In my last blog, I wanted to change the narrative about how people in the United States view my birth country of Kenya. In this blog, I want to tell you about the marvelous places to visit, should you ever travel to my native land.
Most people fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport just outside of Nairobi. The bus ride from the airport into the city will take you past Nairobi National Park. The vast open grass plains have skyscrapers as a backdrop, and yet the park plays host to a wide variety of African wildlife — black rhino, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffalo, giraffes — more than 400 species. You can see a lot of it just on the bus ride. However, it is worth your while to visit the park for a day. There’s an animal orphanage where you can pet baby animals — baby elephants, giraffes, lions and more. If you get a chance, dining in the restaurant in the park is a real treat. It is situated high in the trees and overlooks a watering hole. In the evening, all the animals come to drink.
While in Nairobi, you should visit Bomas of Kenya. Bomas means homesteads in Swahili. Established in 1971 by the Kenyan government, this attraction was designed to preserve, maintain and promote the rich and diverse cultural values of the various tribal groups in Kenya. You’ll see how many of the tribes in Kenya live. You’ll see their traditional homes, native dances and clothing, enjoy their ceremonies, and taste the food of the various people. Dedicate a whole day for your visit because there is so much to see and experience.
Next, I strongly urge you to visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, it forms Africa’s most diverse, incredible and most spectacular eco-system and possibly is the world’s top safari and big game viewing destinations. Each season, the wildebeest and other species trek back and forth between the east and west sides of Africa, following the rains and grass. During those times, one of the best ways to see this mass migration is to take a balloon ride over the vast herds. The last time I was there, the cost was about $50 U.S. dollars. You’ll take a one-hour safari ride to the balloons just before dawn and be in the air to see the herds wake and begin to move. Then you’ll land for an amazing breakfast cooked for you in a protected area of the park. It’s spectacular!
Next, visit the coastal city of Mombasa. It’s the second largest city in Kenya. What I remember most about the city is the food. When you go there, you’ll want to eat, and eat, and eat! You’ll find fabulous Arabic, Indian and Kenyan dishes, not to mention oh-so-fresh seafood. Once in Mombasa, take a one-hour boat ride over to the island of Zanzabar. There you can see so much of the history of the island — from the clove fields and plantations, to the slave pits and sultan’s palace. In fact, you can walk the length of the island in just under four hours.
Last but not least, I urge you to drive through the Rift Valley. Located on a geologic fault, the valley is cradled by mountains, with a string of huge lakes running the length of the valley. These are some of the oldest, largest and deepest lakes in the world, with unique bio systems. Some of the names of these lakes may be familiar — Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and huge Lake Victoria. Of course, the Rift Valley stretches all along the Eastern side of Africa, from Ethiopia in the north to Malawi in the south, but the scenic views along the mountain roads in Kenya are stunning. All along the way are scenic turnouts where you can learn about the geology and history of the valley.
Oh, and don’t forget to drop in on a Maasai Market — these open-air markets offer all kinds of handcrafts created by the tribal people of Kenya. The market is a great place to pick up souvenirs from your trip. I suggest taking a local along to help you bargain, otherwise you’ll end up paying tourist prices! The most famous Maasai Market takes place in the square at the foot of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.
I hope one day you’ll travel to my homeland and enjoy the sites, but especially the unique people and diverse cultures!