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It was no accident that the ‘Out of Africa’ story and film came into being. The unsurpassed beauty and spectacular landscapes of a raw country straddling the equator formed a crumble in molding the life of a Danish countess giving her the background and experience that produced such a masterpiece of descriptive writing. Kenya as a nation covers 582,646 square kilometers of contrasts where arid deserts and lunar landscapes vie with glacial ice and snows, dense and verdant forests, a necklace of lakes, rich savannahs, and a sparkling tropical coastline. The hot humidity of the coast, frosty mountain nights, dry burning heat of the northern deserts, sunny days, bracing evenings in the uplands, and a superb climate overall provide the perfect climate mix that invigorates and exhilarates every visitor to this great nation. Man was born on the Eastern shore of Lake Turkana according to recent fossil evidence. Subsequently, Kenya became the point of contact in Africa between the stone age and civilization spreading down into the continent from the Mediterranean, being followed by a profound culture change about 100 AD. Additional immigrations and influxes of diverse ethnic backgrounds created over 40 fascinating tribes of Kenya, who today make up the population of some 24 million diverse people.
The massive fracture line on the earth’s surface running 5000 kilometres from Jordan to Mozambique, so tangibly visible in Kenya, is the Great Rift Valley with its length like a necklace of lucrative pearls, together with a series of volcanoes which stud the valley floor. A giant mantle, the central highlands, spreads on both sides of the Aberdare mountains and provides a rich agricultural land with dense forest. It is here that one finds the great farmlands of tea, coffee, maize, wheat and pyrethrum, and it is here that one enjoys the bracing air, ebullient activity and restful scenery.
Up in the north lie the arid rugged lunar landscapes where withered thorn, scrub, sand and lava rock provide the background for a few hardy nomads who eke out a living in a land where rain is a rarity. One’s sense of distance is lost as the great land stretches dramatically to the horizon and disappears in a faint blue heat haze. 480 kilometres of sparkling white Kenyan coastline stretches from the Somali border to that of Tanzania. Long pristine beaches, free from crowds, with a protective fringe of coral reef provide warm shallows and lagoons where one may conduct a leisurely pursuit on the beach, or simply lie in the tropical sun and tan. The privilege of solitude on a vast beach is a rare experience in today’s world. Alternatively, one may wish to enjoy the challenge of deep sea fishing where world records are a normal thing. With turquoise sea as an environment there is a multitude of activities; water skiing, scuba diving, sailing, coarse fishing, wind sailing or just pottering about. There is a plenty to do or alternatively, if one wishes to do nothing, what better atmosphere? The vast wildlife attractions which are contained in some thirty-seven national parks and reserves provide an ideal and unique viewing of Africa as it was before the advent of civilization. Nature in the raw. It can be seen on the rolling savannahs, from the hides cleverly constructed alongside water holes in the forests, or more specifically on the edge of the internationally famous Serengeti plains at Masai Mara. Here, like clockwork once a year, occurs one of the most astonishing sights in nature as millions of wildebeest and zebra follow the timeless ritual of migration moving in search of fodder as they have done since time immemorial.
Service from a happy and compatible people combined with sophisticated Accommodations of architectural distinctions, modern communication facilities, a riot of colour provided by the grand artist, nature, with a parade of wildlife that has no comparison, all come together to provide a holiday of a life time, offering a great opportunity to escape from the artificiality of the twentieth century civilization, and a return to Africa – the real Africa.
Only 10 km from the bustle of the city, Nairobi national park, covering an area of close to 100 sq km is an ecosystem of grassland, forests and rivers. It is home to all the Big Five except Elephants which had to re-locate to larger reserves with enough food for them. Plains game found here include Giraffe, Gazelle, Zebra, Impala and the Heartbeest. It is also possible to observe Cheetah, Jackal, Hyena and Serval cats while birds such as the Masai Ostrich, Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Kingfishers and lilac breasted Rollers among many other species, are resident here. The rivers are home to crocodiles and turtles are a usual citing.
