Tips for a successful Kenyan Safari

What image comes to mind when you hear of the word Safari?

Sitting in the bush on a moonlit night, so close to a lion that you can feel the rumble of its roar in your chest?

Many travelers might conjure up visions of tented camps, gourmet meals in the wild bushes, game drives through the golden savanna, relaxation under a tree enjoying the spectacular views of the vast landscapes and sundowners at the end of the day.

The history of Safari dates back to the 19th century in colonial Kenya. The word itself is derived from the Swahili language which means ‘to travel’. As a commodity for the tourism industry, Africa and more so Kenya has become the terrain where a particular kind of experience is available to Western subjects: adventure, romance, and danger are available under a home-like control and comfort. Africa is packaged into a tour as a spectacle where difference is consumed and cultural difference erected as the provider of authentic experience.

Here are some tips for a fulfilling safari Experience:

What to pack

Travel light! Make comfort your priority and don’t overpack. Your mind is so at peace in that atmosphere, you actually don’t really care about looking flawless, you are really just embracing being in nature.

For clothing, choose colours that help you blend into the savannah, especially if you are planning on going on a walk and avoid loud colours. Also bring clothing that is suitable for the weather and that can last you a few days if laundry services are not immediately available. It is advisable to avoid wearing bright-colored attire on your safari in Kenya; instead, carry clothing of neutral colors that blends in with the bush.

Since there is a probability of mosquitoes and other insects, you need to carry repellents and also apparel that covers the maximum area of your skin like long-sleeved shirts, trouser pants, shoes and socks. Some locations such as those in the Great Rift Valley highlands e.g. Mount Kenya, Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru etc. can be cool in the night so do pack a warm layer and perhaps cozy nightwear.

The Safari Experience

Game drives are the backbone of most safaris, with the idea being to spend as many hours as possible in the bush searching for animals. A game drive can be done at any time of day, but early morning, mid-morning and late afternoon, with a break early on for breakfast, and another in the middle of the day for lunch, is the usual plan. Night drives are also an excellent way to view nocturnal animals, although they are not permitted everywhere.

A few key accessories can greatly improve the quality of your safari experience. Field guides depict the flora and fauna of a specific area alongside photos, identification pointers and distribution maps. If you are into photography, invest in a high-quality digital SLR with a 100-400mm zoom lens and a small, collapsible tripod. Finally, a quality pair of binoculars is probably the most important piece of equipment on safari – even a cheap working pair is better than none at all!

Safety while on Safari

No matter where you go in sub-Saharan Africa, there are rules and regulations you must follow when in the bush. These safari safety rules are designed to keep you and the animals alive.

  • Listen to your guide: Not every situation can be safe. If your guide advises you to move on or back away, then do so.
  • Keep your voices down: Animals scare easily and you wouldn’t want to miss a pride of lions because you are chatting too loudly.
  • Never turn your back: This is for intrepid travelers undertaking a walking or cycling safari (one of the great joys of Africa). The only thing that turns and runs in Africa is prey, so predators like lions may chase you.
  • Always stay in your vehicle. Africa is not a zoo, and its animals will eat or attack you. There have been too many terrible cases of people getting out to try and capture the perfect photo. It always ends badly.

Animals are free to roam and may not be where you want them to be, but the better informed you are, the more likely you are to see what you are after. Prime your senses, keep quiet and look for clues. Watch out for silhouettes, moving vegetation and shapes that do not fit into the landscape. Use your peripheral vision and watch where other creatures are looking. Listen for alarm calls, snorting breath, splashing water and changes in the activity of other creatures.

Finally, relax, keep quiet and give heed to your own primal instincts.

 

Being on safari in Kenya implies visiting the national reserves and parks to watch diversity of wildlife. However, while on safari there are a number of things to watch out. One is dangerous wild animals. While on safaris things may go wrong and tourists are advised to stay in their truck. The tourist may be tempted to get out of the vehicle to take photos. Be warned as this may end up badly.

The tourists are advised to make use of the guides. As a tourist visiting Kenya, always follow the instructions and more importantly listen to the guide. The guide knows the best places, animal movements and the terrain so do not ignore his advice.

