Kenya has been put in the world map by the champion marathoners worldwide. Time and again, year after year, medals have been streaming into the beautiful land of Kenya. For many, the mention of Kenya simply reminds them of slim and tall athletes from Kenya.
However, Kenya is much more than that. It is one of the African countries with some of the most magnificent wildlife sanctuaries and beaches in the world.
- Wildlife diversity and concentration
Within a few hours into the national parks and reserves you will be counting endless species of wildlife. Kenya is endowed with such rich and diverse wildlife. The concentration of the wildlife is one meant to amaze even the less nature enthusiast, and everyone will have such a great time here in the wilds of Kenya.
- Cultural diversity and languages
Kenya has more than 40 tribes. Each tribe has its own way of life. These include different ways of living. For example, the Kikuyus of Mt Kenya region are the renowned agriculturist whose main way of life has been agri-business. The Nilotes, on the other hand are famous for livestock raring. For many years they have been living a nomadic way of life. When you go to western Kenya, here you meet the Luo communities whose way of life is mainly based on the lake as fishermen. Each such community not only live differently from each other, but have totally different languages. This adds to the cultural richness and diversity.
- Rich history as the origin of mankind
The origin of Human kind is a book by Richard Leakey. It is an account of the Leakey’s personal view of the development of Homo sapiens. The world famous paleoanthropologist documents his research back into the origins of mankind. Part of his research work included findings of the Turkana boy, also called Nariokotome boy. This specimen was dated back 1.5 to 1.6 million years ago. It is the only most complete fossil skeleton to ever be found. This gave Kenya a prominent position as the origin of humankind. The Turkana region where a lot of such research work took place is currently referred to as the cradle of mankind.
- History and origin of Kenya’s name
Kenya as a country got its name from Mount Kirinyaga, the mountain of the gods in the local kikuyu dialect. The snow-capped mountain, also referred to as the mountain of whiteness, has a rich history as a sacred place for the inhabitants there, the kikuyu. When the British colonialists and explorers came to Kenya, some of the areas they settled or traversed through were Mount Kirinyaga region. The origin of the name ‘Kenya’ came from the fact that the white men were not able to pronounce ‘Kirinyaga’ and it went down into the books as the country ‘Kenya’. Even the mountain itself was documented as the present day ‘Mount Kenya’. One such version was done by explorer Johann Ludwig.
- Origin of the current day ‘safari’
Safari is a Kiswahili language word for ‘journey’. Kiswahili was a language born out of a mix of the arriving coastal traders with the locals. The meaning of the word first originated from the convoys that were done to go hunting for the wild game. These convoys carried camping equipment, food supplies and weapons for hunting. In later years, with the introduction of conservation, the hunting trips slowly evolved to wild game viewing in Kenya. The weapons were gradually replaced by cameras. It is here that some of the big game documentaries have been documented, and Kenya rose from hunting safaris to game drives. This is what gave rise to the modern day safaris, making Kenya as the original home of safari.
- Women empowerment.
The world all over has been on its toes in the rush for equality. Women all over have been on the frontline to take charge and demanding their share as equals. These have seen lots of spirited fights in the demand for same and equal positions or even salaries in work places. In Kenya, the fight has been taken a notch higher. The girl child has seen her position change with a lot of emphasis being put in support for the girl child. Many schools for girls have been started in the counties to make sure that the girl child isn’t married off too early and instead take her position in the class equally like the boy child. These have given rise to prominent career women in all arenas, both in the corporate world and the informal sector. The Kenyan lady has risen above the traditional African setting to sit on the same corporate table with the man. This is something to be proud of as the girl child takes her equal place with no bias, not in the kitchen, but in the decision making table.
- The Rift valley and its lakes
Rift valley is a feature that was formed out of the earth’s tectonic plates moving. The rift valleys are found both on land and the bottom of the ocean. The Great Rift Valley is part of an intercontinental ridge system and splits Kenya from North to south. This is the Gregory rift valley. It starts from Tanzania and continues northwards to Ethiopia. This valley is one of the interesting parts of Kenya and a safari in Kenya without touching it isn’t complete. The Kenyan part of the rift valley is a home to 7 lakes. These are: Lake Turkana, lake Baringo, lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementaita, Lake Naivasha and Lake Magadi. These lakes form part of the great Kenya safari destinations and are so rich with both flora and fauna.
- Conservation and hunting.
