Kenya has held a powerful attraction for visitors ever since early explorers and intrepid settlers brought back tales of endless plains filled with antelope, man-eating lions, mountain peaks and perfect beaches. "Africa in one country" is the richly fulfilled promise of a holiday in Kenya and ultimately, the combination of wildlife, beaches and mountains make it the perfect safari destination. Experience the iconic parks such as the Maasai Mara with its vast rolling grassland, Amboseli's regal elephant herds and the dramatic vistas of the Great Rift Valley. Peak safari time is the mid-year wildebeest migration - an unforgettable sight as millions of animals make an epic journey across the land seeking fresh pastures.
Although the distinctive Maasai people are of most interest to tourists seeking the classic images of Kenya's African identity, peoples such as the Samburu, the Turkana, Swahili and Kikuyu tribes struggle to maintain traditions as the modern world crowds in. Drawing near to these cultures could just be a highlight of your visit.
USEFUL TRAVEL INFO
Best time to visit
Most destinations in Kenya are at their best between January until the end of March, where the climate is mild, mostly dry and game viewing is at its peak. Visits between mid-March to June and again between October and December is well worth considering avoiding the peak-season crowds and to take advantage of cheaper, off-season rates on accommodation and tours.
For the Maasai Mara wildebeest migration, visit between mid-August and late October when the herds have returned from their months in Tanzania's Serengeti.
Electricity: Current is 240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style square three-pin plugs are used.
Language: English is the official language, but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken.
Money: The unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). It is not advisable to take Kenyan Shillings out of the country, as they are difficult to exchange elsewhere. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and hotels. It's easiest to exchange US Dollars, Pounds Sterling or Euros. Street exchange merchants should be avoided as they are operating illegally. International credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, and some camps and lodges. ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and other major towns.
Communications: Hotels usually add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills, buying a pre-paid calling card for use in public telephone booths is a cheaper option. Purchasing a local SIM card is simple and most hotels, restaurants and cafes in tourist areas offer free Wi-Fi access. Alternatively, internet cafes are widely available in most towns.
Health & Safety
Travellers should get the latest medical advice on inoculations and malaria prevention at least three weeks prior to departure. A malaria risk exists all year round in Kenya, but more around Mombasa and the lower coastal areas than in Nairobi and on the high central plateau. Immunisation against yellow fever, polio and typhoid are usually recommended. A yellow fever certificate is required by anyone arriving from an infected area. Other risks include diarrheal diseases. Protection against bites from sandflies, mosquitoes and tsetse flies are the best prevention against malaria and dengue fever, as well as other insect-borne diseases, including Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chikungunya fever.
There is a threat from Somali terrorist groups in Kenya and visitors should be vigilant in public places and tourist sites; several bombings have targeted Mombasa, Nairobi and other cities in recent years, most blamed on the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group. Several governments have instituted travel warnings and alerts for parts of Kenya and travellers are advised to read up on the situation and which areas should be avoided before visiting the country.
Visa & Passports
Citizens of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Kenya. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for up to a maximum of 3 months. South African nationals do not need a visa for stays for up to 30 days.
A return ticket or proof of onward travel, all documents for next destination and proof of sufficient funds is required for all travellers. Visas issued on arrival vary in fee according to amount of entries and nationality. Passports must have at least one blank visa page.
Airports in Kenya
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO)
The airport is situated 10 miles (16km) southeast of Nairobi.
Moi International Airport (MBA)
The airport is situated six miles (10km) northwest of Mombasa.
Kisumu International Airport (KIS)
The airport is located to the northwest of Kisumu, about two miles (3.5km) from the city.
Located within the park, 156km from Nairobi.
Located in Masai Mara, and it is about 225km from Nairobi.
TOP REASONS TO VISIT
White Sand Beaches
The warm, turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean lap the shores of long stretches of white sand beaches in Kenya. Small islands like Funzi just beyond the South Coast offer a peaceful seclusion away from the hectic pace of life and Lamu Island is an enchanting blend of 13th-century architecture where time has stood still. Kenya’s coastline and islands are what dreams are made of.
Kenya’s Underwater World
Home to the world’s second longest coral reef, with spectacular colourful plant and fish life that provide world-class snorkelling and diving among pristine coral gardens in the pleasantly warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The marine parks at Malindi, Watamu Bay and Shimoni contain undisturbed reefs and enormous fish due to the lack of coastal fishing traffic. Kenya also offers the ultimate deep-sea fishing experience, with Dorado, yellowfin tuna, marlins, sailfish, swordfish and many others.