Being in the wilderness may bring one into contact with nasty infections like sleeping sickness, malaria, dysentery and biting insects. One must ensure his or her immunization is current. The following jabs are recommended when visiting Kenya: typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis and diphtheria. Also remember to apply insect repellents to the skin to avoid insect bites.

Language is another thing to watch out. Swahili and English are official languages used in Kenya. Therefore, tourists must be knowledgeable of either two languages and  if  need   be   translators   are   available so do not  be scared  your message   will  pass  on  really  well. People and culture are also worth watching. The traditions and culture in Kenya depend on where one is staying.

safari land cruiser
safari land cruiser

But Kenya is largely Christian though Islam is also practiced. While Kenyan people are very friendly, poverty drive some to engage in petty crimes. It is therefore important to take personal safety. If one carries things like expensive jewelry and fancy cameras can attract attention and thus it is advisable not to carry too much cash around, wear expensive jewels or carry cameras.

Kenya has no stable dish, so expect to be served with amazing steak. Meals are made from the fresh produce and are deliciously seasoned. However, avoid street foods as they may upset your stomach.

 

 

Elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal. They spend three-quarters of their time eating. They prefer grass, seed pods, leaves, bark and fruit. They prefer bathing and drinking daily when water is available. Both female and make African elephants have tusks. The tusks have incisors on the upper end.  They employ their trunks to blow dust or mud on their bodies to prevent sunburn. Just like left and right-handed humans, elephants are also either left- or right-tusked.

The tusk that is frequently used is shorter than the other. The trunk serves many purposes: as a nose, siphoning up water, a hand, and a device for picking up food. They have 12 incisors, which wear out one by one. The ears are huge and used for cooling sunburns.

They are part of Kenya heritage and Africa at large. Of all mammal animals, gestation period is longest in elephants. It is 22 months and calves nurse for almost 2-4 years using their mouth rather than the trunk. They take 12 years to mature and become adults.

Their   tusk used for picking up objects, greet one another and trumpet warnings.

They   are essential ecosystem engineers. Many tree species depend on seeds going through their digestive tract before germination.

Due to shrinking of wild spaces, conflict between humans and elephants has intensified in recent years. To address elephant-human conflict, various programs have been initiated including putting electric fences. Unlike other herbivores, females  have two teats between the front legs.

They form groups comprising of related females and their calves. The matriarch leads these groups. Their social structure of is complex and the female adults are the dominant members. Adult males are expelled after reaching 15 years of age. Males may live in isolation or team with others to form bachelors. The problem facing them in Kenya is poaching. Through poaching, numerous elephants are killed year for their valuable ivory.

 

They  are majestic and intelligent animals. There are two types of elephants: Asian and African elephants. Some of the Asian elephants are located in India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. African elephants are the largest land mammals. In Kenya  is the African Elephant, which includes the forest and savannah , known as tembo or ndovu by Kenyan locals.

At an average of 4.8kg the elephant brain is the largest among living and extinct terrestrial mammals. They are very intelligent and studies have shown that they can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent.

The African elephant has permanent and stronger tusks that grow after the first set of tusks fall off. Both males and females have tusks, which are long teeth-like structures protruding from the mouth. Their  tusks continue growing throughout their  life. They  use these tusks for digging, fighting, and looking for food.

Elephants often organize themselves into different herds. The family herd is led by an older female and consists of mothers, calves, and teenage female elephants. The male elephants form other bachelor groups and leave at will to search for mates.

Females spend their entire lives in their family but males depart from their natal family anywhere from 9 to 18 years of age – a process that can take anywhere from 1 to 4 years. When their  families come together, they are termed a bond group. Like the family, bond group membership is also usually determined by genetic relatedness. The next social level is a clan.  Clans are defined as families who share the same dry season home range, when resources are scarce, they share the same foraging area.

Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal; the average period is 640 to 660 days.  At birth calves weigh about 120 kg. New-born calves may consume 11.4 litres of milk a day. As a minimum, the African elephant calf is entirely dependent (emotionally and physically) on his/her mother for three to five years.

They rarely forget their path and they can detect water sources. They often point their trunks in their air and this helps them smell water particles, and they dig holes in the ground to reveal new springs. This helps the other smaller animals get water. They drink about 18 to 50 gallons every day, but they also like to play in the water and mud.