With 766 square kilomtre, the park is a mixture of forest and moorland, with many cascading waterfalls, thick bamboo forest and sub-alpine plants. The major part lies at an altitude of 3,500 metres. Deep ravines slice forested inclines, through which flow hidden streams which icy waterfalls tumble down rock faces. Above the thick forest area are reaches of alpine type moorlands usually hidden in mists. The park is a fairyland, awesome in its in its majesty and beauty, being rich in wildlife-elephant, rhino, the pig family, antelope, lion, leopard and buffalo, with monkeys of all types including the spectacular black and white Columbus. Birdlife is abundant and varied, the most conspicuous groups being the sunbirds, while game birds abound in plenty, as do birds of prey.
With 392 square kilometers, it is justly famous for both its big game scenic beauty. It consists of five basic wildlife habitats covering open plains areas of yellow barbed acacia woodland, rocky, lava stream, thorn bush country swamps and marshes and some mountains massifs. Majestically dominating the area, rising above a saucer of clouds, is the snow capped mountain of Kilimanjaro (5895 metres), the highest in Africa. Here the pastoral and proud Masai people herding their cattle have lived in harmony with the wildlife since days of yore. This was the locale beloved of Earnest Hemmingway and Robert Ruark, where the sparkling white snows of Kilimanjaro have been a picturesque backdrop to one of Kenya’s most spectacular displays of wildlife – lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah, buffalo and hosts of plain game-making a perfect photographer’s paradise. Swamps and springs fed by underground rivers from the melting snows of the mountain provide permanent watering places for the game while a dried up lake bed nearby produces a shimmering image in the heat.
With 120 hectares located on the Kenya coast, this ruined city of Islamic origin dates back to the thirteenth century. Partial restoration has made the great mosque, the portions of the palace and other dwelling more accessible. Quite a few unusual birds’ species can be found as well as some rare tiny mammals like bats, shrews, bush babies, monkeys, duikers and squirrels.
Also known as Njorowa Gorge, Hell’s Gate National park covers an area of 68 sq kilometers and is considered to have one of the most spectacular and exciting walks in Kenya – leading through a gorge lined with sheer, red cliffs. There are hot springs and geysers that bubble up from the earth’s surface, testimony to the still active volcano in the region. Mt. Longonot, a young volcano, dominates the landscape rising a thousand metres above Lake Level. There are many birds of prey and swifts in the area. The most interesting bird to observe here is the nearly extinct Lammergeyer Vulture, reintroduced here to save it from extinction.
With 576 square kilometers, the lake is probably internationally famous for its vast concentrations of greater and lesser flamingos, its population being in excess of a million. Their delicate pink plumage decorates certain sections of its shores to form ‘the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world’. Now with the translocation of Rothschild giraffe and rhino it is beginning to develop a new reputation although some lion, leopard and quite a few buffalo are found therein there are no elephant, however. Lesser game are in residence as are a herd of hippo which live in the north-east comer.
With 1132 square kilometers, the reserve consists of strange anomalies having a volcanic mass of a forested mountain which rises like a green oasis in the midst of a vast forbidding desert wilderness; a spectacular group of volcanic craters where Gof Bongoli is the largest and most dramatic; foot-hills of rugged grandeur; and a black lava desert. Here can be found an impressive list of rare and little known birds while the key attractions, without a doubt, are the largest elephants with tusks of over 45 kilograms each and the greater Kudu. This unique reserve featured in early films and writings of Martin and Osa Johnson and Vivien de Wattville. Also famous are singing wells where the biblical looking Borana tribes people drive their camel for watering. There, three or four of their men from human ladder down the steep shafts in a relay to speedily lift up water for their animals, singing in chorus as they work.
