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Places of Interest in Kenya

Southern Sky Adventures: Places of Interest in Kenya

Capitol is Nairobi

Aberdare National Park

The Aberdare National Park (ANP) covers the higher areas of the Aberdare Mountain Range of central Kenya and the Aberdare Salient to their east. Located only about 60 miles north from Nairobi, ANP offers easy access into the wild from the capitol. The ANP stretches over a wide variety of terrains as it covers altitudes from about 7,000 feet to 14,000 feet above sea level. Established in May 1950, the ANP covers an area of 250 square miles and forms part of the Aberdare Mountain Range. The park contains a wide range of landscapes – from the mountain peaks to the deep, v-shaped valleys.

Animals easily observed include the elephant, lion, leopard, baboon, black and white Colobus monkey, and sykes monkey. Rarer sightings include those of the golden cat and the bongo – an elusive forest antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Animals like the eland and spotted and melanistic serval cats can be found higher up in the moorlands. ANP also contains a large population of the black rhino.

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli (ANP) is famous for its dramatic scenery and breathtaking views of the African grasslands. The snow capped mountain – Kilimanjaro, creates a spectacular setting for game viewing and with a third of the park taken up by Lake Amboseli, its swampy areas and riverine forest, contrast beautifully with the dry desert areas in the rest of the park. Visitors should expect to see plenty of elephant (some of the largest elephants in Africa are seen here).

ANP is renowned for its elephants, which may be seen in herds over 100 strong drinking from the surface springs. There are so many of them that their penchant for pushing down trees is destroying the habitat that sustains them. Big old bull elephants carry some of the largest tusks to be seen anywhere in Africa and is a renowned feature of this park.

Also happily roaming the grasslands are buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, giraffes, impala and warthog. Attendant carnivores include lion, leopard, caracal, cheetah, jackal, hyena and serval cat. Unfortunately any rhino are long gone from this area after intensive poaching.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park (LNNP) provides the visitor with one of Kenya’s best known images. Thousands of flamingo, joined into a massive flock, fringe the shores of this soda lake. A pulsing pink swathe of life that carpets the water, the flamingos are a breathtaking sight.

The lake has become world famous for these birds, who visit the lake to feed on algae that forms on the lake bed. They move back and forth, feeding and occasionally and spectacularly taking to flight, filling the sky over the lake with color. The lake is extremely variable in size- changing from 2 up to 12 square miles in area. Nakura has more than just flamingos. This is a major national park and an important sanctuary for rhino. Both black and white rhino are found here, and are often seen resting under acacias by the lake shore.

LNNP abounds with game. There are huge herds of waterbuck, zebra, buffalo, the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and more. This is one of visitors’ best chances of seeing leopard in Kenya, and there are several large prides of lion. Exploring beyond the lake is always rewarding and there are forests, cliffs, waterfalls and more to be found here.

Lake Victoria and Ruma National Park

A trip to Lake Victoria (LV) is often added onto a Masai Mara safari, and an excursion into Ruma National Park (RNP) is an option.

Lake Victoria is the source of the Nile and the largest body of fresh water in Africa (and second largest in the world after Lake Superior). Only 5% of the lake belongs to Kenya, with its neighbors, Uganda and Tanzania, owning the rest. Trade is plied and people are ferried up and down the lake, often in rather unseaworthy looking boats and traditional dhows. The Kenyan section of the lake in the far north-eastern corner contains a few islands with simple fishing villages along the shores of the larger ones, and the odd exotic lodge mainly for guests flying in on light aircraft from the Masai Mara.

Whether fishing, bird watching, boating or resting, these islands induce extreme relaxation and the light breeze keeps most mosquitoes away.

Ruma National Park is rarely visited by visitors other than those staying on Lake Victoria’s island lodges. This means that you have the rare privilege of being guided by a knowledgeable local and seeing the only roan antelope in Kenya. Your game drive is through beautiful untouched woodland and grasslands with the seasonal Lambwe River running through and all backed by a magnificent escarpment and cliffs.

