Travel to Kenya

image of KenyaSeeing the ‘Big Five’ has become a mantra for African wildlife watchers, but few know it was coined by white hunters for those five species deemed most dangerous to hunt: elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Seeing all five is relatively easy in Kenya; it’s even possible to spot them all in a single day, although you’d have to be pretty lucky. Start your search at Lake Nakuru National Park, a stunning alkaline lake in the Rift Valley. The lake’s population of many thousands of pink flamingos and pelicans is one of Kenya’s signature images — the sort to make you gasp at the sheer beauty of it all. This vitally important national park also protects the country’s largest population of endangered black rhinos, as well as large herds of buffalo; the black rhino is present elsewhere, but sightings are almost guaranteed here. With a little luck, you can also spot leopards lounging in trees, and cheetahs prowling around the savannah. From the Mara, head southeast, passing through Nairobi, to Amboseli National Park for a wildlife drive in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro. Here you’ll see elephants at nearly every turn (there are around I200 in just 392 sq km), while lion sightings are also common; buffaloes lurk in the swamps, although generally in small numbers. From Amboseli it’s a straightforward drive to Tsavo West National Park and Tsavo East National Park, Kenya’s largest wildlife parks and a real taste of the African wilderness. The chances of spotting wildlife are higher in Tsavo East, where the vegetation is less dense, but Tsavo West has the advantage of being home to all of the Big Five — see them all in one day and you’ve hit the safari jackpot. From here you can head down the highway to the ancient Swahili port of Mombasa, where you can either fly straight home, or start a whole new journey exploring the Kenyan coast.  Before setting out, explore the coastal gateway of Mombasa, one of the truly great port cities on earth and the essence of East Africa. It gets steaming hot here, so your first stop heading south should be Tiwi Bch, a tranquil white-sand paradise popular with independent travellers. Just down the road, you can head on to the package-holiday destination of Diani Beach for a taste of the full-on resort experience. Near the Tanzanian border, Funzi and Wasini Islands provide a dose of unspoilt coastal life; on the latter Mkwiro is somewhere close to paradise. These islands also alford easy access to the excellent Kisite Marine National Park. Offshore, humpback whales are a possibility from August to October. A trip in a traditional dhow is also a must. Heading north back on the coastal trail, make a quick stop in the charming town of Kilifi before pressing on to Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve. One of the largest remaining tracts of indigenous coastal forest in East Africa, the reserve plays host to prolific birdlife and forest elephants, and is a last refuge of the golden-rumped elephant shrew. Further north are the Cede ruins, an ancient Swahili city dating back to the 13th century. Another historic destination along the Swahili coast is Malindi, a 14th century trading post that’s now one of the country’s leading beach destinations for Italian holidaymakers. While it can be something ofa scene, it has bucket loads of charm once you get beyond the beach.