Lapped by the Indian Ocean, and straddling the equator Kenya is a richly rewarding place to travel. With Mount Kenya rising above a magnificent landscape of forested hills, patchwork farms and wooded savanna, the country’s dramatic geography has a lot to offer. Here is my pick of the best things to do in Kenya.

1. Hike Mount Kenya

An extinct volcano some 3.5 million years old, Mount Kenya is Africa’s second-highest mountain, with two jagged peaks. Formed from the remains of a gigantic volcanic plug – most of its erupted lava and ash have been eroded by glacial action to create a distinctive, craggy silhouette.

There are four main routes up Mount Kenya. From the west, the Naro Moru trail provides the shortest and steepest way to the top. The Burguret and Sirimon trails from the northwest are less well trodden.

Sirimon has a reputation for lots of wildlife. Allocate four or five days for this hike — especially if you’ve just arrived in Kenya and are used to living at sea level.


Climbing Mount Kenya is one of the most exciting things to do in Kenya © Martin Mwaura/Shutterstock

2. Visit Tsavo East National Park

Northeast of the highway, the rail line, and the apparent natural divide that separates Kenya’s northern and southern environments, lies Tsavo East National Park. Although it is the larger part of the combined Tsavo parks, the sector north of the Galana River has few tracks and is much less visited. It’s easy to get away off the two or three beaten tracks, and you may find something special.

After decades of poaching, rhinos are very rare in Tsavo East, but you may be lucky enough to spot one grazing quietly somewhere — especially north of the Galana. By contrast, you are absolutely certain to see a lot of Tsavo East’s delightfully colourful elephants, be they huge, dusty-red adults, or little chocolate babies fresh out of a mud bath.


Hippopotamus in Tsavo Park © Shutterstock

3. Watch stars at Night

Booking a night out in nature under the stars at Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge and sleeping on a specially adapted “star bed” atop a secure platform is one of the authentic things to do in Kenya. This much-lauded eco-lodge, owned and managed by the local Maasai community, is perched along a ridge facing a game-rich valley. Uniquely, all the proceeds go to the local community.

The six spacious, raised, open-fronted bandas incorporate twisting branches and wonderful views, while bandas #1 and #5 have star-beds which can be pulled out onto their decks. There’s also a small infinity pool. Guaranteed wildlife, including elephants, seen daily at the waterhole.

Kenya is the safari capital of East Africa

Try the fascinating tailor-made trip to the Best of Kenya & Tanzania across the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Areas. Learn more about the traditions and cultures of the Maasai and stare in awe at the wild roaming wildlife on your several game drives in different national parks.


Giraffes,Il Ngwesi © Danita Delmont/Shutterstock

4. Go bird watching at Lake Baringo

An internationally recognized Ramsar wetlands site since 2002, Lake Baringo is a peaceful and beautiful oasis in the dry-thorn country, rich in birdlife and with a captivating character entirely its own.

Depending on lake levels, the waters are either heavily silted with the topsoil of the region and appear a rusty red or streaky yellow. Or it runs through a whole range of colours from coral to purple to a brilliant aquamarine, according to the sun’s position and the state of the sky.

Baringo’s 470 species of birds are one of its biggest draws, and even if you don’t know a superb starling from an ordinary one, the enthusiasm of others tends to be infectious.

With its nature, varied safari options and abundant wildlife, Kenya is the best place for an exciting holiday with the whole family.


Flamingos, lake Baringo, Kenya

5. Find a festival – at Lake Turkana, the Rift Valley or Lamu

Join over a dozen local tribes for three days of traditional song and dance in a relaxed international atmosphere. Kenya may have fewer major festivals than you might expect or desire, but the few annual events that do take place are definitely worth planning a safari around. The pre-eminent festival is the Lake Turkana Festival in May, a vibrant cultural celebration held in one of the country’s most remote towns.

