According to 800zipcodes, Kenya is located on the east coast of the African continent at the equator. Moreover, the equator runs right in the middle of the country and divides it into two almost equal parts. Physically, Kenya consists of several zones. The Great Rift Valley stretches from north to south and in some places reaches 65 km wide and 600-900 m deep. This is perhaps the most beautiful part of the country, dotted with lakes, on the banks of which the world’s largest colony of pink flamingos lives. To the east of the Great Rift Valley is the extinct volcano Mount Kenya, 5199 m high, which is the second highest mountain in Africa. This is the most fertile part of Kenya. To the south, the Great Rift Valley turns into the savannah that personifies Kenya, and is used as an endless pasture.
From the east, the country is washed by the waters of the Indian Ocean. The coast of Kenya is simply magnificent and conducive to relaxation: white sand beaches stretch for more than 480 km, and the warm sea (water temperature never drops below 25-24 degrees) is protected from sharks by coral reefs.
In the central part of the country (where most of the national parks are located) the climate is very even without large seasonal fluctuations with temperatures of 21-26°C all year round. There is neither heat nor cold here. By some estimates, it has the best climate in the world. On the coast of the ocean, the temperature is even all year round – 27-31 degrees, the climate is more humid than on the continental part of the country. There are two rainy seasons: “big” in April-June, and “small” in November, but in Kenya there are practically no long, prolonged rains. During these periods, as a rule, it rains at night, while in the daytime their duration does not exceed 1 hour.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Kenya is rightly called the front door of Africa. The pearl of the country is its national parks with a fantastic world of wildlife. Most of the country’s territory is occupied by savannah. The slopes of Mount Elgon and Mount Kenya are covered with evergreen forests up to a height of 2000 m, and then up to 3000 m there are bamboo forests, after which ragwort and giant lobelia (large prickly corn with pineapple leaves) begin to grow.
The fauna of Kenya is no less diverse than the flora. In the savannah, you can see the “big five”: lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants and rhinos. In addition to the “five”, cheetahs, gazelles, giraffes, zebras, warthogs and a great many other animals live in Kenya. It is a mistake to think that the Kenyan savannah is teeming with snakes. In fact, snakes can be seen mainly in special parks where they are kept in large cages. To meet a snake in the wild is considered a great success, which falls to the lot of only a few.
With many national parks, Kenya is home to all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and rare plants. Kenya’s parks are visited by tourists for several reasons: they are considered among the best in the entire African continent and they are the most accessible in East Africa. Along with land parks, Kenya has two marine national parks: Malindi and Watamu. In the parks of Mount Kenya and Kakamega Forest, unique plants that do not grow anywhere except Kenya are carefully preserved. When visiting national parks and reserves, tourists are offered only two types of accommodation: either in modern hotels – lodges (from the English lodge – hunting lodge), or in tented camps (camps). It should be noted that the tents in the camps do not stand directly on the ground, but on specially paved areas with wood or stones, and above the tent there is a solid roof. In the tent itself there are beds, necessary furniture, a toilet and a shower cabin (in some camps – a bathtub). Some camps are not inferior to luxurious 5-star hotels in terms of accommodation and services.
The Masai Mara National Reserve covers an area of 1672 sq. km and is located at an altitude of 1500 m to 2100 m above sea level. This park is an extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, recognized as the best in the world, which is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, covering an area of more than 40,000 square meters. km between the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria.
Masai Mara is by far the best and most popular nature reserve in Kenya, as it contains almost every species of animal and plant known in East Africa.
One of the most unique sights is the migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras from the Serengeti to the north. At this time, a continuous stream of animals moves across the savannah, which does not stop in front of any obstacles, including water barriers. Migration from the Serengeti begins in January and ends in July-August in the Masai Mara, as soon as dry weather sets in there. The return migration begins in October. The landscape in the reserve is mostly flat. Of the vegetation, acacias and thorns are common. The Mara River flows through the reserve from north to south, which then flows into Lake Victoria. About 2.5 million herbivores live in the reserve: wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, buffaloes, impalas, cow antelopes, giraffes, elands, elephants, hippos, rhinos, warthogs and wild boars. It is also home to a huge number of lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, lower mammals and reptiles. In the Masai Mara, you can take a hot air balloon safari, which will undoubtedly remain one of the most vivid memories in the life of any traveler. The cost of this entertainment is about $400 per person.
