TEXT: You might spot the Big Five
Kenya is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife watching destinations, as it is home to the Big Five i.e African lion, African elephant, buffalo, African leopard, and white/black rhinos.
Witness the greatest migration on Earth
From mid-August to October, more than a million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania to Kenya’s Maasai Mara, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of Thomson’s gazelle, zebra and eland. Despite the plethora of videos and photography of the migration available online, nothing comes close to seeing in person the mass movement of animals, lumbering, strutting and swaying in one of the great wonders of the natural world.
Entry is simpler than ever
Kenyan authorities introduced an e-visa system in 2015, meaning Pakistani travelers no longer need apply for entry documents before travelling, or queue at the airport for all the right stamps. A single entry visa costs $50 per person and the e-visa site is linked from the Foreign Office’s Kenya travel advice page. Ensure that you use the official e-visa website (https://www.ecitizen.go.ke/) to avoid being scammed by fake providers.
It's ideal for safari first-timers
Kenya is one of the best countries in Africa for those on their first wildlife watching expedition. If you catch an overnight flight from Islamabad you can transfer to a light aircraft next morning and be in the bush in time for brunch. Such things are possible in Nairobi because Kenya’s safari industry is backed up by an efficient tourist infrastructure with a dazzling choice of camps and lodges to suit all budgets. This is, after all, where modern safaris were invented back in the Twenties.”
Big cats abound
The Maasai Mara is one of the best places in Africa to encounter big cats. “Cheetahs and lions roam the plains, waiting for the migrating wildebeest, and leopards pose in its riverside fig trees. In fact, the animals are so associated with this region that the BBC chose the Mara for their Big Cat Diary TV series.
After a safari, flop on the beach
Kenya’s geography means that it offers the perfect combination of fauna-and-flora spotting adventures in its dozens of mighty national parks, and opportunities for lying prostrate on white sand Indian Ocean beaches. Usually a 10-day safari-and-beach itinerary is recommended, with the first stop at Kicheche Laikipia Camp, home to the country’s highest population of black rhino, as well as elephant, cheetah, lion, and leopard. Guests then move onto a beach hotel for a couple of days of watersports and relaxation.
The bird life will have you all a flutter
Kenya has more than 1,000 recorded bird species, including flamboyant crowds of pink flamingos whose massing makes for surreal photographs. They have been driven from Lake Nakuru in the past half decade because of industrialization and rising water levels, and many have moved to Lake Bogoria, which covers 32 square kilometers (12 sq miles). The matchstick-legged birds can be seen feeding on the algae that gives them their candy floss hue amid geysers that result from the lake’s geothermal activity. Also visit Lake Naivasha, home to Golden-winged Sunbirds, Superb Starlings and African Fish Eagles – Naturetrek runs small group wildlife-watching tours.
You can sleep under the stars
Loisaba Lodge is set in a 61,000 acre reserve, and guests can experience the wilderness by night in private huts open to the skies a 20-minute drive from the main building. Beds, which can be wheeled out into the open or taken inside if the weather turns, overlook either a watering hole or a river where there is every chance of catching sight or sound of passing game.
It sits in Laikipia, the most heavenly corner of the country. This is the Africa of dreams: the air fragrant with the smell of greenery, alive with the sound of creatures, and, at night, lit up by what seems like a trillion stars.
Mount Kenya rivals Mount Kilimanjaro
Less well-known than its Tanzanian sister, Mount Kilimanjaro, and considered a more challenging climb among mountaineers, Mount Kenya sits in its own national park, amid endemic fauna and flora. The highest of three peaks rises to 5,199m, although this requires a technical climb. Even the lowest of its three summits, though, offers astounding panoramas over the plains and savannah below, and as you ascend through the foothills you may spot elephant, black rhino, Cape buffalo, Colobus monkey, antelope and giant forest hog.
It has ancient sites that 10 will interest everyone
Even for those who sigh at the prospect of poking around old ruins, the former town of Gedi near Kenya’s coast will not fail to captivate. With origins in the 12th century, this Swahili town reached its zenith in the 15th century, and its wealth is indicated by the clusters of mosques, a magnificent palace and houses, all in 45 acres of primeval forest. It was first visited as an archaeological site by Sir John Kirk, a British resident of Zanzibar in 1884, and is today maintained by the National Museums of Kenya.
It’s home to one of the Queen Elizabeth’s favourite hotels
Founded in 1932, Treetops is Kenya’s oldest safari lodge, and Princess Elizabeth was in residence here when she was told of the death of her father, King George VI, prompting her ascendency to the throne. “For the first time in the history of the world,” wrote big-game hunter Jim Corbett in the Treetops logbook, “a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen.”
Tourism in Kenya is known internationally for its unique cultural features, primarily with regard to Maasai culture. Cultural aspects central to Maasai tourism include ritual song and dance, beadworks and handicrafts, traditional ceremonies such as wedding and circumcision, and cultural bomas (traditional homestead).
You’ll come home with pretty mementoes
Kenya is home to many talented craftspeople who make covetable objects. Look out for Kitengela glass, which is made in the middle of the bush, and products from Ocean Sole, which pays local people to pick up old shoes washed up on the beach and turn them into toys. Also look out for beaded belts and shoes, which are sold across the country.
You can eat breakfast accompanied by giraffes
The famous Giraffe Manor is set in 12 acres of private land in a Nairobi suburb and allows guests to participate in sunset feeding sessions. Expect other impromptu feeding sessions: the herd of Rothschild giraffes will often poke their heads through the windows of the manor house for extra treats.
Or witness the Great Rift Valley
Maasai herders, herds of elephant, wide plains an dramatic escarpments all define the Great Rift Valley, which reaches through Kenya as part of a 6,000-km long scar that stretches from Jordan in the Middle East across Africa to Mozambique.
There's a national park called Hell’s Gate
Named after a narrow crack in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake, this national park north-west of Nairobi is home to Fischer's Tower and Central Tower columns. Visitors can walk among buffalo, zebra, eland and Thomson’s gazelle and see baboons scratching each other. Prepare to be rendered silent by the beauty of the Njorowa gorge’s red sandstone walls.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021