Kenya

 

Located in the Enonkishu Conservancy, I had the privilege of staying at a private family - owned boutique lodge named ‘House in the Wild’; a beautiful remote location in the Greater Mara ecosystem with an incredible wildlife experience and a mix of luxury, comfort, warm hospitality, good food and stunning nature. It felt like a home away from home where I didn’t want to leave after a 4-night stay.

House in the Wild Eco Lodge Kenya

Kenya is without a doubt one of the most incredible wildlife and safari destinations in the entire world. Staying in safari-style (luxury) eco-lodges in the conservancies around the Maasai Mara National Reserve is in my opinion one of the best options to experience a safari of a lifetime.

13 Reasons to stay at House in the Wild

In this article, I will share 13 reasons why you should add House in the Wild to your Kenya safari-itinerary.

1. Perfectly located on the Enonkishu Conservancy in the Maasai Mara with an abundance of wildlife

Eco Lodge Masai Mara River Naretoi

House in the Wild is located on the banks of the Mara River in Naretoi, a private estate in the Enonkishu Conservancy situated at the northern boundary of the Maasai Mara.

Mara River view House in the Wild

The accommodation is easily accessible by a 30-minute charter flight from Nairobi to the Ngerende airstrip, a private airstrip located 25 minutes from House in the Wild. Another option is a 4.5-hour self drive or transfer from Nairobi to Naretoi. Flights are faster and maybe more convenient, but I love the scenic road trip with stunning views of the Rift Valley and buying mais or fruits along the road. The famous Maasai Mara can be reached in about 2.5 hours by car.

Elephants Enonkishu Conservancy Kenya 

The Enonkishu Conservancy is part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem and covers an area of 5.928 acres where you can find amazing flora and fauna with over 50 species of mammals and 350+ bird species.

Big Five Enonkishu Conservancy

The Enonkishu area is home to the ‘Big five’ game animals that includes lion, leopard, white rhino (at the Rhino Sanctuary), elephant, and buffalo.

Cheetah with Cubs Enonkishu Conservancy Kenya

Apart from that, you will find many more animals like Thomson and Grant’s gazelle, cheetah, eland, impala, wild dog (rare), hippo, hyena, giraffe, and zebra.

Vervet Monkey House in the wild

From your private terrace, you’ll have great views over the Mara River bank where you can watch hippo’s, crocodiles, birds and even monkeys, like Sykes’ monkeys. Vervet monkeys are also regular visitors of House in the Wild.

2. Private safari game drives by experienced Maasai guides

Private Game Drive Maasai Guide House in the Wild

House in the Wild offers marvelous game-driving opportunities through the Enonkishu, Lemek, and Ol Chorro Conservancies. Together with a knowledgeable Masai guide, you will go on daily private game drives to explore these beautiful areas full of wildlife.

Private Safari Masaai Guide House in the Wild

Depending on your wishes, the guide explains all kinds of aspects of wildlife, nature, and the ecosystem. Our guide, Joseph, knew the area very well and has many years of experience. He made us feel comfortable from the moment we arrived and made sure we had a wonderful time. We had four lovely days with him and learned a lot more about the Maasai tribe and about the surrounding trees, mammals, and birds.

African Sunset Masaai Mara Plains Kenya

Because we love game drives, we tried to spend as much time as possible ‘in the bush’. We started our day with an early morning game drive, sometimes even before sunrise, to watch the sun come up. Watching the sunrise is an amazing start of the day. If you have trouble waking up early the staff is more than happy to give you a wake-up call!

Packed Breakfast Morning Game Drive Enonkishu 

Normally you will be back for breakfast around 10.00, but It’s also possible to take a packed breakfast on your drive to stay out in the bush longer. I personally love doing that, as you will be enjoying a breakfast somewhere on the Maasai plains; for example, under an iconic Desert Date tree.

Sunset Masai Mara Conservancies

During midday, we had lunch with views over the Mara River at House in the Wild and afterwards, we went for another evening game drive including a sundowner. Enjoying the sunset on the plains of the Maasai Mara is the perfect ending of a day exploring Africa’s nature.

Fire Place House in the Wild

On arrival back in the camp, you can enjoy an indoor or outdoor fire, waiting for dinner to be served by the lovely staff of House in the Wild.

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3. A home away from home, surrounded by nature

Hippos Mara River House in the Wild

You don’t have to go outside of the property to enjoy the peaceful and natural environment of the Mara ecosystem. From the main area, you can admire various animals like colorful bee-eaters nesting in the river bank, crocodiles and hippos resting in the river, or a troop of African Blue Monkeys foraging for food in the surrounding trees.

House in the Wild Lounge area

House in the Wild offers a lovely ambiance, including comfort and privacy. There is a relaxing lounge area in the main building.

Cocktailbar House in the Wild Naretoi

The main building and cottages are surrounded by a well-maintained garden, a swimming pool, and a (cocktail) bar.

House in the Wild Lounge area Table Tennis

In the evening you can enjoy an outdoor campfire or the indoor fireplace. If you like games, you will absolutely like the badminton court and table tennis.

