- Quick Facts
Full country name: Republic of Kenya
Area: 583,000 sq km
Capital City: Nairobi
People: 22% Kikuyu, 14% Luhya, 13% Luo, 12% Kalenjin, 11% Kamba, 6% Kisii, 6% Meru, 16% other
Languages: English, Swahili, indigenous.
Religion: 35% Protestant, 30% Roman Catholic, 30% Muslim, 5% Animist
Government: Republic (multiparty state)
President: Mwai Kibaki
GDP: US$23.9 billion
GDP per head: US$360
Annual Growth: 1.6%
Major Industries: small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, beer, batteries, textiles, flour), agricultural processing, oil refining, chemicals, cement, tourism
Major trading partners: Uganda, Tanzania, UK, Germany, UAE, South Africa
- Country Facts
Kenya’s most spectacular annual event is organized by an unlikely group – wilderbeasts. Literally millions of these ungainly antelopes move en masse in July and August from the Serengeti in search of lush grass. They head south again around October. The best place to see this phenomenon is at the Masai Mara National Reserve. Kenya’s more orthodox annual events include public holidays such as Kenyatta Day (20 October) and Independence Day (12 December).
Kenyan shilling (KSh), divided into 100 cents
With the deregulation of the money supply, foreign-exchange bureaus are the best places to change money. Their rates are competitive and they don’t charge commission. Banks will change money, but their commission can be steep.
With such an active tourist industry, Kenya is a country where tipping is expected. In anything more than a basic eatery, 5-10% of the bill is the usual amount expected.
Kakamega Forest Reserve
This is a superb slab of virgin tropical rainforest in the heart of an intensively cultivated agricultural area of Western Kenya. It’s home to a huge variety of birds and animals and is well worth the minimal effort required to get to it. The forest area of the reserve is where you’ll find a number of primate species including the red-tailed monkey, black & white colobus monkey and the blue monkey. The best way to appreciate the forest is to walk.
Marsabit National Park & Reserve
This northern park is home to Kenya’s larger mammals including lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, hyenas and gazelles. Because the area is thickly forested, you won’t see much unless you spend quite some time here – preferably camping at Lake Paradise. Since this crater lake is aptly named, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s an enchanting place to rough it and few camp sites in Kenya can rival it for scenery and tranquility.
The first of many genuinely human footprints to be stamped on Kenyan soil were left way back in 2000 BC by nomadic Cushitic tribes from Ethiopia. A second group followed around 1000 BC and occupied much of central Kenya. The rest of the ancestors of the country’s medley of tribes arrived from all over the continent between 500 BC and AD 500. The Bantu-speaking people (such as the Gusii, Kikuyu, Akamba and Meru) arrived from West Africa while the Nilotic speakers (Maasai, Luo, Samburu and Turkana) came from the Nile Valley in southern Sudan. As tribes migrated throughout the interior, Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula and Shirazis from Persia (now Iran) settled along the East African coast from the 8th century AD onwards.
Drawn by the whiff of spices and money, the Portuguese started sniffing around in the 15th century. After venturing further and further down the western coast of Africa, Vasco da Gama finally rounded the Cape of Good Hope and headed up the continent’s eastern coast in 1498. Seven years later, the Portuguese onslaught on the region began. By the 16th century, most of the indigenous Swahili trading towns, including Mombasa, had been either sacked or occupied by the
Portuguese – marking the end of the Arab monopoly of the Indian Ocean trade. The Portuguese settled in for a long period of harsh colonial rule, playing one sultan off against another. But their grip on the coast was always tenuous because their outposts had to be supplied from Goa in India. Control of the coast was won back by the Arabs in 1720.
The remainder of the 18th century saw the Omani dynasties from the Persian Gulf dug in along the East African coast. The depredations of the Portuguese era and constant quarrels among the Arab governors caused a decline in trade and prosperity, which meant that economic powerhouses such as Britain and Germany weren’t interested in grabbing a slice of East Africa until about the mid-19th century.
With Europeans suddenly tramping all over Africa in search of fame and fortune, even Kenya’s intimidating interior was forced to give up its secrets to outsiders. Until the 1880s, the Rift Valley and the Aberdare highlands remained the heartland of the proud warrior tribe, the Maasai. By the late 19th century, years of civil war between the Maasai’s two opposing factions had weakened the tribe. Disease and famine had also taken their toll. This opened the way for the English to negotiate a treaty with the Maasai laibon (chief, or spiritual leader) and begin work on the Mombasa-Uganda railway – which cut straight through the Maasai grazing lands. The halfway point of this railway is roughly where Nairobi stands today.
It was downhill from here for the Maasai. As white settlers demanded more fertile land, the Maasai were herded into smaller reserves. The Kikuyu, a Bantu agricultural tribe from the highlands west of Mt Kenya, also had vast tracts of land ripped from under their feet.
