Kenya lies astride the equator on the eastern coast of Africa. Kenya is bordered in the north by Sudan and Ethiopia, in the east by Somalia, on the southeast by the Indian Ocean, on the southwest by Tanzania and to the west by Lake Victoria and Uganda.
Kenya is notable for its' geographical variety. The low-lying, fertile coastal region, fringed with coral reefs and islands, is back by a gradually rising coastal plain, a dry region covered with savanna and thorn bush.
At an altitude of about 1,524 m and 300 miles inland, the plain gives way in the southwest to a high plateau, rising in parts to 3,048 m, in which about 85% of the population and the majority of economic enterprise are concentrated. The northern section of Kenya, forming three-fifths of the whole territory, is arid and of semi desert character, as is the bulk of the southeastern quarter. In the high plateau area, known as the Kenya Highlands, lie Mt. Kenya (5,200 m), Mt Elgon (4,322m) and the Aberdare Ranger (rising to over 3,963 m). The plateau is bisected from north to south by the Rift Valley, part of the great geological fracture that can be traced from Syria through the Red Sea and East Africa to Mozambique. In the north of Kenya, the valley is broad and shallow, embracing Lake Turkana (160 miles long), while further south it narrows and deepens and is walled by escarpments 610 to 930 meters high. West of the Rift Valley, the plateau descends to the plains that border Lake Victoria. The principal rivers are the Tana and the Athi, flowing southeast to the Indian Ocean, the Ewaso Ngiro flowing northeast to the swamps of the Lorian Plain, and the Nzoia, Yala and Gori, which drain eastward into Lake Victoria. Low plains rise to central highlands, divided by the Great African Rift Valley.
THE RIFT VALLEY
The Great Africa Rift Valleys runs from North to South through the whole of Kenya. The Kenyan Rift Valley is a section of 6 000 km rift system which stretches from the Dead Sea in the Middle East, south through the Red Sea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Its' narrowest point is just north of Nairobi and the whole area contains several lakes, extinct volcanos and small game parks. Major geological upheavals caused a series of lakes in Kenya, some of which (Turkana, Naivasha and Baringo) are freshwater, but the others are soda lakes, with a high saline content. These are rich in algae and tiny crustaceans, which are the main food sources for the millions of flamingos gracing the lakes.
The upheavals also resulted in the sprouting of volcanic mountains, including Longonot and Mt Kenya. The scenery in the Rift Valley is breathtaking and particularly at the viewing points just north of Limuru and Naivasha and from the top of the Mau escarpment on the Kericho road. The approach, via road or rail, from Nairobi will take you up gently through the highlands and bring you suddenly to the edge of the Rift valley, which drops away to a ribbon of green in the valley floor below.
In the Central highlands a couple of hundred kilometers north of the equator lays Mt Kenya an extinct volcano, Africa's second highest mountain at 5,199mtrs. Mt Kenya is located 180km north of Nairobi. It's snow-capped peaks; Batain and Nelion are in view for miles around on the clear day. These peaks are regularly scaled by experience climbers, though few make it to the very top. Lenana, the third peak, is the most popular for climbing as it is relatively easy. The scenery is stunning and quite breathtaking. It is also a botanist's paradise, with a wide variation in flora as the altitude changes.
Situated in the environs of Lake Naivasha, about 90 km from Nairobi is Hell's Gate National Park, which covers an area of 68.25 km2. The park is situated 14 km after the turnoff from the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway. The National Park covers a small area, but the landscape is impressive and can be explored on foot. Hell's Gate is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery and is famous for its natural geysers, eagle and vulture breeding grounds. Two extinct volcanoes; Olkaria and Hobley's are located here. The entrance to the gorge is marked by Fischer's Tower, a 25m tall volcanic pinnacle. Animals like Giraffe, hartebeest, zebra, Thomson's gazelle, buffalo, eland and impala can be seen grazing on the grasslands.