House in the Wild Best Views Mara River Kenya

If you don’t feel like going on a game drive twice a day, there’s no need to be bored. Staying at House in the Wild feels like your home away from home and it’s also nice to take some time to relax around the house, have a walk through the garden or exhale at your private verandah.

4. Enjoy a plunge in the pool while watching the hippos in the Mara River

House in the Wild Pool

Because of the location, just south of the Equator, the climate in this area is pleasantly warm, with cool nights, all year round. Depending on the season, temperatures and rainfall varies a bit but most days you can enjoy the lovely, well-maintained pool during your stay at House in the Wild.

House in the Wild Crocodile Riverbank

After a long day of exploring Enonkishu’s wildlife, it’s a delight to have a dip in the pool while still enjoying the sights of hippos or crocodiles in the Mara River.

Swimming Pool House in the wild

After cooling off in the pool, there are some sun loungers waiting for you to have a little rest before your next game drive.

5. Visit the Rhino Sanctuary, Maasai Village and other activities around House in the Wild

 Rhino Sanctuary Enonkishu Conservancy

Aside from game drives, there are a number of other activities to do at an additional price like visiting the Rhino Sanctuary, or the local Maasai village and their school.

Great Migration Masai Mara Reserve

There’s also the opportunity to go for a bush walk, night drive, farm visit, or book a relaxing massage or an adventurous balloon safari. Apart from exploring the three conservancies: Enonkishu, Lemek and Ol Chorro, you can also opt for a game drive to the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Especially during the Great Migration it’s a must do to catch a glimpse of herds of Wildebeests and Zebras crossing the Mara River.

Maasai Village

Masai village Enonkishu Conservancy

We visited the Maasai village after a morning game drive. Seeing their homes and talking to these lovely people is a great way of learning more about the Maasai culture and their way of life, especially when it’s your first African experience.

Although it’s a bit touristy, you should know that by visiting the semi-nomadic Maasai, you support their local economy and their living. The money they collect is invested in for example education for the younger generation.

Mara Training Center

Field guide training Enonkishu Conservancy EcoTraining

You also have the chance of visiting the Mara Training Center, part of the Enonkishu Wild Hub, to learn more about the conservancy work in this area. Conservationists regularly visit the training center to talk about their projects, for example cheetah project or lion monitoring projects.

Apart from that, the Mara Training Center is also the base for Field Guide courses to train future nature guides. Read more about my 35-day guiding course experience with EcoTraining at the Mara Training Center.

6. Stunningly decorated cottages with an authentic African feel

Mara River view eco cottages House in the Wild

With 4 cottages, two en-suite doubles, and two family lodges, House is the Wild offers various options to stay.

For example, the original cottage has a large verandah with two double rooms, both with ensuite bathrooms including a bath and outdoor shower and the ‘Hippo cottage’ has its own huge verandah and bath overlooking the river.

Warburgia Cottage Bed House in the Wild

All rooms are artfully decorated and spacious. The mattresses are comfortable, and they make use of high-quality linens.

House in the Wild Warburgia Cottage

We were offered the ‘Warburgia cottage’ for 4 nights, which is situated under the shade of a huge Warburgia tree.

Loft Warburgia Cottage House in the Wild

This double ensuite cottage has an amazing view over the river, a spacious bathroom with outdoor shower, and an upstairs loft lounge area.

Lounge area Warburgia Cottage 

Apart from that there was also a lounge area on the first floor with two comfortable chairs and a coffee table (with a jar of chocolates or nuts). In case it rains you can still enjoy the amazing river views.

House in the Wild Private Verandah

There were no mosquito nets around the beds, but this cottage has a zippered screen door, so we didn’t have any problems with insects. We really loved the space and privacy of this cottage.

7. Private Verandah with Mara River Views

bird watching private verandah Warburgia cottage

The private verandah overlooking the Mara River is definitely one of the reasons to stay in the eco-friendly House in the Wild.

The Warburgia cottage has a spacious verandah with sun loungers and a garden set. You can easily spend a day relaxing at the verandah: soaking up some African sun, reading a book on one of the sun loungers, spotting birds through your binoculars or just peering over the Mara River, listening to the sounds of the African bush.

Warburgia Cottage Private Verandah

Something that made me very happy was slowly waking up with a cup of coffee - sitting on the verandah while watching the sunrise over the Mara River before heading out on our morning drive.

8. Bathroom with a view and outdoor shower for that extra ‘bush feel’

House in the Wild Ensuite Bathroom Warburgia Cottage

The ensuite bathroom is very light and spacious. The bathroom is equipped with everything you need, from eco-friendly shampoo, handwash, lotion and hand sanitizer to fresh water and cosy dressing gowns.

Warburgia Cottage House in the Wild Bath River View

In between the private safaris, take your time to create the perfect bath with their bath salts. Open the windows of the bathroom to enjoy stunning views of the Mara River right from your bathtub.

Outdoor Shower Warburgia Cottage House in the Wild

What I also love about the bathroom, is the outdoor rainshower to experience that extra connection with the African Bush.

