Where to go

Straddling the equator and with a temperate climate, most people travel to Kenya to visit one or several of the excellent game reserves and national parks in pursuit of the Big Five. Whilst the journey may be rough on the parks' bumpy and slippery roads, there is no denying that there is a wide range of locations in which to see game. Not so well known is Kenya's birdlife; the country has a huge number of species in the forests of the highlands and the Rift Valley lakes. Some of the game lodges are not as luxurious as in other regions of Africa, but they are improving, and some first-rate small establishments that match the luxury of lodges in southern Africa are beginning to appear on the safari circuit. In the Masai Mara alone there are almost 60 game lodges and tented camps, and in the other parks, such as Tsavo, tourism facilities are growing to match the demand of visitors.

Kenya's coastal attractions include palm-fringed, white sandy beaches and coral reefs surrounding the offshore islands, some of which drop away to form steep underwater cliffs that plunge to depths of more than 600 m. There are a number of marine national parks along the coast that form a veritable playground for a spectrum of marine species. Most visitors on package holidays combine time on the beach with a safari to see the animals. Independent visitors have the added opportunity to explore the areas away from the normal tourist circuit: the impossibly pretty forests and highlands in Western Kenya, the arid northern deserts, the stately Mount Kenya or the lively upcountry towns. Anyone with an interest in traditional Swahili culture should head to Lamu for the enchanting atmosphere of the ancient old town that has been there for thousands of years. Nairobi too has a growing clutch of attractions and is worth making time for. The animal welfare centres around its periphery offer unique opportunities for getting up close and personal to a number of animals; an experience children especially will enjoy, and Nairobi National Park probably offers the easiest safari options in the country.

Throughout Kenya there are a number of interesting museums, including the critically acclaimed and newly revamped Nairobi National Museum, which offers glimpses into the country's fascinating history and ethnicity. Nairobi is the obvious gateway not only to Kenya, but to the rest of East Africa, and safaris can be extended to Uganda to perhaps see the rare mountain gorillas, in the forests that straddle the borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, or south to the parks and reserves in Tanzania, which can easily be combined with a safari to Kenya's southern parks.

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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