Lake Nakuru, a small shallow alkaline lake (it varies from 5 to 30 sq km) on the edge of the town of Nakuru lies about 160 km north of Nairobi. The lake is world famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth - serving as the congregation point for a roseatte mass of some 100,000 to 2 million flamingos and over 450 other species of birds - a spectacle of immense beauty. Lake Nakuru National Park is also the first rhino sanctuary in Kenya, which has recently been enlarged partly to provide a sanctuary for black rhino. The park is unquestionably "the greatest ornithological spectacle on earth." Other wildlife to be seen in the park are waterbuck, reedbuck, zebra, impala, Gazelle, lion, leopard, buffalo, hippo, and rhino, especially in the olive tree forest to the south west.
Situated on the floor of the great Rift Valley is Lake Naivasha, a spectacular freshwater lake some 50 miles south of Lake Nakuru. Surrounded by mountains, Lake Naivasha boasts good bass fishing, bird watching, and easy walking on Crescent Island covering 170 sq kms. This beautiful freshwater lake surrounded by rolling hills and extinct volcanoes is home to over 450 species of birds. The lake's water is used to irrigate the bountiful agriculture, part of Kenya's massive horticultural export industry. A visit to these farms, for those interested in agriculture, is well worthwhile. Strawberries, flowers, asparagus and numerous other crops are grown for domestic consumptions and export. Black bass and tilapia make for entertaining fishing and a delicious meal.
Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania
TSAVO NATIONAL PARK.
The Tsavo National Park, a vast arid region of 20,807sq km (8,034sq miles), is Kenyas largest wildlife stronghold. The Park comprises a diversity of habitats, open plains alternating with savannah bush and semi-desert scrub; acacia woodlands; rocky ridges and outcrops, and more extensive ranges and isolated hills; belts of riverine vegetation; palm thickets; and on the Chyulu Hills extension area, mountain forest. Asection of Lake Jipe is included in the extreme south-west of the Park, an extremely rich bird locality where Pygmy Geese and Black Heron are common.
The Park which lies roughly half-way between the coast and Nairobi, is bisected by the main Nairobi-Mombasa road and railway. This is designated as the Tsavo Road and Railway National Reserve. That portion lying north and east of the road is designated Tsavo Park East; that to the south and west, Tsavo Park West. The Park is watered by two permanent rivers, the Tsavo River which flows through Tsavo Park West and the Athi River which crosses a corner of Tsavo Park East. The two unite above Lugard Falls to become the Galana River. The Voi River, to the south, is not permanent.
Mainly on account of the difficult waterless nature of much of the terrain, parts of the Park have not yet been developed for visitors. These include the uninhabited scrub desert north of the Galana River.
Most of the Park is made up of basement gneisses and schists, but part of the western sector is of recent volcanic origin, including the Chyulu Hills extension. Here may be seen many lava flows and cones, such as Shetani, near Kilaguni Lodge, which is a perfect example of a recent volcano. This volcanic zone also contains the famous Mzima Springs, where some 50 million gallons of sparkling crystal-clear water gush out daily from below a lava ridge. Hippopotamus and shoals of Barbel live in the springs and provide a dramatic spectacle. The water is so clear that every action of these huge aquatic beasts under the water, and of their attendant piscine scavengers, may be watched from the lookouts or through the plate-glass windows of the submerged observation chamber.
Downstream from the springs is a dense and luxuriant stand of wild date palms and Raphia palms, the latter with immense fronds of up to 9m (30ft) long. It is not unusual to spot the rare and elusive African Finfoot swimming between the fronds where these touch the water.
One of the other great spectacles of Tsavo Park, perhaps its greatest , is Mudanda Rock between Voi and Manyani. This 11/2km-long outcrop is a water catchment area which supplies a natural dam at its base. In the dry season, hundreds of elephants come to drink and bathe. From a safe vantage point just above the water visitors may have the luck to sit and watch the activities of great beasts below them. A similar elephant spectacle may also be observed at Aruba Dam.
