Destinations

 

Welcome to Kenya

Kenya
Kenya is the 'Land of the Lion King' and sits at the centre of the African safari experience, with an outstanding variety of wild animals and Big Five viewing opportunities. Although safaris are its greatest attraction, it is a country of great diversity with much more to offer than splendid wildlife. Essentially it is a place for outdoor living - the coast offers beaches and water-based activities, the mountains present a challenge to hikers and climbers, and the rolling savannahs are a game-viewers paradise.  The country sits astride the equator and offers fabulous scenery and a variety of tribal cultures. From its central location, the sacred peaks of Mt Kenya reign over a landscape primarily covered by grasslands and thorn trees, much of it enclosed within its many parks and reserves. To the west the spectacular Great Rift Valley is sprinkled with lakes teeming with a variety of birdlife, whose shores and surrounds are traversed by agricultural farmlands. To the east lies the promise of an idyllic beach holiday with the requisite white palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs.  Inhabiting the highlands and Rift Valley are two of the most well known of the numerous tribal cultures, the Kikuyu farmers and the tall, red-clad Masai cattle herders. The coast is home to ancient Swahili civilisations and old port towns that are rich in a history of exotic spice trading and fighting.  Kenya has a sophisticated tourism infrastructure, with two major cities controlling the majority of the tourism trade. Nairobi, the capital, is the safari and hiking hub, situated in the cool Central Highlands, while on the east coast the hot and humid trading port of Mombasa functions as the gateway to the resorts and pristine beaches of the area. People are friendly and interesting and the combination of wildlife, beaches and mountains make Kenya a fantastic holiday destination.
 
For more information on Flights, Car Hire or Taxis & Airport Collection, please see the relevant pages on our Menu bar.
 
 

Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

There is an abundance of things to see and do in Kenya, a country which boasts some of the African continent's most famous and sought-after tourist attractions. Kenya is essentially a dream destination for African wildlife safaris and most of its attractions revolve around the incredible game reserves and the famous naturalists and wildlife professionals who have worked in the country. Game viewing in the 'Land of the Lion King' is a must, with quintessential destinations near Nairobi, like the Masai Mara National Reserve (where Out of Africa was filmed), while Hell�s Gate National Park is located in the Great Rift Valley. Visit Elsamere Conservation Centre, where Joy Adamson of Born Free lived, and take in the natural splendour of Lake Naivasha. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum and enjoy the Giraffe Centre and the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  Another draw card for Kenyan tourism is the wonderful coastline and paradise beaches. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean are ideal for swimming and watersports and there are some well-preserved coral reefs to explore beneath the surface. There are a number of popular resorts along the Kenyan coast and Mombasa is an interesting port city. Kenya has pleasant weather throughout the year, making this a great beach holiday destination.
 
Hells Gate National Park:  Named for the pair of massive red cliffs of the Njorowa Gorge that encloses a geothermic area of hot springs and steam vents, Hell's Gate is one of the two parks in Kenya that allows visitors to explore on foot, making it an ideal place for hiking, cycling, camping and rock climbing. It is famous for its natural steaming geysers, and the towering cliffs provide an eagle and vulture breeding ground. The wide plains are home to numerous animals, such as zebra, buffalo, eland, gazelle, hartebeest, warthog and baboon and the experience of walking alongside a giraffe or past a herd of zebra is a memorable one.  One of the most popular ways to explore the park is to hire bicycles at the park gate and ride unaccompanied down to the gorge. The bikes are not always in the best condition but they are cheap and the journey is a wonderful experience; if you do get tired or stuck with a bad bike the route is patrolled regularly by rangers who give stragglers lifts. Upon reaching the gorge it is best to hire a guide to help you along the hike route: the guides help you traverse the route through the canyon and explain the interesting geological origins and features of the landscape, as well as explaining the local mythology and Masai names given to the features. After the tour you can ride back to the gate or get a lift. It is also possible to camp in the park.
 
