Strategically positioned on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Eastern Africa, Kenya is popularly referred to as Land of Many Contrasts offering a wildly diverse tourism product that is suitable for all owing to her beautiful bio-diversity of flora and fauna, climatic regions and cultural peoples; from the white sandy beaches overlooking the endless Indian Ocean at sea level, through her acacia studded savannah plains teeming with wildlife like lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes as well as milliard other so called plains game; amazing physical features like the tall sprouting hot springs in Lakes Bogoria and Baringo to the snowcapped rugged peaks of Mt. Kenya, Kenya's first and Africa's second tallest mountain lying a mere 16kms south of the equator; rainforests like Arabuko Sokoke, Karura, Mau, Aberdares, Mt. Kenya (forest) and Kakamega forests are, in addition to being critical water catchment areas, home to many species of primates from baboons, blue monkeys, black & white Colobus Monkeys and so many more.
One of the best times to visit Kenya is from July to September, during the country's dry season, which also coincides with the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra. The rainy seasons are also good times to travel, as there are fewer visitors and you can admire the striking emerald vegetation.
Currency: Kenyan shilling
Official languages: Swahili, English
Kenya is a multilingual country with Swahili and English being spoken as the two official languages. Here are a couple of Swahili words to get you started:
”Jambo” – common greeting meaning “Hello, how are you?”
“Asante” or “Asante Sana” – meaning “thank you” and “thank you very much”
“Pole Pole” – which means “slowly slowly” referring to the slower African pace!
Kenya has been inhabited by people ever since human history began. Tribal hunter gatherer groups were the first to populate the area, followed by a farming civilization from the Horn of Africa and the agriculturalists from Sudan. Around 100 AD Bantu speaking farmers from Nigeria brought ironworking to the area. Arab and Persian traders set up settlements and built mosques along the coast in the 8th century.
Arabs founded the independent city states of Mombasa, Malindi and Zanzibar on the coast in the 10th century, blending linguistic and cultural elements with the Bantu. By the 15th century, Mombasa was a major and prosperous port. Over the next 300 years, 90 percent of the natives of the Swahili coast were enslaved and sold by Arab traders, mainly to Europeans.
Kenya is a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Some of the better known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife rich grasslands. As much as a quarter of the population belongs to farming communities in the north.
The Kenyans have a family and community oriented culture, influenced by African traditions and the colonial period, most notably Catholicism. They are creative and artistic and the nation has produced a number of notable writers and musicians and has a well developed cultural scene with television, theater, music, dance and the visual arts well represented. Kenya’s colorful festivals are a good way for visitors to gain insight into aspects of the country’s traditions.
Kenya lies on the equator and has a pleasant, tropical climate, but there are large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. Kenya's daytime temperatures average between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F, but it is warmer on the coast.
Most visitors require a visa to enter Kenya – the only exemption is nationals of a few Commonwealth countries. Visas can be obtained at Kenya High Commissions and Embassies. Some specified nationalities are also allowed to get and pay for visa on arrival at respective ports of entry. For the specific requirements appertaining to your nationality/passport, please see http://evisa.go.ke/evisa-faqs.html As of July 2015, it is recommended all visitors register online then apply for, pay online and obtain an electronic e-Visa at http://www.ecitizen.go.ke You will be required to upload a scan-copy of the main page of your passport (the one bearing your name, nationality, passport number and date of birth) as well as a soft-copy Passport photo both. Online Visa Applications may take several days to be processed. We recommend you apply at-least two weeks, or longer, before your intended day of arrival. The East African Tourist Visa is a multiple entry visa which allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the same multiple entry visa for a period of 90days. It is normally available and issued at any of the diplomatic missions of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda or at the immigration offices of the respective countries or on the Rwanda Online Visa Application System for a fee of US$ 100. A holder is obligated to enter East Africa through the country that issued the visa and move within and outside the other two counties without needing their visa as long as it is within the period of 90 days.
There’s a wide range of travel options in Kenya. If you want to be looked after throughout your trip, you can travel on a shared or exclusive road safari where you sign up to an off-the-shelf or tailor-made itinerary; alternatively you can take an air safari, via scheduled domestic airlines (often in small planes with great visibility), or charter a light plane for your own use. If you want more independence, you can easily rent a vehicle for self-drive or with a driver. If you’re on a budget, you’ll find a wide range of public transport – though, to be clear, it is all privately operated – from air-conditioned buses run by large operators to smaller companies and “saccos” (cooperatives) with a single battered minibus. In towns of any size, crowds of Nissan minibuses, operating as shared taxis and referred to as matatus, hustle for business constantly. Kenya’s railway “network” appears to be in terminal decline, but the Nairobi–Mombasa line still runs a couple of services a week.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
We recommend avoiding packing any plastic bags in your luggage before flying to Kenya. You should also remove any items purchased at departure airports from their bags before boarding. Double check your luggage before disembarking in Kenya and leave any plastic bags on the plane.
A Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is now a mandatory requirement for all persons entering Kenya. Kenya, like other countries in Africa, sits in a malaria prone area in the African tropics. Anti-Malarial Prophylactics are highly recommended – kindly consult with your physician on this before travel. Whilst contracting Malaria is not necessarily imminent, we also recommend you bring insect repellent, long pants and long sleeved tops for the cooler evenings, as well as sleeping under a mosquito net. Additional recommended, but not mandatory, vaccinations include Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B as well as Tetanus.
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