Kenya - Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)

Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)


Main Table of Contents

Welcome to Kenya

Masai Mara

Amboseli National Reserve

Tsavo National Park

Laikipia Plateau

If You Have Time


Beach Escapes

Welcome to Kenya

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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | Planning | Essentials | Holidays | About the Restaurants | About the Hotels and Lodges | Visitor Information | Must-See Parks

Updated by Narina Exelby and Mark Eveleigh

Kenya is where “going on safari” started. A hundred years or so ago, visitors from all over the world, including Teddy Roosevelt, started traveling to Africa, lured by stories of multitudes of wild animals; there were more than 3 million large mammals roving East Africa’s plains at the time. Today visitors continue to flock to this East African nation each year. Although humans have made their mark, Kenya still holds onto its pristine wilderness.

But Kenya’s tourism industry, the main source of foreign revenue, is very susceptible to perceptions of tourist safety. Tourism declined in the late 1990s following a series of attacks on tourists and the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, but visitor numbers were on the rise again before the crisis in 2007-2008. Widely televised at the time, the ethnic violence that arose after disputed election results still tarnishes Kenya’s reputation, even though no tourists were in any danger. The crisis was, however, a large contributing factor to a new constitution signed into law in 2010, which is aimed at limiting presidential powers and keeping corruption in check. It’ll take years to implement, but there’s a new optimism among Kenyans and, more than ever, there seems to be little reason to consider Kenya unsafe as a tourist destination.

Kenya’s human history dates back at least 6 million years. In 2001 the controversial Millennium Man was discovered near Lake Baringo in the northwest. This find and Richard and Mary Leakey’s discovery of Homo habilis in the ‘60s fuel ongoing excavations.

Today there are more than 70 ethnic groups in Kenya that range from the Masai, Samburu, Kikuyu, and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled on the coast and the descendants of the first white settlers in and around Nairobi and the Kenya highlands. In Nairobi, about 40% of the population is Kikuyu—a Bantu people numbering more than 6 million. Islam arrived along the coast in the 8th century, followed in the 15th century by Portuguese explorers and sailors who came looking for the sea route to India. During the rule of Seyyid Said of Oman in the 1830s, German, British, and American merchants established themselves on the coast, and the notorious slave routes were created.

The British created what was then known as British East Africa in the late 1800s. After a much publicized and often sensationalized struggle by native Kenyans against British rule in the 1950s, known as the Mau Mau era, Kenya finally won independence in 1963.

The perennial African life-and-death drama is lived out amongst vast populations of prey and predators in what’s widely called one of the world’s greatest wildlife destinations. This is what most tourists flock to the country for—but don’t be put off by people who say that there are far too many tourists, which sometimes makes you feel like you’re in a big zoo. With massive conservancy areas opening up around the edge of many of Kenya’s reserves, wildlife viewing these days effectively knows no bounds.

Kenya isn’t just about big game. It has a gorgeous tropical coastline with white sandy beaches, coral gardens, superb fishing, and snorkeling, diving, and vibey beach resorts. Traditional triangular-sailed dhows still ply their trade providing unforgettable seafood to the surrounding restaurants. You’ll discover unique islands with ancient stone Arab buildings, where a donkey is the main means of transport, and where time really does seem to stand still.

Fast Facts

Size 582,645 square km (224,960 square miles).

Capital Nairobi.

Number of National Parks 49, including the Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, and Tsavo National Park.

Number of Private Reserves Too many to count, but includes Laikipia Plateau and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

Population Approximately 38 million.

Big Five You’ll find them all here.

Language Kiswahili is the official language, but most people speak English.

Time Kenya is on EAT (East Africa Time), which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and eight hours ahead of North America’s Eastern Standard Time.


The Great Migration. Millions of plains game move in an endless cycle of birth and death from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara.

Eyeball Big Game. Visiting Kenya’s legendary national parks and game reserves almost guarantees that you’ll see the Big Five as well as huge herds of plains animals and hundreds of colorful birds.

Africa’s Fabled Tribe. The tall and dignified red-robed Masai have held explorers, adventurers, and writers in thrall for centuries.

Beach Escapes. Miles of white sandy beaches lined by an azure ocean and water sports galore. From diving and snorkeling to windsurfing, there’s something for everyone.

Turn Back the Past. Check out ancient history along the coast where Arab traders and Vasco da Gama once sailed. In the World Heritage tiny town of Lamu you’ll find an Arabic way of life unchanged for centuries.


Kenya lies on Africa’s east coast. It’s bordered by Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, Sudan and Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the northeast, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. It’s a land of amazing diversity with extraordinary tourist attractions: great game reserves including Masai Mara and Samburu, the Great Rift Valley, fertile highlands, parched deserts, long pristine beaches and coral reefs, marine parks, mountains such as Mt. Kenya and Mt. Meru, and rivers and lakes, including Lake Turkana—Kenya’s largest lake. Its two major cities couldn’t be more different. Nairobi, the capital, is a bustling city where colonial buildings rub shoulders with modern skyscrapers. Steamy Mombasa on the coast retains its strong Arabic influence and history as it continues to be Kenya’s largest and busiest port. Kenya is also home to the Masai, who’ve roamed the plains for centuries.

Masai Mara. Located in Southern Kenya, in the area known as the Great Rift Valley, the park covers 1,510 km (938 miles) at altitudes of 1,500 meters to 2,170 meters above sea level. It’s considered by many to be the world’s greatest game park because of the abundance of animals located here. During July and August when the Great Migration reaches here, you can see hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles feeding on the new grass, followed by dozens of predators.

Amboseli National Park. The snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro, huge herds of elephants, and quintessential Kenyan landscape (open plains, acacia woodland, grasslands, bush, and marshland) greet you along the Tanzania border.

Tsavo National Park. Once known for its legendary man-eating lions, Tsavo, which is made up of Tsavo East and West, is now home to peaceful prides and loads of other game. The park’s proximity to the coast makes it a great choice for those who want to combine beach and beasts.

Laikipia Plateau. Fast becoming Kenya’s hottest game destination, this area is home to the Samburu National Reserve, which boasts more game per square mile than anywhere else in the country, and some of its classiest camps and lodges.



Generally speaking, Kenya, which straddles the equator, has one of the best climates in the world with sunny, dry days; daytime temperatures average between 20°C (68°F) and 25°C (77°F). The coast can get hot and humid, though sea breezes cool things down, and the mountainous regions can get very cold—remember there’s snow all year round on the highest peaks. Try to avoid the long rains of March and April or the short rains of October, November, and December because park roads can become impassable and mosquitoes are at their busiest and deadliest. Game-viewing is at its best during the driest seasons (May-September, January, and February) because the lack of surface water forces game to congregate at water holes. Safari high season is July-November when the annual wildebeest migration is in full swing, but it’s much cheaper to go in the low season (April and May) when rates drop dramatically. High season at the coast is September through January (the hottest time is December and January), but avoid Christmas and New Year periods as holiday resorts are packed. If you’re a birder, aim to visit between October and April when the migrant species have arrived.


Air Travel

When booking flights, check the routing carefully as some involve stopovers or require you to change airlines. Several flight options from the U.S. require long layovers in Europe before connecting to Nairobi or Mombasa. This is especially true for the cheaper flight options.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) (NBO) | Nairobi | 00622 | 020/661-1000.
Moi International Airport (MBA) | Airport Rd., | Mombasa | 80155 | 041/343-4026, 041/343-4329.
Wilson Airport (WIL). | Nairobi | 00200 | 020/660-9000, 072/425-6537.

Air Travel Resources in Kenya
Kenya Airports Authority. |


Most major European and African airlines fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Kenya’s major airport. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Kenya; indirect flights leave from most major cities, i.e., New York, Chicago, Atlanta. Flying via London, Amsterdam, or Dubai is a popular option. There are plenty of cheap and efficient domestic flights available, including daily flights on Air Kenya between Nairobi and Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu. Air Kenya also flies daily to Amboseli, Diani Beach, Kiwayu, the Masai Mara, and Samburu. Fly540, an airline covering East Africa, has services between Nairobi, Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Kitale. Safarilink has the widest network of flights, with daily services between Nairobi, Amboseli, Naivasha, Tsavo West, Nanyuki, Loisaba, Samburu, Lewa Downs, Lamu, Diani, and Kilimanjaro, and from Mara to Migori, which links travelers from Mara to the Serengeti. There are also numerous charter flights available from Nairobi to the major tourist destinations and individual lodges and camps. When you book your safari, it’s a good idea to ask your accommodation destination to book your internal flights for you as part of your package. Another option is to get an operator like Twiga Tours (, who can take care of all overland travel arrangements and flights, to arrange this for you.