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9. Delicious food straight from the local ‘shamba’

Food House in the Wild

Food can be an issue in Africa, but not at House in the wild. The chef, who always wears a big smile, served excellent and beautifully presented meals prepared with love. They use homegrown ingredients from their local garden, called the ‘shamba’, which is part of their ‘wild food philosophy’.

Fresh Vegetables Shamba House in the Wild

I absolutely loved the daily fresh and healthy salads. The chef does not only serve local meals but also global dishes like Vietnamese summer rolls, quiches, pizza, and steak.

Fresh Fruits Local Shamba House in the Wild

Before departure for the game drives, there were always homemade cookies available and hot water for coffee and thee. There were no set times for the meals. The staff was very flexible, they adjusted the times of the meals to our wishes. Also, in case of any dietary requirements, they will take care of it.

10. Private dining with a view

Lunch with a view House in the wild

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served in different places throughout the property of House in the Wild, always with a nice view and far enough from other guests to create an exclusive experience.

Private dinner House in the Wild

We enjoyed lunch at the bank of the river and one day we enjoyed dinner on our private verandah under the stars.

11. Enjoy a highly personalized experience because of the amazing staff

Joseph Maasai Guide House in the Wild

Service and hospitality make or break your stay. House in the Wild shows a perfect example of excellent service. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by all the staff members, and they made us immediately feel at home.

The chef, our guide, housemaid, and all other staff members welcomed us personally. Communication was on point and they like to give you the best possible experience, always with a smile!

Cocktailbar House in the Wild

Without a doubt, the hospitality of House in the Wild is of the highest caliber. Even kids are more than welcome, House in the Wild is a child-friendly boutique safari lodge.

12. Ecological quality House in the Wild

Main building House in the Wild Naretoi

The owners of House in the Wild attach value to sustainable tourism and conservancy. In different ways they make sure that luxury is sustainable.

Dinner House in the Wild

95% of the energy is run on solar, they recycle water through constructed wetlands, source firewood from their own sustainable plantation and grow vegetables in their wild shamba to serve their guests fresh vegetables on a daily basis.

Maasai Tribe Enonkishu Conservancy

All of their building material is sourced from sustainable suppliers, and they give back to the Maasai community as much as they can. Their staff are local Maasai and all guests pay a conservation fee per person per day.

Enonkishu Rainbow Zebra

This fee allows guests to explore the Enonkishu, Lemek and Ol Chorro conservancies and in return, they get rewarded with some spectacular landscapes and wildlife.

The owners of House in the Wild also created a program ‘Futures in the Wild’ which allows guests to contribute and get involved in community and conservation initiatives before, during, or after their stay.

They are also a proud member of the Long run, one of the world’s largest sustainable development initiatives led by nature-based businesses.

13. Enonkishu’s unique approach to conservation and livestock management

Enonkishu Kenya Masai Cattle

The charm of conservancies is not only their exclusivity but also the value of good conservation management. Income generated through tourism goes directly to the landowners, in the case of private conservancies.

Enonkishu managed to transform an overgrazed and barren area of marginal land into a vigorous conservancy. They use research, technology, and monitoring to take important livestock management and conservation decisions.

Giraffe Enonkishu Conservancy Kenya

One of their major projects is a rigorous grazing plan to maximize available forages for livestock and wildlife. Mobile bomas, additional artificial water points, efforts to control erosion, and cattle have been used as tools to rehabilitate degraded grassland.

House in the Wild Naretoi Kenya 

The beautiful result of these efforts is the improved condition of this conservancy where humans, wildlife, and livestock can coexist. And that is exactly how it needs to be: working with the local communities and nature instead of against it. 

Book your stay at House in the Wild, on the award-winning Enonkishu Conservancy and tell them you came through Traveltomtom! Click here to visit the House in the Wild website.

Check out the latest prices for House in the Wild here. In case you have any questions about House in the Wild or traveling to Kenya, feel free to contact me through my Instagram @ourplanetinmylens.

This article is written by travel and wildlife photographer Kim Paffen, part of the Traveltomtom team. She also wrote amazing Africa articles about Uganda, Madagascar and South Africa.

 

Traveling to Kenya and flying into Nairobi Airport? This is your guide for buying a local sim card for Kenya on arrival at Nairobi Airport. Don’t waste money on high roaming costs or rely on slow overseas data roaming plans. Getting a sim card at Nairobi Airport is easy, done fast and cheap. I will tell you where to go exactly, the prices and my recommendation.

Serene Sweetwaters was my first introduction to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. On arrival I was ordered to sit down and got served a welcome drink while I was filling out some papers. Sitting in the lobby, looking out of the big window I spotted a big waterhole right in front of the main building with some impala’s around.

"You can see rhinos here all day", said the assistant manager of the hotel who was checking me in! He clearly wasn’t lying because when I was assisted to my room we saw two rhinos in the distance. It was a warm welcome to the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp.

