Kenya has a reputation for being a remarkable breeding ground. Anthropologists recognize it as one of the birthplaces of humankind; in the West, it’s also known as the country where Barack Obama’s father and numerous marathon winners were born. But Kenya is also growing as a center of commerce in East Africa. For both business trips and leisure travel, Kenya has much to offer its visitors.
In addition to the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve, in southwestern Kenya, where safari aficionados can view lions, giraffes, and zebras from the comfort of a jeep, the country allows its guests the chance to explore amazing beaches and city life. We recommend taking a few weeks to explore Kenya: from the bustling streets of Nairobi to the coastal peacefulness of Mombasa and the intriguing and eye-opening landscapes of safari reserves, Kenya is one of Africa’s jewels.
The Top 10: What to Do in Kenya
1. Masai Mara Game Reserve:
Photographs and film cannot begin to be equivalent to seeing the amazing Big Five game—lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and black rhinoceros—right in front of you during a safari. “Big Five” is a traditional hunting term that refers to the five animals most difficult to hunt, given their aggressive nature (game hunting is largely illegal in Kenya). Check with your hotel about booking a multiday safari. Take it from us: it is worth the time and the money to invest in an experience that will supply you with memories (and pictures!) for a lifetime.
2. Wildebeest Migration at Masai Mara:
From July to September, one of the most magnificent of events takes place throughout the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The wildebeest migration comprises hundreds of thousands of wildebeests
, zebras, gazelles, and other animals in a stampede for grazing land. While one can observe the move from a safari vehicle, we highly recommend the renting of a hot air balloon
for viewing the wildebeest migration or even just to see the beauty of the Mara.
As Kenya’s capital and its most populated city, Nairobi is teeming with activities, foods, and naturally beautiful phenomena. Whether you are looking to go shopping in a mall or an outdoor market, eat traditional Kenyan cuisine or game meat, hike in a game reserve, or roam the busy streets of East Africa’s largest city, Nairobi is worth a few days of your time. For more information, check out our dedicated page on Nairobi
4. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Giraffe Center:
These two animal centers stand out as offering some of the best daytime activities in Nairobi. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust specializes in raising orphaned elephants and black rhinos and reintroducing them to the wild. Every morning, visitors can watch the elephants be fed and bathed. Few sights are more charming than that of these young creatures interacting with the center’s staff, and the daily program provides you with insight into the techniques and rationale for the center’s goals. (+254 (0) 202 301 396; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ever kissed a giraffe? It might serve you well. Giraffes have foot-long tongues that get plenty of sunlight during feeding times, and the animals have eaten acacia tree thorns for generations. Thus, giraffe saliva has antiseptic, sunproofing properties, so don’t be afraid of a smooch here or there! The center is home to the endangered Rothschild giraffe
, and in addition to getting close to the animals, visitors can spend some time learning about the center’s history and mission. We guarantee that the Giraffe Center will provide you with one of the best photo opportunities of your trip.
5. Nairobi National Park:
With giraffes in one direction and skyscrapers in the other, this park is the only protected area in the world in close proximity to a capital city (it’s seven kilometers from Nairobi). More than 400 species of birds having been observed—as well as leopards, lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, black rhinos, and more—the Nairobi National Park is worth a day’s visit. We recommend that you ask your hotel for the names of reputable touring companies that can take you through the park. You will need to take a valid passport to the park’s entrance in order to be granted entry. (+254-20-600800; email@example.com)
6. Fort Jesus and Old Town in Mombasa:
Mombasa’s (LINK TK) Fort Jesus stands at the crossroads of the city’s tangled history with Europe and the Middle East. The Portuguese built this stronghold in 1593 and spent the next hundred years fighting with the Arabs to maintain control. When the British ruled Mombasa, the fort was turned into a prison, and in 1958 the area was made a national park. The architecture is worth gazing at, the museum has centuries-old artifacts, and the fort is a great jumping-off point for a trip into Old Town.
The beauty of the ancient buildings of Old Town makes this neighborhood a must-see during your visit to Mombasa. Ornate carved doors and balconies, built in the 1600s, reflect a Portuguese influence, while the street design and architecture display touches of the Middle East.
This one-vehicle island is a world away from mainland Kenya, with its 1700s-era architecture and predominantly Muslim population. If you’re on the water, take a ride in a dhow, a traditional Arab sailing vessel; if you’re on land, walking is the best method to explore places like Lamu Town, where you can eat fresh seafood and explore winding streets and colorful markets. The best way to get to the island is by plane, a short trip from Nairobi; check with your hotel or a local travel agent about your trip to Lamu.
8. Amboseli National Park:
For a safari that’s off the beaten path, we recommend Amboseli National Park, with its view of Mount Kilimanjaro as a gorgeous backdrop. Because it is one of the smaller parks in Kenya, visitors are more likely to spot the endangered black rhinoceros, as well as the other four members of the Big Five.
9. Mount Kenya:
The second-highest mountain on the entire continent of Africa, Mount Kenya is located in the central region of the country. While reaching its summit requires some prior mountaineering experience, many lesser peaks and beautiful glaciers are accessible by hiking paths. We recommend that you plan your visit to Mount Kenya during peak weather periods (January and February, and late August until September). The mountain trails are perfect for viewing wildlife and flora. Any trip into Mount Kenya National Park should be organized with a registered guide; that is the only way to ensure your safety, for the paths throughout the park can be confusing.
10. Great Rift Valley:
Commonly referred to as “the cradle of humanity,” the Great Rift Valley has been a central location for excavations of early human skeletons and artifacts. Worth checking out is Lake Nakuru, which attracts thousands of vibrant pink flamingos. We also recommend seeing Lake Naivasha, a freshwater body that is frequented by groups of hippos, water buffalo, and an amazing variety of birds. You can take a single-day or a multiday safari through the Great Rift Valley; just check with your hotel staff for their recommendations for trustworthy touring companies.
When to Go
Geography plays a large part in helping tourists choose the best times for visiting Kenya. Most of the country has two wet and two dry seasons. April is the wettest month, and August is the driest; on average, February is the hottest month, and July is the coolest. Because of Nairobi’s elevation, the city typically has low temperatures year-round, making it a popular destination regardless of the time of year. As for the rest of the country, the climate varies significantly from the tropical coast to the arid interior, where drought is common. The hottest and driest weather generally occurs from January through March—ideal for bird-watching and safaris. Because of the agreeable weather, that is prime tourist season, so plan accordingly.
The annual (and astonishing) wildebeest migration
takes place from July until September, when thousands of wildebeest and zebras travel across the Masai Mara National Reserve. The sight of the migration is one you will never forget, and we highly recommend that you plan your trip around this outstanding event.