The Republic of Kenya covers an area of 582,644 square kilometres and shares a common border with Ethiopia to the north, Sudan to the North West, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the South, and Somalia to the East.
The country sits astride the Equator and is bisected from north to South by the Great Rift Valley, a natural phenomenon that runs through most of the length of Africa. Kenya is a land of great physical contrasts divided into roughly five ecological zones. To the north and north east, the country ranges from semi-arid to desert. About two thirds of the country is in this zone, whose most important feature is Lake Turkana on whose shores at Koobi Kora.
Archeological excavations have unearthed man’s earliest ancestors leading to Kenya’s claim as the “Cradle of Mankind”. Lake Turkana is also reputed to contain the highest concentration of crocodiles- over ten thousand in a single habitat. Close to Turkana are the National Parks of Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. It was at Shaba that the Joy and George Adamson’s famous rehabilitation work with lions was done and where the award winning movie “Born Free” was filmed. Together with Meru National Park, the above form part of Kenya’s Northern Tourist Circuit.
Kenya’s Coastal belt stretches nearly five hundred kilometres from the Tanzania border to the south, to Kiwayu on the Somali boarder to the north. All along this coastal stretch are located Kenya’s famous beach resorts including Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, which is not only a world reknown tourist resort but also a thriving port city serving as a sea outlet to its landlocked neighbors in Central Africa. Other equally famous coastal resort areas are Shimoni, Diani and Tiwi on the South Coast and Watamu, Malindi, and Lamu on the north Coast to mention a few. Together they offer the visitors some of the finest beaches to be found anywhere in the world.
A third geographical cum tourist zone covers the Central Highlands in which lies the Aberdares National Reserve and Mt Kenya National Park. Many different species of game are found in these parks as well as a large variety of fascinating plants. In this park, sitting astride the equator, is found the snow covered Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, after Mt Kilimanjaro. At the Park is also famous for the tree lodges, among them Treetops, the first tree hotel in the whole of Africa, which is historically famous as the lodge in which Queen Elizabeth of Britain ascended to the throne while holidaying in Kenya, following the death in 1952, of her father, King George VI.
Between the coastal zone and the Central Highlands lies the Nyika Plateau, a large low rainfall area best known as the Savannah, which supports the bulk of Kenya’s wildlife.
Finally, there is the Western zone dominated by the fertile agricultural lands west of the Rift Valley which produces the bulk of Kenya food as well as major cash crops such as Tea produced in the Highlands of Kericho. From these highlands the land slopes steeply down to the lake basin dominated by Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world which forms a natural boundary between Kenya and her neighbors’, Uganda to the west, and Tanzania to the south and south west.
Because of the great diversity of the geographical zones, Kenya‘s climate also vary a great deal from place to place. Because of its high altitude, Nairobi is cool and has a pleasant weather throughout the year. The north and north east is very hot and dry. The Coast is hot and humid. The Central Highlands is mostly cool in the day and sometimes very chilly in the evening. The west is mainly sunny in the morning with afternoon rains and thunderstorms. Mot of the year, however Kenya is sunny but not too hot. September is an ideal time to visit. The parks are dry, the weather is pleasant and the animals are plentiful. September is also the beginning of the “yearly migration” in Maasai Mara, a natural phenomenon that is as unique as it is wonderful to experience.
Kenya is made up of nearly fifty ethnic communities each with its own distinct culture. The majority of people are of the Bantu stock, followed by the Nilotes who mainly live along the shores of Lake Victoria. To the north and north east live people of Cushitic origin. Kenya’s different ethnic groups with their rich and varied cultures are captured in expressive dance, song and traditional art and craft and no visit to Kenya is ever complete without shopping for at least one item of the many handicrafts that you will find displayed everywhere you travel. Among the cultures most visitors find the Maasai / Samburu traditional lifestyles to be particularly colorful.