Information on Kenya
The Republic of Kenya lies across the equator in East Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is bordered to the south by Tanzania, west by Uganda, north-west by Sudan, north by Ethiopia and the east by Somalia. With an area of 580,367 square kilometres and a population of over 45 million, Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by land mass and the 30th most populous country. Nairobi is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolitan city.
What Currency is Used in Kenya?
The official currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling. You can view current exchange rates here. For more information pertaining to ATMs and other accepted currencies, please see our Practicalities Section.
What is the Climate in Kenya?
Kenya enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country. Temperatures in these areas are fairly constant year-round with an average of 27°C (80°F) at the coast, 21°C to 27°C in the hinterland, while in Nairobi and the highlands over 5,000ft, the daytime temperatures normally range between 19°C and 24°C.
It is usually sunny throughout the year, the hottest periods are between February – March, and the coldest between July-August. The long heavy rains are from March – May, and short rains from October to December. The highlands of western Kenya have a single rainy season, lasting from March to September.
In the mountains, expect alpine temperatures. Cool during the day and very cold at night. However, like most alpine conditions if the sun is out it can feel quite warm. Come prepared for wild temperature swings if you plan on climbing peaks.
Remember that you will often be on safari early in the day, and temperatures can be quite chilly. Do anticipate cold weather and dress in layers for the changing weather. If you plan on diving or exploring ocean life while in Kenya, the sea conditions are typically best from October to March.
Few countries in the world can boast of such a wide diversity of activities and attractions as Kenya. Here you will find breath-taking beauty and great environmental contrasts ranging from spectacular palm fringed sandy beaches to the majestic summits of Mount Kenya, from tropical rain forests to searing deserts; from vast open plains and savannah to acacia woodlands; from small farms to rich ranches and estates of tea, coffee, pineapple, banana, wheat and sisal; from small muddy rivers teeming with hippo and crocodiles to Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile river and the largest lake in Africa, not forgetting the Great Rift Valley- everything you need for adventure, relaxation and discovery.
Here you will find one of the highest concentration and diversity of wildlife, a vibrant array of cultures and encounter every day beauty of African life, from the notorious matatus in Nairobi streets, the hawkers announcing their goods on a street corner, to the warm innocent joyful welcome you receive from the children when you get to the villages, the beginning of a connection and ‘love affair’ that makes you never want to leave.
What is the Culture and History of Kenya?
Kenya has been called the ‘cradle of mankind’: the place where the first humans appeared. Fossils found in the Great Rift Valley, around Lake Turkana (in the north of Kenya) suggest that hominids (the family of man apes and humans) walked around there over two million years ago.
The patchwork of ethnic groups, which today exist side by side in modern Kenya are the result of the waves of migration, some from as early as 2000 BC, from every corner of Africa – Turkanas from Ethiopia; Kikuyu, Akamba and Meru from West Africa; and the Masai, Luo and Samburu from the southern part of Sudan.
By around the 8th century Arabic, Indian, Persian and even Chinese merchants were trading on the Kenyan coastline. By the 16th century, Europeans realised the potential of the East African coast, and most of the trading towns were occupied by the Portuguese. The Omani Arabs finally ousted the Portuguese in 1720, but it wasn’t long before the coast came into the control of the British in 1895.
The route to independence was marked by the violent struggle of the Mau Mau Rebellion in the 1950s and on 12th December 1963, the British granted full independence to Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta became the first president and after his death in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi took over. Moi remained in power until the 30th December 2002 when Mwai Kibaki was inaugurated as Kenya’s third president.
What Currency is Used in Kenya?
The Kenyan Shilling is the official currency of Kenya. This is the preferred currency to have on hand while in Kenya. Here are the latest conversion. If you are obtaining a visa on arrival, you may want to carry USD, GBP, or Euros to purchase your visa. For more information on both visas and ATMs please see our Practicalities Section.
What Is the Time Difference in Kenya?
Borneo time is GMT/UTC plus 3 hours. Check out the local time in Kenya here. The country code for Kenya is +254. For information regarding internet connectivity and cellular service please see our Practicalities Section.
How Do I Charge My Electronics While in Kenya?
Kenya uses British BS-1363 socket type. The voltage is 220-240. Electricity is widely available throughout major cities in Kenya. However, on safari, in lodges, and on the mountain, finding an electrical outlet will be a bit of a challenge. Depending on your accommodation there may or may not be any electricity in your room. If so, chances are it is run by a generator or solar power and will not be reliable or only available during certain times of day. It is recommended that you ensure your electronics are charged prior to traveling to rural areas. If you are concerned, back a rechargeable battery pack with you.
What Language is Spoken in Kenya?
Swahili and English are the official languages of Kenya. English still lingers from the time of colonial rule. However, more people are fluent in Swahili than English. However, those who work in the tourism industry do speak English.
It is always a good idea to learn a few words of the local language before you arrive at your destination. Even if you can only say hello, it goes a long way in the minds of the local people. Check out Adventure Alternative's list of helpful Swahili words and phrases.
For more information see our Kenya Preparation Page.
There is so much to see and do across Kenya all year round, the following is just a quick overview to give you an idea of the variation. Many advertised Adventure Alternative trips already incorporate some aspects of the activities listed below but for volunteers, medical electives, private and tailor-made trips we can of course work with you to ensure that your visit to Kenya is everything you expected and more.
We have full time staff across Kenya who will help plan itineraries, give advice about where to go and where to avoid and we have the vehicles or contacts to help plan any day trip, weekend or event, you just need to ask.
Kenya Excursions - Nairobi
Remember that traffic in Nairobi is generally very slow so make sure to discuss with our staff about the most viable options to fill your day. The following are some of the more popular attractions in Nairobi.
Cultural/museums – www.museums.or.ke
* Nairobi National Museum – cultural and national heritage exhibitions
* Railway Museum – memorabilia from the East African Railways
* Snake Park and Herbarium – reptile park, aquariums
* Parliament Building – tours, public gallery when Government is in session
* Nairobi Gallery – formerly the old Provincial Commissioners Office
* RaMoMa Museum of Modern Art – contemporary African art
* Bomas of Kenya – traditional dancing, homesteads and artefacts
* Craft Centre in Gikomba - craft workshops in the heart of the slums
* Karen Blixen Museum – guided tours of the house and gardens
* Mandir Hindu Temple – Indian cultural exhibition
* Buildings of interest – National Archives Building, Jamir Mosque, McMillan library, Norfolk Hotel, Kenyatta Conference Centre
* Bird Walks at National Museum
* Nairobi National Park – rich variety of wildlife on the outskirts of the city
* Nairobi Safari Walk – get up close with the animals at Langata KWS HQ
* David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – orphaned elephants and rhino
* Giraffe Centre – education centre for the Rothschild Giraffe
* Silole Sanctuary – nature walks set up by local landowners
* Mamba Village - Crocodile sanctuary
* Masai Market – Many stalls selling crafts and souvenirs
* Splash Water World – swimming pools and water slides
* Ice Skating – Panari Sky Centre on Mombasa Road
* Ngong Race course – race meetings most Sunday afternoons
* Shopping centres – YaYa, Hurlingham, The Junction, Karen Centre, Sarit Centre, Galleria and many more
* IMAX Theatre and many cinemas
* Go Karting or Paintballing and much more!
* Seemingly endless list of great bars, restaurants and clubs, including the Carnivore
Full list of things to see and do in and around Nairobi on Trip Advisor
Kenya Excursions - day trips (accessible from Nairobi)
- Ngong Hills – walking and picnic with great views, SW of Nairobi.
- Kiambethu Farm – learn about tea, walk in the indigenous forest, Banana Hill/Limuru Rd.
- African Heritage House – sundowners and a tour of the house, SE Nairobi.
- Climb Mt Longonot – small volcano in Rift Valley near Naivasha, 2 hour easy walk to the summit.
- Hells Gate National Park – cycling, walk through the sandstone gorges, near Naivasha.
- Naivasha Lake – barbecues, boat rides in early morning, birdlife, fishing in the Rift Valley.
- Maasai Ostrich Farm – working Ostrich Farm on Namanga Rd near Athi River.
- Lake Magadi – bird watching around the soda lake, SW of Nairobi in the Nguruman Hills.
- Lake Nakuru National Park – early start to visit this Park to see the wide variety of wildlife here.
- Mwea Natural Reserve and Dam – via Thika on the Garissa Rd, then the Embu road, wildlife/birdlife.
- Wajee Valley Nature Park – birdwatching, nature trails, walks.
- Fourteen Falls & Ol Donyo Sabuk Park – amazing falls and views, via Thika on the Garissa Rd.
Kenya excursions - overnight trips
- Solio Game Reserve – a very successful rhino reserve, central region (near Naro Moru)
- Lake Elementaita – stay at Elementaita Lodge or Delamere Lodge and go on an early morning balloon ride
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy – huge wildlife conservancy,
- Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate - boat ride, cycling, wildlife, birdlife. Stay overnight at Fish Eagle Camp or Fishermans Camp on the shores of the lake. Bicycle hires, swimming pool, bar and restaurant with small lodges or camping available.
- White Water rafting – central region.
- Nyeri – visit the famous Outspan Hotel and the Aberdare National Park and overnight in the even more famous Treetops Lodge.
- Kerugoya – stay in a charming colonial building on Mt Kenya.
- Amboseli National Park – on the Tanzanian border, famous for its 'elephants below Kilimanjaro' scenery.
- Kakamega National Park - great place for weekend visits when staying at our 'Ulamba' Guest House in Western Kenya
Other places of interest (around Mount Kenya and in Western Kenya)
Many people with Adventure Alternative in Kenya spend longer periods volunteering or on medical electives in Embu or/and at Ulamba in Western Kenya, although these places are not famous for being the epi-centre of tourism in Kenya they do offer a more 'off the beaten track' experience, well away from the traditional tourist trail. That helps us make the following suggestions a little bit more exciting, knowing that you'll be experiencing something a little different that few visitors to Kenya get to experience. At the same time, you also have the security and guidance of our full time staff in each location.