Malindi:  Situated on the beach 60 miles (40km) north of Mombasa is the lazy, unashamedly hedonistic holiday resort of Malindi. For most the main attraction is the dazzling white sandy beaches that line the shore. However, for the more energetic, there is also excellent fishing to be done while on holiday in Malindi. Trips leave early in search of barracuda, tuna and marlin, before the heat of the day sets in.  One of the few authentic Portuguese relics left on the coast can be found on the cliffs at the southern end of Malindi harbour - the cross of Vasco da Gama bears the Portuguese coat of arms and commemorates his arrival here in 1498, definitely worth seeing on any Malindi holiday.  South of Malindi are the Watamu and Malindi Marine National Parks. These protected areas of white coral beaches and stunning blue lagoons are a major holiday attraction for snorkellers and scuba divers. Malindi holidaymakers are also drawn here as the sea is crystal clear in contrast with the Malindi holiday resorts' waters, which are muddied by the Sabaki River. Between the two marine parks is the abandoned 15th century Swahili town of Gedi, where visitors can wander around the ruins of the palace, market place, houses, mosques and pillared tombs.
 
Tsavo National Park:  The vast Tsavo National Park is only an hour's drive from Mombasa along the main highway to Nairobi, and for administrative purposes is divided into the East and West. Covering 8, 422 sq miles (21, 812 sq km), the park is home to giraffe, buffalo, antelopes, monkeys, many exotic birds and Kenya's largest herds of elephant. The elephant often look startlingly red, covered in the dust and mud of the region's ruddy soil. Visitors are also likely to see rhinos - after being virtually wiped out by poachers in the 1980s their population now numbers almost 200; most are found in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Poaching has now practically been eliminated and the elephant population is also increasing; there are now around 5, 000 animals, up from 3, 000 in 1985, but still short of the 25, 000 that are estimated to have roamed the park in the 1960s. Another exciting attractions is an observation tank in one of the park's pools from which visitors can get a close-up view of hippos, crocodiles and tropical fish in their natural habitat. 
 
The Great Rift Valley:  Millions of years ago the earth's crust was weakened and it tore apart, creating a split thousands of kilometres long down the continent of Africa up to 62 miles (100km) wide in places. Volcanic eruptions on either side caused the floor to sink into a flat plain creating the Great Rift Valley. It is one of Kenya's characteristic features and divides the country in half, from north to south, with stunning panoramas and beautiful escarpment backdrops. The wide valley is scattered with a few volcanoes and several lakes; it is inhabited by grazing animals, Masai herders and small-town dwellers. The string of alkaline lakes known for their stunning scenery and variety of bird life include Lakes Naivasha, Elementeita, Nakuru, Bogoria and Baringo. The uniqueness of these lakes lies in their high concentration of sodium carbonate from the surrounding volcanic rocks. This creates an ideal breeding ground for algae and a thriving environment for fish, which in turn attracts millions of birds to feed on the abundant food supply. Each of the lakes has a different water composition ranging from freshwater to very saline and brackish, with different bird life attracted to each.
 
The Kenyan Coast:  The Kenyan coast is lined with a mixture of beautiful white sand beaches and tourist resorts, interspersed with Arab and Portuguese forts, overgrown ruins of Swahili outposts and old trading port towns that are the remnants of its fascinating history. The first traders along the coast were Arabs from the Persian Gulf and several settlements developed during the 12th century. The KiSwahili language that evolved as a means of communication between the locals and the Arab traders is still spoken today. Trade continued even after the Portuguese took control of the whole coastal region in 1498 and throughout the towns the architecture reflects the changes in occupation and their cultural differences. Spectacular coral reefs with colourful plant and fish life 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 coral reefs and enormous fish due to the lack of coastal fishing traffic. Mombasa is the centre of activity in the region and Kenya's second largest city. North of Mombasa the coast is lined with resort complexes catering mainly to package tourists, with luxury accommodation, fine cuisine and excellent services. Calm waters and palm-backed beaches are in abundance. Further north is the resort town of Malindi, as well as Watamu Bay, and the islands of the Lamu Archipelago.
 

