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Where to Visit in Kenya

Maasai Mara National Reserve.

The Maasai Mara (also spelt as Masai Mara) is one of the most spoken about and visited national reserves in East Africa, the proverbial jewel in Kenya’s crown. For the wildlife and for the wealth of culture you can witness through the Maasai, the Mara (as it is also locally known) is a must see for any visitor in Kenya.

Here you will see Kenya’s side of the unique annual pilgrimage of some 2 million animals as they search for food and water with the world’s largest concentration of predators, 1.7 million wildebeests, 0.5 million zebra and more than 200,000 gazelles will cross to the other side of the Kenyan border into Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and manoeuvre river crossings and fields as predators such as crocodiles, lions and hyenas build opportunities to feed on calves and vulnerable wildebeest or zebra. This natural phenomenon as with all things in nature is difficult to predict and hinges upon climatic conditions. Need not worry if you get your timing wrong as you will still be treated to an astonishing wildlife experience as a such a large population of prey attracts an equally large population of predator species such as hyena, lion, cheetah, leopard, jackals and a large concentration of vultures. A morning in the Mara will satisfy far beyond any other wildlife refuge in Africa.

There is a big range of activities travellers can take up including game drives, horse-riding safaris, balloon safaris, walking safaris or (out with the reserve boundaries yet within community-run conservancies) even go aboard a helicopter or private chartered scenic flights as a way to take in some of the action. Although the Great Migration is likely to take up all your time in the Mara in between thundering hooves, river crossings and following herds of animals around, you can share another unique experience with the great warriors, the Maasai learning about their culture, visiting their schools and community projects and get a first-hand experience on the Maasai way of life.

Mt. Kenya (UNESCO World Heritage Site & Biosphere Reserve).

Mount Kenya is a destination of note that not only has an abundance of breathtaking wildlife but also provides exhilarating activities that will leave you in awe with nature. Be it climbing, cave exploration, fly-fishing, trekking or game viewing, this is an ideal destination for tourists seeking more of a physically involved activity as opposed to the traditional voyeuristic vehicle based game viewing.

Just over 170km from Nairobi, situated on the equator and east of the Great Rift Valley comes the continent’s second highest mountain and certainly the most impressive feature in Mt. Kenya National Park that stretches to more than 2,800 km². Mt. Kenya itself stands at more than 5,100m with 7 routes (some of which are dedicated for ascending) provides visitors with a magnificent climbing experience for anyone. Two of Mt. Kenya’s peaks can only be taken up by experienced and skilful mountaineers, while the third route is a less demanding one for trekking. Caution must be taken however upon descending Mt. Kenya as otherwise trekkers may experience altitude sickness.

The wildlife is known for its vibrancy with different types of forests including a massive bamboo forest, colourful and bright flowers in abundance and unique flora found nowhere else in Kenya, all growing at more than 3,000m of elevation without eluding visitors that elevations any lower are barren. The animal life is incredible as you may find a large variety at the bottom of Mt. Kenya including leopards, hyrax, elephants and rhinos.

Meru National Park.

Patches of dense raffia palm forests, Meru National Park is mainly either wooded or open grassland with plain thorny bush land in the north of the park, all enveloped in a semi-arid 870 km² expanse of land. Meru will offer you sightings of hippos, elephants, bush pigs, reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s zebra, cheetah, leopard, bohor reedbuck and more than 400 species of birds.

Meru famously was the home of George and Joy Adamson and where “Born Free” was filmed along with the home of the foundation. Elsa the lioness and many other rehabilitated characters helped put Kenya on the world map in the late 60’s. Today you can still see lions that attribute their genealogy to Elsa the lioness. You may have the chance to visit Elsa’s grave and Adamson’s falls where George Adamson rests in this tranquil setting.

Lake Nakuru National Park.

Only 140 km from the capital Nairobi (and minutes from the city centre of Nakuru – Kenya’s third largest town) in the Great Rift Valley is the park with the biggest euphorbia forest in Africa. Covered in mostly wooded forests and grassland and home to more than 50 different species of animals, Lake Nakuru is also home to almost 450 bird species and Kenya’s second most visited park. Large populations of greater and lesser flamingos are sustained by the lake’s expedient bloom of the blue-green algae (Cyano bacteria) that gives the flamingos their unique colour. Despite the close proximity of the park to the city centre of Nakuru, Lake Nakuru is an ideal choice to spot leopards, waterbuck, buffalo, zebra, white rhino, the critically endangered black rhino it is also the only place you will find Rothschild Giraffe, all of which is a testament to the park’s successful cohesion and more of a reason to visit Nakuru’s park.

If you have the opportunity try to visit Makalia Waterfall and Roof of Africa Viewpoint which on a clear day affords a visitor a breathtaking view of the Rift Valley. This view is one of the few vantage points where you can see one end of the Rift Valley to another as this is the narrowest channel of the Rift Valley’s 10,000km long expanse from Syria to Mozambique.

For those who are interested in cycling plan your trip around the beginning of September where an annual cycle race called Cycle with Rhino is held to raise funds for rhino conservation.

Amboseli National Park.

If you are looking to being at close proximity to large herds of elephants, Amboseli National Park often regarded as the world’s best site to do just that. In the Rift Valley province of Kenya and close to the Tanzanian-Kenyan border, Amboseli is 392km² which makes it a great site for spotting the ‘Big 5’.
From Amboseli National Park, not only will you see Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak), but you will also be able to have a panoramic view atop Observation Hill of a swamp with the elephant herds, hippos, crocodiles and buffalo.

Other than the 600 species of bird life, other species can be seen gallivanting around the park, range from giraffe and zebra to nocturnal porcupines, dik-dik and wild dogs. Perhaps spend the night in the park and maximise your experience in a place where contemporary Maasai culture meets an indigenous way of life and have the choice of either camping in the wild or lodging in luxurious accommodation.

Again, it is best to visit outside the rainy seasons which is biannual (March/ April and November/ December).

Mombasa.

A haven for historical and cultural enthusiasts and home to East Africa’s largest port that used to be a transit station for slaves, gold, ivory and other goods before they were shipped off the Middle East and the Far East. Mombasa’s origins are linked to English and Portuguese settlers who were the first to settle in Mombasa but stronger linkages are traced to Arabs. Today’s historical remnants include the renowned Fort Jesus, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese where you can walk through the structures that were formerly prison cells for slaves.

Mombasa is also known for its wonderful beaches and excursions. The Mombasa Marine Reserve is an idyllic snorkelling and diving spot and will most certainly be a thrilling experience where you will get to explore different varieties of coral species, crabs and star fish. Other water sports Mombasa has to offer include kite surfing. If you are more inclined for a different type of experience out at sea, you may go on a deep sea fishing trip. Another famous part of Mombasa that is a surety for excitement is Mida Creek that offers splendid canoe trips, ventures through mangrove forests or you can spend the day bird-watching.

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