- Western Kenya - sunrise over Kakamega National Park (see Kenya excursions above)
- Western Kenya - search for wallowing hippo or spend a day fishing on a boat trip on Lake Victoria
- Western Kenya - visit the home of Mama Sarah Obama, near Ulamba Children's Home
- Western Kenya - Kisumu museum
- Western Kenya - Impala Sanctuary Wildlife Reserve in Kisumu
- Western Kenya - birdwatching at Ndere Island National Park in Kisumu
- Western Kenya - Kisumu markets, hotels, bars and restaurants
- Embu - day/overnight safari in Ol Pejeta Conservancy (see Kenya excursions above)
- Embu - Mwea National Reserve
- Embu - day hikes to explore the hills and viewpoints that surround Embu
- Embu - climb down to the waterfalls and caves just outside Embu town
- Embu - Izaak Walton Hotel offers a safe environment for a quiet drink, night out or a day swimming in their outdoor pool
- Embu - Horse riding on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya (Isaak Walton Hotel)
- Embu - easy access to Mount Kenya (see below)
- Embu & Western Kenya - Moving Mountains project visits (see below)
A safari in Kenya is renowned for its adventurous appeal, big game, stunning scenery and fascinating history and culture. We offer many types of safaris which cater for individuals, families, couples and groups that range from budget to luxury and we are more than happy to discuss options and help you design tailor-made private safaris.
The beautiful, snow capped peak of Mount Kenya is the second highest point in Africa at 17,058ft (5199m), a challenging and popular destination for trekkers and climbers. Generally you need about a week (when you include travel days) to reach Point Lenana, the third highest peak of the mountain and the most accessible point for trekkers. We provide guides and staff for your trek up the mountain and an all-inclusive package. There are a lot of different options on this website but using the Naro Moru and/or the Sirimon route is most popular for those on a budget and restricted by time or an East to West traverse using the Naro Moru route for the ascent and Chogoria route for the descent if you're more flexible, extra days can be added to explore the summit circuit around the three main peaks.
The coastline of Kenya is famous for its pristine white sands, warm waters of the Indian Ocean, stunning coral reefs and sea life. Around the main city of Mombasa you can find watersports, fishing villages, historic architecture and luxury hotels. You can fly easily or take the overnight train, or drive in our tour vehicles. We can help with your hotel bookings and advice about where to visit and what to do.
Moving Mountains Project Visits
Your holiday to Kenya provides a great opportunity to visit some of our charitable projects, including places like Ushirika Community Clinic in Kibera slum, the Rescue Centre for Street Children in Embu, and Ulamba Orphanage and Community Village in Western Kenya. The projects benefit from the tourism that is provided by Adventure Alternative, so this is a good chance to see how commerce can properly support charity, and how our sustainable tourism policy works on the ground.
Adventure Alternative has 7 seater safari minivans with pop-up roofs for game viewing and two fully converted overland trucks with front facing seating and lots of storage space. All vehicles are available for hire or as part of a package for a group or safari. However we cannot allow self-drive.
Our stores have a substantial stock of all equipment necessary for individual and group activities. Walk-in safari tents, mess tents, cookers, tables, chairs, catering equipment, bedding, toilet/shower tents and portable toilets, generators and lighting, rucksacks, waterproof clothing, carry mats and sleeping bags are all available for hire.
Kenya travel facts
Got a question regarding travel to Borneo? We've got answers. Feel free to contact us with any additional questions you may have.
Do I need a Visa?
A visa is required for entry to Kenya and the latest information on the visa process and the requirements can be found here.
When is the best time of the year to visit Kenya?
Kenya can be visited all year round, although there are preferable times depending on your interests as the weather changes from region to region. Generally speaking January and February are relatively hot months, and the ideal time to explore Kenya’s coastline. March through to May are the long rains and the ideal time to avoid the crowds. June to October is the dry season and arguably the best time to visit Kenya particularly if you hope to see the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara. Trekking on Mt Kenya can be done all year round, however is you are planning a climb during the long rains of March to May then expect muddy paths. November and December generally provide conditions suitable for all activities.
What vaccinations do I need?
You will need to check with your doctor or travel clinic as travel advice changes. You do not need a yellow fever certificate to enter Kenya unless you are travelling from a country where yellow fever is prevalent, but you will definitely need to take malaria tablets. We strongly advise people to take their anti-malarial medication regime seriously, cover up in the evenings, use mosquito repellent and sleep under a mosquito net.
What's the currency of Kenya?
The currency is the Kenya Shilling or in short KES, which comprises of 100 cents. Kenyan notes are available in 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 denominations. US Dollars are widely accepted in hotels and National Parks/Game Reserves, but you can change most currencies in most towns and cities.
What is the time difference and phone code for Kenya?
Kenyan time is GMT/UTC plus 3 hours and the international code for dialing to Kenya is +254.
Will there be any problems with communication in Kenya?
English is the official language in Kenya so there should be no communication problems across Kenya though it would be useful to have a basic knowledge of Kenya’s national language, Kiswahili.
Will my mobile phone work in Kenya?
Most mobile phones will connect to one of Kenya’s networks though you should confirm this with your service provider. Service in the cities and near major roads is generally reliable though in rural areas and inside national parks the signal can be weak. If your phone is unlocked then you can buy a local sim card, this will be a much more affordable option than paying the roaming charges and international rates with your service provider.
Are there ATM facilities in Kenya?
Yes, ATM facilities that accept international bank cards are available in most towns and cities across Kenya. If you are unsure consult with your bank to check whether your card will work. International credit and debit cards (Master Card, Visa Card, etc) are also accepted in all leading hotels, shopping centers, bars and restaurants. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted.
Will I need to bring a travel adapter?
Kenya uses the same three point square plug as the UK. The local electricity supply is 220/240 volts AC, 50HZ.
Are prices set in Kenya, or can we expect to haggle?
Shopping in Kenya is an experience, and haggling is part of Kenyan culture. Decide what you want to pay before you start and it becomes quite a challenge to get the best price; but enjoy, it is part of the experience!
Notes on local costs and safety around town
Average entry fee is around 600/- (Kenya Shillings) for a tourist.
Entry fees for a National Park vary from USD$40 to USD$60 per person, 1000/- for the vehicle and 200/- per staff member.
Lunches can be around 1000/- per person or you can arrange a picnic with the office.
Cash is needed in most places, take small denomination notes but do not carry too much.
Avoid opportunistic theft by keeping valuables, cameras etc very safe and out of sight in the vehicle.
Wear a money bag and have some loose change handy for small purchases.
Credit cards are accepted in most large places and there are many forex bureaux for exchanging any major currency.
Banks are open from 9am to 3pm.
Tips are generally 10% of the bill, although in many places a service charge is added.
It is customary to give your driver or guide a tip.
Always carry the office number with you, and the mobile number of at least one member of our staff
Scams are common in Nairobi, so be careful of people who approach you with deals or proposals, and best stay with one of our members of staff.
If you use taxis then agree a price before getting into the car and keep to it.
There are many bus services but please discuss with our staff about which is the better service available ,and be extremely careful in bus or matatu stops.
Matatus are also common, and our staff can advise where to catch one, since there are many routes
Avoid giving money to beggars, be polite but firm.
Follow the Wildlife Code of the Kenya Wildlife Service
Be respectful of people’s privacy when taking pictures, especially in slum areas
Below is information on a few of our guesthouses in Kenya.
Indaba Camp is located on Muiri Lane, off the Langata Road on the outskirts of Nairobi, next to Nairobi National Park and the Bomas of Kenya. It has camping, dormitories, shared and private room accommodation available and is just next to a western shopping centre. Popular tourist attractions like the David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust, the Giraffe Centre and the Nairobi National Park Animal Orphanage are all easily accessed from Indaba Camp.
Embu - Eastern Province
The Embu guesthouse has a hostel style set up and is a temporary home for many of our charity volunteers and students on their electives or gap year. It is located just off the Embu - Meru Highway, about 2 minutes walk from the Embu Provincial Hospital and 5 minutes walk from the popular Izaak Walton hotel/bar. Everything in Embu is within walking distance though there are taxi and matatu services along the Embu - Meru Highway that will get you in to the town centre in a couple of minutes, otherwise it is a 15 - 20 minute walk.
At least one member of staff will be staying in the guest house (or in accommodation next to the guest house if all the beds are taken) and will be on hand to help with shopping, cooking and any queries that you may have. The rest of the Embu team all live nearby. There is a communal kitchen and there are a number of reasonably sized supermarkets in town (though we try to encourage people to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from markets stalls we have helped to set up as businesses for former street children from the Rescue Centre).
Bedding is provided, as are mosquito nets to cover the beds and there is also a large living area with TV, DVD, playstation and wi-fi internet access, as well as flush ceramic toilets and a hot shower. The house also has a large garden and porch where you can organise BBQ’s or just relax and read in the evenings, looking out over Embu town and the hills behind it.
Ulamba, Siaya District - Western Kenya
The guest rooms in Western Kenya are on the grounds of our ‘Ulamba Orphanage and Community Village’, located on the roadside of the Kisumu - Siaya Road, close to a couple of schools which have been developed by Moving Mountains and a number of small rural villages. The nearest town is Siaya, which is a 20 minute matatu journey. The main city in Western Kenya is Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, which is about one hours drive from Ulamba.
As with Embu, the rooms and facilities are basic but comfortable and sociable and all bedding is provided, as are mosquito nets to cover the beds. There are at least 4 members of staff at any one time on the grounds of Ulamba, including carers, local volunteers and security. All the staff at Ulamba will be able to help with shopping, cooking and any queries that you may have. The nearest Western-style supermarket is in Kisumu but all local foods are available at market stalls in the small villages near Ulamba and at small supermarkets in Siaya town.
There are four guest rooms in total which surround the large living and dining area where there is a DVD and TV and kitchen. There is also electricity now at Ulamba, although power cuts are frequent in this rural part of Kenya. There are private wash rooms and the toilets are traditional long drops.
The rent that we charge for staying in a room, which is incorporated into the trip fee, goes to Moving Mountains. Therefore spending time at Ulamba actually offsets the cost of caring for 40+ children. Similarly at Embu, you offset the cost of running the Street Child Rescue Centre that we have in the town. This is a classic example commerce supporting charity, and our commitment to Fair Trade Volunteering.
