|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Cradle of Mankind
The Republic of Kenya is a country in East Africa bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west and Sudan to the northwest with the Indian Ocean running along the southeast border.
From the coast on the Indian Ocean the Low plains rise to central highlands which are bisected by the Great Rift Valley, a fertile plateau in the west. The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa and the site of the highest point in Kenya, Mount Kenya which reaches 5,199 metres and is also the site of glaciers.
Kenya enjoys a tropical climate, it is hot and humid on the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country. The long rain season occurs from April to June and the short rain season from October to December with the hottest period being from February to May and the coldest July to August.
Kenya is a diverse country with many different cultures represented. The Swahili on the coast, Gabbra, a pastoral group that live in the north of Kenya, the Turkana live around Lake Turkan and the desert country in the north of Kenya, the Kisii are a Bantu speaking tribe and the Bajun speak Swahili.
The Masai still live a nomadic life and have large cattle herds. They live in the arid areas along the Tanzanian border and are known for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellery. Villages close to the National Park accept visitors interested to learn about their lifestyle.
The Kikuyu are the largest tribal group and live in the central areas north of Nairobi and around Mt Kenya. They were the group that started the Mau Mau resistance movement to end British colonial rule. The Luyha, the second largest tribal group live in Western Kenya and are traditionally famous for metal working and agriculture and the third largest group are the Luo who live around Lake Victoria and originally came from Chad and the Sudan.
Different communities have their own food and there is no singular dish that represents all of Kenya. Staples are maize and other cereals depending on the region including millet and sorghum eaten with various meats and vegetables.
The foods that are universally eaten in Kenya are ugali, sukuma wiki, and nyama choma (meat roasted over an open fire). Sukuma wiki, a Kiswahili phrase literally meaning "to push the week," is a simple dish made with greens similar to kale or collards, but can also be made with cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, or pumpkin leaves. Its Kiswahili name comes from the fact that it is typically eaten to "get through the week" or "stretch the week."
Kenya is a country of wildlife, landscapes, lakes, tropical coastline with reefs and magnificent beaches, culture, history and friendly welcoming people. The geography ranges from snow-capped peaks, a Rift Valley with extinct volcanoes and hot springs, wide, open plains and forest. Out of Africa and Born Free were shot on location in Kenya.
There is a considerable land area of wildlife habitat, including the Masai Mara where Blue Wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large scale annual migration between June and September and is a popular event for filmmakers to capture. Up to 250,000 blue wildebeest perish each year in the long and arduous movement to find forage in the dry season.
The "Big Five" animals of Africa can also be found in Kenya: the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros and elephant. A significant population of other wild animals, reptiles and birds can be found in the national parks and game reserves in the country.
Nairobi, the capital, is a lively and busy city and at an altitude of 1800 metres provides a pleasant climate. Nairobi is a Masai word which means "cool water" so named after the clear Nairobi river.
Nairobi started life in 1899 as a supply depot for the railway being constructed from Mombasa to Kampala and its original name was just "Mile 327". In 1905 Nairobi became the capital of British East Africa Protectorate and the capital of Kenya at independence in 1963.
The National Park is the only city national park in the world where you can view game. It is not a fenced park and the animals are living in the wild environment and home to a limited number of game. Karen Blixen, the authoress of "Out of Africa" moved to Kenya in 1918 and her house has been restored to the original and is located about 20 minutes drive out of the capital.
Mombasa is the second city of Kenya and a tropical port with a history that dates back to the Romans. Mombasa itself is an island connected by ferries and bridges to the mainland and the heart of Mombasa is the old town with its Arab influence and is a mix of cultures.
Fort Jesus is a famous and historical sight that protected Mombasa Harbour and scenes of long running battles between the Portuguese and Shirazi Arabs. It was built in 1593 and has changed its use many times and was used as a prison until 1958 after which it was made a national monument and is now open to the public.
The coast is an area of extensive sandy beaches with coral reefs and calm waters. Diani beach is the most developed beach on the south coast with palm fringed white sand beach and clear waters. The coral reef is a 10 minute boat ride from the shore or can be reached by swimming out from the beach. South of Diani is Kisite Marine National Park with coral reefs and a good chance to see dolphins and whales between August and September.
At the far northern end of the coast the Tana River forms a delta and is an expansive wilderness area with an abundance of wildlife and birds and is about a three hour drive from Malindi.
