Considered to be “home” of the safari, Kenya has for years, welcomed visitors to experience its abundant wildlife, take part in the annual wildebeest migration through the Maasai (shared with neighbouring Serengeti Reserve in Tanzania) as well as relax on beautiful beaches and interact with the tribes of Maasai and Samburu. The iconic sight of elephants crossing the lush grasslands with the spectacular backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro is a familiar one but Kenya has plenty more on offer and the visually stunning scenery of acacia-studded savanna, semi-desert Rift Valley, flamingo-filled lakes, millions of wildebeest and zebra pounding over the plains followed by plentiful lions and the gorgeous coastal beaches and marine wildlife parks attracts a wealth of annual visitors. With a wide range of lodges of all standards, you can choose the style of travel to suit you best, from an overland camping tour through to luxury lodges in a fly-in safari and everything in between. Kenya really is an exceptional safari destination.
Located in East Africa, Kenya is 580,267sq km and the 27th largest country in the world. The Indian Ocean lies to the south-east and offers the beautiful coastal retreats. To the north of the coastline and east of northern Kenya is Somalia, with Ethiopia to the north. North-west lies Sudan and Uganda west, below this is the mighty Lake Victoria and between here and the Indian Ocean is of course, Tanzania. The growing population is now around 49.3m (estimated for 2019), with the largest city and capital being Nairobi. The oldest city, and original capital (and remains the second largest) is Mombasa. Listed as a lower-middle-income economy it is still the largest in central and eastern Africa with Nairobi as its main commercial hub. Agriculture is the largest sector – tea and coffee are both traditional crops, with fresh flowers now emerging as an export. Tourism and the service industry follow on from here. Kenya is part of the East Africa Community Trade Bloc.
Flora and Fauna
In recent years, Kenya has expanded its conservancies within the community areas and in turn this offers better protection to its game. Renowned globally for Big 5 sightings, the afore-mentioned Great Migration there are over 400 species recorded species of mammal, and one of the most dense populations on the continent.
Large Mammals: include elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and large antelope such as eland.
Predators: within the cat family include lion, cheetah, leopard, caracal, serval and African wildcat; other predators include spotted hyena, wild dog, genet, mongoose, and various jackal along with smaller species.
Mammals: Species often spotted on the plains include giraffe plain zebra, warthog, wildebeest, various gazelle along with hartebeest, kudu, the longnecked gerenuk, waterbuck, oryx and Kik’s dik-dik (think Bambi). Primates are found in Kenya with plentiful vervet, olive baboon, black and white colobus along with De Brazza’s monkeys, and rarely seen lesser Galago.
Endangered mammals: Many animals suffered from poaching and thankfully with many species, numbers have recovered, however, black rhino is generally regarded as most endangered, along with wild dog, Grevy’s zebra, Hunter’s antelope (hirola) and the primate Tana River Mangabey all being listed as most endangered, though lion and cheetah are under pressure and more recently giraffe was listed.
Endemic: Hirola and the Tana River Mangabey both make the endangered and endemic list and one of the rarest antelope, Mountain bongo, Mount Kenya duiker and Uasin gishu topi. Additional mammal species include various shrews, bats, rats and mice. Birds are listed below.
Remember the above is just a guideline of some of the more popular species to look out for or those unusual species – it is not a complete list
Birding: From the world’s biggest bird, the Ostrich, to spectacular flamingos that congregate in their millions at the various Lakes of the Great Rift Valley and camouflage them in pink, Kenya holds some remarkable birding sights that you have to“accidentals”(2019). It is not unusual for birding trips to record 300-600 different varieties on a short trip or to record more than 120 at a particular site on a single day! Look out for the beautifully-ugsee them to believe. With eleven percent of the world’s species – some 1089 different varieties, Kenya’s birding is one of the best in the world, though some records show 1134 these include the ugly maribou stork, along with spectacular birds of prey and shimmering sunbirds and starlings!
There are 10 endemic, along with 70 accidentals, and a number of endangered. The variety of birds in Kenya is made possible by the favourable climate, diverse habitats and geographical features that make it a suitable migratory route for birds. Even without venturing outside Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, more than 600 resident and migratory bird species are found; more than in any other capital city, and more than in most countries. The national bird is the colourful and easily spotted lilac-breasted roller.Bird watching is good all year round in Kenya. The rainy seasons of April and November coincide with migration of birds from and to Europe and Asia, and some of the top day’s totals have been recorded at that time. Migrants make up only about ten percent of Kenya’s birdlife. Spectacular birds of the bush –guinea fowl, go-away birds, rollers and barbets, to mention but a few – are active all year. (Magical Kenya). Endangered species include black-fronted francolin, Sharpe’s longclaw, Aberdare cisticola, Basra reed-warbler, Taita white-eye and Amani sunbird. In the cisticola & allies section are Turner’s eremomela with Taita apalis (critical). Several species of vultures (mainly due to poisoning) make the list with Ruppell’s and white-headed both critically-endangered, and Egyptian, & lappet-faced endangered. Further species of bird of prey, the Steppe eagle, and Sokoke scops-owl, along with Saker falcon are endangered.
This depends on what you want to experience when visiting – birding is best during September to April when migratory birds are present. For game viewing the ultimate dry months are between June to October, with the migration August-September but they are also the most busiest, other good game viewing months are January-February (and into March), however, travelling in low season brings less volume of visitors and often lower prices but be aware some camps/lodges may close due to rains – again this comes down to pre-planning to ensure the route and trip is available during the time you want to travel.