After staying for almost a week in the West side of the Ol Pejeta conservancy I went to explore the East side of the park and checked in to the Porini Rhino Camp. From the West entrance you have to drive all the way through the park to get to the Porini Rhino Camp which is perfect as you will be game driving all the way. In my case I was lucky to see loads of buffalos and elephants. But surely the Porini Rhino Camp is off the beaten path in Ol Pejeta.

 

It saddens me deeply that due to human greed the Northern White Rhino is functionally extinct. Luckily, two of these amazing creatures are still alive and I got a chance to meet them in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and get up close and personal with them. One of the most unique travel experiences that actually hit me right in my heart!

If you are looking to give back when traveling to Kenya I have found an amazing project for you. Somewhere up in a little village en route to Lake Nakuru you will find an amazing lady that started a simple but amazing project giving local kids a small incentive to come to school: a cup of of porridge.

It sounds so simple, but the free cup of porridge The Micah Project is handing out every morning is super effective for these poor little kids. Some of them suffer from malnutrition and this is their only meal of the day. It is one of the main reasons why some of these kids make their way to school every morning.

 

Already day dreaming about the gorgeous Kenyan beaches, the Great Rift Valley and the Maasai Mara? When planning a trip to Kenya don’t forget to buy a local sim card on arrival. It is the best way to stay connected and save on high roaming costs.

In this guide you will find everything you need to know for buying a sim card in Kenya: where to go, the mobile internet operators, prices, best network, etc. If you are interested in watching a vlog about buying a Kenya sim card you can also find it below.

 

If you are traveling to Kenya an looking for ways to get around then I have the best article for you. I will explain you all the modes of public transport in Kenya from trains to bikes and give you multiple Kenya travel tips along the way.

Kenya isn’t really a budget travel destination, but that does not mean you can’t travel to Kenya on a budget. Where there is a will there is a way… but must say you will have to invest some time and energy. The adventure though you will experience in return is unbeatable!

Kenya is undoubtedly one of the most magical and achingly beautiful countries in the world thanks to its diverse landscapes, a spectacular variety of wild animals, pristine beaches, fantastic hiking trails, friendly people and of course world-class safari opportunities. 

Yes! I definitely recommending you to visit Kenya! But I also know how challenging it is visiting a new country. Therefore I wrote this guide for visiting Kenya with all my travel tips and things to know before you go.

Africa Sunset Widlife Giraffes Wildebeest

Can you travel to Kenya now during the Corona Pandemic?

As of August 1st 2020 international flights to Kenya have resumed and travel to Kenya during the Corona pandemic is possible again. However precautions must be taken at all times. On arrival there will be a health check, temperature will be measured and you will need to fill out a health declaration form. You can also find this health declaration form for Kenya online. It is straight forward and the standard Covid-19 related questions are asked. No biggie!

Travelers from most Western countries are NOT required to quarantine, but regulations are subject to change on short notice. In public places face masks are obligated and tours, restaurants, etc. have put measurements in place to maintain social distancing.

This travel blog is aimed at making your trip to Kenya much easier. So here is a complete guide comprising of 30 things you should know before traveling to Kenya for the first time.

Kenya Maasai Mara Lion feeding on pray

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1. Is it safe to travel to Kenya

Kenya is pretty safe for tourists! Even though it is one of the most popular places to visit in Africa and used to tourists, you should always be beware of your surroundings and practice general common-sense safety rules. 

For example, you should avoid high poverty places like slums where you could be a target for theft or getting mugged. At any time you should avoid wearing flashy jewellery or showing off expensive electronics while in public. If you’re inside a car keep the windows rolled up except for when you’re on one of those amazing Kenya safaris of course.

Also dressing down minimizes attention to yourself, but more about that later in what to wear in Kenya. Due to the high poverty rate in Kenya, tourists can be viewed as targets by opportunistic individuals. But I never had any big issues on all my Kenya trips! 

In the main tourist destinations in Kenya, you may find yourself surrounded by vendors trying to sell you their merchandise. Although that’s not much of a safety concern, they can be slightly annoying. A polite but firm “no thank you” will mostly help get rid of them.

Above all don’t be an ignorant tourist! Always check the latest safety conditions and report. Please use your common sense, be respectful to the local culture and habits and you will be totally fine on your Kenya trip.

Leopard Masai Mara Kenya Frontview

2. Best time to visit Kenya

Kenya is an all-year-round tourist destination. The question about when is the best time to visit Kenya largely depends on for what reason you travel to Kenya for. Safari, beaches, hiking all have a different best time to visit.

Since Kenya is located on the Equator, there are no real 4 seasons. Generally speaking, the seasons are broadly categorized into four periodes: 

  • hot and dry from January to March
  • hot and wet from April to June
  • warm and dry from July to October
  • warm and wet in November and December.

However, the country’s weather pattern has seen drastic changes over the last 10 years and became rather unpredictable. The impact of climate change has been noticed throughout the years in Kenya.

Temperature in Kenya

Temperatures, on the other hand, are relatively consistent and highly influenced by the altitude only. For example, the temperatures at the coastal towns like Mombasa barely ever drop below 20° celsius (68 F). When it gets too hot during the day the cool ocean breeze helps to make it bearable.

