Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses savannah, lakelands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands. It’s also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. From Nairobi, the capital, safaris visit the Maasai Mara Reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, offering views of Tanzania’s 5,895m Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Dialing code: +254
President: William Ruto
Population: 53.77 million (2020) World Bank
Currency: Kenyan shilling
Gross domestic product: 98.84 billion USD (2020) World Bank
The African peoples of Kenya, who constitute virtually the entire population, are divided into three language groups: Bantu, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic. Bantu is by far the largest, and its speakers are mainly concentrated in the southern third of the country.
History of Kenya
The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, from 1920 known as the Kenya Colony. The independent Republic of Kenya was formed in 1963. It was ruled as a de facto one-party state by the Kenya African National Union (KANU), led by Jomo Kenyatta from 1963 to 1978.
A part of Eastern Africa, the territory of what is known as Kenya has seen human habitation since the beginning of the Lower Paleolithic. The Bantu expansion from a West African centre of dispersal reached the area by the 1st millennium AD. With the borders of the modern state at the crossroads of the Bantu, Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic ethno-linguistic areas of Africa, Kenya is a truly multi-ethnic state.
The European and Arab presence in Mombasa dates to the Early Modern period, but European exploration of the interior began in the 19th century. The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, from 1920 known as the Kenya Colony.
The independent Republic of Kenya was formed in 1963. It was ruled as a de facto one-party state by the Kenya African National Union (KANU), led by Jomo Kenyatta from 1963 to 1978. Kenyatta was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi, who ruled until 2002. Moi attempted to transform the de facto one-party status of Kenya into a de jure status during the 1980s, but with the end of the Cold War, the practices of political repression and torture which had been “overlooked” by the Western powers as necessary evils in the effort to contain communism were no longer tolerated.
Moi came under pressure, notably by US ambassador Smith Hempstone, to restore a multi-party system, which he did by 1991. Moi won elections in 1992 and 1997, which were overshadowed by politically-motivated killings on both sides. During the 1990s, evidence of Moi’s involvement in human rights abuses and corruption, such as the Goldenberg scandal, was uncovered. He was constitutionally barred from running in the 2002 election, which was won by Mwai Kibaki. Widely reported electoral fraud on Kibaki’s side in the 2007 elections resulted in the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis. Kibaki was succeeded by Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 general election. There were allegations that his rival Raila Odinga actually won the contest, however, the Supreme Court through a thorough review of evidence adduced found no malpractice during the conduct of the 2013 general election both from the IEBC and the Jubilee Party of Uhuru Kenyatta.
Pros & Cons
- Excellent wildlife viewing, including the annual wildebeest migration
- A wide variety of habitats and scenery
- Beautiful beaches with plenty of resorts to choose from
- Traditional indigenous cultures
- Excellent service and well-run tourism industry
- The main tourist attractions are often crowded with tourists
- Limited opportunities for walking and boat safaris
Kenya is one of the most productive safari destinations in Africa. Herbivores, such as elephant, buffalo and giraffe are common throughout and big rivers are usually inhabited by hippos and crocodiles. Big cats are plentiful as well. Rhino, although scarce in the Masai Mara, is common on Laikipia plateau. Of course, it’s the wildebeest and zebra who really put on a show here, with the incredible annual migration.
Weather & Climate
Kenya’s equatorial location rules out a distinctive summer and winter, but it does have clear-cut Wet and Dry seasons. The wetter months (November to May) are characterized by very warm temperatures of around 30°C/86°F, with the addition of sticky humidity down along the coast. The drier months (June to October) have cold nights and mornings, and fairly pleasant afternoons. The other big climatic influence is altitude, with temperatures dropping about 6°C/3.5°F for every 1,000m/1,000ft the higher you go.
Best Time to Visit
The Dry season (June to October) is your best bet for wildlife watching. This is when the bush thins out, making animals more visible as they head for the nearest waterhole. This is also when the wildebeest and zebra pass through. The Wet season (November to May) has its attractions as well. These include fantastically green scenery, lots of newborn animals, and cheaper low-