Traveling to Kenya is a very rewarding experience when it comes to counting on the weather. The climate is warm and dry all year round, with plenty of sunshine and cool nights and mornings. Being equatorial the annual temperature variation is not as marked as at greater latitudes, however there is still a variation of weather throughout the year which can be summarised as follows:
Long rains : March - May
Short rains: October - November
Hottest Months - December to March with temperatures as high as 34° C
Coolest Months - July and August temperatures can fall as low as 10° C
The annual weather pattern can be divided and summarised as follows:
January and February are relatively hot months and ideal to visit the coastal region. During this period, animals gather around water sources making it easy for game viewing. It is also a good time to go mountain climbing.
This is the rainy green season and may be best time to travel for those who prefer smaller crowds, as it is also the off peak season in Kenya. The beginning of the wet season is also great for bird viewing as it is a time when many resident birds nest and are therefore at their most active and attractive.
June - October
These are the coolest months and the famous wildebeest migration is traditionally in Kenya around this time.
September – October
This is an ideal period for mountain climbing.
This is a season for short rains with temperatures being relatively cool. This is also a time when many other resident birds nest, many migrant species are present and flamingo numbers usually peak.
However, if you are travelling across Kenya, expect to experience different weather patterns due to Kenya's differing topographical dimensions. The coastal areas are tropical, with particularly high humidity in April and May, but tempered by monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot but mainly dry, while the highlands are more temperate. Nairobi has a very pleasant climate throughout the year due to its altitude. Near Lake Victoria, the temperatures are much higher and rainfall can be heavy.
Rainfall is seasonal throughout most of Kenya. The coast, eastern plateaus and Lake Basin experience two rainy seasons: the "long rains" extend from March to June, while the "short rains" occur from October to December. The highlands of Western Kenya have a single rainy season, lasting from March to September
Different regions of Kenya can be summarised as follows:
Western Kenya -towards lake basin area
This plateau area is generally hot and rainy throughout the year usually in the evenings – wettest region in the country.
There is abundant sunshine year round. Temperatures range from a minimum of 14°C to 18°C to a maximum of 30°C to 36°C throughout the year.
Heaviest rainfall in April and lowest in January. Average annual rainfall ranges from 1,740 mm to 1,940 mm.
Rift Valley and Central Highlands
The temperate Rift Valley and Central Highlands have perhaps the most agreeable climate in the country.
Average temperatures vary from a minimum of 10°C to 14°C to a maximum of 22°C to 28°C.
Rainfall varies from a minimum of 20mm in July to 200mm in April, falling in essentially two seasons – March to the beginning of June (the ‘long rains’) and October to the end of November (the ‘short rains’).
Northern and Eastern Kenya
In the semi-arid bushlands of northern and eastern Kenya–(the lowlands) temperatures vary from highs of up to 40°C during the day to less than 20°C at night.
Rainfall in this area is sparse and, when it does occur, is often in the form of violent storms. July is usually the driest month, and November the wettest. The average annual rainfall varies between 250mm and 500mm.
The consistently humid costal regions have average temperatures that vary little during the year, ranging from 22°C to 30°C.
Rainfall averages from 20mm in February to around 300mm in May. Rainfall is dependent on the monsoon, which blows from the northeast from October to April and from the southwest for the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is between 1000mm and 1250mm (less in drought years).
Weather patterns at major tourist areas
Mount Kenya has permanent snow at its summit, so it's cold all year round. At night at the higher elevations the temperature can drop as low as -10° C. Typically the early mornings on the mountain are sunny and dry, and clouds often form by noon. It is possible to hike Mount Kenya throughout the year but it gets more difficult during the rainy seasons from mid-March to mid-June and October to mid-December.Mt Kenya and the Aberdare Range are the country’s main water catchments, with falls of up to 3000mm per year recorded in these places.
Western Kenya and Maasai Mara
Western Kenya is generally hot and humid with rainfall falling throughout the year, generally in the evenings. There is abundant sunshine year round. A huge part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve lies in Western Kenya and the best times to visit are between July and October when the landscape frolicking with wildlife during the annual wildebeest migration.
Northern Kenya is a fairly arid region with little rainfall and abundant sunshine year round. This is camel country. Average temperatures vary between 40° C and 20° C. The best time to visit this area is June, July, August and December. Northern Kenya is sparsely populated and filled with natural, rugged beauty.
The capital city is situated in the Central Highlands of Kenya and enjoys a very nice climate for most of the year with temperatures averaging between 14° C and 28° C. There are two rainy seasons, the first is from March to the end of May and the second shorter season runs from October to the end of November. The sunniest time of year is December to March and the cloudiest time is from June to September.
The Coastal Region
Along the coast, temperatures are hot and moist for most of the year, but on the beach the humidity is kept at bay by the ocean breeze. The wettest months are April to May and there's also a short rainy season from October to November. As you can see from the table below, minimum average temperatures remain quite high throughout the year and nights can be uncomfortably humid at times.
Kenya National Parks
Shaba National Reserve
Location: North Central Kenya close to Isiolo.
History: Established in 1968 Shaba National Reserve is adjacent to Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Shaba is smaller with a greater occurrence of riverine forests with acacia trees, doum palms and a dramatic landscape. Shaba took its name from the Mount Shaba (1525 meters), a volcanic mountain that became extinct around 5,000 years ago. Mount Shaba lies on the border of the reserve.
Size: 220 km².
Geography / Habitats: The Game Reserve is semi-desert with a rugged hilly terrain, with great rocky kopjes (small isolated hills) and lots of springs supporting the abundant wildlife. The mountain terrain rises from an otherwise flat area. Shaba Game Reserve was made famous by the late Joy Adamson and is often referred to as the Born free country.
Animals: Shaba is full of klipspringer and hyrax who love the hills. The other animals of interest are the gravy zebra, the Somali ostrich, generuk, reticulated giraffe, gazelles, the lesser kudu leopard, lion and herds of elephants alongside plenty of bird life and other small game.
Of interest: Shaba is quieter than other parks and more for people who enjoy the lifestyle and journey of a safari, rather than rushing around ticking a list.
Accommodation Options: Lodges, hotels, fixed tented camp and camping.
Lake Baringo National Reserve
Location: Central Kenya just north of Lake Bogoria.
History: Lake Baringo is named after the local word ‘Mparingo’ meaning Lake. As a fresh water body, Lake Baringo is important to the communities in its basin as a source of water for domestic use and watering livestock consumption. Other important uses are income generation through tourism, biodiversity conservation and fishing.
Size: 130 km².
Geography / Habitats: Lake Baringo is, after Lake Turkana, the most northern of the Great Rift Valley lakes of Kenya, with a surface area of about 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) and an elevation of about 970 metres (3,180 ft). The lake is fed by several rivers, El Molo, Perkerra and Ol Arabel, and has no obvious outlet; the waters are assumed to seep through lake sediments into the faulted volcanic bedrock. It is one of the two freshwater lakes in the Rift Valley in Kenya, the other being Lake Naivasha. It lies off the beaten track in a hot and dusty setting and over 470 species of birds have been recorded there, occasionally including migrating flamingos
Animals: Lake Baringo has resident hippos, crocodiles and fish eagles. For those with more specialized interests there are also Scops Owl, Barbets, Eagle Owls, African Hoopoe and rare species of bat are just a few of the interesting birds and mammals.
Of interest: Boat trips, nature, wildlife and bird walks
Accommodation Options: Lodges, fixed tented camp and camping.
Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Location: Central Kenya just north of the equator.
History: Lake Bogoria is a saline, alkaline lake that lies in a volcanic region south of Lake Baringo and has been a protected National Reserve since November 29, 1973
Size: 700 km².
Geography / Habitats: Lake Bogoria, like Lake Nakuru, Lake Elmenteita, and Lake Magadi further south in the Rift Valley, and Lake Logipi to the north, is home at times to one of the world's largest populations of lesser flamingoes. Lake Bogoria is shallow (about 10 m depth), and is about 34 km long by 3.5 km wide, with a drainage basin of 700 km².
Animals: Lake Bogoria National Park has herds of rare and handsome greater kudu, as well as buffalo, zebra, impala, dik dik and other small mammals. 135 species of birds have been recorded here and of course thousands upon thousands of flamingo.
Of interest: Local features include the Kesubo Swamp to the north and the Siracho Escarpment to the east, both within the National Reserve. The lake is also famous for geysers and hot springs along the bank of the lake and in the lake. In four locations around the lake at least 10 geysers can be seen, which erupt up to 5 m high.
Accommodation Options: Lodges, fixed tented camp and camping.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Location: 140km north-west of Nairobi, in Nakuru district, Rift Valley Province.
History: Nakuru is a Maasai word meaning ‘dust’ or ‘dusty place’. The park was established in 1961 and gazetted in 1968.
Size: The park is approximately 188 km² and in it lies Lake Nakuru one of the soda lakes of the Rift valley that lies 1754m above sea level.
The Lake covers about a third of the entire park, and in it is the blue green Cyanophyte Spirulina platensis plant, a major food source for the millions of flamingo that reside there. The lake is also bordered by alkalines swamps and marsh at the edges of the blue green waters, with surrounding lower areas of land supporting a savannah like grassland area. The elevated areas are dotted with acacia dry forests and bushland with Rocky Hillsides and scrub on the escarpentsand ridges..
Animals: Large numbers of the Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, white and black rhino, buffallo, lion, zebra, gazelle, the rare long-eared leaf-nosed bat, colobus monkey, rock hyrax, hippo, leopard, waterbuck, impala, gazelle, striped hyena, bat-eared fox, wild cat, reedbuck , golden cat, warthog, baboons and over 450 species of terrestrial and water birds.
Of interest: Game drives and great view point picnics in the park such as at the Baboon Cliff View point overlooking the unique diverse landscape.
Hells Gate National Park
Location: 90km from Nairobi in the South of Lake Naivasha which is towards the North-West of Nairobi.
History: Established in 1984. It was named Hell’s Gate by explorers Fischer and Thompson back in 1883 after a narrow break in the cliffs that served as a tributary of a prehistoric lake that was a source of nourishment for the early humans in the Rift Valley.
Size: Hell’s Gate National Park covers an area of 68.25 square km.