Kenya put a ban on all types of hunting in 1977. The concerted efforts of some of the previous trophy hunters decided to lay down the trophy guns and instead put efforts in maintaining the beauty. Many other individuals teamed to instead arrange for field trips to enjoy the nature. Kenya Wildlife Service was formed in 1889 to help in protection of Kenya’s wildlife. In 1990 it was established as corporate body with the aim and purpose of protection of Kenya game. The bod does through community policing and enforcing the wildlife rules and laws decided by the government through parliament. It has been the back bone of conservation in Kenya. Government and volunteer efforts have been channelled through KWS. The body has been engaging in conservation dialogues and also fighting illegal poaching in Kenya.
- Diversity of hotels
Dream of any level of hotel beyond the 1-5- star levels. From camping to super exclusive safari camps. Your budget will be your boss. In consultation with your tour agent or operator, you will be able to find a level that matches your pocket. What’s more, you can either be inside the game reserves or outside. You can choose to be near the migration sites, or next to a mountain. Every budget is catered for. However, it is important to note that as you go too low on the budget, some items ought to be compromised in order to be able to make that dream of a Kenya safari come true.
- Kenya beaches.
Kenya boasts some of the most beautiful beaches with stretches of soft white sand. It is here that will be the perfect end to your safari. After the long drives in search for wildlife, the perfect way to end the holiday is to just relax at the beach. Most of the times, the weather is just perfect for some sand and tan at the Kenyan coast. Diani beach is one of such perfect beaches.
- Weather in Kenya
Kenya has the ultimate holiday weather. Except for the rainy season, which is usually in April to May, Kenya has great weather almost all year round. It is important to note that the last few years, like everywhere else in the world, the weather patterns have changed a little bit. But besides that, Kenya is on the equator and you don’t get the extreme temperature variations experienced as you get further away from the equator. Many people in Kenya do not know the difference between winter and summer, mainly because the temperatures do not fluctuate too much to make any significant change.
- Family friendly safaris.
Want to show your kids and spouse rich nature? Kenya has what it takes for family safaris with children. We owe it to nature to nurture it and no better way to make sure that the candle keeps burning than to teach our children about nature. And not only that, we teach them basics of maintaining the environment by at least planting a tree. Kids also love the wildlife and stories around them. They learn a lot about to how to coexist with the animals and how our forefathers lived peacefully with the nature. It is a time for a family time out, including picnics in the wilds of Kenya.
- Big five safaris.
The big five game, namely the lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and the rhino have captured and dominated the Kenya safari industry. Although the big five are not the only interesting wildlife in the country, they have made a big impact in Kenya safaris. The big five can be found in several parks, but it’s only a few parks that all of them can be found. Mostly, you have to do several parks in order to see the big five. The leopard remains quite elusive and one of the animals that make game drivers very excited. The big five are one of the items to look out for during your safari in Kenya.
- Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa and origin of Kenya’s
On your way to Samburu, Mount Kenya can be viewed when the weather is clear. It is the highest mountain in Kenya at 5199m above the sea level. It is also the second highest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro, at 5895m above sea level. Mount Kenya is also the origin of Kenya’s name.
- Wildebeest migration
This is a phenomenal scene worth putting down in any safari planning. The migrating herds of both wildebeests and zebras start pouring into Kenya in mid-June. They stay through to September, when the last of the herds trickle back to Tanzania. They then continue with their never ending cycle. It is one of the most amazing scenes you have ever seen, where hundreds of thousands of these weird looking animals cover the savannahs of Masai Mara like flies. It is a time that crocodile celebrate while they wait for the wildebeests to cross the infested rivers. It usually is such a beauty to behold.
- Car free island.
That is correct, car-free Island. Lamu town is an island located in the Lamu Island, which is part of the greater Lamu Archipelago. Lamu old town has a history of being inhabited for over 700 years ago. It is a peaceful tropical Island, where life is at its own pace. It is also a UNESCO world heritage centre. The narrow streets have remained unchanged and the only mode of transport within the town is donkey carts, while the ocean dhows have become part of the daily view of the Island. It is an exotic experience, and when you visit Lamu, life slows down and the days, you spend them strolling along the waterfront.
- Food diversity
Starting from the coast, here you get to enjoy some of the most tasteful Swahili dishes, including pilau rice (rice cooked with local herbs). As you progress to Nairobi and pass through the Kamba community, here you get to taste the famous Muthokoi, synonymous with the wood-curving Kamba people. You get to Nairobi, and it is a mixture of all the communities in Kenya as they can all be found in the city. In central Kenya, githeri is the order of the day, which is beans and dry corn cooked together. And for the fish-lovers, you will be at home in western Kenya, where theres abundance of fish as the community that live by the lake side is fishermen. In addition, the food diversity in Kenya is beyond imagination. For example: although Kenya coast is famous for pilau rice, the Kikuyus too will cook rice but in different ways, diversifying the cooking styles.
