African Travel Tips When Visiting Kenya

Kenya is the land that has given birth to the most popular African activity for tourists, namely the safari, and its easy to see why. Blessed with tremendous topographical diversity stretching over four climatic zones and featuring coral reefs, desert landscapes, volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, Kenya has it all in one.

Inhabiting these diverse landscapes and wilderness areas are Kenya’s world-famous wildlife, which can be viewed from horseback, 4×4 vehicle, verandah or on foot. There are over 1000 species of birds and huge colonies of colourful butterflies. Also attractive is the rich history, which dates back to the Stone Age, and the various cultures expressed through the sought-after arts and crafts.

So, if you are lazing on the white sand beaches of exotic Mombasa or gazing at the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle, the annual wildebeest migration, you are sure to enjoy a world-class experience.

CAPITAL:

Nairobi

CLIMATE:

Four climatic zones exist: tropical, equatorial, semi-desert and desert. Only two seasons are identified, namely dry and rainy. Due to altitude and topographical differences of the various regions, these seasons and temperatures are not uniform and vary greatly. However, in general the climate is warm and humid at the coast, cool and humid in the central highlands, and hot and dry in the north and east.

CURRENCY:

The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. Traveller’s cheques are widely accepted and many hotels, travel agencies, safari companies and restaurants accept credit cards. Foreign currency such as US dollars, British pounds and Deutschmarks can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and authorized hotels. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya, but taking out more than 500,000 Kenya Shillings requires written authorization from the Central Bank. Before departure, travellers are advised to convert any excess Kenya Shillings into foreign currency at a bank or bureau de change. Departure taxes can be paid in local or foreign currency.

ELECTRICITY:

220/240 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are 3-pin square.

HEALTH:

A yellow fever vaccination is recommended if the traveller comes from an infected country or area. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against typhoid, hepatis A, polio, malaria and meningitis depending on the area visited and time of year. Other health concerns include cholera, rabies, the Nairobi beetle (don’t touch, threaten or kill), dysentery and diarrhoea.

LANGUAGE:

English is the official language, but Kiswahili is the national language.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

New Year’s Day (1 Jan); Good Friday (09 Apr); Easter Monday (12 Apr); Labour Day (1 May); Madaraka Day (01 Jun); Moi Day (10 Oct); Kenyatta’s Day (20 Oct); End of Ramadan (14 Nov); Independance Day (12 Dec); Christmas Day (25 Dec); Boxing Day (26 Dec)

SHOPPING:

Traditional artefacts, beaded jewellery and decorative items, animal wood and soapstone carvings, furniture, coffee, precious stones, furniture, Khanga and Kikoy cloths, musicical instruments, modern art, basket work e.g. Kiondoo/Chondo sisal baskets, Maasai Shukka blankets, ‘Thousand Miler’ sandals, ‘elephant hair’ bracelets.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS:

Culture here is a mix of the modern and the traditional, with European habits prevailing throughout the country. Kenyans are a very friendly nation and you can dress informally for most occasions.

TIME DIFFERENCE:

GMT +3

TIPPING:

Not mandatory. Guides, drivers, waiters and hotel staff can be tipped at your discretion.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Maasai Mara:

National Reserve The world’s most famous Game Reserve due to the annual wildebeest, zebra and gazelle migration over this vast plain offering breathtaking views; home to a profusion of wildlife and birds; activities include excellent game viewing year round, balloon rides and bird watching.

Tsavo East and West:

The twin national parks of Tsavo, totalling 10 million acres of wilderness, form Kenya’s largest National Park, which make it ideal for those who enjoy solitude; of the two Tsavo West is visited more; apart from the wildlife and birds, visit Lugard Falls, the volcanic Mzima springs and a unique underwater observatory.

Mombasa:

One of the world’s most exotic tropical ports with a turbulent history. Visit the magnificent Fort Jesus and harbour, see the Arab architecture in Old Town and smell the scent of spices. Many fine temples and mosques can be explored such as the Shiva Temple, the Baluchi mosque and the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque. Also don’t miss the Mombasa Marine National Park, the Moi Avenue gateway arch, dhow cruises and the beaches.

Amboseli National Park:

One of the most popular national parks in Kenya with a wide range of accommodation; the landscape is dominated by Mount Kilimanjaro and the park is famous for its big game and scenic beauty; bird life is abundant.

Lake Nakuru National Park:

Famous for its flamingoes and so popular with bird watchers and other nature lovers. Make full use of the view point and visit the Euphobia forest.

Mount Kenya National Park:

The country is named after Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa. For mountain climbers and hikers, it offers easy and challenging ascents with superb scenic beauty. The local tribes believe it is the home of Ngai (God). A number of unique, rare and endangered species can be found here and there is abundant bird life.

Lamu:

A peaceful tropical island with a fascinating history, which can be explored in the winding streets of its medieval stone town, a World Heritage Site partly due to it being the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa.

Lake Turkana National Parks:

The three national parks serve as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and are major breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and a variety of venomous snakes. Turkana is outstanding for the study of plant and animal communities and the Koobi Fora fossil deposits have contributed more to the understanding of paleo-environments than any other site in Africa, it is also the most saline of Africa’s large lakes and a World Heritage Site.

