Kenya is named after a mountain of the same name. The Kikuyu people who lived around present day Mt Kenya referred to it as Kirinyaga or Kerenyaga, meaning ‘mountain of whiteness’ because of its snow capped peak. Mt Kirinyaga which was the main landmark became synonymous with the territory the British later claimed as their colony. However, the name Kenya arose out of the inability of the British to pronounce Kirinyaga correctly.
Kenya covers an area of approximately 580,367 square kilometres and lies almost exactly astride the equator.
According to the national population and housing census report of 2009, there are an estimated 38,610,097 Kenyans dispersed around the country. In the semi arid north and northeast regions, population density hardly reaches 2 per sq km, whereas in the rich and fertile western, population density rises to 120 persons per sq km. In the well endowed Rift Valley, population density varies from one area to another with an average of 13 inhabitants per sq km.
Nearly 25% of the total is concentrated in the large cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu including large towns such as Nakuru. Women account for 50.48% of the total population.
Kenya is bordered to the north by Sudan and Ethiopia, to the east by Somalia, to the west by Uganda, to the south by Tanzania, and to the southeast by the Indian Ocean. Much of the country, especially in the north and east, is arid or semi-arid. From the Indian Ocean the land rises gradually through dry bush to the fine arable land of the highlands.
In the low-lying districts, particularly along the coast, the climate is tropical, hot and humid. On the Plateau and in the highlands the climate is more temperate. Western Kenya and most parts of Nyanza experience heavy conventional rain and have two rain seasons, the long rains from April to June and the short rains from October to November.Kenya’s warm climate is favourable for tourism during the drier season that is between September and March.
Cushites: This group includes the Somali, Orma, Rendille, and Borana.
Bantu: This includes the Gikuyu, Luhya, Kamba, Embu, Meru, Kisii, Mijikenda, Taveta, Taita, Pokomo, Bajuni, Boni and Sanye
Nilotes: Includes the Luo, Kalenjin, Maasai, Teso and Samburu
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Principal commercial cities and towns
Nairobi is the capital city and a commercial center. It is situated 300 miles from the Coast and lies midway between the capitals of Uganda and Tanzania. It is the largest city in east Africa and houses two UN agencies, UNEP and Habitat.
Mombasa is Kenya’s main port and popular holiday city. It is situated on an island in a natural sheltered
inlet. It is the only port that serves not only Kenya but land locked countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan.
Kisumu is the Chief Port city on the shores of lake Victoria. It serves western Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Nakuru is an agricultural and industrial town in the Rift Valley basin.Eldoret lies on the main road and rail route to Uganda. It is mainly an agricultural town that serves wheat and Maize farmers from the North Rift.
TSAVO EAST NATIONAL PARK
The sight of dust-red elephant wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images in Africa. This, along with the 300 kilomtere long Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, make for an adventure unlike any other in the Tsavo East. The park forms the largest protected area in Kenya and is home to most of the larger mammals, vast herds of dust –red elephant, Rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, pods of hippo, crocodile, waterbucks, lesser Kudu, gerenuk and the prolific bird life features 500 recorded species.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Amboseli lies immediately north-west of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the border with Tanzania. The Park covers 392 square km, and forms part of the much larger 3,000 square km Amboseli ecosystem. Large concentrations of wildlife occur here in the dry season, making Amboseli a popular tourist destination. It is surrounded by six communally owned group ranches.
The National Park embodies five main wildlife habitats (open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush country, swamps and marshland) and covers part of a Pleistocene lake basin, now dry. Within this basin is a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, that floods during years of heavy rainfall.
Amboseli is famous for its big game and its great scenic beauty – and the landscape is dominated by the towering Mount Kilimanjaro.
Major Attractions: Mount Kilimanjaro; Observation Hill which allows an overall view of the whole park especially the swamps and elephants; Swamp below observation hill hosts many elephants, buffaloes, hippos and a variety of water fowl like pelican; Egyptian goose; contemporary Maasai culture and indigenous lifestyle; herds of elephants.
Wildlife: Amboseli has over 80 different mammals to be found ranging from the tiny (and rarely seen) spectacled elephant shrew to the huge bulk of the African elephant. Few visitors will go home without superb elephant pictures with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. There are over 400 bird species.
Getting there – By Road: The main road into the park is from Nairobi via Namanga (240 km) on the Nairobi-Arusha Road, via Meshanani Gate. The road is tarmaced up to Namanga but is murram from Namanga to Meshanani Gate (75km).
The other road is via Emali (228 km) on the Nairobi- Mombasa Road. The road is tarmaced up to Emali and murram from Emali to Remito Gate (64 km) Access from Mombasa is mainly through Tsavo West via Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate.
