Kenya

The boundless wilderness and big game of this region has long attracted adventure seekers from all over the globe. No other African country can boast such an incredible range of landscapes, unique geographical features and species.

Kenya offers the visitor a chance to experience a natural world unchanged by the passage of time. The Kenyan wilderness is home to an endless array of ecosystems, the staging ground for natural cycles of life, death and regeneration as old as the planet itself.

This great range of natural habitats means that there is plenty to explore, and plenty of species to encounter. This is a land of endless potential for the wildlife enthusiast. From great migratory herds of the open savannah to an incredible abundance of birdlife, from the depths of a tropical rainforest to the depths of the Indian Ocean teeming with fish, this is a world of natural wonders.

Archaeological and Historical Sites

Fort Jesus – Mombasa

Fort Jesus is an interesting place to spend a day exploring the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls. There is an excellent Museum and trained guides available.

Today the majestic Fort Jesus is a National Monument, standing high over the Mombasa harbor.

Gedi Ruins

Gedi is one of Kenya’s great unknown treasures, a wonderful lost city lying in the depths of the great Arabuko Sokoke forest. It is also a place of great mystery, an archaeological puzzle that continues to engender debate among historians. To this day, despite extensive research and exploration, nobody is really sure what happened to the town of Gedi and its peoples. This once great civilization was a powerful and complex Swahili settlement with a population of over 2500, built during the 13th century. The ruins of Gedi include many houses, mansions, mosques and elaborate tombs and cemeteries.

Despite the size and complexity of this large (at least 45 acre) settlement, it is never mentioned in any historic writings or local recorded history. The nearby Portuguese settlement at Malindi seems to have had no contact with, or even known of the existence of Gedi. The town has all the appearances of a trading outpost, yet its position, deep in a forest and away from the sea makes it an unlikely trading centre. What was Gedi trading, and with whom? But the greatest of all of Gedi’s mysteries was its sudden and inexplicable desertion in the 17th century.

The entire town was suddenly abandoned by all of its residents, leaving it to ruination in the forest. There are no signs of battle, plague, disturbance or any cause for this sudden desertion. One current theory is that the town was threatened by the approach of the Galla, an inland tribe known to be outwardly hostile at that time, and that the townspeople fled ahead of their arrival. Yet once again, local recorded history fails to mention any such large scale evacuation at this time. No written account of either the rise or sudden fall of Gedi was ever made.

The ghostly ruins of Gedi lay within the forest that has overgrown and consumed the town. They had become a part of local folklore, regarded as a sinister lair of malevolent spirits, until archaeologists began to uncover the site in the 20th century. It was gazetted in 1948.

Today there is an excellent museum and well trained guides on hand to take visitors through the ruins. Gedi remains a mysterious and atmospheric place to visit. The pillars and stone walls, ruined mosques and tombs now lie among stands of trees. The stone floors are thick with leaves, and giant shrews scuttle through the deserted houses while birds and butterflies drift through the air. Wandering through Gedi is an ideal way to spend a morning or afternoon, lost among the secrets of the past.

Samburu National 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 dry season starts in late May, and goes up to early October when a large concentration of wildlife is found in the reserve due to availability of lush vegetation along the Ewaso Nyiro River, the main source of water to the Reserve and the nearby communities.

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 popular with a minimum of 900 elephants. Large predators such as the lion, leopard and cheetah are an important attraction (Kamunyak the miracle lioness that adopted the baby oryx is 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. Birds of the arid northern bush country are augmented by a number of riverine forest species.

The Lesser Kestrel and the Taita Falcon are species of global conservation concern and they both utilize the reserve. Five species categorized as vulnerable have also been recorded in the reserve.

These are the African darter, great egret, white-headed vulture, martial eagle and the yellow billed ox-pecker. The critically endangered pancake tortoise (malacochersus tornieri) is also found in the reserve.

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. It is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery. It is an important home of the lammergeyer. 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.

Attractions of the park includes game viewing, raptor nesting in cliffs, spectacular gorge walks, hot springs, scenic landscape, the Geothermal Station, Maasai culture. There is a wide variety of wildlife animals such as eland, buffalo, lion, giraffe, zebra, leopard, impala, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, klipspringer, rock hyrax and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck. The park is accessible to visitors all year round.

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.

The park also serves many residents and citizens living in the city. It has a diversity of environments with characteristic fauna and flora. Open grass plains with scattered acacia bush are predominant. The western side has a highland dry forest and a permanent river with a riverine forest in the south.

