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Kenya Country Information

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Fast Facts About Kenya


  • Capital city: Nairobi
  • Country size: 583,000 square kilometers
  • Population: over 31 million
  • Main languages: English, Swahili
  • Head of State: President Mwai Kibaki
  • People: Over 42 tribal groups including the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii and Meru.
  • Religion: Christian (35% Protestant, 30% Roman Catholic), 30% Muslim, 5% Animist
  • Electricity: 240 V, 50 Hz
  • Dialling code: 254
  • Measurements: metric system
  • Neighbouring countries: Tanzania (S), Ethiopia and Sudan (N), Uganda (W) and Somalia (E)
  • Main Rivers: Tana and Athi/Galana rivers
  • Highest Mountains: Mount Kenya (5199m) is Kenya's highest and Africa's second highest mountain, Mount Elgon (4321m) is Kenya's second highest mountain. Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro (5895m) is found in neighbouring Tanzania. You can see it from Amboseli National Park.

Public Holidays


  • 1 Jan New Year's Day
  • March/April Easter (Good Friday and Easter Monday)
  • 1 May Labour Day
  • 1 June Madaraka Day
  • 10 Oct Moi Day
  • 20 Oct Kenyatta Day
  • 12 Dec Independence Day
  • 25 Dec Christmas Day
  • 26 Dec Boxing Day

Best Time to go to Kenya


Kenya's climate is varied given its geographical diversity. The peak tourist months are January to February and July to August. The shoulder season is from June to September. The rainy season is from March to May (long rains) and October to December (short rains).

  • Jan and Feb:  Largest concentrations of bird life on the Rift Valley lakes (hot and dry) Game congregates round water sources in parks, making it easier to spot
  • July and Aug: Best months overall for game viewing (dry)
  • June to Sept: See the visual extravaganza of the annual wildebeest migration (dry) from Serengeti into Masai Mara
  • Oct to Jan: Best time for snorkeling and diving as seas are clearest (esp Nov).
  • March to May: Quieter, parks less full, accommodation prices a lot less
  • Oct to Dec: Days usually start out sunny, rains fall in late afternoon
(rainy season) Rains generally don't affect your ability to get around as most roads are good (however check with parks such as Amboseli which have a tendency to get flooded; others may be closed)

Climate


Kenya enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country.

The average annual temperature for the coastal town of Mombasa (altitude 17 metres) is 30.30 Celsius maximum and 22.40 Celsius minimum, the capital city, Nairobi (altitude 1,661 metres) 25.20 Celsius maximum and 13.60 Celsius minimum, Eldoret (altitude 3,085) 23.60 Celsius maximum and 9.50 Celsius minimum, Lodwar (altitude) 506 metres) and the drier north plainlands 34.80 Celsius maximum and 23.70 Celsius minimum.

There is plenty of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning.

The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and when it does come it often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and coldest in July to August.

The annual migration of wildlife between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya takes place between June and September. The migration of almost two million wildebeest, zebras and other species is nature's greatest spectacle on earth. The animal trek has been captured by filmmakers worldwide.



Time Zone in Kenya


Kenya is 3 hours ahead of GMT. Most locals dealing with foreign tourists know to use this time. However, out of the main tourist areas you'll need to be aware that traditional Swahili time differs to our time by six hours. It's even more confusing that it's either six hours ahead or six hours behind. In Swahili time noon and midnight are 6 o'clock (saa sitta), while both 7am and 7pm are 1'clock (saa moja). So, if someone gives you the time in Swahili, your best bet is to add and subtract six hours. Then use your common sense to tell whether they're referring to evening or morning.

Money


The unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KSh). It's made up of 100 cents.
Tipping is expected in Kenya. Most employees earn low wages. If you take a safari a tip is standard for the driver, guide and cook

Fast Facts


As you'll discover, local sarongs (known as kangas and kikois) serve a multitude of purposes. Kangas bear brightly coloured prints and are made of cotton. Every different print represents a Swahili proverb. They're traditionally sold in pairs: one to wrap round the waist, the other to carry a baby on your back. Kikois are the thicker, striped fabrics which originated in Lamu still one of the best, but not only, places to buy them.

At some point you're bound to encounter the local specialty.. It's called nyama choma (barbecued goat's meat) and is often served with a vegetable mash (matoke). Locals and expatriates both seem to love it but, to the uninitiated, this tough meat takes some getting used to.

Medical


Nairobi has state of the art medical services at private hospitals. Medical insurance is recommended as facilities are limited though.

