Things to Do in Kenya
Located just south of the city, Nairobi National Park is Kenya’s first game reserve and the only protected area in the world that sits so close to a nation’s capital. Visitors to the vast wildlife park are likely to spot black rhinos, lions, giraffe, and zebra, as well as some 400 bird species.
Home to a towering crew of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes, Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre supports conservation work and educational programs across Kenya. Here, visitors can feed giraffes from a treetop platform, walk a nature trail to the Gogo River, and learn about wildlife conservation at the on-site nature center.
During the last years of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese constructed a massive fort to protect the port of Mombasa. Designed by Giovanni Battista Cairati, Fort Jesus is one of the best preserved examples of Portuguese military architecture from the era, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today, Mombasa’s most visited attraction houses the Fort Jesus Museum. The collection includes archaeological finds not only from Fort Jesus, but from nearby sites as well. Highlights include a collection of ceramics from the Kenyan coast and what’s left of the San Antonio de Tanna, a Portuguese gunner that sank not far from the fort in the late seventeenth century.
A pioneering facility for the protection and rehabilitation of black rhinos and African elephants, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust saves injured and orphaned animals from the wild and rehabilitates them for a return to their natural habitats. This nonprofit park was founded in 1977 and operates within Nairobi National Park.
Known for its rich wildlife, Lake Naivasha is a nature lover’s paradise not far from the Kenyan capital. Situated at around 6,181 feet (1,884 meters) high in the Rift Valley ridge, the lake is home to hippos, exotic birds, and wetland flora, while its fresh water draws all manner of grazers, including zebras, giraffes, and buffalo.
The inspiration for animators of Disney’sThe Lion King, Hell’s Gate National Park covers roughly 26 square miles (68.25 square kilometers). Named for a gap in the red-tinged cliffs carved by the flowing waters of a prehistoric lake, it’s the only park in East Africa in which you can get out of your safari vehicle and hike freely.
The Danish author ofOut of Africa lived in a coffee plantation farmhouse at the edge of Kenya’s beautiful Ngong Hills, where a small museum now celebrates her life and work. Since much of the original furniture has been preserved, it’s a fascinating glimpse into a colonial-era home and an interesting stop even if you haven’t read Blixen’s books.
Bomas of Kenya is a cultural center situated around 10 kilometers from Nairobi city, right near the main entrance to Nairobi National Park. Through art, crafts, music, dance, and architecture, it serves to preserve Kenyan culture, with artists performing traditional dances and songs from the country's major ethnic groups.
The center features replicas of traditional villages, which were built according to the same principles and techniques used by local tribes. The site is also home to one of the largest auditoriums in Africa, seating 3500 people. It is here that you can watch a selection of more than 30 traditional dances from the different ethnic groups in Kenya, including impressive performances from the Samburu and Masai warriors. Visitors can also sample a range of traditional African foods at the on site Utamaduni restaurant.
Bomas of Kenya is best enjoyed as part of a Nairobi sightseeing day tour. These take in the best attractions of the city and its surrounds, including the famous Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, the Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Center, and the Karen Blixen Museum.
Though technically all one nature reserve, Tsavo National Park is split between Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and separated by the Nairobi-Mombasa Road that cuts through the site. Tsavo National Park is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest national parks, and is the country’s largest protected area. It’s home to larger African mammals and a prolific bird population.
With a massive permanent collection that combines history, culture, and artwork, the Nairobi National Museum is a must for travelers interested in Kenya’s rich heritage. Artifacts are displayed across two floors, and a nature trail winds through the surrounding grounds, a botanical garden, and collections of outdoor sculptures.
More Things to Do in Kenya
Once a colonial beef ranch, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is now a leading wildlife sanctuary. Backdropped by Mount Kenya’s snowy peaks, the 90,000-acre (36,422-hectare) savanna preserve is home to several safari must-sees, including East Africa’s largest black rhino population and the last northern white rhinos in the world.
With its exhilarating slides, games, rides, and pools, Wild Waters blends the thrill of an amusement park with the refreshing cool of a water park, making it an ideal place to beat the scorching Kenyan sun. Plus, a food court, bar, and coffee shop ensure you stay hydrated.
Mount Kenya is a volcanic peak in the heart of Kenya that stretches to 17,057 feet (5,199 meters. The mountain is primarily a hiking and climbing destination enticing visitors from all over the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by breathtaking wilderness, complete with lakes, forests, tarns, and glaciers, and is home to some rare animal species.
The Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) is a 28-story building located in the central business district of Nairobi. At 105 meters tall, the KICC is the third tallest building in Kenya and is used for national and international conferences and exhibitions, along with a variety of other meetings and events.
