Long considered to be the cradle of civilization, Kenya is a fascinating land steeped in history, where many cultures have flourished only to give way to more. If you want a glimpse of just about every type of geography, this is the place to visit. The land features vast plains in the south, forests in the west, and deserts in the north, where some Kenyan nomadic tribes carry on their age-old lives on the move.
Kenya is located in East Africa and shares a border with Tanzania. Its location on the Indian Ocean opened the country to merchants, adventurers and soldiers of fortune from the outside world. The Spice Trade, for instance, brought Arabians onto the African continent.
Many tourists start their trip in the capital city of Nairobi, just 30 miles from the Equator. It was founded by the British more than a century ago and now has a population of 2 million.
Nairobi boasts a wide variety of of fine restaurants. Because of the multicultural heritage of Kenya, it offers a wide range of foods. Traditional African dishes are supplemented by English and Indian fare. Kenya offers an assortment of beef and seafood dishes, along with a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. Portions tend to be generous, and elaborate buffets are common at hotels. Even the more expensive restaurants are reasonable by American and European standards.
Kenya also features movie theatres, discos, and casinos—some located inside hotels. Many hotels provide evening entertainment. Often, this will include traditional tribal dancing. This is truly entertaining and not to be missed. The tribes show their tremendous athletic skills in their dances featuring leaping contests. The dances are accompanied with traditional tribal songs.
Nairobi is a relatively small city and some visitors choose to walk to its various attractions. Trains, buses and taxis are also plentiful. Some tourists choose to rent cars. Nairobi also has modern conveniences as cell phones and fax machines.
You can go to the Giraffe Center in Langatta, a nearby suburb, where the Rothschild giraffe was saved from extinction. The Nairobi National Park has a large number of lions, giraffes and impalas, as well as an animal orphanage.
While in Langatta, you can visit the former home of Karen Blixen, who penned the novel turned movie “Out of Africa” under the pseudonym Isaak Dinesen. Her native land Denmark donated the farmhouse where she lived, to the Kenyan government. It’s now a museum.
Many visitors come to Kenya specifically to experience a safari. They choose to hunt or photograph the country’s vast wildlife consisting of large animals and birds. There are 54 game preserves in the country, including the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Safaris draw travelers who love seeing large animals, such as lions and wildebeests, in their natural habitat.
Visitors can also learn about the inhabitants of the land: the brave and fierce Maasai who once lived completely cut off from the rest of the world. Sign up at a travel agency to venture out on a safari on foot that takes tourists into the center of Maasai life. The Maasai are nomadic cattle herders, who wandered all across southern and central Kenya. Today, they are mostly found in the southwest and have a number of permanent settlements.
Cattle occupy a sacred position in Maasai culture. They trace this to an often-told story of an ancient time when the earth and sky were connected until suddenly cut apart with only fig trees left to bind the two. The Maasai believe that their God Enkai sent herds of cattle to their land by means of the fig trees.
Before embarking on a trip to Kenya, check with the U.S. Consulate in Washington, D.C., for information on necessary vaccinations, visas, and any trouble spots to avoid. Booking tickets for safaris before arriving in Kenya is a must. People returning from Kenya often say they had “the trip of a lifetime