Originally the dream destination for big-game hunters, Kenya saw guns and pith helmets make way long ago for cameras and game drives, with the focus on conservation, responsible tourism and community empowerment. The country’s safari destinations lead the way in luxury eco-tourism. The national eco-rating scheme and annual Eco-Warrior awards promote and reward ‘green’ tourism.
What would be the definitive Kenyan picture postcard – dramatic Mount Kenya rising abruptly from the plains? Herds of magnificent elephant ambling past snow-tipped Mount Kilimanjaro? An aerial shot of the breathtaking Great Rift Valley? A majestic lion with its golden-eyed gaze or elegant giraffes ambling past flat-topped acacias?
Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, dreams over herds of elephant in iconic Amboseli National Park. The volcanic Chyulu Hills hide secret splendours in their caves and contours. The semi-arid Laikipia plateau boasts an abundance of wildlife in the conservancies, reserves and forests at the foothills of Mount Kenya, Africa’s next-highest mountain. Head north of the mountain to discover the home of Joy and George Adamson’s Born Free lions, Meru National Park, and find real wildness in Samburu National Reserve. Kenya’s most famous park, the Masai Mara, brings unparalleled drama as wildebeest in their thousands migrate north from Tanzania’s Serengeti.
This is also a twitcher’s paradise – birdwatchers from around the world marvel at the sheer diversity of birds in Kenya. Add to that some of the world’s best beaches and it is hard to beat this land of safari.
How better to wash off the dust of your safari than by heading for the Indian Ocean beaches? Diani Beach on Kenya’s South Coast repeatedly appears on lists of the world’s best beaches, for obvious reasons: tropical fish and coral reefs – check; swaying palms – check; turquoise waters – check; glittering white beaches – check.
The Kenyan people are rightly famous for their genuine warmth and hospitality. A smile and a kindly ‘Karibu!’ will welcome you, whether the speaker is clad in beadwork and shukas, colourful kangas or the latest, hippest fashions. Kenyans are simultaneously proud of their diverse traditional cultures and of their entrepreneurial energy and technological savvy – this is the country that brought cellphone banking to the world.
Nothing adds more spice to a journey than contrast. Cosmopolitan Nairobi, East Africa’s biggest city, with its energy and hustle, music and food, heritage buildings and high rises, and frankly insane traffic, seems a world away from the tranquil Nairobi National Park, the only game park in the world flanking a major city. Nairobi’s road network and airports are the gateway to more destinations in Kenya and the greater East Africa.