Kenya Facts & Information


Useful country and travel info for Kenya


Kenya covers an area larger than France and is about the size of Texas. The equator runs through the centre of the Kenya. With the Indian Ocean washing its Eastern shores and the immense Lake Victoria on its Western border, Kenya is truly a land of contrasts. From the snow-covered peaks of Mount Kenya astride the equator, to the warm sun-kissed beaches, the scenery embraces mountains, forests, deserts and lakes. And of course a staggering abundance and diversity of wildlife!

The Land 

Kenya's geographic regions are as diverse as its people and wildlife. Two-thirds (mainly in the north and east) are arid semidesert composed of acacia and commiphora bush, while the south and southwest is predominantly tree-dotted savanna. In the east a narrow fertile strip of land is bordered by the Indian Ocean. Lake Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake, lies to the west. 

Cutting through the country in a north-south direction is the Great Rift Valley, with a string of lakes and a number of mostly dormant volcanoes. In the centre of Kenya are the highlands, dominated by Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountain range.

The People, The Culture and The Language

There are about 37 different ethnic groupings in Kenya but no single culture that identifies it.

Kenya is known as the cradle of mankind. It is here that we humans are closest to our roots. Kenya's indigenous peoples are the Bantu and the Nilotic. The arrival of Islamic traders around the 9th century profoundly influenced Kenya's peoples and culture. They brought with them a religion, a language and the dreaded slave trade. The mixture of cultures gave birth to the Africa-Arab culture known as the Swahili who reside mainly on the coast.

Other notable peoples include pastoralist communities in the north, and several different communities in the central and western regions. The Maasai culture is well known because of tourism, despite being a minor percentage of the Kenyan population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellry.

Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, with multiple types of folk music based on the variety over 40 regional languages. Guitar rhythms are very complex and include both native beats and imported ones especially from neighbouring African countries. Lyrics are most often in Swahili or Lingala.

The Cuisine

Traditional Kenyan foods reflect the many different lifestyles of the various groups in the country. Most Kenyan dishes are filling and inexpensive to make. Staple foods consist mainly of corn, maize, potatoes, and beans. The Maasai, cattle-herding peoples, eat simple foods, relying on cow and goat by-products.

The Kikuyu and Gikuyu grow corn, beans, potatoes, and greens. They mash all of these vegetables together to make irio. They roll irio into balls and dip them into meat or vegetable stews. In western Kenya, the people living near Lake Victoria mainly prepare fish stews, vegetable dishes, and rice.

There are two national dishes: ugali and nyama choma. Maize (corn) is the main ingredient of ugali, which is thick, similar to porridge. Many Kenyans eat this on a daily basis. Ugali is usually eaten with meat, stews, or sukuma wiki, which literally translates to "stretch the week." This means that the food is used to stretch meals to last for the week. Sukuma wiki is a combination of chopped spinach or kale fried with onions, tomatoes, green pepper, and leftover meat, if available. The traditional way of eating ugali is to pinch off a piece of the dough, shape it into a scoop by pressing and indenting the dough with the thumb, then using it to scoop sauces or stew.

Nyama choma is roasted or grilled meat. The process of grilling meat in Kenya is different from that done in the United States. Basting and the use of herbs and seasonings are not used in most Kenyan dishes. When eating nyama choma at a restaurant, the diner chooses from a selection of meat. It is grilled plain and served sliced into bite-sized pieces. It is often served with mashed vegetables.

The Wildlife

The variety of habitats and wildlife here is unsurpassed anywhere in Africa. In the northeast in the arid lands of the Samburu one may find the endangered Grevy's zebra, the long-necked gerenuk, beisa oryx and the striking reticulated giraffe. In the southwest there is the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve, well knwon for its abundance of wildlife and tThe Great Wildebeest and Zebra Migration which occurs between July and September.

The Climate

As most of Kenya is high-plateau country it enjoys a pleasant climate: warm days and cool nights are the norm for most of the year. Around the coast it can become very hot and humid. The rains occur between March and May and between October and December. The most popular time for safaris is July to September, when the migration takes place and the schools in Europe and America are closed for summer holidays.

Vaccinations and Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in all areas except Nairobi. We recommend that any travellers to Kenya take anti-malerial medication. You should consult your physician before travel. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccinations are also recommended prior to travel.

Visas

Visa requirements are constantly changing and so you should refer to the Embassy Website or speak to one of our expert consultants for the latest requirements.

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