The park is dominated by a savannah ecosystem and is famous for its massive cliffs and hot springs. Within Hells Gate is the Hell’s Gate Gorge lined with red cliffs which contain two volcanic plugs: Fischer's Tower and Central Tower. At specific places there are hot rocks and the odour of sulphur that can be felt in the water. The national park is also home to three geothermal power stations at Olkaria unique to Africa that generates geothermal power underneath Hells Gate from the hot springs and geysers.
Animals: lions, leopards, and cheetahs , Verreaux's eagles, buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson's gazelle, and baboons and over 100 bird species 100 species of birds in the park, including vultures, augur buzzard, and swifts.
Of Interest: Hiking through the scenic gorges, mountain bike cycling round the park, camping, rock climbing, bird watching and wildlife viewing
Aberdares National Park
History: Established in May 1950 to protect the slopes and moorland of the Aberdare Mountains.
Location: Aberdare is 160km from Nairobi in Central Kenya.
Size: The park covers an area of 767 Km2
Geography/Habitats: The park occupies the elevated areas of the Aberdare Mountain ranges covering an altitude of 1829M to 4001M above sea level hosting the spectacular peaks of Kinangop (3906m/12814 feet) and Ol Donyo Lesatima (3999m/13123 feet).
The topography of the Aberdares is diverse with rugged terrain, deep ravines and many clear streams and waterfalls, v-shaped valleys at higher altitudes and moorland, bamboo forests and rainforests at lower atlitudes. There are red volcanic soils that are rich in organic matter.
Animals: Large population of black rhinos, an endangered species There are also lions, leopards, baboons, balck and white colobus monkeys and over 250 bird species.
Of interest: Game drives, camping, hiking, bird watching, trout fishing and horse riding at designat areas.
Amboseli National Park
Location: Amboseli National Park is 260km from Nairobi, towards the South West , and on the border with the neighbouring country of Tanzania. It is in Loitoktok District, Rift Valley Province of Kenya.
History: Amboseli was declared a national reserve in 1968. It became a national park in 1974.
Size: Amboseli National Park covers 392km² (151miles²)
Geography/Habitat: With a breathtaking backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro, the topography of Amboseli comprises of plains, woodlands and rocky thorn bush as well as swamp and marshes. Amboseli has an endless underground water supply filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro's ice cap, that make their way into the heart of the park as two clear water springs and swamps. It also has a dry Pleistocene lake basin that houses a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, after the rains. However the vegetation is sparse due to prolonged dry seasons.
Animals: Leopard, Cheetah, Wild dogs, Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Crocodile, Mongoose, Hyrax, Dik- dik, Lesser Kudu, Porcupine and over 400 bird species.
Of interest: Game drives, bird watching and camping
Meru National Park
Location: The park is situated in in the Eastern part of Meru, Central Kenya, which is 348km from Nairobi. It is located right on the equator at an altitude of between 1000-3400 feet (304-1036meters).
History: The park was established in 1968.
Geography/Habitats: The park is a green paradise compared to the dry savannahs of Kenyan parks, with 15 rivers, numerous mountain fed streams and excellent views of snow-capped Mount Kenya It has diverse scenery from woodlands to wide-open plains, meandering riverbanks, hilly landscapes and rich grey alluvial volcanic soil deposits. Three large rivers border the reserve: the Tana to the south, the Ura to the south-west and the Rojeweru to the east.
Animals: Grevy's Zebra, Elephants, Eland, Bush Pig, Waterbuck, Cheetah, Leopard, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Reedbuck, Hartebeest, Python, Puff Udder, Cobra, Buffalo, more than 300 bird species.
Of Interest: game drives, bird watching and camping.
Mount Kenya National Park
Location: 150 -175 km North of from Nairobi depending on the route taken. It lies in the Central and Eastern Provinces of Kenya.
History: Established as a park in 1949 to preserve the area's natural, outstanding beauty. As well as to conserve the animal habitat and protect it as a water catchment area and encourage tourism. Initially it was a forest reserve before being announced as a national park. Currently the national park is within the forest reserve which encircles it. In April 1978 the area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The national park and the forest reserve, combined, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Size: Mount Kenya National Park covers 715km² and the forest reserve at the base covers a further 705km².
Mount Kenya stands a magnificent 5199m (17,057 feet) above sea level, dominating the view for miles around with an eroded crater rim that has formed several peaks surrounded by pristine wilderness, glaciers and mountain lakes. The lower slopes of the park are spectacularly domed with rainforest and dense thickets of bamboo, while higher up the flora changes dramatically: moorland and giant lobelia and heather.
The vegetation can be divided into 3 primary zones as you ascend: the rocky peak area, which is actually an eroded volcanic plug with its mantle of glaciers and snowfields; the alpine zone with its distinctive giant vegetation; and the vast gentle lower slopes drenched in mountain forest and bamboo.
Animals: The majority of animals live lower down on the slopes of Mount Kenya where there is more vegetation and the climate is less extreme. The forests are home to elephant, buffalo, monkeys, antelope and giant forest hog, tree hyrax, white tailed mongoose, mole rat, bushbucks, water buck, monkeys, porcupine and eland. The hyena, leopard and lion are also rare sights. The mountain hyrax and common duiker can be found at higher altitudes.
Of interest: Mountain climbing, wildlife viewing, camping, cave exploration.
Longonot National Park
Location: 90km from Nairobi in the Rift Valley Province.
Size: The park is a stretch of 52 km2 mostly occupied by Mt. Longonot.
History: The name Longonot is derived from the Maasai word Oloonong’ot meaning mountains of many spurs or steep ridges. The volcano is dormant and is thought to have last erupted in the 1860s. The park was first opened to the public and visitors in January 1983.
Geography/Habitats: Longonot National Park comprises mainly of a savannah ecosystem with the dominating young volcano – Mt Lononot – that rises to 2,776 metres above sea level. The sides of the mountain are beautiful V-shaped valleys and ridges with little vegetation, but with dense forest occurring within the crater. A trail runs from the park entrance up to the crater rim, and continues in a loop encircling the crater a hiking round tour that takes about 5 hours. On the crater floor is forest vegetation dotted with steam vents around the wall of the crater.
Animals: Buffalos, gazelles, impala and giraffe. Within the thick forest in the crater major wildlife attractions include lion, leopard, bushbucks, common zebra, giraffe, grant gazelles, Thomson gazelles and many other antelopes.
Of Interest: hiking, rock climbing, biking, spectacular views of Lake Naivasha
Mount Elgon National Park
Situated 140 km north-east of Lake Victoria on the Kenya-Uganda border in Trans-Nzoia District, Rift Valley Province. This is 420 kilometres from Nairobi.
History: The Kenyan part of the park was gazetted in 1968 and the Ugandan part in 1992. The park is named after the Mountain – Elgon – which is an extinct volcano with the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 by 80 km). The mountain is the 2nd highest in Kenya and the 4th highest in Eastern Africa……( height of mt.)
Size: The park covers an area of 1279 km. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1110km and the Kenyan part covers 169 km.
Mount Elgon is Kenya’s second highest mountain. Mount Elgon is an important water catchment for the Nona River which flows to Lake Victoria and for the Turkwel River. An ancient, eroded volcano with a huge caldera, its summit has the spectacular flat-topped basalt column known as Koitobos. Another unique feature of the mountain is the lava tube caves, some over 60 metres wide and only caves in the world frequented by elephants (and other animals) digging for salts.
The park is comprised of forest and moorland vegetation. While ascending Mt. Elgon's enchanting slopes, you will pass through dense montane forest and mixed bamboo belts teeming with birdlife. You will then enter the fascinating heath and moorland zones containing several interesting endemic plant species such as Giant lobelia and groundsels.
Elephants and buffalo can be found on the lower slopes. The park is also home to a variety of small antelope and forest monkeys, including the Black-and-white Colobus and Blue Monkey. Over 300 birds can also be found in the area, including the endangered Lammergeier, African Goshawk, and Baglafecht Weaver. Maathai's Longleg an endangered dragonfly was discovered here in 2000 and named after Nobel Prize winner Wangari Mathaai.
Of Interest: mountain climbing, game viewing, camping, birdwatching, hiking and exploring caves.
The Tsavo National Park was gazetted on 1 April, 1948.as Kenya’s 2nd National Park – after Nairobi National Park.
The Tsavo National Park ecosystem covers an area of 20, 812km2 and is the biggest park in Kenya and notably one of the largest game sanctuaries in the world. The park was established in 1948, but later split to Tsavo East and Tsavo West parks for administrative purposes.
The railway line built by the British colonial government then was used as the boundary. Tsavo east was used as a hunting ground for the local communities, the Kamba and Waliangulu. In 1848, the first white man to see Mount Kenya, Dr. Krapf journeyed on foot throughout the park on his way to Kitui, crossing the Tsavo River.
In 1898, construction of the railway river reached the Tsavo River, and at this time the legendary man eating lions of Tsavo killed over 130 railay construction workers until Col. J.H.Patterson stopped the carnage. The British army constructed fortresses along the Tsavo River in the wake of the World War I when Germans from Tanganyika (now Tanzania) threatened to bomb the bridge at River Tsavo in order to dismantle communication.
The Luggards falls is named after a European explorer, Fredrick Luggard who on his way to Uganda made a stop over at the spot where river Athi changes to Galana.
Tsavo West National Park
Location: Situated in coast province, on the South Eastern part of Kenya, on the western highway of the Nairobi Mombasa Road, 240 km from Nairobi.
Size: Covers an area of about 9,065 km2 about 30% of the entire Tsavo ecosystem.
Geography/Habitats: Tsavo West is more popular on account of its magnificent scenery, rich and varied wildlife and a good road system. The park’s habitats include open plains alternating with savannah bush and semi desert scrub, acacia woodlands; rocky ridges and outcrops and more extensive ranges and isolated hills; belts of riverine vegetation; palm thickets and on the Chyulu hills, mountain forest. There are numerous rocky outcrops and ridges and part of the park, towards the Chyulu Hills. In the far south-western corner on the Kenya Tanzania border is Lake Jipe, part of which is in the park. There are only two permanent rivers in this vast area, the Tsavo, which begins its life on Mount Kilimanjaro and is greatly supplemented by a huge underground river flowing from Mzima Springs and the Athi in Tsavo East, which begins near Nairobi. Mzima springs are replenished by underground streams that flow from the nearby Chyulu Hills and are a great wildlife attraction. Mzima is also the main source of Mombasa's water supply.
