Naturalist? Mountain climber? Sunbather? Travel Kenya and you can have it all, including the cultural activities to truly round out your vacation. But let's start with the obvious reason for traveling Kenya, which of course, is to go on safari.
The first thing you should know about Kenyan safaris is that you'll need a Safari Card, for the country's electronic ticketing system to get you through the park gates. There are several types of cards available, visit the Kenya Wildlife Service for more information.
The largest national park in Kenya is Tsavo National Park, which is divided into Tsavo East and Tsavo West. You'll be able to find most of the larger mammals in Tsavo East, including big cats, rhinos, hippos and elephants.
Tsava Park West is also home to large mammals like buffalo, rhinos, giraffes, and zebra. . .and where these animals congregate you'll see some large feline predators like lions, leopards and cheetah. The western section also offers underwater hippo watching, spelunking and over 600 species of birds. Tsava Park West is billed as "Land of Lava, Springs and Man Eaters".
The "World's Only Wildlife Capital" is Nairobi National Park, an educational facility for conservation efforts. The walk is comprised of simulated forests, wetlands and savannahs which host endangered species and a variety of animals to represent the wildlife of Kenya.
You'll find guided walks, lectures and learning seminars, but don't think this is a Kenyan safari for kids. The walk is home to hippos, rhinos, lions, albino zebras, as well as indigenous plants and many bird species.
This Kenyan safari is ideal for those who don't want to spend whole days looking at wildlife, but you can easily spend an afternoon exploring here.
Tired of predatory felines? Check out the Masai instead. You'll still see some big cats at Masai Mara National Reserve, but the bigger draw at this park is the annual wildebeest migration from July through August.
And let's not forget Lamu on the east African coast, where you can spend a relaxing time on a traditional Swahili sailboat called a Dhow, navigating through the Lamu islands.
Your dhow trip might include lunch and a walk on one of the islands, it might be a sunset cruise among the mangroves with dinner on a beach, or it might be an overnighter, allowing you to bed down on deck and sleep under the stars. Some trips are dolphin and whale watching cruises.
Speaking of the Lamu Archipelago, one day while you travel Kenya, you just might want to get away from the wildebeests and tourists, and that day comes when you can no longer tell the two apart.
Lamu is one of the places where you can make your escape.
First, you should know that Lamu is an historic, Islamic town, a 700 year old Swahili trading post in fact, so it's not exactly party central and you'll need to watch how you dress and what you do in public. It's full of winding lanes, old mansions and rooftop patio culture.
But, Lamu also hosts one of the best World Festivals to be found, if you're into cultural celebrations.
What will the citizens of Lamu celebrate? The birth of the Prophet Mohammed called Maulidi, which changes yearly, and the festivities for the holiday have been going on each year for over 100 years. For a whole week you'll get to experience:
» Traditional Dances
» Dhow Races
» Donkey Races
» Calligraphy Contests
» Poetry Readings
» Sword Fights
Be sure to book your rooms well in advance.
Aside from festivals though, Lamu is home to Sultan's Fort which was built in 1808, became a prison for a time, and is now a museum.
The Riuki Cultural Centre is about an hour's drive from Nairobi, and includes a visit to the coffee and tea centre of Kenya where you'll experience one of the 42 Kenyan cultures, Kikuyu culture, first hand. While visiting Riuki you'll get to tour a village, watch traditional cleansing ceremonies, try local foods and attend a lecture.
The Tours to Riuki Cultural Centre last for a few hours or can include an overnight stay with a local family.
Speaking of growing coffee, if you read or saw Out of Africa you might want to check out the Karen Blixen Museum just outside of Nairobi. Karen Blixen's house is maintained in it's original condition, and since the film was shot right there on her plantation, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fans will enjoy the tour.
Ready to travel Kenya? Here are some basic facts to get you started:
» Visas: You will need a passport and a visa to travel Kenya. A visa will cost US$25, and if you purchase one at the airport, be prepared for some delays. You also might need proof of a yellow fever vaccination, and other vaccinations are recommended. Be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Destinations Page for updated vaccination information.
» Shillings: Kenyan currency is called a shilling, and is denoted as KES or sometimes KSh at the exchange counters.
» Political Unrest: Al-Qaida has been known to bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi and public places where Westerners congregate. Also, avoid street demonstrations Kenyan political situations may also be dangerous.
» U.S. Embassies: The U.S. Embassy is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi. The phone number there is 254-20-363-6451.
» Sexuality: Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and straight couples kissing or fondling in public places may experience hostility.
» Dress Codes: Short dresses are frowned upon in certain areas, and keep the beach wear on the beach. However, there are some nude beaches available for those more liberal travelers.
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