With 870 square kilometer, it is one of the most scenically diverse of Kenya’s wildlife sanctuaries where the park has a unique variety of habitats for such a comparatively small area. On the Tana itself, colonies of Monkey and flocks of parakeets inhabit the dense riverine forest. Hippo and crocodile are common, often seen sunning themselves on the broad beach-like sandpits. On clear mornings, the snow capped mass of Mt. Kenya appears in south-west, but the most picturesque sight is the sunset over the Nyambene range.
Open grasslands lie around the north-eastern boundary while fifteen perennial rivers feed the area, all rising from Mt. Kenya and flowing to the Tana River, keeping several swamps and springs alive and green throughout the year.
Of course the reserve is world famous as the home of Elsa-the lioness that was returned to the wilds-the star in a trilling story told in Joy Adamson’s book. The park is alive with a plethora of avifauna while some species of the birds are especially prolific. The reserve has magnificent stands of doom and raphia pals, with combretum bush in the north and comiphora in the south.
With 117 square kilometers, in areas above the 3,500 metres contour, this mountain symbol of Kenya-Batian of 5199 metres-rises dramatically to dominate the surrounding countryside.
Here there are sections of high forest-bamboo, alpine moorlands, glaciers, tams and glacial moraines. Often seen are enormous weirdly shaped bushes covered with moss and liche, open moorland with tussock grass studded with many species of giant lobelia and groundsel which often reach to a height of 3-5 metres. The ground has a rich profusion of everlasting helichrysums, alchemillas, and is interspersed with gladioli, delphiniums and ’red-hot pokers.
The peaks are remnants of a central core of an ancient volcanic crater, the rim of which has long since erode away to form a complicated system of rock faces and ridges which offer a great variety of climbing routes, calling for high mountaineering skill and experience by those familiar with rock, ice and snow technique. The thick verdant forests below the moorlands contain an abundance of game animals which include elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard, bongo, bushbuck, duiker, giant forest hog, and several species of monkey. Lions inhabit the moorlands, although not common, while leopard and wild dog are seen in the lower zone.
With 20,700 square kilometers, this park, divided by the Mombasa-Nairobi highway into two blocks - East and West, is one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. While considerable portions of the park have been opened and developed for tourism, a great tract to the north is still inaccessible and closed to ordinary tourist traffic. Tsavo is an interesting mixture of extensive plains, steep rocky hills rising abruptly, a few river valleys with their fringes of tall green acacia and palm trees. Altitudes range from 300 meters in the Eastern section to 1,800 meters in the highest peaks of the Ngulia Hills.
The Mzima springs is an interesting feature in Tsavo west. It’s crystal clear fresh waters are a sanctuary to crocodiles, hippo and fish. There is an underground glass observatory where visitors get upclose to the hippos with out the dangers of an encounter. It is fed by numerous rivers, some underground, which flow out of the lava from different directions, forming an oasis in the middle of this otherwise dry scrubby landscape. Practically most of Kenya’s wildlife is represented in the two blocks of Tsavo, but the dominant one is elephant. Over 20,000 of these giants roam the area, which also happens to be a black rhino stronghold. The park is famous for its lions, descendants of the dreaded Man eaters during the construction of the Mombasa-Kampala railway at the end of the last century.
There is network of over 800kms of game viewing roads. Bird life is legion in the park and new species are often discovered. Sunbirds, hornbills, parrot, weavers, starlings, bustards and birds of prey are present in great numbers among the many species.
With 20,700 square kilometers, this park, divided by the Mombasa-Nairobi highway into two blocks - East and West, is one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. While considerable portions of the park have been opened and developed for tourism, a great tract to the north is still inaccessible and closed to ordinary tourist traffic.
Tsavo is an interesting mixture of extensive plains, steep rocky hills rising abruptly, a few river valleys with their fringes of tall green acacia and palm trees. Altitudes range from 300 meters in the Eastern section to 1,800 meters in the highest peaks of the Ngulia Hills.
