5 Reasons to Visit Kenya
Here are 5 reasons to visit Kenya and why Kenya should be on your travel-bucket-list, your "where to-go-list" 2024. From its scenic landscapes, the extensive wildlife turfs, to the world-renowned distance runners and the sought-after annual wildebeest migration, Kenya has inexhaustible wealth in terms of experiences and vacation destinations putting it at the top of best safari destinations in the world. The dramatic Great Rift Valley, the Savannah, Lakes, mountains and the breathtaking coastline offer spectacular scenery, magnificent landscapes and countless reasons why Kenya is truly a magical vacation destination. We have summarized the top 5 reasons to visit Kenya, and what to look forward to on your next visit to the great land of Africa.
Nairobi is the never-sleeping capital city of Kenya, also known as “The Green City in the sun”. Nairobi (Nai or Nairo-bae as it is commonly referred to by the locals), is a modern cosmopolitan city with a population of over 4 million people. It is a major business hub and home to over 100, major international organizations and companies like The UN, CARE International and World Vision (to name a few).
Upon your arrival to Nairobi, first clear with immigration then pick up your bags and head for the exit. Just outside the arrival hall, you will be met by a driver, who will be holding a sign displaying your name. That is if you had made prior arrangements with trusted travel agents to pick you up. The arrivals hall is often very crowded, and you might be approached by taxi drivers before seeing your driver, just ignore these approaches and keep looking out for your driver. He will then proceed to take you to your destination. Your tour agent will meet you and give you the itinerary, and answer any questions you may have.
Kenya has a Tourist Safety and Communication Center - Kenya Tourism Federation, which is always on call. They are open 24 hr/7 days a week and offer help to tourists seeking assistance of any kind. The Center is available to help with updates, travel advisories, road conditions, health issues, and security. Please contact them if you have any trouble during your visit to Kenya.
Standing out as the only capital city in the world with a National Park which is approximately 4 miles South of the city, Nairobi is indeed one of the 5 reasons to visit Kenya. The Nairobi National Park is home to large herds of zebras, giraffes, wildebeests among many other herbivores that can be seen grazing throughout the park. Not forgetting the big cats; lions, cheaters, and leopards that hunt the herbivores for survival. Vultures and ostriches are among some of the hundreds of bird species to be seen.
So, what are some of the things to do in Nairobi, one might ask. Apart from the Nairobi National Park, which is basically a large game reserve for breeding endangered species like the black rhino, there are guided tours and day-trips to the National museums of Kenya, Nairobi Animal Orphanage, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (where you can adopt an elephant), Giraffe Manor, Karen Blixen Museum and the Bomas of Kenya to name but a few.
In Giraffe Manor, for example, you can have breakfast with giraffes visiting your room by poking their heads through the window! The Rothschild giraffes visit the scenic Boutique hotel in Langata Nairobi by sticking their necks through the windows hoping for a bite of whatever you’re eating or simply to say hi!
Take a day trip from your hotel in Nairobi to any one of these places and add to your day by enriching your Kenyan experience. There are animals to see, history to learn, memories to make and amazing people to meet. Where else in the entire world would you say you had breakfast in the country’s capital, went to a park, saw animals in their natural habitat and was back in time for lunch? Nairobi is the embodiment of what a perfect one-day safari looks like. There are numerous choices for day and nightlife with disco clubs, café, bars, and restaurants too many to mention. Here, there is something for everyone.
You may want to bring your camera for some of these memories because you might have to prove to your friends that what you’re talking about actually happened! Together with the photos, you can bring souvenirs from curio shops scattered around Kenya such as; The Maasai market, Kazuri Beads or The Online Duka
- The People and language
Kenya has about 42 ethnic communities spread across the entire country. They each have a different language and cultural background. One of these tribes is the Maasai who are known internationally due to the fact that they mainly live near game parks and have very distinctive customs, culture, and mode of dressing. You can almost always spot a Maasai in their bright red “shuka” that is wrapped around their bodies, their unique sandals made from old car tires and multi-colored beaded jewelry hanging on their necks and pierced ears. In the past, the Maasai people had a fearsome reputation as castle-rustlers and warriors. One of their most destructive customs was killing lions as a symbol of bravery by their young men as they graduated to manhood, a culture they’ve since abandoned and are currently among the greatest advocates of animal protection and conservation of animal parks. There are many other tribes in Kenya with many and unique traits but we won’t mention all of them here.