Amboseli Reserve was founded in 1948 and has long been the most visited in Kenya, due to its proximity to Kilimanjaro and the wonderful views that open from its territory to the first peak of Africa. In 1961, all 5260 sq. km were transferred to the management of the elders of the Masai tribe, who began to use it as a pasture. As a result of many years of grazing, the park suffered enormous damage. In 1971, 329 sq. km were declared a national park in which the Maasai were forbidden to graze livestock.
Amboseli Park is located in the arid zone of the country and is usually quite hot and dry. Acacias, characteristic of the savannah, are widespread in the park. Of the representatives of the animal world, in addition to lions, cheetahs, hyenas and jackals, buffaloes, gazelles, warthogs, zebras, giraffes and many baboons are found here. One of the most spectacular sights to see in this park is the huge herd of 600-700 elephants as well as the very rare endangered black rhinoceros. Almost 100 years ago, due to rare rains, Lake Amboseli dried up. But in 1992-1993, the lake re-formed and pink flamingos returned to it. With the return of the lake, the park has become even more green and blooming.
This is the largest national park in Kenya, covering about 21,000 sq. km. It is located in the southeastern part of the country and is bisected into western and eastern parts by the Nairobi-Mombasa road and railroads.
Eastern Tsavo (Tsavo East). This is the less visited part of the park, and therefore you can observe wildlife here without the risk of meeting crowds of tourists. Most of the territory of this part of the park is occupied by vast forests inhabited by herds of elephants. You will find the most diverse animal world in the Kanderi swamp. But the most famous attraction in this part of the park is the Aruba Dam, built on the Voy River, next to which a lot of birds and animals live.
Over time, East Tsavo is more and more open to tourists. There are a sufficient number of campgrounds here. In this part of the park, inexpensive jeep safaris or hiking tours are held for those who do not like noisy tourist places.
West Tsavo (Tsavo West). This part of the park is better known and developed, has an extensive road network and infrastructure. The soil in this part is very fertile due to the abundant supply of water and the volcano, so the vegetation here is very lush. The main attractions are the ponds at Kilaguni and Nguila lodges, which attract game during the dry season. In autumn, thousands of birds migrating from Europe to the south stop to rest near Nguila Lodge. Not far from Kilaguni Lodge is Mzima Springs, a favorite haunt of hippos and crocodiles. You can observe them under water, being in a specially equipped room with a glass wall.
The fauna of this park is very diverse: agama lizards, pygmy mongooses, marabou storks, baboons, antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, jackals, hyenas, crocodiles, hippos, leopards, lions and cheetahs. For many years, a scientific experiment has been carried out on the territory of Tsavo, in which, unlike other national parks in Kenya and most of Africa, there is no seasonal shooting of animals (mainly elephants, which are the natural regulator of life in Africa). In this regard, once every few years, the population of elephants exceeds the allowable one, and mass death of animals begins from lack of food and disease.
Lake Naivasha is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. It is located just an hour and a half from Nairobi. A huge and very picturesque lake can bewitch anyone. Along the shores of the lake is the national park of the same name, a habitat for numerous animals.
GREAT RIFT VALLEY
The Great Rift Valley (or Great African Rift) is one of the most impressive places on Earth. It stretches over 6000 km from the Dead Sea in Jordan to Mozambique. In Kenya, the Great Rift Valley begins near Tukan Lake in the north, runs through the center of the country, and continues into Tanzania, crossing the border at Tanzanian Lake Natron. In some places, the width of the valley reaches 65 km, and the depth is 600-900 m. There are currently 30 active or semi-active volcanoes on the territory of the valley, as well as countless mineral soda springs, which, bursting out due to poor drainage, form soda lakes on the surface . The algae and crustaceans that live in these lakes are excellent food for flamingos, which are a real pleasure to watch. Great Rift Valley – ecosystem, which has remained unchanged for many centuries. The valley contains two of the most famous paleontological sites in Africa: Koobi Fora on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana and Olduvai Gorge within Tanzania. It is impossible to form your opinion about Kenya without visiting the Great Rift Valley.