The Mzima springs is an interesting feature in Tsavo west. It’s crystal clear fresh waters are a sanctuary to crocodiles, hippo and fish. There is an underground glass observatory where visitors get up-close to the hippos with out the dangers of an encounter. It is fed by numerous rivers, some underground, which flow out of the lava from different directions, forming an oasis in the middle of this otherwise dry scrubby landscape.
Practically most of Kenya’s wildlife is represented in the two blocks of Tsavo, but the dominant one is elephant. Over 20,000 of these giants roam the area, which also happens to be a black rhino stronghold. The park is famous for its lions, descendants of the dreaded Man eaters during the construction of the Mombasa-Kampala railway at the end of the last century.
There is network of over 800kms of game viewing roads. Bird life is legion in the park and new species are often discovered. Sunbirds, hornbills, parrot, weavers, starlings, bustards and birds of prey are present in great numbers among the many species.
Only 10 km from the bustle of the city, Nairobi national park, With 1520 square kilometers of pristine Africa wilderness, the reserve is world famous for its vast assemblage of plains’ game together with their assorted predators. It is perhaps the only area remaining in Kenya where one may see wildlife in the same super abundance as existed years ago, or for that matter, to witness one of the wonders of the world-the annual migration of million of wildebeest and zebra. It provides breath-taking vistas, a panorama of vast rolling plains and hills of groves of acacia woodlands and thickets of scrub. Also present are the largest population of lions to be found in Kenya, as well as huge herds of Topi and the rare Roan antelope not seen elsewhere into his country. The area is bisected by the Mara River which every now and then comes into tumultuous flood, and which is boarded by a section of luxurious riverine forest. Hippo laze in its waters, while drowsy looking crocodiles sunbathe on the banks, mouths agape. Despite the marvels of the annual migration, the Mara is rich in resident wildlife and avifauna. The bird life being profuse with over 400 species readily identified.
Patterns of the Great Migration:
The great trek usually begins in Tanzania and the Serengeti in January after the herds have exhausted the available pastures.
The migration involves well over a million animals and approximate 500 miles of travel. The true migrants are the Wildebeest or White bearded gnu and Zebra. Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles participate but only partially while the predators only trail the herds for obvious reasons – easy prey! It is questionable whether the Zebra make the full journey and it is certain that the gazelles do not leave the Serengeti
At this time of the year the wildebeests are scattered across the medium and short grass plains south of Serengeti depending on the water and grazing. They criss-cross the plains with large concentrations remaining around Lake Ndutu and Olduvai Gorge. Many travel onto Ngorongoro crater increasing the numbers of animals in the crater considerably.
At this time, there are scattered thunderstorms on the plains, the surface waterholes are full and the grazing is good. Wildebeest calving occurs in February and there are literally hundreds of calves. Predatory activity is high with an abundance of Lion, Cheetah, spotted Hyena with frequent sighting of Leopard.
By the end of March, the rains begin to taper off and the surface waterholes begin to dry up, the grazing is becoming short and the animals begin to panic. The wildebeest begin to gather into large herds and start moving north and west towards Lake Victoria as they graze. The herds continue west following Grumeti river and reach within 20 miles of Lake Victoria. It is for this reason the western arm of the Serengeti was included in the national park and is called the migration corridor.
The animals move off the plains into high country and the corridor.
The herds are still moving off the plains and into the corridor.
The great herds are now in the corridor. At the same time during June the herds move north again through Musoma and head for the Masai Mara in Kenya. Depending on the rain and grazing they reach the Mara river towards the end of July.
July, August, September
The great herds are more concentrated now and remain in Masai Mara area approximately 2-3 months. During this period the courtship and breeding takes place. By the end of September they have consumed most of the grass from the Mara river to the Loita plains in Masai Mara.
They become restless and start moving south through the Keekorok (Masai Mara) and Lobo (Serengeti) Valleys en-route to the plains.
The herds are normally in the highlands, acacia woodland around Lobo in Tanzania. They arrive on the long plains of the Serengeti around Seronera at the end of November and stay in this area for about a month before dispersing onto the vast plains that form the medium and short grass areas of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The herds are in Seronera area (central Serengeti) and the long grassy plains.
