There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive. One only feels really free when one can go in whatever direction one pleases over the plains, to get to the river at sundown and pitch one’s camp, with the knowledge that one can fall asleep beneath other trees, with another view before one, the next night. – Karen Blixen
Rolling golden vistas of the Masai Mara, stampeding wildebeest, Masai warriors, Swahili fisherman, pink flamingos, coral fringed coasts, Mount Kenya, Rift Valley Lakes, red-baked earth streets, bustling markets, dense forest areas teeming with insects, birds and wildlife, Kenya is the original “out of Africa” safari destination.
From the establishment of the Kenyan Colony in the 1920’s, through to independence in 1965 and despite turbulent current times, Kenya still holds in our minds, the title of Africa’s top safari experience. If you want wildlife and cultures then Kenya is our favorite African destination for first time travelers to the continent. For the seasoned traveler it is quite possible to get off the beaten track and explore the deserted north, ancient ruins on the Swahili Coast, or experience the county’s rich archaeology and tribal heritage.
If you are a first time visitor to Kenya you may want to experience the countries highlights and we recommend about 10 days to do this. If you are willing to fly between destinations with smaller commercial airlines or by private charter it’s quite possible to cut this to 7 or 8 days.
There are plenty of destinations in Kenya for 2nd time visitors wanting to relax or get a more in depth understanding of the wildlife, nature, people or past. Kenya is one of those destinations that offers a service level for every budget from grassroots travel to extreme luxury. Family travelers with young children often incorporate a safari with some days afterwards spent relaxing at a resort on the Swahili coast.
Kenya is also easily combined with travel to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda & Rwanda. Have a look though our sample itineraries. We showcase a small example of what can be done at a couple of different service levels.
There are many special places to stay in Kenya and some unique life enriching experiences to be had, you will find these gems as your read through our destination and tour write-ups.
Timing is everything – In East Africa timing is everything, especially if The Great Migration is on your bucket list. The movement of herds has a lot to do with grazing and the rains, but generally it passes through the Masai Mara Eco system between July & October every year.
The hottest months are between December and March.
The long rains are in April and May, and during this time, the coastal areas are tropical, with particularly high, but tempered by monsoon winds. October, November and March are the months with the clearest seas for snorkeling and diving.
The lowlands are hot but mainly dry, while the highlands are more temperate with four seasons. Nairobi has a very pleasant climate throughout the year due to its altitude. Short rains are in November and December. In all of our years operating tours in Kenya we have ever only had one experience of rains washing out roads and ending safaris, that was December 2008, so the rainy seasons shouldn’t deter travel unduly: the rains usually come only in short afternoon or evening cloudbursts, and the landscape is strikingly green and fresh even if the skies may be cloudy.
Low Season – Rainy Season there are bonuses: fewer tourists and reduced accommodation prices outside of the main tourist seasons – Dec & Jan and July to August.
Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are regular daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, there are several private charter companies operating out of Wilson Airport.
Kenya’s main roads between the major cities and towns are generally in good condition, and easily navigable in a normal saloon car. However, on some, care must be taken to avoid stretches of potholes, and on hills, heavy vehicles may have curved the tar into ridges, making the roads bumpy.
Matatus (shared minibus taxis) hop from town to town, starting and finishing at bus stations. Fares are paid to the conductor. Nairobi and Mombasa have efficient bus systems, with regular buses running along set routes and single tickets are sold on the bus by conductors. The three-wheel Bajaj auto rickshaw or Tuktuks of South East Asia are popular in town centres and take three passengers behind the driver.
The newer fleets of taxis, which are usually white with a yellow band, are very reliable and have meters. The older all-yellow taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance.
Airport Transfers – A one way trip from JRO International to a city hotel can cost up to KES 3000, about USD35 (2013-2014). In Nairobi, there is also a fleet of London-style black metered cabs. A 10% tip is expected. Taxis cannot be hailed in the street but they are found parked up at intersections and outside hotels and restaurants.
Milad Un Nabi Festival: A religious celebration to honor Prophet Mohammed’s birth, this 4-day event combines solemn prayer with entertainment in Lamu town. There are performances of Swahili song and dance, dhow and donkey races, and bao (ancient board game) tournaments.
Kenya Fashion Week: An expo of African fashion that brings together designers from across Kenya. Sarit Centre, Westlands, Nairobi
Lewa Safaricom Marathon: Website: www.lewa.org A fund-raising event to support conservation, the high-altitude marathon attracts runners from all over the world, including excellent Kenyan long-distance runners. Run within a game conservancy, helicopters are used to keep an eye out for animals on the course. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Laikipia Plateau, Kenya
Rhino Charge Festival: The event is an off-road rally that features many four-wheel drive vehicles that are attempting to travel through the terrain and win the race. There are many exciting places to enjoy watching the race, and many events held around the festival that is going on during the event.
Maralel Camel Derby: Kenya’s Best-known and most prestigious camel race, attracting both local and international competitors. The event is a major draw for spectators as well as racers, and the competition is fierce.
Kenya Music Festival: A 10-day celebration of African and world music, featuring African, expat and western musicians performing in Nairobi. Various venues in Nairobi
Information given is correct at time of publish.
Passports & Visas – Passports must be valid for 6 months after the intended length of stay. Where visas can be obtained at port of entry, fees are payable in US dollars cash only and we recommend small denominations as officials are not in the position to give change. Guests travelling from Tanzania to Kenya must obtain a valid Kenyan visa before travel in order to confirm domestic flights between Nairobi and the Masai Mara National Park. Visa requirements may vary or change without notice. We advise checking with the appropriate consular authority prior to departure.
Health – The WHO on Kenya
Safety & Travel Advisory – The Foreign Office on Kenya
Yellow Fever – Kenya falls into the region of Africa where Yellow Fever can be found, and thus it is highly recommended for all travelers to obtain a Yellow Fever vaccination as well as asking your doctor to provide you with an ‘International Certificate of Vaccination’ which must be valid from no less than 10 days prior to travel, and which should be carried with you during border crossings to serve as proof that you have been vaccinated accordingly.
Gratuity Guidelines – It is customary but by no means obligatory to tip 10% of the bill at all restaurants and 10% of the fare to taxi drivers. It is also the custom to tip local guides and drivers and porters. Please contact us for more information regarding tipping – its a complex issue. Its important to remember that to some extent ground handling staff in East Africa rely on tips to supplement fixed salaries which are generally far below those in some Southern African countries.