Kenya: Useful Tips for Savvy Travellers

Kenya has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa.
hile sun doesn’t spoil those of us in the UK, Kenya has plenty of it pretty much all year around. This country is a colourful kaleidoscope – a mix of modernity and traditions, exotics and simplicity, different cultures and traditions. There are plenty of things to see and do for everyone and these are several highlights in Kenya not to miss.
  • Maasai Mara – the most famous of the national parks in Kenya, located in the southwest of the country (275 km from Nairobi). From July to September, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration, one of “Seven Wonders of the World”, takes place and over two million grazing animals come to Maasai Mara from Tanzania.
  • Mount Kenya – a national park not far from Nairobi. It sits on both sides of the equator at the foothills of the second-highest peak in Kenya – Mount Kenya. The park is home to rich flora and fauna, and wild animals like rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards can be spotted here.
  • Lamu – a small town, situated on the Lamu Island, 350 km away from Mombassa. Dating back to the 12th century and possibly earlier, Lamu is considered one of the oldest and most exotic towns in Kenya. Very representative of Swahili culture, Lamu is a product of interaction between Indians, Arabs, Persians, Bantu and Europeans. Lamu’s landscape and architecture are very unique, ranging from beautiful mosques to old houses with carved wooden doors and narrow winding streets.
  • Lake Nakuru National Parka national park in the Rift Valley region (160 km away from Nairobi), famous for its amazing collection of wildlife. Besides safari, the park is home to the biggest flamingo population in the world. This great spectacle of nature, up to a million flamingos at once, is definitely worth seeing.
  • Malindi – a resort town on the shores of the Indian Ocean (120 km from Mombasa) has European vibe and offers beautiful beaches, national marine parks, and opportunities for deep-sea fishing. In the 15th century, Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama visited Malindi, an important port city in the Indian Ocean at that time. In the 1930s Ernest Hemingway chose Malindi as his favourite fishing destination. Since then, Malindi has become a popular spot for many European tourists, lately Italian.
  • Watamu National Marine Park – the finest marine park in Kenya on the shores of the Indian Ocean. This park boasts an incredible collection of coral reef forests and over 600 kinds of fish and rich underwater flora, making Watamu one of the best spots in the world for diving, snorkelling and deep-sea fishing.

 

For socially-conscious shoppers, I recommend:

“Kazuri” (Karen town, http://www.kazuri.com/) – If you have time, you should visit Kazuri Beads shop and factory. Kazuri produces world-famous hand-painted ceramic jewellery and pottery. It is built on the territory of the farm of Karen Blixen from the famed novel “Out Of Africa”, which was later reproduced on screen with Meryl Streep playing the role of Karen! Here you will pay Kazuri jewellery’s original prices, which are 2-3 times less than what you’ll pay in the leading US and UK department stores.

Shukrani”(Mariakani, http://www.shukranilifeworks.co.ke/) – Shukrani is a company within the Lifeworks project that produces high quality home and fashion accessories (such as table runners, jewellery, beach wraps and bags) for local markets and international export. Like Kazuri, Shukrani employs socially vulnerable women from local communities and helps them to acquire new skills, thereby not only empowering them to be independent economically, but also reducing their risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Hotel “Africana” (Nairobi, 7 Dubois Road) – I recommend that serious connoisseurs of African arts and crafts visit this “hidden treasure” in the heart of the Kenyan capital. A community of art dealers lives in the hotel and sells world-class artefacts mostly from West Africa. Among them are bronze statues from Benin, glass beads from Ghana and traditional costumes from Nigeria. The main trick is to bargain and to watch your bags outside the hotel, as this area is famous for pick pocketing!

 

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