Waves of migration over the centuries have led to Kenya becoming one of the most diverse African countries culturally and linguistically. Native African culture has been diluted in many parts of Kenya by outside influences, where communities adopted westernised or Islamic ways. In certain parts, particularly across the more arid and inaccessible north, communities retain their traditional culture especially among nomadic and pastoral tribes such as the Maasai, Samburu and Turkana people that still wear cloth or skins and elaborate jewellery of beads and metalwork. Although mainstream religions such as Christianity and Islam are widespread, many followers of these faiths still believe strongly in the ancestor world, where the dead have powers for good or bad over their living descendants.
Ancient Artefacts & Sites
Kenya has many historic sites, some dating back over 5 million years. Historic sites such as Fort Jesus in Mombasa, the Siyu Fort and Lamu Fort; the ruins of Gede, which are the remains of a traditional Swahili town in Watamu; The Koobi Fora, located on the east of Lake Turkana where famous animal and plant fossils are displayed; Vasco da Gama Pillar, one of the oldest European monuments in Africa, to name but a few.
The Great Migration
From mid-August to October, more than a million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania to Kenya’s Maasai Mara park, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of Thomson’s gazelle, zebra and eland. Nothing comes close to seeing this in person, as the mass movement of animals, lumbering, strutting and swaying in one of the great wonders of the natural world.
National Parks & Reserves
About 8% of the Kenya’s land mass is protected area for wildlife conservation. The protected areas comprise of 23 terrestrial National Parks, 28 terrestrial National Reserves, 4 marine National Parks, 6 marine National Reserves and 4 national sanctuaries. In the parks there are complete protection of natural resources and the only activities allowed are tourism and research. On the other hand, in reserves, human activities are allowed under specific conditions. A lot of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside protected areas, as these areas are not fully fenced, hence wildlife moves in and out of the areas in search of pasture and water during certain periods within the year.
Great Rift Valley Lakes
The region runs from North to South, and along it, a few lakes, which are some of the most thrilling attractions in Kenya. The lakes are either freshwater or alkaline, and most are Ramsar Convention protected. The most popular lakes are: Lake Baringo, an important birding destination and one of the largest lakes in Kenya; Lake Bogoria, known for its hot springs and geysers that shoot up water about 5m high; Lake Elementeita, one of the most scenic locations in the Great Rift Valley; Lake Naivasha, close to Nairobi and Hell’s Gate; Lake Turkana, the most northern and largest alkaline lake in the world; Lake Nakuru, home to many rhino, giraffes, lions, leopards and hundreds of birds.
Close encounters with a variety of wildlife in breath-taking landscapes, luxurious and unusual camps and lodges and the fascinating culture of Kenyan tribes, make Kenya one of the best wildlife safaris destinations in Africa. A fly-in safari, usually from Nairobi, is a truly unique way of experiencing Kenya and gives you the opportunity to see stunning wildlife and landscapes from a whole new angle. Balloon Safaris are particularly popular for spectacular events such as the wildebeest migration. Walking safaris or horseback safaris are a fantastic option for small groups.
Top Adventure Activities
Hot Air Ballooning over the Maasai Mara
Snorkelling, Paragliding, Kite Surfing, Scuba Diving & Windsurfing
White water rafting at Tana and Athi River
Rock climbing at Tsavo National Park
Bungee Jumping at Sagana
Night Safari Walks
One of Africa's largest and most interesting cities and a place of enormous energy, with a tireless and thriving bustle of people. Assorted races, tribes and origins are all a part of its make-up. Kenyatta Avenue is a broad road fringed by trees and flowers that was originally designed to allow a twelve-oxen team to make a full turn. There are several museums and places of interest in the centre, including the National Museum and Snake Park. There are numerous markets selling traditional crafts, especially the appealing Masai market. Just outside of the centre is the Nairobi National Park, and the nearby Bomas of Kenya host performances of traditional dancing and singing. The Langata Giraffe Centre offers visitors the chance to hand-feed the Rothschild giraffes that inhabit the area.
Where to Stay
Close to Kenyatta International Convention Centre and Uhuru Park. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minibars, plus tea and coffee makers. Club rooms access a private lounge, snacks and drinks. Suites add separate living rooms. There's an Indian restaurant, a cafe and a bar, as well as an outdoor restaurant and bar. Other amenities include a fitness room, and an outdoor pool with views of Uhuru Park, plus a 24-hour business centre, a ballroom and 8 meeting rooms.
One of the most desirable accommodation options in the city. The Giraffe Manor is a colonial-era mansion within easy reach of popular attractions. The estate is home to a herd of Rothschild Giraffes that regularly visit the manor house in search of treats. The hotel’s 12 rooms each have their own distinct personality, elegant furnishings and art deco features. Guests enjoy full-board stay, which includes all meals and most drinks and a complimentary chauffeured vehicle available for sightseeing.
