Mountains, deserts, colourful tribal culture, beaches, coral reefs and wildlife
Backpacking in Kenya
Backpacking in Kenya is certainly an adventurous way to explore the country, though it would be advisable not to travel alone. Costs for the budget traveller are probably higher here than other countries, particularly for entry into the game parks, and safety is a big factor. There is an efficient network of reasonably cheap domestic flights and you can get a bus to almost anywhere. These usually need to be booked a day in advance.
The overnight train to Mombasa is a popular travel option for backpackers in Kenya. There are also the shared taxis and matatus – minibuses – but these have a bad accident record and the buses are considered a lot more reliable. Renting a car to tour the national parks offers flexibility, especially in the more remote areas, or alternatively you can join a safari organised by a tour operator. Hitching is the accepted mode of transport in many remote areas and is easiest around the coastal resorts. When backpacking in Kenya, there are a variety of low cost hotels and hostels in Nairobi and at the coast – the island of Lamu being a favourite destination – and the YMCA and YWCA have several hostels throughout the country. In the national parks and reserves the campsites offer reasonable if basic accommodation suitable for a backpacking holiday in Kenya.
Beach in Kenya
Covering 300 miles, the Indian Ocean coast offers visitors a superb beach holiday in Kenya, and is one of the country’s main attractions. It offers a combination of historical sites, trading ports with a strong Arab-Muslim influence and excellent beaches and diving opportunities. Mombasa, the coasts’s capital, is an old trading port dating back to the 12th century with Portuguese, Arabic and Indian influences. There are good transport links by air, bus and train. To the south and north of Mombasa are some of the finest beaches in Africa. To the south, the area is more unspoilt and the Colonial-style hotels are frequented by Anglo-Kenyan families during school holidays.
A strip of hotels, popular with package tour companies for beach holidays in Kenya, stretches up the north coast. There is accommodation to suit all budgets ranging from guest houses to luxurious lodges. The Watamu Marine National Park provides some excellent snorkelling and diving and the coral gardens can be viewed from glass-bottom boats. Watamu and Malindi are also centres for deep-sea fishing charters. From here, you can also visit the historical ruins at Gedi, the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve and The Shimba Hill National Reserve. Moving further north is the Lamu Archipelago, a truly relaxing destination for a beach holiday in Kenya. With only donkeys for transport, Lamu can only be reached by dhow, motorboat or by air via nearby Manda Island.
Once known as Kenya’s Kathmandu, there are now a large number of reasonably priced lodgings. At Shela, a 40 minute walk or 10 minute dhow trip, there is a 12 kilometre stretch of white sand backed by sand dunes, and unprotected by a reef, this is one of the few beaches in Kenya where it is possible to surf. Dhow trips are available to other nearby islands, namely Manda, Pate and Kiwayu. Kiwayu is part of the Kiunga Marine National Reserve and offers some of the best snorkelling in Kenya. There are budget camping sites as well as luxury lodges and it is also accessible by air.
Camping in Kenya
It is easy to enjoy a camping holiday in Kenya as there are some lovely campsites scattered over the country, particularly in the national parks. These are usually cheap and fairly basic. There are ‘special campsites’ in a number of the parks which can be reserved for private use but they cost a lot more and also require a reservation fee. Camping equipment can be hired if you don’t have your own. Private sites for camping in Kenya are rare but they offer more facilities. Nairobi has some good ones. Camping in Kenya is also possible in the grounds of some hotels in rural towns and camping in the bush is possible, but security is a big concern unless you are with an organised trip. To camp in comfort, there is the more expensive option of staying in one of the luxury tented camps.
Couples Holiday in Kenya
For an adventurous couples holiday in Kenya, there is no shortage of activities on offer, from trekking, cycling, diving and kite-surfing and of course trips round the game parks. For gentler pursuits, other couples on holiday in Kenya might prefer a hot air balloon flight, sailing or snorkelling in the warm Indian Ocean waters, or just lazing on the beach. With plenty of interesting local dishes to try as well as the beautiful fresh seafood and tropical fruit, eating out can also be part of a great couples holiday in Kenya.
Cycling Activity Holiday in Kenya
There is certainly a lot of territory to explore for a cycling holiday in Kenya, though cycling on the main roads is not recommended due to the bad condition of the roads and the dangerous driving. Quite a few places including hotels hire out bicycles for KSh500 or less a day, and there are also a number of companies who can arrange cycling trips. For a more adventurous cycling holiday in Kenya, you can also hire mountain-bikes to explore places like Hell’s Gate National Park in the Rift Valley.
Disabled Needs in Kenya
Kenya is not a great destination for disabled travellers as not many tourist companies have provided the necessary facilities. Some safari companies will take disabled people out, but generally it is the more expensive hotels and lodges that offer holidays for disabled people in Kenya, particularly at the beach resorts on the coast.
Family Holiday in Kenya
Many parents consider Africa as too dangerous for travelling with children. A family holiday in Kenya is possible though, as many of the larger hotels have family rooms where children under two years go free and between 2 and 12 years are only charged 50%. Some of the exclusive lodges impose a minimum age limit of 8 years. The best place for a family holiday in Kenya undoubtedly is the coast, as nearly all the resort hotels have pools, private beaches, playgrounds, games, entertainment and kids’ clubs. A popular destination is the island of Lamu, considered by parents looking for a family holiday in Kenya as small and safe, with plenty to see and the added attraction of a large population of donkeys.