Business

Business in Kenya tends to be conducted formally and conservatively, with the appropriate formal attire of a jacket and tie. Patience, cultural sensitivity, tolerance for uncertainty, and the ability to build personal relationships with business associates are all central to successfully doing business in Kenya. Ethnic division and corruption undermine the Kenyan economy, but they are realities in the business world of Kenya. Despite red tape and numerous pitfalls, Kenya is a land of business opportunity and the IT and telecoms sectors are rapidly expanding. The concept of 'harambee' is important in business culture in Kenya: it involves a sense of community, responsibility and mutual assistance. Deference to seniority is important, as is social standing. Use of official titles is key during introductions and greetings. Terse statements should be avoided and controlling one's emotions is vitally important. While punctuality is key and meetings should begin on time, they often don't end on time. When introducing a new deal, it is important to illustrate respect for tradition and history. Deals generally only close when it is clear that all the possible information has been considered and deliberated upon. Interpersonal relationships add to business success and understanding Kenyan culture and history is a great way of building business contacts. Building a solid business relationship is prioritised over meeting deadlines and closing deals. English is the language of business. Business hours run from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and dress style should be formal with suits or smart-casual wear. Gifts are important and generally expected. Taking time to greet everyone and enquire about the health of their family will ensure a smooth business meeting. Respect for elders is important and if you are invited to dinner, never begin eating until the eldest member has started. Also, refrain from leaving food on your plate. In introductions, clasping an elder or key business associate's wrist with your other hand while shaking hands conveys respect.
 

Climate

Kenya lies on the equator and has a pleasant tropical climate, but there are large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. Temperatures drop by about 6°C for every 1000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1000ft). Kenya’s daytime temperatures average between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F, but it is warmer on the coast. The coast is hot and humid all year round, but the heat is pleasant and tempered by the monsoon winds. Kenya is too close to the equator to experience a real winter and summer. There is, however, both a dry and wet season.
 

Dry Season:  June to October

June, July, August, September & October:  These are the coldest months. Temperatures vary significantly per region and with their difference in altitude. Daytime temperatures are usually around 23°C/73°F at higher altitudes, like the Masai Mara, and 28°C/82°F at lower altitudes, like the coastal areas. During the dry season the sky is clear and days are sunny. Early morning temperatures at higher altitude are typically 10°C/50°F. It is advised to pack warm clothing as morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold. There is very little rain in most of the country so these are the least humid months, making this the best time to stay at one of Kenya's beautiful beaches.
 

Wet Season:  November to May
 
During the wet season daytime temperatures are between 24°C/75°F and 27°C/81°F at higher altitudes. At lower altitudes daytime temperatures are more consistent and hover at 30°C/86°F. Mornings stay pretty cool at higher altitude and it is advised to pack warm clothes for early morning game drives in open vehicles. From December to April the humidity is intense in Tsavo and coastal areas.

November & December:  ‘Short rains’ - A period of unpredictable, short rains between November and December lasts about a month. The rain is sometimes heavy, but mostly falls in the late afternoon or evening and will seldom have a real negative impact on your safari.

January & February:  During these months a dry spell in the rainy season occurs and it rains less. How long the spell lasts and when it takes place, exactly, is unpredictable.

March, April & May:  ‘Long rains’ - These months get the most rain and it can downpour on a daily basis, although seldom the whole day. It’s very cloudy especially in the highlands, including Aberdare NP and the Laikipia Plateau parks. Humidity is higher and will be particularly noticeable in the coastal regions.
 

Communications

The international access code for Kenya is +254. The outgoing code is 000 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00027 for South Africa), unless dialling Tanzania or Uganda when the outgoing codes are 007 or 006 respectively. City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)41 for Mombasa and (0)20 for Nairobi. International Direct Dial is available throughout most of the country, but the service is expensive and inefficient. Hotels usually add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is less expensive to either call from one of the international phone services, which are available in larger towns, or buy a pre-paid calling card for use in the public telephone booths. For international operator-assisted calls call 0196. All major urban areas are covered by the mobile network; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks that have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone operators. Internet cafes are widely available in most towns and tourist areas.
 

Electricity

240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style square three-pin plugs are used.
 

Getting Around

 
Airports
 
Mombasa Airport
 
Moi International Airport (MBA)
 
Location: The airport is situated six miles (10km) north west of Mombasa.
 
Getting to the City:  Public buses go regularly to the city centre, but most travellers take a taxi or arrange to be picked up by their hotel or tour operator.
 
Time:  Local time is GMT +3.
 
Contacts:  Tel: +254 (0)41 433 211.
 
Car Rental:  Avis, Europcar and Hertz are represented at the airport.
 