The Kenyan tribes are categorized into three major groups; the Bantu, the Nilotes and the Cushites. Although each of the tribes has a distinctive vernacular language, over 70% of the population can communicate in one common tongue; Swahili which is the national language. English however, remains the official language and school subjects are taught in English. The Swahili language unites all Kenyans and no matter which tribe one is from, we can communicate with each other through a common language. If you’ve heard of “Hakuna Matata” which is Swahili for “No Worries” a phrase that became popular by the movie Lion King, you already speak some Swahili!
If you’d like to “fit-in” even more with the local people, here are the 5 most popular Swahili phrases used by/with tourist and what they mean;
“Jambo Rafiki”: this simply means “hello friend”
“Asante sana”: means “thank you very much”
“Karibu Kenya”: means “welcome to Kenya”
“Hakuna Matata”: like I said before, this means “no worries” or “no problem”
“Nyama choma”: means “roast beef and I suggest you try it before leaving, you will not regret it. This goes perfectly with ugali (Kenya’s staple food) and kachumbari (tomato and onion salad)
The spirit of the Kenyan people includes inclusivity, warmth, and friendliness. Most of everyone here is friendly but like any other community, there are those rotten seeds amongst us so, stay safe always! Like everywhere else, this can be accomplished by avoiding dark alleys and being in the company of people you trust. Also, ensure that your important documents are safely kept and probably use photocopies instead of the original copies. Do not carry large amounts of cash on your person but only the amount you require. Most malls, lodges and/or resorts have credit/debit card machines for payments you may need to make.
Being a developing country, with more than 50% of its population being under the age of 50, more and more young entrepreneurs and innovators are coming up and providing income and livelihood for themselves and their peers. Some of these entrepreneurs have mind-blowing ideas and are mostly in need of local and international investors to help take our nation, and the world forward.
However, the age-old means of employment for most people remains agriculture and tourism. The tourism industry employs a significant number of Kenyans who make a living by providing services needed by visiting tourists and showcasing the beautiful land of Kenya with its many natural and pristine resources. Interacting with these passionate individuals will definitely leave a mark in your heart. From the tour operators, safari guides, lodges, hotels, and resort staff, to the local people on the streets, you will find that Kenyans are friendly people willing to include you in the conversation. Kenyans are another one of the 5 profound reasons to visit Kenya
- The Food
The Kenyan people have different meals depending on where they live and their culture. Most people are small-scale farmers making the agriculture sector be the second largest contributor to Kenya’s GDP after the service sector. These farmers eat what they grow and sell the remainder to vendors and sometimes exporters to make an extra coin. You can have fresh green vegetables anywhere near the highlands, a taste of seafood while at the coast of Kenya or near lake towns. Fruits are practically everywhere depending on which type (mangoes at the coast, oranges at the east and bananas at the west).
The most common meal that has been pretty much adopted by the entire country and become the “Kenya’s official meals” is Ugali. Ugali is made by mixing maize flour in boiling water and stirring until the mixture becomes a hard thick paste. It is normally eaten with greens (such as kale or spinach) and beef. The beef is either fried or roasted (nyama choma). Kenyans adopt each other's foods into their culture all the time and some of the other foods that are commonly consumed nationally include; chapatti, pilau and githeri. While you’re here, have a cup of the Kenyan coffee which ranks among the world’s best coffee! The availability of most foods and vegetables makes the food prices in Kenya to remain low and affordable to those living here and those visiting. Ensuring you get the freshest of everything on your plate, another one of the top 5 reasons to visit Kenya!
While on the food topic, I cannot fail to mention the Kenyan beer! There are various locally brewed beer and topping the list is Tusker, White Cap, Pilsner, Summit Lager to mention a few. Tourists especially like Tusker by East African Breweries.
There are also panoramic views of coffee and tea farms in the central and western parts of Kenya some of which were planted during the colonial era.
- Home of the safari
Like I mentioned earlier, Kenya is undoubtedly renowned for its ancient beautiful landscapes. The Great Rift Valley, which divides Kenya down from north to south, forms a series of contiguous geographical trenches, leaving in its wake some active and semi-active volcanoes, several hot springs, lakes, deserts, arid plains and in most parts, very fertile land for farming, is one of Kenya’s great attraction. However, taking the lead on Kenya’s top attractions are the several National parks and animal reserves around the country. These offer tourists opportunities to witness firsthand the true spirit of wildlife.