Attractions


Game viewing in Kenya
Witness the spectacle of the famous wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara National Reserve and visit the famous parks of Amboseli, Tsavo and Samburu.

Bird watching in Kenya
Spots include the Rift Valley lakes of Bogoria, Baringo, Naivasha and Nakuru.

Trekking
Climbing the snow-capped heights of Mount Kenya doesn't require specialist equipment, except for the highest peaks of Batian and Nelion. Trekkers can reach the third highest, Point Lenana (4985m) which has wonderful views. Trekkers visit mainly during mid Jan to late Feb or late Aug to September.

Camel / Donkey Safaris
For an off the beaten track desert experience, try a camel or donkey safari with the Samburu and Turkana tribes.

Hot-air Ballooning
Nothing beats ballooning in the Masai Mara in the early morning! View wildlife as you drift silently across the plains. Later on enjoy a hearty breakfast with sparkling wine.

Chilling on the Beach
Kenya has postcard beaches with white sand, coconut palms and clear blue water. Many are lined with beach resorts. South of Mombasa, you'll find beaches that are white coral sand and protected by coral reef (which means no sharks). Lamu has some of the best beaches on this coast, especially since they're not plagued by the seaweed problems of some of the beaches to the north of Mombasa (at some times of year). Diani beach is one of the best on the mainland while Tiwi beach, between Diani and Mombasa is more low-key and less developed.

Diving / Snorkeling in Kenya
Most divers head for the marine parks of Malindi and Watumu. Although less accessible and not as developed, Shimoni and Wasani islands are even better. Non-divers can still enjoy the underwater world of corals and fish in glass bottomed boats (for example in Malindi). Visibility is often only fair as there is often plankton in the water. You'll still see plenty of fish, even if coral isn't spectacular.

Explore the Rich History of the Swahili Coastal Culture
Lamu island: Little has changed over the centuries in Kenya's oldest and most atmospheric town of Lamu. You can reach it via launch from the mainland.

Gedi: Shrouded in mystery the ruins of this Arab-Swahili town are worth exploring. Excavations reveal that the town was founded in the 13th century. It was then abandoned in the 17th and 18th centuries but no one seems to know why.

Fort Jesus: This Portuguese fort in Mombasa, built in 1593, changed hands nine times between 1631 and 1875. It's now a museum and from the Omani house you can see over the Old City.

Sail on a Dhow in Kenya
Dhows, used as transport from the 8th century onwards, are still the main form of travel round the Lamu archipelago. A trip on board a dhow is a memorable experience.

Things to buy in Kenya
Look out for makonde (dark wood carvings), kangas and kikois (local sarongs), kiondos (woven sisal baskets), colourful Maasai beads, spears and shields, decorated calabashes, paintings and soapstone carvings (found in Kisii in the west).





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3 Travellers Comments
Written by Carmia Crause

Leopard Beach

Melinda, I am so sorry for not getting back to you. It is atrocious, I know!!! We wanted to really draft a nice letter and wanted you to forward it to management at Leopard Beach but we are both so busy that we are just not getting time to sit down and just put our thoughts ... and great memories on paper! We had a lovely time!! The Hotel, the staff, the food, the gardens, entertainment ... everything was just great great great!!! We had a lovely first anniversary! To be 100% honest, I will not book clients into standard rooms. I organized a hotel inspection with the manager and saw that the superior rooms are really much nicer and apparently not a lot more expensive. Other than that, I can only complement the hotel!! Thank you again and thank you for your good service and follow up.
Written by Jackie Gibb

Leopard Beach Holiday

Dear Melinda 
As asked , here is a quick report of our holiday in Kenya First of all, I would like to than you for organizing it, all went so smoothly, from transport to & from airport to the massages & hotel service. 
The hotel is so well situated as the beach in front is beautiful, the spa & the food etc was fantastic. The hotel grounds are fantastically kept & has all sorts of monkeys, bush babies etc running around. 
We went on lovely tours, snorkeled & I had lovely 5 km walks on the beach on the beach everyday& even had a camel ride. 
Our only regret is that we only went for one week, we could have done with 2 weeks. 
Thanks again for a wonderful holiday  
Regards 
Jackie Gibb
Written by Karyn

Pinewood Village

Hi Candis, 
 
Thanks, it was actually excellent! Everything ran smoothly and Pinewood was a great spot - am so glad we chose it. Their food is superb - we only used the private chef once as we wanted to have the buffet theme evenings the rest of the time as they were so good.  
 
Thanks a mil! 
Karyn

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