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Kenya holidays and safaris

As a holiday destination, Kenya has it all. There are beaches of the best sort - dazzling sand, palm trees and the gentle, warm Indian Ocean. There are the cool highland regions, temperate despite their tropical location. There are lush forests blanketing the ancient bedrock of the Aberdare mountain range, with treetop lodges among them. There's snow on the equator, on the imperious crags of Mount Kenya. There's the devastatingly dramatic sight of the Great Rift Valley, where the ground falls away and stretches out in miles of savannah and where the lakes are coloured white by pelicans and pink by flamingos. [See Kenya itinerary ideas]

The wildlife in Kenya is legendary - this is the home of safari. There are a large number of national parks to choose from, each distinctive from the next thanks to Kenya's vast range of habitats; red dust and elephants in Tsavo; the stunning silhouette of Kilimanjaro serving as a backdrop to wildlife in Amboseli; cheetahs and their chases over the immense plains of the Masai Mara; lions amidst the fever trees in Meru - home to Elsa of Born Free fame; leopards along the river in the otherwise stark and arid Samburu.

All this and culture too - the coast in particular is rich in history. It's where all visitors once arrived. Arab and Indian traders reached the Kenya coast in the 9th century, and their mingled heritage led to the distinctive Swahili culture that characterises the coast to this day. The history of the interior is equally compelling, both tribal and national, and there are stories to be heard at every bar in every town, in edgy, buzzy Nairobi or relaxed, charming Mombasa.

The main problem for travellers to Kenya is how to fit it all in. Beach holiday or luxury safari? It would be a tragedy to have one without the other.

Wexas Travel brochure for Kenya

Top 50 Worldwide Journeys brochure

Our in depth guide packed with background information, sample itineraries designed by our experts and hand-picked suggestions for what to see and do, where to stay and when best to go.


When to go

Kenya's weather is generally benign, sunny and warm, but punctuated by two rainy seasons - the long, lasting from April to June, and the short, a sporadic few weeks in late November and early December. That said, climate change makes this pattern more unpredictable than it used to be, and geographical variations influence local weather - the highlands can see rain at any time, and the coast is subject to monsoon winds, which can bring heavy rain to the coast in May and June.

JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH APRIL MAY JUNE JULY AUGUST SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER
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Essential Experiences

We’ve rounded up our list of recommended sites and things to do. Click on the map to enlarge it and see what we suggest or follow the links in the list to discover how to get the best out of your holiday.


Practical Information

Capital - Nairobi

Size - 582,650 sq km

Language - Swahili and English, with different tribal languages spoken at home

Population - 44, 037, 656 (2013)

Religion - 82.5% Christian, with 47.4% of this Protestant and the rest Catholic; also Muslim (approximately 11%), indigenous beliefs and minority Hindu and Sikh populations

Currency - 1 Kenyan shilling = 100 cents

Time zone - GMT + 3 hours

Flight time - London to Nairobi 8 hours 40 mins

Festivals

The highlights of the cultural calendar include:

March - Art Festival, Nairobi, a three-day event curated by the National Museums, drawing exhibitors from across East Africa. Expect diverse exhibitions, songs, skits, film screenings and plays.

July - Kenyan Safari Rally - a two-day car chase through the Kenyan wilderness, culminating in an exiting finish in Nairobi. It's an event that stirs great excitement as well as dust clouds throughout the country.

August - The Rift Valley Festival, held at Fisherman's Camp on the shores of Lake Naivasha, a musical extravaganza featuring both local and international musicians.

September - Storymoja Hay Festival - four days of story telling and author talks, with international and local talent, takes place in Nairobi.

November - Lamu Cultural Festival - three days of traditional dance, dhow races, donkey races, and Swahili musical performances, all against the historical background of Lamu Old Town.

Visas

Please note that visa regulations can change often and at short notice, and that the following information applies to UK passport holders only.

British nationals need a visa to enter Kenya, and a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission.

Passport requirements

Passports must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Money

The Kenyan shilling (KES) is divided into 100 cents. Coins are in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 40, and notes in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. Pounds, dollars and euros are easy to change and widely accepted in Nairobi and Mombasa, but away from the main tourist centres, dollars are most widely accepted. In 2014 the shilling stabilised at around KES145 to £1.

Currency

The Kenyan shilling (KES) is divided into 100 cents. Coins are in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 40, and notes in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. Pounds, dollars and euros are easy to change and widely accepted in Nairobi and Mombasa, but away from the main tourist centres, dollars are most widely accepted. In 2014 the shilling stabilised at around KES145 to £1.

ATMs

ATMs can be found in all cities and resorts, and international withdrawals are straightforward via an English-language interface.

