Kenya, where the concept of safari was born. the sight of a herd of elephants crossing the plains in Samburu, or the wildlife spectacle when millions of wildebeest throng to the masai mara, for sheer majesty it’s hard to beat.
Home to the ‘Big Five’, the Masai Mara is the northern extension of Tanzania’s vast Serengeti plains and Kenya’s most famous game park. Here the endless struggle for survival plays out across the plains of this captivating land and each year, July to September, the Mara explodes into life with the annual migration.
The annual wildebeest migration across the plains of the Serengeti and Masai Mara are perhaps the most astonishing wildlife pageant in Africa. Each year at the end of the rainy season (normally the end of May), hundreds of thousands of wildebeest move north from the Serengeti in Tanzania into Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of greener pastures. Wildebeest arrive in the Masai Mara during July and August and are joined by countless herds of gazelle, antelope and zebra, their progress keenly watched by the ever-present predators who relish this ready-made source of food. You are likely to see lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas shadowing the herds, picking off the weak and young along the way as the dramatic cycle of like is played out before your very eyes.
Distinct from game drives in other national parks, where your days are generally determined by morning and afternoon excursions, the Masai Mara provides the opportunity to spend the entire day exploring its vast open savannahs without having to return to your lodge. This allows for more uninterrupted game viewing following the herds and big game in their daily struggle for survival.
Africa’s famous ‘most wanted’ list the Big Five comprise the impressive rhino and the African elephant (largest land mammal on earth), the brooding and deadly buffalo, the beautifully elusive leopard and, finally, the magnificent lion, king of the beasts. Our East Africa journeys off the chance, with luck, to view all 5 in their natural habitat. Maybe you will be lucky enough to witness a lion roar, an incredible sound (and feeling) which can travel 8 km.
Samburu National Reserve offers a rich diversity of habitats that encompass montane forests and acacia grasslands. Home to the semi nomadic Samburu, close relatives of the Masai, it is an area that provides some spectacular safari encounters and the waters of the Ewaso Nyiro attract a steady stream of animals to its banks.
Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak is regarded as the realm of Ngai, god of the local Kikuyu people. Traditionally, all Kikuyu home were built to face this sacred peak. They call it Kirinyaga, or place of light. The mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Its ragged series of peaks are crowned with snow, and its slopes are thick with forest. The mountain is best seen at dawn, when the days early light silhouettes its impressive summit high over the surrounding plains.
Situated within the eastern Rift Valley of equatorial Africa, this shallow, alkaline lake is home to spectacle of thousands of flamingos that flock to its waters, turning the lake into a blaze of dazzling colour. Covering 200 sq km of forest, savannah and swampland, Lake Nakuru can boast a large concentration of other wildlife.
In Kenya there is an array of vibrant cultures. There’s evidence of some of the earth’s earliest civilisations in this region, and life is steeped in the ancient traditions of the Masai Warriors and other peoples. On safari, you’ll learn about these and admire traditional crafts such as masks and jewellery. You’ll see tribal dances and hear the evocative local music.
With award winning camps and lodges in some of Kenya’s best wildlife viewing areas, Governors Camp provide truly exceptional safari experiances. Used by the BBC for their recent ‘Africa’ programme, their Masai Mara camp on the banks of the Mara River offers unparalleled access to one of Africa’s premier game reserves.
Best Time To Go and Weather
The climate in Kenya varies due to the sharp variations in altitude from sea level to 1,700ft. The Rift Valley and Central Highlands enjoy a temperate climate year round although the temperatures vary from the hot and relatively dry floor of the Rift valley to arctic on the peaks of Mt Kenya. The main rainy seasons are from April to May (the long rains) and October to December (the short rains). Average temperatures vary from a minimum of 10/14°C to a maximum of 22/24°C. Evenings can by chilly. The coastal belt is hot year round with average temperatures of about 30°C but tempered by the sea breezes. The rainfall is heaviest during May.
- Time differenceGMT +3 hrs
- Flight Time8.5 hrs
- VisaYes for British passport holders*
- ImmunisationsYellow Fever, Polio, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Malaria**
- Area583,000 sq km
- Population43 million
- Dialling Code+254
- Electricity240V 50 Hz
- LanguageSwahili, English
* Please check with the tourist board to confirm
** Please check with your health professional to confirm
+Food & Drink
+Books to Read
+Movies to Watch
Jambo – Hello Kwa heri / Kwa herini (plural) – Goodbye Asante – Thank you Samahani – Excuse me Ndiyo – Yes Hapana – No Ngapi – How much?
New Year’s Day – Dhow Racing, Lamu Island Join hundreds at the shoreline to witness brightly decorated boats take part in this important historical event May – Dugong Festival, Lamu Island Raising awareness of the native Dugong dolphin, entertaining donkey races are included August – Maralel Camel Derby Jockeys from all over the world have gathered and been tested on their speed and strength at this traditional camel race since1998 September – Concours D’Elegance, Nairobi This beauty contest of the vehicle world presents has been presenting the classiest cars and motocycles for more than 40 years. October – Kenya International Film Festival Hosting films and filmmakers from all over Africa featuring film premieres, workshops and debates. November – Lamu Cultural Festival The island’s largest cultural event, celebrating Lamu life with Swahili poetry, henna painting and the traditional African Bao competition December 12, Jamhuri Day Traditional kitenge, military parades, air shows and colourful flags all feature in this national holiday celebrating Kenya’s independence
Food & Drink
Nyama Choma Large chunks of meat – typically beef, game, antelope, zebra, or chicken (Kuku Choma) – are slow roasted with salt over coals and served with vegetable mash and greens or with tomato salsa (kachumbari). Ugali Maize cooked to a porridge-like consistency and cut into portions which locals traditionally eat with their hands to accompany stew. ‘Black’ ugali is made from millet or millet and cassava. Sukumu Wiki A Kenyan staple literally meaning ‘Push the week’ made up of braised leafy greens, tomato and onion Chapatis This flatbread which derives from Indian immigrants, is crispy on the outside with a soft interior and eaten with stew or as a snack with tea Maharagwe A rich kidney bean and coconut curry soup often eaten in coastal areas with rice or ugali Mandazi Typical breakfast item of fried sweet dough often served with sweet milky tea Beer Tusker, a pale lager, is brewed in East Africa and carries the slogan ‘Bia yangu, Nchi yangu’ meaning ‘My beer, my country’ Dawa cocktail A mix of vodka, honey and lime juice Stoney Tangawizi East Africa’s ginger ale, but with a much more powerful flavour Picana Juice made from mango pulp Passion juice One of the best country’s for freshly pressed passionfruit juice
Hotels and restaurants usually include a 10% service charge. Consider tipping up to 50 shillings (60 cents) if service is particularly good and 10% to waiting staff. While on tours and safaris, a collection should generally be carried out where 150 shillings ($1.70) per person is accepted.
Books to Read
A Grain of Wheat A series of thrilling stories around young couple Gikonyo and Mumbi, in the lead up to Kenya’s independence, or Uruhu.
Movies to Watch
Out of Africa Set in 20th Century colonial Kenya, Danish baroness Karen Dinesen (Meryl Streep) moves to East Africa in a marriage of convenience where she develops a complicated affair with a free-spirited game hunter Denys (Robert Redford)