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The Essential Travel Guide to Kenya

Kenya, known as the cradle of humanity, is a startlingly beautiful land. From the emerald water of Indian Ocean to the enchanting flora on the slopes of Mount Kenya and deserts in the North, Kenya is a land of diverse landscapes. It extends across the Equator with Ethiopia and Sudan in the north, Somalia in the east, Tanzania in the southwest and Uganda in the west. This diverse land is home to 40,046,566 inhabitants.

Kenya’s weather is divided effectively into four distinct zones. Western Kenya is a hot and rainy plateau with temperatures ranging between 14 degrees C to 36 degrees C. The Central highlands and the Rift Valley has temperate climate with minimum 10 degree C and maximum 28 degree C. The semi-arid bush lands of eastern and northern Kenya receive sparse rainfall and the temperatures vary from 40 degree C during the day to less than 20 degree C during the night. The humid coastal regions receive average rain and the temperature ranges from 22 degree C to 30 degree C. The main tourist season is in the dry and hot months of January and February. However, lot of tourists visit Kenya from June to October as the Wildebeest migration takes place within these months.

Kenya’s central government is structured through Constitution that holds all the administrative and policy making powers. The central government consists of Executive, Parliament and Judiciary branches. The elections held in 2002, marked a significant change in the government of Kenya. Since the government has restructured itself, Kenya is experiencing political, social and economical success.

The economy of Kenya is agricultural. It is one of the few African countries with large dairy industry. Its manufacturing sector produces paper, cement, tobacco, drinks, rubber, textiles and metal products. The largest service sector is Tourism and it’s also the principle source of foreign exchange. Kenya’s currency unit is Shilling (KSH) and one USD is equivalent to 80 shillings.

Kenya is a diverse country linguistically as well. English and Swahili are the two official languages of Kenya. The ability to speak basic Swahili, when visiting Kenya will definitely win you many smiles. Moreover, the knowledge of Swahili is essential if you wish to travel to the remote parts of the country. Apart from the official languages, each of the ethnic group has their own dialect.

Kenya’s diversity also reflects in its wide range of gourmet foods. The influences of English, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines have made Kenya a great culinary nation. Kenya’s national dishes are low-priced and served in generous portions. Nyama Choma- barbecued goat’s meat is one of the popular Kenyan specialty. Other common staple is Ugli, a pasty substance made from corn. Other popular Kenyan dishes are Kenyeji, Chappati (fried bread), Kebabs, Samosa and Pilau.

Kenya is culturally diverse country with 42 ethnic groups. Each group has its own unique dialect, food, literature, ethnic values, music, art and dance. People of Kenya are very warm and hospitable regardless of the ethnic group. Greetings are an important part of their social interaction. Majority of Kenyans follow Christianity and Islam.

Visiting this multicultural country includes the best safaris, towns, destinations, beaches and mountains. If you want to catch the big five (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Cape buffalo and Leopard) in one go, then Masai Mara in western Kenya is the place to visit. The greatest wild life show on earth is the Wildebeest migration. Visit Kenya to witness this extraordinary phenomenon. There are many indigenous Kenyan tribes like the Masai and Samburu warriors, that live in the same way as their ancestors lived thousands years ago. A trip to their village can take you back in time. The Swahili coastal region within Kenya is a vibrant mix of African, Indian and Arabic influences. The island of Lamu and the harbor city of Mombasa are the best places to visit.

The Great Rift Valley is a natural wonder where the high steep walls plunge into the flat bottomed valley floor. This place attracts a lot of visitors every year. Trekking Mount Kenya can be a trilling experience for fit and trained climbers. The mountain’s climb is very steep, so untrained or first timers should be extra careful. If you want to soar high, Balloon Safari is also an option. This balloon trip is a special experience that gives you a 360 degree view of the wild world below. From flying in the skies to sailing in the sea, Kenya offers every adventure. Sailing along the coast in a traditional dhow vessel is a unique experience. Additionally, the Watamu National Park offers highly rated diving and snorkeling facilities.

For most visitors, the main reason for coming to Kenya is visiting the National Parks and going on a safari. To spot full range of savannah animals, you can arrange a trip to Nairobi National Park. Lake Nakuru National Park is also in close proximity, where you can find huge flocks of flamingos. The famous Amboseli National Park lies on the Tanzanian border. With breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, Amboseli is home to 50 species of mammals and over 400 species of birds. A private conservancy, Lava Wildlife is an excellently maintained park, mainly set to protect Sitatunga, black Rhino, and endangered Grevy’s Zebra.

In Kenya there are many hotels with top international standards. Boutiques hotels are coming increasingly popular in Kenya. These hotels accept credit cards and foreign currency. Budget hotels and lodging are also available around Kenya. Travelers should ensure that the doors have locks and the sheets are clean in such places. Several youth hostels and self catering homes ranging from luxury villas to basic beach cottages can also be hired. Some of the best luxury hotels in Kenya are The Fairmont Norfolk, Nairobi, Voyager Beach Resort, Mombasa and the Kiwi Collection Hotels.

Kenya offers an assortment of dishes and cuisines. Cheap hotels aka hotelis, fast food restaurants and fine dining places are all over Kenya. The Steers and Nando’s are the best restaurant chains that offer elaborate Chinese, Brazilian, Korean, Japanese, German and French cuisines. There are many restaurants that serve delicious vegetarian meals especially from Pakistani and Indian cuisines.

Festivals are grandly celebrated over Kenya. Basking in the festive celebrations of Kenya is a memorable experience for tourists visiting during festival time. The Kenya Tourism Week that begins on 21st September and ends on 27th September every year, takes travelers to less explored places around Kenya. Ferodo Councours d’Elegan, International Camel Derby, The Air Show, and the Rhino Charge are some of the other popular events.

Kenya’s National Parks and reserves are the main tourist attractions. There are approximately 54 National Parks and reserves around Kenya. Attractive tour packages are available if someone intends to visit these parks. Kenya is the home of well organized African safaris. Kenyan safari packages offer plenty of options and expert guidance to the tourists. Lastly, upon embarking Kenya city tours, the traveler can pay visit to number of cities across the country.

Sporty recreational facilities like the ski resorts and Marinas, a sheltered harbor where yachts and boats are kept, are also available in Kenya. A ski resort is a ski area built on a large hill or mountain that contains ski trails and supporting services. Other sporting activities ranging from hiking to golfing are also popular in the coastal areas.

Traveling to Kenya can cost you as little as you want and as much as you like, depending on your vacation budget. Nowadays, carrying plastic money is safe in Kenya as virtually every bank has ATMs. Before departing for Kenya, get your first-aid kit together and consult your doctor for possible vaccinations. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus, malaria, measles, polio and yellow fever are recommended vaccinations for Kenya. 

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