The cycle repeats itself.
A tiny game sanctuary, it actually lies within the legal boundaries of the frontier township of Maralal. On the cedar clad hillside and in the acacia scrubland below, there is a profusion of residents’ game with buffalo, zebra, and impala living in harmony. Seasonally, elephant descend from forested slopes to the north. Leopards are baited in a small forest not far from lodge and can be seen in safety from a specially constructed blind. To reach Maralal, one has to journey through wild countryside across this arid northern section of Kenya until, as the mount is reached; one has breathtaking views of wild lunar landscapes all around.
These two adjoining reserves are situated in the arid and rugged part of the country, north of Mount Kenya and the equator. Both are watered by river Uaso Nyiro which apart from supporting life in this dry area, is home to an impressive population of Crocodiles, usually seen sunning themselves on the banks.
Along the riverbed the rare Doum Palms dot the otherwise scrubby, dry landscape adding to the beauty of the scenery. Rolling hills form a stunning backdrop to the landscape making this a photographer’s paradise. There are rare species of animals found only in this region and these are the reticulated Giraffe, the Somali Ostrich and the Grevy’s Zebra.
Other game include Elephant, Buffalo, Impala, Gazelle, the long necked Gerenuk, the beautiful Kudu, Dik Dik, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard and Oryx. It was in Samburu national reserve that a Lioness adopted an Oryx baby three times protecting it from other predators and seemingly affording it motherly love. Scientists have since been investigating this strange and abnormal behavior by the beast. Birdlife in this area is prolific. Over 300 species have been identified.
This reserve is adjacent to the Buffalo Springs National Reserve and is where the late Joy Adamson wrote her books on the rehabilitation of a leopard. The reserve’s northern border is marked by the wide sauntering flow of the Ewaso Nyiro on its way to disappear in the Lorian swamp. This jewel in the dry rocky part of northern Kenya is a worthy introduction indeed to a safari in Kenya.
Over 100 species of colorful birds can easily be encountered in a days viewing.
The river, with its pools and streams of fresh water, literally attracts thousands of sand grouse and doves together with a galaxy of smaller birds.
There are rare species of animals found only in this region and these are the reticulated Giraffe, the Somali Ostrich and the Grevy’s Zebra.
Other game include Elephant, Buffalo, Impala, Gazelle, the long necked Gerenuk, the beautiful Kudu, Dik Dik, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard and Oryx. The landscape is beautiful and full of eye-catching scenery.
This is one of the fresh water lakes in the Great Rift Valley. It provides sanctuary to hippopotamus and crocodile and it is a birder’s paradise. Many of the species here are unique to the area. The area has two major ornithological attractions, the escapement west of Kampi ya Samaki which is the home of Verreaux eagle, bristle-crowned starlings and Hemp Ricks hornbill, and the Gibraltar Island in the centre of the lake, an extinct volcano rising 50 meters above the lake. It has deposits of sulphur and hot water springs.
A small tribe called the Njemps occupy the south and west shores of the lake and one of the activities for visitors to lake Baringo is a visit to their villages for an insight into their ways of life. Although they are somehow related to both the Masai and the Samburu, the Njemps, unlike their counterparts, have become expert fishermen and fish is a major part of their diet. Interestingly, to the Masai and the Samburu as well, eating fish is almost a taboo.
A boat ride on the lake takes you closer to the schools of hippo and bird colonies and gives you a chance to see the Njemps fishing for Tilapia and crocodiles.
This is one of the Great Rift valley lakes, situated only 50km south of lake Baringo. Bogoria is a soda lake and one of the attractions here is the spouting fountains of boiling water and the pink Flamingos that use this lake as nesting grounds. The birds and the hot water springs provide a spectacular show of flaming colours crowned by the wall of Laikipia escarpment as a backdrop. This gives the lake the looks of a glistening sheet of blue and white, tinted by the vivid pink of the flamboyant flamingos wading on its shores.
