Kenya stands out among other African countries as a global tourist destination. It is one of the world’s most visited tourist destination, especially for Safari. Kenya is located in East Africa, with Nairobi as its capital and largest city. It is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north, and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers an area of 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), and has a population of approximately 45 million people as at July 2014. Below are some of the most visited places in Kenya.
1. Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is the first national park in Kenya and it was established in 1946. It is situated in the centre of Nairobi, the country’s capital and considering the fact that it is located in the centre of town, the park is separated with an electric fence from the metropolis. The skyscrapers of Nairobi can be seen at the background from the park, and there is a large variety of wildlife population in the national park.
Animal species found in the park include African buffalo, baboon, black rhinoceros, Burchell’s zebra, cheetah, Coke’s hartebeest, Grant’s gazelle, hippopotamus, leopard, lion, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, impala, Masai giraffe, ostrich, vulture and waterbuck.
2. Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara National Park is named after the Maasai people of Kenya – the ancestral inhabitants of the area. It was originally established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary and covers only 520 square kilometres (200 sq mi) of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. It is a large game reserve located in Narok County, and comparable to the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania.
It is globally famous for its exceptional population of Masai lions, African leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.
3. Tsavo East National Park
The Tsavo East National Park was opened in April 1948, making it one of the oldest and largest national parks in Kenya with an area of 13,747 sq km. It is situated in the Taru Desert and located close to Voi town in the Taita-Taveta County.
The park can be accessed by three main gates, from Voi through the Manyani gate, from Mombasa through the Bachuma gate or from Malindi through the Sala gate. There are many airstrips at the park and chartered planes can land there. It is one of the world’s biodiversity strongholds, with a vast amount of diverse wildlife that include the famous “big five” consisting of the masai lion, black rhino, cape buffalo, elephant and leopard. The park is also home to a great variety of bird life such as the black kite, crowned crane, lovebird and the sacred ibis.
4. Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru is administered and protected by the Lake Nakuru National Park. It was established in 1961 close to Nakuru town and is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes at an elevation of 1754 meters above sea level. Nakuru means ‘Dust’ or ‘Dusty Place’ in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru is protected under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.
The abundance of algae in the lake attracts the vast quantity of flamingos that famously line the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Black and white rhinos have also been introduced. Apart from the millions of flamingoes nesting along the shores of the lake, there are myriad other bird species that inhabit the lake and the surrounding area, such as African fish eagle, Goliath heron, hamerkop, pied kingfisher and Verreaux’s eagle.
5. Karen Blixen Museum
Located 10 kilometres outside of Nairobi, Kenya, the Karen Blixen Museum used to be the African home of Karen Blixen, a Danish author who wrote the famous books “Out of Africa” and “Shadows of the Grass” to chronicle her life at the estate.
Built in 1912 by the Swedish engineer Åke Sjögren, the bungalow-style house was bought by Karen Blixen and her former husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke in 1917. While she separated from her husband in 1921, Blixen lived at the house in what was then British East Africa and ran a large coffee plantation on the grounds until she returned to Denmark 1931.
The house was later donated by the Danish government in 1964 to the new Kenyan government as an independence gift; and it was converted to a museum in 1986 – opening every day between 9:30 and 6 pm, including weekends and public holidays.
6. Samburu National Reserve
The Samburu National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. On the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The park is 165 km² in size and is situated 350 kilometers from Nairobi. It ranges in altitude from 800 to 1230m above sea level. Geographically, it is located in Samburu County. The Ewaso Ng’iro river flows through doum palm groves and thick riverine forests and provides water for wildlife game in the arid region.
There is a wide variety of animal and bird life seen at Samburu National Reserve, including the gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, oryx, and reticulated giraffe. All three big cats, lion, cheetah and leopard, can also be found here, as well as elephants, buffalo and hippos. Others are the olive baboon, warthogs, Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, impala, and waterbuck. Rhinos are no longer present in the park due to heavy poaching.
7. Ruins of Gedi
The Ruins of Gedi are the remains of a Swahili town located in Gedi, a village near the coastal town of Malindi in Kenya. Gedi was a thriving community along the jungle coast of East Africa from the 13th to 17th centuries. The population was estimated to exceed at least 2500 people. Although no written record exists of this town, excavations between 1948 and 1958 revealed that the Muslim inhabitants traded with people from all over the world. Artefacts that included beads from Venice, coins and a Ming vase from China, an iron lamp from India, and scissors from Spain were found at the site. These items can be found in the museum in the complex which was opened in 2000.
The area was gazetted as a National Monument in 1927. In 1948, the remains of Gedi were declared a Kenyan national park. The ruins continue to be a popular tourist destination. The site is usually open till 6 pm. The site is inhabited by guenon monkeys, which frequently interact with visitors. According to local tradition, the ruins are protected by the spirits of its priests. These “Old Ones” supposedly curse anyone who harms the site or removes anything.