Lake Victoria’s birdlife is staggering. Tiny islets contain huge nesting colonies of egrets, cormorants and gannets and territorial fish eagles patrol every 100 yards. Some of the fish eagles have become habituated to being thrown fish from the boat and swoop down to claim an easy prey, just feet away from you and your camera lens. There are of course hippos and crocodiles in Lake Victoria and the locals will tell you if they frequent the area where you are staying.

Fishing is good too with giant Nile perch weighing over 100 pounds with a record catch at an unbelievable 520 pounds! Evenings are the best time to cast for tilapia from the shoreline.

Marsabit National Reserve

Marsabit National Reserve (MNR) covers an area of 500 square miles and it is located in Northern Kenya, 335 miles north of Nairobi. It consists of a forested mountain that rises like an oasis in the middle of the desert wilderness and is the only source of permanent surface of water in the region. The reserve has three spectacular crater lakes that provide habitat for a variety of birdlife.

One of the area’s special residents was Kenya’s most famous elephant, Ahmed – decreed a protected animal by the Presidential Order of President Jomo Kenyatta in 1970. Ahmed, who boasted some of the biggest tusks ever recorded, had a 24 hour armed guard. When Ahmed died, aged 55, his body was preserved and is now on display in Nairobi National Museum.

Other game to view includes greater kudu, reticulated giraffe, striped hyena, aard wolf, buffalo, bushbuck, leopard and caracal.

Masai Mara National Park

The Masai Mara National Park (MMNP) is probably the most famous and most visited reserve in Kenya. It offers breathtaking views, as seen in the film ‘Out of Africa’, much of which was filmed in this park, and an extraordinary density of animals including the “Big Five” and many varieties of plains game.

An impressive feature is the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle from the plains of the Serengeti that cross the Tanzanian border and rivers to reach the Mara’s lush grassland from late June, hunted by the predators: lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and circled by vultures as the journey unfolds. Their dramatic river crossings are a reality for tourists visiting in July – August.

Apart from the seasonal migration, game viewing is excellent year round. Game includes: elephant, black rhino, buffalo, plains zebra, roan antelope in small numbers, white-bearded gnu, oribi, warthog, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, hartebeest and all the big cats; the rivers are home to hippo and crocodiles. The Masai Mara has the largest population of lion in Kenya.

Mount Meru National Park

Mount Meru at 14,980 feet tall is regarded as a dormant volcano, since lava flowed from it as recently as 100 years ago. Though low-key by comparison to nearby Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru is regarded by many perhaps the most rewarding mountain to climb in East Africa. Meru is just as interesting as Kilimanjaro from the biological point of view and, because comparatively few people climb it, you are more likely to see forest animals.

Situated 230 miles northeast of Nairobi and west of Mount Kenya, little-visited Meru National Park (MNP) is 600 square miles and offers some of Kenya’s wildest country. It was taken off the mainstream safari circuit and deleted from safari operators’ destination lists because of the lawless poachers who wiped out the white rhino population in the 1980s. Although the Kenyan government has gotten grips on the security situation, the park still finds it difficult to shake off its negative image. But rest assured that all is now well and the park is a safe and fulfilling destination-after all, this is the place where wildlife champions Joy and George Adamson hand-reared Elsa the lioness made famous by the 1966 film, Born Free.

A successful rehabilitation program reintroduced elephants and rhinos to the park in 2001; both populations are doing well. There is a lot of other game here, including buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, lesser kudu, hartebeest, Grevy’s and Burchell’s zebra, the gerenuk (a mini-giraffe), the reticulated or Somali giraffe, waterbuck, oryx, and Grant’s gazelle. The park is part of an ecosystem that includes Kora National Park and Mwingi, Rahole, and Bisanadi reserves. It straddles the equator and is home to a great variety of habitats.

