Kenya – Africa’s free-ranging paradise. Kenya is one of the only places in Africa where you can watch a lion kill in the Masai Mara in the morning, then drift over coral reefs in a glass-bottomed boat off tropical Mombasa in the afternoon; or wander back in time through the Islamic island of Lamu. Kenya is Africa in miniature; it is home to the greatest concentration of free-ranging wildlife on earth as well as an astounding diversity of people with almost every main African tongue spoken and over forty distinct ethnic groups.
All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival. Those wishing to enter Kenya on business or for longer than 30 days, should obtain a visa from their nearest Kenyan Consulate.
Where applicable, visas should be obtained from your nearest Kenyan consulate.
Requirements for obtaining a visa are:
- photocopy of passport
- original application form and two passport photos
- All visitors to Kenya may be requested to show proof of sufficient funds and onward travel/return ticket.
This is a guide only, for up-to-date information, please check with the Kenyan Consulate.
Anyone entering Kenya must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. Please ensure you have this done at least 10 days prior to arrival in the country.
It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Kenya. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Kenya. It is important to note that the Kenyan authorities have banned the use of chloroquine combinations as prophylactics, and instead recommend the use of either mefloquine (Lariam/Mefliam) or doxycycline. Start your course at least one week before entering Kenya and continue taking the pills for six weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner, as this usually minimises the effect of the symptoms. Precautionary measures that you can take to prevent contact with mosquitoes are: sleeping under a bed net or in room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times), spraying your accommodation with insecticide, making use of a mosquito repelling lotion or stick and wearing long sleeve clothing and socks when outside at night.
Anyone who has any special medication should take enough supplies to last their visit.
Adequate medical services are available in Nairobi and Mombasa. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. We therefore recommend that travel insurance should also include medical cover. These policies are relatively inexpensive, compared to the cost of a medical evacuation. There are also frequent outbreaks of cholera, and malaria is endemic in Kenya outside Nairobi.
Do not use ice cubes, rare meat, eat raw seafood or dairy products. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors and only eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination.
We strongly recommend that you take out travel insurance which includes curtailment and cancellation cover as well as medical cover, upon confirmation of your booking.
Winter: June – August
Summer: September – March
Kenya is divided by the equator and enjoys a tropical climate that varies greatly. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and north-east parts of the country. The hottest period is in February and March and the coldest in July and August. The average annual temperatures in the main areas are as follows:
|Mombasa (coastal)||22ºC (72ºF)||30ºC (86ºF)|
|Nairobi||13ºC (55ºF)||25ºC (77ºF)|
|North plainland||23ºC (73ºF)||34ºC (93ºF)|
The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and tends to fall in the afternoon and evenings.
When to go and What to pack
When to go
Kenya is a year round destination with excellent game viewing. The annual wildebeest migration between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya takes place from around June to September.
Packing space is limited on all modes of safari transport so you will need to restrict your baggage to 12 – 15kg (packed in a soft bag) including camera equipment.
What to pack
Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year. The most practical items to pack for safari are:
- Khaki, green, beige and neutral colours
- Blouses and shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes)
- Shorts or a light skirt
- Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days.
- Some hotels and country clubs require gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie and women to be suitably attired for dinner.
- A windbreaker and sweater are recommended for early morning and evening game drives.
- Swimwear and beach apparel
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sunblock, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent, moisturiser and lip salve are all essentials.
Good quality, locally made clothing and shoes for safaris are available in Nairobi and Mombasa shops at a reasonable price.
Kenya’s national parks and game reserves have long been famous for their variety and wealth of flora and fauna. Whilst drought and overgrazing have destroyed some regions and there is still some conflict between tribal interests and wildlife preservation, the government fully recognises that Kenya’s future prosperity may depend on maintaining its remarkable natural heritage.
Aberdare National Park
Covering 766km², the Aberdares are a densely wooded mountain range rising to over 4000m with magnificent views over nearby Mount Kenya to the north, and the Rift Valley to the south.
The mountain slopes are covered in dense stands of rare afro-montane forest, while the high grasslands feature afro-alpine and subalpine heath and groundsels. The vistas are often more like those of Scotland than of Africa. A number of crystal clear streams and rivers all stocked with rainbow trout, criss-cross the plateau, with some spectacular waterfalls as the rivers tumble off the escarpment. The plateau is rich in game – elephant, leopard, lion, giant forest hog, bushbuck, blue monkey, colobus monkey, black rhino, buffalo and suni are some of the characteristic species.
Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of the rare melanistic (pitch-black) strain of leopard. This is one of the last strongholds of the critically endangered bongo (rare spiral-horned antelope). Walking is allowed, but only with an armed guard, as the lions here are aggressive and there have been several attacks in the past.
