Whether you’re an African traveling in Africa or a foreigner travelling to Africa, there are 54 countries to choose from.
In this post we will be exploring the East African country of Kenya and all the great Kenya attractions. You can expect a humid tropical climate refreshed by the Indian Ocean on its East Coast with cooler weather conditions when traveling inland towards Mount Kenya and it’s permanently snowy peaks.
Further to the West, you will experience equatorial heat and dryness that brings the humidity around Lake Victoria. And the North-Eastern region will give you desert and arid areas.
Quite the contrast from forest to desert, but that is just one of the many things that make this country unique and intriguing.
Things to Do in Kenya
Culture in Kenya
The culture-scene in Kenya is, amazingly, more diverse than the Rainbow Nation concept adopted by South Africans. With 40 African ethnicities, each with their own dialect and mother tongue (62 languages to be exact), there are three identifiable and major cultures that can be associated with tourism-focused Kenya. Maasai, Bantu and (the more common) Swahili.
Like South Africa that tries to live the concept of Ubuntu – a person is a person through other persons – Kenyans live out the concept of Harambee, meaning “to pull together” when it comes to others.
With regards to what to do and what not to do when interacting with the locals, there is a general etiquette of respect and formalities as one would find almost anywhere.
With regards to their traditional cultures, in the main cities, you will find more westernised influences in dress and media. Traditional tribal dress, body modifications, jewellery and weapons are reserved for special occasions. There are some areas, however, where traditional rituals and lifestyles are preserved.
Kenya attractions range from National Parks to old towns. There is definitely something to do for every member of the family, with many places to visit in Kenya.
If you’re a fan of the sea, then Mombasa is your stopover town with close access to the coast. If you enjoy white sandy beaches and clear blue seas full of marine life that make for perfect snorkeling conditions, then you’re really going to enjoy what Kenya has to offer.
A few popular beaches in Kenya include:
- Diani Beach, which offers both the sea and a lagoon.
- Watamu Beach is a secluded unspoilt seaside-haven and turtle breeding ground.
- Malindi Beach is a great spot for surfers.
- Kiwayu Beach is popular amongst celebrities.
- Lamu Beach is arguably the most beautiful beach with crystal clear waters and white sand.
- Bamburi Beach offers both a beautiful beach day (with camel rides for those who dare) and a colorful nightlife.
- Kenyatta Beach is the tourist, family and local-friendly beach that’s always buzzing and offers a little bit of everything.
When you’ve had enough of the beach for one day, you can always travel around the towns and stop at some of the museums and heritage sites.
Popular sites include the ruins of Gede, Lamu Fort, Fort Jesus and Siyu Fort. And to place some history in context, or to just experience some of the traditional cultures of Kenya, you can arrange tours to the Samburu, Turkana and Maasai tribes.
When in Kenya, you should also make the time to visit some of the 64 lakes. That’s a lot of lakes, but to make the decision easier for you, definitely visit the eight that make up part of the Kenyan Great Rift Valley.
Lake Turkana, Lake Logipi, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elmenteita, Lake Naivasha, and Lake Magadi, to be exact. Lake Nakuru is most popular for its incredible display of flamingoes. But we can’t forget Lake Victoria, after all, as it’s the largest lake in Africa and second largest (fresh water) in the world.
And then we have Mount Kenya, spectacular to see and a feat to conquer for the expert mountaineer.
Kenya city attractions: Nairobi
Kenya conjures up images of safari’s and white-sand beaches, but why not take some time to explore the capital city Nairobi. The name of which comes from a Masai phrase meaning ‘The Place of Cool Waters’ as it sits comfortably on Nairobi River.
It is a very up and coming, cosmopolitan city with much to offer, here are a few of our recommendations of things to do in Nairobi, Kenya.
Kazuri meaning ‘small and beautiful’ is a bead factory. Kazuri began in 1975, with a small workforce, it was there to give women, mainly single mothers a chance to earn money making beads. Now employing over 400 women the organisation has grown and the Kazuri jewellery is exported to over 30 countries. You can have a tour around the factory and meet the women who make and hand paint all the beads. It is an incredibly inspirational place and you can visit the on-site shop and spend hours picking a necklace (or several). Kazuri is located in the Karen area.
