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4 Reasons Why You Should Go on Safari in Kenya

4 Reasons Why You Should Go on Safari in Kenya

A safari in Kenya is one of life’s most incredible experiences and the ultimate travel adventure.  However, many travellers share some common doubts about security and any media about Kenya seems to bring only stories of terrorism, ebola and road accidents.  But you have to be unlucky to get caught up in trouble of these sorts.  Kenya has much to offer if you can shake off the media’s negative images, so you should go on safari for the following reasons:

  1. To see the Great Wildebeest Migration
  2. Beach, bush, mountains, desert, savannah – Kenya has many different environments and with them, different cultures, wildlife and birds
  3. Poaching is increasing and gloomy predictions say there won’t be any elephants in 20 years
  4. Kenyan people are ready to welcome visitors – low tourist numbers affect the whole economy and Kenyans want to show travellers their beautiful country

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The Great Wildebeest Migration

Tourists flock to the Maasai Mara to witness the Wildebeest Migration, often touted as the eighth wonder of the natural world.  Each year approximately 120,000 tourists come to see the wildebeest cross the river while crocodiles snap at them.  But even if you miss the river crossing, seeing the massive herds (animals in their millions!) grazing the savannah is a sight to behold.  Cameras cannot do it justice; you have to see it for yourself.

Varied environments

Whether you want a beach holiday, bush retreat, mountain climb or desert experience, Kenya has it all.  And you can put together an itinerary that covers some or all of these environments without having to fly long distances.  The most common Kenyan holiday combines a safari with a few days at the beach at the end to wash the dust off.  And along with these different environments comes different cultures and wildlife – Samburu in northern Kenya has five endemic species you won’t see in the southern parks.  For culture, you can visit a Maasai village, experience 14 different ethnic groups around Lake Turkana and then finish in cosmopolitan Nairobi.  The highlight of the central highlands is Mt Kenya, but you don’t have to hike for a week to enjoy the mountains; there are coffee and tea plantations to visit and the beautiful Thomson’s Falls.  Through the Rift Valley and into western Kenya are lakes with the myriad birdlife, including the famous flamingos.

Lake Oloidon (6)

Poaching threatens the Kenyan safari

There seems to be a misperception that poaching was a problem in years past, but is not now.  Sadly this is untrue, and in fact it is becoming worse.  One prediction is that there will be no elephants in 20 years if poaching continues at the current rate.  Lions and rhinos are also under significant threat, with rhinos disappearing at a rate that is simply not sustainable.  It’s difficult to be optimistic that humans will be able to turn around the trend with market forces so strong for ivory and rhino horn, so it is perhaps better to come to Kenya now to see these magnificent animals before it’s too late.

Kenyan people

Tourism is Kenya’s biggest industry so when tourism numbers are low the whole country feels the economic impact.  Kenyans are naturally hospitable, keen to welcome visitors and show off their country.  Not everyone is a terrorist or a madman; most are proud of their country and excited to meet travellers.  Moreover, there is a lot of positive work being carried out by Kenyans to develop Kenya that goes unseen and unheard.  Come and see for yourself and be inspired!

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A Kenyan safari will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life.  I came to Kenya in 2010 and have now made it my home.  But a word of caution: you may have heard people who have travelled to Africa talk about the “Africa bug” – it bites!

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What are your perceptions of Kenya?  Do negative news reports impact your decision on where to travel or do you ignore the hype and do your own research on a destination?  Please leave your comments below.

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Kenya’s Madaraka Day

Kenya’s Madaraka Day

On 1st June each year, Kenya celebrates Madaraka Day, a day which commemorates the beginning of Kenya’s self-governance.  “Madaraka” is a Kiswahili word meaning “responsibility” and 1st June signifies the day the British colonial rulers handed over the responsibility for governing Kenya to the Kenyan people.

Throughout most of the 1950s, the Mau Maus had been fighting in Kenya’s central highlands against British rule.  Tens of thousands of Kenyans had died during the struggle with the British suffering relatively low losses.  However, the rebellions led to increased political involvement being granted to Kenyans and eventually, on 1 June 1963, the British handed over the reins to the Kenyan African National Union (KANU) and its leader, Jomo Kenyatta, became Kenya’s first Prime Minister.

Although Kenya now had internal self-rule, it was not yet fully independent from the colonial power.  So Madaraka Day is not the same as Kenya’s Independence Day – that is celebrated in December.  Independence came six months after Madaraka on 12 December 1963.  Another year later Kenya became a Republic and Kenyatta’s title was elevated to President of the Republic of Kenya.

Nowadays, Madaraka Day is one of Kenya’s big celebrations.  The main event is the President’s address at Nyayo Stadium along with singers and dancers from all over the country performing traditional songs.