The Weston Hotel
Set on a leafy property on busy Langata Road, this upmarket hotel is 5 km from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage and less than a kilometre from Wilson Airport. Rooms feature free Wi-Fi and snacks, plus flat-screen TVs, safes, minibars, and tea and coffee making facilities. Suites add living rooms. There's an elegant restaurant, a casual eatery and a trendy bar. A relaxed cafe with a terrace serves afternoon tea. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, a gym and a sauna, along with a spa.
Nairobi Serena Hotel
The centrally located hotel offers 183 comfortable and well-equipped, air-conditioned guestrooms. Rooms offer coffee and tea maker, flat screen TV’s, complimentary toiletries and direct-dial phone, safe and minibar. Other facilities include a restaurant, a cafeteria, outdoor swimming pool, health and beauty spa, a business centre and free Wi-Fi.
House of Waine
Set in a refined house amid 25 acres of tropical gardens, this upscale boutique hotel is close to the Karen Blixen Museum. Individually decorated rooms and suites offer free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, plus laptop-size safes, minifridges and tea and coffee making facilities. There is an elegant dining room, an outdoor pool, a lounge and a conference room.
Fairmont the Norfolk Hotel
Built in 1904, this sophisticated hotel is a 10-minute walk from the National Museums. Elegant rooms and suites come with flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and tea and coffee makers, along with safes. Some feature verandas. Suites add living rooms, and some have private terraces.
There's a gourmet restaurant, a casual eatery with a terrace, and a high-end wine bar. A sophisticated lounge offers high tea. Other amenities include a heated outdoor pool, a fitness centre, a sauna and steam room. Meeting and event space is available, including a ballroom.
This high-end hotel complex with a sleek glass exterior is 2 km from Nairobi National Game Park. Sophisticated rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, tea and coffee makers and safes. Suites with butler service add Jacuzzis, living and dining rooms.
There is a chic restaurant, a casual cafe, a bakery, 2 bars, a rooftop lounge and a nightclub. Other amenities include an ice rink, an indoor pool, an exercise room and a spa.
Malindi & Watamu Marine National Park
The small town of Malindi is at the centre of a strip of idyllic tropical beaches offering a range of world class resorts and quiet relaxing hideaways. Further south, the sleepy village of Watamu is fronted by wide white beaches. This tranquil haven is home to several well-established resorts, and many private guesthouses scattered through the forest along the deserted shore.
At Watamu a Marine National Park has been established, an ideal day trip for divers and snorkellers alike.
Northwest of Malindi is the spectacular Marafa Depression, locally known as Nyari and popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen. An extensive series of sandstone gorges and sheer gullies, this unique and otherworldly landscape has become part of local folklore.
The thick jungles of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest reserve hide a world of wonders. In the cool of the forest winding paths will take you in search of rare endemic birds and mammals, and visiting herds of Elephant.
The forest holds another secret, the lost town of Gedi, a deserted trading Swahili town hidden deep in the forests, whose winding passages and crumbling walls tell of a long and mysterious past.
Walk through the Forest, explore the mangroves by boat, dive on the reef or try your hand at big game fishing. At the North coast you have all these choices and more, with the space and freedom to relax, unwind, and soak up the atmosphere.
A melting pot of languages and cultures from all sides of the Indian Ocean and a blend of India, Arabia and Africa that can be charming and intoxicating. Mombasa is an island connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries. Explore the exotic old town, among the narrow winding streets where the air is always heavy with the scent of spices. At the water’s edge is Fort Jesus, an imposing fort that stands watch over the harbour.
A vibrant, uncrowded, intimate little paradise on the quiet shores of the Indian Ocean, just south of Mombasa in beautiful Kenya. Incorporating Tiwi Beach, Galu Beach, Chale Island, Funzi Island, Msambweni and Kinondo. Diani has a wide range of hotels to suit any budget.
National Parks & Reserves
Maasai Mara National Reserve
One of the best-known reserves in the whole of Africa, and is globally renowned for its exceptional wildlife. Across the vast plains of the Mara visitors can witness the Big-5 and an infinite variety of other species in their natural habitat. The reserve is in the Great Rift Valley in primarily open grassland, where wildlife tends to be most concentrated on the western escarpment. The annual wildebeest’s migration alone involves over 1.5 million animals arriving around July and departing again in November. The Maasai Mara’s neighbouring private conservancies offer a range of accommodation, from child-friendly to romantic. We highly recommend taking a hot-air balloon flight as well as experiencing an authentic cultural interaction with the Maasai people.
