Why Visit Kenya
It is a dream for many to visit the Great African Safari. Kenya is one of the best places to start that journey.
An East African country, Kenya is famous for its existing tourism and hospitality infrastructure. Hospitality partners in Kenya have been welcoming guests since the era of the British colonial period. There is a sizable Gujarati community living in Nairobi. Airports, innovative and sustainable luxury safari tents abound the land. There are active strips to welcome bush planes for the bespoke experience seeker.
Kenya boasts of a number of world famous national parks. Most of them have a wealth of Big 5. The predator and the prey and mystic thrill of a primitive jungle life are all that Kenya offers to her visitors, along with the Masai tribes and their old ways of life. Most importantly, the Great Migration takes place in Kenya.
The Great Migration
Rough estimates suggest a million and a half of wildebeests, gazelles, zebras make the annual trip from the southern grassland of Serengeti (Tanzania) to the northern plain of Masaimara, Kenya. Their primary motivation is to search for greener pastures in the dry months. Along comes the predators. They breed and new lives thrive in accordance with the rule of the jungle. Then they go back to the original home as soon as possible, only to repeat the cycle in coming years.
The Great Migration of Africa is one of the seven wonders of Africa. The dramatic picture of thundering grooving hooves at the Mara river bank crossing is a widely circulated picture. Photographers flock in numbers to catch the first glimpse of the crumbling mud bricks and splashing water as the animals make the first move.
The Great Migration depends on a number of local weather conditions. It may take place anytime starting April of every calendar year and ends at the advent of monsoon.
Besides the National Parks, Kenya has a prolonged beach in the East shouldering the Indian Ocean. Many tourists opt to end the trip in a relaxing note at Lamu, the beach resort town of Kenya.
Best time to visit Kenya
Ideal time to visit Kenya for a safari trip is from July to October. The dry sunny months when the wind is chill and the sky is clear.
There are two monsoons in Kenya, Masika and Vuli. Masika, the spell of long rains in the months of March, April, May drench the barren land, bringing in new life in the Savanna.
Located in the Southern Hemisphere, Kenya enjoys summer when the north is shivering in Cold. This is important to keep in mind while planning a trip. The cold December vacay of the US or Europe turns out to be a sparkling sunny atmosphere in east Africa. Sporadic spats of rain, Vusi bring sublime ease after a long dry spell.
Either way, if spotting wildlife is your primary intent to visit Kenya, avoid the rains.
I visited Kenya in the month of August. Ethereal sunsets, a round red setting sun at the horizon, clear blue sky, gentle breeze, swiping view of the rolling Savannah land, that is how I recall Kenya in August!
Things to know about Kenya before planning a Visit
It is important to get a Yellow fever vaccine before making a trip to Kenya.
In India, we went to CV Raman General Hospital in Bangalore and got the vaccine for free.
WHO recommends a single shot would protect against yellow fever for lifetime. The Yellow Fever vaccine is important before visiting many African as well as Latin American regions.
Like most of the African nations and many Asians nations, Kenya has seen a high influx of Chinese investment in the past decade. The road to Masai Mara from Nairobi is a great ride of 5 hours and it is built with Chinese money. Our guide seemed to be unhappy about it. When asked he said they use the roads to poach the rhino horns faster.
Is it Safe to visit Kenya
Safety is a relative word in different parts of the world, I have learnt.
I am currently based out of New York and I worry a lot about sporadic shooting incidents mushrooming around the US. I feel very unjust to comment about the safety situation in Kenya where I had spent a couple of weeks experiencing nothing but an unadulterated version of hospitality.
However it is important to remind you of a few incidents of robbery and kidnapping by fringe groups. It is always wise to venture into the city or a local market with a guide. In Narok, the last city before Masai Mara Game Reserve, I had witnessed a massive weekly market where many tribal groups had come to get their weekly groceries done, the African way. Baskets, beaded jewellery, hens and ducks around. There, I had heard a few catcalls thrown at the minivan I was in.
Dress up conservatively to not attract undue attention when you are out in public and not in a typical tourist setting. The luxury bootcamps are a safer choice for instagram photoshoots.
I had some of the kindest interactions with Kenyan people at the unassuming roadside stalls, unnamed markets selling Nyama Choma (grilled meat), women self help centres selling artefacts. I would recommend Kenya as a moderately safe solo travel destination for women if it is your first trip. You have to book a guide and a van to get inside some of the game Reserves.
It’s relevant to remind you here that Kenya shares international borders with Ethiopia and Somalia in the North, Tanzania in South and Uganda in the west. Among these nations, Somalia and Ethiopia have had particularly rough political ordeals which adversely affect Kenya’s safety situation among tourists. I suggest heading towards the South which is greener in terms of both safety and grasslands. A part of the sub Saharan ecology, the north of Kenya is barren.
Be careful about malaria and diarrhoea while travelling in Kenya. Tap water is not potable. Mosquito coils are a mandate while camping. A detailed list of things to carry for African safari waits after I publish this blogpost.
How long one should plan for a Kenya Trip
A couple of weeks is a good time to visit kenya. However if you are short of time and need a quick trip and want to keep costs in check, head to the Masai Mara Park for at least 3 days and spend days flying in and out of Nairobi. This way, you will surely get a taste of the great national reserve of Masaia mara but it would leave you longing for more of the African savannah.
Surprisingly for the majority of travellers, Africa trips start like that. A trip to the Savannah, a quick and cost effective one. That leaves them asking and wondering for more. Eventually they come back, with family and fatter wallet, ready to splurge for exclusive experiences
Best places to visit in Kenya
Ideally you should spend 10 days in Kenya. In the ten days, 5 to 6 days are good to explore at least 3 National parks, explore a bit of Nairobi, the capital city and gateway to Kenya which is well connected with different continents and end the trip by the ocean at Mombasa, or the pristine island Lamu.
Expenses for a trip to Kenya
A safari in Kenya is an expensive affair. In many ways it is the cost you pay to keep the poachers at a bay. The villagers and locals actively invest in securing their wildlife resources to safeguard the tourists as well as ecology. They see the ROI and they take pride in protecting and promoting the destinations .Must like the case in the Bodo village of Assam or One Horned Rhinos of Kaziranga.
For a trip to Masai mara, a guided vehicle pays a fee of USD 80 including the guide and can accommodate up to 6 people. If you want to pay the least and do a mara Safari, be prepared to shell out at least 500 USD for a couple for a day in Mara and a couple of days in Nairobi with one jungle Safari.
For a full fledged 10 days Kenya trip with a couple of National Parks and a beach vacay, you should set aside at least USD 2500. It would be a very comfortable trip if not exactly luxury.
Visa for Kenya
Kenya offers e-Visa for a bunch of countries including the US, Uk, India. You can see a complete list of the countries requiring an e-visa here. You may also choose to opt for an East African visa for three countries, Kenya, Tanzania and uganda. It is more cost effective for tourists with a longer time in hand.
Citizens of many countries including South Africa does not require a visa to travel in Kenya.
Responsible Traveller’s Guide to Kenya
Please do not give away pencil and chocolate to children when you visit the Masai Villages.