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Kenya Country Information

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Mara WildebeestsKenya remains, as it always has been, a favourite African destination – and this for the simple reason that Kenya is about as African as it is possible to get. Conjure East Africa in your mind’s eye and you’ll pull up archetypal images of an undulating grass savanna teeming with the Big Five: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffalo and Rhino. What you’re seeing is the classic safari circuit that winds through Tanzania and Kenya. This is where men like Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemmingway came to see, then shoot the great African beasts. Hordes of tourists followed, with good reason. Classic safaris seldom fail to impress.

Traditionally, camera-toting tourists book overland tours with a safari outfitter who escort you to long-standing camps and lodges. But today’s East Africa offers alternatives. You can craft your own itinerary, fly directly to choice camps aboard new light-carriers, and there are dozens of boutique lodges, camps and outfitters to choose from, including several who are hip to sustainability and promise to bring you closer to East African people and wildlife than ever before.

Kenya remains, as it always has been, a favourite African destination – and this for the simple reason that Kenya is about as African as it is possible to get. It is the birthplace of the Safari, of White Mischief, and the crusty old colonial who divides his time between a coffee estate in the Ngong Hills and a stately home in Berkshire. It is where Stewart Granger led Deborah Kerr in search of King Solomon’s Mines, where Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly fought over Clark Gable in Mogambo, and where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fell in love in Out of Africa.

Giraffes with Cub - MaraEven though Kenya may be a little less of a Garden of Eden now than it was then, it still has a selection of the best big game wildlife parks on the continent, some of the most sublime tropical highland habitat, and arguably one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. All this is stitched together by an equally extraordinary ethnic diversity, ranging from the Arabised Swahili at the coast to the insular and militant cattle herding Turkana of the interior. Be it the cities, the coastline, the mountains or the plains, no country on the continent captures the essence of Africa quite like Kenya.

Classic Kenya begins and ends with “the Mara.” Every July enormous herds of wildebeest migrate from the southern reaches of the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya, where from August to October the plains seethe with these snorting grazers in search of fresh grass. Predators, like lions, leopards, cheetah, and crocs, lurk by river crossings and in the high grass. This is the stuff of Animal Planet. This is why you come to the Mara.

The best way to get here is to fly-in to a private camp adjacent to the Mara that offers game drives and bush walks. Richards Camp has an intimate, down-to-earth vibe with a history of environmental conservation. Cottars Camp is Redford and Streep decadent. “The Cottars are the original safari guides,” says Nairobi-born Sammy Davies, owner of Safari Outfitter, Kivulini Tours. “They’ve been in the business for nearly 100 years.” The Cottars’ permanent tents are furnished with colonial antiques; they offer butler service and a member of the historic family will likely lead you into the Mara wilderness.

Cottars Camp - Kenya Exclusive TentsIf you’re looking for new school East Africa, head into Samburu country in Northern Kenya and book a few nights at Elephant Watch. The brainchild of Africa’s foremost elephant conservationists, Oria and Ian Douglas-Hamilton, it’s set on the banks of the red, crocodile-patrolled Uaso Nyiro River, and offers five stand-alone bungalows, crafted from driftwood and trees that local elephants knocked down.

With grass roofs, hand-painted bucket showers, Tempurpedic beds and colorful accents, it’s a Robinson Crusoe in the new millennium experience that enables a total immersion in nature. Your expert guides will be loquacious young Samburu men who are trained as safari guides by Ole Morintat Save The Elephants – a world leader in elephant research. “We’ve been watching elephants for last 30 years,” says Ole. “Our Samburu guides have lived with them their whole lives. It’s our job to show people what elephants are all about.”

Afterwards, link up with Kivulini Tours for a deluxe camel safari. Part walking, part riding safari, this trip is co-led by local Samburu warriors through stunning desert country where guests mingle among kudu, elephant and wild dogs, with no other tourists in sight.

Why Travel to Kenya

With all these natural attributes, and over a century of experience in wildlife and cultural tourism, Kenya enjoys one of the most internationally subscribed and sophisticated tourism industries on the continent.

Kenya’s national parks and conservancies are her principal attraction, with some 33 in all, covering the various regions of mountains, plains and marine. Almost within the city limits of the capital itself lies the Nairobi National Park, which, although small, is still a very credible wildlife and game viewing destination. Others include Ambroseli, set against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tsavo East and West, Kakamega Forest National Reserve, and the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve. All are well organised, well preserved and well funded.

When to Visit Kenya

The highlands of Kenya enjoy the utopian coincidence of altitude and immediate proximity to the equator, which makes for year round mild weather. Likewise the coast is perennially hot and humid with the monotony broken only between March and May by the long rains, and to a lesser degree between October and December by the short rains.

The hottest and driest period, and consequently the time most commonly advised for a visit to Kenya, is between February and March, and the coolest between July and August. The busy period tends to coincide with European summer holidays, although advance bookings are advisable at all times.

Occurring between June and September is the annual wildlife migration which is an internationally celebrated phenomenon, attracting visitors and filmmakers from around the world. Between January and February is the period when birdlife, in particular flamingos, flock to the Rift Valley Lakes.

Feedback From Clients

James Loffer

Davies, I just wanted to tell you how much we all appreciated all your efforts and sound recommendations in setting up our safari in South Africa. It was a great experience, in a wonderful and beautiful country. Gomo Gomo was just the right type of safari camp for our purposes. They did a really nice job both in camp and on the visits into the bush. We got unbelievably close to so many of the animals. We recommend Gomo Gomo for anyone, not to mention your timely and responsive services. Thank you, from all the Loffer family.

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