Visit Kenya

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The East African country of Kenya is a pearl in sub-Saharan Africa. From the scenic sandy beaches at the coast, to the Nairobi National Park (the only one in a capital city in the world), to the majestic Rift Valley, the bird life in Lake Naivasha, the hot boiling springs of Lake Baringo, Lake Turkana and Lake Victoria, Kenya is a very beautiful country with lots of wildlife and scenic features, and is one of the major economic hubs in Africa.

About Kenya

An image of the current Map of Kenya
An image of the Flag of the Republic of Kenya

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa with 47 semiautonomous counties governed by elected governors. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 47.6 million people, Kenya is the 29th most populous country. Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. According to archaeological dating of associated artifacts and skeletal material, the Cushites first settled in the lowlands of Kenya between 3,200 and 1,300 BC, a phase referred to as the Lowland Savannah Pastoral Neolithic.

Kenya is one of Africa's most visited countries by tourists, and rightfully so, it boasts a diversity of attractions and a well-developed hospitality and tourism sector that most of its neighbours envy. The relative ease of travel, the abundance of tour operators, pleasant year-round climate, natural sights and friendly people all contribute to its relative popularity by African standards. Although made up of many diverse ethnic groups and tribes, Kenyans have a strong sense of national pride. This may be due in part to their unity in the struggle for Uhuru (Kiswahili: "freedom") independence from British colonial rule, achieved in 1963. While Kenyans can spot ethnic differences among themselves quite easily, to most foreigners these will not be distinguishable. Outsiders on the whole tend to find Kenyans to be relaxed, hospitable, and joyous.

 

Climate

Kenya experiences a wide range of tropical climates. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland, and very dry in the north and northeast. It receives a great deal of sunshine all year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. Nairobi is at high altitude and can be quite cold, even during the day, between June and August. The long rain season is from April to June, and the short rain season October to December. Rain is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is February to March, and the coldest July to August.

Game viewing is best in the dry seasons, which are from mid-June to October, and from late-December to mid-March. The annual animal migration - especially migration of the wildebeest - occurs between June and September, with millions of animals taking part. It has been a popular event for film-makers to capture.

 

Culture

Notable peoples include the Swahili on the coast, pastoralist communities in the north, farmers in central and western and fishermen around the Lake Victoria basin. The Maasai culture is well known to tourists, despite their being a minor percentage of the Kenyan population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellery.

 

Geography

At 580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's forty-seventh largest country (after Madagascar). It lies between latitudes 5°N and 5°S, and longitudes 34° and 42°E. From the coast on the Indian Ocean, the low plains rise to central highlands. The highlands are bisected by the Great Rift Valley, with a fertile plateau lying to the east.

The Kenyan Highlands are one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya and the second highest peak on the continent: Mount Kenya, which reaches a height of 5,199 m (17,057 ft) and is the site of glaciers. Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m or 19,341 ft) can be seen from Kenya to the south of the Tanzanian border.

Nairobi City is the Capital of Kenya and one of Africa's Business hubs

Kenya has been inhabited by people since the beginnings of humanity's existence as a species.

The Santo Mathias bastion and the main entrance to Fort Jesus, Mombasa

 

Arab traders began frequenting the coast of Kenya around the 1st century. Kenya's proximity to the Arabian peninsula invited colonisation, and Arab and Persian settlements spread along the coast in the 8th century. Throughout the centuries, Kenya has played host to many different merchants and explorers (Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, et al.) Coastal Kenya formed part of the Swahili Coast, which comprised of numerous wealthy city-states that engaged in trade across the Indian Ocean and Sahara Desert, one of the most prominent being the city of Mombasa.

 

Kenya became part of the British Empire in the late 19th century. In the 1950s, a brutal war took place between independence fighters called the Mau Mau and the British, with horrendous abuses of human rights on both sides. Kenyan nationalist Jomo Kenyatta was arrested in 1952 and with little evidence, tried and imprisoned for supposed management of the Mau Mau Society, eventually being detained for almost 9 years. Considered a national hero, he led the country after it declared independence on 12 December 1963. Through popularity, moderation and shrewd power politics, the Founding Father turned the country into a de facto dictatorship (whether benevolent or malevolent depends on who you talk to).

 

History of Kenya

Getting In

Visas are not required for the following nationalities to get into Kenya: the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cyprus, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Fiji, the Gambia, Grenada, Grenadines, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia*, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa*, Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

  1. By Car; Major roads are typically paved with various states of maintenance though secondary roads outside of urban areas are typically unpaved. All neighbouring countries can be accessed by road, including Ethiopia via the border town of Moyale, Uganda via Busia or Malaba, and Tanzania via Namanga or Lungalunga. Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo, and some parts of Ijara are considered insecure and prone to banditry and terrorist attacks from Somalia.
  2. By Plane; Kenya Airways (KQ) is the national airline, and one of the largest and most reputable airlines in Africa. KQ has extensive regional (e.g. to Johannesburg, Harare, Cairo, Entebbe, Accra) and international connections.
  3. By Bus;
  4. By Boat; This is limited to Lake Victoria (e.g., Mwanza in Tanzania to Bukoba in Tanzania) and the coastal area (e.g., Mombasa-Zanzibar cruises).
  5. By Train