When African elephants are happy, angry, or aggravated, they flap their ears.  They  have very large fleshy ears that also help to keep the cool. Because of the large surface area, they can get rid of excess body heat from the savannah sun. They  has an impressive ability to hear other elephants even if they are a couple of kilometers away.

Tuskers are large male elephants. Kenya Breweries (now EABL) was the first brewing company and the founder of the company, George Hurst, created a lager in 1929. He loved hunting and during one of his expeditions in the jungle, he was trampled to death by an elephant. His brother named the beer Tusker, and it has grown to be one of the most consumed beers in the country.

The Largest and Oldest Elephant, “Giant Tusker,” Was Killed by Poachers. The gut-wrenching news of Satao’s death shook the globe because there are less than 30 African big Tuskers left. With global warming on the rise, these big elephants are becoming extinct because they cannot find water and they are also in danger because of the imminent threat of poachers. Although conservationists and authorities are doing everything they can, the death of Satao in 2014 and Satao II in March 2017 proves that there are still many poachers on the loose.

Although Satao died from a poisoned arrow as BBC reported, his tusks were still attached and he was saved before poachers could try to make away with them. This came after Kenya burned the biggest stockpile of ivory in May 2016 as a bid to discourage poachers.

Tim one of the last remaining great tuskers in Kenya; with tusks so long that they touch the ground recently died due to natural causes. Tim was not only known for his tusks but also his friendly and charismatic personality. He was also known to be a prolific father much sought after by females in oestrus and spent his adult life passing on his genes to elephant population in Amboseli. He died in February, 2020 at the age of 50 from natural causes. Tim was over 11 feet tall and weighed over 12,000 lbs. The 150,000 bundles of muscle fibers in Tim’s trunk can lift about 800 lbs.

 

elephants
Baloon flight in Masai Mara with elephants

 

 

Maasai Mara Game Reserve is a must visit tourist destination in Kenya. Because of its Great Migration, it has been recognized as the newest Wonders of the World.  The Mara Game Reserve remains the epitome of what safari experience in Kenya is all about. It is the perfect site to discover groups of lions resting or closely watching their prey, watch wildebeest migration, see roaming herds of buffalos and elephants, and myriad of  other wildlife.

Mombasa is an excellent city to have fun in the sunny beaches before embarking on the safaris experience. It is a nice place for those seeking serene atmosphere to relax. Historical sites like Fort Jesus and Gedi Ruins are nice places to explore in addition to Watamu National Park.

Amboseli National Park is an ideal site to watch the Big 5 and observe their complex behaviors. Its naturally low-lying landscape and serene atmosphere gives one unobstructed view, enabling excellent photo opportunities and great game watching. The reserve also has varied habits work exploring including wetlands, woodlands, and savannah for incredible views.

The Great Right Valley is an amazing geological wonder encompassing a wealth of tourist attraction sites in Kenya. This dramatic sight is a home to 7 lakes, 12 volcanoes, several game parks, hotels and lodges. Lakes like Turkana, Bogoria, Nakuru and Naivaisha are spectacular to watch. There is also Mt Longonot to visit, Hell’s Gate Park,and  Ol Njorowa gerge to visit.

Another must visit site while in Kenya is Mount Kenya, the second largest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro. The place has incredible views to watch like diverse vegetation, glaciers and geological formations.  Avid climbers can it a try to try and climb the mountain. The place is also rich in diversity to watch including waterbuck, rhino, elephant, buffalo, monkeys and many more.

Only  us   Bison  Safaris   can  make  your dream  come  true in  experiencing  these   great   sites   visits.

Kenya sunset

Kenya :Why  you should visit?

From its scenic landscapes, the extensive wildlife turfs, to the world-renowned distance runners and the most sought-after annual wildebeest, Kenya will surprise and enchant every visitor.

When you dream of Africa, you’re probably dreaming of Kenya. It’s the lone acacia silhouetted on the savannah against a horizon stretching into eternity. It’s the snow-capped mountain almost on the equator and within sight of harsh deserts. It’s the lush, palm-fringed coastline of the Indian Ocean, it’s the Great Rift Valley that once threatened to tear the continent asunder, and it’s the dense forests reminiscent of the continent’s heart. In short, Kenya is a country of epic landforms that stir our deepest longings for this very special continent.

