NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
Just a lion’s roar away from the city, this was among the first parks to be established in Kenya in 1946 and covers an area of just under 120 square kilometers. Its biggest advantage is its easy access just 15 minutes or so from the center of the city. On a good day you can see Lion, Giraffe, Rhino, Buffalo, Cheetah and many plains game roaming freely within the park. Hippos are to be seen at the Hippo Pool, which is on the eastern part of the park. Crocodiles may also be sighted in sections of the Athi River, which is also a very good location for watching many species of birds. At the entrance of the park in an orphanage for sick and abandoned animals- a favorite haunt for the younger tourists as well as many Kenyan students of all ages.
HELLS GATE NATIONAL PARK
Located in Naivasha, just over an hours easy drive south west from Nairobi, is the Hells Gate National Park which is famous for its walking safaris among stark cliff walls jutting up almost perpendicularly from the floor of the rift valley and the hot steam jets rising many feet into the air. The park is home to herds of zebra, giraffe eland and rock hyrax. Bird-life is plentiful including the rare Lammergeyer Vulture which nests on the rock cliffs. Because of its close proximity to Nairobi, the park is a good day-trip getaway although those who wish to spend the night have plenty of first class hotels and lodges as well as good quality home stays to choose from. Nearby is Lake Naivasha, itself an attractive and highly relaxing holiday location as well as a birdwatchers paradise. In the background stand Mt Longonot.
LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
On a good day you can easily find one million flamingoes on the shores of Lake Nakuru. Undoubtedly one of the best run parks in Kenya, Lake Nakuru is home to Lion, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino which can all be easily sighted within a space of one or two hours making a visit to this park one of the most rewarding. Day trips or overnight stays are equally popular with visitors. There are excellent lodges in the park.
LAKE BOGORIA NATIONAL RESERVE & LAKE BARINGO
At Lake Bogoria, the power that was behind the formation of the Rift Valley is most evident, with steam jets and boiling geysers burbling at regular intervals and giving evidence of the strong volcanic activity that is still taking place under the surface of the earth. Inhabited by beautiful pink flamingoes swimming in the warm waters as well as hundreds of bird species, Lake Bogoria is a peaceful place to feel at one with nature. On the shores live plenty of zebras, gazelles, dik dik and the rare Greater Kudu .
Further north just twenty minutes from Lake Bogoria is another of the Rift Valley lakes- Lake Baringo. A major tourist destination, visitors to Lake Baringo enjoy many relaxing activities including boat trips, windsurfing and water- skiing. Island Camp on Lake Baringo is an ornithologists paradise. In the backdrop are the Kamasia Hills- a block of ancient rock left standing when the rest of the Rift Valley sank.
KAKAMEGA FOREST NATIONAL RESERVE
Kakamega Forest is the single largest indigenous forest and a true remnant of the Tropical Rain Forest, which once spread across the whole of Central and Eastern Africa. Visitors to these forests are enchanted by the many varieties of indigenous trees and the unique animals that are found in it, including large reptiles, different species of birds including the rare Blue Turaco, different families of monkeys and many thousands of butterflies.
MT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Sitting astride the western border between Kenya and Uganda, Mt Elgon is the second highest mountain in Kenya. A climber’s favorite because of its relatively easy terrain and spectacular scenes, Mt Elgon is also famous for its centuries old caves that are inhabited by herds of elephants.
MAASAI MARA NATIONAL PARK
By far the most visited park in Kenya, the world famous Maasai Mara National Park is a northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains. Covering an area of just over 1600 square kilometers, the park’s rolling plains is home to Kenya’s Big Five as well as thousands upon thousands of plains game, and a visit at any time of the year is guaranteed to yield excellent viewing results. During the migration months of August to November, over a million wildebeest crowd the Mara offering the visitor one of the world’s most unforgettable experiences.
Accommodation is plentiful and varied ranging from basic tented camps where visitors remain almost at one with nature, to top rated five star camps and lodges designed to recreate the same sense of easy luxury as existed during the old hunting safari days of the rich and famous.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Covering an area of just under 400 square kilometers, Amboseli National Park is Kenya’s earliest game sanctuary and is well known for its large herds of elephant seen grazing back and forth against the backdrop of the world famous snow capped Mt Kilimanjaro- the highest mountain in Africa.