 

Getting Around

  • By Plane; Most international visitors will arrive through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi (NBO). If you are already in Nairobi and need to get to the airport, plan at least two hours to get there as the main road to the airport is subject to heavy traffic jams, and security checks are tedious.
  • By Bus; Kenya has a network of long distance bus lines. Speed is limited to 80 km/h, and the highways can be very bumpy and dusty, so be sure to pick a comfortable and reputable coach company such as Modern Coast for the long journeys.
  • By Matatu; Matatus are privately operated minibuses, typically for 14 or 25 passengers and operating over short and medium distances. They provide a very cheap and quick method of transport in all the major towns and many rural areas. The name matatu comes from the Kiswahili word for the number three – tatu – because some time ago the standard fare was three ten-cent coins. Matatus operate along set routes, picking and dropping off passengers at any point along the way
  • By Rental Car; Most worldwide rental agencies have offices in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, and these offer reliable cars with a full back-up network. One can also rent cheaper cars from local distributors who are mostly reliable. However it is always good to do a background check before sending in a deposit. When you hire a car, no matter the brand name, always take note of the various dents, or states of the car as it may prove contentious especially when a "refundable" deposit was involved
  • By Train; Passenger trains are making a comeback in Kenya with the new railway line, often referred to SGR (short for standard-gauge railway). The first phase, linking the capital Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa, is fully operational with two trains in each direction every day, journey time is about five hours. Construction is ongoing on the section towards Kisumu and the border with Uganda.

 

Language

English and Swahili are the two official languages. As a diverse country with over 40 ethnic groups and 60 languages between them, most Kenyans are multilingual, speaking their native ethnic language along with Swahili, which is the preferred language for interethnic communication. Most people, particularly in urban areas, also have a working knowledge of English, though this will vary depending on their level of education.

An Overview of the tourism visa policy of Kenya
Attractions (What to See)

Kenya has some of the world's best game reserves where you can go for a safari, and see some of the finest African flora and fauna. The parks are famous for lions, giraffes, elephants and huge herds of zebras, wildebeests and buffaloes. The annual wildebeest migration (from Maasai Mara to the Serengeti) is an awesome sight and best experienced in a balloon safari. Bookings to watch the migration are best done months in advance due to the high demand and limited lodging available in the Mara. Migration is during August and September. Kenya also is a great destination for beach holidays, with several located along the coastal regions and the city of Mombasa, especially Diani Beach. Other coastal towns worth visiting include Lamu and Malindi.

Kenya is also becoming a golf holiday destination, thanks to the many beautiful lush courses around the major urban areas including some which have hosted international Golf tournaments such as Muthaiga and Karen Golf Courses. The northern parts of Kenya are home to some spectacular tribes living very traditional lifestyles - you can start to encounter these remarkable societies near to and around the main road north into Ethiopia (the A2 which runs through Marsabit and into Moyale at the Ethopian border), as well as west of this in places such as Wamba, Maralal, Baragoi, Korr, Kargi, and South Horr.

 

Things to Do
  • Beaches: Travel organizations usually offer beach holidays at South Coast or North Coast, which simply means south or north of Mombasa. While the South Coast (Tiwi Beach, Diani Beach, Galu Beach, Gazi Beach, Msambweni Beach, Mwazaro Beach) has the nicer beaches and more primordial nature the North Coast near Mombasa (Njali Beach, Bamburi Beach, Shandzu Beach, Mtwapa Beaches, Kikambala Beach) offers much more activities. The beaches further north (Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi) are like South Coast, primordial and tranquil, not as long and broad as Diani Beach but even more photogenic.
  • Safari: Watch a wildlife migration in one of the National Parks. Go for a game drive in many parks and reserves found in the country. If you are on a tight schedule take a game drive in the Nairobi National Park, less than 20 minutes drive from Nairobi's central business district. Major attractions: big cats including lions and leopards, buffaloes, a variety of antelope species, baboons, and monkeys, among others.
  • If you want to spend some time in the urban social scene, you might consider attending music and cultural events such as Blankets and Wine, which features international and local artists performing in a picnic-like setting for families and friends looking to enjoy African talent. The event happens on the first Sunday of every month in Nairobi.
  • Rift Valley Festival, which incorporates a camping experience with a sample of cultural and musical tastes from around the country and internationally.
  • Samosa Festival is an event set up to integrate the Asian and African cultures in the country. A significant percentage of the urban population is of Asian (Indian) ancestry and has existed since before independence. Their immigration was brought on by the construction of the railway. This event features cuisine from both cultures, poetry and literature (spoken and written), music and games.
  • Maulid festival is a one-week event that can only be enjoyed in the Coastal region, specifically in the ageless town of Lamu, which has the majority of the population of Muslim faith. It is the one event which everyone from the region looks forward.
Kenya has some of the finest accommodation options in East Africa
Where to Stay (Accommodation)

Nairobi has a wide variety of tourist hotels, from backpackers hostels to five-star establishments such as the Norfolk Hotel. There are a number of other guesthouses that offer private rooms both with shared bathrooms and self-contained rooms. Homestays are increasingly gaining popularity. Part of the reason is that one can experience Kenyan culture in a deeper and more meaningful way.

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