Just south of Watamu are the Gedi ruins, a collection of palaces, houses and mosques that was a busy town in the 13th century. The city was abandoned in the 1800's and the site was only rediscovered in the 1920's as a forest had hidden the city.
Malindi has been a major trading centre for many years dating back to the 10th century and is now a major tourist resort with plenty of attractions. To the north west is the Marafa depression called Hell's Kitchen named because of the sandstone gorges and sheer gullies. Lanna is a small island some 200 km north of Malindi with a strong Muslim and Arabic tradition. There are no cars on Lamu and the buildings are built in a distinct Lamu style two or three stories high.
One of main attractions to Kenya is to visit the National parks and Reserves. Some are very remote and not easily reached, others are very popular and busy and some world famous such as the Masai Mara which is an extension of the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania.
The Aberdares National Park is northwest of Nyeri and about 100 km from Nairobi and can be visited all year but during the rainy season the roads are difficult. Both the Ark and Treetops are in the Aberdares, Treetops gaining fame as the location where Queen Elizabeth became Queen during her stay in 1952.
The Amboseli National Park is at the foot of Kilimanjaro, 240 kms south-east of Nairobi, bordering Tanzania with Kilimanjaro forming a majestic backdrop. The best game drives are around the swamps and there is a good lookout on Observation Hill.
Around a four hour drive from Nairobi there are scheduled flights from both Nairobi and Mombasa. The Dodori National Reserve is an area of woodland close to Lamu on the coast with a chance to see elephants, lion and leopard.
Laikipia lies in the northern part of Kenya and is a wild sparsely populated area with a number of large private ranches. The ranches manage the wildlife and have created their own private reserves under the umbrella of the Laikipia Wildlife forum.
Laikipia has become a major wildlife conservation programme and breeding sanctuary for rhinoceros and hosts the highest diversity of large mammals in Kenya and the Big Five will be found.
The world famous game park, the Masai Mara National Reserve is part of the Serengeti Mara ecosystem in south western Kenya. On the expansive plains a full range of animals will be seen and makes for some of the easiest game visiting in Kenya. Crocodiles and hippos live in the Mara river.
The most spectacular attraction is the migration of nearly 2 million wildebeest and zebra from July to early October, the busiest time in the park and the best.
The Mara is host to many lions and easily spotted in the grasslands. A visit to the Mara is likely to result in seeing the "Big Five", the elephant, rhino,lion,buffalo and leopard. Surrounding the park are Masai villages many of which can be visited on tour programmes. The Masai are likely to be seen close to the park boundary with large herds of cattle.
Shimba Hills National Reserve is just 40 kms south of Mombasa and inland from Diani beach. It consists of rolling hills and grassland and was established to protect the Sable antelope. It is very easy to spot elephant, giraffe and buffalo and possibly leopard.
The Taita Hills are part of the Tsavo area and accessed from Taveta, and the Chyulu Hills are young volcanic mountains formed just over 500 years ago and home to elephant, cheetah, plains game and Masai villages.
Hells Gate National Park lies to the south of Lake Naivasha about 90 km from Nairobi and is small park with numerous animals. The main feature of the park is the high red- rock cliffs that from a wide gorge. In the hills overlooking the gorge are hot springs and steaming geysers which gave the reason for the name "Hell's Gate".
Meru National Park is 85 km east of Meru and is a low lying semi arid park with a good road system which makes for easy game drives. The Tana river is home to hippo crocodile and a variety of animals and this is one of the best parks to see cheetah and lion. Elsa of "Born Free" was returned to the wild in Meru and Shaba National about a six hour drive from Nairobi is where Joy Adamson who wrote Born Free lived.
Nearly 1000 km from Nairobi on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana is the remote Sibiloi National Park which is good for crocodile viewing in the lake and the site of the remains of Homo Erectus, estimated to be 3,000,000 years old, making this area the "Cradle of Mankind".
There are numerous other National Parks and Game Reserves all with their own special character and game to view, some so remote you will possibly never see another human being on your travels.
Do not forget to visit Mount Kenya the sacred mountain of the Gikuyu people and the second highest mountain in Africa and Mount Elgon is the second highest mountain in Kenya and is an extinct volcano. In among the forest and caves you will find elephant, buffalo and other animals. Kitum cave is famous as the place where elephant herds enter deep into the mountain each night where they excavate salt.
Kenya - How do you describe a living dream, a fantasy that comes true. The jaw-dropping splendour, the pride and laughter of the people, the land, the very air is alive and she sings a song. It's a song of freedom. It is like coming home.