10 REASONS TO VISIT KENYA

Once called East African Republic, Kenya belongs to one of the most visited country of the entire African continent. The reason why all the tourists flock into this country is simple – it’s Kenya’s breathtaking nature and wildlife, unparalleled range of activities and incredible diversity of landscapes and cultures that make it a prime African destination, despite of recent major security issues caused by a terrorist organization Al-Shabaab.

Four years back, I spent two months exploring the splendid Horn of Africa and found Kenya to be a perfect introduction to sub-Saharan continent. My travels ended up being astonishing and adventurous as well as tough and uncensored. Either way Kenya got under my skin very fast and so I made a list of reasons why I think visiting this pearl of Africa should be on any traveller’s list:

1.AFRICAN WILDERNESS

Kenya surely can’t complain about scarcity of natural parks and reserves, which are one of the main reasons people pay a visit – they want to experience the true African safari and witness the Sub-Saharan fauna and flora they know from the National Geographic documents.

The most famous game reserve in the country is Maasai Mara which is connected to possibly even more famous Serengeti NP in north-western part of Tanzania.  Maasai Mara belongs among the top safari experiences in the entire continent and one of the few places in the world where you can spot the Big five – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes. It is also a home to the World’s Seventh Natural Wonder thanks to the wildebeest migration during which over 3 million wild animals, both predators and herbivores, make the long way from drier lands in Tanzania north to the Maasai Mara.

Another visit-worthy game reserve is Amboseli NP which borders Kenya and Tanzania not too far from the highest mountain of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and is known for a huge flock of African elephants. Seeing how the sun climbs up behind the Mt. Kilimanjaro just before the clouds step in and hide its peak while elephants eat their breakfast in front of you is truly an experience of a life time.

My personal favourite national park was the Hell’s Gate, located north of Nairobi, which is one of the few parks where there is no need sit in a car all the time (since there are no lions and other dangerous predators living there). That gives you a fabulous opportunity to cruise the African savanna on a bike or even to walk around. Along the way you might spot giraffes, gazelles, wild pigs and many other exotic friends that will make you feel as if you were in a real-life Lion King.

2. GIRAFFE KISSES😊

Being kissed by a giraffe was not on the list of reasons why I made it all the way to Kenya but it ended up being one of my favourite memories. Well technically it wasn’t a proper kiss. If you think that giraffes walk around giving kisses to strangers, you’re wrong. They’re classier than that and you must work to get it. I had to hold giraffe’s food between my teeth and as it came down to get it, it licked my face with its big rough tongue. Kind of yuck, but totally worth it! Being so closed to this magnificent animal with huge eyes and long lashes blinking in front of my face was incredible. And that’s why I think that the giraffe sanctuary deserves its own point on this list.

Situated on the outskirts of Nairobi, the giraffe sanctuary protects the highly-endangered rare Rothschild’s giraffe and by doing that it combines serious conservation with enjoyable activities. Therefore, visiting the giraffe centre as well as the famous picture worthy manor (I’m sure you’ve seen those famous of giraffes sticking their heads to windows during breakfast) is a great opportunity to get close to these long-neck animals, find out some more information about them and support a great cause with a breeding program that aims to reintroduce the giraffes back into Kenya’s wild areas.

3.TROPICAL PARADISE

Kenya’s diversity is mind blowing. As soon as you leave inland covered with that stereotypical African savanna and hilly bushes, you find yourself in a postcard perfect setting of a tropical paradise.  Coastal area of East Africa, sometimes referred as the Swahili coast, ensures a memorable escape to turquoise waters, white sand beaches and isolated islands. Lapping waves of the Indian ocean and lots of underwater treasures make the coast a perfect spot for diving and snorkelling.

While developers have already discovered a true value of this paradise and started building huge resorts, many parts of the coastline are still unspoilt and seemingly untouched by a massive influx of tourism so the only thing disturbing your vacation will be beach boys trying to sell even the air you breath if they could.