In 2013, Kenya celebrated its Jubilee – 50 years of independence.  There were mixed reactions from the population about Kenya’s progress over the past 50 years and as a foreigner living in Kenya, it was very interesting to hear the comments.  Some people said that with the high levels of corruption in the government, Kenya has not progressed at all since independence, while others were positive about Kenya’s development and simply enjoying the fact that they had been free from the colonial power for 50 years.

Madaraka Day Safaris

Madaraka Day is a public holiday in Kenya and usually marked by a long weekend that gives Kenyans a chance to travel.  It is at the tail-end of the rainy season as well, giving Kenyans all the more reason to get out of town and enjoy a holiday.  Rhino Charge, an incredible 4×4 rally in isolated bushland, is held on Madaraka Day weekend each year.  Even for non-competitors it is a fun event: camping out, watching some amazing driving feats, and enjoying the party each night.  In 2015, the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival was also held on the Madaraka Day weekend, but it is not yet confirmed whether it will remain on these dates next year.

Rhino Charge, an incredible 4x4 rally in isolated bushland, is held on Madaraka Day weekend each year

Rhino Charge, an incredible 4×4 rally in isolated bushland, is held on Madaraka Day weekend each year

Kenyans definitely know how to celebrate their public holidays so as you are planning your safari, have a look at the calendar and try planning it around one of these events.  Or you can contact us (tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com) and we can give you some ideas of holidays and festivals you might enjoy in Kenya throughout the year.

Is Nairobi Safe?

Is Nairobi Safe?

Perceived issues of personal safety and security are often of concern to people wishing to travel in Kenya.  This has increased in the wake of the Westgate shopping centre attack, with travellers questioning the safety of Nairobi and whether they should travel to Kenya.  The answer is YES!  New York, London, Madrid and Bali have also suffered terror attacks and travellers continue to visit.  But Nairobi is treated differently, and it probably has a bit to do with its old nickname “Nai-robbery”.  Ten years ago the name may have been true, but much has changed in the last decade and continues to change with the current “Safer Cities” initiative by the Nairobi City Council.

OTA Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Many Kenyans do live in poverty and there are reports of theft and muggings from time to time.  But these are opportunistic attacks on people clearly displaying wealth and making it easy for someone to grab and run.  It can be argued that this is the case anywhere around the world – you must always keep your wits about you, wherever you are.  Some easy ways to avoid being mugged include:

  • Not wearing jewellery
  • Checking your change and putting all money safely away before leaving the bank, foreign exchange office or shop
  • Using hotel safes to store what you do not need for the day

Violent crime is much rarer, especially against tourists.  Most Kenyans recognise that tourists bring money to their country, and attacks on foreigners are punished severely if they do occur.  If you do find yourself in a situation however, it is best to submit to the demands of the attacker – violence is often not an assailant’s first preference, they just need money.

Harassment is not a physical danger necessarily, but it can make you feel uncomfortable and nervous.  Walking alone at night is definitely to be avoided.  Always go out with two or three other people and take a taxi after dark.

Scams show up as locals drawing on the compassion of sympathetic travellers.  They may take on the role of a political refugee requesting money for their family or they might pretend to be a student collecting contributions for their education.  Use your common sense and if you are in doubt about their story, then you are probably right.

There are also local customs to be aware of, but by observing how other people behave you can easily fit in.  There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Kenya, particularly in coastal and rural areas.

Engaging the services of a tour operator will assist in avoiding most of the above-mentioned security issues.  Your driver-guide will have the latest information on your destinations and know where he/she is going.  They know the travel times and will ensure you have arrived at the accommodation before sunset.  Moreover, most tour operators will package up the prices for national park entry fees, accommodation, and transport, limiting the amount of cash you need to carry.

Finally, don’t forget to register with your home country’s embassy or high commission in Kenya for the duration of your visit.  Comprehensive travel insurance is also highly recommended.

Overall, Nairobi is just like many other large cities around the world: there are rich people, there are poor people and there are people in the middle.  Most Kenyans don’t look twice at foreigners in their capital city.  The worst that most tourists encounter are children in rags accompanying them for about a block asking for money – while it’s heart-wrenching, it’s hardly a reason to avoid visiting a spectacular destination that has much to offer an enthusiastic traveller.

OTA Kenya Safari www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Is Kenya on your bucket list, but recent events in Nairobi have you hesitant to tick the item off right now?  Overland Travel Adventures offers tailor-made itineraries for individuals and small groups with a focus on excellent customer care, safety and responsible travel.  Contact us today: tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com or visit the website www.ota-responsibletravel.com.

OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

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