Kenya Airways and Thomsonfly fly from London to Mombasa, and Condor flies to Frankfurt from Mombasa. Emirates offers flights to Jomo via Dubai, and Qatar Airways via Doha. British Airways offers direct flights to Nairobi. KLM flies to Nairobi via Amsterdam. Connections to Mombasa from Nairobi can be made several times a day using Air Kenya, Kenya Airways, or Fly540.

Airport departure tax is included in your scheduled flight tickets.

International Airlines
British Airways. | 0844/493-0787 in U.K. |
Condor. | 06171/698-8920 in Germany |
Emirates. | 0844/800-2777 in U.K., 800/777-3999 in U.S. |
KLM. | 0871/231-0000 in U.K. |
Thomsonfly (Corsair) | 0871/231-4787 in U.K. |
Virgin Atlantic Airlines. | 800/821-5438 in U.S., 0844/874-7747 in U.K., 020/278-9100 in Kenya |

Domestic Airlines
Air Kenya. | 020/391-6000 |
Fly540. | 020/445-3252, 072/254-0540, 073/354-0540 |
Kenya Airways. | 020/327-4747 |
Safarilink. | 020/6000-777 |

Charter Flights

The major charter companies—African Sky Charters, East African Air Charter, Phoenix Aviation, and Safarilink—run daily shuttles from Wilson Airport to numerous destinations in East Africa including safari spots, Mombasa, and Nairobi. Safarilink also flies to Mt. Kilimanjaro. All flights should be booked directly thorough the charter service.

Charter Companies
African Sky Charters. | 020/6001-467 |
East African Air Charter. | 020/600-3860 |
Phoenix Aviation. | 020/600-4048, 0733/632-769 |
Safarilink. | 020/6000-777 |




Calling Within Kenya: Local landline calls are quite cheap, but hotels add hefty surcharges to phone calls. Prepaid cards for public telephones can be purchased at cafés, newsstands, convenience stores, and telephone company offices. City codes are (020) for Nairobi, (041) for Mombasa, (042) for Malindi, (040) for Diani Beach, and (012) for Lamu; include the first 0 when you dial within the country. When making a phone call in Kenya, always use the full 10-digit number, including the area code, even if you’re in the same area.

Directory inquiry numbers are different for each cell-phone network. These calls are charged at normal rates, but the call is timed only from when it’s actually answered. You can, for an extra fee, get the call connected by the operator.

Airtel directory enquiries. | 300 from an Airtel number, 073/3100-300 from another number.
Orange directory enquiries. | 100 from an Orange number, 020/222-1000 from another number.
Safaricom directory enquiries. | 191 from a Safaricom number, 072/200-2100 from another number.
Telkom Kenya. |

Calling Outside Kenya: When dialing out from Kenya, dial 000 before the international code. So, for example, you would dial 000 (0001) for the United States. Other country codes are 00044 for the United Kingdom, 00027 for South Africa, and 00033 for France.

Access Codes
MCI WorldPhone. | 0800/220-111 from Kenya.

Mobile Phones

The biggest mobile-phone service providers in Kenya are Airtel (formerly Zain), Safaricom, and Orange. You can buy a Kenyan pay-as-you-go SIM card for your mobile phone (from one of the service-provider stores—there’s no shortage of them) and top up the airtime as you need it.

Airtel. | 111 from phone, 0733/100-111 |
Orange. | 100 from an Orange number, 020/222-1000 from another number |
Safaricom. | 100 from phone, 020/427-2100 24-hour helpline |


Each person may bring 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco), one bottle of spirits or wine, and up to 568ml of perfume. The tobacco and alcohol allowance applies only to people 18 and over.

Kenya Customs Service Department.


Kenya is a relatively poor country, and crime is a reality for residents and tourists alike; follow these basic precautions for a safe trip.

Mugging, purse snatching, and pickpocketing are rife in big towns. Leave good jewelry and watches at home, and unless you’re on safari, keep cameras, camcorders, and binoculars out of sight. Always lock valuables in the hotel or lodge safe. If you must carry valuables, use a money belt under your clothes; keep some cash handy so you don’t reveal your money belt in public. Bring copies of all your important documents and stash them away from the originals. Carry extra passport photos in case you need new documents fast. Don’t venture out on foot at night. Never take food or drinks from strangers—it could be drugged.

Be on the lookout for street scams like hard-luck stories or appeals to finance a scholarship. Don’t be fooled if a taxi driver says upon arrival that the fee you negotiated was per person or that he doesn’t have change for large bills (bring small bills to avoid this). Be polite but firm if you’re stopped by police officers charging you with an “instant fine” for a minor infraction. If you ask to go to the police station, the charges are often dismissed.

You’ll need full medical travel insurance, and if you’re planning to dive, trek, or climb, make sure your insurance covers active pursuits. Check with your health-care provider to see what vaccinations might be necessary for your destination(s); you may need a yellow-fever certificate if you arrive via another African country. Always use sunscreen and bug repellent with DEET. HIV/AIDS is rampant, and malaria is an issue in certain areas (not in Nairobi but definitely on the coast and game reserves).

The Flying Doctors Service offered by AMREF provides air evacuation services for medical emergencies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, or anywhere within a 1,000 km (621 miles) radius of Nairobi. The planes fly out of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They also provide transportation between medical facilities, fly you back to Europe, Asia, or North America, or provide you with an escort if you’re flying on a commercial carrier.

U.S. Embassy. | United Nations Ave., Gigiri, | Nairobi | 00601 | 020/363-6000.

Kenya Police. | 999 |

Medical-Assistance Companies
The Flying Doctors Service. | 020/315-454 landline, 073/363-9088 mobile |


If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, it’ll be observed the next day, Monday. Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of phases of the moon; dates vary accordingly. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night, and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day, and there may be restrictions on smoking and drinking.


The official currency is the Kenya shilling (Ksh). Available notes are 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 shillings. Available coins are 1, 5, 10, 20, and 40 shillings.

At this writing, the shilling exchange is about Ksh85 to US$1. Kenya is still relatively inexpensive given the quality of lodgings, which cost probably two-thirds the price of comparable facilities in the United States, although some hotels in the cities have been known to charge expensive rates for tourists.

To avoid administrative hassles, keep all foreign-exchange receipts until you leave the region, as you may need them as proof when changing any unspent local currency back into your own currency.

As the shilling is a relatively weak currency, hotels tend to quote in U.S. dollars. However, for small amounts, such as restaurants, shopping, and tips, it’s easiest to withdraw shillings from an ATM once you’re in the country. If you pay with dollars, you may find the exchange rate used is lower than the official one.

ATMs and Banks

Banks open at 9 on weekdays and close at 3; on Saturday they open at 9 and close at 11. Banks are closed on Sunday. Many banks can perform foreign-exchange services or international electronic transfers. Try to avoid banks at their busiest times—at 9 and from noon to 2 on Friday, and at month’s end—unless you’re willing to arrive early and line up with the locals. Major banks in Kenya are Barclays, Kenya Commercial, and Standard Chartered.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted at Kenyan banks and by ATMs. Most ATMs accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa Electron, and Visa and MasterCard; the best place to withdraw cash is at an indoor ATM, preferably one guarded by a security officer. If you’re unsure where to find a safe ATM, ask a merchant.

Central Bank of Kenya. | Haile Selassie Ave., | Nairobi | 00200 | 020/286-0000 |


Tipping isn’t mandatory, but porters do expect something, and 10% is customary in restaurants. Some hotels have a gratuity box for you to put a tip for all of the staff at the end of your stay. Tip your safari driver and guide approximately US$10-US$15 per person, per day.


Your passport must be valid up to six months after you leave Kenya. Single-entry visas (US$50), valid for three months, are available at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (you can use US$, euros, or UK pounds sterling) and can be used to move freely between Kenya and Tanzania.


In Kenya the value-added tax (V.A.T.), currently 16%, is included in the price of most goods and services, including accommodations and food. To get a V.A.T. refund, foreign visitors must present receipts at the airport and carry purchased items with them or in their luggage. Fill out Form V.A.T. 4, available at the airport V.A.T. refund office. Make sure that your receipts are original tax invoices, containing the vendor’s name and address, V.A.T. registration number, and the words “tax invoice.” Refunds are paid by check, which can be cashed immediately at an airport bank or refunded to your credit card with a small transaction fee. Visit the V.A.T. refund desk in the departures hall before you go through check-in, and organize receipts as you travel. Officials will go through your receipts and randomly ask to view purchases.

