Safaris are the main reason many tourists visit Kenya, or many African countries for that matter. Safaris are quite expensive, but often well worth it: a staggering amount of land is preserved as either National Park or National Reserve by the Kenya Wildlife Service, which makes the entry price difference between foreign visitors and Kenyan natives understandable.
One of the most famous National Reserves in Kenya is Maasai Mara, the northern tip of the Serengeti, where the great migration brings hundreds of thousands of wildebeests every year. Here it is technically possible to spot the big five (elephant, lion, water buffalo, leopard, and rhino – although there are only 10 or so rhinos in a 10.000 acre area), as well as countless other animals – the Mara brand giraffes are especially endearing.
The Mara honestly looks like Disney’s The Lion King, but greener than you would expect. The various lodgings in and around the park offer various degrees of luxury, from a five star hotel to campsites, depending on how much you are willing to shell out.
To see the various different animals, you should visit different parks. Many of these parks protect rare ecosystems, like volcanic lakes, calderas or mountain ranges, where often animal species uniqueto the area reside. The jumbo elephants for instance, can be found in Tsavo, coated in the typical red dust. And rhinos can be found in Nakuru, definitely in greater numbers than on the Maasai Mara.
For the more adventurous trekker, the mountain parks might be just what you are looking for. Equatorial mountains are something to behold: they are fairly solitary extrusions, with little or no surrounding mountains, which makes them very accessable. And they are some of the higher mountains on Earth. They offer climbing trips to the top which take 4 to 8 days, depending on how route and length of the acclimatization period.
Hell’s Gate National Park
A definite recommendation is a visit to Hell’s Gate. It’s one of the few National Parks where you are allowed to roam individually, without a guide, due to a lack of giant cats in the area. The best way to explore the park is by mountain bike, which can be rented at the bottom of the driveway up to the entrance of the park, or at the hotel of your choosing.
The outer park is dominated by rolling green hills and red cliff sides with white salt deposits and/or vulture dung. The tracks lead to the ranger post in the center of the park, from where you can charter a guide to show you around the feature from which Hell’s Gate receives its name: a narrow crevice cut out of the soft sandstone by a tiny little stream. The sandstone has different colors depending on the layers of sediment, and have a magical quality that even movie studios picked up on – the canyon is the setting of the 2nd Tomb Raider movie’s “cradle of life”. This will be something your guide is eager to share, since most of them got to meet Angelina Jolie.
The canyon has some tricky parts, and even a few small climbs. Guides will help you far better than you would expect from such an operation, but sturdy walking shoes are a definite must. Also, it gets rather hot on a bike, so make sure to use sunscreen on exposed knees, hands, arms and face. Bring water and food, because the ranger hut provides only soft drinks in small bottles.
Hell’s Gate is a must-see place, and at $25,00 plus $15,00 for a bike it’s a very affordable day out. Easily combined with a boat tour of Lake Naivasha, only 2 to 3 miles away from the Park’s entrance.
For more information on places to vist in Kenya visit http://www.magicalkenya.com/