Trumpeting elephants, roaring lions, and snorting wildebeest are the soundtrack of Kenya, musical notes accentuated by the silence of the vast, sun-baked plains and the immensity of the blue African sky. Kenya is the safari capital of Africa, and without a doubt this is what we love. Take a safari drive through the golden savannah of Masai Mara and watch as nearly 1.5 million wildebeests migrate across the sun-baked plains from Tanzania, their pounding hooves a soundtrack to nature at its finest.
Prepare to be dazzled by the striking scenery and diverse wildlife on your safari in Kenya. Filled with all of Africa's Big Five animals, Kenya is the `original' safari country and has over 40 national parks and wildlife reserves. Masai Mara is arguably the most popular safari destination, but you can also see elephants, zebras, lions, hippos, and a wide range of bird species at Amboseli National Park, situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro; Lake Nakuru, famous for its flamingos; and Tsavo National Park, one of the largest wildlife areas in the world.
From towering mountains to expansive plains, Africa is filled with stunning sights. Make sure to head to the East African Rift Valley on your Kenya holiday to see the `Cradle of Mankind'. This stunning natural rift is a fracturing in the Earth's crust caused by tectonic shifting and is characterised by a long scar-looking fissure broken by steep cliffs and active and inactive volcanoes. Numerous important anthropological discoveries have been made here, including Lucy, 3.2 million years old and Turkana Boy, 1.5 million years old.
Imaging eating breakfast as a long-necked giraffe peaks its head through an open window to blink shyly at you. At Giraffe Manor, guests live among these friendly creatures. We love heading to this manor on our holiday in Africa as it offers a truly exotic, once-in-a-lifetime experience that is just that little bit different than your typical accommodation. Next door a giraffe centre is available to teach you more about giraffes.
As one would imagine, Kenya is still filled with indigenous tribes. If you really want to get to know the fascinating culture of this great nation, visit a tribal village. The Masai people live on the Masai Mara National. Visit their villages and drink a cup of chai tea with a local. Just north of the Rift Valley, the Samburu live in a beautiful area filled with wildlife. We recommend you stay in a community-run lodge and take a camel safari with the Samburu guides.
If you are heading to Mombasa, you are probably heading for the beach. Beautiful strips of sand line the area, the coastline tumbling into clear blue waters that stretch toward the Seychelles. The town of Mombasa is distinctly Arabic, with women and men moving slowly through the hot air and a rich heritage evident in the city's Old Town. Explore the 16th century Fort Jesus or head to popular Diana Beach for the paradise beach Mombasa is famous for.
There are a number of carriers flying to Kenya from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Kenya Airways offer direct flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways also fly to Nairobi and Thomson Airways fly direct to Mombasa once a week. Kenya Airways has an unrivalled route network making any safari and beach combination possible.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates fly to Nairobi via Dubai and KLM offer flights via Amsterdam.
Departure Taxes: In Kenya there is a departure tax of US$ 20, however this is usually included in the cost of your airline ticket. If you are unsure, please contact your airline.
British passport holders require a visa to enter Kenya. Visa fee payable on arrival (USD 50 a for single entry visa or USD 10 for a transit visa). Please ensure you have two blank pages in your passport for your visa or you may be refused entry. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Kenya. Please contact the Kenya High Commission for up to date country and visa information on 0207 636 2371.
Kenya's currency is the Kenyan Shilling. The country has an open currency so you can exchange your UK pounds prior to leaving for holiday in Kenya.
We recommend taking both cash and credit cards on your holiday to Kenya. Don't bother to change your money until you get here, as the exchange rates are better in Kenya than in the UK. Cash is easy and inexpensive to change, although you will not want to carry too much at a time. Avoid changing money at hotels or Safari lodges, as you pay high fees. Bring a credit or debit card to withdraw cash from, although expect to encounter connection failures regularly. Most major currencies are accepted in Nairobi and Mombasa, but away from these cities you will need to carry shillings.
While tipping is not a common practice in Kenya, it is customary to round your bill up by a few shillings for guides, drivers, and support staff. A 10 percent service charge is included in most tourist-oriented businesses. Tip 200 Kenyan Shillings per person per day to safari guides and about 50 Kenyan Shillings to wait staff in restaurants and to baggage porters.
April - May
Before travelling you should make sure you are up to date with the standard vaccinations such as Diptheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Polio. Also recommended are Typhoid and anti-malarial protection. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country or area. For full details, please contact your GP.
The diverse geography of Kenya means there are different weather patterns, temperatures, humidity levels, and rainfall from region to region. You will want to pack according to which season you go on holiday to Kenya in. Generally the dry seasons fall between January to March and July through October.
Umbrella or rain poncho in the rainy season;
Sunscreen and hat to protect you from the sun;
Lightweight cotton clothes;
Converter and adapter (Kenya's power supply is 240 volts at 50 hertz);
Jacket and snow gear if you are going to Mount Kenya;
Mosquito repellent with DEET;
Beach sandals and trainers;
Binoculars for viewing wildlife;
Since Kenya is a country consisting of many tribes with different traditions, the cuisine is quite varied. Staples include maize and other cereals served with various meats and vegetables. Food is very simple and hearty, without a lot of seasonings. Since Kenya was controlled by various countries in the past, the cuisine from each has left its mark. The Portuguese brought bananas, pineapple, chillies, and peppers; Europeans brought white potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes; and Indians brought dishes such as curries, chutneys, and chapattis (bread).
