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Kenya, Jewel of East Africa

Kenya lies on the equator on the Eastern Coast of Africa. One of the reasons it is called a jewel of East Africa is because of its’ multitude of different climates, cultures, and landscapes. On the Western border it shares the world’s second largest lake, and this country has the second highest peak in all of Africa. Nairobi is the Capitol, and the economy in Kenya is the biggest in both central and East Africa.

There are so many things to see and do in Kenya that not all of them can be included here, but we will try to get to some of the more popular tourist attractions and destinations. With so much to see and do, it is no wonder why people come back here year after year.cheetah-cub

Let’s start with the unique geography of Kenya. Sitting on the Equator, the Coastline along the Indian Ocean is humid and warm, then changes to Savannah grasslands that are teaming with wildlife. As you move inland, the capitol of Nairobi is cooler, and continues until you get to Mount Kenya. On the other side, the tropical climate reemerges, moving towards Lake Victoria. You also have mountainous areas with dense forests here. In contrast, near the borders of Ethiopia and Somalia to the North East arid enough to be desert landscapes.

Tourism contributes to around 63% of the country’s economy, and there are many visitors from around the world, but many from the United Kingdom and Germany. It has a number of large game preserves, Mount Kenya, Masai, and Sibiloi are just a few of the National Parks.

When you come to Kenya you may see a large variety of flora and fauna. You will be able to encounter the Big Five that many come to see, elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo, but there are also a number of large and small animals as well. Hippos can be found in Kora National Park, Meru and Nairobi National parks.

Eland, a large savannah antelope, can be found almost everywhere in Kenya. Smaller herbivore species include Suni, Duiker and Oribi.
When it comes to large predators in Kenya, while lions are big on the list, you can also see hyenas, cheetahs and leopards. Here you will also find one the the rarest and most endangered large predator, the Wild Dog, that roam all over this wonderful country. Other predators you may encounter are the serval cats, Genets, and even packs of jackals are not unheard of. Crocodiles are found in many parts of Kenya, and have been known to attack and kill people on rare occasions.safari

Some of the most commons sighting are of birds. The largest land fowl, the Ostrich, can be found in many of the game preserves and national parks in Kenya. Some of the other inland birds you may see are Grebes, similar to an American duck, herons and egrets, and Hamerkop. In the marshes, along the coast, and around Lake Victoria you are bound to see storks, flamingos, pelicans, and even one of the largest flying birds, the albatross.
We will talk briefly about the National Parks in Kenya, one of the biggest reasons for tourism in this country. Right outside the country’s capitol is the Nairobi National Park, the first National Park in Kenya, established in the late 1940’s. Only seven kilometers South of Downtown Nairobi, only a fence separates the park from the city. You can actually see some of the skyscrapers from parts of the park. Although close to the city, the Nairobi National park boasts one of the best Sanctuaries for rhinos on the continent.

Mount Kenya National Park surrounds Mount Kenya. With its three peaks, Batian, at 17,057 feet, Nelion, a 17,021 foot peak, as well as Lenana Point at 16,355, it is the tallest mountain in the country and second highest in Africa, right under Mount Kilimanjaro. It also has 11 small glaciers, and is the source for much of the water in Kenya. The National Park itself is an area about 270 square miles from the center of the Mountain, and was listed ans an UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late 1990’s.

Perhaps one of the most famous National Parks in Kenya is the Meru National Park. It is where Joy and George Adamson raised a lioness named Elsa. Born Free, both a movie as well as a best selling book, took place here. The Kenya Wildlife Service, with the help of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW, spent five years recently restoring the national park to its former glory. Now it is one of the most popular tourist stops in the area.

In Southwestern Kenya lies the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This national reserve borders Tanzania, and is a Northern extension of their Serengeti National Park. It is also part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, which includes large surrounding ranches such as Maji Moto, Koiyaki, and Lemek, just to name a few. Named after the native Maasai People, the Mara means spotted, which describes the landscape of the park and surrounding area. This Reserve is famous for a large population of large cats, as well as the annual ‘great migration,’ where wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s Gazelle that move here from the Great Serengeti during July through October.

