Game parks are still the top attraction with Kenyan holiday makers but other destinations and activities are catching up, with more interest being directed at historical and geographical sites. Destinations in the Western circuit and Northern Kenya are also increasingly becoming treasures to be discovered. We give you our top choices of places you can visit and things you can do. Pick one or more activities from our list to take your family or partner and enjoy a weekend together.
1. Put on your walking shoes
You want fresh air? Nothing beats a trek on Ngong or Lukenya Hills. If you choose Ngong, take along some friends or family for nyama choma and drinks after the hike at any one of several popular open-air restaurants along the way. The meat at Ole Polos is to die for. You can also lay out a picnic lunch and drinks at the foot of the hills.
If you feel more adventurous, drive past Mai Mahiu and on to Mt Longonot, to hike the dormant volcano. It is not a steep climb but you need good weather as the shrubbery on the mountain provides little shelter. In western Kenya, hike Mt Elgon, a relatively easy climb although it is one of Kenya’s highest points.
Hells Gate National Park, where you can combine hiking with game viewing and camping or a picnic, is popular with locals and foreigners. The variety of attractions, ranging from wildlife to geological formations, makes Hells Gate a very attractive destination, as it is also mostly an easy hike. Hells Gate provided the setting for the blockbuster cartoon film, Lion King. Another hiking destination is the Lukenya Hills in Athi River.
2. Catch a trout, marlin or tilapia
You love fishing? Go fishing deep in the sea at Watamu, Malindi or Diani, where you can imitate world beating sport fishermen in trying to catch the Great Barracuda, and Blue or Black Marlin.
If you are in Nyanza, take a fishing holiday and stay at Rusinga, Mfangano or Takawiri islands, where you can borrow a rod for a fishing boat ride on Lake Victoria.
Easter in Central Kenya may be spiced with a fishing trip to streams in the Mount Kenya region, starting from the Izaak Walton Inn in Embu or Naro Moru River Lodge off the road to Nanyuki. The two facilities also offer fishing rods for rent.
3. Swim with the dolphins
Why not strap on a mask and go snorkelling in the beautiful, warm waters of the Indian Ocean? Take time to enjoy the serene and beautiful coral reefs of the south coast, and the clear underwater views of the Kisite and Mpunguti national marine parks. Explore the lagoons where sharks take shelter from the rough sea in the Watamu area, which is also home to spectacular marine life. Snorkelling is best during low tide.
4. Bounce on water and dive from the sky
If you are adventurous and enjoy feeling the rush of adrenalin, then white water rafting on the Tana River is for you as it provides a combination of white-knuckle adrenaline thrills.
After the water rafting, stop at Sagana and enjoy jumping off East Africa’s first bungee jump site; a 60 metre (200 feet) high, custom-built steel tower erected on the banks of the Tana River, which you’ll have to climb before the jump. Other places to enjoy water rafting include Mathioya and Athi rivers, where you can also enjoy scenic views of the landscape and possibly see wildlife along the rivers taking a sip.
5. Feel free like the wildlife
Kenya is a tourist haven because she has the world’s largest concentrations of elephants, giraffes, antelopes and zebras. Unlike national parks in other countries, you’ll never be disappointed as virtually every part of the country has a game park teeming with untamed wildlife. In Central Kenya, visit the Aberdare national park while a little more north, drive to the private conservancies of Lewa, Borana or Ngare Ndare or try the Samburu or Meru national parks. Take a drive to the east, to the legendary wilderness of the Tsavo and Amboseli and have your fill of pro-style camera shots of lazing lions and grazing elephants.
Lake Nakuru National Park, is home to a wide variety of wildlife and birdlife, like the lesser and greater Flamingo, while the ultimate prize, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve beckons to the Southwest. In the Nyanza circuit, Ruma National Park near Homa Bay, where you can see wildlife in a park associated with a historical figure, Gor Mahia, a legendary Luo leader whose name is associated with one of Kenya’s leading football clubs of the same name, awaits.
6. Take a trip back into history
Familiarise yourself with our ape-like ancestors at the Olorgesaille archaeological site along the road to Lake Magadi; Kariandusi; or the Koobi Fora archaeological site in Turkana, which will also give you a chance to see some of Kenya’s expansive, untamed wilderness in the long drive to reach it in the North.
