Spotlight on Kenya
There are a million reasons to visit Kenya as it is a country whose raw beauty radiates from every inch, and camera angle! Synonymous with stunning landscapes and the safari experience, Kenya’s sweeping plains, mountains and deserts, colourful tribal culture, beaches and coral reefs bewitch all who visit her. When one longs for the remarkable, they long for Kenya. Kenyan parks and game reserves, like Tsavo National Park, rate among the top ten destinations in the world for animal and bird life and are best explored via every means possible: on foot, in boats, 4WD vehicles and from above in a hot air balloon. They are also playgrounds for the more active adventurers with opportunities to trek the glacial ridges of Mt Kenya, wander searing deserts on the shores of the Jade Sea, traverse gorges and basalt columns of Hell’s Gate National Park, bike ride at Lake Naivasha, or snorkel at the Marine National Park in Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast.
Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve is widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve, and is a vast sanctuary for endangered species such as the rhino and elephant, so nearly destroyed by hunting and poaching. Known as The Kingdom of Lions, its plains, woodlands and riverine forest are home to a breath taking array of life including lion, cheetah, hyena, jackal, zebra, giraffe, gazelle, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo, monkeys and bird life – to name but a few. From July to October it also plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti, bringing more than 1.3 million wildebeest together into a single massive herd. A sunrise hot air balloon excursion over the wandering mass will draw gasps of wonder and delight from even the most seasoned traveller, and is nicely topped off by a champagne breakfast out in the open savannah.
The Mara is also home to the Masai warriors, Africa’s most well-known tribe. Characterised by their bright red clothing and beaded jewellery, the male warriors show off their strength by jumping high into the air in dance. A strongly independent people, they believe it is important to share the plains and live in harmony with wildlife; following traditional lifestyles and rituals as their ancestors have over thousands of years. This unique co-existence of man and wildlife makes this Maasai land one of the world’s most extraordinary wilderness regions.
The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre, just outside Nairobi, is a breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Visitors to the Centre and exclusive colonial guesthouse, Giraffe Manor, can get up close and personal with giraffes that freely wander the lush gardens, or hand-feed them via elevated platforms. The curious giraffes pay an occasional visit to the house itself, often peering through open French-windows to inspect the breakfast table!
Kenyan food is similar to that found across the region where meat with potatoes, maize or rice is common but the one major dish which is unique to the country is nyama choma (barbecued goat’s meat), best eaten around the glow of a roaring campfire. If, however, your idea of the dream safari includes formal banquet dinners, fine liquors and elegant table settings then you need not go without – Kenya looks after one and all.
Kenya’s best buys include Makonde carvings made from ebony or soapstone, kiondos (wooden baskets), jewellery and tribal souvenirs including colourful Maasai beaded jewellery, spears and shields.
When to go
Game viewing is at its best when the weather is hottest and driest throughout July, August and September as the animals gather around watercourses (making them easier to spot). The wet season during April and May should be avoided as many places close down over this time, and animals are harder to spot.