By Air: The Park has an airstrip at Empusel gate. There is also an airstrip for light aircraft at the Park Headquarters (Olekelunyiet). Other airstrips exist at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town. Where to stay – Amboseli has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. There are very basic campsites where one can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild, well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, small private camps for your exclusive use and much, much, more.
MOUNT KENYA NATIONAL PARK
Climbing to 5,199 meters, Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa. The scenery surrounding 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.
LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
On the floor of the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland, lies the beautiful Lake Nakuru National Park. Visitors can enjoy the wide ecological diversity and varied habitats that range from Lake Nakuru itself to the surrounding escarpment and picturesque ridges. Lake Nakuru National Park is ideal for bird watching, hiking, picnic, and game drives.
SAMBURU GAME RESERVE
Samburu National Reserve is one of the lesser-known national parks, but is nevertheless teeming with life.
Situated alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, there is plenty to attract wildlife from the surrounding savannah plains.
The reserve is rich in wildlife with an abundance of rare northern specialist species such as the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx (also referred to as Samburu Special Five).
The reserve is also home to elephants and large predators such as the lion, leopard and cheetah.
Kamunyak the miracle lioness that adopted the baby oryx was as a resident in the reserve.
Wild dog sightings are also a common attraction to this unique protected area. Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded.
MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Kenya. The reserve is located in the Great Rift Valley in primarily open grassland.
Wildlife tends to be most concentrated on the reserve’s western escarpment.
The Masai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas. The annual wildebeest’s migration alone involves over 1.5 million animals arriving in July and departing in November. There have been some 95 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 birds species recorded on the reserve.
Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant, and it is for this reason a visitor hardly misses to see the big five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino).
The Mara is known as one of the finest wildlife destinations in the World. There is an excellent chance of seeing the Big Five
Climatic conditions – Altitude 5,300 feet (1,600 metres). Rainy season from November through May, with peak rainfall in December-January and April-May. Dry season from June-November. Often sunny mornings with cloud build-up in the afternoons – during the rains this develops into thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening. Max temperatures up to 30°C and min temperatures around 20°C.
Wildlife – The Mara is known as one of the finest wildlife destinations in the World. There is an excellent chance of seeing the Big 5, cheetah, serval, hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed and side-striped jackals, hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthog, topi, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, impala, waterbuck, oribi, reed-buck, zebra.
During the migration (July to November) huge numbers of wildebeest move in.
Access – 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.
Accommodation – Mara Serena (150 beds) and Little Governors’ Camp (36 beds) are the only two lodges situated in the Triangle. Kichwa Tembo, Mpata Club, Olonana, Mara Siria and Kilima Camp are situated on the periphery but use the Triangle.
Best time to visit – Peak season is between July and October, during the migration. Early November and February can also offer excellent game viewing.
Activities – Game viewing, camping, night game drives, visits to Masai cultural villages, ballooning, bush dinner, lunch and breakfast
TSAVO WEST NATIONAL PARK
From the sight of fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gushing out of from the under parched lava rock that is the Mzima Springs to the Shetani lava flows, Tsavo West is a beautiful, rugged wilderness. The savannah ecosystem comprises of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges including the Poacher’s Lookout where visitors can see the teeming herds in the plains below. Tsavo West offers some of the most magnificent game viewing in the world and attractions include elephant, rhino, Hippos, lions, cheetah, leopards, Buffalos, diverse plant and bird species including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler.
NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
Nairobi National Park is unique by being the only protected area in the world with a variety of animals and birds close to a capital city.
The park is a principal attraction for visitors to Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park is one of the most successful of Kenya’s rhino sanctuaries that is already generating a stock for reintroduction in the species former range and other upcoming sanctuaries. Due to this success, it is one of the few parks where a visitor can be certain of seeing a black rhino in its natural habitat.
Nairobi Tented Camp is the first accommodation of any sort to be allowed in this unique safari destination. There is nowhere else in the world like it. Each of the 9 tents houses 2 people, and have their own flushing toilets and safari showers so you can enjoy en-suite living safari style.This is a wilderness escape where you can savor the thrill of camping in the heart of thick bush land right on the door step of the capital city.
HELL’S GATE NATIONAL PARK
Hell’s Gate National Park covers an area of 68.25 square km and is situated in the environs of Lake Naivasha about 90 km from Nairobi. The park is 14 km after the turnoff from the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway.
It is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery. It is an important home of the lammergeyer (The Bearded Vulture).