Airport taxes and fees are included in the price of your ticket.

Kenya Revenue Authority. | 020/499-9999 |


Kenya prides itself on game meat, and the seafood, organically grown vegetables, and tropical fruits (such as passion fruit, papaya, and mangoes) are excellent. Sample traditional Indian and Arab food when you’re near the coast, and look for Kenya-grown tea and coffee and Tusker beer, a local brew. “Swahili tea” is very similar to chai in India. You’ll find most cuisines, from Chinese to French to Ethiopian, in restaurants in Nairobi.


There are more than 2,000 licensed hotels, camps, and lodges in Kenya. There are modern hotels in Nairobi, but some older establishments offer comparable service and comfort plus colonial ambience. Price categories in this chapter treat all-inclusive lodges differently from other lodgings. Lodging, meals, and activities are included at private lodges; find out in advance if park fees (US$40 to US$100 per day) are included. There are no elevators in lodging facilities outside hotels in big cities, but most everything is at ground level. Children aren’t always welcome at lodges. Some camps, lodges, and coastal hotels are closed during rainy months; ask in advance.

Hotel prices usually include dinner and a full English breakfast. Many lodges and hotels offer special midweek or winter low-season rates. Campsites have few or no facilities and aren’t really an option for a visitor with time restrictions or for first-timers. There are all kinds of luxurious beach accommodations available, but these resorts can get crowded during holiday season, so it’s essential to book in advance.


Prices in the restaurant reviews are the average cost of a main course at dinner or, if dinner isn’t served, at lunch; taxes and service charges are generally included. Prices in the lodging reviews are the lowest cost of a standard double room in high season, excluding taxes, service charges, and meal plans (except at all-inclusives).


There’s no official tourist office in Nairobi and the one in Mombasa isn’t very good. Your best option is to consult the Kenya Tourist Board website before you leave home. Kenya Tourism Federation, which represents the private sector of the tourism industry, has a good tourist help line, and the website for Kenya Wildlife Services is a good source if you’re going to a national park.

Visitor Information
Kenya Tourist Board. | 020/271-1262 |
Kenya Wildlife Services. | 020/600-0800 |


Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to see all of Kenya in one trip. So the following listings are broken down into Must-See Parks (Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, Tsavo National Park, and Laikipia Plateau) and If You Have Time Parks (Nairobi National Park, Meru National Park, and Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha) to help you better organize your time. It’s suggested though, that you research all of them before you make your decision.

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Masai Mara

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Where to Stay

The legendary Masai Mara Game Reserve ranks right up there with Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Park in terms of the world’s finest wildlife sanctuaries.

Established in 1961, some 275 km (171 miles) southwest of Nairobi, the Mara covers an area of 1,800 square km (702 square miles) and includes part of the Serengeti ecosystem that extends from northern Tanzania into southern Kenya. This ecosystem of well-watered plains supports one of the largest populations of numerous animal groups on earth. There are more than 2 million wildebeest; 250,000 Thomson’s gazelle; 500,000 zebra; 70,000 impala; 30,000 Grant’s gazelle; and a huge number of predators including lion, leopard, cheetah, jackal, and hyena. There are also more than 450 species of birds, including 57 species of raptors. Every January the wildebeests start to move in a time-honored clockwise movement around the Serengeti toward the new fresh grazing in the Masai Mara. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Local communities, not Kenya Wildlife Services, manage this reserve giving the Masai—who are pastoralists—the rights to graze their stock on the perimeters of the reserve. Although stock is lost to wild animals, the Masai manage to coexist peacefully with the game, and rely only on their own cattle for subsistence; in Masai communities wealth is measured by the number of cattle owned. You’ll see the Masai’s manyattas—beehive huts made of mud and cow dung—at the entrance to the reserve. The striking appearance of the Masai, with their red robes and ochre-dyed and braided hair, is one of the abiding images of Kenya. Many lodges offer visits to traditional Masai villages and homes, and although inevitably these visits have become touristy, they’re still well worth doing. Witnessing the dramatic ipid, a dance in which the moran (warriors) take turns leaping high into the air, will keep your camera clicking nonstop. The Masai people named the reserve mara, which means “spotted,” but whether mara applies to the landscape, which is spotted with vegetation, or the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and other game that spot the landscape, is anybody’s guess.


There’s no real best time to visit the Mara, but most people come in the July-October dry season, when the Great Migration is taking place and there are plenty of wildebeest and zebras for the lions, leopards, and cheetahs to prey upon. There’s no guarantee of seeing any epic river crossings, however. The rainy season is April and May and November, and many roads become inaccessible.

Masai Mara National Reserve

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Most people fly to the Mara from Nairobi Wilson airport, and scheduled daily air services (45-minute flight) land at eight airstrips in the area. The cost is approximately $185 each way (some lodges include this flight and transfer in their rates). If you’re a nervous flyer, note that you’ll usually travel in small turbo prop aircraft; many tour operators offer a driving option. The Mara is 270 km (168 miles) from Nairobi and takes approximately six hours to drive. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Don’t attempt to drive in the rainy season. Once in the park, there are well established, signposted roads, but make sure you know exactly where you’re going before you depart. Park entry fees are $80 per person, but this is always included in package tours.


All prices have been quoted in high-season rates, as most people will want to come during the migration. However, at low and mid-season, rates can be considerably cheaper. Check for special offers before you book.


Mara Serena Safari Lodge.
$$$$ | Perched high on a hill deep inside the reserve, attractive mud-color, domed huts echo the style and shape of the traditional Masai manyattas. Each hut has rooms that echo the ethnic theme of the exteriors with soft, honey-color furnishings and a personal balcony that overlooks the plains and the distant Esoit Oloololo escarpment—the views are spectacular. Though it’s highly unlikely, if you do get tired of gazing out at the endless rolling grasslands where the migration takes place each year, then keep watch at the busy water hole below the restaurant for a continuous wildlife show. Activities include ballooning (expensive but the trip of a lifetime), guided walks, bush barbecues, and game drives. After bouncing around in an open-sided game vehicle, it’s great to enjoy a relaxing massage at the Maisha Spa. The Masai dancing is also spectacular. Pros: amazing views from the bedrooms; the breakfasts at the hippo pool. Cons: the decor is a bit dated; rooms lack tea- and coffee-making facilities. | Rooms from: $675 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/284-2000, 020/284-2000 | | 74 rooms | All meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Saruni Mara.
$$$$ | This exclusive eco-friendly lodge lies just outside the Masai Mara National Reserve, inside Mara North Conservancy in a remote valley of olive and cedar trees. Each of the six cottages has polished wooden floors and is furnished with hand-carved cedarwood beds, Persian rugs, African art, colonial antiques, and comfortable chairs. You’ll dine at a long table at Kuro House, the main lodge, which combines an eclectic mix of old-style Africa and modern design. The Italian cuisine here is superb, but there’s also a wide international menu available that uses fresh, locally grown, organic produce. You can also participate in a bush barbecue or dine alone by candlelight on your veranda. The library has a superb collection of Africana—it’s definitely worth a visit. Children of all ages are welcome. The tucked-away Masai Wellbeing Space, which uses local plants for its treatments, is run by one of Italy’s most famous spas, Centro Benessere Stresa, and is considered one of the best spas in Kenya. All the guides are members of the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, and Saruni supports the innovative Koyiaki Guiding School, which trains young Kenyans. Make sure you factor in the $80 per-person, per-day park fees into your expenses as this is not included in the lodge’s fees. Pros: this is a small lodge in the Masai Mara, with a maximum of 14 guests at a time; specialized guiding, such as bird-watching, is available; there’s a forest view. Cons: a high altitude of 2,000 meters (6,000 feet) means cold nights and sometimes cold days; the access road is rough. | Rooms from: $780 | Masai Mara Reserve | 254/734-764616, 050/224-24 | | 6 cottages | All meals.


&Beyond Bateleur Camp.
$$$$ | Who can forget the final scene in Out of Africa when two lions, symbolic of the Karen Blixen/Denys Finch-Hatton love affair, are silhouetted lying on a hill amid the African bush? If you’re among the many who saw that movie and began fantasizing about your own African experience, then you’ll be happy to know that this totally private and very romantic world-class camp is just below that famous hill. You may not get Robert Redford in the end, but you will be assured of celebrity status and service while you’re here. The spacious tents are pitched under an A-frame wood structure with polished wooden floors and a wooden deck with steps leading down to the bush and encircling trees below. A massive four-poster bed dominates the tent’s interior—a handy, long, padded stool, great for sitting on while putting on and taking off your boots after a game drive or bush walk, sits at the foot of the bed. The public areas—also made of wood and canvas—are decorated with old leather armchairs, antique Persian rugs, and a well-stocked but small library. The game-viewing will keep you busy by day and night, but do try to include a picnic on the edge of the Great Rift Valley—it will induce dreams of those who once hunted and gathered here millennia ago. Pros: the service is excellent; there are unexpected surprise touches along the way. Cons: there’s no telephone or Internet access at the camp (although guests can access Wi-Fi a four-minute walk away); no bath (showers only). | Rooms from: $1205 | Masai Mara Reserve | 27/11-809-4300 | | 18 tents | All meals.

