Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries to visit in Africa. Situated on the equator on Africa’s east coast, Kenya offers some stunning sceneries and many places to visit.

You can explore Africa’s open savannahs (Maasai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Park, Samburu National Park, Amboseli National Park) and watch the ‘Big 5’ (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino), lay on the golden beaches of the Indian Ocean, visit the Rift Valley and the Great Lakes area (Lake Victoria), and climb Africa’s second highest peak (Mount Kenya).

Quick Facts

Name

Kenya

Location

East Africa

Bordering Countries

Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Capital City

Nairobi

Government

Presidential Representative Democratic Republic

Population

44.5 million (World Bank 2013)

Language

English and Swahili

Currency

Kenyan Shilling (KES)

Poverty

45% of population below the poverty line

Main Exports

Tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement

Climate

Kenya is on the equator, meaning that there are no summers or winters there, instead the climate is hot throughout the year. The rains usually fall from April to May every year.

Time Zone

+2 GMT summer, +3 GMT winter

Flag

Fun Facts about Kenya

  • The Lion king was set in Kenya, the main character “Simba” means Lion in Swahili and “Hakuna Matata” means no worries.
  • Kenyans drink their beverages at room temperature. Warm beer anyone?
  • Kenya is roughly the same size as Texas.
  • Nairobi has one of the best climates in the world with a temperature of 22-30 degrees during the day and then dropping to a cool 15 degrees at night with a breeze due to it’s altitude of 1661 metres above sea level

Travel Highlights in Kenya

  • The Maasai Mara has unbelievable safari opportunities, where you can see the Big 5 and The Great Migration.
  • The beaches of Mombasa, Watamu, Diani, Kilifi, and Lamu Island offer paradise locations to relax, enjoy, and do some fun activities (e.g. snorkelling, paragliding, kite surfing, sailing, and scuba diving).
  • In case you fancy climbing the second largest peak in Africa, Mount Kenya is a 5 day trek which can be reached with no climbing experience and the help of a guide.
  • Camping on the shores of Lake Naivasha, cycling at Hell’s Gate, and climbing Mount Longonot are fun activities only 1.5 hours away from the capital Nairobi.

In 2015, Kenya was voted the World’s Top Safari Destination by the World Travel Awards.

Kenya has over 40 wildlife reserves and national parks set in the African planes, the northern deserts and in the foothills of Mount Kenya.

The Maasai Mara is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Africa. The Great Wildebeest Migration (from end July to end September) has been referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, and sees 1.5 million wildebeests, 400,000 Zebra and 200,000 gazelles move from the Serengeti planes in Tanzania across the Mara river into the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Kenya is also famous for its conservation efforts to protect their endangered species against poaching and protecting its big cat population. Other well known conservation work worth mentioning is the Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary that rescues baby elephants affected by poaching and the Giraffe Centre, both in Karen, Nairobi.

The coast of Kenya is very beautiful, hosting marine parks for diving and snorkelling. Kite surfing and other watersports are available on the coast. Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya situated on the cost with some rich history and sandy beaches. There is the island of Lamu to the north which has an Arabic feel and is very popular to visit. There are the quieter beach locations of Watamu, Malindi and Diani which have hotels and many private family villas that can be rented out. Flights from Nairobi only take 45 minutes at reasonable prices.

Whilst in Kenya, many people also take the opportunity to visit Zanzibar and climb Kilimanjaro (5895m) which are both in the neighbouring country of Tanzania.

Kenya is also famous for producing some of the world’s fastest middle and long distance runners of all time. Kenya have also excelled in the Rugby World Series 7’s circuit, recently coming 4th at the world cup in 2014. Kenya is known for its amazing climate and produces some of the best flowers for export to the UK. Kenya also produces some of the best coffee and tea in the world, so you will be truly spoilt with everything Kenya has to offer.

Where is Kenya?

Kenya is located along the equator and overlies the East African Rift. It borders with Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east.

History of Kenya

The birthplace of humanity

Thanks to some inquisitive poking around by the Leakey family in Lake Turkana (Northern Kenya) and at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) in the 1980s, the Great Rift Valley has been established as the ‘cradle of humanity’. The Leakeys’ discoveries of several hominid skulls, one of which was estimated to be over 2 million years old, radically altered the accepted theories of the origin of humans.

Early Settlements

The first to arrive in Kenya were the tall, nomadic, Cushitic-speaking people from Ethiopia, who began to move south around 2000 BC, basing themselves first at Lake Turkana and moving south as their livestock stripped the vegetation.

The ancestors of most of the tribes that occupy Kenya today arrived from all over Africa from around AD 1000. The first immigrants were Bantu-speaking people from West Africa (who gave rise to the Gusii, Kikuyu, Akamba and Meru tribes, among others), who came around the 15th century. The Nilotic speakers who gave rise to the Maasai, Luo, Samburu and Turkana tribes, came from the Nile valley in southern Sudan at the end of the 16th Century.

Arab and Persian Traders

Muslims from the Arab Peninsula and Persia (now Iran) began to visit the coast of Kenya from the 8th century AD onwards, as part of their annual trade migration around the Indian Ocean. Many set up trading posts along the seaboard, intermarrying with Africans and creating the culture that later became known as Swahili. Slaves and iron were Africa’s primary commodity, but the Arab dhows also exported tortoiseshell, rhino horn and gold. Arab-Swahili domination on the coast received its first serious challenge with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century.