Nairobi is an energetic, cosmopolitan and restless city, with a modern and prosperous center and impeccable service. The rapid growth of the population of Kenya, along with increased immigration, led to the fact that by the year 2000, about 3.5 million inhabitants lived in Nairobi. The city is located at an altitude of 1870 m above sea level and at a distance of 500 km from the coast of the Indian Ocean.
The name Nairobi comes from the Maasai encare nyarobe, which means “sweet water”. Many centuries ago, there was a lake in this place, in which the Maasai took water for themselves and their livestock. Literally 100 years ago it was a small village. The life of the city began after railway builders settled here in 1896, and the railway was built. The population of the city steadily increased, and by 1907 Nairobi had become such a big city that it was decided to move the capital of British East Africa from Mombasa to Nairobi. The city’s location was so ideal for trade that the city continued to grow at an even faster rate. Nairobi is currently the largest city in East Africa. The central part of Nairobi is a triangle with an area of about 5 square meters. km. Bounded on the west by the Uhuru Highway (a Swahili word meaning not only “freedom” but also “courage that despises death”), a railway from the south, and the Nairobi River flowing from north to east. This part of the city is home to government buildings, offices, banks, hotels, shops, casinos and cinemas. Due to the altitude at which the city is located, differences in day and night temperatures are very noticeable in Nairobi. In the hottest period from September to April, the average daily temperature is +24, and at night about + 13 degrees. From May to August in the afternoon +21. and at night +l1. The main rainy season starts in March and ends at the end of May. During this period, as a rule, it rains at night, while daytime precipitation is not frequent. However, once every few years there are showers lasting up to a week, which, however, is rather an exception to the rule. Light rain is also possible in November. Although even during the rainy season, the sun appears daily for several hours.
EXCURSIONS IN NAIROBI
National Museum of Kenya. The museum has an excellent collection of historical, cultural and natural values. The prehistoric section of the museum exhibits unique exhibits from archaeological excavations. The museum also has an excellent collection of butterflies and birds native to Kenya. By the way, many of Russia’s migratory birds winter in Kenya.
Snake farm. Located opposite the National Museum. Not only all kinds of snakes are represented here, but also crocodiles and turtles. The most dangerous of them are in glass terrariums, and the rest are in cages.
National Archives. An excursion to the archive is much more interesting than it might seem. The building where the National Archives is located was originally the Bank of India building and is located on My Avenue, opposite the Hilton Hotel. The archive contains collections of art and crafts, photographs and thousands of documents that tell about the history of Kenya.
Karen Blixen Museum and Giraffe Center. The museum is located in the home of Karen Blixen, who spent many years in Kenya studying giraffes and also organized the country’s first giraffe center, which shelters the world’s tallest babies without parents. After a tour of the house, a tea party with giraffes is organized for tourists. Based on the autobiographical novel Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, a magnificent feature film was made, which was shown on Russian television several years ago.
Mombasa is located on an island in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of Kenya. It is the second largest city and the largest port in Kenya with almost two thousand years of history. The city owes its development to its location in a natural harbor, ideal for navigation.
About 550,000 people currently live in Mombasa. This city has the largest concentration of Muslims in Kenya and their influence on the culture is very great. The city is located on an island that is about 4 km long and 7 km wide. The island is connected to the mainland in three places: in the north by a bridge, in the south by a ferry, and by a causeway in the west.
EXCURSIONS IN MOMBASA
Mackinon Market. This lively, bustling and colorful market takes its name from W. McKinnon, the colonial steward and transport officer in charge of the railway between Mombasa and Uganda. The main part of the market is under a huge canopy. However, this area is divided into separate streets. The market has already ceased to be a place where purchases are made, since the prices here are designed for tourists. But if you have a desire to bargain, then you can certainly bring down the price to an acceptable level. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, the market sells baskets, jewelry and souvenirs.
