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Introduction to Kenya

introduction and general information

A country of exceptional natural beauty, Kenya straddles the equator and seemingly consists of contrasting worlds with the Indian Ocean on one side and the highlands of the interior on the other. Between the two lie vast plains of thick scrub and bushlands where African animals graze and hunt. The Masai Mara is undoubtedly Kenya's crown jewel where wildlife-rich savannahs are also home to the Masai Mara tribe, renowned for their strong cultural traditions. The vast area is awash with wildlife lodges and nature camps offering morning and afternoon game safaris, cultural village visits and hot air balloon rides. Game viewing opportunities continue in picturesque central Kenya at the Mount Kenya and Mount Meru National Parks, mountainous Aberdare and a host of wildlife conservancies that preserve rare and endangered African wildlife. At the floor of the Rift Valley lies Kenya's stunning lake area, an exceptional region of natural beauty and a highly valuable and important eco-system. In stark contrast is the south, featuring the immense and dry landscape of Tsavo East and West, as well as the lovely Amboseli National Park with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. The capital of Nairobi is the main entry point into the country, as well as a stopover point between game viewing locations. A day here can be spent to view museums, the giraffe orphanage, and the compact Nairobi National Park on the outskirts of the city. Along the east, the coastal area of Mombasa offers plenty to see and do, from uncovering ancient architecture and sacred temples in Old Town Mombasa, to sipping cocktails on palm-fringed beaches and spotting dolphins on a traditional dhow cruise. The diversity of Kenya calls for at least a one- to two-week stay and we can assist you with a tailor-made itinerary to suit your travel needs. Due to the remote location of many of the lodges, daily meals and game drives are often part of the package. A guided itinerary is recommended to enjoy the full experience of this diverse country that should include an exploration of the mainland with a stopover at the coast.

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Masai Mara

Kenya's best known attraction and one of the most popular safari destinations in the world, the Masai Mara supports the highest diversity of animal species in Africa. It covers 1 510 km2, creating a vast, unfenced ecosystem that extends to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The Masai Mara is home to the Big 5 (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard) and all of Africa's other animals as well as over 500 species of birds. Primarily composed of rolling plains and hills dotted with umbrella thorn acacias, the reserve offers exceptional game viewing all year around peaking from July to September when the great migration sees over a million wildebeest and zebra cross over the crocodile-infested Mara River. The reserve is divided into three main sectors; the Mara Triangle, the Musiara sector, and the Sekenani sector, with more exclusive private conservancies lying on its northern and eastern boundaries. Within the Masai Mara itself there are a large number of excellent camps to choose from offering morning and afternoon game drives. Private conservancies also extend bush walks and night drives. All camps offer full board and lodging and some additional activities such as hot-air balloon safaris and sundowners in the African bushland. Cultural visits to the resident Masai tribe can also be arranged. Suggested length of stay: Safaris in the Masai Mara need to be planned carefully in order to optimise your experience and visitors should bear in mind that the reserve becomes very busy at certain times of the year. We suggest a stay of 4-5 days within this abundant wilderness for the best chance of seeing all of Africa's wildlife. Boutique Africa can assist you in choosing the right location and lodge to suit your needs, and prepare a comprehensive travel itinerary for your Kenya holiday.

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The Amboseli National Park is one of the most picturesque in Kenya, lying serenely at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Perennially capped in ice, this mountain plays an important role for Amboseli's wildlife as its melting peaks provide water that is filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock before emerging in two clear springs in the heart of the park. The Amboseli wetlands are dominant landmarks of the otherwise dry park, with the Enkongo Narok swamp and its central feature, Lake Kioko, the main focus in the western region, and the Longinye Swamp being the big wildlife magnet in the east. This remarkably diverse and scenic landscape is famed for its herds of large tusked elephants and giraffes, and while most of southern Kenya's plains wildlife can be seen at Amboseli, the most common on the open plains are wildebeest and Burchell's zebra. Bird counts are often astonishing with water birds the highlight. The Amboseli region has several lodges and safari camps as well as a wide variety of excellent private conservancies that flank the park. All offer morning and afternoon game drives and range from comfortable budget accommodation to secluded luxury lodges. While visiting Amboseli we suggest a visit to a Masai village. These traditional warriors still practice the customary way of life as pastoralists and are deeply woven into Kenya's history. Suggested length of stay: We suggest at least 3-4 nights in Amboseli and combining this with a stay at one of Kenya's larger national parks such as the Masai Mara or Tsavo. Round off your holiday with a few days in Mombasa enjoying sea, sand, and tropical living. Boutique Africa will assist you with all your Kenyan travel queries and booking requirements.

