None of the circuits below is a complete itinerary in itself, and they are not set in stone. Rather, they are regional suggestions for travellers wishing to explore a certain part of the country. Nairobi or Mombasa are the usual arrival points into Kenya for international travellers, so what you do rather depends on where you arrive.

One week

If you arrive in Mombasa, you could easily spend a week by the beach at one of the affordable resorts, which have direct transfers from the airport. From the resorts you can take day trips along the coast to see attractions such as Wasini Island to the south, the old town of Mombasa itself, or the marine parks along the northern beaches. Not far away from the beach is the Shimba Hills National Reserve, a very popular day trip where there is an excellent chance of spotting elephant. Tsavo East and West national parks are also within striking distance of the coast, less than a two-hour drive away, and a beach holiday could be combined with one or two nights in a game lodge. There is also the possibility of heading north up the coast for a night or two to on the islands of Lamu, less than a hour's flight from Malindi, to experience a very different atmosphere from the beachside hotels. Lamu is yet to be developed for tourism and, in addition to beautiful beaches, there is the wonderfully friendly ancient stone town with its intriguing narrow alleyways, superb museum and Arabic houses.

If flying into Nairobi, there are parks and reserves just a few hours' drive away. The closest is Nairobi National Park, which has the city as its backdrop and can easily be visited on a half-day trip. Tour operators in Nairobi can organize safaris to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo, the Aberdares, Lake Nakuru and the Rift Valley, and Mount Kenya. How many you visit and how long you stay depends on personal preference and there are any number of combinations. A popular circuit from Nairobi is two to three nights in the Masai Mara then one night to see Lake Naivasha, and one night to visit Nakuru National Park. Another option is to spend two to three nights in both Amboseli and Tsavo. The shortest safaris available from Nairobi are two nights in either Amboseli or the Masai Mara. Nairobi itself is worth allowing at least a day to explore as there are some very interesting wildlife centres and attractions on the edge of the city. These include the Langata Giraffe Centre, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Karen Blixen Museum. In the city itself, it's well worth spending half a day at the newly revamped Nairobi National Museum to learn about Kenya's flora and fauna and its rich cultural history.

Two to three weeks

The above options can be combined as a two-week tour of Kenya allowing some time relaxing on the beach and some time watching the wildlife. Transport links between Nairobi and the coast are very good; there are several daily flights and buses and also there is the option of taking the overnight train. For those with more time, an interesting excursion from Nairobi, which shouldn't take more than three to four days, is to drive around Mount Kenya, with perhaps a night or two at the Aberdares National Park. The road is good and goes completely around the circumference of the mountain. Here in the highlands are atmospheric colonial country hotels with the ever-present view of brooding Mount Kenya. If you want to climb the mountain allow four to five additional days. Another three- to four-day alternative is to explore the Rift Valley. Naivasha is a short drive from Nairobi where there is a fine selection of lakeshore accommodation to choose from and plenty of interesting things to do including walking or cycling in Hell's Gate National Park or visiting one of the new wildlife conservancies. From here, Nakuru and Nakuru National Park can easily be explored in half a day, and Lake Bogoria and Baringo, where you can see excellent bird life, are not far away.

A month or more

From the Rift Valley you can head west into the Kenyan highlands towards Lake Victoria and the provincial towns of Kisumu, Kericho and Kitale. The towns themselves won't keep your interest for long but the countryside is extraordinarily pretty, especially at the Kakamega Forest and the verdant hillsides around Kericho, which are covered in tea plantations. This is also the region of the Mount Elgon and Saiwa Swamp national parks, which are very different to the southern reserves. In Mount Elgon there is the opportunity to see the unusual elephants that seek salt in the mountain's caves; Saiwa is home to the rare sitatunga antelope. North of the Aberdare Mountains is the newly established Laikipa Plateau, an applauded conservation effort by the ranch owners in this region to use their land for the protection of, and in many cases the breeding of, wildlife. This has been Kenya's greatest conservation success story in recent years and there are now some wonderful lodges and safari companies offering a huge range of safari activities. Here guests will receive more intimate and educational wildlife encounters than in the main parks (though at a price).

For those with a penchant for adventurous travel, Northern Kenya is a wild and untamed region of parched deserts, spectacular mountain ranges, and the turquoise waters of Kenya's largest lake, Turkana. Travel in this region is challenging and difficult, and has in recent years been marred by security problems. It is best to explore this region, where possible, on an organized tour.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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