The Lugard Falls on the Galana River, 40km (25 miles) from Voi, are remarkable for the fantastic shapes of the water-worn rocks. The river disappears into a rocky gorge so narrow in one part that it is possible to stand astride the cleft with the Falls immediately below.
At present there is a network of over 800km (500 miles) of roadways in the Tsavo Park, passing through much of the best game viewing areas and following the rivers where there is the greatest concentration of game during the dry season. Specially rewarding circuits are those along the Galana River from Lugard Falls to Sobo, southwards to Aruba and then north-west to Mudanda Rock; and from Kilaguni Lodge to Tsavo Gate, along a stretch of the Tsavo River.
Elephants in large herds are the number one attraction in Tsavo. For those who like to indulge in game watching without effort, what could be pleasanter than to recline in a comfortable chair on the veranda of Kilaguni Lodge, a cold drink at hand, and watch the elephants take their refreshment from the waterhole 90m (100yd) or so away.
Tsavo is also a good place to see one of our most beautiful antelopes, the Lesser Kudu with spiral horns and white striped coat. Whilst you may come across these graceful animals almost anywhere, the dry bush along the Galana River is their favourite haunt. Other animals likely to be encountered are Buffalo, Common Waterbuck, Eland, Gerenuk, Fringe-eared Oryx, Impala and Masai Giraffe. Black Rhinoceros, once numerous, are now less frequently seen.
Birdlife is legion in the Park and the visitor is constantly meeting with new species. One of the most conspicuous is the White-headed Buffalo Weaver, brownish-black and white with a startling vivid red rump when it flies. Starlings are numerous, including the brilliantly plumaged Golden-breasted Starling and the rare but duller Fischers Starling. Hornbills are another prevalent group of birds, eight species occur in the Park. Birds of prey, Bustards, Sunbirds and Weaver-birds are other families well represented. Hole-nesting birds Starlings, Parrots, Barbets and Rollers are often associated with the thick trunked Baobab trees which are such a feature of the landscape.
Accommodation in the Tsavo National Park includes Kilaguni Lodge, 35km (22 miles) from Mtito Andei, with full catering facilities and amenities. Some 32km (20 miles) from Kilaguni, at the end of the Ngulia Valley is the Ngulia Safari Lodge, also with all facilities. Nearby mist-netting is used to catch palearctic migrant birds for ringing. Just outside the southern boundary of the Park, south of the Taita Hills, are the Taita Hills Lodge and the nearby Salt Lick Lodge from which one can sometimes watch an elephant display at the water-holes there. One of Africas rarest birds, the Taita Falcon, sometimes visits these water-holes whilst hunting its avian prey.
Voi Safari Lodge, sited on top of one of the hills near the main entrance gate to Tsavo East AT Voi, also offers full amenities. Further west there is a luxury camp operated by Tsavo Safaris on the Athi River, with an access road from Mtito Andei.
Self-service accommodation is available at Kitani Lodge, Ngulia Self-service bandas and Murka Lodge in Tsavo West, and at Aruba Lodge in Tsavo East, 35km (22 miles) from Voi. There are bandas and a camp site with water at Lake Jipe, where a boat is also available. In addition there are camp sites with showers, toilets and drinking water at Tsavo East and West, Mtito Andei Gate, Chyulu Gate, Voi Gate and Buchuma Gate. They are sometimes used by film companies and booking is recommended. Outside the Park accommodation is available at hotels at Mtito Andei and at Voi. Main roads connect Tsavo National Park with Nairobi and Mombasa, and for those who travel by air there are landing fields at Kilaguni Lodge, Aruba and elsewhere.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Amboseli is justly famous for its big game elephants, lions and cheetahs are the main attractions and for its great scenic beauty.
The 3810sqkm (1,259sq miles) of this National Park and Game Reserve embody five main wildlife habitats, plus a generally dry lake-bed, Lake Amboseli, from which it takes its name. These are open plains; extensive stands of yellow-barked acacia woodland; rocky, lava strewn thorn-bush country; swamps and marshes; and at the western end of the Reserve, above Namanga, the massif of Oldoinyo Orok rising to over 2,760 (8,300ft) and still for the most part zoologically unexplored.
