Kenya doesn’t do small. It is Africa in widescreen.
From the spectacular crags of Mount Kenya to the endless grasslands that play host to the Great Wildebeest Migration (starring two million herd animals) this is a country where drama comes as standard. Exploring the Maasai Mara in search of the Big 5 is an iconic safari experience complete with acacia-studded horizons, red robed tribesmen and that vast African sky. But that’s not all Kenya has to offer. There are highlands to hike and coral reefs to dive, urban life to enjoy and tribal culture to appreciate. Kenya is a destination that fast becomes an addiction.
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Top three things to do in Kenya
There are countless wonderful experiences to be had in this majestic country. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top things to do in Kenya.
Go on a world-class safari
Savannah, forest, ocean and lake are bursting with all creatures great and small, from the waterfowl fishing in the Rift Valley lakes, to the graceful giraffe stalking across the plains. Kenya’s national parks are renowned as some of the world’s most impressive, filled with remarkable wildlife. The Masai Mara is the home of quintessential African scenery and big game, and for many it is the definitive wildlife destination, but Laikipia, Tsavo West and Lake Nakuru are equally deserving of your time.
Wander through history in Lamu Old Town
Admire the faded grandeur of the best preserved Swahili settlement in Africa where town transport still relies on donkey power. Centuries of trade with Arabia - and later, Europe - have left their mark, and Lamu old town retains an exotic air of seafaring adventure and commerce. Feel the cultural fusion all around you as you explore the labyrinthine streets where courtyard houses are constructed from coral stone and feature intricately carved wooden doors.
Immerse yourself in tribal culture
Alongside the classic safari and beach experiences, why not delve into Kenya’s multifaceted cultural heritage, too? The rich patchwork of tribal customs is visible all over Kenya, and each separate tribe has its own distinct traditions, music, crafts, costume and dance. Among the most recognisable of Kenya’s tribes are the Maasai, Samburu and Turkana people, all of whom still closely observe ancient traditions. Gain an understanding of life in rural Kenya with a visit to a local festival, a tour of a tea plantation or a flower farm.
Lesser-known things to do in Kenya
While there are many well-known things to do in Kenya, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Kenyan adventure.
Safari with a twist
Wildlife viewing doesn’t always have to revolve around game drives. The options for alternative safari experiences in Kenya are numerous, from multi-day walking safaris supported by camels to motorbike safaris, bicycle safaris and even hot air balloon safaris, there are so many ways to mix it up. If you have enjoyed a jeep safari before or perhaps you will be travelling with young children, these exciting new twists on a traditional Kenyan safari could be perfect for you.
Kenya’s beaches should not just be an afterthought tacked onto the end of your wildlife adventure, they are deserving of headliner status all by themselves. Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline is simply stunning, with all the right ingredients for a perfect honeymoon lazing the days away or an action packed waterside break. White sand to lounge on, crystalline seas to gaze at, coral reefs to investigate and some gorgeous accommodation all adds up to a great beach holiday in Kenya.
Rugged and beautiful, the Laikipia Plateau is the perfect destination for those who are looking to get away from it all. Encouraging success stories are frequently reported which show that the conservation efforts undertaken here are working, and wildlife is thriving. It is the best area in Kenya for small scale and adventurous safari holidays where the balance between land management, wildlife conservation and the interests of local people is carefully nurtured.
When is the best time to visit Kenya?
The best time to visit Kenya encompasses good weather and brilliant wildlife viewing, which is usually during the dry season from late June to October. Within these months the famous Wildebeest Migration reaches the Maasai Mara - arriving in July and returning to Tanzania in October. As well as being great for animals, the weather is fine and dry during these months with temperatures regularly hitting the late twenties.
Viewing wildlife is possible in Kenya all year round, but differs depending on which parks you visit - January and February are the months in which every park has something to offer. Peak season is May to November when the weather is finest but parks are most crowded. Neutral season is December to February, where climates are milder but crowds lesser, and lots of animals and their newborns roam free. The worst weather is in March, April and May when the wet season fully hits and many parks and lodges close down.
Interesting facts about Kenya
Kenya is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
- Kenya is a global leader in mobile technology, social media and mobile payment systems. Urban Kenyans seldom carry cash or cards, just their phones.
- Mount Kenya, which stands at 5,197 metres high, is Africa’s second highest mountain. Until a million years ago it would have been as high as 7,000 metres, until a great eruption removed the top section and left the silhouette we see today.
- East Africa’s history is inextricably linked to the slave trade, and Kenya is no exception. From the 16th to the mid-19th century - when slavery was outlawed - many thousands of Kenyans were taken forcibly to other parts of the world.
- Legend has it that shipwrecked mariners from a 15th century fleet from China washed ashore on Lamu Island. Pottery from the era and some DNA tests confirming Chinese ancestry mean that these ancient tales may well be grounded in fact rather than fiction.
- Kenya is the third largest producer of roses in the world.
- Kenya holds the record for the most species of birds recorded in 24 hours: 342
What to read before you go to Kenya
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Kenya, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Unbowed: A Memoir' by Wangari Maathai
Maathai’s exemplary courage and dedication transformed Kenya’s government into the democracy we know today. This book is her life story, from a determined girlhood to her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.
'Out Of Africa' by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
A love letter to the Kenyan landscape; a moving and spirited memoir of a life in early 20th century Africa.
'A Grain Of Wheat' by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
A portrait of a Kenyan community in the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion, looking towards independence from Britain, and how they were affected by the 1952–1960 Emergency.
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