Cash and EFTPOS

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, resorts and in malls, but expect to pay cash for other shopping. There is a widespread culture of mobile payment through the Safaricom's M-Pesa money-transfer service, which allows national ID-card holders to make secure payments by phone, but the service is not yet extended to visitors.

Guideline prices

Kenya is not a cheap travel destination, but you'll probably find yourself paying upfront for stays at all-inclusive resorts or safari lodges, in which case a daily budget will not be an issue. Outwith all-inclusive resorts or if extending your stay, expect to pay around KES2,000 for a meal for two in a mid-priced restaurant, KES200 for a beer or coffee, and KES50-60 for a water or soft drink. Taxis around Nairobi cost KES300 + KES200 per kilometre, matatus (public minibuses) from KES30, and a 15-hour, 530-km sleeper train between Nairobi and Mombasa around KES4,500 (£31) one-way. Entry and activity fees at national parks and reserves can quickly mount if travelling independently, but at least you can be sure that the vast bulk of revenues are ploughed back into conservation.

Regions [10]

Click on a place name below to find out more. Alternatively, to start planning where to go in Kenya, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0611.


Places to stay [22]

The places to stay listed below only represent a handful of the accommodation options available in Kenya. We can also recommend and arrange accommodation to suit your personal tastes and budget. To start planning where to stay in Kenya, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0611.

Chui Lodge, Lake Naivasha

Luxury travel

Chui Lodge is situated in the privately owned 20,000 acre Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary just above the shores of Lake Naivasha within the Great Rift Valley. Chui …

Kinondo Kwetu, Kenya

Kinondo Kwetu is home to Ida and Filip Andersson, a Swedish Family who've established this luxury 'home-from-home' paradise on the stunning Kenyan coast.

Serena Beach Hotel, Mombasa

£££££
Beach Luxury travel Relaxation

Fringed by coconut palms and powder white sand beaches, this stretch of Kenyan coastline offers the ultimate tropical paradise. Set in beautiful tropical …

Serena Mountain Lodge, Mount Kenya

At 7,200 feet on the slopes of Mount Kenya, Mountain Lodge is ringed by a dense rain forest that comes alive at dusk with a myriad of sounds of creatures of all …

Severin Safari Camp, Kenya

£££££
Activity adventure Natural world Wildlife

Spread across 25 acres of wild bushland in the heart of Kenya's Tsavo West National Park, under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Severin Safari Camp is …

Sarova Mara Game Camp, Masai Mara

The endless plains of East Africa are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle where, from the vast Serengeti plains to the champagne colored …

Palacina Suites, Nairobi

Luxury travel

At the Palacina Suites, the emphasis is on making guests feel at home during their stay in Nairobi in an atmosphere of understated elegance and warm …

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

Luxury travel

Laid out along the banks of the Sabaringo River on the edge of the Oloololo escarpment, Kichwa Tembo Masai Mara Tented Camp looks out onto the seemingly endless …

Kiangazi House, Lake Naivasha

Kiangazi House is situated in the wildlife corridor adjacent to the privately owned 20,000 acre Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary just above the shores of Lake …

Olonana Tented Camp, Masai Mara

Olonana is situated on the banks of the Mara River, in the heart of Kenya’s Big Game country. This unique setting offers a world of remarkable opportunities …

Baobab Beach Resort & Spa, Kenya

£££££
Beach Diving Relaxation

Located on the beautiful Diani beach, and set amongst tropical gardens, the Baobab Beach Resort & Spa is the perfect spot to unwind and relax. It’s an oasis …

Kicheche Mara Camp, Masai Mara

£££££££
Activity adventure Natural world Wildlife

Kicheche is a classic bush camp, where game viewing starts right from the camp itself. Walking safaris are also possible and an excellent way to discover the …

Karen Blixen Camp, Masai Mara

Luxury travel

Karen Blixen Camp in the Masai Mara offers an authentic ’yesteryear’ experience for visitors wishing to gain that little extra from their safari. Set on the …

Keekorok Lodge, Masai Mara

Keekorok Game Lodge lies at the southern end of Masai Mara National Reserve and is sited in the direct path of the annual migration. At the height of the …

Satao Camp, Tsavo East National Park

Located within the Tsavo East National Park and nestled amongst trees and surrounding a central water-hole, the semi-circular layout of the camp provides an …

Kicheche Laikipia Camp

£££££££
Activity adventure Luxury travel Natural world

Kicheche Laikipia Camp camp has 6 luxurious tents which are custom designed and are fully insect-proof with en-suite bathrooms

AfroChic Diani, Mombasa

£££££
Beach Relaxation

AfroChic Diani, with its beautiful furnished landscaped garden and its free form crystal clear swimming pool, is situated right on the edge of the gorgeous …

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