#A grandiose and varied nature
At the crossroads of different cultural and climatic areas, Kenya offers almost the whole range of landscapes that one could expect from an African country: savannahs, equatorial forests, high plateaus, deserts and semi-deserts, immense beaches of fine sand with turquoise waters, coconut plantations.... From the mountains to the immense depression of the Rift Valley, the charismatic silhouette of Kilimanjaro and the Indian Ocean coast, many landscapes are striking and grandiose. As the human habitat is of relatively low density and this nature still benefits from a rich, diverse and surprising wildlife, Kenya is definitely a destination for lovers of wide open spaces. We mentioned the relief, but the colours and lights are just as amazing, as the flora varies greatly from one region to another, as well as the depth of the skies...
An abundant and easily observable wildlife :
This is what makes Kenya's reputation as a tourist destination: safaris, large African mammals, the famous "Big Five" that can be observed closely in their wild condition... The richness of Kenya's wildlife is unique. Almost all the species expected in Africa are represented in impressive numbers: lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, buffaloes, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, antelopes, hippos, and more than 1,000 species of recorded birds, to name a few. In short, Kenya only needs the great apes (bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees) to have a complete range of the abundant African fauna living in its natural environment.
Beach resorts are one of Kenya's specialities, which welcomes many Western holidaymakers (especially Italians and Germans), from the Indian subcontinent, and increasingly from China. The Kenyan coast, especially south of Mombasa and Lamu, is a real postcard setting: clear, warm waters, a coral reef that repels sharks and offers superb underwater bottoms, pristine fine sand, baobabs, coconut trees, colobus and vervets playground... The country has relied heavily on holiday villages, some of which flirt with great luxury, but mass tourism is running out of steam and, in recent years, it is the smaller, more exclusive and less impersonal structures that are taking their revenge. These are not the best places to access authentic Kenya, but on the beach side the picture is perfect.
Good quality infrastructure
Oriented towards tourism before independence, the country has well understood its major assets, national parks and beaches. As a result, tourism infrastructures are numerous and of high quality, a professionalism achieved in few other African countries. On the other hand, it is necessary to pay the price, and for tourists in Kenya, nothing is given, which favours higher budget or even luxury tourism. On the other hand, Kenya is a relatively developed country for its geographical area. Roads are generally in good condition, as well as public infrastructure. Independent travel is quite easy, which is not always the case in most other countries in the region.
More than forty ethnic groups live together in a country that is still deeply rooted in tribal identities. The Swahili civilization of the coast, the agricultural cultures of the Kikuyu or Luo, the Maasai or Samburu Nilotic pastoralists, the peoples of the steppe such as the Turkana, the Somali camel drivers, not to mention the active Indian community that reigns over the economic sector: Kenya is rich in contrasting cultures, some diving into equatorial Africa, others being the incarnation of savannah civilizations, others finally belonging entirely to Muslim sub-Saharan Africa. The Swahili, mixed race culture, which marks many East African countries, has its roots on the ocean coast of Kenya. While modernity and urbanization have erased many features of indigenous cultures, many are nevertheless preserved, particularly in large rural areas and in the northern desert. Nairobi is the financial capital of East Africa and is home to businessmen in suits and ties, while some tribes still live entirely in their original tradition. Nor have Islam and Christianity erased many of the rituals and beliefs that mark the lives of a large part of the population. The visitor will be able, directly or indirectly, to experience these different cultures and to experience varied lifestyles that are certainly far from Western standards.
A quality gastronomy
Numerous and refreshing fruits, fine and spicy dishes, a delicious way of preparing meat, Kenyan gastronomy is a delight and establishments for tourists generally practice it in a very qualitative way. Attention is generally paid to the freshness of the products and their balance; the buffets of lodges and hotels generally offer temperate African and Indian flavours for a Western palate that does not always tolerate the extreme spices of native cuisine. Pineapples, mangoes, coconuts, watermelons, fish, rice from every angle, sheep or beef, various vegetables: a stay in Kenya will also be a gastronomic experience. There are also many quality restaurants on the east coast, in Nairobi, in the centre, and in some hotels, which have clearly understood that customer satisfaction also depends on the taste buds.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette