Kenya

OVERVIEW

Jambo! Ask any Kenyan, and they’ll tell you that this is the place where safaris began. It’s not hard to see why they’re so proud of their country, and they may just have a point: Kenya is very hard to beat as a safari destination.

Whatever you’re looking for from your African vacation, Kenya really does tick all the boxes. There’s an amazing diversity of wildlife habitats, from rainforest to near-desert, which of course means many different species of birds and animals.

Some Kenyan national parks and game reserves have become bywords for safari adventures, most noticeably the iconic Masai Mara which plays host to the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Even when the wildebeest are not passing through, there is more than enough resident wildlife to occupy your time (and the memory card in your camera!).

The lone trees, endless plains and rocky koppies of the Mara are in marked contrast to the landscapes you’ll encounter further north. The land becomes drier and rockier, and even the animals are different. You’ve heard of the Big Five, of course, but how many of the Samburu Special Five have you seen?

Straddling the Equator, Kenya enjoys a wonderful climate. The highlands produce exceptional tea and coffee, and that’s just the start of the climbing. Mount Kenya offers incredible trekking opportunities (although reaching the summit is a more serious endeavor).

Kenya will give you unforgettable wildlife moments, but it’s likely to be the people who linger longest in your memory. Kenyans genuinely enjoy welcoming visitors from around the world, and they particularly love children. This fact (plus brilliantly-designed family villas and suites in many safari lodges) makes Kenya ideal for family and multi-generation African vacations.

You’ll recognise some Kenyans the moment you meet them, because you’ve seen them before. The red-robed Maasai and colorful Samburu are much more than just quaint photo opportunities, however – they represent the proud continuation of tribal traditions dating back centuries.

And when the safari part of your holiday is done, head to the coast to enjoy Kenya’s wonderful white sand beaches. It’s especially easy to combine bush and beach here, and you can also learn more about the coastal Swahili culture: a fascinating blend of African and Arabic influences.

Gateway city: Nairobi

Best time to travel: January-March and June-December

Highlights: Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Mount Kenya, Tsavo National Park, Mombasa, Malinda and Lamu — Beach

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