In Nairobi temperatures can go as low as 5° celsius (41 F) around July in the cold season and as high as 26° celsius (79 F) around March and September which are the hottest months in Kenya.

The best time for safari in Kenya

Even though you can visit Kenya’s wildlife parks throughout the year, the best time is during one of the two dry seasons (January, February and March and from July till October).

The second dry season from July till October coincides with the Great Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara and therefore this is making it arguably the best time to visit Kenya after all.

During this breathtaking wildlife spectacle, millions of wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes make their way into Kenya’s Maasai Mara from Tanzania’s Serengeti. They cross the crocodile-infested Mara River.

Wildebeest Migration Masai Mara Kenya

One of the best times to visit Kenya for safari is during the dry seasons because then the animals are easier to spot. Animals keep moving in search of water which is quite scarce and the bushes are less dense.

If you don’t want to bump into lots of other tourists on your Kenya safari, the best time for you to visit would be around December during the short rains. Then you’ll get to admire the beautiful green vegetation and hopefully see many newborn animals on your Kenya safari as well as migratory birds that take advantage of the abundance of insects.

The best time for a beach holiday in Kenya

The weather in the coastal regions of Kenya like Diani, Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu remains hot and humid throughout the year. Even though it rains sometimes during the dry season, the rainfall is at its highest from March to May. So are you planning a Kenya beach holiday you should consider visiting the Kenya beaches outside of these months.

If your plan is to combine your trip to the beach with your safari, the best time to travel to Kenya is between August and September.

The best time to go hiking in Kenya

The safest time for hiking and climbing around Mount Kenya is during the two dry seasons. The hiking trails can get quite slippery during the rainy season. If you plan on combining your Kenya hiking trip with the Kenya beaches, the best time to visit Kenya would be January or February.

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3. Visa for Kenya

When visiting Kenya you will need a visa. The Kenya visa will cost you between $30 and $50 and can be obtained on the internet. Click here for the official site to apply for the Kenya visa.

Make sure that you apply online at least three days in advance. If you’re planning on visiting other countries like Tanzania, Uganda, etc then the greater East Africa visa will be something for you. This one costs $100 for most nationalities. 

Just like many other destinations, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date out of Kenya. You also need at least two consecutive unstamped blank pages.

Big Cats Kenya Lion

4. Travel insurance for Kenya

It’s also highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance for evacuation and medical emergencies. This offers you emergency treatment and an air ambulance to a hospital in Nairobi. Since a lot of things to do in Kenya are in fairly remote areas I strongly recommend you to get a good travel insurance.

I am using World Nomads for all my trips around the world. Get your free quotation below in case you don’t have travel insurance for Kenya yet.

 

5. Vaccinations and Health Requirements for Kenya

There are several vaccinations that you need to protect your health on your trip to Kenya. Some are mandatory while others aren’t. The compulsory vaccination is Yellow Fever and you will be required to show a certificate of inoculation on entry. So put your vaccinations book on your Kenya packing list.

There are several diseases that you could be exposed to when you travel to Kenya, so it is strongly recommended that you also get the following vaccines: diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, rabies, polio, and cholera.

Is there malaria in Kenya? Yes there is, but not everywhere. Nairobi and other highlands are low-risk malaria zones, but in the valleys and low lands it is recommended to take anti-malarial medication. The most commonly prescribed anti malaria medication for Kenya is Malarone. Although it is adviced, I did NOT take any malaria pills. It is totally up to you.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to pack some medication for headaches, stomach upsets, or any allergies that you may have. The supplies should be enough to last your entire trip.

Baboons Lake Nakuru National Park

6. What to pack for Kenya

To take the stress out of packing and to make sure that you bring everything you need on your trip, here’s a list of all the essentials that you need to pack:

  • Comfortable clothes (including a swimming costume) and shoes
  • Toiletries 
  • Passport and a valid driver’s license if you’ll be doing some driving 
  • A camera plus extra batteries ( see my travel gear list for more tips)
  • Binoculars
  • A wide-brimmed hat or cap
  • Sunglasses 
  • Reef SAFE Sunscreen and lip balm
  • universal travel adapter 
  • Credit cards and a small amount of cash in low denominations
  • Malaria pills and other necessary medication
  • Strong insect repellent
  • Reading material and an iPod with downloaded music or podcasts

7. What to Wear

Ensure that you keep your clothing a bit conservative. Wearing hot pants, crop tops, and other clothes that show too much skin is not a good look especially in rural Kenya. 

Make sure that the fabric comfortable especially in hot weather. Bring a sweater, jacket, or warm fleece blanket for the chilly morning and evenings.

8. Carry a copy of your passport

Always make sure that you carry a copy of your passport with you at all times. This is required by law in Kenya. If the police stop you, you’ll be expected to present it upon request. It happened to me several times, as I recommend you to leave your original passport in the safe in your hotel.

Nowadays a photo on your phone will often do the job, but still I recommend you bring a hard copy. It is a small effort to easily get you out of trouble.