These are just a few of the many different National Parks in Kenya. In addition you have kilometers of coastline, as well as many different sporting activities. If shopping, dining and night life are more your style, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa are a good choice, and a great place to start your Kenya adventure. In the next parts of this article we will discuss some of these adventures, from safaris to deep sea diving and the many in between.maasai-tribe-83563_1280

One of the great things about Kenya is that is has more than forty different National Parks and Reserves in the country. Many visitors come here for the many different safaris that are available. You can fly into one of the major cities, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kericho and Malindi, and get into a safari right away. There are many different safaris and tours to choose from. There are one day tours right out of Nairobi at the Nairobi National Park. Here you will be riding in comfort from on of the many open top mini buses, where you will be shown a number of opportunities from specially trained local guides. You can also choose from a number of guided tours from land rovers and other four wheel drive vehicles. With the extensive roads in these parks, you can also safari on your own with a rented vehicle.

Safaris can range from one day to up to a week or more. There are a number of camping safaris available, ones that offer primitive accommodations for an example. With the many different game lodges in these parks and reserves, you can opt for four star accommodations which include gourmet meals, hot showers, guided tours, and many other amenities. These lodges are can also be a great rest stop for independent tours, providing petrol, food and other supplies.

When you choose to go to Kenya and experience safari, there are some things to consider. One of them is that while these safari companies will take just about anyone, small children, and those that are not in decent physical health should take precaution. Kenya is not a Malaria free zone, so getting immunized at least six months before going is recommended. While no one expects problems to arise, getting sick or injured is possible, so having insurance is a good idea.

You should also be prepared. Some basic things you should bring with you are a few dry and warm changes of clothes. Any medications you are taking should be brought with you. Some essential equipment to bring along are flashlights for night viewing, a good pocket knife, and mosquito repellent, just to name a few. Motion sickness medication should also be considered, especially for 4×4 safaris that take you to remote locations. In addition, if you want to get a real bird’s eye view, there are a number of balloon and airplane tours to choose from, some of the best ones are at the Masai Mara National Reserve.

One of the best travel sites if you want to try a safari is Kenya.com. This site offers a number of different itineraries in Kenya as well as Tanzania. These can range from five days to almost two entire weeks of adventure. One of the greatest safaris is the Great Migration Safari. This tracks the route of many of the migrating animals in Kenya and Tanzania. This Migration passes through Masai Mara in Kenya, as well as three Parks in Tanzania.

If you want to see a general overview of the magic of Kenya, then try the Kenya Kifaru 8 day safari. As mentioned earlier, many great safaris start in Nairobi, and this is no execption. The first stop is the Hilton Nairobi, where you can relax and unwind from your long flight. You guide will meet you when you land, drive you to the hotel, and give you a general overview of the next 8 days. You will then embark on a two day adventure in Amboseli National Park.

You and your guests will stay at the Ambroseli Serena Lodge, deep within the park. All basic meals as well as accommodations are included. After lunch on the first day in the park, you will taken out where the most notable of the Park’s creatures are, the elephants. You will have numerous opportunities to also see giraffes and other big game herbavours. In addition, you will be able to see Lions and Cheetahs as well. This drive is simply a teaser, the third day of the safari is where you will be spending most of the day out and about, watching hungry cheetahs as they hunt for prey, watching the elephants drinking at the forest watering hole. You will be hidden high in the tree tops so as not to disturb these majestic creatures, all with the might Mount Kilimanjaro in the back drop.watering-hole-605299_1280

One the fourth day you will have a truly unique opportunity while visiting the Aberdares National Park. Staying in the unique Treetops Lodge, you will able to safely get up close and personal with many animals, since the lodge itself overlooks one of the biggest water holes in the park. You will find animals visiting here day and night, with a convenient bell that alerts lodgers that a visitor, leopards, or hyenas, are visiting below.
Day five brings you to the Lake Nakuru National park, where you stay at the Flamingo Hill Tent Camp. The next three days you will spend almost entirely in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, where you will not only see herds of animals in their long migration, but also the biggest predators, lions, hyenas and cheetahs.

Accommodations feature en suite bathrooms, as well as verandahs for each room. There will be many different game drives, and while waiting in between, you can have a drink at the bar, lounge in and around the pool, or even take a nap. On the last day, an early morning safari will be the end of your unforgettable experience, then they drive back to Nairobi. You can leave from here, or enjoy a farewell dinner and do some last minute shopping.
This is just one of the many different safari adventures that Kenya has to offer. You can find these online, and it is a good idea to book well in advance, especially if you plan on visiting during the peak travel season. A good time of year to get the best rates and the least amount of tourists is April and May.

