Walk This Way is all about traveling and today we’re talking about Kenya! We usually walk our way through new places, but Kenya is a land of great distances too far to walk. However, the country is so beautiful that I’d like to share some tips with you in case you want to travel there!
Kenya was established when the former East Africa Protectorate was transformed into a British Crown colony in 1920. The colony came to an end in 1963 when a black majority government was elected for the first time and eventually declared independence as Kenya. This is why the official language is English, but Kenyans also speak Swahili, Kikuyu, Kamba, Luhya, Luo, Gusii, Mercedes and Nandi–Markweta.
Vaccination and visa
Before you even go, check if you have a vaccination for yellow fever. Sometimes they check this on the border. We also bought Atovaquon, the cheap version of Malaron, to avoid Malaria. Make sure to bring 50 dollars in cash to pay for the Kenyan visa.
Renting a car
Since Kenya is a former British colony, cars drive on the left side of the road.
Why do British drive on the left side?
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse.
More information you find here.
The roads in Kenya are in bad condition and the Kenyans drive in way that is, let's say not very German. So it is highly recommended to rent a car with a driver. Also, if you want to enter a park and see games it is going to be very difficult on your own. We would never have found the camp, not to mention the elephants.
National Park Tsavo East
The National Park Tsavo Eastis about a 7-hour drive from Nairobi Kenyata Airport. On our way to the park we stopped by Hunters Rodgers, a former hunting cottage, for breakfast. It should have cost 1.200 Schilling (12 Dollars), but the bill was three times higher. So I recommend that you always double-check your restaurant bills.
The exchange rate is more or less 100 Schilling to 1 Dollar or 120 Schilling to 1 Euro. I would withdraw some money before coming, as it is quite a hastle to find ATMs. In Kenya people often pay with Mpesa, which is money transferred by phone. If you stay for a while it does make sense to get a Kenyan phone and top up money using Mpesa.
We slept in Biji's Camp in the National Park Tsavo East. Since the best time to see the games is at 6 am and 4 pm, it is worth staying for one night. It is also important to bring binoculars, as the game can be sometimes far away. In Biji's camp you sleep in tents and can enjoy a fine Italian dinner by the river. When we arrived, an elephant walked through the campsite, as if he wanted to welcome us! As we had breakfast by the river we watched a hippo getting ready for the day. At night hippos graze on land, but during the day they simply stand in the river, so you barley see their ears.
Kudu camp is close by, when you only pay park fees for one day. You can sleep there and drive to the park in the morning.
52 Dollars Park fee per person per day
5 Dollars per car per day
3 Dollars for the driver per day
95 Dollars per person per night in Bigis camp
You can pay with credit card or Mpesa. They don't take cash anymore. We paid with our driver’s phone.
Further south you will find Kilifi, where you can spend some nice time at the beach and you’ll find many baobab trees. Regarded as the largest succulent plant in the world, the baobab tree is steeped in a wealth of mystique. One myth is that God was punishing this tree by putting it upside down in the ground. The tree does not carry many leaves and only blossoms for a few months in a year.
At the boatyard in Kilifi you can get some cheap lunch and dip your toes into beach sand.
Another is beautiful tree is Jacaranda, which flowers a beautiful red for a few months. It is called the European tree because in colonial times, the Kenyans had to pay taxes to the European colonialists, when the tree was flowering.
Things to do in Kilifi
I recommend a stroll along the south shore of Kilifi Creek, which stretches out 5 kilometers along the shoreline. You have to figure out when low-tide is and start your walk an hour earlier, when the tide is still out, otherwise there will not be enough exposed beach on which to walk. A good starting point is Mnarani Club beach.
Another really nice day trip can be Takaungu, an old Arabic town 10 minutes drive from Kilifi, where you can travel in time and buy some nice souvenirs.
National Park Tsavo West
We experienced a rare full moon on the 1st of January, where I learned that the moon from Africa’s perspective is yellow and not white as it is when you observe it from Germany.