Around the lake is a small reserve where the greater Kudu is a regular citing.
This 68 square kilometer fresh water lake is considered a bird watcher’s paradise. It has been described as a bewilderment of birds. It is estimated that there are more than 400 species around it. Water birds exist in great varieties and abundance. The lake has no apparent outlet but remains fresh and changes noticeably in size according to rainfall in the nearby Mau hills and Aberdare mountain ranges. The Lake has a resident population of hippo and many fish. It was here that Joy Adamson’s book Born Free was written. Activities in this area include boat rides to see the hippo schools and watch birds, visits and walking on the Crescent Island.
The Crescent Island is one of the major features on this lake and is one of the rare places in the country where one can wander among the wildlife on foot. The Island takes its name from its shape. It is the visible tip of a volcanic crater rim, forming a bay in the deepest part of the lake.
The lake is surrounded by private game sanctuaries and lush farm lands. Mammals also include water buck, Impala, Gazelle and birds found here include the black necked Grebe, Great crested Grebe, Little Grebe, the Night Heron, Fish Eagle, Sacred Ibis, Hadada Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Pelicans, Cormorants and the African Darter among others.
This rain forest is a peaceful ornithologist’s paradise. A remnant of unbroken Equatorial jungle that arched west to east across the continent and cannot be found anywhere else in Kenya. Finally gazetted as a National reserve in 1985, the forest covers some 45sq kilometers and is home to a great variety of bird species, some of them only found in this part of Kenya. Some of the birds to be found here include, the Great Blue Turacco, Emerald Cuckoo, Hornbill, Zebra waxbill and the Hammer-headed fruit bat among others.
With 192 square kilometers, this is a pastoral wonder world of rolling grassland and forests of giant primeval trees. A herd of elephants and buffalo, a few lion and leopard are seen while the rare Sable and Ran antelopes are the key attraction.
Although not significantly higher than the coastal strip, the Shimba Hills at 350 metres are remarkably cool. None of the animals provide deterrent to walking in the area. Bird life is profuse including the carmine bee-eaters, palm nut vultures, turacos and spur fowl.
Nairobi is the largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg. Though just South of the equator, it enjoys a spring-like climate. It is a modern city, yet its main avenues blaze with color from tropical bushes and vines. Just 80 years ago, there was a river in an empty wilderness where Nairobi now stands. Despite health hazard and the eve-present danger from wild animals, Nairobi became established by 1907 and quickly grew as a white farming community. It also attracted world attention as the center of big-game safaris for the rich and famous. Perhaps the most famous was the safari of Teddy Roosevelt, which needed 500 porters to carry supplies and returned with 500 trophies.
By 1931, the city had 50,000 residents and was the seat of the colonial administration. Today, Nairobi has a population of around 2 million. It is a business and conference center for East and Central Africa and a base for international tourism on the extensive safari circuits of Kenya. Nairobi has a wealth of international hotels and restaurants. Cuisine of all types is available from Chinese for French and Italian; several restaurants also offer the local favorites. Nightlife varies from local nightclubs with disco and beat bands to international floorshows at the hotel, nightclubs and casinos. Shopping in Nairobi varies from modern supermarkets to bazaar stalls and open-air markets. Souvenir hunters will find bargains ranging from woodcarvings to Persian carpets. And there are also three excellent museums that offer insights into the fauna and culture of Kenya as well as the history of the country.
Mombasa is the capital of the Kenyan coast.
Lamu archipelago off the Kenyan coast is one of the few remaining pieces of history in the region. Old 18th century stone houses, huge intricately carved doors and hanging balconies, women dressed in traditional black bui-buis and traditional dhows with huge triangular sails are some of the trade marks of the island. The biggest attraction however, is the unspoilt culture and atmosphere of busy days of the past where Donkeys take the place of cars.
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