Magical Kenya: An Overview

I’m so excited this week to share one of my all-time favorite travel destinations on the blog - Kenya! This country has the “wow” factor that really leaves you speechless most of the time and I’ll be sharing the things I love about this country, where I recommend staying, and how to prepare for an incredible experience.  

Before you go, you will want to go to your doctor for a few routine vaccinations. Kenya is a safe destination overall, but you’ll likely want to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, and possibly yellow fever, and perhaps others that your doctor can advise.

You’ll also need a visa to get into country. Kenya has implemented the eVisa system at the Nairobi airport, so you can apply online and it’s a super-simple process - and if you’re using the services of a travel professional, they can actually do the process on your behalf! It’s just $51.

I recommend spending as little time in Nairobi as possible; usually your first night in Kenya to catch up on sleep and the night before you come back home. The city is congested, dirty, and offers little to do. But I can wholeheartedly recommend the following:

 Credit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Credit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This is actually one of my most-favorite places in Kenya and will fill your heart with happiness (with a touch of somberness, as poaching is still a sad reality).  The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a beautiful rescue sanctuary for elephant and rhino orphans, whether from poaching or naturally-occurring issues. You’ll get a chance to see the sweet animals drinking their milk and growing up happy and healthy.

  • Kazuri Beads. The word kazuri in Swahili means “small and beautiful,” and is an apt description for the intricate beads manufactured here. More interestingly, the center employs around 300 disenfranchised women and helps them build a better life for themselves and their families. I love buying beaded jewelry with a story, which makes great gifts for Mother’s Day, holidays, birthdays, or “just because.” You can also buy loose beads if you’re a crafter.

  • For an overnight in Nairobi, I really only recommend two places: Giraffe Manor and House of Waine.

    • Giraffe Manor is a beautiful estate and its herd of Rothschild Giraffes join guests for breakfast, tea, and dinner, as they are free to roam the estate (side note: if you don’t stay at the Manor, you can still visit the adjacent Giraffe Centre and feed the animals).

    • House of Waine is a boutique hotel in a quiet suburb of Nairobi, offering chic, Kenyan-inspired design, comfortable accommodations, and is well-located between the international airport and the country’s domestic airport for quick transport to the National Parks.

Kenya uses a different type of electrical plug than in North America (I recommend getting a universal electrical adapter that you can take on all of your trips). It’s a good idea to bring a portable charger, as well, so you can give your camera some extra juice while you’re on safari - you will be taking a lot of photos! (Note: while on safari, most tented camps do not offer 24-hour electricity). 

Kenya uses the Kenyan Shilling, and USD $1 is equal to about 100 Shillings (KES).  You really shouldn’t need much cash. I usually change a couple hundred dollars to buy some nicer souvenirs and artwork, but I pay for pretty much everything long before actually leaving home.

As you plan your trip to Kenya, people always ask me how long they should plan for a trip. I recommend to give yourself as much time as possible, with most trips between 8-10 days. This will allow you to move at a comfortable pace and enjoy the unique landscapes and ecosystems of each National Park and Reserve you visit.

You might also be wondering what time of the year is best to go to Kenya. Kenya is a mostly-year round destination. April and May tend to be rainy, with fewer people and lower prices; but know that some lodges close during this time and a soggy safari is do-able, but your experience may well be dampened (pardon the pun).

December through March is a lovely time to go. It’s generally mild, sunny, and dry, with wildlife concentrated near bodies of water, making game viewing quite easy. June is also nice, since the landscape is green and vibrant after the previous months’ soaking rains and you’ll get pre-peak pricing.

July and August are interesting months in Kenya. The Great Migration is one of those true “Bucket List” items so many people talk about. It’ll come with premium pricing and more people to share the National Parks with, but prepare to have your breath taken away. I definitely recommend budgeting a little extra to travel during the migration, if you can. You’ll a million wildebeest migrating from Tanzania to Kenya, bringing along a wealth of predators and prey along with them. You’ll witness, first-hand, the Circle of Life, and it. will. be. breathtaking.

September and October can also be nice months to visit, as the crowds have died down and you may get some of the tail-end of the Migration.

In my next post I’ll share my packing list and guide for a well-packed Kenyan safari. I’ll show you how to get everything into nothing more than a small roller bag!