Visit Old Town Mombasa, known for its ancient buildings, art designs and culture. Fort Jesus is located just a few steps away from the town. You may also visit Jumba la Mtwana for more about the past.
Gedi Ruins are what remain of a small town built entirely from rocks and stones inhabited by Swahili people and date from the 15th century. Wandering through Gedi is an ideal way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Nairobi National Museum is a good place to learn about Kenya’s history and culture. But you can give it a miss and drive to Kapenguria to visit the prison where the first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was detained with the other ‘Kapenguria Six’ – Achieng’ Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei, Fred Kubai and Kung’u Karumba. For more history, visit the National Archives and Railway Museum in the heart of Nairobi.
7. View the land of variety
The Menengai Crater in Nakuru has always held the fascination of all types of visitors, from eager school children to retirees and this season it should cast a beautiful spell upon you.
Other great geographical views include the Rift Valley floor and escarpment near the smallest church in Kenya outside Mai Mahiu; the Longonot crater, the tea-growing zones of Kericho and Kiambu; and visiting a Maasai village in Kajiado or Narok.
8. Sleep under the stars
Camp inside the Nairobi National Park or in areas around Karen for a weekend of freedom and fun; cook a meal on a stove in the wild and hear the wind scream or whistle at night as rain beats rhythmically on your tent. You can camp right next to the big shots in celebrity cottages – by the lake in Naivasha – or have the whole scene to yourself in the Chyulu Hills where you can also take in the scenery of hot water springs and past volcanic activity.
All game parks and game reserves also offer camping at very affordable rates.
9. Tackle a nature trail
Kakamega Forest is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest and is the last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent.
At the forest, watch over 300 bird and 400 butterfly species; massive trees, scenic spots and waterfalls; over 350 tree species, most of which are indigenous; watch snakes – over 27 species live there; and watch monkeys and other primates.
Walk the Oloolua Nature Trail in Karen, where nature is undisturbed and tree species from the past flourish. Walk on the mountain trail of Ol Donyo Sabuk, where alpine vegetation competes with tropical species for nourishment as you watch buffaloes, monkeys and various bird species. At the peak of Ol Donyo, you can see Nairobi on calm, cloudless days both at day and night.
10. Tee off on holiday
Travel with your golf clubs and practise for a match against Tiger Woods or Adam Scott in future. Find out if there is a club in your holiday destination’s neighbourhood and arrange for temporary membership.
In Nairobi and its environs, visit the Windsor Golf & Country, Muthaiga, Karen, Sigona, Limuru, Kiambu and Railway clubs amongst others. At the coast, golf clubs and resorts with the facilities like Nyali and Mombasa golf clubs; Leisure Lodge Beach & Gold Resort and the Vipingo Ridge Golf Course can accommodate you. Green Park in Naivasha, surrounded by beautiful cottages and clear view of Lake Naivasha, the Aberdare range and Elburru hills is one of the most scenic golf courses in this country. You will can stay in one of the cottages and enjoy sundowners, as you watch buffaloes cross from one ridge to the other, or breakfast while numerous bird species chirp and dance on the acacia trees.
11. Explore a cave or climb some rocks
Mount Kenya forest was a major hideout for Mau Mau freedom fighters that found safe refuge from the coloniser’s bullets in its caves. Today those caves are an attraction you can explore as they are preserved the way they were in the 1950s. You can also explore more caves at the Hells Gate National Park and Oloolua Nature Trail in Karen, Nairobi.
Kit Mikayi is a large rock formation on the Kisumu-Bondo road towards Kombewa market, before a bridge over the Nyamgun River in Kakelo sub-location, about 29 kilometres west of Kisumu. Kit-Mikayi is a popular local pilgrimage site for followers of the Legio Maria sect who come to the rock to pray and fast.
12. Find a fine restaurant
Not travelling out of town? Why not treat you loved ones to a fine dining experience in one of the numerous restaurants in your vicinity? There are many restaurants to choose from ranging from oriental cuisine to European and local delicacies.
For more information, visit www.magicalkenya.com