The Kenyans have a saying: ‘Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children.’
Thankfully this little proverb is one that many Kenyans have lived by, conserving the sublime drama of this East African paradise for us all. There are mountains to conquer and coral reefs to explore, urban life to savour and tribal communities to meet. Savannah, forest, ocean and lake are teeming with creatures great and small, from the rosy flamingo plucking fish from the lake, to the gnarly old elephant lumbering through the grasslands. Kenya doesn’t tiptoe up and whisper about its delights, they boom out at you from every angle.
Here, we’ve rounded up our top 9 experiences in this diverse and vibrant country.
1) Maasai Mara
This is quintessential Africa. Warm breezes rustle in the dry grass where clusters of exotic beasts hunt, graze, play and snooze. Thousand-strong herds tramp over vast distances in search of food or water, and onlookers gape at the sheer wonder of nature’s generosity. Taking its name from the graceful, red-robed Maasai tribes who live harmoniously alongside the animals, this is world-class wildlife.
The UNESCO listed island town of Lamu, north east of Mombasa, wears its centuries of intercultural mingling on its sleeve. The resulting town is brimming with charming features and atmospheric corners to amble through, all the more peaceful and evocative for the total lack of motorised vehicles. Take a wooden dhow sailing trip to visit wilder stretches of the island’s shores.
3) Coral coast
Much of Kenya’s coast is screened from the open ocean by an immense coral reef. Paradise awaits for divers and snorkelers who can access the reef from most beaches - the marine parks around Malindi and Watamu shelter the most impressive stretches of reef.
4) Rural life
Some rural communities in Kenya allow visitors as part of a community tourism initiative. It is a mind-broadening experience to witness firsthand how these mighty warriors uphold their ancient traditions yet live in the modern world. On a community visit you can expect to learn about traditional methods of farming, hunting and herding, or participate in a handicraft demonstration.
Kenya is a classic safari destination and as such it is well suited to everyone, whether you want a half day taster or a week in the deepest wilderness. Numerous extensive national parks are home to millions of creatures, from big cats to butterflies. The Big Five are here, playing out the drama of their daily lives against the magnificent backdrop of the Kenyan scenery.
6) Mount Kenya
At 5199 metres, this extinct volcano is the highest point in the country and the second highest on the African continent. It is a complex and technical climb and the twin summits are only accessible to those with full mountaineering gear.
7) Lake Nakuru
Lying in the monumental Rift Valley, this lake is the focal point of the National Park of the same name. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, the lake often attracts enormous flocks of flamingos, adding a colourful garnish to an already delightful scene.
8) Urban spirit
Nairobi is the busy hub of Kenya and just one hundred years old. Though congestion and packed marketplaces abound, it’s one of the only cities to have an impressive national park within its borders. For modern tourist facilities look no further, but for tropical charm head for coastal Mombasa, a warmer city with tangible history, Swahili culture and a strong seafaring tradition.
Sugary sand, water streaked with more shades of blue and green than you can count, swaying palms, dreamy islands … The Kenyan coast is heavenly. The marine life is abundant on the reefs but for those happier above the surface there’s no shortage of water sports, beach bars and sun loungers to help you while away the days.