Fodor’s Choice | &Beyond Kichwa Tembo Masai Mara Tented Camp.
$$ | Kichwa Tembo, which means head of the elephant in Kiswahili, is one of Kenya’s most sought-after camps. Perched on the edge of a riverine forest below the Oloololo Escarpment, the camp lies directly in the path of the migration. The en-suite tents are spacious and have seemingly never-ending views of the plains from the verandas. You’ll be surrounded by the unforgettable sounds of the African night as you drift off to sleep. During the day you can take a dip in the shady pool between activities or just relax on your veranda while you fill out your bird and mammal lists. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for passing animals: there’ll be predators galore, as well as blue- and red-tailed monkeys, the mischievous banded mongoose, and, if you’re really lucky, the endangered black rhino. The candlelit dinner on the banks of the Sabaringo River is a must-do for anyone. The staff here is attentive and charming. Pros: there’s an excellent curio shop; Internet access. Cons: no bathtubs; hair dryers in luxury tents only. | Rooms from: $400 | Masai Mara Reserve | 27/11-809-4300 | | 40 tents | All meals.

Cottars 1920s Safari Camp.
$$$$ | If you want to turn back the clock and immerse yourself in the kind of original safari ambience that Ernest Hemingway enjoyed, then it doesn’t get much better than this. From the superb and gracious service to the casual touches of antique luxury—claw-foot tubs, faded antique rugs, wrought-iron candlesticks, old gramophones, polished butlers’ trays—all under authentic white safari tents, the Cottar family’s 80 years of experience certainly shows. Sit outside your own spacious tent on a wooden rocking chair and watch the hills and valleys below, or relax in the deep red armchairs of the main tented lounge and admire the old photos and prints. At night as you sip a brandy snifter under the soft glow of oil lamps by a log fire, you’ll forget all about the 21st century. The tents, with separate lounge and bedroom areas and floor-level canvas decks, are in a huge, 250,000-acre exclusive concession between the Masai Mara, Serengeti, and Loliondo reserves. Because it’s a private concession, you won’t see the masses of other tourists that you can hardly help bumping into elsewhere in the Masai Mara itself. Because they operate just outside the reserve, Cottars’ game vehicles are also allowed off-road, which means more freedom to follow game. (Try a bone-jolting ride in an ox wagon for a genuine early pioneer experience.) The legendary fourth-generation Kenyan Calvin Cottar could be your guide (at extra cost), but his experienced colleagues won’t let you down either. Enjoy a quiet moment in the tented reading room, or rest in a hammock by the natural rock pool. The owners pay the local Masai community for land use and have helped finance the local school and nearby clinics so that the camp and its activities are seen as a part of the surrounding land and its people. Pros: complimentary massages are included in the rate; you will seldom see another game vehicle. Cons: hair dryers can be used only in the office; rate does not include air transfers. | Rooms from: $1720 | Masai Mara Reserve | 073/377-3377, 888/870-0903 toll-free in U.S. | | 6 en-suite tents, 4 family tents | All meals.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club.
$$$$ | Although the Fairmont’s camp area has manicured lawns and flowers, it is surrounded on three sides by the croc- and hippo-filled Mara River, so you are always close to the wildlife. Within each spacious tent, the bedspread of the four-poster mosquito-netted beds are made of the iconic red cloth used for Masai warrior robes, while brightly colored handwoven rugs, comfortable chairs, and big windows ensure aprés-safari comfort. The main lodge is themed old-style safari with deep padded-leather-and-fabric armchairs, beaded lamps, an open fireplace, and an inviting wood-paneled bar. Keep family and friends informed of your big-game adventures with Internet access in the library, or write in your journal on the spacious outside deck that leads to a pool, complete with bar and private massage tents. Forgo one morning game drive in favor of a hot-air-balloon safari over the Mara plains followed by a bush champagne breakfast—you’ll thank us—or stroll in the footprints of the hippo-trodden path, escorted by a Masai warrior (four people minimum). Pros: rooms have hair dryers; the views of the river from the rooms are excellent. Cons: it’s not in the park itself or near any migration routes; sundowners and bush walks cost extra. | Rooms from: $799 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/226-5555 | | 51 tents | All meals.

Fig Tree Camp.
$$$ | This budget option on the banks of the Talek River overlooks the plains, and its location in the north end of the reserve gives it easy access to all the game areas. You’ll stay in a safari tent or stone-and-thatch chalet, both furnished in African ethnic themes, but you should try for a tent with a river view; be sure to have taken your malaria muti (muti is the generic African word for medicine). Both tents and chalets are en-suite and have small verandas or balconies. There are two bars, an indoor and outdoor eating area, and a treehouse coffee deck where you can watch the passing animal show. Don’t expect the ultimate in luxury, but you’ll get good value for your money and also get to meet lots of international visitors. There’s electricity only from 4 to 9 am, noon to 3 pm, and 6 pm to midnight. If you want more luxury and exclusivity, go for one of the Ngaboli tents, where you’ll sleep in a four-poster bed and have lots more room. Bonuses for camp guests include lectures, a resident nurse, and an in-house medical clinic. Activities are extra: night safaris, bush walks, champagne breakfasts, and bush dinners range in price from US$55 to US$100. Pros: three game drives a day are included; there’s evening entertainment with Masai dancers or music. Cons: hot showers are available only at certain times; tents are located close to each other so can be noisy. | Rooms from: $485 | Masai Mara Reserve | 072/170-1014 | | 38 tents, 27 chalets | All meals.

Il Moran.
$$$$ | One of the famous Governors’ Camps, Il Moran is where Kenya’s first colonial governors used to twirl their handlebar moustaches and sip their gin and tonics while on safari—as you can imagine, it boasts an exclusive location that’s teeming with game. Il Moran, which means warrior in Masai, sits on the edge of the plains, nestled in a private forest on the banks of the Mara River. Once upon a time there were 20 tents here, but the owner decided to reduce the number of visitors so as to give you an even more exclusive experience. Today there are just 10 tents, imaginatively furnished with stunningly original furniture hand-carved from ancient olive trees, the antique Persian rugs that seem obligatory in so many safari accommodations, battered old leather suitcases, and glowing oil lamps. You’ll feel like a pampered Victorian gentleman or lady as you soak in your claw-foot tub—the Victorian gentry would certainly approve of the bidet as well. There are once-in-a-lifetime game drives and guided bush walks, but treat yourself to the hot-air-balloon ride (an extra cost) with a champagne breakfast in the bush to follow. Pros: the beds are very comfortable; there’s a maximum of four guests per game vehicle. Cons: they no longer offer fishing or night drives. | Rooms from: $1244 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/273-4000, 020/273-4001 | | 10 tents | All meals.

Little Governors’ Camp.
$$$$ | Getting to this camp is an adventure in itself. First you take a small boat that ferries you across the Mara River followed by a short, escorted walk with armed guides (so you don’t become lion food) before arriving at this gorgeous little camp that was described by BBCTV as “the prime wild life real estate in the world.” You can be assured of superb service and comfortable accommodations. Each tent is built on a wooden platform and has an en suite bathroom with constant hot and cold running water and flush toilet—this may seem normal, but most places can provide hot water only at the end of the day (after solar power has heated it) or in the morning (after the donkey boiler has been lighted). Lighting, as at many of the traditional Masai Mara camps, is by gas, kerosene lantern, and candlelight. If you’re lucky enough to be here during a full moon, you can watch the game come and go at the large water hole in front of the camp. You’ll eat superb home-cooked meals under a blue sky or at night in a candlelit dining tent. If you need to stretch your legs after a muscle-clenching, nerve-wracking game drive, go on a guided walking safari or visit a nearby Masai village and join in the ipid jumping dance with the warriors. Pros: the camp sits directly in the path of the wildebeest migration; the tents are enormous. Cons: you have to cross a river before departing on any game drives; there’s no electricity at night. | Rooms from: $1118 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/273-4000, 020/273-4001 | | 17 tents | All meals.