You may be asking “where in Africa is best for safari?” or “where is the best place to see African animals?”, and with all the possible places to go, the one place you do not want to miss is the Maasai Mara. Here, in the best safari park in Africa; the Maasai Mara National Reserve, large herds of wildebeests, zebras and antelopes cross the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara River every year causing the greatest natural spectacle in the world dabbed “the seventh new wonder of the world”. As the animals cross, the crocodiles sneak up and attack them in search of their own food. The lions and the other predators also roam the area waiting for a chance to attack and feed. This is one of the most thrilling, spectacular and intriguing displays of wildlife behavior. Here, at the slopes of East Africa, you witness firsthand the true meaning of “survival for the fittest” as the young, weak and lame are the first to be eaten. Maasai Mara probably takes the lead on the 5 reasons to visit Kenya.
You get unbelievably close to animals you’ve only previously seen on screen or simply dreamed about and become a spectator to “the world-cup of nature” as more than a million wildebeest, thousands of zebras and gazelles risk survival by crossing the river into Serengeti National Park of the neighboring country, Tanzania. The migration happens over a period of time, normally between July to November as the animals move in search of water and grazing grounds. Between July and August, the animals cross to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and then between October and November they move back to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The most sought-after moments are the river crossing so if you were wondering what the “best time to go” is, then there is your answer. Most camps and lodges at the Masai Mara National Park have watering holes or are close to the river and you can enjoy seeing the animals right from your room/tent. Game drives around the park are full of surprises, adventure and there is always the option of air balloons to watch out for the big five from up above.
Other large parks where one can see the big five include; the Amboseli national park at the foot of Africa’s tallest mountain- Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Tsavo East national park, the Tsavo West National park and Lake Nakuru National Park (renown for flamingos and spotting Rhinos) to name but a few. In total, there are 55 national parks, reserves and sanctuaries in Kenya.
- The Coast
Saving the best for last, Kenya has a total of 5 marine parks spread across the coast of Kenya. Sandy coastlines are usually impeccably beautiful and the envy of landlocked countries. Nina Arianda once said, “My favorite place to vacation is anyplace by the ocean” And if you’ve been lucky to visit a beach vacation destination, you will agree with her (and me!) that these are the best!
Diani beach, in particular, is exceptional! Voted Africa’s leading beach destination 6 years in a row, Diani Beach has picture-perfect palm-fringed beach fronts, blinding white sand, and warm turquoise water. Engaging in various water sports and activities, or taking leisurely morning or evening walks or just simply laying on the all-year-summer-sun while sipping your favorite cold drink can quickly become a positively addictive adventure. Diani Beach is at the top of the 5 profound reasons to visit Kenya.
Whether you are looking for adrenaline-filled-water-sports or relaxed sailing day trips to hidden islands, there is something for everyone here! The reefs that stretch across the entire coastline provide exceptionally beautiful snorkeling sites with some being government-protected marine parks and reserves. One of such reserves is the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park in Wasini Island on the south coast. The park is home to different marine life including dolphins, sea turtles, the seasonal “gentle giants” aka the whale sharks, the humpback whale, and shoals of multicolored fish living among hard and soft corals. A day trip to Wasini island includes dolphins spotting, snorkeling, seafood lunch and a visit to the infamous Shimoni slaves caves.
Another one of these pristine islands is the Funzi island; famous for river/mangrove tours and bird watching with occasional crocodile spotting. There is a sandbank that forms in the middle of the ocean near Funzi village, creating a dream-like swimming area with the warmest and clearest waters. Funzi is generally very pristine making all activities here special. The day trip to Funzi includes transfer to and from hotel in Diani or Mombasa, boat rides, village tour, mangrove tour, river tour with crocodile spotting and bird watching. Seafood lunch is usually in one of the islands followed by a swim session at the sandbank before leaving at 4 o’clock.
Chale Island is another of the most pristine islands on the Kenyan coast. Although the reef is not government-protected which means fishing is practiced, it is one of the most colorful reefs with live hard and soft corals. The day trip here includes a boat ride, snorkeling at different spots, sunbathing and swimming in a secluded beach or in the hotel’s swimming pool and buffet lunch. Transfer back to the hotel is usually done by vehicle after the 4 o’clock tea.
There are numerous things to do in Diani Beach, Mombasa and indeed the entire coastline. Some of the water sports activities include lessons and equipment hire for kite surfing, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, diving in Diani, jet skiing, camel riding, quad bike trips, diving in Kisite, Mombasa city tours to name but a few.
I could never exhaust the reasons to visit Kenya, but I hope I've provoked your curiosity enough for you to come and visit the Magical land of Kenya. I’d like you to state, however, that I’ve barely scratched the surface on things to do in Kenya and places to visit on your next vacation. Come meet the beautiful people of Kenya and make life long memories. Karibu Kenya!