Long after you have left Kenya, there are some things that will stay with you forever – little treasures, both tangible and intangible. You will occasionally remember the faces, the journeys, the tastes and sounds and you will smile to yourself because you got to experience something magical. Here are some unique reasons to visit Kenya:

Go on a Safari and spot the Big Five in Maasai Mara

Kenya is easily one of Africa’s greatest wildlife watching destinations, home as it is to the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and white/black rhinos). Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, embarking on a mission to find the famous Big 5 is often the highlight of a trip to the wilds of Africa.

There are no prizes for guessing that the Masai Mara is the most popular safari destination in Kenya. With its abundant wildlife, iconic savannah views and of course the annual wildebeest migration, the Masai Mara deserves to be at the top of every visitor list.

The Mara is not only famed due to wildebeest’s migration but also to unique sightings such as Tira., Tano Bora and the iconic Scarface.

Nicknamed after the driver guide that spotted the stunning dark-skinned zebra with black spotted polka dots, Tira was such an eye – catching sight. Tira’s black spots are due to pseudomelanism – a rare genetic mutation in the stripes pattern.

Tano Bora (the 5 musketeers or the 5 brothers) which means ‘Magnificent Five’ is a coalition of five male cheetahs that have claimed Mara as their stomping ground and have become popular for their incredible take downs of huge prey and their hunting prowess. Tano Bora have challenged so many assumptions about typical cheetah behaviour. Typically, once reaching adulthood, a male cheetah becomes solitary or joins another to form a pair. It is very rare to see a group this large bonding together. The Tano Bora are now four after Olpadan, formerly the leader of the pack left the coalition. After he lost one of his testicles in a fight with males in March 2019, his rank dropped. From the decision maker and leader of the group, he became the last in the chain and the last one to join the meal.

Owing to one scar in his right eye, Scarface is the oldest and most sought-after lion in the Mara. His machismo is legendary and coupled with his sturdy looks – a black exceptional mane that sweeps back from his forehead- Scarface is the face of survival and resiliencee. Scarface earned his moniker in 2012 when he lost his right eyelid while making a territorial grab with his three brothers Sikio, Morani and Hunter. Scarface died in June 2021 at the age of 14 of natural causes.

The Mara offers such breathtaking moments – an experience in the Mara is never the same from previous encounters. Each day offers a rewarding experience. Other rewarding activities are a balloon safari and a visit to the Mara village.

Visit Amboseli and spot the large herds of elephants

Amboseli is another popular park, and the place to go for those picture postcard views of elephants trundling across the plains with the magnificent back drop of a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. Don’t forget your camera! Home to over 50 animal species, Amboseli is known as the ‘Land of the Giants’ thanks to the large herds of elephants who roam the sun-baked savannah. It’s quite a rare spectacle, especially if you’re lucky enough to encounter some of the famous large tuskers.

Game drive in the Tsavo famed for the red elephants

Wild, uncrowded and authentic, Tsavo is renowned for its red elephants. The red elephants of Tsavo are the only red elephants in the world. Actually, they are really the same color as every other elephant in the world, but they just appear red due to constantly dust-bathing with the Park’s fine red volcanic soil. Tsavo has come a long way since the infamous man-eating lions of 1898. Today, Tsavo East and Tsavo West are vast, wild and perfectly safe for safaris! It’s not always easy to spot the Big 5 here, but they are there, and the difficultly just makes it even more exciting. The fun of safaris is in the anticipation as much as the sighting. Those who persevere will be rewarded with rhino, leopards, buffalo and yes, lions.

Visit Lake Nakuru and discover its flocks of pink flamingos

It’s not often you get to see black and white rhinos against a backdrop of pink flamingos, but here at Lake Nakuru it’s a common sight. The lake is famous for its enormous flamingo flocks who enjoy the shallow alkaline waters, and there are often more than a million of the birds nesting there.

Witness the Spectacular Wildebeest Migration

The Wildebeest Migration is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife. If there is a safari you should go on, this has to be it. The Maasai Mara and the Serengeti National Park together form what no other reserve or park in Africa can! It is incredible, it is magical, it is indescribable and it is a must!

Nowhere in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration, over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October.