TSAVO NATIONAL PARK
This is Kenya’s largest park covering a total area of just over 20,000 square kilometers split into two areas- Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Tsavo West is the most visited of the two with its huge herds of elephant, buffalo and rhino and always with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. A visit to the clear waters of the dramatic Mzima Springs is a must. Eternally fed by the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, Mzima boasts of many crocodiles and hippos, as well as varied species of fish. The rest of the park consists of a wide expanse of red earth where tall grass and thorn shrubs make your stay in any of the camps as close as you can possibly get to the authentic feel of the African bush.
ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
Inhabited mainly by buffalo and elephants and colobus monkeys, the Aberdare National Park is part of a mountain range and forest reserve that sits at the edge of the Rift Valley and is home to Kenya’s famous “tree hotels”. One of the lodges, Treetops, gained world fame as the place where, in 1952 while a guest at the lodge, Queen Elizabeth II learned of the death of her father King George VI and ascended to the British throne. Other tree lodges are the Ark and the Mountain Lodge. Also at the nearby town of Nyeri lies the tomb of Lord Baden and Lady Olave Powell, the founders of the world Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement.
Below the Aberdares range, lie the fertile and beautiful valley of Subukia, spread like some woven tapestry and commanding one of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in Kenya.
MT KENYA NATIONAL PARK
Mt Kenya National Park is a high altitude park lying at an altitude of between 3100 and 5300 meters and is home to a wide variety of exotic Kenyan plants as well different species of wildlife. Most famous as the home of Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, many visitors return here each year for the excellent climbing opportunities this park offers and the breathtaking scenery that includes moors and glaciers and tarns and glades and peaks. According to local legend, Mt Kenya, also known as Kirinyaga, is the hallowed abode of Ngai, the God of the Kikuyu ethnic group.Many different types of climbing expeditions, some amateur and others professional, take place here each year from the base camps of Naro Moru, Timau ,Sirimon or Chogoria. Some of the routes are more difficult than others and it is always recommended that visitors consult and seek more professional information from the Mountain Climbing Club of Kenya or be accompanied at all times by professional guides. At the lower ranges of the mountain are some of Kenya’s most fertile farmlands lush green and laden with coffee and tea, wheat and maize and bananas and green vegetables , making a trip to these parts well worth a visit for the splendid scenery that it offers.
MERU NATIONAL PARK
This is the park made famous through the pioneer work of Joy and George Adamson who raised and lived with Elsa the Lioness, then later taught her and son Boy to hunt and get rehabilitated them back to the wild. The park has been the scene of a number of such epic films as “Born Free” and “A Walk with Lions.” The park is also home to the rare Reticulated Giraffe, the Grevy’s zebra with its tiny stripes and the Gerenuk. Of all the parks on the Northern Tourist Circuit, Meru National Park is currently the least visited.
SAMBURU, BUFFALO SPRINGS AND SHABA NATIONAL RESERVES
These reserves lie in the hot and dry northern part of Kenya. A significant feature of both Samburu and Buffalo Springs, is the Uaso Nyiro River which runs across the park. Along the entire length of this river are many different species of wildlife and birds some only found in this hot and dry habitat. The park is also home to many lions, leopards, giraffe,zebras and the Beisa Oryx. It is in this park that recently a lion captured the attention of the whole world by repeatedly adopting baby Oryxes.
As a cultural destination, Samburu is home of the Samburu ethnic community, the closest relatives of the Masaai who are to be found concentrated near the southern borders of the country. Both the Maasai and the Samburu have a rich and colourful lifestyle that has inspired research and the writing of many books on African culture.
LAKE TURKANA NATIONAL PARK & SIBILOI NATIONALPARK
The world’s largest concentration of crocodiles, nearly ten thousand of these man-eating beasts are found in Lake Turkana alone. Known also as the Jade Sea, because of the jade colour of its waters, Lake Turkana has gained world fame as the “Cradle of Mankind”. Here on a stark and windswept island inhabited by birds and snakes and crocodiles and giant fish in the semi alkaline waters of its lake, lie the Sibiloi National Park, created to preserve the many archeological treasures that have been dug in this place. Here at Koobi Fora archeologists have found fossil remains of prehistoric elephants and the petrified remains of large forests which once stood in this now desolate place, and the footprints of Homo Erectus, the closest ancestor of Man which confirms Kenya’s claim that this place is the true origin of man. To reach Turkana you have to travel for miles on end on very harsh terrain, itself an unparalleled adventure not recommended for the fainthearted.
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