The landscape is everywhere dominated by the glistening, majestic snow-cap of Kilimanjaro immediately to the south Africas highest mountain (5,894m-19,340ft) a fitting back-drop to a wild region where the pastoral Masai and their cattle have lived in harmony with wild creatures for many a century.
Amboseli may be reached from Nairobi by two main routes. The first is to Athi River and thence along the main Kajiado-Namanga-Arusha road, turning left through the National Park main gate at Namanga to Ol Tukai Lodge, 75km (47 miles) on. Total distance from Nairobi is 240km (150 miles). The second route is from Nairobi along the main Mombasa Road to some 16km (10 miles) past Emali, then branching right and following the main Loitokitok road: approximately 64km (40 miles) along this road it forks right and the Lodge is 32km(20 miles) farther on. Total mileage from Nairobi is 228km (142 miles). Accommodation is available at Amboseli New Lodge, Ol Tukai Lodge, Serena Lodge, Ol Tukai Tented Camp and the Namanga Hotel. Camp sites are also available.
The main game-viewing area of Amboseli lies in the eastern half of the Park, in the vicinity of Ol Tukai Lodge and Lakes Engoni Naibor and Loginya. Here a network of roads and tracks opens up a wild life paradise.
Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Masai Giraffe and Buffalo may all be encountered during a single mornings drive of about 90km (50-60 miles), together with plains game such as Common Zebra, Eland, Cokes Hartebeest, White-bearded Gnu, Common Waterbuck, Thompsons and Grants Gazelle and Impala. Black Rhino can still be seen occasionally although they are now rare due to poaching in the mid-1970s.
In the dry bush country towards Namanga, and in the arid area en route to Emali, two especially interesting antelopes may be found: the long-necked Gerenuk often called the `Giraffe-necked Antelope and the Fringe-eared Oryx. Smaller mammals always in evidence include Black-faced Vervet Monkey and Yellow Baboon, Black-headed Jackals, Spotted Hyaena and Bat-eared Foxes. The last may often be seen basking in the sun outside their dens or in the open plains.
Bird life is equally abundant, especially in the vicinity of the lakes and swamps where a great variety of water birds may be seen. That rarity in East Africa, the Madagascar Squacco Heron, turns up at fairly regular intervals and the plover with the habits of a lily-trotter, the Long-toed Lapwing, is a resident in small numbers. Sandgrouse of three species, Yellow-throated, Chestnut-bellied and Black-faced, water in their hundreds during the dry season, announcing their arrival at their favourite drinking place with far-carrying gutteral sounding flock calls.
Birds of prey are verywell represented. Including the six species of vultures no less than 47 different kinds have been recorded from Amboseli, amongst which are two great rarities, The Taita Falcon and the Southern Banded Harrier Eagle.
Around the lodges and tented camp, visitors will see flocks of a yellow weaver-bird with a patch of chestnut on the nape. This is the extremely local Taveta Golden Weaver, which outside of Amboseli may lightly be considered a rare bird. But the bird which quickly draws attention to itself on account of its brilliant plumage and fearless behaviour it will alight on your table and partake of bread and cake crumbs is the Superb Starling.
MAASAI MARA GAME RESERVE.
The Mara Game Reserve, as it was originally known, an area of some 1,812 sq km (700 sq miles), was established in 1961. its southern boundary is contiguous with Tanzanias Serengeti National Park, and it is divided into two sections. The inner reserve of 518sq km (200sq miles) has been developed on the lines of a National Park, no intrusion of human settlement being allowed, while the outer remains an undeveloped area where local Masai are permitted to pasture their cattle but which is otherwise undisturbed.