In addition, there are stretches of broken bush country and deep, rocky valleys and gorges with scrub and long grass. Man-made dams also attract water dependent herbivores during the dry season. The park has a diverse birdlife with 400 species recorded. However all species are not always present and some are seasonal. Northern migrants pass through the park primarily during late March through April.

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. Also major attraction include over 80 recorded species – rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah, crocodile and hippo (no elephants);  diverse birdlife – more than 400 species of birds; and aggregations of large herbivores – eland, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest.

Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Covering an area of over 1,500 square km, the Maasai 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 swampy land provides more access to water and less access to tourists. The eastern end is closest to Nairobi and hence easier to access by tourists. The Maasai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas. The annual wildebeests 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. Apart from the big five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino), other game include hippopotami, cheetah, Grant’s gazelle, impala, topi, Coke’s hartebeest, giraffe, Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox. However wildebeest are by far the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara.

Amboseli

Amboseli is a land of giants. This is a place of wide dry plains, where the horizons stretch into the furthest distance and become one with the sky.

Amboseli is renowned for its elephant populations and large herds, including some impressively tusked bulls are drawn to a series of large, lush swamplands. But the most impressive giant of all is Mt Kilimanjaro. Africa’s largest mountain lies just over the border in Tanzania, but the most impressive views of its snow-capped peak are to be found in Amboseli. The early light of dawn turns the mountain a dark hue of purple, and its snows into an ethereal pink. The sight of Kilimanjaro high above herds of elephant crossing the plains of Amboseli is a timeless African image.

This area is home to many Maasai communities, centered around the Amboseli National Park. The park is 400 sq kms, with its southern boundary along the Tanzanian border. The park is home to more than just Elephants, and herds of wildebeest, zebra and impala graze on the open plains. There are areas of acacia forest that make for good birding, and are home to many small mammals. Cheetahs are also often sighted here.

The park is centered around a large hill, with fantastic views of the surrounding plains, often crossed by whirlwinds that send winding columns of dust into the sky. This open country is good walking territory, and many camps and lodges organize game walks, or trips to spend time in local Maasai villages.

East and West Tsavo

The twin National Parks of Tsavo East and West together form one of Africa’s largest wilderness reserves. This single National Park is larger than the island of Jamaica. Tsavo as a whole consists of 10 million acres of pure wilderness, incorporating savannah, ranges and hills, acacia and montane forest, and an extensive river system.

The vast plains of Tsavo are crossed by the main Nairobi-Mombasa railroad. This historic railway was, in 1899, the scene of one of Africa’s greatest Adventure stories.

Two large lions actively preyed on the railway workers as they built a bridge over the Tsavo River, claiming over 120 victims. They evaded hunters for well over a year, and the legend of the Man-eaters of Tsavo was born. The sheer scale of Tsavo gives the visitor a chance to really get away from it all, and to explore the wild in total solitude. On safari here you will see large herds of Elephant, their hides often a luminous red with dust, as well as Lion, Buffalo, Eland, Giraffe Impala, Kudu and possibly Rhinoceros.

Tsavo is a birdwatcher’s paradise with numerous species of weavers, hornbills, sunbirds, rollers, and raptors commonly seen. One of Tsavo’s most interesting geographical features is the Lugard Falls, where white water rages through a series of spectacular rock formations.

Also not to be missed is the volcanic Mzima springs. These natural springs produce 50 million gallons of fresh sparkling water daily. These waters are alive with shoals of barbel and Hippopotamus and waterfowl. A unique underwater observatory has been built that gives you an incredible view of this crystal clear underwater world, where massive hippos glide silently through swirling shoals of barbel.

These springs have created a sprawling wetland paradise of giant Raphia palms and oases alive with waterbirds. Both Tsavo East and West are ideal for those who enjoy solitude and a chance to explore wilderness without encountering other people. Lodges and Camps tend to be remote and accessible by long drives or air transfer. Of the two Parks, Tsavo East is the more remote and less visited. Many of these can organize game walks and other activities.

The relative proximity of Tsavo East to the coast makes it an ideal safari destination for those staying on the coast, or wishing to combine a safari and beach holiday. Many coast based visitors combine a safari to Tsavo with visits to the Shimba Hills and Taita game sanctuaries, Amboseli National Park, or the Chyulu Hills.