ordinary one, the enthusiasm of others tends to be infectious.
With its nature, varied safari options and abundant wildlife, Kenya is the best place for an exciting holiday with the whole family. For even more of these destinations, check out our guide to the 30 best places to go with kids.
In August, the Rift Valley Festival, a more European-style music festival, is held on the shores of Lake Naivasha and is easily accessible. Meanwhile, the Lamu Festival, held every November on the far-flung shores of the Indian Ocean, features donkey and dhow races, traditional stick fights, processions, beach barbecues, and crafts displays, with the entire old Swahili town taking part.
The training for this age grade is long and arduous, but you can now sample the lifestyle at a number of camps. For the most engaging warrior training experience, sign up for a 3-to-7-day programme with Laikipiak Maasai warriors at Bush Adventures Camp.
For a quicker, low budget taste of the action, closer to Nairobi, the low-key Maji Moto Eco-Camp. Located in the greater Mara ecosystem, this experience includes warrior-training – stick throwing, dancing, singing, tracking – with every stay in its tidy dome tents.
The lake is slightly forbidding – grey and placid one minute and suddenly green and choppy with whitecaps the next – but is hugely picturesque. Its purple mountain backdrop and floating islands of papyrus and water hyacinth are sure to wow.
In contrast to the noisy and congested city streets, the park offers a serene wilderness where humans are just temporary visitors. It's a great place to spend some time during a layover or before an evening flight, with excellent chances of spotting various species.
Even though the park is fenced along its northern border, it's open to the south, allowing migratory herds and their predators to come and go freely. Despite the low-flying planes and minibuses, Nairobi National Park offers the best opportunity for witnessing a predator kill among all the parks in Kenya.
Lake Turkana is the biggest permanent desert lake in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a shoreline longer than the whole of Kenya’s sea coast. It spread south as far as the now desolate Suguta Valley and fed the headwaters of the Nile.
Today it has been reduced to a mere sliver of its former expanse. a gigantic natural sump, with rivers flowing in but no outlets, it loses a staggering 3m of water through evaporation from its surface each year.
The trust is run by Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her husband, the founding warden of Tsavo National Park. During the hour-long open house, the elephant keepers bring their juvenile charges up to an informal rope barrier where you can easily touch them and take photos.
All the senses get a full workout here, so while there are sights and activities on offer, actually doing anything is sometimes a problem. You can spend hours on a roof or veranda just watching life go by, feeling its mood swing effortlessly through its well-worn cycles – from prayer call to prayer call, from tide to tide and from dawn to dusk.
For more ideas on spending your time on Lamu Island, take a look at our guide to why it's time to return to Lamu.
The fully staffed Olerai Beach House sleeps up to ten, so it’s ideal for a tropical house party. In the huge gardens, there’s a stunning swimming pool with a water slide and landscaped caves, while the beach lies right in front of you through the palms. It’s quite remote, so there’s the option to have a minibus and driver at your disposal for trips into Mombasa and other excursions.
However, if you’re on more of a shoestring budget, then Stilts Backpackers, on Diani Beach, is a great location for the budget traveller. Funky treehouses (huts on stilts), a tree-level bar-restaurant and plenty of convivial company make it a popular base. Here the beach is just a five-minute walk away.
Also in the forest, near the small resort town of Watamu on the north coast, the ruins of the stone town of Gedi lay hidden in the jungle for hundreds of years. The identity of the sixteenth-century inhabitants of the town, excavated in the 1940s, is still unknown, but today their houses and mosques can be explored and are particularly atmospheric at dusk.
The first possible stop is Whistling Thorns – much like an English Lake District youth hostel, but with ostriches and gazelles instead of sheep. Then, as you plunge down the dramatic face of the escarpment, you head out onto arid plains where there’s a great prehistoric stone-tool site, Olorgasailie, with cheap camping and cottages.
Finally, you reach the bizarre soda pans of Lake Magadi, where a factory town supports a major chemical industry. There’s a beautiful public swimming pool and excellent bird life near the hot springs, and a few options for staying if you don’t have a tent.
Though not large, it’s a beautiful park, the terra firma mostly under light acacia forest and well provided with tracks to a variety of hides and lookouts. The contrast between these animated woodlands and the soda lake with its primaeval birds gives it a very distinctive appeal.
Explore Kenya's vast national parks such as Lake Nakuru, the famous Maasai Mara and the well-known 'red' elephants in the Tsavo National Park on this tailor-made Bush To Beach Safari. After a few days of waking up early to spot wildlife, relax on the fine sandy beaches of Diani in the Mombasa area.
This is a land of short grass and croton bushes (Mara means “spotted”, after the yellow crotons dotted on the plains), where the wind plays with the thick, green mantle after the rains and, nine months later, whips up dust devils from the baked surface. Maasai Mara’s climate is relatively predictable, with ample rain, and the new grass supports an annual wildebeest migration of half a million animals from the dry plains of Tanzania.
A distinctive feature of the estate is the herd of giraffes that live in the area and occasionally enter the grounds hoping for a treat.
Take your (grand)children and embark on this tailor-made adventure of a (family) lifetime: 7 days in Kenya, with up-close animal encounters, game drives to see the Big 5 and plenty of fun day activities.
With its pleasantly somnolent atmosphere, ample shade and relaxed Samburu camel herders lounging under the trees with their beasts, this is a great place to bunk down for a night or three. Making friends with local Samburu is easy. It’s also a good place from which to set our for a walk with camels for a few hours or a few days.
Like the Swahili language, it used to be thought that the towns of the coast began as arab or even Persian trading forts. It is now known that Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu and a host of lesser-known settlements are essentially ancient African towns that have always tolerated immigration from overseas.
The most popular route through the park is to enter at Elsa Gate and drive, walk or cycle right through, along the main tarmacked road along the valley beneath the cliffs. You can either return the same way or exit from the Olkaria Gate, a distance of about 14km.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Kenya without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
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