Although the mayhem of capital Nairobi may not be to everyone’s taste, once you get out of the city amongst the wilderness, it’s hard not to be floored by its beauty.
This is a land where lions stalk their prey on the savannahs and more than 2000 wildebeest migrate to the Maasai Mara National Reserve from July through to October while being pursued by predators – also known as the “World Cup of Wildlife”.
Here you’ll find red elephants, pink flamingos and rhinos, with Kenya’s rhino management program being considered among the most successful species rehabilitation projects in the world.
Elephants too are protected from the threat of poaching by armed rangers, with tourism and conservation often working hand in hand.
Kenya’s landscapes are also spectacular, with vast inland lakes, some with hot springs. It is also home to Africa’s second highest peak, Mount Kenya, and the dramatic landscapes of the Great Rift Valley.
This southern area of the country is home to the Maasai people, the majority of whom live in Kenya. These semi-nomadic people with their distinctive customs and dress live near the many game parks, hence they are known throughout the world. But there are actually 42 different tribes of Kenya.
And to the east are the dazzling white sands of coastal areas such as Mombasa, Diani Beach, Nyali Beach and Lamu Island where the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean offer underwater adventures.
Places to Visit in Kenya
- Lake Baringo
- Lamu Island
- Maasai Mara
Unique Things to See and Do in Kenya
- Climb Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak
- Explore the beaches along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast
- Experience the culture of the 42 tribes of Kenya
- Go on safari in one of the spectacular game reserves
- See the pink flamingoes of Lake Nakuru
The Maasai people
The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe of people who are commonly thought of as tall and fierce warriors. They can be recognised by a traditional red cloth garment they wear called a Shuka.
Traditionally, the Maasai have lived a nomadic life, moving from place to place with their animals which provide them with food in the form of milk, meat and animal blood. Other necessary foodstuffs are obtained by trading with other Maasai people.
The search for fresh food and water can see them walk for many miles with their animals. And while the Maasai men have traditionally been responsible for herding cattle and protecting them from predators such as lions, Maasai women are held responsible for cooking, collecting materials for the fire and building the home.
While this particular tribe is spread across parts of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, most live in the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya. Here they live in windowless, chimney-less shelters constructed using branches and grass known as manyatta. Inside, animal skins are spread to provide warmth and comfort. The homes are packed up when the food and water run out and carried along with the tribespeople to their next location.
However, the way of life of the Maasai is threatened by development. The creation of protected game reserves has prohibited Maasai people from accessing water sources and pasture land in these areas. The arrival of formal schooling means young boys can only take responsibility for livestock herding outside of school hours. The herds themselves have dwindled as droughts in East Africa, the result of global warming, become increasingly severe. The traditional methods of tribal leadership via a council of elders are also under threat from the introduction of western forms of leadership.
Getting Around Kenya
Train services run between Nairobi and Mombasa several times a week but otherwise, getting around Kenya on a budget is easiest using the air-conditioned buses that are run by large operators and smaller companies. There are also saccos which are shared minibus services.
Did you know…?
Kenya is named after Mount Kenya, the tallest mountain in the country at 5,199 metres.
Did you ALSO know…?
Lake Victoria is the world’s largest tropical lake and the second largest freshwater lake in the world.
If time is of the essence, then there are domestic air services. These are often operated by smaller aircraft and can be a great way of taking in some of the country’s spectacular scenery.
If you’re a fan of independent travel and adventure, renting a car can be a good way of getting around Kenya. Depending on your levels of confidence, you can either self-drive or hire a driver or private guide.
Best time of year to travel to Kenya
The best time to view wildlife in Kenya is during the dry season from late June to October. This is also the time of the wildebeest migration which reaches the Masai Mara in July and continues until October when the animals return to the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Wildlife viewing is good all year, but this can vary from park to park.
The best time to visit Kenya’s beach destinations is a different issue. Hot and humid all year round, rain can fall at any time. But mid-March to late May can see temperatures and rainfall at their highest levels.
Ready to plan your visit to Kenya? Check out these popular guides and trips.