The Mara country is world famous for its vast assemblages of plains game together with their associated predators. It is perhaps the only region left in Kenya where the visitor may see animals in the same super-abundance as existed a century ago. The Reserve extends from the edge of the Loita Hills in the east to the Mara Triangle and the base of the Siria Escarpment in the west. The inner section, with its network of roads specially connected for game watching, embraces the area around the Keekorok Lodge and westwards to the Mara River.
Everything is big in Mara. It is a country of breath-taking vistas, a panorama of vast rolling plains and rounded hills, of intermittent groves of acacia woodlands and dense thickets of scrub. The whole is bisected by the Mara River and its tributaries which are margined by luxuriant riverine forest. And in every direction, there are the seemingly endless herds of game animals.
Mara possesses the largest population of lions to be found in Kenya, although poisoning by farmers along the western border has reduced the number of Black-maned Lions. It also boasts large herds of Topi and a small population of Roan Antelope, animals not found in many other Kenya National Parks or Reserves (although more common in Lambwe Valley and the Shimba Hills). Elephants are fairly common and the traveler may sometimes be held up by `elephants on the road.
Among the great variety of large beasts are Buffalo, Black Rhino (which may be seen more easily than at Amboseli or Tsavo), and Hippopotamus. The hippo-viewing platform on the Mara River near the Mara Serena Lodge is probably the best place in Kenya for seeing hippo. Other mammals include Leopard, Cheetah, Common Zebra, Cokes Hartebeest, White- bearded Gnu, Oribi, Warthog, and Thompsons and Grants gazelles.
The bird life of Mara is as profuse as its mammalian fauna. The red-winged Schalows Turaco with its attenuated white-tipped crest is common along the numerous wooded watercourses, and in the more extensive riverine forest there is also Ross Turaco. The Mara River is also the home of the great orange-buff Pels Fishing Owl and of flocks of wary Crested Guinea-fowl.
On the open plains, there is a variety of bustards including the large Jacksons Bustard and the black-bellied Hartlaubs Bustard. The latter during nuptial display soars high in the air, then with rigid wings descends slowly to earth like a pricked balloon. Ground Hornbills are one of the most spectacular birds of the open plains and more easily seen in the Mara than elsewhere in Kenya.
Birds of prey are abundant, and no less than 53 different species have so far been recorded. Secretary Birds are a common sight as they stalk sedately over the grasslands, and in the sky there are always vultures and that effortless flier the Bateleur.
Accommodation in Masai Mara National Reserve is at Keekorok Lodge, which is 265km (165 miles) from Nairobi on a road quite negotiable by saloon cars. The route is via the Nairobi-Naivasha road, turning left at 56km (35 miles); thence to Narok, 103km (64 miles), and then 106km (66 miles)to the lodge through some of the best game country in Kenya. In the undeveloped part of the Reserve a limited number of camp sites are available, but the numbers of campers allowed onto the reserve is strictly limited to avoid disturbance to the game, and there are tented camps near the eastern entrance and elsewhere.
In addition there is the Mara Serena Lodge, sited on high ground in the west of the Park overlooking the Mara River and two luxury camps sited on the eastern bank of the Mara River. These are the East African Wildlife Safari Camp near the old Mara bridge and the Governors Camp some miles further downstream.
1 00 N, 38 00 E
582,650 sq km
land: 569,250 sq km
water: 13,400 sq km
Area - comparative slightly more than twice the size of Nevada
total: 3,446 km
border countries: Ethiopia 830 km, Somalia 682 km, Sudan 232 km, Tanzania 769 km, Uganda 933 km
Coastline 536 km
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200nm
territorial sea: 12nm
Climate: varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior
Terrain: low plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Kenya 5,199m
gold, limestone, soda ash, salt barites, rubies, fluorspar, garnets, wildlife, hydropower
Land use arable land: 7%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 37%
forests and woodland: 30%
other: 25% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 660 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: Recurring drought in northern and eastern regions; flooding during rainy seasons
Environment - Current issues water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; poaching
Environment - International agreements
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands and Whaling