Everyone should visit Kenya at least once—not just for the spectacular wildlife, but also for its beautiful lakes and beaches and for the sweeping vistas of the Great Rift Valley. The landscape is just as memorable and photogenic as that lion walking, right there, beside the Land Rover or that Masai warrior stalking the plains. Kenya’s people are friendly, the tourist trade is well-organized, and there’s a lot to see and do, making Kenya a rewarding place to visit. That isn’t to say that Kenya is a trouble-free destination. If you spend some time in its cities, you are increasingly likely to encounter petty crime. In the game parks and reserves, you’re more apt to be annoyed by the presence of other tourists, who gather in droves around the animals.
The best way to see the country is by hosted or escorted tour. The idea of a safari may seem romantic, but it is mainly efficient: The tour guides know where the animals are, they have experience navigating the often vast distances, and they make the best use of a precious commodity: time. The methods for viewing animals vary. Minivans carrying six to eight passengers are most common. Unfortunately, they don’t provide much ground clearance on the rough roads, nor do they have four-wheel drive—a real problem if you’re visiting during wet times of year. The better companies use Land Rovers designed specifically for Africa. Private, chauffeured cars and even walking, horseback, camel and balloon safaris are options.
Choosing which parks and reserves to see is important. Kenya has more than 50 national parks and game reserves, some devoted to marine life or natural beauty as well as wildlife—each offers something the others lack. If, on our first trip, we had to limit ourselves to three, they would be Amboseli, Masai Mara and Nakuru. We’d spend at least two nights in each. We also recommend that travelers consider a visit to one of the lesser-known game areas such as Samburu National Reserve or Tsavo National Park. Athough the wildlife might not be quite as plentiful, the atmosphere will be quieter and more … well, wild.
Kenya also has some excellent beaches in a tropical climate, and the coast of East Africa has a long and exotic history, where the calm blue waters were once the traditional passage of the Arabian traders. There, the coral reefs are teeming with life and color, and the coast is an excellent destination for first-class diving and snorkeling. The best way to enjoy Kenya is to combine a wildlife safari to the parks with a few relaxing days on the beach around Mombasa or Malindi.
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