Kenya - Attractions
Kenya's capital is cosmopolitan, lively, interesting and pleasantly landscaped. Its central business district is handily compact and it's a great place to tune into modern urban African life. Unfortunately, it's also a great place to get mugged. Security, especially at night, is a definite concern.
Often touted as the birthplace of humanity Nairobi has artefacts galore in some very classy museums. If you'd prefer to look at exhibits that aren't stuffed there are plenty of rhinos, snakes and giraffes roaming in parks around the city - some you can even feed!
Amboseli National Park
At 392 sq km, Amboseli has huge herds of elephants, and to see a herd of them making their way sedately across the grassy plains, with Tanzania's Mt Kilimanjaro in the background, may be a real African cliche but it's an experience that certainly leaves a lasting impression. Sadly, the last of the black rhinos were moved to West Tsavo National Park after sustained poaching. Microlight flights are a popular way to take in the majesty of this spectacular southern region of Kenya. Most visitors approach Amboseli through Namanga, the main border post between Kenya and Tanzania. There are also daily flights from Nairobi and there are many many touts in the capital who would just love to sign you up for a safari here.
Lamu is a place of fantasy and other-worldliness wrapped in a cloak of medieval romance. With an almost exclusively Muslim population, Kenya's oldest living town has changed little in appearance or character over many centuries. Remote and self-contained, this once thriving port town is now a gloriously relaxed and relaxing destination. No other Swahili town, other than Zanzibar, can offer you such a cultural feast and uncorrupted traditional style of architecture - if you can ignore the TV aerials. A couple of hours spent in the waterfront Lamu Museum is an excellent introduction to the town's culture and history. And if the museum stokes your interest in Swahili culture then you should also check out the beautifully restored building nearby housing the Swahili House Museum. One of Lamu's quirkier attractions is the Donkey Sanctuary - no doubt a haven for all those donkeys seeking political asylum. Taking a trip by dhow is almost obligatory.
Nestled away on Lamu Island on Kenya's upper east coast, Lamu itself is reached by diesel-powered launch from Mokowe on the mainland, or there's an airport on nearby Manda Island.
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. A reserve rather than a national park (the Maasai people are allowed to graze and hunt animals here), the Mara includes a Maasai village that's open to tourists, but which can be a little hard-sell.
There are twice-daily flights between Nairobi and Masai Mara, and plenty of accommodation options once you get there. The small provincial town of Narok - a few hours drive west of Nairobi - is the park's main access point.
The largest port on the coast of East Africa, Mombasa is hot, steamy and historical. Its earliest history dates back to the 12th century. A Muslim haven for centuries, it was attacked by the Portuguese in 1505 and burnt to the ground. It was quickly rebuilt only to be reduced to rubble again by an embattled Mombasan ruler during the long fight against the Portuguese. Mombasa's Old Town is testament to this tumultuous era. Filled with ornate wooden shopfronts and balconies, it's a constant source of delight for the observant wanderer. The old quarter's most prominent attraction is Fort Jesus, which dominates the harbour entrance. Begun in 1593 by the Portuguese, it changed hands nine times between 1631 and 1875. Now a museum, the fort is a fascinating mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Arabic design.
Mombasa proper sprawls over Mombasa Island which is connected to the mainland both north and south of the city. The train station is in the middle of the island, close to plenty of good hotels, restaurants and entertainment spots. A string of great beaches dominates the coast just south and north of the town. There are heaps of daily flights, trains and buses between Mombasa and Nairobi. There are also regular buses running between Mombasa and Tanzania.