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available and cost up to US$ 28 for the 40 minute drive into the city.
 
Facilities:  Facilities at the airport are fairly limited by international standards but include left luggage, disabled facilities, first aid, banks, a bureau de change, bars, a restaurant, duty-free, a post office, curio shops, tourist information and hotel reservations.
 
Parking:  Short- and long-term parking is available.
 
Departue Tax:  US$20, but this is usually included in the ticket price.
 
 
 
Nairobi Airport
 
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO):  The primary airport for flights to Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was named for the country's first prime minister (who later became its first president). The facility serves more than five million passengers each year on flights from other African countries, as well as Europe and the Middle East, including cities like London, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Doha, Antananarivo, Kinshasa, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Maputo, Johannesburg and Cairo.  The facility itself is basic, though it has a good selection of duty-free souvenir shops and a few good restaurants. Located 9.3 miles (15km) from central Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is rather busier than it can handle with long queues a common occurrence. Expansion plans are underway however, to increase capacity by 1.5 million passengers.
 
Location:  The airport is situated 10 miles (16km) southeast of Nairobi.
 
Getting to the City:  The KBS bus service 34 leaves fairly regularly for the city centre; most travellers however take a taxi or arrange to be picked up by their hotel or tour operator. The Mercedes taxis take passengers to the central city hotels for a fixed fare.
 
Time:  Local time is GMT +3.
 
Contacts:  Tel: +254 (0)20 822 111.
 
Car Rental:  Avis, Europcar and Hertz, among others, are represented at the airport.
 
Airport Taxis:  Taxis are available and the trip to into Walvis Bay costs N$140 and takes roughly 15 minutes.
 
Facilities:   The facilities at the airport are fairly limited, but include a bank and bureau de change, left luggage, telephones and fax, medical aid, a bar and restaurant, duty-free shops selling curios, a post office, tourist information and hotel reservations. There are disabled facilities, but passengers should advise their airline in advance of any special needs.
 
Parking:  Parking at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is charged at KSH 60 per hour for short-term parking, and KSH 70 per hour for long-term parking.
 
Departure Tax:  US$20, but this is usually included in the ticket price.
 
Airlines: Flights to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are available via British Airways, African Express Airways, Air Arabia, Emirates, Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, Air Uganda, KLM, Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways, Brussels Airlines, Eqyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Fly 540, Gulf Air, Jetlink Express, Kenya Airways, Qatar, Saudi Arabia Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
 
Internet:   Wifi is accessible at several coffee shops for paying customers.
 
Business Lounges:   VIP lounges associated with individual airlines provide business services and internet cafes offer copy and fax services, however conference facilities are only available at hotels in Nairobi.
 
 
Kisimu International Airport (KIS)
 
Location:  The airport is located to the northwest of Kisumu.
 
Getting to the City:  Buses are available from the airport to the centre of town.
 
Time:  Local time is GMT +3.
 
Car Rental:  Elite Car Rental has facilities at the airport.
 
Airport Taxis:  Taxis are available at the airport and takes 10 minutes to get to the centre of town.
 
Facilities:   Airport services include banking and currency exchange facilities.
 
Parking:  Parking is available at the airport.
 
 
Road and Rail
 
Road travel fine with car hire readily available but off road vehicles most certainly required to get to the true tourist spots one wants to visit. Rail travel is available in parts but is for the budget traveller.
 

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), which is divided into 100 cents. 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. Banks open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm and on the first and last Saturday of the month. Banks and bureaux de change at the international airport stay open 24 hours. 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.
 

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Kenya must hold proof of sufficient funds (at least USD 500) to cover their stay in the country, return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Most foreign nationals require a visa, and some foreign nationals can obtain visas on arrival in Kenya, provided that (i) their passport is in good condition, and (ii) they have at least one blank page in their passport for the visa endorsement. The visa fee is USD 50, which is also payable in GBP or EUR. On-arrival visas are valid for three months. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Kenya, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area.
 
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.  Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
 

Time

GMT +3.
 

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in Kenya, however a 10 percent service charge may be added to the bill in more upmarket restaurants. Otherwise, small change in local currency may be offered to taxi drivers, porters and waiters. Note that on safari drivers, guides and cooks often rely heavily on tips to get by, but these are discretionary.
 

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