Mara Explorer.
$$$$ | At this intimate little camp tucked in a riverine forest on a bend on the Talek River, you’ll be able to watch elephants wading, hippos snorting, and all other sorts of game from your outdoor claw-foot bathtub that overlooks the river. Of course, a cocktail of choice from your personal butler makes the scene so much more appealing. Legendary explorer Dr. Livingstone never knew what he was missing. A handcrafted wooden bed dominates the en suite tent, but there’s still room for the bedside tables fashioned from logs, old chests, and weather-beaten tin trunks, and an old-fashioned rocking chair where you can sit and tick off your mammal and bird lists. Move a little farther outside and you can laze on your wooden deck, savoring every tranquil moment. You’ll be awed by the number of predators you see—lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena—preying on the plains herbivores. All the Masai Mara activities are available, and you’ll particularly enjoy the breakfast picnics where the lions can watch you feeding. You’ll eat delicious meals in an open-air dining area, which looks out over the river, and there is a cozy lounge and small library for those moments when you want to sit still. Pros: the camp is a short drive from the airstrip; meals are taken overlooking the river. Cons: hot water is available only at fixed times; there’s no pool. | Rooms from: $1305 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/444-6651 | | 10 tents | All-inclusive.

Naibor Camp.
$$$$ | Only 20 minutes away from one of the legendary migration river crossings, this stylish camp doesn’t exclusively follow traditional safari camp feel; rather it aims for a fusion of old and new with pale khaki and white mesh tents, minimalist hand-carved wooden furniture, roof-to-ceiling earth-color drapes, and plain couches and chairs highlighted with ethnic-patterned cushions. The whole camp lives up to its name—naibor means simplicity and space in Kiswahili—but you’ll never lose that essential sense of being on an African safari. The spacious tents on the banks of the Talek River are furnished with handwoven straw mats, a hand-carved figwood bed, and simple bedside tables. Soft white bed linen is complemented with brightly colored cushions and throws. There’s a big private veranda from where you can catch the elephants going down to drink, or listen to and watch the myriad birds. The game here is exceptionally good, but give yourself a break from that plethora of plenty and go for an all-day walk, try mountain biking, go honey-hunting, visit Lake Victoria for a day, or do what everybody must in the Mara and take a balloon ride. Pros: it’s sociable, with drinks around the fire; excellent bird walks; there’s room service for drinks and snacks. Cons: there’s no pool, bucket showers only (although they are hot). | Rooms from: $912 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/251-3147 | | 9 tents | Closed Apr., May, and Nov. | All meals.

Offbeat Safaris.
$$$$ | A truly wonderful and unique way to see game and experience Kenya close up is to go on a horse safari; you should do this only if you’re an experienced rider—you want to be able to gallop if you meet a hungry predator—and if you’re fit enough to ride four to six hours a day. Your safari begins at Deloraine, the beautiful old colonial mansion owned by Tristan and Lucinda Voorspuy, who keep more than 80 horses on the estate—Tristan served in the British Household Cavalry, so he really knows his oats. The estate, which has welcomed British royalty, is on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley on the lower slopes of Mt. Londiani. When you choose the Mara safari, you’ll stay at small rustic but comfortable tented camps along the way, sometimes spending two or three nights at the same camp, depending on which route you choose. But even if you get a bit saddle-sore, riding alongside hundreds of thousands of plains game is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Offbeat also has riding safaris in Amboseli and Laikipia. Pros: an adventurous and original way of viewing game; a bit of a hidden secret. Cons: must be an experienced horseback rider; it’s tricky getting photos when you are on horseback. | Rooms from: $11100 | Rate is for a 7-night horseback safari for two people | Masai Mara Reserve | 072/596-8351 | | All meals.

Ol Seki Hemingways Mara.
$$$$ | This eco-friendly camp is in the pristine northern regions of the reserve. It was built by the Allan family but is now managed by the Giovando family, who have more than 38 years of safari experience. It’s named after the olseki or sandpaper tree, which is a Masai symbol of peace, harmony, and wealth. Set on round wooden platforms on a rocky outcrop surrounded by bird-filled trees, the 12-sided tents look as if they are sailing through the bush. Inside, it’s all space and light, with simple, stylish furnishings: a double and single bed, cream and earth-tone soft furnishings, straw mats, carefully planned lighting, and en-suite toilet and shower. The lean, clean effect is carried through to the attractive dining tent and library, which has a fireplace. The tents have been refurbished, and two new suites (with two bedrooms each) have private living and dining areas, as well as their own kitchens, ensuring the ultimate in privacy. There’s a full range of activities, including morning and night game drives with lots of game—you might get one of Kenya’s few women guides—bush picnics, star-gazer walks, botanical walks, and visits to authentic, nontouristy Masai villages, where you might be lucky enough to witness a genuine betrothal or postinitiation ceremony. Pros: flights from Nairobi are included; there’s power supply 24 hours a day and Internet and telephone on request. Cons: it’s located outside the reserve; game might not be as dense (but you won’t encounter other vehicles). | Rooms from: $1040 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/242-5060 | | 8 tents | Closed Apr. | All meals.

Rekero Camp.
$$$$ | The Beaton family, owners of this seasonal tented camp, settled in Kenya more than a century ago and helped pioneer the country’s conservation movement. The camp, tucked away in a grove of trees more than 40 km (25 miles) from the main tourist throng farther east, is beautifully situated on a river bank near the confluence of the Talek and Mara rivers. You’ll sleep in one of only eight tents (which include two family tents), each hidden from the other and all with great views of the plains and the river. There’s an ancient wildebeest crossing practically on your doorstep, so you won’t have to bounce around for hours in an open-sided game vehicle to find the game. But when you do find game, there won’t be hordes of other visitors to spoil the sight. Tents are bright and comfortably furnished with double beds, handwoven rugs, and en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and canvas bucket showers. As the camp is unfenced, expect all kinds of game to wander past your tent, but you’ll be safe within your canvas walls, and a Masai warrior will escort you to and from the main areas. Pros: the unfenced camp means you can hear animals up close; great location next to a river crossing point. Cons: there’s no running water, TVs, or phones (although they do have solar power to recharge camera batteries). | Rooms from: $1400 | Masai Mara Reserve | | 8 tents | Closed Apr. | All meals.

Sanctuary Olonana.
$$$$ | Named after an honored Masai chief, this attractive eco-friendly camp in game-rich country rests on the northwestern border of the reserve overlooking the Mara River and the Ooloololo escarpment. Feeling really lazy? Hibernate in your huge wooden-floor tent—it’s more like a mini-pavilion—prop yourself up on pillows in your queen-size bed and watch the river below. There are floor-to-ceiling mosquito-proofed “windows” and stone-walled en-suite bathrooms with his and her basins and stools, and a roomy shower. Feeling energetic? Take a guided bush walk or hike up the escarpment. Don’t let the lodge’s manyatta-styled entrance fool you. Once inside the main lodge you’ll find the understated luxury of hand-carved wooden furniture; cream, russet, and brown linens; handwoven African rugs; and indigenous art and artifacts. The reed-roofed main viewing deck overlooks a hippo pool with daylong entertainment from these overgrown clowns. The food is superb, and you have the option to dine with your fellow guests or on your own veranda. There is an inviting pool, a small but good library, and excellent opportunities to observe the everyday lives of the Masai in the adjacent village. Pros: the honeymoon tents are beautiful; you can watch hippos from your tent. Cons: no Internet in rooms; water pressure in showers can be weak. | Rooms from: $1730 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/695-0002, 020/695-0244 | | 14 tents | All meals.

Saruni Wild.
$$$$ | You certainly won’t come across another vehicle at this exclusively sited camp in the northern section of the Masai Mara ecosystem. It has three comfortable Bedouin-looking tents with en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold running water and flush toilets. One of the tents is suitable for families, with two bedrooms and bathrooms. You can track elephants on foot or take action-packed night drives, when you have more than a good chance of spotting a leopard, as well as other nocturnal animals such as bush babies and genets. Pros: one of the few camps offering exclusive use with only one booking at a time; there’s a high chance of seeing rare nocturnal species. Cons: it’s far from the more popular migration routes during migration time; no pool. | Rooms from: $780 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/269-4338 | | 3 tents | All meals.