Animals: leopard, cheetah, buffalo, rhino, red skinned elephant, giraffe, zebra, mongoose, hyrax, dik-dik, lesser Kudu, and Nocturnal Porcupine. There are over 600 bird species.
Of Interest: Game viewing, Camping, Cave exploration, Underwater Hippo and fish watching, Caving at the Shetani caves
Tsavo East National Park
Location: Lies on the eastern side of the Nairobi Mombasa road, 240 km from Nairobi, South East Kenya, inland from the Coast.
Size: 13,747 km2
The park is more arid than its Eastern counterpart, with arid bush and rock outcrops, such as the Mudanda Rock outcrop, 1.6 km long. The spectacular Yatta plateau, about 290 km long spills its lava flows into this park. A series of rapids, popularly known as Lugards Falls on the Galana River meander through the park. The Athi River, that begins from Nairobi, flows through the park.
Animals: The Park is home to most of the larger mammals,the red skinned elephants,rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, hippo, crocodile, waterbucks, lesser kudu, gerenuk and hirola. There are over 500 bird species in the park.
Of interest: Game viewing, Camping, Trekking, Bird watching
Nairobi National Park
Size: 117 Km2
History: In the late 19th century, when the British colonialists arrived, many indulged in hunting, in addition to the poaching and local human encroachment and activity that gradually destroyed the park, diminishing animal population. The Maasai lived and grazed their cattle among the wildlife and even as the Nairobi grew, human wildlife conflicts were inevitable. The animals were gradually confined to the south west of Nairobi, of which the colonial government set aside as a game reserve. Mervyn Cowie, a former hunter, proposed the establishment of a National park, in 1932.
In 1933, In 1933, a Royal Commission accepted the project and the "Nairobi Commonage" was formed. From 1933 to 1939, Cowie held public meeting to create awarenesss amongst the people living there. In 1939, a mllitary camp was set out at the West of the park, to capture poachers.
In 1946, the park was officially gazetted , and it became the first national park in Kenya, and in East Africa. Maasai pastoralists had to move from the park. Cowie was appointed as director of the park unti 1996. In 1976, the park was nationalised (K.W.S.) after 30 years of existence as a non governmental organisation. In 1989, the former President Daniel arap Moi burned an ivory stock worth Kshs 60 millions to reinforce Kenyan commitment to fight poaching.
Geography/Habitats: Nairobi National Park is a unique ecosystem by being the only protected area in the world close to a capital city. The vegetation is mainly savannah, with open grass plains and scattered acacia bush. The western side has a highland dry forest and a permanent river with a riverine forest in the south. In addition, there are stretches of broken bush country and deep, rocky valleys and gorges with scrub and long grass. Man-made dams also attract water dependent herbivores during the dry season. The Athi Kapiti Plains are found further south as well as the Kitengela Migration corridor, and there are man made dams within the park that attract animals for replenishment purposes and plenty of bird species.
Most of the Big Five: leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino – of the Big 5, only the elephant is absent. Other animals resident include: black rhino, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, zebra, wilderbeest, and eland. There are over 400 species of birdlife at the park. However, all species are not always present and some are seasonal. More recently Nairobi National Park has been designated as a rhino sanctuary and more than 50 rhinos had been moved into the park from remote parts of the country where poaching was rife making the park the most favoured place to see the rhino.
Of interest: Ivory Burning Site Monument; walking trails at hippo pools; Nairobi Safari Walk and the Animal Orphanage; spacious picnic sites and game drives.
Masai Mara Reserve
Location: South Western Kenya, bordering on the Serengeti in neighbouring Tnazania
History: Originally established in 1948 as a wildlife sanctuary, converted to a Game reserve in 1961. In 1995, the TransMara County Council was formed in the western part of the reserve, and shares control with the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.
Area: 1,510 square kilometres (583 sq miles)
Geography/Habitats: The Mara is mostly open flat grassland with long but thin grass and spotted with acacia trees. The Western edge of the Mara is formed by a geological fault throwing up the Esoit Escarpment. Three main rivers drain the area, the Sand, Talek and Mara. It is at the crossing of these rivers that many of the famous images of the great migration are seen
Animals: All of the 'Big 5'; Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Black Rhino. Wildebeast, Zebra, Gazelle, Topi, Eland, Impala, Giraffe, Hippo's, crocodiles, hyena, cheetah, jackal, fox, Vulture, Stork, Crane, Ostrich, Eagle, Roller and more.
Of Interest: The most famous events in the Mara revolve around the great migration and especially the river crossings where the migrating animals are concentrated and prayed upon by predators both on land and from the waters. However, Safaris can see a huge array of wildlife at any time of year and indeed enjoy the wild and expansive landscape.
Kakamega Forest National Park
Location: The Reserve is situated in western Kenya, 15 km from Kakamega town, and about 50 km from Kisumu city.
The park, which is found in the vast Kakamega Forest that 240km2, was established to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystem of the only remnant of natural tropical frainforest that once ran from West Africa across Central Africa to to the highland areas on the west and eastern walls of the Great Rift Valley. In 1985, nearly 4400ha of the northern portion of the forest together with the adjacent Kisere Forest were gazetted as Kakamega Forest National Reserve.
Geography/Habitats: The forest is the only remnant in Kenya of the unique Guineo-Congolian forest ecosystem that once spanned the continent. The terrain includes hardwood forest, swamps and rivers, glades and shallow forests around the edges The sheer size and grandeur of these immense trees, some over a hundred years old, is impressive with open areas of grassy glades that have small trees.
The Kakamega region's vegetation is normally dominated by central African lowland species, but due to its elevation (predominantly between 1500 m and 1600 m) and proximity to the formerly contiguous Nandi Forests it also contains highland elements and is thus unique, whereby half of the park is dominated by indigenous forest. There are about 160 tree and shrub species, many of Congolean lowland forest affinities, including a number of endemic plant species, mostly ferns and orchids.
There are over 27 species of snakes. The forest is also home to primates ( the endangered DeBrazza monkey, black and white colobus monkey and vervet monkey) and wildlife such as the Bush Pig, Duikers, Bushbuck, Clawless Otter, Mongoose, Giant Water Shrew, Squirrels, Tree Pangolin, Porcupine. nsects are abundant and some are quite spectacular, such as giant Goliath beetles and numerous colourful butterflies. Lizards and chameleons are also common sightings in the reserve as well as frogs. There are over 300 bird species in the forest.
Of Interest: Forest nature walks, camping, hiking, bird watching, butterfly watching, game watching and camping.
Sweetwaters Private Game Reserve
Location: Situated between the foot hills of the Aberdares and the magnificent snowcapped Mount Kenya. Only 250km (2.5 hr drive) from Nairobi, the reserve is the closest to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The reserve is private, and easily accessible with the highest ratio of game-to-geographical-area of all parks and reserves in Kenya.
Geography/Habitats: Open savannah grasslands dotted with acacia bush.
Animals: Big 5" game - Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo as well as the homson's gazelle, black-back jackals, ostrich, grant's gazelle, baboons, waterbuck, oryx, eland and several hundred bird species. You will also find Morani the rhino and Carol the tamed warthog. The reserve is also host to over 20 chimpanzees at a 200 acre piece of land dedicated to them.
Of Interest: Being a private reserve, guests can enjoy special activities not permitted in most Kenyan National Parks and Reserves such as game walks, night game drives, horseback & camel game rides and meals in the bush.
Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
Location: South East Kenya just off the shores of Mombasa.
History: It was established as a Marine Park in 1986, and encloses part of the lagoon, back reef and reef crest habitats of the Bamburi-Nyali fringing reef.
Size: The park is 10 km² while the reserve is 200 km².
Geography / Habitats: The Kenyan Coast is humid with average annual temperatures ranging from 22-34 C. Rainfall is about 500mm pa. The climatic conditions are hot and humid year round. The whole coast line is stunning with white sand beaches and palm trees. The Marine Park helps protect and manage the coastal zone which is home to a large coral reef. The local fishermen catch tuna, shark, squid amongst a host of other fish. Snorkeling the reef is a wonderful experience as you are surrounded by stunning flashes of colour as the fish dart about the crystal clear waters.
Animals: Prolific marine life includes dolphin, crabs, corals, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea stars, and sea cucumbers. Different varieties of coral species comprise of Acropora), Turbinaria and Porites plus a variety of off shore birds can be seen. The reef is home to thousands of vividly coloured fish of all sizes and shapes.
Of interest: Beach, coral gardens, surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, water skiing, diving, snorkelling, jet skiing, banana boating, sunbathing and sun downers!
Accommodation Options: Lodges, hotels, fixed tented camp and camping
Buffalo Springs Reserve
Location: North Central Kenya close to Isiolo, Shaba and Buffalo Springs.
History: Buffalo Springs gets its name from a heart-shaped spring on the west side of the reserve caused by an off-course World War II bomb. The missile that first brought the water is said to have been launched by the Italians, when fighting the British in the area. Yet the pool it created, where before the land was dry, now continuously attracts swimmers and bathers (it’s rumoured to have healing powers), as well as creating a lifeline for a line-up of Kenya's rare animals. The reserve was established with the aim of protecting the wildlife species found on the riverbanks of Ewaso Ngiro River, which is their main source of livelihood. The Buffalo Springs Reserve, forms part of a large complex of reserves- the other two is Samburu and Shaba. Buffalo and Samburu are adjacent to one another and are only separated by a river. Buffalo Springs is 131 square kilometres and was first opened to visitors in 1985.
Size: 131 km².
Geography / Habitats: Buffalo Springs is less dense and flatter than neighbouring Samburu National Reserve. It’s located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river; on the other side of the river is the Samburu National Reserve in Northern Kenya. It is 350 kilometers from Nairobi and geographically, it is located in Samburu District of the Rift Valley Province.