African Wildlife Masai Mara Kenya

9. Inform yourself about traveling to Kenya

Take time to read a guidebook before you visit Kenya. Read about the area you’ll be staying at and get pointers about the area. This helps you know about all the designated tourist destinations in Kenya like hotels and markets in advance and also lets you know if there are areas that need to be avoided. I can also recommend you my other Kenya travel blogs:

Reading ahead helps you plan accordingly for your trip by coming up with a proper to-do-list. This ensures that you have plenty of time between activities and time to rest in-between days.

Baby Elephant African Wildlife

However, if you didn’t have enough time I recommend you to order a Kenya Travel Guide online, like the Kenya Lonely Planet. Back in the days I always used them, nowadays I think they are a little outdated, but still a good source for Kenya travel tips.

10. Getting around Kenya

Some people prefer to rent a jeep or van and use it to drive themselves around. Yes, can’t deny that this sounds like lots of fun and is a lot cheaper than hiring a tour guide but driving around especially in the parks is no joke – you could easily get lost too. If you’re a first-timer who loves your freedom and care about your safety, hire a 4x4 land cruiser (this will make the ride less bumpy) and a driver.

For all my tips of how to get around Kenya read my extensive article in the link, where I explain everything about busses, trains, domestic flights and local transport.

 When moving from one part of the country to another e.g. from Nairobi to Mombasa, find a budget airline that operates that route or take the train. Other cheaper options to move around include taxis, matatus, boda-bodas, or tuk-tuks.

11. Driving in Kenya - DIY

In Kenya they drive on the left. This is very important for you to know if you plan on renting a car on go on a road trip in Kenya.

You should also expect to be held up in traffic around the major towns during rush hours. The traffic in Nairobi is horrendous! If you want to get anywhere around the city especially to the airport, factor in a huge amount of time that you’re going to spend in traffic. My Kenya itinerary for 10 days is a great start for planning your self driving trip to Kenya.

Cheetah Brothers Maasai Mara Kenya

12. Safaris, hiking, mountains and lakes

Safaris allow you to take a drive on the wild side. There are lots of safaris and multiple different national parks and reserves for you to choose from. On top of that there is some excellent hiking, and amazing lakes. If you’re confused and can’t choose between them, here is a list of some of the best places in to visit in Kenya:

  • Maasai Mara
  • Amboseli
  • Tsavo East
  • Hell’s Gate
  • Lake Nakuru
  • Lake Turkana
  • Mount Kenya
  • Nairobi National Park

13. Currency

The currency used in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling abbreviated as KSH. Don’t be confused when you hear people using the word “bob” it’s slang for shilling.

The exchange rate for the KSH to the USD varies of course, but in general you can easily say that $1 = 100 KSH. You can exchange your Euros, GBP, USD everywhere around major tourist destinations in Kenya. Banks and Forex Bureau are obviously the safest places to exchange money, but I never had a problem doing it random places either.

Always make sure to have some Kenyan Shilling on you especially of you are on a road trip in Kenya. For local markets, to tip people, local restaurants, souvenirs, etc.

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14. ATMs and credit cards

Note that you can only withdraw Kenyan shillings at the ATMs which are widely available throughout the country. Beware of suspicious people hanging around the bank or following you if you come out of the bank. A valuable Kenya travel tip is to use ATMs inside shopping malls. The maximum amount ATMs in Kenya will let you withdraw is KSH 50,000 = approximately 500 USD.

Most lodges and restaurants accept MasterCard and Visa cards as a form of payment. Some international hotels accept Euros and US dollars in cash but their exchange rate is mostly pretty bad, so I would not recommend this to you. Always check beforehand because some places do not accept foreign cash or cards.

15. How much does a trip to Kenya cost?

Kenya is not the best backpack destination in the world and neither is it overly expensive. 

Most tour companies are all-inclusive meaning that your meals, accommodation, and transportation are catered for. However, you still need money for other purposes like purchasing souvenirs and tipping. Budget for about $250-$300 for extra expenses.

The national park entrance fee in Kenya varies between $25 and $100 per day,  a 3-course meal at an international restaurant will cost around $30 per person, and between for places to stay in Kenya you will mostly between $50 and $200 per night depending on your level of required luxury.

Elephants Plains of Masai Mara Kenya

16. Travel to Kenya on a budget

There’s a growing backpacker trail in Kenya and hostels catering for budget travelers are growing in number and popularity. Airbnb also has a lot of hidden gems, especially at the coast.

The travel options in Kenya are limitless. If you want someone to show you around throughout your trip you can find numerous travel and tours companies to take you on an off-the-shelf or a tailor-made itinerary. You can arrange it yourself on arrival in Nairobi or book them in advanced. Here are some options of Kenya tours for all budgets.

 

Alternatively, if you want more independence you can definitely backpack in Kenya. Many travelers have been there before you and you will surely not be alone. It is fairly easy to travel to Kenya on a budget. Major cities are well connected by reasonable coaches and long distance busses or you could even opt to take a train from Nairobi to Mombassa. 

Don’t forget that even in Kenya there are taxi apps. Thank god for Uber in Kenya! It makes traveling around so much easier, convenient, safer and reliable.