White settlement in the early 20th century was initially disastrous, but – once they bothered to learn a little about the land – the British succeeded in making their colony viable. Other European settlers soon established coffee plantations and by the 1950s the white-settler population had reached about 80,000.
As opposition to colonial rule grew, the Kenya African Union (KAU) emerged and became strident in its demands. Other such societies soon added their voices to the cry for freedom, including the Mau Mau, whose members (mainly Kikuyu) vowed to drive white settlers out of Kenya. The ensuing Mau Mau Rebellion ended in 1956 with the defeat of the rebels. The death toll stood at over 13,500 Africans – Mau Mau guerrillas, civilians and troops – and just over 100 Europeans.
Kenyatta spent years in jail or under house arrest but was freed in 1961 and became leader of the reincarnated KAU, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). He ushered in independence on 12 December 1963, and under his presidency the country developed into one of Africa’s most stable and prosperous nations. With Kenyatta’s death in 1978 came Daniel Arap Moi, a member of the Tugen tribe.
Moi’s rule was characterized by nepotism, rifts and dissension. He took criticism badly and as a result oversaw the disbanding of tribal societies, disrupted universities and harassed opposition politicians. A coup attempt by the Kenyan Air Force in 1982 was put down by forces loyal to Moi. With the winds of democratic pluralism sweeping Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s, international aid for Moi’s Kenya was suspended.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and major aid donors demanded that repression cease and Moi’s political stranglehold ease. He conceded ground, but much to his delight, the opposition in the 1993 election shot itself in the foot – The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was unable to agree on a leader. By splitting into three parties, FORD’s much-vaunted cause became hopeless. Moi, the beneficiary of his opposition’s vanity, won with just one-third of the vote.
In 1995, a new party was launched in an attempt to unite the splintered opposition. The party was Safina, founded by Richard Leakey, famed anthropologist, elephant savior and political activist. Elections were held in Kenya at the end of 1997. Despite widespread allegations of vote rigging and considerable intimidation of opposition candidates, Moi and KANU once again scraped home with a little over 40% of the vote. Although Moi promised to rid the government of corruption this was met by an air of resignation in the country, with Kenyans sitting tight until the day when he retired.
In 2002 Moi decided to retire on very generous retirement benefits. At the December 2002 elections, KANU was routed by the National Rainbow Coalition, led my Mwai Mbaki. This has brought about a feeling of new optimism in the country. Meanwhile, Kenya is struggling with a number of problems. Since 1997, Kenya has experienced major floods, cholera and malaria epidemics, ethnic fighting and a major drought. HIV remains as a major problem. In August 1998, terrorists bombed the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing over 250 people and injuring more than 5000, illustrating Kenya’s vulnerability to increased social and political turmoil. Just as things were looking up, there was a suicide bomb blast at a hotel north of Mombasa in November 2002.
There are more than 70 tribal groups among the Africans in Kenya. Distinctions between many of them are blurred – western cultural values are becoming more ingrained and traditional values are disintegrating. English and Swahili are the languages taught throughout the country, but there are many other tribal languages. These include Kikuyu, Luhia, Luo and Kikamba as well as a plethora of minor tribal tongues.
Most Kenyans outside the coastal and eastern provinces are Christians of one sort or another, while most of those on the coast and in the eastern part of the country are Muslim – they make up around 30% of the population. In the more remote tribal areas you’ll find a mixture of Muslims, Christians and those who follow their ancestral tribal beliefs.
Kenyans love to party, and the music style known as benga is the contemporary dance music that rules. It originated among the Luo people of western Kenya and became popular in the area in the 1950s. Some well-known exponents of benga include Shirati Jazz, Victoria Kings, Globestyle and the Ambira Boys.
Kenyan cuisine generally consists of stodge filler with beans or a meat sauce. It’s really just survival fodder for the locals – maximum filling-up potential at minimum cost. If you had to name a national dish in Kenya, nyama choma (barbecued meat, usually goat), would probably be it. Kenyan food is not exactly designed for gourmets – or vegetarians. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, are well supplied.
On Africa’s east coast, Kenya straddles the equator and shares a border with Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. Its coast is lapped by the Indian Ocean and it shares the vast waters of Lake Victoria with its western and southern neighbors. The Rift Valley and Central Highlands area form the backbone of the country, and this is where Kenya’s scenery is at its most spectacular. The
Kenya’s flora and fauna defies easy description. The vast plains of the south are dotted with flat-topped acacia trees, thorn bushes and the distinctive bottle-shaped baobab tree. On the rarified slopes of Mt Elgon and Mt Kenya, bamboo forests sprout and even higher up is the bizarre groundsel tree, with its huge cabbage-like flowers, and giant lobelias with long spikes. If you’re more into fur and feathers, then head for the teeming wildlife parks.