This terracotta, cylindrical tower reflects traditional African architecture, as does the use of cuboids inside many of the main rooms and halls inside. The KICC features a revolving restaurant with panoramic views of the city, and a number of different conference and meeting rooms. The main auditorium has a capacity of almost 800 people across tiered seating, including three balconies.
Kibera, the largest slum both in Nairobi and Africa, is home to more than a million residents packed into an area less than a square mile (2.6 square kilometers). While life here isn’t easy—it’s one of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods and the lack of running water and electricity are constant problems—the slum has its own buzzing industries, which include rows of tilted shacks selling produce, charcoal, homemade breads, secondhand clothes, and shoes.
Kazuri beads factory is a fair trade success story in Nairobi that dates back to 1975, when it was founded. Kazuri was the brainchild of Lady Susan Wood, who was born to English parents in Africa. She began with two local women who made ceramic beads by hand – the word “kazuri” means “small and beautiful” in Swahili – and soon realized she could expand and help many more unemployed women.
Today, Kazuri employs more than 300 women, makes over five million beads a year, and exports beads to 20 different countries. The women have also begun to make other pottery goods with the same colorful designs.
Far more than just a home to archives and public records, the National Archives in Nairobi also exhibit everything from traditional art to stamps, weapons, and photography. Visitors can explore the small on-site museum, spend a quiet hour paging through a newspaper, or check out the archives’ collection of rare books from across Africa.
Running through the entirety of Kenya, the Great Rift Valley helped form some of the country’s most iconic landscape features. From dry deserts to sharp cliffs to algae-lined lakes, with some fertile grasslands sprinkled in between, this geographic destination is a rich and diverse natural playground. There is no shortage of animal activity, national parks, and protected reserves to experience along this natural wonder, and the hardest decision you’ll have to make is which one to visit next.
On Aug. 7, 1998, at the corner of Moi Avenue and Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi, what was then the United States Embassy was blown up in a terrorist attack, causing 218 deaths and thousands of injuries. The August 7th Memorial Park opened on the same date in 2001 as a tribute to the victims of the blast, and also to serve to educate people about the futility of violence.
The Memorial Park comprises a tranquil landscaped garden, a wall commemorating the names of those who died, and a sculpture made from the debris of the blast. The park also features a Conference Center and a Visitors Center with a Memorial Museum displaying various images and exhibits, plus a documentary about the events surrounding the tragedy.
One of the world’s most fearsome predators is on display at Mamba Village Centre, East Africa’s largest crocodile farm. A typical day at Mombasa's Mamba Village begins with an informational video introducing the crocodile, its lifecycle and the important ecological role it plays. Visitors to the farm can observe crocodiles ranging from hatchlings to behemoth adults, including the supposedly 100-year-old Big Daddy.
The highlight of the day occurs in the afternoon at feeding time, when the giant reptiles duke it out for fresh meat. The village also offers horse and camel rides, botanical gardens and a restaurant serving up grilled crocodile among other game meats.
Gleaming silver domes and geometric minarets rise above Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque, which is among the most important religious buildings in Kenya. While the interior is generally only accessible to Muslim visitors, all travelers can enjoy outside views of the mosque, easy to do while taking in nearby downtown sights.
Kakamega Forest is what remains of the mighty Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned across central Africa, from east to west. It’s situated in western Kenya, near the border of Uganda and around 350 kilometers from Nairobi city.
The Kakamega rainforest is particularly famous for its variety of bird species, with an estimated 360 species living here, including many not found anywhere else on the planet. Rare birds include the great blue turaco, the blue headed bee-eater, and the black and white casqued hornbill, among others.
The forest is also home to a wide range of unique flora, as well as 400 species of butterfly. Of the plant life found here, it’s said that 80% have highly medicinal properties, with local people traditionally using them to cure a variety of ailments. The mammals that call the forest home include seven species of primate, bush pigs, porcupines, flying squirrels, fruit bats, mongoose, clawless otters, and many more.
Majestic peaks shrouded in mist, vast open moorlands, and dense tropical forests characterize the varied landscapes of Aberdare National Park in Kenya. Marked by steep ravines and waterfalls, this protected area is a part of the Aberdare Mountain Range—touting heights of more than 10,000 feet—and is populated by a remarkable variety of African animals.
Nestled along Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru National Park offers a diverse landscape of rocky caves, brushy grasslands, and, of course, Lake Nakuru. The national park is populated with an abundance of wildlife, including more than 400 different bird species, but its huge draw is the gathering of greater and lesser flamingos that wade across the lake.