You can also find loads of campgrounds around Kenya. Most lodges charge about $20 for you to pitch your tent. On the other hand, camping inside national parks, reserves, and conservancies could cost you up to $50 per person per night. I wouldn’t recommend camping in wild and unsafe places. If you’re looking to save a little, you can cook the meals yourself outside your tent.

17. Tipping in Kenya

Tipping guides, drivers, and staff is normal in Kenya. It shows that you appreciate the services offered and locals love to go the extra mile for it. Tipping may either be done in USD or KSH. Here are some general tipping guidelines:

  • Ranger or guide: $10 to $20 per day
  • Butler: $5 to $15 per day
  • Transfers: $5 per transfer
  • Porters: $1 per bag
  • Restaurants: 10% of the bill

Giraffes Sunset Masai Mara Kenya

18. Visit a Shopping Mall

Malls are also popular hangouts for locals and you can easily spend a day getting lost in one of the dozens of huge, state-of-the-art shopping malls. I am not a fan of shopping malls in general, but it is fun to walk around for sure. There are food courts as well where you can find cheap dining options.

Visiting a shopping mall in Kenya is another way of seeing a slice of the Kenyan culture and its people rather than safaris, wildlife, beautiful beaches and amazing landscapes. Trust me they are an experience!

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19. Get a Kenya sim card on arrival

If you want to stay connected to the internet than get yourself a Kenya sim czard on arrival. It is pretty easy and can be done in 5 minutes. You will get them everywhere around the big cities, but the easiest is to buy a Kenya sim card at Nairobi Airport.

Have your passport ready and get your some GB to keep your friends up to date on Instagram about your amazing trip to Kenya.

Safaricom is the leading telecommunication company in Kenya and it offers great call and data packages.

20. WiFi in Kenya

Most upscale hotels offer WiFi free of charge, but it is definitely not always good. Often it can be nerve-racking slow and that is another reason to buy a Kenya sim card. Nothing beats a 4G connection, which is usually widely available!

It is also recommended to use a VPN service for extra privacy may you use any public WiFi in Kenya, like in shopping malls, hotels, lodges, etc.

Vervet Monkeys Kenya Africa

21. Drinking water

The tap water in Kenya is safe for brushing your teeth and for taking a bath, but it is not recommend to drink the water from the tap in Kenya. This doesn’t mean that tap water is necessarily contaminated but your body may not be used to it.

It is advices that you drink bottled water at all times during your Kenya trip. Most hotels, lodges, and safari camps provide clean, filtered, sterilized, or boiled drinking water for their guests. 

22. Electricity plugs in Kenya

Kenya has reliable electricity. To charge your phone, camera, or other electronics, you should have an adapter at hand though. The Kenya power plugs are comparable to the ones in the UK and are 240 V.

I always advice people to bring a universal travel adapter with them, they are cheap and worth it.

Lodges located in remote areas use solar energy or diesel generators to provide power for lighting and charging. Therefore when traveling to remote areas in Kenya use the electricity responsible.

23. Buying souvenirs - what to buy in Kenya

Kenya, just like other African countries is known for its cultural wealth which also means that the souvenir buying opportunities are numerous. You can buy them from specific markets that deal in these souvenirs or from the tribesmen and women who make a living by vending their beautiful artefacts along the side of the road.

Some common items that you could buy are local wood carvings, maasai beads, kiondo (beautiful hand-woven handbags), kikoy/shuka (a colorful local piece of fabric that may be used as a blanket or table cloth), leather products, as well as traditional artifacts like swords, bows, arrows, spears, shields, etc. 

At all times remember that bargaining is key when buying souvenirs on your Kenya trip.

 

24. Delicious Kenya food you should try

The national dish in Kenya is “ugali”. This is a hard porridge mash made from maize flour and is usually served with a portion of fried green vegetables with “nyama choma” – something that you definitely need to try out.

Nyama choma is Kenya’s signature roast meat dish that has now gained global significance. The ugali is best enjoyed without any cutlery. Dig in using your hands, roll the ugali into a ball, dip it into your place, scoop the accompaniment, and eat. 

In the coastal region, they have a wide selection of mouthwatering Swahili dishes like samosas, biryani, pilau, mahamri, and chapattis. 

Ooh, another craving-satisfying dish that you totally need to try when visiting Kenya is the mayai (eggs) pasua and smokie pasua. Pasua means split open. They are eggs or smokies that have been cut open and filled with “kachumbari” which is the local name for salsa containing a mixture of chopped onions, tomatoes, and coriander and sometimes chilies. These are easily found in almost any street in major towns.

Don’t be afraid to try street food in Kenya, it is delicious, worth trying, cheap and safe to eat.

25. Kenya Politics is a hot topic everywhere

Kenyans are quite political and more often than not you’ll bump into a group of people discussing “siasa” which is the Swahili word for politics. Such talks are quite lively and often tense, especially around the electioneering period. 

Despite the claims that Kenya is unsafe due to ethnic tension caused by politics, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nothing serious ever happens such that the stability of the country is put in jeopardy.