Lions, buffalos, elephants, leopards and rhinos all cavort openly in at least two of the major parks. Endangered animals such as the black rhino are slowly making a comeback and sanctuaries for these creatures can be visited in Tsavo and Lake Nakuru national parks.
Kenya’s climate varies enormously from place to place. The Rift Valley offers the most agreeable weather, while the arid bushlands and semi-desert regions can range from daytime highs of up to 40
- When to Go
The main tourist season is in January and February, since the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. It’s also when Kenya’s birdlife flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. June to September could be called the ‘shoulder season’ as the weather is still dry. The fall between March and May.
- Explore Attractions
Mt.Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. It’s located in central Kenya. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya.
Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes at an elevation of 1754 m above sea level. It lies to the south of Nakuru, in the rift valley of Kenya. The lake’s abundance of algae attracts the vast quantity of flamingos that famously line the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Black and white rhinos have also been introduced. Nakuru means Dust or Dusty Place in the Maasai language. The lake is world famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose numbers are legion, often more than a million – or even two million. They feed on the abundant algae, which thrives in the warm waters. Scientists reckon that the flamingo population at Nakuru consumes about 250,000 kg of algae per hectare of surface area per year.
Masai Mara National Reserve
The Mara (as the old hands like to call it) is the most popular wildlife park in Kenya. Abounding with wildlife and joined to the Serengeti, this 320-sq-km reserve is anything but plain. Few visitors miss roaming at least part of its vast open savanna grasslands – or leaping out of the way of the annual wildebeest stampede. The western border of the park is the spectacular Esoit Olooloo (Siria) Escarpment and it’s at the edge of the park that the concentrations of wildlife are the highest. Lions are found in large prides everywhere and it’s not unusual to see them hunting. Elephants, buffaloes, zebras, various antelopes and hippos also exist in large numbers.
Kenya’s capital is cosmopolitan, lively, interesting, pleasantly landscaped and a good place to get essential business matters sewn up. You can walk from one end of the central business district to the other in 20 minutes and it’s a great place to tune into modern urban African life. Unfortunately, it’s also a great place to get mugged.
Nairobi sprang up with the building of the Mombasa to Uganda railway. Originally little more than a swampy watering hole for Maasai tribes, it had became a substantial town by 1900. Five years later it succeeded Mombasa as the capital of the British protectorate. Today it’s the largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg with a population of 2.5 million and a rapid growth rate.
Like most cities, Nairobi has its crowded market, trading and transport areas, its middle class/office workers’ suburbs and its spacious mansions and flower-decked gardens for the rich and powerful. For sightseeing, the National Museum, Snake Museum and National Archives are all interesting and easy to get to.
Nairobi is a city of contrasts – you will find smart office workers and mansions and expensive suburban shopping centers as well as overcrowded slums and a lot of people trying to struggle on as best they can. Crime in River Rd and some other areas of Nairobi is a major problem (travelers have come to call the place ‘Nairoberry’). For all that, Nairobi is also a place to find things that you can’t buy in most other parts of Africa. It has the latest films on big screens, a variety of excellent restaurants and a number of cafes and bars full of travelers from all over the world swapping safari stories.
Population: 2.5 million
Time: GMT/UTC +3 hours
Telephone Area Code: 02
The Nairobi agricultural show is held in the first week of October and is attended by local tribal people. Apart from this, there are celebrations during national holidays that include Madaraka Day (1 June), which celebrates self-government, Kenyatta Day (20 October) and Independence Day (12 December).
The compact city center is bounded by Uhuru Hwy, Haile Selassie Ave, Tom Mboya St and University Way. The main bus and train stations are within a few minutes walk of this area. The main budget accommodation area is centered on Latema Rd, just east of Tom Mboya St. The National Museum is to the north of the central area, while Westlands, a major shopping center, is further north.
When to go:
The best times to visit are during January and February and between June and October, when the weather is drier in and around Nairobi. Because Nairobi is located at the edge of the highlands, temperatures are cooler here compared with much of the rest of the country.
Karen Blixen Museum
This is the beautiful farmhouse where Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, lived between 1914 and 1931, until she left Kenya after a series of personal tragedies. Nearby are the Ngong Hills, where many white settlers set up farms and built their houses. Passing by this area, you can be excused for imagining you are in the Home Counties of England, which along with the cooler temperatures goes a long way to explain why the Europeans settled here in such numbers. Though the hills offer some excellent walks, you should only do one with an organized tour or an armed escort, due to the risk of being mugged.
Limuru has a distinctly European feel. Kentmere Club is the quintessential white-settlers’ club and is well worth a visit. Kiambethu Tea Farm offers tours of its tea estate at nearby Tigoni. Limuru is northwest of Nairobi. The bus ride takes about half an hour, followed by a ten-minute walk.
