Kenya: Main Sights
Mountains, deserts, colourful tribal culture, beaches, coral reefs and wildlife
Kenya offers the travellers an unparalleled range of options. The incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures, wildlife and activities create endless opportunities. Whether you choose to visit one of the many national parks, create your own safari or just relax on the shores of the Indian Ocean, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Kenya National Museum, Nairobi
Apart from the ethnographic and archaeological exhibits, there is an impressive collection of at least 900 species of birds. The main attraction though, is the Peoples of Kenya paintings by Joy Adamson, a series of tribal portraits creating a fantastic record of the country’s cultural diversity.
Karen Blixon Museum, Nairobi
Located in the suburb of Karen, 10km from the city centre, this is the farmhouse made famous by the author’s book Out of Africa. It is a lovely house with beautiful gardens, and a gift shop with a good
selection of books.
Hell’s Gate National Park (Rift Valley)
This park is unique as you are allowed to walk or cycle across it to experience its unusual landscape of towering red stone cliffs, volcanic rock formations and boiling hot springs. A wide variety of animals can be seen and it is a popular place to hire mountain bikes and do some rock climbing, in particular up Fischer’s Tower, a 25m volcanic column. There are two public campsites in especially scenic locations and you can also visit the Ol Karia Geothermal Station, the first productive geothermal installation in Africa.
Lake Nakuru National Park (Rift Valley)
This is a beautiful place with abundant birds and animals, but it is the flocks of flamingos edging the shores in pink, that people come to see. This is also one of the best places to see the white rhino, since a sanctuary was introduced here a few years ago to protect the species. There is a good selection of lodges, hostels and campsites in and around the park.
Mt Kenya National Park (Central Highlands)
Mt Kenya is Africa’s second highest mountain at 5199m and is a Unesco World Heritage Site and a Unesco Biosphere Reserve. The two highest peaks can only be reached by skilled mountaineers, but it is possible to trek to the third peak for a unique experience and the superb views. Walks through the foothills taking in the remarkable flora is also very rewarding. Entry to the park is charged on a daily basis and it is also possible to hire equipment, guides, cooks and porters. There are huts or bunkhouses on the various routes and you can camp anywhere on the mountain. Lodges and hotels are available in the surrounding area.
Laikipia Plateau (Northern Kenya)
This is Kenya’s most recent conservation success, where former farmland has been opened up as game sanctuaries and stocked with big game, and old farmsteads have been turned into luxurious accommodation. Laikipia District is a vast plateau to the north of Mt Kenya stretching from the Rift Valley to the escarpments which descent into the Northern Frontier District. It spans an area of over 9,500km and forms part of the 40,000km Ewaso ecosystem. As one of the most important areas for biodiversity in Kenya, the wildlife population now comes second to the Maasai Mara National Reserve with the second largest population of elephants and the highest population of endangered species, including the black rhino, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe. There are over 40 tourism operations in Laikipia ranging from small exclusive lodges, community-owned lodges, tented camps, ranch houses, hotels, wild camping and adventure safaris. Private charters and regular flights operate from Wilson airport in Nairobi.
Maasai Mara National Reserve (Western Kenya)
The main focus of every visit to Kenya, the Mara offers the visitor 320 km of open grasslands and an amazing concentration of wildlife, and is also the homeland of the colourful Maasai tribe. Large prides of lions can be found everywhere as well as good numbers of elephants, buffaloes, zebras, hippos, giraffes and gazelles, but the highlight of the Mara is undoubtedly the annual wildebeest migration in July and August. Over a million of these animals head north from Tanzania in search of fresh pastures before returning south again in October. To cater for this popular attraction, there are a large number of lodges, tented camps and campsites in and around the reserve.
Amboseli National Park (Southern Kenya)
This is the second most popular park in Kenya offering visitors spectacular views of Mt Kilimanjaro over the border in Tanzania. Though smaller than the Masai Mara, there are still a good variety of animals to be found, in particular large elephant herds. There are several lodges in and around the park, two in the centre being perfectly placed for early morning views of the mountain, and one campsite inside the southern boundary.
Mombasa (Kenya Coast)
Mombasa is Kenya’s second-largest city and the most important port in East Africa, spread over Mombasa island and connected by a causeway to the north and by a ferry to the south.. A walk through the old town will give you a good introduction to the architecture of the Swahili coast with its intricately carved doors and balconies. The biggest attraction is Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593 and now housing a museum of local artefacts, mostly ceramics. Dhow trips round the harbour are very popular, and you can also obtain temporary membership of the Mombasa Yacht Club and daily membership of the Mombasa Golf Club. Mombasa is very well served for transport with regular flights, an overnight train from Nairobi and regular bus services to other parts of the coast. There is a large variety of local and international restaurants, and hotels and guest houses to suit every budget.
Lamu (Kenya Coast)
A visit to the tropical haven of Lamu island is best left to the end of a holiday, as the languid air and pace of life are truly relaxing. The charm of Lamu’s Swahili old town with its winding streets, carved wooden doors and traditional houses is best absorbed by walking, the only alternative form of transport being by donkey. There is even a donkey sanctuary to provide veterinary services to the large numbers on the island. The Lamu Museum is one of the most interesting small museums in Kenya with displays and information on the Swahili culture, the carved doors, local tribes and Lamu’s nautical history. There is also an amazing collection of ornate ceremonial horns dating back to the 17th century.
There is a 12km beach at Shela which can be reached by a short trip in a motorised dhow or a 40 minute walk. A variety of water sports are available from the Peponi Hotel, the top resort hotel on the island. Apart from some expensive and luxurious hotels, there are also a large number of smaller guest houses and it is also possible to rent houses in a group, as many properties are owned by expats who only live in Lamu for part of the year. Dhow trips are a popular way to travel to the other islands in the archipelago and a regular motorboat connects Lamu to Manda island where the airstrip is located.