26. Heaven for photographers

When traveling to Kenya make sure to bring a good camera and lens. Of course our modern smartphones make things a lot easier nowadays, but you will see they are not that useful on safaris.

Curious which cameras and lenses I carry around? Check out my travel gear list here.

Wildlife Kenya Elephants

Be aware though that it is not allowed to take pictures or videos at railway stations, airports, military barracks, police posts and government buildings.

Also, if you like to take pictures of a local or with them, ALWAYS ask first. Show some respect!   

27. Religion

Although Kenya is predominantly a Christian state, the country embraces spiritual diversity. There are many churches, mosques, and Hindu temples to be found across the country as well.

28. Cultural Events

As a multi-ethnic nation, Kenya’s different tribes hold interesting cultural festivals every now and then in different parts of the country. Some of the most popular festivals include the Mombasa Carnival, Lamu Cultural Festival, Maralal Camel Derby and the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival.

29. Nightlife in Kenya

If you are the type who like to party, there are many popular joints where you can go to enjoy your “Furahi-day” as they like to call Friday in Kenya. In Nairobi there is Westlands and in Mombasa there is Mtwapa. ‘Furahi’ is a Swahili word for ‘be happy’. Afterwards, order an Uber to drop you back home.

Through the major beach destinations in Kenya you will find nightlife as well. Diani is probably the most popular place for parties on the beach.

There are many local beers that you need to try out including Tusker, Tusker Malt, Tusker Lite, and Tusker Cider. Tusker is Kenya’s most-loved beer and the golden premium lager is best served chilled – “baridi.”

30. Plastic bags are banned

Plastic bags are banned in Kenya so make sure you only use reusable bags to hold your shopping and personal items. The ban was put in place to reduce the plastic pollution that was becoming an environmental nuisance. Violators have to pay hefty fines or face possible jail time. Something Western countries could learn from I would say! Well done Kenya.

Cheetahs Elephants Maasai Mara Kenya

31. Bribing is illegal

Giving bribes is very much illegal. You might sometimes think it is a good idea to get you quickly out of trouble but instead it could get you into a lot of trouble. Think twice!

32. Language in Kenya

Kenya is a multilingual country with English and Swahili being the official languages. Many locals speak both languages fluently. Learning a few Swahili words will look good and impress the Kenyan people. Your effort regardless of whether you you are pronouncing it the right way will be received with a big smile.

Here are some words to get you started:

  • Hujambo or simply Jambo = means Hello
  • Habari = Hello, how are you? (a common way of greeting)
  • Poa sana or mzuri sana = I’m good/fine 
  • Hakuna Matata = It’s alright / no problem
  • Asante (sana) = thank you (very much)
  • Karibu = welcome
  • Hatari = danger
  • Pole =  sorry
  • Hapana = no
  • Ndio = yes

Besides English and Swahili, there are lots of local languages and dialects in rural areas.

33. People of Kenya

Last but not least let’s talk about the magnificent people of Kenya!

Kenyans are incredibly friendly. From my experience, I found out that the people of this beautiful nation have beautiful hearts and they’re very open, hospitable and delighted to welcome tourists to Kenya.you into their country.

Do not shy away from getting in touch with locals, meeting, greeting, talking, and getting to know them during your visit to Kenya. They are more than willing to help you enormously and will be delighted if you share your passion for their beautiful nation.

kenyan people

Enjoy your trip to Kenya

Africa is a magical continent with mountains, beaches, and beautiful wild animals like elephants, lions, and wildebeests and you can find it all when visiting Kenya. If you have always wanted to experience this unbelievable setting in a single hit, then this country is the place to go.

However, before your first trip to Kenya all the above mentioned Kenya tips are great to know to make the most of this incredible travel destination in Africa.

I hope that my tips and recommendations help to make things a lot easier. I also hope that you get to love Kenya, just as I did. Its diversity is unrivalled.

Also thanks to Traveltomtom writer Kim Paffen, who contributed with the beautiful pictures of Kenya. Her countless trips to Kenya were another valuable source creating this Kenya travel blog.

 

Kenya is NOT only the ultimate safari destination! Thanks to an incredible array of stunning scenery, interesting cultural heritage, beautiful beaches and some of the friendliest people, there are loads of amazing things to do in Kenya on top of spotting the most spectacular wildlife.

And the best thing is that all these Kenya tourist attractions can be visited at very affordable prices. You just need to be a little creative so therefore I recommend you reading this Kenya travel blog.

Kenya is a beauty to behold and this makes it a top tourist destination in Africa. Aside from its scenic landscapes, stunning beaches and a playground for the most amazing wildlife, the people of Kenya are very welcoming to tourists. Are you planning a trip to Kenya to see the diverse wildlife reserves, the panoramic geography and want to experience their rich culture but only have 10 days to visit Kenya? 

Then this is your ultimate Kenya itinerary for 10 days. In a little more than 1 week I will bring you to some off the beaten path tourist destinations in Kenya, but of course also show you the Kenya top sights.