Animals: Buffalo Springs is home to the big four (no Rhino) – Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo. Other animals of interest are: Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich, Gravy Zebra, Besia Oryx and the endangered Wild Dog and Pun cake Tortoise. It also has a large number of normal Zebra, which don’t interbreed with the Gravys Zebra. It also contains over 450 species of indigenous bird and there are a variety of reptiles and aquatic species in the River.
Of interest: A wide range of wildlife, wonderful lodges plus walking safaris and visiting the Samburu people.
Accommodation Options: Lodges, fixed tented camp and camping.
Samburu National Reserve
Location: North Central Kenya close to Isiolo, Shaba and Buffalo Springs.
History: Samburu National Reserve was established in 1948 as part of the enormous Marsabit National Reserve under the national park ordinance. Marsabit National Reserve was gazetted in 1961 and the Senior Game Warden of Samburu District Rodney Elliott suggested to the Samburu County Council that an area north of the river be set aside as a game reserve. It became a reality due to foresight of the County Council and generous assistance given by several individuals and foundations. In 1962, with the financial help from Elsa Trust, Samburu Game Reserve was formed. In January 1963 the Minister for Local Government recommended Samburu National Reserve to be administered by the African District Council of Samburu. It is named after the local people the Samburu who are closely related to the Masai people.
Size: 165 km².
Geography / Habitats: The Samburu National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river; on the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Northern Kenya. It is 165 km² in size and 350 kilometers from Nairobi and ranges in altitude from 800 to 1230m above sea level. Geographically, it is located in Samburu District of the Rift Valley Province. In the middle of the reserve, the Ewaso Ng'iro flows through doum palm groves and thick riverine forests that provides water, without which the game in the reserve could not survive in the arid country.
Animals: Samburu is home to the big five – Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Buffalo. Other animals of interest are: Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich, Gravy Zebra, Besia Oryx and the endangered Wild Dog and Pun cake Tortoise. It also contains over 450 species of indigenous bird and there are a variety of reptiles and aquatic species in the Waso Nyiro River.
Of interest: A wide range of wildlife, wonderful lodges plus walking safaris and visiting the Samburu people.
Accommodation Options: Lodges, fixed tented camp and camping.
Kenya Cultural Tips
Kenya is a welcoming place filled with vibrant culture. Kenyans are lighthearted and casual. Laughter is around every corner. Connect better with locals using these cultural tips.
How do you say hello in Kenya?
A handshake is the most common form of greeting. It is more polite and a sign of respect if you make the handshake firm. “Jambo?” or “Habari” (“How are you?) is usually said immediately prior to a handshake. After a handshake, it is common to have some form of small talk where general questions about the other person are asked such as ‘How is your work?’ ‘How is your home?’ ‘How is your family?’ and is often injected with good doses of humour and laughter, in non-confrontational and polite manner. Do not be surprised to see people take time out and at work to talk and catch up, as if time was timeless in itself.
Handshakes are required, regardless of how many people you are greeting. For example, if you enter a room with 30 people gathered for a meeting, it is usually expected that you will take the time to greet each individual with a handshake. Always greet the oldest person first, and then proceed to the rest of the people finishing with the youngest, children. To skip or rush this element in the greeting process is the height of poor manners.
If you are greeting someone whose hands are not clean they might politely choose to extend their arm and expect you to greet/grasp their arm at elbow level instead, rather than their hand.
People are generally addressed by their academic, professional or honorific title followed by their surname. If the person is unknown to you, then to call them by their most distinguished title is appropriate – Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.
Kenyans may also be addressed as mother of so and so, or father of so and so. For instance, the mother and father of Mary may be referred to as ‘Mama Mary’ and Baba Mary’. Referring to your friends’ parents in such a manner is also respectful.
Communication style in Kenya is not normally frank and direct. Many Kenyans use indirect ways of communication in order to make a point in an attempt not to cause problems. Blunt statements are not normally used. It is up to you to read between the lines and decipher what may really being said. With this in mind, criticism should be delivered in private and given in a circumspect manner.
What is personal space like in Kenya?
Conversation generally takes place at arm’s length after shaking hands. However, it is common to see men who know each other well, walking and talking whilst remaining hand in hand. This is accepted and in no way seen as strange behaviour. It is less common to see men and women/couples hand in hand or displaying any affection in public. Kenya is an extremely open and friendly society, so if you know someone well, touching a shoulder or arm in conversation is common, as is plenty of laughter.
How do Kenyans view time?
‘Kenyan Time’ is known to be flexible in that services may be delayed and time may not always be kept. However, one is expected to turn up for meetings on time, and an apology and explanation is expected. Heavy rain can slow things down to a standstill, such as public transportation, consequently traffic. For Kenyans, ‘Kenyan time’ is generally taken this in good faith, accepting delays as just part of life and beyond their control.
Are there any gender issues in Kenya?
Women are generally expected to do the majority of the work in the home, especially in rural areas –farming, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and caring for the children. In rural areas, women usually do not wear trousers and are not expected to smoke and drink in public. However, in Nairobi and other cities, gender roles and values are very much in line with Western cultures, where wearing trousers, drinking and smoking are common among females is common across the genders. Things are changing as society modernizes.
What language do people speak in Kenya?
Whilst Swahili (or Kiswahili) is the national language of Kenya, English widely spoken as the formal and international language. However, as you move into the rural areas, the common language is Swahili or the mother tongue – tribe common in the area. Each province has a tribe or tribes that is common to the area. Swahili is however common to all Kenyans and English is commonly spoken in the cities and urban areas.
Sheng is a commonly spoken slang in Kenya's capital, and other urban cities in the country. It is a mixture of Swahili and English, with a sprinkling of other indigenous languages. In fact, Sheng is more than just slang - it's a lifestyle, especially among the urban youth who, today, are more fluent in Sheng than in the purer forms of Kiswahili.
What is the food like in Kenya?
With all situations that involve food you must always keep in mind that you are in a part of the world where attitudes to food can be drastically different to those in your home country. In the West, we may be used to the concept of food as being taken for granted and even indeed viewed as something of a "leisure pursuit" where we may expect a wide variety of choice where we "take what we fancy" or eat mainly for fun. In large parts of the developing world, the primary focus of many people's difficult working life may be purely to provide sufficient food, of any kind, to keep them and their family alive. In this context, you will understand that it will be grossly inappropriate and unacceptable for you to waste food or to refuse or complain about it just because it is not exactly what you want.
Kenyan cuisine is rich in ethnic diversity. Popular staple foods include Ugali, rice, bread, chapatti beef, chicken, goat, tilapia and an assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits. In times of celebration and on special occasions such as Christmas and wedding ceremonies, it is customary for Kenyans to kill and roast a goat, cow or chicken.
Tea is a common beverage in Kenya and regularly taken especially at 10am and 4pm. In most homes, it is taken also after the evening meal. The tea is normally sweet and milky.
When invited for a meal, you should accept the meal that is offered to show that you accept their hospitality. The best course of action is to behave formally. When in doubt, watch what others are doing and follow their lead. It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate, although it is not mandatory.
What are the family roles in Kenya?
Kenyans also place great importance on family. They place great emphasis and honour collective responsibilities and traditional values, which include treating the elderly with respect and reverence. Quite often it is common for people to live with their relatives and share their belongings. Many families also live with and care for their aged parents.
As you might expect in a group-orientated culture, the upbringing of a child is the responsibility of the entire family and the extended family as well. This could be in assisting the child education wise, marriage wise and with and many other needs that rise within a family setting. In more rural settings, a child may not only be punished by his parents if disobedient, but the elderly in society or relatives can also ‘discipline’ the child.
Neighbourliness is common, and the neighbours are often spend time in each other’s homes. A neighbour may also borrow certain things such as sugar, matchsticks or anything that they may need urgently, and are not able to get immediately.
Can you bargain in Kenya?
Bargaining in Kenya when trading is always carried out in good humour, and is less an art than a necessity. Open markets are common places where bargaining is common. The seller will give you the highest price and you are expected to bargain, which may take a long time, depending on the price that you are expecting. Business is business, and when the final price is reached, Kenyans will forget all ill will. It just takes persistence and a sense of humour. Negotiating is not common in the up market in-door shops and stores in the city.
Hawking is also common in the streets and even sometimes in public means of transport such as buses. You may feel free to buy what you fancy from them. However, if inundated by hawkers and you are not interested a polite ‘No thank you’ or ‘Kesho’ (maybe tomorrow) is often the most effective way of dealing with the situation.
How do Kenyans socialize?
Kenyans love to party and bars, nightclubs, music concerts and discos are popular hangouts for Kenyans where dancing is common. Kenyans love their beer (Tusker) almost as much as their dancing and there's a thriving local brewing industry.
Kenyans are also football fanatics and are up to date with soccer news worldwide. You will be in very good company and easily blend in with the crowd of young men, if you are also well versed with the latest football occurrences. Politics is also a common household topic depending on the current political scene.
In this people oriented society, Kenyans love to visit each other in general and visiting a friend or relative does not require any prior plans or schedules. It is common for people to visit each other impromptu and normally a refreshment (cup of tea and snack) is offered or a meal depending on the time of day.
Law and order in Kenya
The Kenyan legal system, regards the adult age as 18, making the drinking age 18. There are hundreds of petty offenses, such as talking on a mobile phone whilst driving, not using seatbelts while on the road. Fines are charged for such offense of which the real penalty you will pay for this is your time. This is because you will spend a long time in court and pay a very small fine – the real penalty is the time-wasting element in court.
Stealing is heavily enforced through ‘mob justice’, especially in rural areas. Anyone even suspected or accused of stealing – even a cell phone – is likely to be severely beaten, at times to death, by a nearby crowd.
How do people dress in Kenya?
Kenyans tend to dress in a conservative manner with an emphasis on appearing smart and well dressed as a matter of pride. To look sloppy or wear revealing or damaged clothes would mean that a foreigner would instantly lose a degree of respect amongst Kenyans.
For general guidance you should keep your upper arms to the elbow and upper legs to the knee covered. In addition, tops should not finish above the waistline of your trousers and expose your midriff and your neckline should not extend down more than a few inches.
What is the religion in Kenya?
More than half the population in Kenya constitutes of Christians, 10% Muslims, and 10% Indigenous beliefs. Whilst a majority of the Kenyans are followers of the Christian faith, Islam is the main religion for those communities living along the cost and Somali community. The Asian community is mainly Hindu, while others observe the traditional methods of worship.