Safaris are just the beginning of the adventures that await you in Kenya. If you are an outdoor sports enthusiast, there are a number of different things you can do. One of them is white water rafting. If you are visiting Nairobi, for an example, and have a couple of days, Rafting on the Tana River may be right up your alley. The Tan River has it all, from rapids up to level five, cool and calm waters with many chances to view the many birds that live and nest here. You can jump off of a 30 foot waterfall, or even swim ‘The Devils Toilet Bow,’ depending on water level. If real adventure is what you are after, try the two day run, with the second day rafting down the Mathioya, A river that drops more that 450 meter over just 20 kilometers. While this technical river is relatively low, it contains four to five level rapids.

If mountain climbing is what turns you on, there is of course climbing Mount Kenya, with three different routes to choose from, and another four up to Point Lenana. It may be a good time to do some mountain climbing here, because the eleven glaciers that are here are rapidly retreating, and with hardly any new ice packs, it is likely that most of them will be gone within the next thirty years. There are a number of climbing packages to choose from, these can be from four to six days in length. There is the four day Naro Moru Route climb, and for those that want to stay longer, the Naro Moru and the Peak Circuit Route is a full six day adventure.

If diving and other sea sports are on your list, then Kenya can accommodate you as well. There are a number of diving opportunities along the coast of Kenya, including several marine national parks. The whole 900 kilometer coastline of the Indian Ocean has a fringing coral reef that has been protected from damage and over fishing by strict Marine Park regulations and laws. What does this mean to the diver? It means that the soft and hard corals that lie around twenty meters have a diverse and abundant population of marine plants and animals. Diving here is also mostly pleasant and comfortable, except from May through July, when no diving is permitted. During these months, strong winds and high seas make diving dangerous.

You should also be aware that from November through March the Galana River near Malindi can turn the sea murky with little visibility. For the most part however, the water temperatures can be from 25-29 degrees Celsius, and visibility can range up to forty meters. Some of the many diving adventures can include drift diving, reef diving, deep sea dives, and some of the most spectacular night diving experiences you will ever have. In addition, there are some wonderful wreck diving options, including the Globe Star, a grain transport that ran aground on a sand bank near Mombasa almost fifty years ago.

For a truly unique experience, you should go to the Daphne Sheldrick Orphanage for Elephants. This sanctuary sits right on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. This elephant orphanage was the first to develop a milk formula that can be fed to baby elephants. It is a combinations of coconut, vegetable oils, cereals, and even milk powder normally fed to human babies born premature. This, combined with the special care given to these babies, has allowed these orphaned animals to prosper. It takes just 24 hours for an elephant calf under two years to die from not having milk. This is a truly unique experience, and one for the whole family.

Not everyone is so adventurous that they have to jump out of a plane to get a thrill, or scale a mountain, or brave a rapid. That’s perfectly fine, because there is so much more to see and do here in Kenya. It exploring museums and monuments are more to your liking, then here are a few gems you need to discover. One of them is the Gedi Ruins.

Lying deep within the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, the ruined city of Gedi is truly one of Kenya’s great mysteries. Built around the 13th century, It was once a large Swahili town, with an estimated population of more that twenty five hundred people. Although it spanned more that 45 acres, this settlement has never been mentioned in and written history. Despite having Malindi, a Portuguese settlement, being close by, these people have never mentioned anything about Gedi. Although the ruined town has an appearance of being some kind of trading outpost, it is far from the Indian Ocean, and buried deep in the forest, so who were they trading with? Today you can spend a day exploring the ruins of ancient mosques, tombs and the basics of stone walls and pillars than have survived.

Karen Blixen wrote a book called ‘Out Of Africa,’ which eventually was made into a movie. In Nairobi, the Karen Blixen House is now a museum. The coffee estate was also known as Bogani before 1931. Anyone who has seen the movie or read the book would instantly recognize the house. With views fo the Ngong Hills, this home has a tropical garden and well manicured lawns. The interior not only has many of the original furnishings, but also props from the popular 1985 film.