Hell’s Gate has two gates that are used by visitors – the main Elsa Gate and the Olkaria Gate. The latter also serves the Olkaria Geothermal Station that is located inside the National Park.
ABERDARES NATIONAL PARK
Picturesque, steep forested ravines and open moorland characterise the Aberdare National Park. The park provides a habitat for elephants, black rhinos, leopards, spotted hyenas, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys,
buffalos, warthogs and bushbucks among others. Rare sightings include those of the Giant Forest hog, bongo, golden cat, serval cat, African wild cat, African civet cat and the blue duiker. Visitors can indulge in picnics, trout fishing in the rivers and camping in the moorlands. Bird viewing is rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in the park, including the Jackson’s Francolin, Sparrow hawks, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds and plovers.
Within the park, we offer Treetops Lodge and the Ark, the latter being a lodge built in the shape of Noah’s Ark. These provide day game drives and a choice of other activities as well as night game viewing in the Salient area of the Park with good sightings of elephant, buffalo, lion and rhino which are attracted to the saltlicks and waterholes each evening.
MERU NATIONAL PARK
Meru National Park is wild and beautiful. Straddling the equator and bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams, it is an especially beautiful area of Kenya. It has diverse scenery from woodlands at 3,400ft(1,036m) on the slopes of Nyambeni Mountain Range, north east of Mt. Kenya, to wide open plains with meandering riverbanks dotted with doum palms.
Game to view includes: lion, elephant, cheetah, leopard black rhino, zebra, gazelle, oryx and some of the rarer antelope, Lesser Kudu and duiker, also the more common Dik Dik, one of Africa’s smallest antelope. Large prides of lion can be seen and some of Kenya’s largest herds of buffalo. The rivers abound with hippo and crocodile, fishing for barbus and catfish is permitted at camp sites and along the Tana River. In the mid 1980’s, the Park suffered from poaching, however KWS armed wildlife security patrols have driven out the poachers and the elephant population has stabilised with breeding herds settling down.
Over 300 species of birds have been recorded, including: Red-necked falcon, Heuglins courser, brown-backed woodpecker, sunbirds Peter’s Finfoot, inhabiting the Murera and Ura Rivers; Pel’s Fishing Owl, kingfishers, rollers, bee-eaters, starlings and weavers.
The Park is most famous as the setting for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free”, the story of the Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and cheetah. “Elsa” the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here. There is one lodge (132 beds) and two tented camps are planned. There are 8 special campsites which must be pre-booked, one public campsites;Elsa camp, KWS self-help bandas and Leopard Rock bands.
There are two routes to Meru national park from Nairobi. The first is the main road via Nyeri, Nanyuki and Meru, the second is via Embu-Meru road. It offers the best approach via the Ura gate. Dry weather route from Meru is through Mathara and Kangeta towards Maua turning left on the Kinna road leading to the National park gate. There are airstrips and leopard rock or Meru Mulika lodge.
BUFFALO SPRINGS & SHABA GAME RESERVES
The Isiolo District lies at the northern foot of Mt Kenya rising above the expansive range lands of northern Kenya.
The arid and semi-arid zones district sits as a divide between the populous agricultural highlands of the Mt. Kenya region and acts as a gateway into the vast lowlands of North Kenya inhabited by various nomadic pastoralist communities where wildlife and livestock freely co-exist.
Together with the adjacent Samburu, and divided by the river Ewaso Nyiro, the three reserves form a very popular tourist destination because of the diverse wildlife populations they support.
Unlike other wildlife areas in Kenya’s northern tourist circuit, the reserves, which are popularly known as the Samburu Ecosystem, sustain free ranging wildlife species both within the three reserves as well as far into community lands.
Climatic Conditions – Temperatures range from 30ºC during hottest months to 20ºC between July and September. Annual rainfalls range between 100mm to 300mm on average usually divided into two seasons, short rains in October/ November and long rains between February and May.
Wildlife – Besides normal species found elsewhere in Kenya, the area is a natural home to the five rare species known as the five northern species which are endemic to this area. They are Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Somali ostrich and the gerenuk. Shaba is also the home for the highly endangered Williamson’s lark. All these rare species can only be found inside this game reserve.
Access – Roads: From Nairobi through Nanyuki on a tarmac road to Isiolo, then a 22km murram road.
Air: Buffalo Springs Airstrip is used by scheduled flights from Nairobi each day linking the reserves to
other tourism destinations.
Best time to visit – All the year round
Activities – Game viewing safari, nature walks, entertainment by pastoralist cultural dancers, and visits to cultural villages to get the experience of nomadic lifestyle in the community.