The Europeans
Evolving from a mixture of Bantu and Arabic, the Swahili language then developed for trade between the different peoples. The first Europeans to arrive in Kenya were the Portuguese in 1498, when the Arab dominance on the coast was clipped, as the Port of Mombasa became an important resupply stop for ships bound for the Far East. The Portuguese gave way in turn to Islamic control under the Imam of Oman. The Omani Arabs remained in control of the East African coast until the arrival of the British and Germans in the late 19th century (and, nominally, right up until independence in 1963), and established their main base on Zanzibar, off the Tanzanian coast.

Colonial History

The roots of the colonial history of Kenya go back to the Berlin Conference in 1885. The British Government founded the East African Protectorate in 1895 and soon after, opened the fertile highlands to white settlers. Even before it was officially declared a British colony in 1920, these settlers were allowed a voice in government, while the Africans and the Asians were banned from direct political participation until 1944. During this period thousands of Indians were brought into Kenya to work on building the Kenya-Uganda Railway Line and subsequently settled there, whilst inviting many of their people who were mainly traders from India to join them. With the completion of the railway, the headquarters of the colonial administration was moved from Mombasa to the cooler small settlement of Nairobi, and white settlers began to occupy the fertile highlands north of Nairobi.

The colonial process was interrupted by WWI, when two thirds of the 3000 white settlers in Kenya formed impromptu cavalry units and went off in search of Germans in neighbouring Tanganyika (Tanzania). It resumed after the war, under a scheme where veterans of the European campaign were offered subsidised land in the highlands around Nairobi. The net effect was a huge upsurge in the white Kenyan population, from 9,000 in 1920 to 80,000 in the 1950s.

Tribes in Kenya

Kenya’s population is made up almost entirely of Africans, with small (although influential) minorities of Asians (about 80,000), Arabs (about 30,000) and Europeans (about 30,000).

Kenya is home to 42 tribes. The most important distinguishing feature between the tribes is language. The majority of Kenya’s Africans fall into two major language groups: the Bantu speakers (Kikuyu, Meru, Gusii, Embu, Akamba and Luyha), and the Nilotic speakers (Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Luo, and Kalenjin). A third language grouping are the Cushitic speakers (El-Molo, Somali, Rendille and Galla), which occupy the northeast of the country.

Food Culture in Kenya

Kenyans eat a staple diet of Sukuma (fried kale, tomatoes and onions) and Ugali (maize flower and water). They eat this with their hands and this can be accompanied by a beef or goat stew. They eat a lot of fried fish close to Lake Victoria and on the coast. The seafood on the cost is excellent.

Other common food is Githeri, a mixture of potatoes, corn and beans, Matoke, fried plantains with rice.

Kenya is famous for Nyama Choma or barbeque meat. You can visit several BBQ restaurants to try the local meat at Carnivore, Fogo Guacho or in Naoribi. Kikope close to Gil Gil is also a famous place to stop and have some ‘’choma’’ on the way to Nakuru.

Travelling in Kenya

There are many airlines who regularly fly to Nairobi. British Airways and Kenyan Airways fly directly and you can reach Kenya in 9 hours from the United Kingdom. For cheaper options, KLM fly from London to Nairobi via Amsterdam and Turkish Airways also stopover in Istanbul. There are other airlines that also fly to Kenya so do check for good deals.

The main airport is Jomo Kenyatta which is 30 minutes from the city centre if you arrive early morning or at night. During rush hour expect to wait several hours to get through the town centre at these busy times.

You will need to apply for a visa at the airport and all the paperwork can be done on arrival. You will need to bring 50 USD to pay for the visa in cash. This is a single entry visa so if you leave Kenya and return, be prepared to pay for another visa.

Jim cab are a well-established taxi company. You will see plenty of them at the airport. The going rate is 2-3000 KES to Westlands from the airport. The taxis don’t use a meter, Jim Cab will used fixed prices and independent taxis will be prepared to barter. If you use an independent taxi be careful of the safety of the vehicle and the driver. It is best to stick with 1 or 2 taxi drivers you know and trust and use them and their colleagues instead of using random taxis especially at night.

Sport in Kenya

Kenya has a rich heritage when it comes to athletics and in particular middle and long distance running. Julius Yego won gold in the javelin at the World Athletics Championships in 2015. But the biggest Kenya sports star right now is 800 metres world record holder, double World Champion and Olympic Champion, David Rudisha.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in Kenya. Their achievements as one of the most exciting teams on the IRB World Sevens Series is remarkable considering the lack of grassroots rugby structure in Kenya. The Kenyans have reached the semi-finals of the last two world cups in 2009 and 2013 (Rugby World Cup Sevens) and have now qualified for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. They narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 after leading the group qualifier going into the last match against Zimbabwe. Sadly they lost a close game and Namibia qualified instead.

Rugby remains an elitist sport in Kenya with most players coming into the game late on at well-established high schools or private schools. Most of the clubs get their players from their academies and the children predominantly come from the settlements. There are not enough fixtures and tournaments until children start high school. There is no national primary school rugby programme making it rare for children to get exposure to the game at key developmental ages from 7-14 years old.

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