In Tsavo West you also can go for morning and afternoon games at 6.30 am and at 4 pm. You can only drive until 6.30 pm. So make sure you are back at the entrance or in camp in time. The fines are quite high. I was lucky to be accompanied by a giraffe while having my breakfast on my terrace. Also off the road we found a leopard mother with her children playing next to her. In this park you experience much more green nature and a little of hills, which is especially nice for the sunset. You can also visit the Setani Lava Flora, which is a 100 year-old lava field where you can have a nice little picnic.
52 dollars per 24 hours
5 Dollars per car per day
3 Dollars for the driver per day
3 Dollars for the accommodation of the driver
120 Dollars Kitani camp per night, self catering
National Park Amboseli
From Tsavo West we drove to National Park Amboseli, which is offering views of Tanzania's 5.895 m mountain Kilimanjaro.
In National Park Amboseli you can also enjoy fascinating game-drives around 6.30am and 4 pm. I learned that because lions and leopards hunt at night, the animals sleep during the day. Elephants sleep standing up to 4 hours a day. Only the baby elephant lays down in the shade of their mother, to protect them from the sun. Zebras like to roll in the red sand and Hippos walking through the water, sometimes you only see their ears, with birds on the back during the day.
We stayed in Amboseli Junction Hotel for 35 Dollars per night, but you can also sleep in lodges like Sentrim which costs 110.000 Schilling per night. If you travel on a budget there is one trick. Stay in a cheaper hotel, but have tea-time and dinner in the lodges. I call it lodge hopping and quite enjoyed it.
60 Dollars for Amboseli
3 Dollars for the driver per day
8,5 Dollar for the car per day
35 Dollars for Amboseli Junction Hotel
My last days in Kenya I spent in Shela on a small island of Lamu, where Africa melts with Arabia. An outpost of Islamic traders for centuries, Lamu is to this very day as Arabian as Africa can be. The lanes are narrow with loveable nooks. Shela is 20 minutes boat ride away from the island capital Lamu town an 30 minutes from the airport. Today, the majority of Lamu's population is Muslim mixed in with a lot of French tourists.
The beaches of Kenya's idyllic Lamu island are dotted with traditional Swahili stone and coral houses, mansions built by European royalty, the odd donkey and traditional wooden sailing vessels, called dhows, originally built for carrying exotic spices and goods along the Indian Ocean.
This island is perfect to relax. Here you can walk along the beach, snorkel or kite surf.
You can stay in Baitil Aman, a stylish hotel in a fully renovated city palace from the 18th century, which was built by a local ruler for his wife. But they weren't blessed with children and the husband died early. The unfortunate wife underwent the entire drama another two times, before she left the island. They offer rooms for 100 Dollars per night and amazing dinners on their roof top. A double room is already available for 50 Dollars
If you want a room with a ocean view, you can book room number 4 or 8 at Pwani Guest House for 60 Dollars per night.
Besides a lovely dinner at Baitil Aman you should try to reserve a table at Peponi, a classic directly at Shela's Beach. Once the venue for the jet set, the terrace is to this day the social marketplace of Shela. I highly recommend the dawa cocktail or an oldpals.
Lamu is virtually car free. Round 3.000 donkeys still take care of the goods transport on the island. The streets are just too narrow for cars. Wanting to explore the region, man takes dhows, small sailboats, to navigate through the firth or marvels at Takwas sea of debris, an abandoned settlement from the 17th century. You can also wander along the twelve kilometres long beach, next to Peponi. We took a boat from Kizingoni back through the mangroves.
Next to Lamu Island is Manda Island, where you can visit the Takwa ruins, the Machupichu of Lamu, and walk along the beach to The Majlis Resorts. Here you can have a delicious dinner on the terrace with a beautiful sundowner. AND something rare in Kenya, they are a wifi paradise. I finally could read emails and post a foto.
PS: Since sunscreen lotion costs at least 28 Dollars on this island and is really hard to find, I also recommend to bring along a bottle or two ;).
If I hopefully come back I would also visit Maasai Mara Reserve, a national park 6 hours drive from Nairobi, and the desert in the north of Kenya and the beaches of Diani.
Helpful Swahili words for your trip:
Jumbo = hello
Asanti Sana = thank you very much
Pore = excuse me, sorry
Kwaheri = bye
Caribu = welcome
Jina Berta. = I am Berta.