Five Things First Time Travellers To Kenya Should Know
- You need to get your Yellow Fever vaccination. Without it, you won't be allowed entry into the country or allowed on the plane back home. While it's not the cheapest vaccination, immunity lasts for ten years. Just be sure you have it done ten days before your departure date. Otherwise, it won't be accepted.
- Don't drink the tap water. Stick to bottled water in Kenya at all times if you want to avoid getting sick. Most hotels and safari lodges will have filtered water available for you.
- Kenya's official languages are English and Swahili. This means you shouldn't have any trouble with communicating while in the country, but learning a few words of Swahili will go a long way.
- Remember to tip. If you're at a restaurant, the standard tip is 10%. For safari guides, it's USD 20 per day and for transfer drivers, tip USD 5 one way.
- Check the luggage restrictions for lightweight aircrafts. You're only allowed a total of 15 kg on small planes, and that includes your carry-on hand luggage. If you need to bring more with you, your only option will be to buy another seat for an additional 70 kg.
Best Time To Visit Kenya
The best time to visit Kenya all depends on what you want to see and do while in the country. From its rich wildlife heritage to its natural wonders, there's a lot to explore any time of the year.
Often called the "Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth", the Great Migration is usually right at the top of anyone's Kenya bucket list. The best time to catch this world-famous migration is during the dry season. The crocodile-filled Mara River crossing takes place in August, and the animals cross the plains in large numbers between September and November.
If you're not trying to watch the migration, you'll have cheaper safari rates and more dates to choose from. Peak safari season starts from June and ends in October. The lack of rain during this time means the animals are easier to spot as the scarcity of water draws them out to the nearby waterholes. If you're on a tight budget, you can enjoy a more affordable off-season safari, but the relentless rains might derail your plans.
For hikers wanting to summit Mount Kenya, the best time to visit is also during the dry season. The weather is the most reliable, and you can expect clear, sunny days as you make your way up the mountain.
If you want to spend your trip diving around Kenya's coastline, plan your trip around the wet season for the best visibility on your dives. For those that want to relax on the beach, the coast is an all-round destination with higher humidity levels between March and May.
Nairobi is Kenya's capital and the country's largest city. It's home to some of the best wildlife attractions as well as historic sites from the country's colonial past.
Its highlights include the Nairobi National Museum, filled with exhibits on the country's history, culture, and contemporary art. The Karen Blixen Museum is a must-visit for bibliophiles and fans of her book "Out of Africa".
But the most popular is without a doubt Nairobi National Park. Now a black rhino sanctuary, it's teeming with other wildlife like leopards, buffalo and cheetahs.
Mombasa is Kenya's second largest city and the country's multi-cultural hub. It's an eclectic mix of British, Portuguese, Arab, Indian and Asian immigrants that have all left their influence on the city.
Foodies will love sampling the different types of cuisine, and architecture nerds can marvel at the array of different styles.
The coastal city is also famous for its coral reefs. They fringe the shore for 480 km and are home to an array of marine life including the spinner dolphins and dugongs.
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kisumu has become one of the country's hottest destinations. It's in a prime location to explore many of Kenya's parks including Ruma, home to the only indigenous population of rare roan antelopes.
Other attractions include the rock formations of Kit-Mikayi, the Kisumu Museum and the excellent bird watching inside Hippo Point.
Top Attractions in Kenya
Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara is one of the world's most famous game reserves. Each year, it attracts hundreds of tourists who want to witness the Great Migration. It also boasts some of the best predator sightings in Africa, thanks to its large numbers of big cats.
But another draw to this national park is its indigenous people. The red-cloaked Maasai people still live here and graze their animals off the land as their ancestors have done for centuries.
The best time to visit is during the dry season when the animals make their way to the waterholes. But safari prices are at their highest and frugal travellers will save more by visiting off season.
Amboseli National Reserve
With Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance, Amboseli National Reserve is one of Kenya's most popular destinations. Only five hours away from Nairobi, it's home to some of the largest herds of elephants in Africa and over 600 species of birds.
But what makes the reserve special, are its five different habitats. Nature lovers can explore the sulphur springs in the wetlands, the famous Savannah, rock formations of lava, the acacia woodlands and the parched bed of Lake Amboseli.
There are also nearby Maasai villages that you can visit. It makes for an interesting day trip for those that want to learn more about their lifestyle, culture and traditions.
Tsavo National Park
Tsavo National Park is Kenya's largest game reserve. It encompasses 4% of the country's total area and is full of waterfalls, volcanic hills and an incredible diversity of wildlife.
Tsavo East's highlights include the Yatta Plateau, which boasts the world's longest lava flow, Mudanda Rock and the Galena River. Lugard Falls is also a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts that want to catch a glimpse of the crocodiles lurking in its depths.
On the west, you'll find the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, the Chaimu Crater and the Mzima Springs. But while its scenery is breathtaking, the thick vegetation will hamper your wildlife viewing.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Located in central Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its pink flamingoes. Hundreds of these birds flock to the lake and create one the country's top wildlife experiences.
Established in 1961, the park is home to a plethora of other species. So far, 450 different species of bird have been found here, and many of Africa's biggest animals like lions, leopards and rhino wander through its plains.
Another interesting part of the reserve is its euphorbia candelabrum forest. It's the largest in Africa, and the succulents are endemic to the region.
Dating back to the 12th-century, Malindi is full of history and natural heritage. A popular tourist hub, many travellers spend their time relaxing on the white sands of Watamu Beach.
With a sizable expat community from Italy, the town is also a melting pot of cultures. Try the delicious Italian food, wander through the old town or explore the depths of the nearby marine park.
Some of Malindi highlights include the Church of St Francis Xavier, the Vasco De Gama Cross and two pillar tombs from the 14th century. One of the area's most unusual sights lies 30 km from the town. The Marafa Depression or Hell's Kitchen is an eerie set of sandstone gorges.
Major International Airports in Kenya
- Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
- Kisumu International Airport
- Eldoret International Airport
- Moi International Airport