Nairobi is an excellent place to go on a safari or a trek up Mt Kenya. Gaining popularity is white-water rafting on the Athi/Galana River. Otherwise, why have you gone all the way to Kenya?hell are you doing in Nairobi?
Until the 19th century, you could find only the Maasai people in Nairobi. Then came the building of the Mombasa to Uganda railway, and the place became a convenient and relatively cool place for the Indian railway laborers and their British overlords. Nairobi quickly became a tent city and a supply depot. By 1900 it was a town with substantial buildings; five years later and it replaced Mombasa as the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate.
White settlers soon began to move into the fertile highlands north and then south of Nairobi. This led to friction with the local Maasai and, later, the Kikuyu. Mixed agricultural farms were set up, with coffee plantations established at about the same time by new arrivals that included Karen Blixen and her husband, Brer. The number of white settlers rose to 9000 by 1920 and, by the 1950s, it was 80,000. Alienated from their land, many Kikuyu people migrated to Nairobi during the same period, became part of the colonial economy, and formed associations whose principal aim was the return of land to the Kikuyu. One such person was Johnstone Kamau, who later changed his name to Jomo Kenyatta.
Up until after WW II, Kenya’s white rulers were in no mood for accommodating the demands of the Africans. However, African troops returning from the war were equally in no mood to accept the status quo and the bloody Mau Mau Rebellion, which mainly involved the Kikuyu, raged until 1956. Soon afterwards, Kenyatta was jailed and later placed under house arrest until 1961, although there was no evidence to link him with the rebellion. Pressure continued to build on the British and, on 12 December 1963, Kenya gained independence, with Kenyatta as its first president. Throughout the 20th century, Nairobi continued to grow. Today, it is now the largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg.
Fying is the most convenient way to get to Nairobi. It is a major African hub, so flights between the city and the rest of Africa and many other destinations in Europe are frequent and relatively cheap. Coming overland, Nairobi is easily reached by bus and minibus from various destinations in Tanzania and Kampala in Uganda. To arrive from Ethiopia, you will have to get on a truck (which will be part of an escorted convoy) from the border at Moyale and swap to a bus at Isiolo. Within Kenya, Nairobi can be reached from Mombasa by either train or bus, while long-distance buses and minibuses run to numerous destinations.
There’s a cheap bus to/from the international airport, but many travelers report being ripped off on it. Buses are a cheap way of getting around Nairobi, but they can be very crowded during peak hour and are a pickpocket’s paradise. Matatus (minibuses) are much the same, although they tend to be more frequent and their drivers often crazier. Taxis are not metered and expensive, but vital for night travel for safety reasons.
The most popular Kenyan activity is the safari. Popular safari destinations are the Masai Mara National Reserve west of Nairobi and the Amboseli Park. For trekking, Mt Kenya tends to be the place and offers a range of routes, while getting to one of its higher peaks, Point Lenana, requires no climbing skills. Less trampled hiking vistas include Mt Elgon on the Ugandan border, and even the Ngong Hills near Nairobi (with an armed escort, though). Kenya is famous for its game-fishing opportunities off the coast around Malindi, and white-water rafting on the blood-curdling Athi/Galana River is becoming increasingly popular.
All visitors require a visa except citizens of some smaller Commonwealth countries. Apply well in advance for your visa.
Kenya Tourist Visa Requirements
Documents Required –
Visa Application form duly filled and singed as per passport. (Note – If thumb impression is there on the passport of child then on visa form along with thumb impression signature of both parents is required)
Valid passport with minimum 6 months validity from date of exit from Kenya after the tour.
Covering letter from passenger on his / her letterhead addressed to Visa Officer, Kenya High Commission, New Delhi
Covering letter from SOTC letterhead addressed to Visa Officer, Kenya High Commission, New Delhi
IT Returns for last 3 years
Personal bank statements for last 6 months original require
If passenger is employed – Leave Letter
If passenger is retired – Retirement proof
If passenger is student – School / College ID
If honeymoon couple – Weeding card from both the sides and NOC from bride’s parent along with parents’ signature proof such as PAN Card copy, driving licenses or passport copies
Confirmed Return air tickets
Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is must
Kenya Consulate, Mumbai’s Jurisdiction – All India Passport
Address of Kenya Consulate, Mumbai –
ADDRESS OF CONSULATE
46, BAJAJ BHAVAN, 4TH FLOOR, NARIMAN POINT, MUMBAI – 400021
Processing Time – 5 to 7 Working days
Kenya Visa can be obtained on arrival also –
Passport should be valid for 6 months from date of exit
2 passport size photo
Valid international credit card or Travelers Cheque or cash in USD, Pound or Euro
Tour Confirmation Voucher or Hotel Voucher
Confirmed return air tkts
Fees is USD 50
Time: Kenya is 2 1/2 hrs behind India in Summer.
Tourism: About 500,000 visitors per year