- Beyond zero.
Beyond zero is a noble project initiated by the first lady in 2014. The project aims at reducing child mortality rate at birth. Also, it’s one other purpose is to reduce HIV infections in children. The project raises fund through arranging for volunteer marathon athletics, while sponsors mainly from the corporate world team rise to the call of coming together to take medical care to the remote areas through donations. Individuals are also welcome to participate both in the athletics and in raising donations. This is one of the beauties of the Kenyan people, the commitment to help one other, and Beyond Zero campaign has proved this time and again.
- Lake victoria, second largest freshwater lake
This is one of the great features of Africa. The lake named after Queen Victoria by John Hanning Speke in 1858. He was on a trip to locate the source of river Nile with his colleague Richard Burton. The lake is shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The lake is a source of food supply to the local communities living there, with over 200 species of fish recorded. Tilapia, which is a favourite fish for almost all Kenyans, is the main catch here. It is the largest lake in Africa, and second largest in the world. It is over 400,000 years old and definitely worth a visit.
- Lake Turkana, largest desert lake in the world
Lake Rudolf, as it was previously known, is the world’s largest desert lake. It is located in the rift valley and its northern end goes all the way to Ethiopia. It is also the world’s largest alkaline lake. It is probably one of the most beautiful lakes with the turquoise waters as seen from a short distance. The lake is a UNESCO world heritage centre, and is a great breeding ground for the Nile crocodiles. Due to its special nature both as a museum of archaeological findings and the wildlife found here, it is managed by both the National Museums of Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Services.
- First African woman to win Nobel prize
Kenya has had strong activists for the environment. One such esteemed person is Prof Wangari Mathai. She founded the green belt movement as a tool to fight both political injustices and put a spirited fight for the environment. She ensured that some of the lands that belong to the forest department were not grabbed by the politicians, including president Moi himself. If Karura forest would have words to speak, it would speak of the fight that this Nobel Prize winner put in order to save it. She is the first African woman to earn such a prestigious recognition of a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in conservation work. But that is not all; Professor Wangari Mathai was also the first female Professor in Kenya. By the time of her death, her organization had planted more than 30 million trees all over Kenya.
- Agriculture in Kenya
Agriculture forms the back bone of Kenya. Due to the great climate, agriculture in Kenya supports large populations. From large scale farming to small scale farming, all contribute towards provision of employment. Kenya exports flowers, fruits and vegetables to the rest of the world. Several species of coffees and tea are grown here. This has given rise to Agri-tourism, where you can visit farms and see how coffees, tea and other farming are done. Agriculture in Kenya contributes about 35% of the gross domestic product. It is important to note also that some of the farming is done in very small portions of land only for domestic use, like vegetables for daily use. It is therefore paramount to look at agriculture in Kenya, not just in the eye of exports, but also as an activity undertaken to keep the families going.
- A visit to the Equator
The equator divides the country and the world into two. It is at zero degrees Latitude. It divides the world into the northern and southern hemispheres. There are 13 countries along the equator line, including Kenya, Ecuador, brazil among others. The days usually have equal hours of darkness and daylight. It is also warmer at the equator, because it is closer to the sun.
- Sports and athletics
I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of the name Kenya. If not from the world of safaris, it definitely would be from Marathoners. Kenya has had such a successful chain of winners in the long distance runners. Medals after medals have been clinched. Kenya has some of the best runners who keep on improving over the years. It is such a great honour to have to visit the country of champions.
- Fastest mammal on land
Slim body, tear marks running from the eyes to the nose and long legs are some of the physically notable marks of this special creature. Kenya is a home to the fastest animal on land, the cheetah, Acynonix Jubatus. Speeds of up to 93 km/h have been recorded. However, these speeds are only for a short distance. Built for speed, the cheetah is a slender open grassland animal. It relies on the speed to outdo its prey for food.
- 7 UNESCO sites
Kenya has 7 UNESCO sites. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization have recognized seven such sites in Kenya. These are: 1. Lamu Island, 2. Fort Jesus, 3. Lake Turkana National parks, 4. Mount Kenya National Park and Forest, 5. The Sacred MijiKenya Kaya Forests, 6. The Kenya Lake system in the Great Rift Valley and the 7. The Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site in western Kenya.
