*Our Top Picks:
Maasai Mara · Malindi · Mount Kenya · Lamu Island · Amboseli National Park · Lake Nakuru National Park
EXPERIENCES IN KENYA
This is possibly Africa’s most famous wildlife destination, best-known for the annual migration spectacle of around a million wildebeest and zebra that feed a host of predators along the way. The migration between Tanzania and ‘the Mara’ and back, TV channels like National Geographic and BBC Wildlife have turned the Nile crocodile, feeding on the hundreds of wildebeest and zebra crossing simultaneously, into the spectacle’s rockstar. Increasingly relevant are traveller opportunities to learn more about the culture of the Maasai, who live alongside the wildlife in and around the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
This resort town, 120km (about 75 miles) north-east of the historic town of Mombasa, was once Kenya’s best-known and preferred beach holiday destination. It has lived under Islamic, 16th century Portuguese and 19th century British rule, however after the Italian-run Broglio Space Centre was launched just off the coast in 1967, Italians discovered its delights and Malindi became known as "Little Italy", with Italian restaurants, pizzerias, delis and gelateria tucked among the Swahili architecture in the little alleys. The real attraction here are the turtles and tropical fish found amongst the coral reefs that lie 1,000 feet offshore, best seen at Malindi National Marine Park and nearby Watamu Marine National Park. The nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is home to elephants, more than 200 species of birds, and the remains of an ancient Swahili town, ‘the Gede Ruins’.
The highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano which last erupted an estimated 2.6 million years ago. With Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania possibly over-traded and trekked, this mountain, its ragged peaks crowned with snow, and thick, forested slopes, is both an awe-inspiring sight and possible alternative for climbers and hikers.
Tip: Mt Kenya is best seen at dawn when the day's early light silhouettes its impressive summit high over the surrounding plains. While the 5199-meter summit is a difficult technical climb, the lesser peak of Point Lenana, at 4985m, can be easily reached by any fit trekker. This trek takes between three to five days, through a world of thick forests, wildlife, unique montane vegetation, and one of the world’s rarest sights, equatorial snow.
How does one describe this place? Lamu is a place like no other, a medieval Swahili village without cars and astonishingly, no beggars. It is truly that idyllic tropical island, the history of which is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of its medieval stone town. Characterised by rolling dunes, dhows, tiny boutiques, excellent seafood, and endless, empty beaches that stretch for miles, Lamu is that place where all travellers wish to stop. For further insight into a rich and textured history, visit the Lamu Museums, on the island’s North Coast. It is a World Heritage Site comprising the Lamu Fort, Lamu Museum, German Post Office, Swahili House, and the Takwa Ruins.
Amboseli National Park
If you have seen striking images of elephants and buffalo in savannah grassland, dwarfed by a snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro in the background, that is Amboseli National Park, known for its large elephant herds and these iconic views of ’Kili’, just across the border in Tanzania. The park, covering 392 square km, with its combination of plentiful wild and birdlife and the best views of Africa's highest mountain, is rightly regarded as a photographer’s dream.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The thousands of Lesser and Greater pink flamingos of Lake Nakuru have made this park world famous, gracing at least a few magazines covers over the decades. The flamingos are attracted by the lake's abundance of algae. The lake is surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland, in which are found 56 different animal species, including white rhino, waterbuck and rothschild’s giraffe, all surrounded by the surrounding escarpment and picturesque ridges. The park is home to Makalia waterfall, and over 500 different plant species, including the biggest euphorbia forest in Africa.