Aberdare National Park:

A must for landscape lovers, where one can view spectacular mountains, waterfalls, rainforest, trout streams, moorlands, thickets of giant heath, caves, abundant bird life, duikers, the black rhino and the elusive, rare Bongo – a forest antelope. This area is ideal for walks, picnics, trout fishing, camping and night game viewing.

Mount Elgon National Park:

One of Kenya’s most beautiful and pristine areas where you can find giant trees, about 400 animals, over 240 bird species and ‘cave elephants’ that venture deep into the four caves at night to feed on the salt rich deposits. Mount Elgon is also a famous botanical locality with a great wealth of Afro alpine flowers. Hot springs occur and sport fishing is popular on the Suam river.

Why Business Travel Isn’t Just a “Perk”

For those people who have never travelled on business for a large company, at face value, this looks like something of a gravy train.

When you are standing in lengthy queues for airport taxis at the end of your holiday, it can sometimes be easy to drift into a little resentment when you see those luxury limousines cruising up for business people to step seemingly effortlessly into as soon as they walk out of the terminal doors.

If you are also sitting in an aircraft in what is sometimes uncharitably called “Cattle Class” and catch a glimpse through the curtains of those in Business Class, then once again your resentment can rise to the surface.

Of course, it’s all perfectly understandable and many of us would admit to having experienced it. Yet before we run away with the idea that this is all about corporate excess, it’s worth taking some of the balancing factors into consideration.

  • Unlike when travelling for personal reasons such as holidays, business people are often expected to work while they are in transit. It’s commonplace for them to have major papers to produce or presentations to construct on their laptops while they are actually in mid-air or sitting in the back of one of those luxury limousines.
  • Anyone who has travelled on business will tell you that it is a fundamentally different psychological experience to personal travel. It’s extremely tiring and stressful and does not signify either the start or end of a pleasurable holiday.
  • Significant numbers of business travellers are forced to travel frequently. Although it’s hard to believe, the novelty of travel very quickly wears off and it can be tedious and draining when repeated regularly.
  • Companies don’t look for limousines to hire because they like to pamper their employees or win popularity contests. They do so because time is money and having expensive personnel doing nothing as they stand in lengthy queues waiting for buses and taxis just isn’t in the shareholders’ best interests. So, using a luxury limousine for an airport transfer is actually cost-beneficial for the company concerned.
  • Most business travellers, when they are travelling nationally or internationally, really don’t get much, if any, time to enjoy themselves and see the sights at their destination. One office or hotel room looks very much like any other all around the globe. It’s perfectly possible to fly very regularly to an overseas destination on business and never actually get to see anything of it other than an office and a sterile hotel room.
  • Finally, don’t let’s forget the severe disruption on personal lives that arises when people are forced to travel on business and particularly where they do so regularly. Partners, spouses and families can be significantly inconvenienced and as a result, additional stresses and strains can be placed on all concerned.

Okay, nobody is forcing the vast majority of business people to travel and they are presumably, at least for the most part, doing a job they enjoy. So, you don’t have to shed too many tears for them either!

Even so, don’t assume that every time you see a luxury limousine collection at the airport or at an office complex, that it signifies the worst excesses of capitalism. It might be far more practical than that.

Beautiful Band-E Amir – The Ultimate Travel Destination

Choosing a place to go on your vacation can be particularly difficult for many people. Sure you can go to the same old boring places that everybody goes to; theme parks, national parks, sunny islands with beaches, or Europe… but why not consider someplace extraordinary, someplace so out of the ordinary that you’ll remember it for as long as you live?

Take a look at Band-e Amir.

You may never have heard of it because it lies in Afghanistan and most people don’t really think of Afghanistan as the ultimate tourist destination, but Band-e Amir is definitely worth your consideration.

So what exactly is it?

Basically it’s six amazingly blue lakes that are located high up in the Hindu Kush mountains. It’s about 45 miles from Bamiyan if that helps narrow it down in your mind at all. The best time of year to go is between the spring and autumn.

Unfortunately you can’t just step onto an airplane and then take a cab. No, to get there you need to take a 4×4 truck from Bamiyan. Like I said, this isn’t your ordinary vacation!

The lakes are created by water that flows down a number of natural terraces. It’s hard to imagine how beautiful these cobalt blue lakes look surrounded by red sandy rocky mountains and hillscapes. The colors are an amazing contrast.

You can expect to find all kinds of animals in the area including wolves and foxes and even rabbits and some wild sheep and goats. In the water you can find large yellow fish that the local people calls Chush.

Band-e Amir is a national park, in fact the very first national park that Afghanistan has ever had and it was created in 1973. Though a national park in Afghanistan doesn’t really mean the same thing as it does in America, you won’t find park rangers and camping grounds for instance.

Unfortunately right now America is involved in a war in Afghanistan so it may not be the best time to visit, in fact I suggest putting off a trip there until things settle down. Contact the foreign office or your local embassy before making any sort of plans to travel there.

While you won’t find any tourist shops or really much of anything at all… if you’re looking for a vacation that’s off the beaten path and puts you smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful natural landscapes that you’ll ever see in your entire life, and you don’t mind roughing it and are up for little or venture, then Band-e Amir may be just right for you.