The migration has to cross the Mara River in the Maasai Mara where crocodiles will prey on them. This is one of the highlights as the animals try and cross the Mara River alive. In Maasai Mara they will be hunted, stalked, and run down by the larger carnivores. The Maasai Mara also has one of the largest densities of lion in the world and is no wonder this is the home of the BBC wildlife channel Big Cat Diary.

Visit Pristine Beaches, Eat Seafood and Sail in the Kenyan Coast

The white beaches and azure waters along Kenya’s coastline have long put smiles on visitors’ faces. Mombasa, a melting pot of languages and cultures from all sides of the Indian Ocean, waits like an exotic dessert for travelers who make it to Kenya’s coastline.

Indeed, the city dubbed in Swahili Kisiwa Cha Mvita – the Island of War – has many faces, from the ecstatic passion of the call to prayer over the Old Town, to the waves crashing against the coral beaches below Fort Jesus and the sight of a Zanzibar-bound dhow slipping over the horizon.

Diani Beach in Kwale County is one of Africa’s leading beach destinations. With a flawless, long stretch of white-sand beach hugged by lush forest and kissed by surfable waves, it’s no wonder Diani Beach is so popular. This resort town scores points with a diverse crowd: party people, families, honeymooners, backpackers and water-sports enthusiasts. Diani Beach in Kenya is the perfect spot for surfing, because the tides are especially strong and cause great waves.

The undisputed gem of the Kenyan coast is Lamu and her sister islands in the Lamu archipelago. Lamu town is the most perfect example of a historical Swahili city in the world. A warren of rounded houses, airy courtyards shaded by palm streets, cafes serving steaming chapattis and cups of milky tea, inhabited by women in rustling black full-length robes and men riding donkeys, all overlaid with an omnipresent smell of spice – Lamu is hard not to love.

The Bird Life

Kenya is a prime destination for a birdwatching. Tremendous geographical range gives Kenya a variety of climates and landscapes, hence the second highest number of species in Africa. 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. Kenya holds the world-record ‘bird watch’ – with 342 species seen in 24 hours!

Enjoy Breakfast with the Giraffes

The Giraffe Centre is one of the top tourist attractions for visitors to Nairobi.  Don’t miss the opportunity to spend time with these wild giraffes. As well as a chance to learn all about giraffes in Africa, you will get the chance to feed a giraffe by hand and if you are lucky, even kiss one.

The Giraffe Centre has evolved into one of Nairobi’s most popular tourist destinations. The Giraffe Sanctuary is a huge protected site where giraffes are able to wander free and safe. Opposite the sanctuary is a 12-acre area of bush where the Giraffe Centre and famous Giraffe Manor are located. The Giraffe Manor was bought from the Melvilles in the 1990s and has morphed into one of the premier luxury hotels in the world.

The famous Giraffe Manor is set in 12 acres of private land in a Nairobi suburb and allows guests to participate in sunset feeding sessions. One of the most fascinating things about Giraffe Manor is its resident herd of Rothschild’s giraffes who may visit morning and evening, poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat, before retreating to their forest sanctuary.

Adopt an Elephant and Visit Conservancies

Each conservancy in Kenya is unique and provides you with unforgettable experiences. You get to see and even bond with incredible animals. But nothing will touch your heart more than adopting a baby elephant at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

 

 

 

Still  keeping   it  at  Masai Mara  migration safari. Did  you  know   Topi  Antelope is  a   rare   antelope   and  the   fastest  of  the genus? Now  you know .with  patches of blue  spread  along  its  thighs   makes   the   Topi  antelope  look  like  its   adorning  some  blue  jeans  thus  the  name   bluejeans  antelope given  by  the  Masai  People.Topi Antelope#bluejeansantelope#Masaimara migration

Underneath the watchful eye of Mount Kenya, you can discover the unspoilt wilderness of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, famous for pioneering conservation projects and refuge for the last three northern white rhino remaining on the planet.Not only is Ol Pejeta the largest black rhino sanctuary in the whole of East Africa, it is the only place in the region where you can see chimpanzee. It is also home to the Big Five, a mindblowingly rich array of African game and over 200 migrant and resident bird species. The conservancy boasts one of the greatest game-to-area ratios of any reserve in Kenya in a pioneering and mutually beneficial land-management system

On the floor of the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland, lies the beautiful Lake Nakuru National Park. Visitors can enjoy the wide ecological diversity and varied habitats that range from Lake Nakuru itself to the surrounding escarpment and picturesque ridges. Lake Nakuru National Park is ideal for bird watching, hiking,picnic and game drives.