Climate: With Kenya’s diverse geography, there is considerable regional variation in climate. Generally, the best times to visit are between December and March, and from June to October. The rainy periods are the April/May ‘long rains’ and November ‘short rains’. With climate change there can be considerable changes to what is indicated below and these are guidelines only.
Western Kenya: has rainfall throughout the year with April often being the heaviest (up to 200mm); and January generally the lowest with around 40mm. Temperatures vary between 14-18c up to 30-36m throughout the year.: Temperate with averages min 10-14c to maximum 22-28c. Rainfall varies from 20mm in July to 200mm in April; March – June brings the start of the long rainy season and October/November the short rains. Around Mt Kenya is one of the country’s main catchment areas so greater much rainfall can be expected
Northern & eastern Kenya: Overall temperatures here are higher ranging from min 20c at night to 40c during the day. Rainfall is sparse though when it falls is normally due to thunderstorms with November often the wettest month and July driest. Average annual rainfall is between:
Coastal: Humid conditions prevail with rainfall as low as 20mm in February increasing to around 300mm in May and reliant on the monsoon conditions coming from NE through from October to April; and SW for the remainder of the year Average temps vary little during the year 22-24c.
Whilst there is a reasonable degree of public transport, you will find that this will thin out away from the capital and not necessarily take you to the areas as a tourist you wish to explore. For the majority of our clients, who are often on a limited time frame, we recommend organizing your tour in advance, whether an overland safari covering several countries in larger safari trucks, or smaller, more personalised groups. There is a range of scheduled tours for all ranges of budget, or tailored, private-guided tours that can also take you on less popular tourist routes and quieter yet still rewarding destinations. There are also fly-in safari options. Whilst the very adventurous may opt for self-drive tours, these are not something we particularly recommend in Kenya, road conditions can be difficult (to say the least) from well-maintained highways near the cities to poorly maintained, corrugated, eroded, narrow tracks where the weather will also impact on the conditions. There are some “interesting” road rules, and its not uncommon for bribes – with this in mind we do not prepare self-drive itineraries for Kenya.
Passport & Visa Information: It is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they have allowed adequate time to obtain necessary visas in advance if they require them. It is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they have allowed adequate time to obtain necessary visas in advance if they require them.
Visas: Kenya – visas are required for most tourists including UK, USA, China, Australia, New Zealand and most EU countries and can be obtained through the High Commission with evisa prior to arrival or on arrival. Evisa: http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html or Kenya Visa applications: https://immigration.ecitizen.go.ke/ Visas may not be available in advance. Prices vary depending on the type of visa but approx. US$51 for single entry. Holders of passports other than those nationalities mentioned should check with their travel agent/government travel advisory regarding visa requirements as each client is held responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate documentation for entering the country. Your passport must have sufficient empty pages and have at least 6months validity before returning to your home country. You may be refused entry to the country if you need a visa issued prior to arrival. This information is given in good faith but recommend you check in advance as regulations may change without notice.
We recommend that you consult your physician or a travel centre prior to your safari departure, as there are a few health matters that require attention. Here are some guidelines but please remember we are not medical practitioners and recommend you contact your Governments Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss with your doctor about the current situation – as a guideline only and general recommendations – there may be other illnesses and precautions you need to be aware of depending on the area you visit. Please do not underestimate heat exhaustion and diarrhoea Kenya:as a tropical country it is recommended to have vaccines up-to-date and be aware that health facilities can varyin the capital and major towns there are some excellent facilities and well-trained staff, however, as you enter more rural areas this is less so. Be prepared, take a small first aid kit with you and ensure you have medical insurance cover.
Water: Recommend bottled mineral water.
Money Issues, Foreign Exchange & Additional Information
Money FX: Kenya:Kenya shilling
Credit Cards: Visa and MasterCard are sometimes accepted in shops and restaurants in towns/cities and some lodges but do not rely on them for payments or for cash. Credit cards may incur an additional fee and lines may be down so worth carrying extra cash.
Cash: Not obtainable in advance and most people wait until arrival where cash can be obtained. ATM’s are available in towns/cities. USD also widely accepted but no notes issued prior to 2006 and USD100 may not be accepted so recommend smaller notes – we suggest bringing some US$ with you to exchange.
Travel Insurance: As part of the Terms and Conditions to Chameleon Holidays and Travel, in today’s modern world it is considered essential that all clients purchase comprehensive travel insurance and should be inclusive of full medical cover including costs of emergency repatriation to your home country, and cancellation. We strongly recommend covering for loss, damage, theft of personal luggage and belongings, personal injury, accident or illness. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate insurance and have read and understood the full terms and conditions of this policy to ensure you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on your trip. Please carry your insurance details with you at all times and that you have given your details to us before arrival – you may be requested to show your insurance on the morning of safari departure or to complete indemnity so please ensure it is in hand luggage.Chameleon recommends: www.worldnomad.com
Safari: Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/long trousers, shirts/t-shirts) for everyday wear, bright colours or white are not suitable for game viewing in game walks or open vehicles; stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking) or robust trainers with good traction soles, light jacket or jumper (summer time), warm jumper and jacket (winter time), light spray jacket during rainy season.
In towns/cities: normal clothing attire.
Other clothing: sunhat; nightwear; underwear; socks; sandals; swimwear; scarf/gloves; beanie/warm hat for winter months; thermals useful in winter .