Keekorok Lodge.
$ | This unpretentious lodge has rather basic accommodations, but it was the first lodge built in the Masai Mara. Though it’s a bit gray at the temples, its superb location—directly in the path of the wildebeest migration—means you won’t have to leave camp to see animals galore. You’ll stay in a stone chalet or A-frame wood-and-stone bungalow, both simply furnished with comfortable beds, mosquito nets, and an en-suite old-fashioned white-tiled bathroom with bath and overhead shower. Outside there’s a small stone veranda with a rustic table and camping chairs. There’s a 300-meter (984 feet) raised wooden walkway that leads to a viewing deck with great views of the plains and a hippo pool. The camp is unfenced, so you’ll often see elephants and buffalos around its perimeter. Activities include lectures on the Masai culture, wildlife video viewings, hot-air-balloon rides, or relaxing by the small pool. Pros: seeing animals outside your room; beds are comfortable. Cons: food is buffet style; Internet access is expensive. | Rooms from: $185 | Masai Mara Reserve | 050-22680, 020/650-392 | | 87 rooms, 10 chalets, 2 suites | All meals.

Masai Mara Sopa Lodge.
$$ | On a hillside near the Oloolaimutia Gate, this budget lodge (sopa means welcome in the Masai language) is one of the most popular in the reserve. Even though they’re always busy, the delightfully friendly and experienced staff will make you feel special. You’ll sleep in a rondavel (small, round, thatch-roof hut) that has a tiny veranda and is simply but pleasantly furnished in traditional African style with lots of earth-color soft furnishings. The brightly decorated public areas are nestled among flowering plants and trees; notices telling you about mealtimes, balloon booking times, how to book a picnic, and other information are pasted throughout the main area. Don’t expect all the bells and whistles of the luxury lodges—hot water is available only mornings and evenings—but the setting and the feeling of Africa on your doorstep more than compensate. Plus, there’s a great pool to cool off in after a hot dusty game drive, where events such as Masai dancing or African food are held. There’s also a quaintly named “Wild Animals Viewing Deck” in camp. Because you’re more than 6,000 feet above sea level, you’ll be cool in summer and will definitely need a jacket or sweater in winter. Pros: it’s very near the entrance to the reserve; you can see hyenas and bush babies feeding. Cons: hot water is available only at limited times; rondavels are located close to each other. | Rooms from: $314 | Masai Mara Reserve | 020/375-0183, 020/375-0235 | | 77 rondavels, 12 suites, 1 presidential suite | All meals.

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Amboseli National Reserve

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Where to Stay

Amboseli National Reserve, immediately northwest of Mt. Kilimanjaro and 240 km (150 miles) southeast of Nairobi on the Tanzanian border, is certainly one of the most picturesque places in the whole of Africa to watch game. Where else could you watch a great herd of elephants on a wide empty plain dominated by Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro?

At dawn, as the cloud cover breaks and the first rays of sun illuminate the snow-capped 5,895-meter (19,340-foot) peak, the sky, colored by rosy pinks and soft reds, provides the perfect backdrop for the plains below. It gets even better at dusk, when the mountain stands out in stark relief against the fiery sun.

Amboseli has a checkered history. First established as a natural reserve in 1948, it was returned to Masai ownership and management in 1961 but soon became environmentally degraded with too many cattle and too many tourists. Some 10 years later, 392 square km (151 square miles) were designated a national park, and cattle-grazing was forbidden. This angered the pastoral Masai, who took their revenge by killing a majority of the rhino population. Eventually peace was restored with some expedient land swapping, and today there’s a responsible environmental program that controls the wellbeing of the game, puts limits on tourist numbers, and enforces a strict policy on off-road driving.

There are five different habitats in Amboseli: open plains, acacia woodland, thornscrub, swamps, and marshlands. To the west is the Ol Doinyo Orok massif and Lake Amboseli, which is usually dry. But when the heavy rains return, so do the flamingos, and the surrounding area becomes green and lush again. Expect some impassable roads at these times, as well as when the lake is completely dry because the fine alkaline dust that blows up from the lake bed is hell for tires.

Amboseli is filled with great game: zebra, warthog, giraffe, buffalo, impala, wildebeest, the long-necked mini giraffe-like gerenuks, and baboons galore. But your chances of seeing predators are much less than in the Masai Mara. Masai hunters almost killed off Amboseli’s lions because they preyed on their herds of cattle. Those that survived are still skittish and often not comfortable with vehicles. Interestingly, the hunting methods of cheetahs within the park have changed dramatically because of tourist pressure. Accustomed to hunting at dawn and dusk, they’ve now resorted to hunting at midday—tourist siesta time—with poorer success rates, thus their numbers are decreasing. But if it’s elephants you’re after, then Amboseli is the place. Perhaps the oldest and most studied elephant population in sub-Saharan Africa lives here. There are more than 1,000 of these great pachyderms today, and because they’re accustomed to visitors and vehicles you’ll experience eyeball-to-knee-high close encounters.

Game-viewing is best around the main swamps of Enkongo Narok, which means “black and benevolent,” and the Amboseli landmark, Observation Hill. Enkongo Narok, in the middle of the park, is where you can see water seeping up from the lava rocks. Observation Hill provides a surefire opportunity to spot game, especially elephants, as it looks out over the plains.

Bird life is also prolific, with more than 420 recorded species. There are dozens of birds of prey including more than 10 different kinds of eagles. In the swamp areas, which are fed by the melting snow of Kilimanjaro, seasonal flamingo and more than 12 species of heron are among the profusion of water birds.


January and February, and June to September are the best times to come here. Avoid April and May, the rainy season, as roads become impassable. There might also be rain in November and December.

Amboseli National Reserve: West

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Amboseli is 260 km (160 miles) from Nairobi. Scheduled flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and Mombasa land at three airstrips. Note that you’ll be flying in a small aircraft. The journey by road takes about four hours. The last 16 km (10 miles) are full of potholes, so you’ll need a 4x4. There’s no public transport within the park. Park fees are $80 per person per day. This fee is included in package tours and most lodge accommodations.

Amboseli National Reserve: East

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Luxury Lodges

Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge.
$$ | Situated plumb in the middle of the park, beside a natural flowing spring, this lodge enjoys spectacular views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Pink guest cottages line narrow paved walkways, and although trees and shrubs give you some privacy, they also take away your view. The food, cooked with homegrown herbs and vegetables, is excellent, particularly the homemade pasta. Because the lodge is near the Enkongo Narok Swamp, there’s always plenty of game around. Take a game drive, go walking with a Masai guide, enjoy a bush breakfast, and always remember to keep your doors and windows closed to keep out marauding vervet monkeys, which look cute but can make off with your belongings. The rooms are small, and fairly basic, with an en-suite bathroom. What the lodge lacks in luxury is more than made up for by the friendly and helpful staff. Pros: good value for money; the lodge balcony has views out onto the plains. Cons: the pool is heavily shaded by trees; not all the rooms have views. | Rooms from: $400 | Amboseli National Reserve | 020/284-2000, 020/284-2000 | | 92 rooms | Some meals.

Amboseli Sopa Lodge.
$$ | Although this attractive lodge wasn’t around when Ernest Hemingway wrote The Snows of Kilimanjaro, he would have enjoyed much the same spectacular views and wildlife as you because he stayed nearby while writing it. The lodge is in lush established gardens in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro near the Tanzanian border. You’ll stay in roomy mud-and-thatch en-suite hut, gaily decorated with wood, animal motifs, and brightly colored soft furnishings. Enjoy a hearty breakfast and lunch buffet inside in the big African-theme dining room, or eat out beside the pool, where there’s also a pleasant poolside bar. In the evening sit down to a four-course meal where you can choose between European, African, or Asian dishes. There is a stunning lounge area and great viewing deck. It’s also a great place for kids—there’s plenty of room for them to run around, a lovely pool, and babysitters are always available if you want to be child-free for an evening. The lodge offers lots of activities, which are an additional cost, including game drives, guided walks, and trips to Masai villages. If you want to have a go at climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the lodge can arrange that, too. Pros: the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro; the hotel arranges night feeding of the animals. Cons: the lodge is half an hour’s drive from Amboseli itself; hot water can be erratic. | Rooms from: $314 | Amboseli National Reserve | 020/375-0235, 020/375-0235 | | 83 rooms | All meals.

