Kenya: wildlife, water, and traditional ways of life

The African country of Kenya conjures up visions of safaris, treks, and animal sanctuaries. While the multitude of national parks and reserves are certainly the main draw, there is a lot more to Kenya than lions and hippos. Visitors can discover ancient tribes, pristine beaches and snorkelling in clear waters, bustling cities and fascinating Swahili history. To start you off on your Kenyan journey, here is a list of places not to miss.

The best safari: Maasi Mara National Reserve

A top class game reserve, Maasi Mara is named for the ancient tribe Maasi, whose people still live and thrive in the Serengeti. Dressed in red cloaks, the Maasi graze their animals here as they have done for centuries.

From July to October visitors can view the Great Migration, which is when wildebeest, zebra and Thompson’s gazelle migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania in their thousands: an epic sight! It is possible to see crocodiles and hippos in the Mara River, and leopard, cheetah and lion lounging around in the heat.

The best city: Nairobi

The capital city is an incredible mix of colonial history, coffee and tea shops, and animal centres. The Nairobi National Museum shows Kenya’s history, culture, art and nature, and also has botanical gardens. The Karen Blixen Museum is the residence of the Danish author of ‘Out of Africa’.

A top attraction is the Giraffe Centre, where visitors can feed the long-necked residents. Nairobi National Park is just outside the centre, home to lions, leopards, buffalo, zebras, cheetahs and wildebeest, and the Black Rhino Sanctuary.

The best for history: Mombasa

Kenya’s second city is a cultural mix of British, Portuguese, Arab, Indian and Asian immigrants, influencing the architecture and cuisine. It is the largest port in Kenya, and the 16th Century Fort Jesus and the Old Town hark back to its nautical roots.

Situated on the coast, surrounded by coral reefs, Mombasa is a fantastic spot for snorkelling, diving, dolphin watching and deep-sea fishing. The Mombasa Marine National Park around Wasini Island has the best marine life spots. Nyali and Bamburi beaches to the north, and Shelly, Tiwi and Diani to the south are beautiful white sand havens.

The best for culture: Lamu

Lamu Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating from the 12th century. The trading history can be seen in the streets and the Arabesque, European, and Indian style buildings. The people are mostly Muslim, adding to the traditional feel.

There is a distinct Swahili charm in the carved wooden doors and windows, verandas, and hidden courtyards. Here visitors are more likely to come across a donkey than a motorised vehicle. Attractions include the Lamu Museum, showcasing Swahili culture and national history, Lamu Fort, and the Donkey Sanctuary.

The best beach: Malindi

This is a popular beach resort with a big mix of cultures and cuisines. Watamu Beach is a stunning white sand beach, and Watamu and Malindi National Parks offer diving and other water sports.

The 12th century historic town contains the Jami Mosque and Church of St Francia Xavier, portraying the religious side of this bustling town. Malindi Museum shows the history of Vasco de Gama, a famous Indian trader. Visitors also love the Falconry of Kenya rehabilitation centre for sick and injured birds.

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