For a country of its size, Kenya sure packs a lot, from its mountains and deserts, to its beaches and coral reefs. Kenya is where it all began: the home to the original safari vacation and still one of the most admired destinations for safaris in the world.
Famous not only for its out-of-Africa beauty, Kenya also boasts stunning landscapes and Indian Ocean beaches with warm tropical waters guaranteeing a superb Kenya safari experience. The vast grasslands of Masai Mara to blazing deserts of the Jade Sea; with Kenya’s best-known national parks including the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo and Lake Nakuru where it is best to see elephants, lions as well as leopards are just few destinations you need not miss. Naturally, there is also the biggest attraction of Kenya which is the Wildebeest Migration. The ebb and flow of hundreds of thousands of zebra and wildebeest from Tanzania to Kenya and back is phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime sight and is really worth witnessing. Hell’s Gate National Park, the Rift Valley, and Kenya’s biggest city of Nairobi are just some attractions of the country that you need to see.
Kenya also rates as one of the top five bird-watching destinations in the world. Trekking the glacial ridges of Mt. Kenya and snorkeling at the Marine National Park in Malindi are also thrilling trips to try.
The people represent a wide cross-section of everything that is modern Africa and everyday life. They bring together traditional tribes and urban families.
When to Travel
Kenya’s diverse geography means that climate in the country also varies. There are four distinct zones that have been identified. Western Kenya has rainfall throughout the year with its hot and rainy plateaus.
The Central Highlands of the country and the Rift valley has the most temperate and pleasant weather.Rainfalls are at their minimum falling only in two seasons – “longer rains” for the months of May to June and “short rains” from October to November.In the semi –desert part of northern and eastern Kenya, rainfall is also sparse but comes in violent storms when it happens. Temperatures in these areas can go up to 40°C during the day and less than 20°C during night. On the other hand, coastal and humid areas have average rainfall from February to the month of May.
The main tourist season in Kenya is in January to March as this is when the weather is hot and dry and comfortable for travelling. This is the best time to visit Kenya for bird viewing on the Rift Valley lakes. Animals in the wildlife parks tend to gather together around water sources during this time making them easier to spot. Game viewing at some water holes is also good at this time of the year.
Months of April to June and October to December are the less popular times for experiencing a Kenya safari since this is the rainy season and flooding often occurs. However, things are much quieter during these times and getting around is much easier. Rains do not hinder visibility and this is the best time to go for people wanting fewer crowds.
For tourists who want to witness the must-see annual wildebeest migration, the months of June and September are the best time to go but sometimes this varies from year to year so you have to time your visit.
Cuisine and Drinks
Kenyan cuisine was influenced by East India and Great Britain as Britain imported cereals, coffee,tea, fruit and vegetable crops to Kenya. The most popular Kenyan dishes are called ugaly, nyama choma, samosas, chapatti, githeri and sukuma wiki. Ugaly is common not just in India but also in the neighboring countries. It is usually served with cooked and mashed peapods, bananas, beans or corn and black-eyed peas. Corn, wheat, rice, plaintains, sweet potatoes and millets are popular among the locals.
Desserts can be as natural as fresh bananas, papaya, and pineapples in which they sometimes add soured skimmed milk. Another delicious dessert that will certainly be loved by tourists is the ndizi which contained bananas cooked in their own leaves.
Finest eating establishments can be found in Nairobi. There are varieties of cuisines available as well as types of restaurants – from fast food stalls to fancy eateries. Westlands and Hurlingham also house some five-star hotels with fine dining establishments inside. You can try K’osewe’s in the central district of Nairobi for traditional Kenyan dishes, Kudeta (Langata) famous for their best ribs and seafood, Tamambo (Westlands) with their sumptuous international cuisine, Furusato (Westlands) for the best sushi, and the American Bar Slims in Lenana Road is known for their steakhouse.