Mount Kenya and Mount Kenya National Park

In the center of Kenya only 10 miles south of the equator is this snow-capped mountain. This seems so unlikely that the German missionary to report this in 1833 was laughed at. Its existence was not acknowledged for another sixteen years and it then took a further fifty years before anyone climbed to the 16,900 feet summit. Today, Mt. Kilimanjaro secures the attention of mountain climbers but Mount Kenya can often be more enjoyed due to climbing alone or with small groups.

Mt. Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak is regarded as the realm of Ngai, god of the local Kikuyu people. Traditionally, all Kikuyu homes were built to face this sacred peak. They call it Kirinyaga, or place of light.

This mountain is also fascinating because of its variation in flora with the change in altitude. The lower slopes are covered with dry forest followed by montane forest full of cedar trees at about 6,500 feet. Then begins a dense belt of bamboo and short trees in which numerous animals hide. Between 9,750-11,375 feet comes high altitude heath dotted with giant tree heathers and open moorland grazed by a few acclimatized zebras and eland.

These forests belts are host to many different animals and plants with at least 11 unique species. Game to view includes: black and white Colobus and Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, rock Hyrax, greater galago, buffalo, elephant and further down are found the Olive baboon, waterbuck, black rhino, black fronted duikers, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena. More elusive is the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope.

Samburu National Park

The Samburu National Reserve (SNR) is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Kenya; on the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Northern Kenya. It is 55 square miles in size and 200 miles from Nairobi. In the middle of the reserve, the Ewaso Ng’iro River flows through doum palm groves and thick riverine forests that provides water without which the game in the reserve could not survive in the arid country.

There is a wide variety of animal and bird life seen at SNR. Several species are considered unique to the region, including its unique dry-country animal life. All three big cats, lion, cheetah and leopard, can be found here, as well as elephants, buffalo and hippos.

Other mammals frequently seen in the park include gerenuk, Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, impala, waterbuck, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx and reticulated giraffe. Rhinos are no longer present in the park due to heavy poaching.

The Samburu National Reserve was one of the two areas in which conservationists George Adamson and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness made famous in the best-selling book and award winning movie Born Free. The Samburu National Reserve is also the home of Kamunyak, a lioness famous for adopting oryx calves.

Sibiloi National Park

Sibiloi National Park lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. Established in 1973 by the government of Kenya for the protection of wildlife and paleontological sites there, it covers 525 square miles and is internationally known for its fossils. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 as a part of Lake Turkana National Parks.

In the 1960’s Dr. Richard Leakey led an expedition to this remote area near Kenya’s border with Ethiopia, and discovered some of the earliest hominid traces ever at Koobi Fora now credited as some of the most important paleontological finds of the 20th century.

Game includes the rare striped hyena, leopard, lion, cheetah, hippo, plains and Grevy’s zebra, topi, oryx, lesser kudu and Grant’s gazelle.

Tsavo East and West National Parks

The two Tsavo parks are popular for short visits due to their proximity to the Mombasa coast.

Tsavo-East is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest National Parks covering approximately 40 percent of the total area of all Kenya’s National Parks. Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast make it a popular safari destination. It is accredited as one of the world’s leading biodiversity strongholds, bushy grassland and open plains alternate with semi-arid acacia scrub and woodlands. Green swathes cross the park where the river banks give raise to lush vegetation. North of the Galana River is a true wilderness. Camel safaris are offered in this park.

Tsavo-East is recommended for photographers with its fabulous light and unbelievable views, in particular the Mudanda Rock and the Yatta Plateau, the world’s largest lava flow. Lugard Falls on the Galana River are remarkable for the shaped water-worn rocks.

Wildlife includes elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk and zebra and Hunter’s Hartebeest can be seen with its lyre-shaped horns. Home to some of the largest herds in Kenya, the elephants glow red after dust baths, blowing the vivid red dust through their trunks over their bodies.

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