In August, the Rift Valley Festival, a more European-style music festival, is held on the shores of Lake Naivasha and is easily accessible. Meanwhile, the Lamu Festival, held every November on the far-flung shores of the Indian Ocean, features donkey and dhow races, traditional stick fights, processions, beach barbecues, and crafts displays, with the entire old Swahili town taking part.


Turkana woman, Kenya 

6. Train with warriors

Head to a Maasai-run eco-camp and learn the ways of warriorhood – which you’ll soon discover involves playfighting with sticks and much singing and jumping. On most safaris in Kenya, you’re likely to meet Maasai warriors, and soon realise this is no dressing-up club but a part of every Maasai man’s life.

The training for this age grade is long and arduous, but you can now sample the lifestyle at a number of camps. For the most engaging warrior training experience, sign up for a 3-to-7-day programme with Laikipiak Maasai warriors at Bush Adventures Camp.

For a quicker, low budget taste of the action, closer to Nairobi, the low-key Maji Moto Eco-Camp. Located in the greater Mara ecosystem, this experience includes warrior-training – stick throwing, dancing, singing, tracking – with every stay in its tidy dome tents.

Maasai, Kenya © Thomas Brissiaud/Shutterstock

Maasai, Kenya 

7. Go on a Boat Ride at Lake Naivasha

One of the best things to do in Kenya and the perfect getaway from Nairobi. Here you’ll find excellent backpackers hostels, boating, a music festival, hippos, a rich array of birdlife and the secluded Crater Lake Game Sanctuary. Naivasha, like so many Kenyan place names, is a corruption of a local Maasai name, this time meaning heaving or rough water, E-na-iposha, a pronunciation still used by Maa-speakers in the area.

White-tailed eagle on the lake Naivasha © kyslynskahal/Shutterstock

White-tailed eagle on lake Naivasha 

8. Exploring Nairobi National Park – one of the best things to do in Kenya for a wildlife experience

Despite all the buzz, it’s truly amazing that Nairobi National Park exists almost unspoiled, right within earshot of Nairobi’s bustling downtown traffic. This park, which contains over 80 species of large mammals (excluding elephants), boasts the highest density of megafauna of any city park worldwide.

In contrast to the noisy and congested city streets, the park offers a serene wilderness where humans are just temporary visitors. It’s a great place to spend some time during a layover or before an evening flight, with excellent chances of spotting various species.

Even though the park is fenced along its northern border, it’s open to the south, allowing migratory herds and their predators to come and go freely. Despite the low-flying planes and minibuses, Nairobi National Park offers the best opportunity for witnessing a predator kill among all the parks in Kenya.

Zebras in Nairobi National Park, Kenya © mbrand85/Shutterstock

Zebras in Nairobi National Park, Kenya

9. Visit Desert Lake

Straddling the Ethiopian border at its northern end, Lake Turkana stretches south for 250km, bisecting Kenya’s rocky deserts like a turquoise sickle, hemmed in by sandy wastes and black-and-brown volcanic ranges. The water, a glassy, milky blue one minute, can become slate-grey and choppy or a glaring emerald green the next.

Lake Turkana is the biggest permanent desert lake in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a shoreline longer than the whole of Kenya’s sea coast. It spread south as far as the now desolate Suguta Valley and fed the headwaters of the Nile.

Today it has been reduced to a mere sliver of its former expanse. a gigantic natural sump, with rivers flowing in but no outlets, it loses a staggering 3m of water through evaporation from its surface each year.

Things not to miss: Desert museum, loyangalani, Lake Turkana, Kenya.

Desert Loyangalani lake, Turkana, Kenya 

10. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Get on petting terms with tiny pachyderms at this highly regarded centre. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant and rhino orphanage, inside the western end of the Nairobi park, offers a chance to see staff caring for baby elephants. Sometimes baby rhinos, which have been orphaned by poachers, or have been lost or abandoned for natural reasons, can also be seen.

The trust is run by Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her husband, the founding warden of Tsavo National Park. During the hour-long open house, the elephant keepers bring their juvenile charges up to an informal rope barrier where you can easily touch them and take photos.