The Mara Triangle is serviced by two all-weather airstrips – Mara Serena and Kichwa Tembo. The main road access into the Triangle is through Narok and Sekenani Gate.
Amboseli National Park
One of Kenya's most popular parks, with the main attraction undoubtedly Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa’s highest peak. Located 260km from Nairobi and bordering Tanzania. The name "Amboseli" comes from a Maasai word meaning "salty dust", and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands with sulphur springs, the savannah and woodlands. We recommend a visit to a local Maasai community who live around the park and experience their authentic culture.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru is among Kenya's finest national parks in the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland. Visitors can enjoy the wide ecological diversity and varied habitats that range from Lake Nakuru itself to the surrounding escarpment and picturesque ridges. Ideal for bird watching, hiking, picnic and game drives, the southern end of the lake is the best place to see wildlife. The forested area below Flamingo Hill is a favourite lion-spotting point where lionesses love to sleep in the trees, while leopards frequent the same area, and are also sometimes seen around Makolia camp.
Hell’s Gate National Park
A remarkable quarter of the Great Rift Valley, with spectacular scenery including the towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges, stark rock towers, scrub clad volcanoes and belching plumes of geothermal steam that make it one of the most atmospheric Parks in Africa. Hell’s Gate is an ideal venue for a day trip from Nairobi where, in addition to the bio-diversity that includes raptors, visitors can enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing and a natural spa.
Samburu Game Reserve
A rugged and semi-desert park located in the Rift Valley Province neighbours the homes of the Samburu tribe of Kenya, known for their remote culture, pastoral and nomadic way of life. The Uaso Nyiro River cuts through this reserve, drawing a big population of Kenya’s animals to the park. The river bustles with activity from its huge population of Nile crocodile. Birdlife is as plentiful and boasts over 350 different species, including vultures, kingfishers, marabous, bateleurs, guinea fowl, Somali ostriches and others.
Meru National Park
A complete wilderness on a magnificent scale. The Meru and Kora sister parks feature jungle, rivers, swamps, grasslands and gaunt termite cathedrals all under the clear blue sky. Little visited and utterly unspoilt, few places are comparable to the remote and rugged atmosphere found here. Visitors can see Grevy's zebras, elephants, Bohor reedbucks, hartebeests, pythons, puff adders, cobras, buffalos and more than 427 recorded species of birds.
Nairobi National Park
A short drive out of Nairobi’s central business lies wide open grass plains, with a backdrop of city scrapers. Scattered acacia bush play host to a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered black rhino, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and diverse birdlife with over 400 species recorded. Visitors can enjoy the park’s picnic sites, three campsites and the walking trails for hikers.
Mount Kenya National Park
Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa, where the surrounding scenery to this designated World Heritage Site is breath-taking. It is pristine wilderness with lakes, tarns, glaciers, dense forest, mineral springs and a selection of rare and endangered species of animals, high altitude adapted plains game and unique montane and alpine vegetation. Visitors can enjoy mountain climbing, camping and caving with the mountain’s rugged glacier-clad peaks providing the perfect backdrop.
Tsavo East National Park
One of the oldest and largest African safari parks in Kenya, although not all of the park is open to the public. Key attractions include the Galana River and the Yatta plateau, as well as several pools and dams used as watering holes by both birds and animals. Its relative closeness to the beaches and tourist attractions around Malindi and Mombasa, make it an ideal one-day wildlife safari destination for those who do not want to stay overnight.
Tsavo West National Park
Located 188km from Mombasa, there are many attractions at Tsavo West National Park, from safari tours to see the red-skinned elephants, to birdwatching and hill hiking, to caving and boating. From Lake Jipe, on the Tanzanian border, to the mountain forests of the Chyulu Hills, the wide range of landscape offers protection to many endangered African wildlife including the black rhinoceros, Cosen's gerbil, Hunter's hartebeest, several species of shrew and rat, Grevy's zebra and wild dogs.
Accommodation caters for everyone, from the medium budget to the luxury lodges. It’s a popular honeymoon destination due to its spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Aberdare National Park
A high altitude national park created to protect the slopes and moorland of the Aberdare Mountains. The park is a perfect location for topography enthusiasts and for viewing Kenya's animals and birds.
Scenery ranges from high moorland, hills and peaks to indigenous forest, ravines, streams and waterfalls. Due to its high altitude, the park is very rainy and misty, with roads that become impassable during the wet season. Aberdare is home to the second largest herd of endangered black rhinos and two of Kenya’s best Safari Lodges are located here – Treetops and The Ark, that both provide excellent game viewing at night over the watering hole.