The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Garissa County, Lamu County (not including Lamu or Manda islands), those areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself, and within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river. Safari destinations and the southern coast are unaffected. Click here for more information.
Vast savannas peppered with immense herds of wildlife. Snow-capped equatorial mountains. Traditional peoples who bring soul and color to the earth. Welcome to Kenya.
When you think of Africa, you’re probably thinking of Kenya. It’s the lone acacia silhouetted on the savanna against a horizon stretching into eternity. It’s the snow-capped mountain almost on the equator and within sight of harsh deserts. It’s the lush, palm-fringed coastline of the Indian Ocean, it’s the Great Rift Valley that once threatened to tear the continent asunder, and it’s the dense forests reminiscent of the continent’s heart. In short, Kenya is a country of epic landforms that stir our deepest longings for this very special continent.
Filling the country's landscape, adding depth and resonance to Kenya’s age-old story, are some of Africa’s best-known peoples. The Maasai, the Samburu, the Turkana, the Swahili, the Kikuyu: these are the peoples whose histories and daily struggles tell the story of a country and of a continent – the struggle to maintain traditions as the modern world crowds in, the daily fight for survival in some of the harshest environments on earth, the ancient tension between those who farm and those who roam. Drawing near to these cultures could just be a highlight of your visit.
Kenya is the land of the Masai Mara, of wildebeest and zebras migrating in their millions with the great predators of Africa following in their wake, of endangered species like black rhinos managing to maintain their precarious foothold. But Kenya is also home to the red elephants of Tsavo, to Amboseli elephant families in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro and to the massed millions of pink flamingos stepping daintily through lake shallows. Africa is the last great wilderness where these creatures survive. And Kenya is the perfect place to answer Africa’s call of the wild.
The abundance of Kenya's wildlife owes everything to one of Africa's most innovative and successful conservation communities. Through some pretty tough love – Kenya pioneered using armed rangers to protect rhinos and elephants – Kenya stopped the emptying of its wilderness and brought its wildlife back from the brink after the poaching holocaust of the 1970s and 1980s. More than that, in places like Laikipia and the Masai Mara, private and community conservancies fuse tourism with community development and wildlife conservation to impressive effect. In other words, if you want your visit to make a difference, you've come to the right place.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Kenya.
The world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve needs little in the way of introduction. Its tawny, wildlife-stuffed savannahs are familiar to anyone who has watched nature documentaries. Reliable rains and plentiful vegetation underpin this extraordinary ecosystem and the millions of herbivores it supports. Wildebeest, zebras, impalas, elephants, Masai giraffes and several species of gazelle all call the Mara home. This vast concentration of game accounts for high predator numbers, including cheetahs, leopards and the highest lion densities in the world.
Amboseli belongs in the elite of Kenya’s national parks, and it’s easy to see why. Its signature attraction is the sight of hundreds of big-tusked elephants set against the backdrop of Africa’s best views of Mt Kilimanjaro (5895m). Africa’s highest peak broods over the southern boundary of the park, and while cloud cover can render the mountain’s massive bulk invisible for much of the day, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas when the weather clears, usually at dawn or dusk.
This 16th-century fort and Unesco World Heritage treasure is Mombasa’s most visited site. The metre-thick walls, frescoed interiors, traces of European graffiti, Arabic inscriptions and Swahili embellishment aren’t just evocative, they’re a palimpsest of Mombasa's history and the coast writ in stone. You can climb on the battlements and explore its tree-shaded grounds.
Occupying a plot within Nairobi National Park, this nonprofit trust was established in 1977, shortly after the death of David Sheldrick, who served as the antipoaching warden of Tsavo National Park. Together with his wife, Daphne, David pioneered techniques for raising orphaned black rhinos and elephants and reintroducing them into the wild, and the trust retains close links with Tsavo for these and other projects. The centre is one of Nairobi's most popular attractions, and deservedly so.
Welcome to Kenya’s most accessible yet incongruous safari experience. Set on the city’s southern outskirts, Nairobi National Park (at 117 sq km, one of Africa’s smallest) has abundant wildlife that can, in places, be viewed against a backdrop of city skyscrapers and planes coming in to land – it's one of the only national parks on earth bordering a capital city. Remarkably, the animals seem utterly unperturbed by it all.
Kenya’s wonderful National Museum, housed in an imposing building amid lush, leafy grounds just outside the centre, has a good range of cultural and natural-history exhibits. Aside from the exhibits, check out the life-size fibreglass model of pachyderm celebrity Ahmed, the massive elephant that became a symbol of Kenya at the height of the 1980s poaching crisis. He was placed under 24-hour guard by President Jomo Kenyatta; he’s in the inner courtyard next to the shop.
If you loved Out of Africa, you'll love this museum in the farmhouse where author Karen Blixen lived between 1914 and 1931. She left after a series of personal tragedies, but the lovely colonial house has been preserved as a museum. Set in expansive gardens, the museum is an interesting place to wander around, but the movie was actually shot at a nearby location, so don’t be surprised if things don’t look entirely as you expect!
This centre, which protects the highly endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, combines serious conservation with enjoyable activities. You can observe, hand-feed or even kiss one of the giraffes from a raised wooden structure, which is quite an experience. You may also spot warthogs snuffling about in the mud, and there’s an interesting self-guided forest walk through the adjacent Gogo River Bird Sanctuary.
Straddling the Ugandan border and peaking with Koitoboss (4187m), Kenya’s second-highest peak, and Uganda’s Wagagai (4321m), the slopes of Mt Elgon are a sight indeed – or at least they would be if they weren't buried under a blanket of mist and drizzle most of the time. While there are plenty of interesting wildlife and plants here, the real reason people visit Mt Elgon National Park is to stand atop the summit high above Kenya and Uganda.
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