Permanent Tented Camps

Porini Amboseli Camp.
$$$$ | This exclusive, back-to-nature tented camp is located in the remote and game-abundant Selenkay Conservancy, a few miles north of Amboseli National Park. A gold eco-award winner, the camp is co-owned with the local Masai community. Because the area is relatively new to tourism, you’ll see few visitors (numbers are limited to 18 per day), but lots of game including lion, leopard, cheetah, and the ubiquitous Amboseli elephants. Bird life is prolific, with lots of raptors. Big, comfortably furnished tents are solar-powered and have en-suite bathrooms with a basin, shower, and flush toilet. You’ll eat hearty, home-cooked meals outside the mess tent while being serenaded by birdcalls by day and nocturnal animals by night. Game drives are taken in an open-sided safari vehicle—yours will be the only one for miles. You’ll visit an authentic Masai village, take an informative walk in a dry riverbed, enjoy a picnic lunch in Amboseli itself, and at night you’ll return to your own little private spot in the African wilderness. The all-inclusive price covers round-trip road transfers, Amboseli park fees, conservancy fees, all game drives, sundowners, walks with Masai warriors, Masai village visits, full board, and free house wines, beer, and soft drinks. Pros: the camp benefits the local community and is eco-friendly; there are few visitors but lots of game. Cons: solar power rather than electricity; no pool. | Rooms from: $1150 | Selenkay Conservancy | Amboseli National Reserve | 877/710-3014, 077/413-6523 | | 9 tents | All meals.

Tortilis Camp.
$$$$ | This multi-award-winning rustic bush camp, refurbished in 2011, is named after the flat-topped Acacia tortilis trees that surround the camp. The main thatch-roof open bar, lounge, and dining room overlook a water hole and have superb views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru in neighboring Tanzania. Your large tent sits under a huge thatch canopy and is raised up on a small platform with wooden floors, a king-size bed, and an en-suite bathroom with hot showers and flush toilets. If you want to catch up on your journal or bird and mammal lists, then relax on the comfortable furniture on your personal sitting area, or laze by the pool in between activities (such as game drives or guided bush walks, which the lodge provides at an extra cost). There’s also a family house with one double and one twin-bed room if you don’t fancy splitting up between two tents. The mainly northern-Italian food is delicious and is whipped up from the owner’s original family recipes. The food is made even tastier by homegrown herbs and vegetables. There’s a minimum two-night-stay requirement. Pros: stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro; excellent library; lots of elephants and great bird life. Cons: many of the tents are down steep steps. | Rooms from: $1180 | Amboseli National Reserve | 020/600-3090, 020/603-090/1 | | 17 tents, 1 family house | All meals.

Budget Lodging

Ol Tukai Lodge.
$ | Just 3 km (2 miles) east of Amboseli National Park, this is an ideal location to spot game such as the famously studied Amboseli elephants. In fact, Ol Tukai claims that this is the best place in the world to watch elephants. Apart from the plains game and its attendant predators, there are more than 400 species of birds to be identified, and Ol Tukai offers specially designed bird walks through its grounds for beginners and experts alike; it’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce yourself or the kids to the world of birds. This resort manages to be both modern and traditional—its facilities are world class, but its feel and ambience are unmistakably African. The resort is set amid acres of well-kept lawns dotted with the familiar symbol of the plains—Acacia tortilis trees—and has a superb view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. En-suite chalets, built of local stone and slate, are furnished with handcrafted wooden furniture and decorated with faux animal-skin fabrics, rugs, and throws; each has a personal veranda. Public areas are open and spacious; everywhere you go you’ll have a different view. For that special group celebration, choose the three-bedroom stone and wood Kibo Villa, tucked away in its own private 5 acres where you can self-cater or eat at the main lodge. Babysitters are available. Pros: rooms are very spacious; the views of Kilimanjaro are fantastic. Cons: game drives and other activities are not included in the price; no a/c. | Rooms from: $200 | Amboseli National Reserve | 020/444-5514 | | 80 chalets, 1 villa | All meals.


Public campsites are run by the local Masai communities, but there are no facilities. Unless you’re a hard-core camper, these aren’t really an option for the first-timer.


Luxury Lodges

Ol Donyo Lodge.
$$$$ | This camp is perched on a hillside, so every suite has great views of the plains, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the watering holes. No two of the 10 large suites in six stand-alone villas are the same. They all have rooftop “star beds,” which are accessed from the veranda by a winding stone staircase. They allow you the option of sleeping under the stars but with all the comforts of your suite just below. All but two of the suites have private pools, too. Some villas have four beds each and private sitting rooms and are ideal for families or small groups of friends. Excellent food and friendly, attentive service are the norm. Meals are taken in the centrally positioned dining room with a big open fireplace for those chilly nights. You have the option of camping out for two or three days, with support crew and a mobile tented camp, by foot or horseback. Pros: the horizon pool has stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro; suites have indoor and outdoor showers as well as bathtubs; the “star beds” are an indescribable experience. Cons: there’s less concentrated game than in the main areas, but no other people; no a/c. | Rooms from: $1700 | 020/600-0457, 020/605-108 | | 10 suites | Closed Apr. | All meals.

Permanent Tented Camps

Fodor’s Choice | Campi ya Kanzi.
$$ | One of the most environmentally friendly camps in East Africa, this lovely camp, whose name means “Camp of the Hidden Treasure” in Kiswahili, is in the Kuku Group Ranch, the natural corridor between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. It was the first camp in Kenya to be gold rated by Ecotourism Kenya for its efforts in sustainable tourism, and has won other prestigious international ecotourism awards. It’s also co-owned by the Masai from the ranch area and Luca Belpietro and his wife, Antonella Bonomi. The ranch itself stretches 1,115 square km (400 square miles) from the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Chyulu Hills in the east, and because of the different altitudes you’ll find all sorts of habitats, from wide plains and riverine bush to high mountain forests. You’ll also find plenty of game—more than 60 mammals and 400 bird species—but few tourists. To see all this, choose between game drives (where the game is really wild and not used to vehicles), guided game walks, botanical walks, bird-watching, and cultural visits. Take your kids to the Masai school and open their eyes to a completely different way of life. The main lounge and dining areas are in Tembo (Elephant) House, which has superb views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Taita Hills, and Chyulu Hills. All the tents have great views, as well as wooden floors, a veranda, and an en-suite bathroom with bidet, flush toilet, and hot and cold running water. The Hemingway and Simba tented suites boast king-size beds, a dressing room, en-suite bathroom with his-and-her washbasins, and verandas overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro. Note that there is an additional US$100 per-person, per-day conservation fee, which entirely benefits the local Masai community. Pros: the cottages are very private; staff are from the local Masai community. Cons: no bathtubs; no pool. | Rooms from: $650 | 720/461-300 | | 6 tents, 2 suites | All meals.

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Tsavo National Park

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Tsavo West | Tsavo East

At almost 21,000 square km (8,108 square miles), Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s largest park. It includes the areas of Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Both stretch for about 130 km (80 miles) along either side of Nairobi/Mombasa Highway, the main road from Nairobi to Mombasa. It’s amazing that just a few miles away from the constant thunder of motor traffic on Kenya’s busiest road is some of Kenya’s best wildlife viewing.


Tsavo West covers 7,065 square km (2,728 square miles), which is a little less than a third of the total area comprising all of Kenya’s national parks. With its diverse habitats of riverine forest, palm thickets, rocky outcrops and ridges, mountains and plains, it’s more attractive and certainly more accessible than Tsavo East. In the north, heavily wooded hills dominate; in the south there are wonderful views over the Serengeti Plains. Take a boat ride or go birding on Lake Jipe, one of the most important wetlands in Kenya. If you like birds, you’ll be keen to get a glimpse of the whitebacked night heron, African skimmers, and palm-nut vultures. The lake, which lies in the park’s southwest corner on the Kenya/Tanzania border, is fed from the snows of Kilimanjaro and the North Pare mountains. There’s evidence of volcanic activity everywhere in the park, especially where recent lava flows absorb the rainfall. In one spectacular spot, this rainfall, having traveled underground for 40 km (25 miles) or so, gushes up in a pair of pools at Mzima Springs, in the north of the park. There’s a submerged hippo blind here, but the hippos have gotten wise to tourists and often move to the far side of the pools. Because of the fertile volcanic soil and abundance of water, the park is brimming with animal, bird, and plant life. You’ll see lion and cheetah—especially in the dry season when the grass is low—spotted hyena, buffalo, the beautiful Masai giraffe, and all kinds of antelope, including Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle—the prettiest of the antelope.

When to Go

You’ll have a good experience whenever you go, but bear in mind that the long rains are from March to May, and the short rains are October to December. January to March can be very hot.

Tsavo West National Park

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Getting Here and Around

Tsavo West is approximately 100 km (62 miles) from Mombasa, making it a good option if you’re staying by the coast or plan to visit the coast after your safari. There’s no public transport to the park, so you’ll have to self-drive or fly from Mombasa or Wilson airport. If you drive yourself, be aware that signage in the park is unclear and you’ll need a GPS. Park fees are $65 per person per day.