Amboseli National Park
A small park by Kenyan standards, covering just under 400km² at the centre of the border with Tanzania, 220km from Nairobi.
The view of the Amboseli plains, with elephant moving below the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, is one of the most photographed vistas in Africa. A network of swamps and wetlands ensure excellent game viewing year round. There are 425 recorded bird and 56 mammal species in the park, including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, hippo, black rhino, Maasai giraffe, gerenuk and zebra.
Masai Mara National Reserve
In the south-western corner of the country, 390km from Nairobi, lies a vast rolling plain beneath the Mara escarpment striped black once a year by millions of wildebeest and zebra migrating north from the Serengeti plains.
During the migration season (around July to August) the reserve’s resident lions lounge prominently in the sun, fat and seemingly placid. There are 13 tented camps and two lodges in the reserve. Maasai tribes people live on the reserve’s fringes and are co-owners of the reserve, sharing in revenues from tourism. This 1 672km² reserve is one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations and boasts all the big game species. Besides the normal safari activities, it is also possible to go hot-air ballooning across the plains, one of the finest ways to see Africa’s wildlife.
Meru National Park
Situated 400km from Nairobi, this 870km² park is one of Kenya’s most remote and unspoilt, being way off the beaten, package tourism track.
Tsavo National Park
The park was made famous by George and Joy Adamson as the place to which they brought Boy, son of the lioness, Elsa (“Born Free”), to set him free. Here too, Joy trained the cheetah Pippa, in how to re-adapt to the wild (as told in “The Spotted Sphinx”).
The Tana river, the largest in Kenya, abuts a small section of the park in the east, and Adamson’s Falls, at the tip of the park, are a spectacular sight after rain. Besides all the usual big game species (rhino excluded) this is an excellent place to see two relatively unusual animals, reticulated giraffe and gerenuk, also known as giraffe-necked gazelle. White rhino were reintroduced here, but fell prey to the guns of poachers in 1988. Since then, security has been considerably tightened up, and poaching has all but ceased.
At 21 000km², this is Kenya’s largest park by far, but much of the eastern section is closed to the public. Most of the land is open savannah and bush woodlands inhabited by buffalo, lion, antelope, gazelles, giraffe and zebra. Despite a drastic fall in the elephant population in the 1970s there are still many large herds.
Tsavo is a combination of dramatic escarpment landscapes combined with the raw, untamed flavour of one of Africa’s great wilderness areas. Mzima Springs, in Tsavo East, is one of the best places to watch crocodile and hippo. Here, crystal clear water bubbles out of the ground at a rate of 500million litres (110million gallons) a day. The spring is fed by snow melting off Mount Kilimanjaro, and a pipeline from the springs provides Mombasa with a large portion of its drinking water. A distinctive feature of Mzima is an underwater glass cage built by a wildlife film crew. Here you can descend a set of stairs, and encased in a glass hide, watch shoals of tilapia, and the occasional crocodile or hippo glide by.
The island city of Mombasa is the headquarters for Kenya’s coastal tourist trade, but has none of the fine beaches to be found to the north and south. Instead, this is a place to savour the history of the East Coast of Africa, a history of slavery, pirates, war and adventure.
The Old Town, Fort Jesus and the Old Harbour are fascinating places to while away a few hours, especially the Old Harbour, where you can watch majestic dhows (Arab sailing vessel), still sporting ancient rigs, plying their trade as far afield as Yemen and the Persian Gulf. Shopping is a delight in Mombasa, whether it be from vendors for locals crafts, or from the merchants in Biashara Street for Kenya’s almost obligatory beach wear, kikoi and kanga cloths.
Malindi lies 125km north of Mombasa and is the Miami Beach of East Africa, with its stretch of beautiful hotels and vibrant nightlife. Offshore are the Malindi and Watamu Marine National Parks, home to some of the finest scuba diving and snorkelling in Africa.
The South Coast
The coral reefs here are strictly protected, and for non-divers, glass-bottomed boats provide a window on an incredible marine heritage. This is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to snorkel in water less than three metres deep, and experience the kind of fish life usually reserved for scuba divers. Malindi is where Ernest Hemingway came to pursue marlin, sailfish and wahoo. Anglers can hire state of the art boats and equipment for what is rated as the best game fishing in Africa.
Protected by an offshore barrier coral reef, the south coast is famous for beautiful and safe beaches and spectacular diving, fishing and surfing.
The North Coast
Offshore are another two magnificent marine reserves, Kisite Marine National Park and Mpunguti Marine National Reserve, both with superb diving. And just a bit south, are Wasini Island and the Wasini Marine National Park, with arguably the best snorkelling in Africa. Inland is the little known Shimba Hills National Reserve, a 192km², heavily forested plateau which home to, among others, elephant, sable antelope, leopard, buffalo and hyena.