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The Central Highlands & Rift Valley are one of Kenya’s most scenic areas and have great appeal to visitors to the country.
The African Rift valley runs all the way from North to South across Kenya. It is lined with a series of freshwater lakes, from Lake Naivasha, through Lake Nakuru to Lake Bogoria, with amazing birdlife and wildlife at every turn.
The Highlands, as well as teeming with flora and fauna, offer the adventurous some excellent hiking trails as well as some shorter easier trails for the novice. The Highlands give visitors the opportunity to take in some of the most breathtaking views across the country.
Most visitors to Kenya will enter the country via Nairobi, the capital and largest city in the country. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan and multicultural city with a thriving business community at its core. Whilst many visitors don’t tend to spend time in the city centre, there are a number of attractions on its doorstep which are popular and are great pre or post safari destinations.
Situated around 10kms outside the city centre, Bomas of Kenya was started back in 1971 in a bid to preserve, maintain and promote the rich diverse cultural values of the various ethnic groups of Kenya. Made up of traditional bomas (homesteads) from several Kenyan tribes, the village gives visitors an insight into this amazing culture. Traditional dances are also regularly performed at the site.
Founded in 1979 by Betty & Jock Leslie-Mandeville, the Giraffe Centre was created to help save the Rothschild giraffe. Due to pressures on its habitat in Western Kenya, the population had decreased to less than 150. A relocation programme was instigated to help counter this problem which has seen population numbers start to rise.
Whilst the site at Langata, just outside Nairobi is committed to providing education to the Kenyan youth about the importance of conservation of wildlife and the environment, overseas visitors get just as much enjoyment from the centre. A high platform lets visitors get up close to the giraffes and also allows them to be fed the pellets provided. Everyone who visits the site marvels at the long tongues of these lofty animals as they eat from your hand. In addition, the centre provides good conservation information for the visitor as well as nature trails and bird walks in the grounds.
Karen Blixen’s novel about her life on a colonial farm in Kenya, received huge notoriety when it was made into a film. Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford was a runaway success and made Karen Blixen an overnight sensation. Today her house in Nairobi, which was used in the film, has been turned into a museum which takes visitors back to life in the days of the early settlers in Kenya. Many original features still remain or have been reconstructed which make for a fascinating experience.
Set up in legacy to the famous naturalist, David Sheldrick, the founder warden of Tsavo East National Park, the Trust runs a number of projects. The Trust is probably most well known for its elephant and rhino orphan programmes which aim to arm these animals with everything they need during their early years so that they can be reintroduced into the wild once they are capable of caring for themselves. Visitors to the Trust are able to see the young elephant feeding time, where they get the opportunity to interact with the keepers and find out more about the Trusts work.
The Trust is also a advocate of best practice conservation management across the country, has run successful black rhino reintroduction programmes, runs desnaring campaigns, provides mobile veterinary care and provides education to various stakeholder groups.
Situated just beside the entrance to Nairobi National Park, the Nairobi Animal Orphanage was created in 1946 as a means to provide education to the public on wildlife and nature conservation within Kenya. The centre offers an abundance of conservation information for the visitor as well as the opportunity to see a number of orphaned animals in a captive environment.
Situated about 5kms from Nairobi, the Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s first, makes a great day out if you are stopping over in Nairobi. Where else can you see over hundreds of bird and mammal species with a city skyline as your backdrop? The park boasts the ‘big 5’ and is a great way to either start or end your African adventure.
Located near Lake Naivasha Hells Gate National Park offers visitors the opportunity to walk or cycle within its confines. With the park boasting species such as buffalo, leopard, lion, and giraffe to name but a few, you need to keep your wits about you! Fischer’s Tower, a former volcano plug, is incredibly popular amongst rock climbers and is definitely worth a visit. The hot springs and raptor nesting grounds are also popular amongst visitors to Hells Gate National Park.
As well as offering opportunities for hiking rock climbing and mountain biking, the Mount Longonot National Park is home to numerous species of bird and animal life. The park is an ornithologist dream as birds of prey are abundant within the park skies. The beautiful landscape with Lake Naivasha and the Great Rift Valley as your backdrop makes an idyllic setting.
Historically, the main attraction at Lake Nakuru has been its huge flocks of flamingos which turn the landscape pink. Whilst some of these animals still remain, many have moved onto Lake Bogoria. Other water birds are plentiful and can often be found around the edge of the lake as well a variety of terrestrial birds. Hippo and clawless otters have also been seen here.
There are also plenty of mammal species within the park. After poaching decimated black rhino numbers within the park to only two surviving members, the Kenya Wildlife Service instigated a reintroduction program which has now resulted in a population successfully reestablishing itself in the park. Species such as leopard, lion, giraffe, buffalo, waterbuck, zebra, impala and klipspringer are also found within the park.
Characterised by its abundance of pink flamingos, Lake Bogoria National Reserve is a delight for bird lovers. The reserve also houses a herd of rare Greater Kudu as well as species such as buffalo, zebra and impala.
Lake Kamnarok National Reserve house bush pigs, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, warthog as well as numerous waterbirds.
Known throughout the world, the Masai Mara National Reserve is home to an astonishing large array of wildlife. The Mara is the most visited reserve in Kenya and you will find that it is far busier than many of the other locations that you can visit, that said, no visit to Kenya would be complete without some time in the reserve. Wildlife viewing is great all year round, the ‘big 5’ are all here as well as numerous other species, but the biggest draw to the reserve is the annual migration. The dramatic river crossings as wildebeest, zebra and gazelle come North from the Serengeti into the Mara to seek out food is a true spectacle. Whilst it is impossible to predict the migration with accuracy, July and August are typically the best time to visit in the hope of getting a glimpse of this phenomenon.
Covering the heights of the Aberdare mountain range, the Aberdare National Park is a mixture of deep ravines and forest areas. The waterfalls are stunning. Hiking within the park surrounding by such scenery is a breathtaking experience.
The park has over 250 bird species including eagles, sunbirds, Jackson’s francolin and sparry hawks. Animals include black rhino, leopard, baboon, colobus monkey, lion, golden cat, the rare and elusive bongo, giant forest hog and wild dog. Serval can sometimes be seen on the upper slopes.
Mount Kenya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the second highest peak in Africa. It plays an important role in Kenya as it provides water for around half the country’s population. It is also a significant producer of Kenya’s hydroelectric power. Mount Kenya is a diverse ecosystem made up of glaciers at the summits, alpine moorlands and diverse forests. The variation in the flora and fauna as the altitude changes is wonderful. A number of very rare or endangered species can be found in the park including the Sunni buck, Mount Kenya mole shrew and skinks. Rare sightings of albino zebra have also been noted in the park.
The mountain, which rises to around 2,000m is a great place for hiking and walking. Views over Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as spectacular waterfalls are scenic wonders.
Wildlife includes buffalo, bushbuck, leopard, olive baboon, bush pig, mongoose and monitor lizard. Bird species such as white-browed sparrow weaver, African pied wagtail, mourning dove, African hawk eagle, purple-breasted sunbird, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mousebird, black-headed oriole, bateleur, great sparrow- hawk, bronze sunbird, superb starling and Mackinnon grey shrike may be spotted in the park.
Characterised by open grasslands, the Mwea National Reserves ecosystems main features are the meeting point of the Tana and Thiba rivers and the Kaburu and Masinga hydro-electric dams, which are a haven for biodiversity.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011