Sunset in Lamu
Sunset in Lamu

The undisputed gem of the Kenyan coast is Lamu and her sister islands in the Lamu archipelago. Lamu town is the most perfect example of a historical Swahili city in the world. A warren of rounded houses, airy courtyards shaded by palm streets, cafes serving steaming chapattis and cups of milky tea, inhabited by women in rustling black full-length robes and men riding donkeys, all overlaid with an omnipresent smell of spice – Lamu is hard not to love.

Lamu Island is a relaxed island and life is somewhat similar to that of Stone Town Zanzibar. The Island has many small villages amidst the coconut trees and it has the most beautiful beaches in Kenya and Africa. Old Town is the main attraction of Lamu. There are many narrow streets, and people cannot access them by cars. Visitors often walk or use donkeys to move from one point to another. It is hard not to be charmed by Lamu and the experiences of laughing with locals, strolling on the beach, and exploring Old Town stay with a person forever. Some small islands near Lamu that are accessible by dhows are Pate, Kiwayu, Manda, and Siyu.

Top things to do:

Visit to Manda Island

Manda is a quiet lattice of dune and mangroves a short hop and jump across from Shela. The appealing long beach facing Lamu is backed by a couple of places to stay and several huge private villas. Beyond the beach, traditional life continues unabated in a local fishing village, and a small Orma settlement looks after a Shela-based green turtle conservation project that visitors can take part in. And if you take a dhow or speedboat to the Takwa ruins, particularly atmospheric around sunset, you can visualise a once- great city that once dominated this peaceful backwater. Manda Island is a must visit and it is one of the best spots to watch the sunset while sipping on some cocktails.

Stay in a Swahili Beach house

When you visit this island, be sure to check different accommodation options and try something in Shela Village. The houses have unique Swahili inspired décor that is such a breath of fresh air. The furniture is also fascinating. In Old Town, you will also get to see how people live. You will see children playing, locals doing their laundry and cooking, and residents will always be very welcoming.

Walking on the beach

The beaches are so beautiful and strolling a few kilometers south of Lamu is a great experience. Shela beach is fantastic, and you can swim and attend one of the local yoga or cooking lessons.

Walking along the narrow streets exploring the Old town

Walking the labyrinth of narrow streets or riding a donkey is an unforgettable experience. The architecture of the place is also awe-inspiring, and the town is a UNESCO world heritage site. The houses have large wooden doors, balconies, and verandas.

 Trying the authentic Swahili Cuisine

Make sure to try different Swahili food. Try pilau, biryani, curry, coconut rice, and seafood. Sip on some coconut water too. There are also many restaurants to try local food and fresh juices.

Cultural visits to Lamu Museum, Lamu Fort, Donkey Sanctuary and the Swahili House Museum

Visit the Lamu Museum if you want to delve deeper into culture and history. Other cultural attractions are the Lamu Fort, Donkey Sanctuary, and the Swahili House Museum. Lamu has some religious and cultural festivals too, so if you are around when they are happening, make sure to attend one.

Sailing on a dhow

On the harbor, you will meet with many locals who ask to take people on dhows, and some of the activities are surfing and snorkeling. Sailing in a traditional dhow with incredible views on the horizon is a must do. You are sure to make new friends on the journey too.

Mombasa
Elephant Tusks in Mombasa City

Mombasa, a melting pot of languages and cultures from all sides of the Indian Ocean, waits like an exotic dessert for travelers who make it to Kenya’s coastline. Having more in common with Dakar or Dar es Salaam than Nairobi, Mombasa’s blend of India, Arabia and Africa can be intoxicating, and many visitors find themselves seduced by East Africa’s biggest and most cosmopolitan port despite its grime and sleaze, which somehow only adds to the place’s considerable charm.

Mombasa has a long history the traces can be found from the writings of the 16th century. Many traders did attempt to enforce their governance on the town due to its advantageously central location, where Arab influence is felt prominently till date.

