Kenya is an amazing country with a topography of extreme contrasts and a people with a modern culture born out of the influence of being at the hub of centuries old trading and migratory routes.
Kenya straddles the Equator, and is located on the eastern coast of Africa. Rougly one and half times the size of Japan, it covers a surface area of about 586,600 square kilometres. It is bordered by Somalia to the east, Ethiopia and Sudan to the north, Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south. Kenya has a single time zone, GMT +3.
Kenya’s highest mountain, Mouth Kenya, is also the second highest mountain on the African continent with an altitude of 5,199m (17,058 feet) above sea level. Mount Kenya is believed to be the home of Ngai, the supreme god, of the Kikuyu and several other tribes. Despite its location astride the Equator Mount Kenya is perennially snow-capped.
Much of central Kenya, either side of the Rift Valley, is over 1,500 metres above sea level.
Other isolated hills and mountains include Mount Kulal, Mount Nyiru and Mount Marsabit in the north of the country, and the Taita and Chyulu Hills in the south. The latter is one of the region’s most recent volcanic formations.
Kenya is bisected by the Great Rift Valley which stretches 6,000 kilometres from Mozambique in south-eastern Africa to Jordan, north of the Red Sea. The Rift Valley in Kenya contains seven lakes, some freshwater and some soda-based.
Kenya is famous, above all else, for its incredible game viewing opportunities. Most game can be seen in Kenya’s savannah bushland. The most barren and remote areas are found mainly in the north and eastern parts of the country. Desert and semi-desert make up 20 per cent of the country’s total surface area.
Kenya has 16 major faunal reserves designated as National parks, National Reserves and Game Reserves administered through the Game Department of Kenya and by County Councils.
Kenya’s largest National Park is Tsavo, which is in fact made up of two Parks-Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Their combined area is that of Wales!
The Masai Mara is possibly the world’s most famous Game Reserve. It is an extension of the equally renowned Serengeti plains in neighbouring Tanzania. The annual wildebeest migration, which takes place between July and November every year, involves nearly three million animals moving up from the dry, low-lying Tanzanian plains to the greener, wetter pastures of the Mara, nearly 2,000m above sea level.
Other Parks and Reserves in Kenya include Amboseli, Samburu, Shaba, Buffalo Springs, and Meru.
Indigenous forest only covers two per cent of the country; well below the optimum 10 per cent figure. Much of this forest is in the high-altitude central highlands, and on isolated mountains whose altitude is suitable for indigenous forest.
The Kakamega forest in Western Kenya is an isolated rainforest, once part of the Guineo-Congolan rainforest which stretches across Africa from west to east. It is a unique forest habitat in Kenya, and renowned in botanical circles worldwide as an example of how an isolated environment can survive being cut off from the main body.
Isolated remnants of coastal forests and woodland still exist, including mangrove forests in most coastal creeks, but particularly on the Lamu archipelago.
Kenya has 480 kilometres of coastline on the Indian Ocean. Her coral reefs are spectacular, and are regarded by divers as one of the world’s top three diving destinations after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea. There are numerous off-shore islands, including Kiwayu, Pate,Manda, Lamu, Mombasa, Chale, Funzi and Wasini. Much of the coastline consists of sandy beaches.