The Giraffe Centre
This not-for-profit organisation began in 1979 with an aim of creating an educational insitution as well as rescuing the endangered Rothschild giraffes. It provides conservation education for children free of charge from profits made from the entrance fee and the gift shop. You can spend some time getting up close and personal with the giraffes at the park and you can even feed them!
Sitting on the same grounds as the Nairobi National Museum, the Snake Park houses an array of not only snakes but also crocodiles, turtoises, turtles and lizards. If you have a free afternoon, check both places out.
Selling all sorts of tradional crafts such as wooden animals and masks, jewelley, bags, keyrings, drums to name a few and of course the obligatory purchase of a Tusker t-shirt! These markets are held in popular locations like the Village Market in Gigiri on Fridays, the Yaya shopping centre on Sundays and in West Gate shopping centre on Tuesdays.
Away from all the hustle and bustle, you may want somewhere relaxing to unwind. At the Zen Gardens you can enjoy the space with Jade Coffee and Tea House or try Bamboo a fine dining restaurant specialising in Pan-Asain cusine open for lunch and dinner. The food here is seriously good!
National Parks in Kenya
There are six main national reserves or parks in Kenya, all offering safaris through wildlife and different areas of the country.
Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara National Reserve is by far the most popular reserve in Kenya and one of the major Kenya attractions, promising the Big Five and the annual wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River. These savanna grasslands are found within the borders of the Great Rift Valley and can be enjoyed via hot air balloon if safari game drives are too mainstream for you.
The Masai Mara is not a National Park, but rather a National Reserve belonging to the Masai people and administered by the local county councils. It is one of the best known and most popular reserves in Africa. Moving around in Masai Mara National Reserve must only take place by car – preferably by 4-wheel safari vehicles. Because of the wild animals it is absolutely forbidden to move about on foot outside the camp sites and lodges. A more unconventional way to get around in the reserve is by hot air balloon trips which is a great way to see the animals and the area a little from above.
The main attraction of this game reserve is, not surprisingly, to go on morning, afternoon and night drives over several days in order to see as many as possible of the resident animals, such as lion, leopard, elephant, zebra, giraffe, Thomson’s gazelle, hyena, rhino, hippo and the thousands of migrating wildebeest that makes this park so famous.
Many camp sites and lodges offer game drives with experienced drivers and skilled, well-informed guides. These are well worth your money, as they will provide you with priceless knowledge and help you spot Kenya animals you wouldn’t see on your own. And please catch as many sun-uppers and -downers as you can. We recommend this 4-day Masai Mara camping safari with GAdventures, or check out their other Kenya tours for other options.
Masai Mara’s most famous sight is the Great Migration, a great animal migration event that takes place in July and August every year. There is a Maasai village near Oloolaimutiek gate of this game park. It is a good experience and will help you to deepen your understanding of the Maasai’s culture and simple way of life.
Go game viewing till you drop! If this gets a little monotonous (which it probably won’t), you can go on a much recommended hot air balloon safari early in the morning and see the sun rising above the wildlife and the magnificent landscapes. And do remember to take lots of photographs! Some lodges and camps offer massage and wellness treatments making you able to combine wildlife watching with luxury.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park finds itself at the feet of Mount Kilimanjaro and home to over 900 African elephants traversing through a variety of acacia woodlands, swamps, thornbush, swamps and grasslands.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is found in the capital city itself and has a Black Rhino Sanctuary. There may not be elephants in this park, but the rest of the Big Five are home here as well as the Embakasi River. Go along for a walking trail or stop at one of the designated picnic spots for a view of wildlife and cityscapes. You can also join a tour to the park.
Some of the other parks include Tsavo East and West National Parks, Hell’s Gate National Park and the Samburu National Reserve.
If you’re looking for a more up close and personal encounter with some wildlife (specifically giraffes), when in Kenya be sure to visit the Giraffe Manor and possibly have to share your breakfast with these graceful animals.
With so many incredible Kenya attractions, there are so many reasons to visit Kenya!