For drinks, there is one major brewer in Kenya known as the Tusker Lager. Beers here are pretty decent. There’s the White Cap Lager and some imported Tanzanian beer like Kilimanjaro and Safari which are sometimes cheaper than Tusker. Imported and local wines are also widely available in supermarkets and hotels. Soft drinks have a wide selection especially from the Coca Cola stalls but locals recommend trying the local Tangazawi brand of ginger ale.
Tracking the famous Wildebeest Migration- This is what Kenya is all about: the greatest show on earth can be seen in Kenya for a few weeks every year when the Great Wildebeest Migration passes through Masai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Tourist will definitely be amazed with this jaw-dropping spectacle.
Balloon Safari - There’s also a unique way to experience the stunning scenery of Kenya and that is from a hot-air balloon. There are balloon trips offered in Masai Mara as well as in Kichwa Tembo Safari where you travel over a horizon-hugging savannah. The only sound you hear is the wind and the only sight is Africa. There are also balloon safaris in Amboseli National Park where Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen rising above the African plains.
Beach-hopping - A travel experience in Kenya can be a hot and dusty work so after the safari adventure tourists can wash off the red dust of Africa with a few days on the beach. Kenya prides itself with its white sand and warm water as well as excellent water activities like scuba-diving. Beaches in Kenya vary from popular bustling resorts to remote deserted ones. There are lots to choose from – Lamu or Malindi in the north or go south to Funzi Keys or Kisite.
Amboseli National Park - The most popular park in Kenya is the Amboseli National Park next to Masai Mara. Here, tourists can have an ideal perfect shot with their cameras where elephants can be seen grazing with the proud Mt. Kilimanjaro standing at the backdrop.
Lake Nakuru National Park - This is the best park in Kenya, visited for its leopards and white rhinos commonly seen at the lake’s southern end. But nothing compares to its famous attraction – flamingos ringing the lake in thousands.
Hell’s Gate National - Tourists are allowed to walk or cycle unguided across the vast expanse of Hell’s Gate National. There’s dramatic scenery with looming cliffs, gorges and basalt columns coupled with lurking leopards and lions around that add to the excitement. Seen also at the entrance of the park is the remarkable Fischer’s Tower which is a rock-climbing site popular among tourists. Lying North West of Nairobi is the freshwater lake of Naivasha. This is a suitable base for exploring the Hell’s Gate Park and a good place to set up camps.
Tsavo National Park - This is the largest national park in Kenya and is divided into Tsavo West National Park and Tsavo East National Park. The landscapes are some of the most dramatic in the country and animals here are quite wild which causes comparatively few visitors.
Kenya’s currency is the Kenyan shilling (KSh) which is equivalent to 100 cents. The shilling is commonly known as “bob” after the old English tern for a one-shilling coin. Notes in the circulation vary from KSh20, 50, 100, 200, 500 to 1000. There are also coins in KSh 10, 20, 40, 5 and 1. The old cent coins are now pretty rare since most prices are in whole-shilling amounts. Note that most public telephones only accept new coins.
Most banks in Kenya already have ATM access but Barclays Bank has the most reliable machines in terms of international withdrawals. They support Visa, MasterCard, Plus and Cirrus international networks. The ATM machines of Kenya Commercial Bank and Standard charter also accepts cards but only Visa and they are most likely to decline transactions from other providers.Credit cards are also becoming increasingly popular. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, especially in up market hotels, shopping centers and restaurants.
Traveler’s checks are also accepted if they are in US dollars, British pounds or Euros but may charge higher commissions from 1%-3% per transaction. Better carry them in larger denominations to avoid fees in every transaction. Moreover, traveler’s checks are better exchanged at bureaus.
International transfer is made possible by Postbank which is a regional agent for Western Union, a global money-transfer company. This is an easy way of receiving money in Kenya especially because the sender pays all the charges and Postbank branches can be found anywhere in the country.
Cash is easy and quick to exchange at forex bureaus which can be found almost everywhere. Banks also exchange money but unlike forex bureaus who charge no commissions at all, they may charge a higher rate for this.