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Rift Valley

Lying at the base of Kenya's Rift Valley is a series of lakes famed for their astounding natural beauty. All different and comprising their own individual scenic allure, these great lakes are a bird watcher's paradise and home to a number of globally threatened species. The area also contains the single most important foraging site for the lesser flamingo and is a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans. Of all the lakes Nakuru is the most well-known as it often appears pink-rimmed due to the enormous numbers of flamingos that grace its surface. Along with Elementaita, its water is highly alkaline with few drainage outlets that create an ideal breeding ground for algae and several species of fish that attract scores of flamingos. In contrast are the dark brown hues of lakes Baringo and Bogoria where boiling springs and geysers are among the attractions, along with herons, storks and fish-eating crocodiles. Other lakes include Natron and Naivasha where an immense variety of outdoor activities can be enjoyed. We highly recommend at least one boat cruise guaranteed to be filled with soul-stirring beauty. Most of the lakes are surrounded by parks and reserves making rewarding land-based safaris easy, while the area is ideally suited to peaceful guided walks, trekking and biking. Visitors can also take a tour through a tea plantation or visit the local community who rely on the lakes for their livelihood. Suggested length of stay: We recommend 2-3 days in this beautiful area from where it is relatively easy to travel to other parts of Kenya for more traditional wildlife safari experiences. Boutique Africa offers a wide variety of travel itineraries, or can tailor a travel plan just for you.

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Blending tropical appeal with cultural history and a taste of local life, the Kenyan coast lies in complete contrast to the country's savannahs and wildlife enclaves. Fringed by sandy beaches, mangrove creeks and coconut palms, Mombasa extends the ideal setting for a gentle beach holiday with ample time to relax and unwind while enjoying the warm ocean and stunning scenery. While daily itineraries are often part and parcel of enjoying a safari circuit, once you have checked into your hotel in Mombasa you are free to do what you want at your leisure, although for the energetic there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Diving, snorkelling, city tours, shopping trips and cultural and historical excursions can all be easily organised from your hotel, while those who prefer self-exploration won't find this too difficult either. We recommend a tour of Old Town, filled with spices, history and ancient Arabic culture, as well as a scenic cruise in a traditional dhow. Bike tours are popular for exploring Mombasa, while the Mombasa Marine National Park that fringes the northern shoreline is known for its coral gardens providing colourful snorkelling and diving locations. Fishing and a host of other marine adventures are also all available. From Mombasa it is also easy to travel inland for a day trip to Shimba Hills or Tsavo East National Park. Suggested length of stay: We suggested 4-7 days in Mombasa along the more popular north coast region as a conclusion to your safari circuit of Kenya. Speak to Boutique Africa about booking the ideal bush and beach holiday in magical Kenya.

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Once a centre for the slave trade, today Lamu is a peaceful tropical island with a laid-back rhythm that belies its mysterious and fascinating past. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains many fine examples of Swahili architecture, considered amongst the best preserved and oldest in East Africa, and there are several museums and notable buildings for visitors to explore such as the Lamu Museum, Lamu Fort and Riyadha Mosque. The island's narrow streets have remained unchanged through the years and travellers should note that no vehicles are permitted here, with donkeys and dhows remaining the dominant means of transport. The island is nevertheless a hypnotically exotic experience where you can spend your days strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town, relaxing on the golden beaches, and mingling with the friendly locals. Self-exploration is easy and many choose to walk, although donkeys can also be hired. We suggest a dhow excursion to the surrounding archipelago, where isolated villages, ancient ruins and a few luxurious and exclusive resorts lie hidden among the islands of Manda, Siyu, Pate and Kiwayu. The easiest way to access the island is by air and there are daily scheduled flights. It is also possible to cross the sea channel from Mombasa in a dhow. Suggested length of stay: For a sight-seeing visit, 2-3 nights on the island is sufficient, however those interested in a more relaxing and soulful holiday will want to stay longer. Lamu is also completely romantic and isolated, making it an ideal location for a honeymoon.

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