The town of Mombasa remained the center of the Arab trade in ivory and slaves from the 8th to the 16th century. It is known that Arab traders sailed down around to the coast of Kenya from the first century AD who continued to build trade along the ports of Mombasa and Lamu.

Portuguese also had their influence on the port that changed the face of the land by burning it almost three times. It is believed that Vasco da Gama was the first known European to visit Mombasa, whose purpose of exploration was to spread the Christian faith to further expand Portugal’s trading area.

Mombasa became Portugal’s main trading centre of spices, cotton and coffee, where Fort Jesus was constructed. The Fort served as the major center for trading goods that protected the Portuguese from conflicts with locals the remains of which still attracts a great deal of tourists and visitors. As slavery was highly practiced during that era, the local slaves were exchanged for goods. Until 1698, the Portuguese controlled the city, but soon the Omani Arabs took over the charge.

Finally, the British took control of Mombasa in 1895, wherein the British East African Protectorate was established. It came under British administration in 1895 and was the capital of the East Africa Protectorate until 1907. Mombasa became a municipality in 1928 and assumed council status in 1959.

An exotic paradise in the African tropics is what comes to mind when people think of Mombasa. The cosmopolitan tourist hub is filled with lots of fun-filled activities and boasts amazing sites that guarantee you will never get bored. It is no wonder that hundreds of visitors grace its shores each year and leave with delightful tales to tell. Here are some amazing things you can do and see in Mombasa:

Visit the Beach

Lapped by the Indian Ocean, Mombasa has an amazing shoreline with white sandy beaches stretched out from the South to the North Coast, readily accessible to all. They say life’s at ease with the ocean breeze, spending time watching the ocean can be very therapeutic, especially when you know you have the beach at your disposal any time you need to seek solace.

A walk around Old Town

The historic Old Town of Mombasa is located just off Fort Jesus and sprawls over 180 acres (40.5 hectares). The tiny streets are lined with old buildings featuring ornately carved wood and architecture that is a blend of the influences of Arabic, Asian, European, and African cultures.

Located in the Old Town is the Old Port of Mombasa where merchant dhows (traditional sailing boats) from Arabia, Persia, India, and Somalia once graced its docks, making it not only a melting pot of cultures but also an integral part of the trade along the ancient maritime Silk Route. While wandering through the streets of the Old Town, stop by one of the many antique stores or sample some Swahili cuisine.

Visit Haller Park

Formerly known as Bamburi Nature Trail, Haller Park is a hit with bird enthusiasts and animal lovers. Take your family over and explore wildlife exhibitions of giraffes, Cape buffaloes, zebras, waterbucks and hippos. And don’t forget the famous inter-species couple who became an internet sensation after the 130-year-old tortoise, Mzee, adopted the orphaned hippo, Owen. More than 160 species of birds also call the park home.

Fort Jesus

Built between 1593 and 1596 by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus stands guard at the entrance of the harbor towards the Old Port of Mombasa. The Fort remains one of the finest examples of 16th century Renaissance military fortifications.

It was also one of the only forts to be maintained by the Portuguese along the Swahili coast although it was captured and recaptured nine times, falling between the influence of the Portuguese, Omani Arabs, and the British who would go on to colonize Kenya.

As of 2011, the fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Mombasa’s most popular tourist destinations. Inside the fort there is a museum that houses numerous relics from its occupation and offers some outstanding views of the Mombasa Harbor.

Mombasa’s Elephant Tusks

A trip to Mombasa is incomplete unless you take a picture next to the famous Mombasa Elephant Tusks. Located in the city center along Moi Avenue, the tusks were built in 1952 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s visit.

The intersecting tusks, made from aluminum, form the letter ‘M’ for Mombasa and mark the entrance to the heart of the city. From a distance, the aluminum tusks resemble elephant ivory and are nicknamed ‘Pembe Za Ndovu’ by the locals, a Swahili word meaning elephant ivory.

Mamba Village

Visit Mamba Village and get to see East Africa’s largest crocodiles. Not only will you acquire superior knowledge of these fascinating reptiles, but you can also ride on horseback and admire the beautiful botanical garden and its aquarium.