Religion is important in Kenya culture. Gospel music is popular and especially in cities you’ll often see street preachers, who offer religion as a solution of the many social ills in Kenya.
What is the Kenyan lifestyle like?
Within Africa, Kenyans enjoy a reputation as hard workers and at 7 o’clock the streets are crowded. However, Kenyans take it easy and have a casual approach “Hakuna Matata” to time which is common especially at the coast.
Kenyans like to laugh and quickly offer a smile to people. The British influence is still visible in their politeness, and also in the outer appearance of streets and buildings, signs etc. which look a bit like Britain in the 1960s. A Kenyan will take the time for you if you ask him something.
If there is just anything unusual, a crowd will assemble within a minute around you and everybody will offer his opinion on what’s going on. Even foreigners are quickly invited to participate in whatever’s going on.
Kenyans often use proverbs and sayings to comment on things. They are typically comparisons drawn from everyday life, and show some very down to earth, good humoured wisdom.
Gift Giving Etiquette in Kenya
Gift giving is not a common practice in Kenya, it is reserved for events of significance in a person’s life or a religious significance. Here are a few gift giving tips:
- Gifts shouldn’t be fancy. Practical gifts are best.
- It is customary to give small gifts to servants, trades people and service workers around Christmas.
- If you are invited to a meal at home, bring pastries, flowers or sweets. Sugar and tea are common in rural are
- Do not give alcohol.
- Gifts should be wrapped nicely.
- Give gifts using the right hand only or both hands, avoid using the left hand.
Environmental and Social Issues in Kenya
Kenya, like most nations, struggles with several environmental issues. The major issues in Kenya are deforestation, desertification, water shortages, poaching, pollution and degraded water quality. As a visitor to this beautiful land, it is important to remember to minimize our impact on the environment. Always pack out trash, and avoid using disposable plastic water bottles. Bring a filter, a SteriPen or iodine tablets to treat water prior to drinking. We advise you to bring two methods, should one fail you. Bring a reusable shopping bag with you if you plan on doing any shopping, this stops the use of plastic bags while in country. Every little bit helps to minimize impact on the environment.
Kenya’s widespread poverty has led many to turn towards poaching. Poaching is highly illegal in Kenya and care should be taken when purchasing any animal products. It is best to avoid such purchases while in country.
Kenya Festivals and Holidays
Kenya celebrates several holidays and festivals throughout the year. Celebrations almost always include music and dance. These events celebrate community and family, if you are around during these times, expect to be a part of the celebration. With a predominantly Christian culture, Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated throughout the country. Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan is also celebrated. Keep in mind that Ramadan happens at different times each year.
Other Festivals and holidays include:
East African Arts Festival: Nairobi hosts an amazing three-day event celebrating East African Arts. Happens in March.
International Camel Derby and Festival: Celebrated in the northern town of Maralal. Several days of camel races, cycle races, donkey rides, and the opportunity to rent a camel for the day. Happens in August.
Mombasa Carnival: Artists, dancers, musicians and tribes people alike flock to Mombasa to take part in concerts and a parade. Happens in November.
Jamhuri Day: December 12th marks the day that Kenya celebrates being a republic or “jamhuri.” In true Kenyan fashion there is dancing, parades, and speeches by each of the Provincial Presidents. Fireworks and airshows are a new addition to the festivities.
Tipping in Kenya varies based on the service you receive. Tip around 10% in restaurants and a couple hundred shillings in hotels for cleaning staff and porters. For the people cleaning your room, leave a tip at the beginning of your stay to show your appreciation. 200-500 shillings is appropriate. If you’re taking a taxi, there is no need to tip, although rounding your fare up to the nearest 100 shillings is appreciated.
Tips for guides are also customary. How much to tip is entirely up to you. For more information regarding Adventure Alternative and our tipping recommendations see our Tipping Page.
Practical Information: Kenya
Below you will find all the information you need regarding practical issues while in Kenya. Can't find what you're looking for? Check out our FAQ page or our trip prepartion page. We are always available to answer your questions.
How do I obtain a Visa to Visit Kenya?
A visa is required for entry into Kenya and the Government of Kenya has rolled out an online visa application portal which became compulsory for all visitors from the 1st September 2015. All visa applicants are now required to apply and pay for visas online before they travel to Kenya (using Internet Explorer may cause problems when making the application, much better to ensure you apply on Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome).
NB: Due to some technical problems with the e-Visa application you can still get a visa on arrival in Kenya.
Visitors to Kenya are advised to register their application well in advance of travel as approvals may take up to seven days to process. The current fee is US $51 (or equivalent), using Visa or Mastercard debit cards. Credit cards are also acceptable for payment but an additional 3% fee applies.
When making the application you will need to have your passport to hand, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and use the following for the 'Travel Information' section;
Physical Address: Adventure Alternative Kenya, PO Box 9388, 00200 City Square, Nairobi
Reason for Travel: Tourism
You will also need to upload a colour scan or photo of your passport's bio-data, your trip booking (you can contact us to get a copy of your proof of booking or upload your invoice) and recent photo (full instructions are given in the 'Supporting Documents' section of the visa application).
Kenya Visa - Application process
- Click on e-Visa link
- Select e-Visa and create an account
- Verify your email address (link will be sent to the email address you used to create account)
- Upload a passport style photo of yourself to proceed (maximum dimensions of 500px by 500px)
- After uploading photo, select Department of Immigration Services.
- Select Submit Application
- Select Kenyan Visa
- Select the type of Visa and follow the instructions
- Fill in the application form
- Pay securely using Visa Card, Mastercard and other debit cards.
- Await approval via email, then download and print the e-Visa from your account.
- Present your printed eVisa to the immigration officer at the port of entry.
NB: You must carry a printed copy of your e-Visa to Kenya.
Where do I Arrive When Visiting Kenya?
Most travelers arrive in Kenya via Nairobi to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). There are plenty of international flights available. If you are making plans to stay on the coast, then the Moi International Airport (MBA) in Mombasa may be a better option. In order to enter Kenya, you will need a visa. If you were unable to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Kenya, there is still an opportunity to get a visa on arrival.
Will I Be Able to Contact Home While I Am Away?
Kenya time is GMT/UTC plus 3 hours. Kenya’s country code is +254. For making calls back home, international rates can be quite expensive, be sure to check with your mobile network prior to visiting Kenya. Alternatively, you can buy a local sim card in Kenya and top up manually (top up vouchers for all the main Kenyan networks are widely available across Kenya). If you plan on getting a local sim card then ensure your phone is unlocked to all networks. Kenya has a wide coverage of cell service and cellular phones are used throughout the country.
Consider downloading WhatsApp, a free internet-based texting and calling service to keep in touch with loved ones. Kenya was one of the first countries in Africa to offer reasonably priced Wi-Fi hot spots. Some hotels and lodges will offer Wi-Fi too, however the speeds can be slow.
Please keep in mind we cannot guarantee cellular service or Wi-Fi. Be prepared to lose coverage in rural areas.
What Vaccinations Do I Need?
We advise that you schedule an appointment with your doctor, or a travel-specific doctor prior to coming to Kenya to discuss your health needs. Vaccination recommendations may differ depending on where you are travelling, where you have travelled previously, and your current health.
Malaria is often a concern for people travelling to Kenya. Although we cannot replace a visit with your doctor, we do have some valuable information on malaria. Please do visit with your doctor to decide what prevention method would be best for you.
Do plan on bringing any prescriptions you may require during your stay. Medication is available in larger cities and towns in Kenya, however we suggest you bring some basics from home.
What is the Quality of Medical Facilities in Kenya?
Medical facilities vary widely in Kenya. There are good hospitals in all larger towns and cities. To avoid common problems like upset stomachs, fevers, etc we recommend washing your hands before meals, protect exposed skin from bug bites (particularly in the evenings), avoid petting dogs, sleep under mosquito nets, keep as clean as is possible and avoid eating in dirty cafes and restaurants.
Although we do not anticipate any problems during your time in Kenya, accidents can happen. We require that you carry traveller's insurance. Please be sure that you are covered for the activity you will be doing. For more information see our Travel Insurance page.
Will I have Access to an ATM in Kenya?
Cash withdrawal from ATMS are available in most major towns and all major cities in Kenya. Most ATMS allow a max withdrawal of KES 40,000 per day.
A lot of ATMs are manned with security, but do take care of your money when at the ATM. If you arrive in Kenya with cash (Sterling, Euro's US Dollars, etc) then you can exchange cash at a Forex exchange (you'll only find Forex exchanges in the larger cities - Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu).
What Can I Expect from Toilet Facilities?
Toilet facilities vary vastly depending on your location in Kenya. Hotels will have normal toilet facilities, however, in more rural areas the toilet facilities may or may not be plumbed. Expect toilets on treks and climbs to be in wooden huts with a long drop and a slat in the floor to do your business. Often these facilities smell badly and are dirty, so be prepared. It is always advisable to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. At night, be sure to bring a light.
What is the Water Quality in Kenya?
The tap water in Kenya is unfit for human consumption. We advise that you properly sterilize water prior to drinking. There are several methods you can employ. You can bring your own wild camping (backcountry) filter, use a SteriPen, or use iodine tablets. A SteriPen uses a UV light to kill any viruses or bacteria that live in the water. It is only good for water that isn’t dirty or cloudy. A backcountry filter will treat any type of water, but be sure to bring a way to backwash or clean the filter should you be in country for a long time. Iodine and chlorine tablets are also a suitable method; however, it should be noted that they will affect the taste of the water. We advise that you always bring two methods of purifying water, so you have a backup should one method fail.
Here at Adventure Alternative we do not condone the use of disposable plastic bottles. Using these bottles puts a huge strain on the environment. Kenya does not have the necessary infrastructure to dispose of these bottles. Therefore, they end up as litter or worse, are burned. If you are on an organised trip then we generally provide bottled water from larger re-usable bottles so ensure you have your own water-bottle with you.
What sort of parasites do I need to avoid?
All freshwater in southern and sub-Saharan Africa–including the great lakes and rivers as well as smaller bodies of water–is considered to be at risk for schistosomiasis (a disease caused by parasitic worms’ transmission).