To sum it up, Swahili coast is a wonderful mix of cultures that attracts beach lovers, honeymooners as well as backpackers and party-goers with Mombasa being the prime beach town in the country. The area is also a home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Diani beach, located 30 km south of Mombasa. Another town worth your visit is Lamu, where donkeys are the only means of transportation.

4.MODERN CITY

Travelling to Kenya is usually not associated with modern cities and developed neighbourhoods but that’s exactly what Nairobi has in store for its visitors. The city has seen a lot of development in the last 20 years and worked itself up to the economic hub of the region. The capital city is now the core of Kenya’s businesses and one of the major centres for commerce in the entire continent as well as the most densely inhabited city in East Africa.

Nairobi is a remarkable place to visit for many other reasons. The city offers an exclusive variety of food, art and entertainment and thanks to the proximity of natural park, Nairobi has earned its nickname “Safari capital of the world”.

From my point of view Nairobi can be described as a city of contrasts and that’s what makes it interesting. Against the modern town stand poor underdeveloped suburbs including one of the largest slums in the world, Kibera. Unfortunately, there is another nickname that reflects its reputation, Nairobbery. Even though there has been a significant improvement in the issue, safety is definitely not the city’s pride and Nairobi has a long way to go to ensure visitors are not scared not only for possessions when visiting.

I personally liked having Nairobi as a base during travelling but must say that I wasn’t too impressed – a lot of times it seemed grey and very crowded. – though I still think that it visiting Nairobi is a great opportunity to see modern part of Africa to put things into perspective.

5.ASTOGNISHING NATURE

Nature is undoubtedly the main reason why thousands of visitors yearly fleed to Kenya and the breath-taking scenery goes way beyond safari and exotic coastal paradise … this country offers even more.

Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and covers huge part of the East African Rift with a diverse terrain extending from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana and further to the Indian Ocean. The Rift Valley is pretty much a 6 000-mile long crack in the earth’s surface, stretching from Lebanon to Mozambique, crossing Kenya. It hides a very classic African picture consisting of sprawling savannas and unique geology, that gave it its nickname the “cradle of human life”. Here one can find some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country and on a clear day it’s possible to see all the way to Tanzania.

Another natural feature of Kenya are lakes, namely the Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world, or Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru which is heavily occupied by hundreds of flamingos. Additionally, you can even climb to the top of a non-active volcano’s crater in Kenya. And last but not least, Kenya is a home to the second highest peak of Africa, Mt. Kenya, so even hard-core mountain lovers will find their gem.

6.RURAL LIFE

There are pretty much three ways of living in Kenya (and many other countries in Africa): urban, tribal and rural. For me the rural one was the most interesting because the raw life of Kenyans outside of the cities is so much different to the rest of the country and to my European way of living especially. It is raw and simple, even though this way of living in Kenya has been vanishing due to the development of the cities.

When someone says a rural life of Kenya, most of the people picture muddy houses and women walking through the fields with buckets on their heads – and while this is not completely off, you have to travel further inland to see such stereotypical scenes. In most villages I visited, people live in shacks made of metal or bricks with tiny windows, grow mangoes and papayas in their backyards and beans and corn being the main source of food. On a good day people eat a goat meat. The electricity is limited and water has to be brought from a large distance.  People often do not have much in terms of things but walk around with huge smiles on their faces and in many ways, they are richer than most people in the developed world. If that does not put thing to perspective, I do not know what does.

7.MASSAI TRIBES

Visiting Kenya is a perfect occasion to discover the beauty of thousand years old Massai culture and to see a completely different way of life that roots in tradition. There are approximately 800 000 Massai people living in Kenya and another half of it lives in neighbouring countries, mainly in Tanzania.