- Kenya is world leader in safari destinations.
Kenya has a huge collection of parks that are all unique in their different ways. From the reticulated giraffes in Samburu, to the great views of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli. The safari destinations are not just in the parks and reserves. It is beyond that. The ultimate Kenyan safari is a combination of culture, wildlife, sceneries and the food. The destinations that will give you all these in Kenya are many and very diverse too. You can never get enough of safari in Kenya.
- Visit the flamingos
How many times do you get to see a pink-covered lake? Lake Bogoria is such a lake. It is one of the rift valley lakes and has such a great concentration of pink algae. This is what flamingos feed on and is actually what gives them their pink colour. The flamingos congregate and form such beautiful cover of pink in the lake. It is important to note that these use to be in Lake Nakuru. But too much silting has reduced growth of algae and so the flamingos shifted to Lake Bogoria.
- Magical Sunrise and sunset
Kenya has some of the best sunrise and sunsets. You wake early to go for your morning game drive and the sunrise just welcomes you with such beautiful orange hues. You can’t help it but to stop and take those cool photos. And as the day progresses to its end, just before you call it a day, you have another opportunity to take those orange-tinged photos that every professional photographer yearns for. You could also be watching the sun go down by the beach as you sip away your cold drink. It is a sight to behold.
- Meet the Masai community.
Majority of safari goers come with the information that the Masai community are the ones who live in Kenya. Many come with the thought that every Kenyan is a Masai. Only to arrive and find not so tall Kenyans as portrayed in the media. It is true however that the Maasai community are world famous and have taken a big share in the Kenyan fame. They are only about 3% but the fact that they have continued to hold on to their traditional way of life makes them worth a visit. While a lot has changed because of education and exposure, much hasn’t shifted from the culture. It is a nice thing to see them dance in their age-old ways of life.
- Rich art in Kenya
The Kamba community are the renowned wood artist of Kenya. They are famous for wood curving in Kenya. They are followed by the Kisii community, who do their curving work from the Kisii soap stone. The Masai community are also great with curving and bead work. Down at the coast, they are famous for weaving what is famously known as Kikoi. All these are hand-work, which adds to the richness of a culture in Kenya. And without a doubt will enrich your Kenya safari.
- Birders paradise
The birder will probably be most at home in Kenya in terms of diversity of species. From the desert to the swamps. From the rain forests to the savannahs. From the grasslands to the lake regions. The list is endless. Over 1134 bird species have been recorded. It is here that the birders will have a great time while looking and watching the birds, from identification to photography.
- Great Marine experience
The Kenyan coast is one of the special areas for wildlife conservation. But here they deal with marine wildlife. You can go diving and enjoy the beautiful sights under the ocean, including the corals. It is a completely different world on its own. All year round is good, but visibility in July to August lessens. Water temperatures are confortable for diving all year round. It is an activity to consider adding on to your list.
- Friendly people of Kenya
The one thing you are not going to miss is the genuine friendliness of people. Kenyans in general are very kind and very friendly, with very genuine smiles. Regardless of poverty level, Kenyan’s friendliness remains one of the greatest assets the country has. Once you experience it, you going to miss it.
- Nairobi city excursion.
The city in the sun. It was the term used to describe Nairobi. The modern day Nairobi is a host to many Kenyans who over the years have migrated to the city in search for jobs. International organizations have made Nairobi their headquarters. One such organization is the United Nations headquarters for Africa. But aside from the corporate world, Nairobi has so much to offer. From game safaris in Nairobi National park, to feeding the giraffe in Giraffe centre or watching elephants feed in Sheldrick’s Orphanage. Nairobi has such great hotels and restaurants that you will just be spoilt for choice.
- A hiker’s paradise.
The country is definitely a hiker’s paradise. Whether you are an experienced hiker or just starting, there is something for you. Mount Kenya is a great place for such but you need several days to finish the climb. Day trips can also be arranged. Ngong hills have good forest tracks. Other places to go hiking include Hell’s gate national park, Mt Longonot among many others.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Philip is a safari guide with Natural Track Safaris, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has been arranging and guiding field nature safaris for over 15 years. Natural Track Safaris operate custom-made tours, private Kenya safaris and shared group safaris. From walking trips, bush safaris ending with a sun tan at the beautiful Kenyan beaches. Visit us at https://Kenya-safaris.co or https://naturaltracksafaris.com
© 2020 – Simon Andas and Peter K. Philip