Gay and Lesbian in Kenya
It is possible for people to have gay and lesbian holidays in Kenya, but it is best to be discreet as it is against their beliefs and not widely accepted, and homosexuality is still punishable by law. However, there is a bar in the Westlands area of Nairobi which could be described as a gay-friendly establishment. Lamu island on the north coast has been a popular destination for gay and lesbian holidays in Kenya for a while, but in more recent times the Muslim community have been less tolerant and again, it is best to be discreet.
Golf Activity Holiday in Kenya
With 40 golf clubs located around the old colonial centres, you can be sure of a great golf holiday in Kenya, and the country was named the ‘best undiscovered golf destination of 2008’. If you are staying on the south coast at Diani Beach, there is the annual Masters tournament on the championship-level golf course. In April, the Kernya Open Golf Tournament is held in Nairobi, and with ideal weather all year round and courses offering international standards, a golfing holiday in Kenya would be the perfect choice.
Hiking Activity Holiday in Kenya
Although you are not allowed to walk in the national parks, some parks offer guided walks accompanied by a ranger. It is possible for a hiking holiday in Kenya to go on safaris into the hills and mountain ranges. The Ngong Hills outside Nairobi provide some excellent walks, as do some hill ranges further down the Rift Valley. For a more adventurous hiking holiday in Kenya, the slopes of Mt Elgon on the Ugandan border is a good choice and relatively unknown compared to the more obvious choice of Mt Kenya.
Honeymoon in Kenya
Watching the big game from a safari camp lodge is one possible venue for a honeymoon in Kenya, as some of the lodges will provide everything you need for a wonderful wedding occasion in the slightly more unusual setting of the African bush. If you are looking for a more traditional setting, the palm-fringed shores of the Indian Ocean coast could be a truly romantic place for a honeymoon in Kenya, with many of the resorts providing weddings on the beach. There is even one resort south of Mombasa which has a ‘wedding island’ in the pool.
Safari Activity Holiday in Kenya
Kenya is the number one destination in the world for a safari holiday. This is no surprise, as it has 59 spectacular national parks and game reserves offering visitors unparalleled opportunities to view the wildlife in its natural habitat. The biggest attraction is the Maasai Mara National Reserve for those wishing to see the Big 5 on a safari holiday in Kenya, and the best viewing months are between July and October when the land is driest. This is also the time for the great wildebeest migration from Tanzania, when balloon safaris are also available to view this spectacle over the Maasai Mara plains. The Amboseli National Park is also very popular, where it is possible to view large elephant herds with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. At 22,000 sq km, the Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya, divided into West and East by the Nairobi to Mombasa road. Although less visited, this park offers a dramatic landscape and a good selection of wildlife, and its proximity to the coast makes it an ideal place to visit whilst enjoying a holiday at one of the beach resorts.
The vast Laikipia plateau north of Mt Kenya has become another excellent destination for a safari holiday in Kenya, where old farmlands have been turned into new game sanctuaries containing large herds of elephants and the highest population of endangered species including the black rhino, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe.
There is a wide choice of accommodation available for a safari holiday in Kenya with many campsites available for budget travellers, and for those seeking more comfort and luxury there are the lodges and tented camps in beautiful locations situated around waterholes. One of the most reliable and well established operators in lodge and tented camp safaris is Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com). Let’s Go Travel (lets-go-travel.net) has prices and descriptions of a wide range of hotels and lodges, and also has its own safaris and excursions. There are also other types of safari holidays in Kenya, such as bird-watching, trekking, cycling, fishing and camel safaris.
Sailing Activity Holiday in Kenya
There are a few sailing clubs at the coast, including the Mombasa Sailing Club, where it is possible to get temporary membership to sail during your holiday in Kenya. There are also some smaller freshwater clubs for sailing and windsurfing on Lake Victoria and Lake Naivasha. However, a truly memorable experience for a sailing holiday in Kenya is on the traditional Arabic dhows which can be hired to sail you round the Lamu archipelago. Day trips, which start at about KSh500 per person, will include fishing and snorkelling around Lamu and Manda islands. Overnight trips are also possible to Pate Island and Kiwayu Island, which is part of the Kiunga Marine National Reserve and has some superb coral reefs. This unforgettable experience has placed a sailing holiday in Kenya round the Lamu archipelago in ninth position in the top ten.
Scuba Diving Activity Holiday in Kenya
There can be few better places to learn how to dive than the turquoise waters and coral reefs of the Indian Ocean,to give you a superb scuba diving holiday in Kenya. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) offer courses between US $300 – 500 at most of the hotels. October to March are the best months for a scuba diving holiday in Kenya, and the best sites are the underwater cliffs at Shimoni,the 28 km of coral reefs off Wasini Island on the south coast and the Watamu Marine National Park on the north coast.
Winter Sun in Kenya
With the sun shining all the year round, you would not be disappointed with a winter sun holiday in Kenya, especially as the two best months for visiting are January and February when the weather is hottest and driest. With all the national parks to visit, not to mention all the activities available from camel rides, fishing, cycling, trekking, camping, playing golf and hot air ballooning, you are completely spoilt for choice. If your idea of a winter sun holiday in Kenya is to swim in the ocean and relax on the beach, then the Indian Ocean coastline with its white sands and turquoise waters offers an abundance of comfortable hotels with swimming pools and water sports activities.