These semi-nomadic people are known for herding the cattle, living in huts made of mud, wearing colourful clothes and performing unique arts and crafts. The gender roles within the tribes are very distinct with men being strong and fearless warriors protecting the village and women taking care of everyday needs in the tribe. The most popular aspect of the Massai culture is the jumping dance during which each young man jumps as high as he can to show his strength and stamina while the others stand in a circle and sing. The voices of the young warriors get higher as the jumping increases.

While the traditions, some of them quite controversial such as the lion hunt, slowly fade away and not every Massai village offers truly an authentic experience, visiting the tribe is still a unique chance to expand your horizons and learn something new.

8.DIVERSE RELIGION

Maasai tribes are not the only extraordinary cultural encounter one can experience while travelling to Kenya. Visitors are also given a chance to witness a religious coexistence that has developed over the centuries. Majority of people in Kenya manifest Christian or traditional religion and Christianity has dominated social life and institutions in the most parts of the country, especially in the west and north. But as soon as you move to the coast Arabic influences start playing the main part with Islam being the major religion since the Kenyan coast is mostly populated by Muslims. That means inland churches are exchanged for mosques and different traditions.

Not that many countries in the world offer such religious symbiosis. The great example of it are the Christian-funded schools and its Muslim students. And even though the two religions have been existing next to each other for quite some time, this long-lasting harmony is being put in test with growing Muslim population which is pushing for a stronger voice in the economic and political life of the country.

On that note, I must say that I had realized how important the religion importance in the country was as soon as I had landed in Kenya. Every day I was asked about my beliefs and for many people I talked to, believing in something else that their God was not even an option. I learned that if you are not a religious person or do not want to get into such conversations, the easiest answer for them to understand is to say that you believe in Science. “There must be something you believe in”, they would say.

9.DELICIOUS CUISINE

Eating your way through Kenya is a great way to discover its ethnic heritage in their local dishes. Kenyan cuisine is influenced by many tribes, other African nations and even Europeans and Indians contributed into making the it very diverse. The main features of Kenyan dishes are boiled beans, lots of vegetables, potatoes, meat, rice and corn. I personally enjoyed Kenyan food a lot, I found it filling, simple and very rich in flavours and spices.

For many locals, an everyday food is ugali, a thick porridge made of cornmeal and a special flour, along with a small amount of cooked vegetables or a meat stew. A common side dish to ugali is Sukuma wiki, a very nutritious and tasty vegetable commonly mistaken for kale. Ugali is easy to make and very affordable, therefore it feeds millions of people not only in Kenya but in entire in sub-Saharan Africa.

Another plate that is universally eaten in Kenya is nyama choma, which in Swahili means “roast meat”. Different kind of meat, mainly beef or goat meat, is put on a stick and barbecued in aromatic spices. It is a very popular dish and you can order nyama choma in the finest restaurants as well as the road side shacks. Irio, a mash of potatoes with watercress, peas and corn, is a healthy and nutritious accompaniment to meals. It has its roots in Kikuyu tribes and has become popular throughout Kenya mainly because it is very nutritious and easy to prepare.

Indian influences brought one of the commonly eaten dishes to Kenya- chapatti, which is a round flattered bread made of white flour that can be eaten with a lot of dishes from cabbage to stew, and samosas, fried triangular-shape savoury pastry stewed with meat or vegetables.

If you’re wondering what to drink with all this delicious food, Tusker is your answer. This Kenyan premium lager the most popular beer in the country and the largest selling beer in East Africa. Kenya loves it, Africa loves it and tourists love it too.

10.PERFECT LOCATION

Being situated in the heart of African horn and with Nairobi as the commercial hub of the region, Kenya is often called the “Gateway to East Africa”. It shares its borders with five countries – Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan – and thanks to a rich net of international buses and flights to Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya is a perfect starting point for wandering around the region. Many people I met started their travels in Mombasa and continued along the coast through Tanzania all the way to Mozambique, Malawi or Zimbabwe or made their way from Nairobi to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. So, if all the reasons mentioned above were not enough to make you buy a flight ticket to Kenya, the location is a cherry on a cake.

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