Swahili for ‘roast meat’, nyama choma is an East African dish of freshly butchered meat (usually goat or beef) slow roasted over coals and seasoned with nothing more than salt. Sometimes the meat is sprinkled with more salt or served with chillies and a tomato salsa salad called kachumbari. You will find this tasty dish everywhere on your holiday in Kenya, from the finest restaurants to street vendors.
Githeri is a simple corn and bean dish that originated from the Kikuyu tribe. The dish supplies an extra protein punch for the diet of many Kenyans. Corn and beans are cooked together with a touch of salt. Many variations exist, such as substituting hominy for the corn or cooking the beans and corn with potatoes and greens.
The coastline of Kenya has been heavily influenced by Arabs and Indians, and the food reflects this. This dish includes a variety of spiced rice dishes in which the rice is first sautéed, then boiled. There are literally hundreds of variations, including adding a cup of chopped vegetables or a couple of tablespoons of cashews, raisins, or toasted almonds.
Street food in Kenya is a tasty and excellent (and inexpensive) way of getting a good sample of the variety that the Kenyan cuisine has to offer. There are countless stalls lining the streets in the larger cities. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
This staple dish is the most common street food you will find on your holiday in Kenya. You will find it absolutely everywhere, from the finest restaurants to the multitude of street vendors throughout Nairobi. Ugali is a stiff cornmeal starch that looks a bit like polenta. It is made into a thick paste and eaten with fried vegetables or meat stew.
Known as collard greens in English, sukuma wiki is another staple dish in Kenya. It literally means ‘stretch the week’ in Swahili and is a nutritious way the Kenyans found of stretching out the kitchen resources for a full week. The collard greens are sliced finely, fried with onions and tomatoes, and eaten with ugali. This ubiquitous Kenyan dish is available at street vendors as well as in restaurants.
This common street snack is cheap, filling, and available just about anywhere. The maize is roasted and served with lime and chilli sauce and is a national favourite.
Kenya is unique in that travel can cost as much or as little as you like. Accommodation will be your biggest expense and Nairobi or anywhere on the coast will drive your budget up sharply. Street food is cheap and costs from about 80 to 300 Kenyan Shilling. If you want to eat at a sit-down restaurant it will cost from about 400 to 3,000 Kenyan Shillings. A litre of water costs about 50 Kenyan Shillings and a bottle of imported beer cost around 200 Kenyan Shillings.
Each of Kenya's tribes and ethnic communities has their own unique, traditional practices, so there is no single national dress. In 2004 there was a government push to create a national dress but this was not successful and nobody took to wearing it. Kenyans wear the same westernised-style clothing as the rest of the world. In the Mombasa region, some dress in more traditional Arabic garb. During ceremonies, some Kenyans wear kitenge, a tie-dyed, cotton fabric with heavy embroidery. The indigenous Masai people wear dark red garments which are symbolic of their love of the earth and the blood given to them by nature. The kanga, often worn by women around the waist and torso, is a piece of fabric printed with Swahili sayings that is also very popular.
Kenya’s vastly varied ethnic groups each have their own customs and traditions. Overall, however, politeness is king and you will never offend anybody with a smile and a handshake. Because the country is quite conservative (most people are Christian or Muslim) you will want to dress modestly.
There are a few things you should keep in mind when travelling in Kenya:
• Always shake hands with your right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean. To show respect hold your right forearm with your left hand while shaking hands.
• Once you have greeted somebody, make sure to ask about the person’s health, family, etc. Rushing this part of the greeting process is considered very poor manners.
• Grooming is a reflection of credibility in Kenya. Kenyans take pride in their appearance and dress well.
• Kenyans are very non-confrontational and are uncomfortable with blunt statements. They often refer to things indirectly and rarely give an outright ‘no’.
• Losing your temper or shouting is considered extremely rude.
• Avoid directly pointing or beckoning with your index finger.
• Kenyans wash their hands before and after eating a meal.
• Titles are very important, especially for academics and professionals.
• Homosexuality is against the law in Kenya.
The open savannahs, expansive plains, deserts, forests, lakes, meadows, caves, and river deltas of Kenya are home to Africa's famous Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos. There are also numerous and varied species of birds, such as ostrich, vultures, and flamingos. Seeing the wildlife of Kenya on safari is one of the best ways to experience the natural behaviour of the species of Africa.
Between July and October thousands of wildebeests migrate to Kenya from Tanzania on the sun-drenched plains of the Serengeti. The wildebeest migration takes place in Masai Mara and is called the greatest wildlife show on earth. This unforgettable sight is certainly worth a few days of your safari in Kenya.
Mount Kenya National Park
This ancient extinct volcano has rugged summits, forested slopes, and numerous lakes and valleys. Thanks to such diverse geography, the park is home to a range of wildlife, such as spotted hyenas, black rhinoceroses, zebras, and golden cats. Hiking trails wind throughout the mountainous park for trekking.
Kenya has over 400 species of birds making its vast landscape home. Rare birds such as yellow-bellied wattle-eyes, dusky tits, and brown-eared woodpeckers can be seen in Kakagema Forest. In Nakuru National Park you will find pink flamingos and an assortment of other beautiful birds. If you love bird watching, Kenya also has Lake Naivasha, Masai Mara, Mount Kenya, and Samburu to delight your viewing.