Thinking about visiting Kenya and want to know what should be on your agenda? Let Joanna Booth help with this roundup of safaris, coastlines, landscapes and culture.
It’s not known for the “Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth” for nothing. Watching thousands of wildebeest and zebra thunder across the Masai Mara and ford its rivers, pursued by lions and ambushed by crocodiles, is a breathtaking experience. But the Great Migration is just one page of Kenya’s safari story.
There’s the quiet Laikipia Plateau, so quiet that you won’t have to share your sightings of black rhino and wild dog, and Amboseli, where huge herds of elephant gather in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kenya is home to all of the Big Five – so you can head home with full bragging rights about seeing them, having spotted prides of lions, herds of cape buffalo, extended families of elephants, both black and white rhino and even some shy, reclusive leopards.
Taking a drive in a jeep is just one of the ways of tracking big game. Why not get up close and personal with creatures big and small on a walking safari, feel the wind in your hair on horseback, or float over the Mara’s plains on a sunrise balloon safari as well?
For something to write home about, fly high above Laikipia on a helicopter safari, head to Northern Kenya to spot game from the back of a camel, or board a traditional dhow boat and explore the Kenyan coast, searching for dolphins and birdlife.
Coast and culture
Bathed by Indian Ocean trade winds, Kenya’s eastern shores are home to flawless stretches of white sand. Take a break from sunbathing under a swaying palm, and watch the dhows dipping through the waves beyond the fringing coral reef that tracks most of the coastline.
To the south of Mombasa, Diani Beach not only has powdery sand backed by lush forest, but also a range of accommodation so everyone from honeymooners and families to kite-surfers and hostellers are catered for. Offshore, gigantic but placid whale sharks bask close to the surface, unworried by groups of snorkellers.
North from Mombasa, a range of established resorts dot the beautiful shoreline around Malindi, with offshore reefs and Kenya’s best wreck diving. Divers also love the National Marine Park near the sleepy village of Watamu.
Inland, find the stark but beautiful range of sandstone gullies and gorges known as Hell’s Kitchen, and the thick jungles of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, home to rare birds and the lost town of Gedi, a deserted Swahili settlement dating back to the 13th century and hidden deep in the undergrowth.
Offshore, the island of Lamu is unique, the winding streets of its Old Town a fascinating blend of influences from Africa, Europe and Arabia. There are no vehicles, just donkeys and dhows, and beach retreats nestle among the rolling dunes of its endless beaches.
Live the landscape
From the towering cliffs, stark rock towers, water-gouged gorges and scrub-clad volcanoes of the Hell’s Gate National Park in the Great Rift Valley to the soaring massif of Mount Kenya, the country’s landscapes are as diverse and dramatic as its wildlife.
Getting out and experiencing this great outdoors is simple, even if the terrain is challenging. Mount Kenya is Africa’s second highest peak, and the ascent to the summit is a serious technical climb across ice, scree and rock.
Trekkers are spoilt for choice in Kenya, with the high, isolated mountain passes of the Loroghi Hills, the dense vegetation and tumbling waterfalls of the Aberdare Forest, and the ascent to the edge of the volcanic Menengai Crater.
Even casual walkers can wander through lush Kakamega Forest, or around the shores of Lake Elmenteita, spotting flamingo, fish eagles, zebra and giraffe.
Mountain bikers will be in their element riding through herds of game in Hell’s Gate National Park, and part-time pedallers can use two wheels to reach different beaches along the coast at Diani and Malindi.
Thrillseekers in Diani can steel their nerves and take a tandem skydive, free-falling for a whole minute from 14,000 feet, before coming into land directly on the sand.
One thing’s for sure – you’ll never forget a holiday in Kenya.