Infection occurs when skin comes in contact with contaminated freshwater in which certain types of snails that carry schistosomes are living.
Schistosoma parasites can penetrate the skin of persons who are wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in contaminated water. Within several weeks, worms grow inside the blood vessels of the body and produce eggs. Some of these eggs travel to the bladder or intestines and are passed into the urine or stool.
Occasionally, eggs may be deposited in the brain or spinal cord, leading to seizures or paralysis. More than 200 million people are infected worldwide.
If skin comes in contact with freshwater from canals, rivers, streams, or lakes, there is a risk of getting schistosomiasis.
No vaccine is available.
No drugs for preventing infection are available.
Untreated piped water coming directly from freshwater sources may contain cercariae larvae.
- Better not to swim in freshwater lakes in Southern African countries.
- Drink safe water. Because there is no way to make sure that water coming directly from canals, lakes, rivers, streams or springs is safe, you should either boil water for 1 minute or filter water before drinking it. Boiling water for at least 1 minute will kill any harmful parasites, bacteria, or viruses present.
- Brush your teeth with clean water.
- If you wear gas-permeable contacts use only clean water or saline solution to rinse them.
What is the Risk of HIV AIDS?
Both men and women can become infected and can give the virus to someone else. HIV is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact with someone who is infected with HIV. Also, an HIV-infected woman can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or during birth as well as through breastfeeding.
Many persons may be infected and be unaware of their status. Therefore, if you engage in sexual contact, you may be unknowingly at risk from an infected sex partner. Assess and take ownership of your personal behaviours; do not choose high-risk behaviours,
HIV can NOT be spread in the following ways:
× Shaking hands, hugging, or casual kissing
× Coughs or sneezes, sweat or tears
× Mosquitoes, toilet seats, door knob, drinking fountains
× Eating food prepared or handled by an infected person
× Everyday contact with HIV-infected persons at school, work, home or anywhere else.
- Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV
- Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that might expose you to risk of infection.
- All medical students working in high risk areas should wear appropriate equipment at all times, gloves, aprons and take the appropriate universal precautions at all times.
- Should an incident occur in which you suspect you were exposed to HIV, you should immediately seek immediate medical assistance, do not delay as the first 72 hours are critical.
Traveler's Basic Swahili
Kenya has a rich diversity of tribes, each with their own cultural differences and traditions. They also have their own languages or dialects. However the languages that are adopted as the universal languages for schooling across the country are English and Swahili. Swahili is a Bantu language with some Arabic roots and is widely spoken across Africa, usually as an official though second language.
Perhaps the passages of Swahili that will most stick in your head after your trip to Kenya will be contained in the lines of a song that is hugely popular with Kenyan children. If you spend any time at all at the schools or orphanages then this song will inevitably crop up. It just so happens that the words and phrases that it contains are also useful so perhaps this may be a good introduction to the language:-
Which roughly translates to:-
How are you,
In our Kenya
Further useful vocabulary can be found below:
• Hello, how are you? - Jambo / Habari yako ?
• Am fine - Mzuri
• Goodbye - Kwa heri
• Nice to meet you = Nafurahi kukuona
• Goodnight = Lala salama
• Yes - Ndio
• No - Hapana /La
• Thank you - Asante
• Thank you very much - Asante sana
• Please - Tafadhali
• OK - Sawa
• Excuse me - Samahani
• You're Welcome - Karibu
• Can you help me? - Nisaidie Tafadhali
• What is your name? - Jina lako ni?
• My name is Tom - Jina langu ni Tom...
• Where are you from? - Unatoka wapi?
• I'm from London.. - Nimetoka London...
• May I take a picture? - Naweza piga picha
• Do you speak English? -Unaongea Kizungu?
• Just a little bit - Kidogo tu!
• How do you say Hallo in Swahili? = Unasemaje Hallo kwa Kiswahili
• I don't understand - Sielewi
• Friend of mine -Rafiki yangu
• Me - Mimi
• You -wewe
• I am - Mimi ni
• Let’s go - Twende
Where is the ... - wapi ...
• Road - barabara
• Market -soko
• Toilet/bathroom - choo
• Plane - ndege
• Is there a bus going to Nairobi...? - Kuna basi ya kuenda Nairobi..?
• Is it far - Ni mbali
• Over there - pale
• Ticket - tikiti
• Where are you going? - Unaenda wapi?
• How much is it? -Ni pesa ngapi?
• Hotel - hoteli
• Room - chumba
• Are there any vacancies for tonight? -Kuna nafasi leo usiko?
• No vacancies - Hakuna nafasi
• How much is it per night? - ni bei gani/pesa ngapi kwa usiku?
Time and Days
• What is the time - ni saa ngapi?
• Today - leo
• Tomorrow - kesho
• Yesterday - jana
• Now - sasa
• Later - baadaye
• Every day - kila siku
• Monday - Jumatatu
• Tuesday - Jumanne
• Wednesday - Jumatano
• Thursday - Alhamisi
• Friday - Ijumaa
• Saturday - Jumamosi
• Sunday - Jumapili
Counting and Numbers
• 2 - mbili
• 3 - tatu
• 4 - nne
• 5 - tano
• 6 - sita
• 7 - saba
• 8 - nane
• 9 - tisa
• 10 - kumi
• 11 - kumi na moja (ten and one)
• 12 -kumi na mbili (ten and two)
• 20 - ishirini
• 21 - ishirni na moja (twenty and one)
• 30 - thelathini
• 40 - arobaini
• 50 - hamsini
• 60 - sitini
• 70 - sabini
• 80 - themanini
• 90 - tisini
• 100 - mia
• 200 -mia mbili
• 1000 - elfu
• 100,000 -laki moja
• 200,000 -laki mbili….
Food and Drinks
• Food - chakula
• Hot - moto
• Cold - baridi
• Water - maji
• Hot water - maji moto
• Cold water - maji baridi
• Drinking water - maji ya kunywa
• Soda (soft drinks) - soda
• Beer - bia
• Milk - maziwa
• Meat - nyama
• Chicken - kuku
• Fish - samaki
• Beef - nyama ya ng'ombe
• Fruit - matunda
• Vegetables - mboga
• Doctor = daktari
• Hospital = hospitali
• I'm sick = mimi ni mgonjwa
• I need a doctor = nataka kuona daktari
• It hurts here = naumwa hapa ( hapa –point at where the pain is)
• Fever = homa
• Malaria = malaria
• I have a headache = naumwa na kichwa
• I have diarrhoea = nahara/ naendesha
• Vomiting = tapika
• Medicine = dawa
• Animal = mnyama (wanyama – plural)
• Buffalo = Nyati / Mbogo
• Cheetah = Duma / Chita
• Elephant = Tembo / Ndovu
• Giraffe = Twiga
• Hippo = Kiboko
• Hyena = Fisi
• Leopard = Chui
• Lion = Simba
• Rhino = Kifaru
• Warthog = Ngiri
• Wildebeest = Nyumbu
• Zebra = Punda milia
Sheng (or slang), a popular mixture of English, Swahili and local dialects is and commonly spoken especially among the youth in Kenya. There are thousands upon thousands of sheng words and they keep evolving - with new words coming up all the time. Not of all of them can be listed but here are some common sheng words to get you by:
• Sasa /Niaje– Hi
• Fit/Poa – Hi (response)
• Sonko – Rich ( person)
• Ndai – Car
• Mathree – Matatu
• Msupa/Mresh –beautiful (girl)
• Mbao/Blue – twenty shillings
• Ashu – 10 shillings
• Finje – Fifty shillings
• Ishia – go ( naishia – am going/Tuishie – lets go..)
• Ubao – hunger/hungry
• Naskia ubao – am hungry
• Jipange – get organized
• Keroro – beer
• Majuu – abroad/overseas
• Wasee – people ( addressing them, calling for attention)
• Zi – No
• Chali – man/guy
• Dame/dem – girl/lady
• Doe /Ganji– money/cash
• Mbuyu – father
• Masa – Mother
• Chizi – crazy/ Fala – stupid/fool
• Mjaka – A Luo
• Msapere – A Kikuyu
• Sosi/Manga – eat
• Ocha /shagz– up country
• Rada – alert (kaa rada – be careful /on the lookout)
• Tenje – Radio
• Karao – police
• Bonga – talk/chat
• Mada – finish ( doing something)
• Msoto – to be broke
The following advice is intended to provide a brief outline of any laws in the desination country that are directly applicable to travelling there. This is not intended to be exhaustive or complete and laws do change from time to time so we strongly advise visiting the UK Foreign Office website and checking for their current advice.
In general the laws of any country will be based on the same values as at home but significant differences can be present subject to the prevailing cultural, religious and political environment in the country. These four basic factors can be your main guide to how to act in unfamiliar situations. If you are any doubt as to what to do in a given situation it is usually possible to identify the "safest" fallback option and go with it. For example, not buying something, not taking a photo of a government building etc.
This information should also be read in conjunction with our relevant pages dealing with Cultural Awareness and Visa Requirements.
Although there are no strict dress codes, you should note that the coastal areas are predominantly Muslim in tradition. You should dress conservatively away from the tourist resorts and hotels, especially in Mombasa town, to avoid offending local sensitivities. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
Smoking in all public places (except in designated areas) is prohibited throughout Kenya. This applies to areas such as hotel grounds, lounge areas and entrances. If you wish to smoke in your hotel room please confirm first with hotel management that it is permitted. Smoking outdoors in any public street or on the beach, is not banned under the Act, however, it is advisable to check before doing so or, if in doubt, to refrain from smoking. Offences attract fines ranging from 50,000 to three million Kenya shillings and/or imprisonment for six months to three years.
The use and trafficking of illegal Class A drugs in Kenya carries heavy fines and jail sentences. The penalty for possession is ten years imprisonment.
You must obtain a valid work permit before taking up any paid work in Kenya; the penalties for not doing so can be a fine, jail or deportation depending on the nature of the offence.
The taking of photographs of official buildings, including Embassies, is not recommended and can lead to detention. If in any doubt about what a building is used for, do not photograph it or film around it.
It is illegal to destroy Kenyan currency whatever the denomination.
Homosexual activity is illegal in Kenya.