The garden exhibits flowering orchids, aquatic plants and carnivorous species. One of the most exciting things to do is watching the crocodiles fight for food during feeding time. There is a restaurant that prepares game meat such as crocodile, ostrich and zebra delights.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

One of the joys of Mombasa are the endless marine activities that are held on the beach every day. For those who prefer a more adventurous maritime experience from the ordinary kayaking and swimming, there is the opportunity to go scuba diving and snorkeling.

The Mombasa Marine National Park provides such services where you will be delighted to see mangroves, sea grass beds and the coral reef that it protects. Be fascinated with the stingrays, seahorses and eels that are a part of its habitat.

Nguuni Nature Sanctuary

Located on the Nguu Tatu Hills about 4 km away from the Bamburi Cement Factory, the Nguuni Nature Sanctuary is home to a number of species such as giraffe, eland, waterbuck, oryx, and several bird species. It is the perfect place to experience a game ride, sunset, picnic, barbecue and enjoy sundowners.

 

Aberdare

The Aberdare National Park is part of the Aberdare Mountain Range, a region of stunning and diverse landscape where jagged peaks soar up to 3,930m and deep ravines cut through the forested slopes. The park in the central highlands of Kenya retains an air of mystery – you can only imagine what undiscovered creatures still lurk here, such as rare Black Leopards.

The Aberdares are an isolated volcanic range that forms the eastern wall of the rift valley, running about 100 Km north south between Nairobi and Thompsons Falls. This beautifully scenic region is much cooler than the savannahs and offers a completely different perspective on the country.

The topography is diverse with deep ravines that cut through the forested eastern and western slopes and there are many clear streams and waterfalls. The Aberdares are an important water catchment area providing water to the Tana and Athi rivers and part of Central Rift and Northern drainage basins.

The National Park lies mainly above the tree line running along the 10,000 ft (3,048 meters) contour with some forest and scrub at lower altitude in the ‘salient’ area near Nyeri with the boundary running down to the 7,000 ft (2,296 meters) contour.

The unusual vegetation, rugged terrain, streams and waterfalls combine to create an area of great scenic beauty in the National Park. The park is surrounded by a predominantly indigenous forest, whose management is under a MOU between Kenya Wildlife Services and the Forest Department.

Animals that can be found on safari in Aberdare National Park include Elephant, Buffalo, the Black Rhino, Leopard, Baboon, Black and White Colobus Monkey and Sykes Monkey. Rarer sightings include those of Lions, the Golden cat and the Bongo – an elusive Antelope that lives in the bamboo forest.

Eland and several cats can be found higher up in the moorlands. Bird-watching is very good here with over 250 species of birds in the park, including the Jackson’s Francolin, Sunbirds and Plovers. The birds of prey are of particular interest with African Goshawks, Ayres’ Hawk Eagles, Rufous-breasted Sparrow Hawk and Mountain Buzzards.

Within the park, lies the Treetops Lodge and the Ark, the latter being a lodge built in the shape of Noah’s Ark. These provide day game drives and a choice of other activities as well as night game viewing in the Salient area of the Park with good sightings of Elephant, Buffalo, Lion and Rhino which are attracted to the saltlicks and waterholes each evening.

Tree tops lodge - Aberdare
Tree tops lodge – Aberdare

The experience in Aberdare National Park is unlike anywhere else in Kenya. The Park is most famous as the place where Princess Elizabeth found out that she was Queen upon the death of her father at Treetops Lodge. Since then this lodge has been popular with tourists on safari to Kenya.

The Ark Tree Lodge overlooks one of the largest salt-licks and waterholes in the Aberdare Mountains where you can see a variety of forest game unlike anywhere else in Africa. The lodge is built in the shape of an Ark and offers accommodation in en-suite rooms. The waterhole is floodlit so you can view wildlife at night.

Tree tops Aberdare
Tree tops lodge – Aberdare

Aberdare Country Club is nestled on a slope of Mweiga Hill in the Aberdare Highlands, part of the Great Rift Valley. Considered a heritage property in Kenya, The Aberdare Country Club has retained the charm of a private home with the simple comforts of a country inn. Activities include horseback riding safaris, golf, nature walks, game drives and more.

The Aberdare National Park covers the bulk of the heights of the Aberdare Mountain Ranges in Central Kenya. The best times to visit the Park are in January and February. Due to its high altitude the region is much cooler than the savannahs and coastal plains.