Fort Jesus. The fort is the main attraction of the Old City. The fort was designed by the Italian architect Kairati, who had already done similar work for the Portuguese in Goa, on the other side of the Indian Ocean. It rises above the entrance to the Old Harbor and is located in such a way that even during a siege it can be supplied from the sea. Despite their position, the Portuguese lost control of the fort in 1698 as a result of an uprising by the townspeople who colluded with the Ottomans. The fort and its garrison held out in a complete siege for 15 months. During the battle for the fort, the Portuguese ship Santo Antonio de Tanna sank near it. Some of the relics from this ship can be seen in the fort’s exposition.
In 1825, Fort Jesus came into the possession of the British and served as a prison until 1958. In 1958 the fort was renovated and turned into a museum.
Tamarind Dhow. Cruise along the coast in a large sailing boat with a freshly caught seafood lunch or dinner, accompanied by a local band.
Malindi and the ruins of Gedi. A trip to the north of Mombasa to the town of Malindi, the basis of the population of which are Muslims and … Italians. There are many mosques and other monuments of oriental architecture in the city. On the way to Malindi, stop at the ruins of the ancient city of Gedi, visit the marine national park located in the area of coral reefs, as well as an African village.
Wasini Island – Kisite. Fantastic coral diving, fresh seafood lunch, visit to an African village.
The quality of food in Kenya is excellent. Fruits and vegetables have a significant difference in taste from vegetables and fruits sold in Europe. This is especially true for avocados, mangoes, pineapples and coconuts. You can taste Kenyan meat in small restaurants outside the cities, where it is cooked simply inimitable. Sometimes Kenyan cuisine includes such unusual foods as the meat of zebra, crocodile, ostrich, warthog, giraffe and some other wild animals. In particular, the restaurant Carnivore (Predator) in Nairobi offers meat from African wild animals. Prices in restaurants are not high. Dinner will cost you from $2 in an ordinary restaurant or bar to $20-25 in an expensive one. The main products are rice, potatoes, maize (corn), chicken, beef or goat meat. Some restaurants will serve you spinach and sukumaviki (a green vegetable that looks a bit like cabbage). A cheap restaurant differs from an expensive one not in the quality of food, but in variety. The menu of an inexpensive restaurant has a limited choice of dishes and no vegetables and salads.
In addition to national dishes in Kenya, there are also dishes characteristic of a region or tribe. The most interesting from a gastronomic point of view is Swahili cuisine, which is based on coconuts and tamarinds. In the Kikuyu tribe, Irio is very popular – a mixture of potatoes, peas and corn. At Luo you can try fried tilapia (fish) with spicy tomato sauce and quench corn porridge.
Soft drinks and freshly squeezed fruit juices are quite cheap and are sold literally everywhere. Bottled water is sold everywhere except in small villages and costs about $1 for a 1.5 liter bottle. In Kenya, Tusker, White Car and Pilsener local beers are very common and have an exquisite taste. A large number of wine varieties are produced, most of which are sweet and fruity. Papaya wine stands out in particular. The best of the grape wines is Naivasha (white and red).
Spirits imported from abroad are very expensive. But you can buy fine local Kenya Cane rum or very high quality coffee liqueur Kenya Gold.
When visiting Kenya, it is worth trying the local drink chang’aa, the main components of which are maize and sugar. It is said to be so strong that one could die from tasting it. Much more palatable is pombe (beer) brewed with sugar, millet, or bananas.
National currency – Kenyan shilling; 1 USD = about 50 – 60 KSh.
Time in Kenya in winter coincides with Moscow, and in summer it is 1 hour behind, which greatly facilitates acclimatization.
In Kenya, it is customary to tip (in local currency) – $ 1 per suitcase at the entrance and exit from the hotel, about 10% of the bill in a bar or restaurant, $ 2-3 to the driver-guide who takes you on a safari, ensures your safety and acquaintance with wild animals. It should be noted that the earnings of local residents are very low, and tips, as a rule, are the main source of income. Airport taxes until recently amounted to 40 USD on international flights and 200 KSh on domestic flights. During your stay in Kenya, you must take drugs for tropical malaria. It is also advisable to get vaccinated against yellow fever.