If you’re only visiting for the day, you can buy a permit (US$40 per adult, US$20 per child).


Luxury Lodges

Kilaguni Lodge.
$$ | This lovely old lodge was Kenya’s first lodge in a national park. Timber, stone, and thatch buildings complement the natural wilderness surroundings, and when it’s not wreathed in clouds there’s a good view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. You can watch game and birds from any one of several viewing decks, or enjoy a drink in the bar carved out of rocks. En-suite rooms are decorated in the ubiquitous African-theme fabrics, but are comfortable and spacious. Buffet meals with plenty of variety are way above the average. You can book all sorts of activities at the lodge, including morning and afternoon game drives, bush breakfasts and dinners, and guided walks. Pros: there’s an on-site medic; a busy watering hole can be viewed from the hotel. Cons: not all rooms have great views; room decor is a bit dated. | Rooms from: $380 | Tsavo West | 020/284-2000, 020/284-2000 | | 56 rooms | Some meals.

Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge.
$ | Set in the Taita Hills just within the park is this uniquely designed lodge. Honey-color rondavels with dark brown thatch roofs sit high above the ground on stilts and overlook a chain of small floodlighted water holes. You may feel you’re in the middle of a fantasy, but this is real Africa—there is a lot of big game just outside your door. The entire lodge is on raised stilts, offering 24-hour game-viewing opportunity. After dark, when everyone is safely inside the resort, a wooden drawbridge is ceremoniously drawn up—suddenly it’s no longer hobbits but Lord of the Rings. The en-suite round rooms are comfortably if basically furnished, but it’s the experience you’re here for, not the room decor, although the public areas are sumptuously decorated with rugs, batiks, and a number of authentic African artifacts. Request a top room or one over a water hole for a close-up encounter with elephants, buffalos, and lots of other game. Be sure to visit the underground viewing room at night, because you’ve a better chance of spotting nocturnal animals like civets, porcupine, and maybe even a leopard. The food is excellent with lots of fresh homegrown vegetables. Pros: the underground viewing room; watching animals from your bed. Cons: no pool; not all rooms have good views. | Rooms from: $175 | Tsavo West | 043/203-0540, 043/203-0625 | | 96 rooms | All meals.

Permanent Tented Camps

Finch Hattons.
$$$$ | If you saw the movie Out of Africa, then you’ll have some idea, even if it’s rather over-romanticized, of who Denys Finch Hatton was. At the turn of the 20th century he left his native England and fell in love not only with Karen Blixen but also with Kenya. A big-game hunter and host extraordinaire, he soon cultivated a reputation for leading classy, exclusive safaris for American tycoons and British royalty, among others. His legend lives on in this superb camp—frequently voted “Best Tented Camp in Africa” by top writers and travelers—where your every whim is catered to, your every dream of Africa comes true, and where you’ll dine at a table sparkling with silver and crystal as strains of Mozart (Denys’s favorite composer) softly fill the African night. The camp is in groves of old acacia trees around a natural spring that is home to numerous hippos, crocodiles, and different species of birds near the Kenya/Tanzania border. The tents are luxuriously furnished with antique furniture, wooden chests, and even a daybed on your personal veranda. It’s expensive, but this lodge is worth it. Pros: you’ll see an extraordinary array of wildlife right in the camp; food and service are outstanding. Cons: game drives and park fees are extra; the generator is switched off at 11:30 pm. | Rooms from: $950 | Tsavo West | 020/357-7500, 020/351-8391 | | 50 tents | All meals.

Budget Lodging

Ngulia Safari Lodge.
$$ | High on the edge of the Ndawe escarpment with panoramic views of the plains below, this unassuming, basic lodge offers all the generic game park activities (not included) plus spacious en-suite rooms all overlooking the wide savanna. Thatch and wood bandas (thatch and canvas bungalows) raised just above ground level, each with its own veranda, blend in aesthetically with the bush environment. Inside they have tiled floors and brightly colored soft furnishings. There’s a pool surrounded by flowering shrubs and trees, two bars, and a restaurant with good home-cooked food. Because the lodge is in the park, you don’t have to travel far to see lots of big game: lions, cheetahs, a leopard if you’re lucky, elephants, buffalos, and hundreds of pretty little gazelles. Pros: lodge overlooks a watering hole; you have a good chance of seeing a leopard. Cons: bathrooms are dated; pool area is not shady. | Rooms from: $400 | Tsavo West | 866/527-4281 U.S. toll-free reservations | | 52 rooms | All meals.

National Parks Accommodations

There are very basic camping facilities in Tsavo East and Tsavo West, but at $15 per person per night, camping is a very affordable option. You’ll need your own vehicle (4x4 only) to be well equipped with camping gear.

Kamboyo Guest House.
$ | This reasonably priced, self-catering government guesthouse is 8 km (5 miles) from the Mtito Andei Gate, an easy 240-km (149-mile) drive from Nairobi. Built of red brick and red tiles, it has four clean, sparsely furnished bedrooms. Linens, soap, towels, and basic kitchen implements are provided; bring drinking water and firewood. You are allowed up to 10 guests; it’s a bit of a squash, but worth it for the proximity to attractions such as Mzima Springs. Pros: there’s a fireplace and outside shower. Cons: electricity from 6 to 10 pm only; there are only two bathrooms, one en-suite. | Rooms from: $200 | Tsavo West | 020/600-0800 | | 1 guesthouse | No meals.


Tsavo East—11,747 square km (4,535 square miles)—is a fairly harsh landscape of scrubland dotted with huge baobab trees, and photographers will revel in the great natural light and the vast plains stretching to the horizon. There’s lots of greenery along the banks of the Voi and Galana rivers, and the big Aruba Dam, built across the Voi, attracts game and bird life galore. You’ll see herds of elephant and buffalo, waterbuck, and all kinds of animals coming to drink at the dam. The Lugard Falls, on the Galana River, is more a series of rapids than actual waterfalls; walk along the riverbank to catch a glimpse of the water-sculpted rocks. Another fascinating feature in the park is the 290-km-long (180-mile-long) Yatta Plateau, one of the world’s longest lava flows. It runs parallel to the Nairobi/Mombasa Highway and is 5 to 10 km (3 to 6 miles) wide and 305 meters (1,000 feet) high. Mudanda Rock, a 1.5-km (2-mile) outcropping, is a water catchment area. You’ll see plenty of wildlife coming to drink at the dam below. There’s a lot of game in this park, including zebras, kongoni antelope, impala, lion, cheetah, and giraffe, and rarer animals such as the oryx, lesser kudu, and the small klipspringer antelopes, which can jump nimbly from rock to rock because of the sticky suction pads under their feet. And yes, it’s true: those fat and hairy marmotlike creatures you see sunning themselves on the rocks—the hyraxes—are first cousins to elephants.

The park became infamous in the late 1890s because of the “Man Eaters of Tsavo,” a pride of lions that preyed on the Indian migrant laborers who were building the railway. More than 130 workers were killed; the incident was retold in the 1996 thriller, The Ghost and the Darkness, starring Val Kilmer. In the 1970s and ‘80s Tsavo became notorious once again for the widespread poaching that decimated the elephant population and nearly wiped out rhinos altogether. Today, thanks to responsible management, enlightened environmental vision, and proper funding, both elephant and rhino populations are on the rise.

When to Go

Tsavo East is accessible all year round, so the peak season is actually based on demand months such as migration time in Kenya (July-October) and also vacationers getting away during the winter months—especially Europeans. That being said, March to May is the rainy season, and there are short rains in October and December. Humidity is high from December to April.

Tsavo East National Park

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Getting Here and Around

Tsavo East is 233 km (148 miles) south of Nairobi and 250 km (155 miles) north of Mombasa. There are nine airstrips. There’s no public transport within the park. Park entry fees are $65 per person per day, although this is always included in a package tour.


Luxury Lodges

Fodor’s Choice | Galdessa Camp.
$$$ | This beautiful, remote camp is on the south bank of the Galana River. Overlooking the Yatta Plateau upstream from the Lugard Falls, it’s actually two camps; the main lodge has 12 spacious bandas, including one honeymoon banda; the other, private camp (exclusive use only) has three bandas, also including a honeymoon one. Each lodge has its own lounge, dining area, and bar overlooking the river. The elegant and imaginatively decorated bandas are built on wooden platforms with an A-frame thatch roof and a private veranda that has breathtaking river views. The furnishings are African themed with huge hand-carved beds, wooden chests, deep-cushioned armchairs, hand-woven rugs, and wall hangings. There’s an en-suite bathroom with flush toilet and bucket shower. If you want total privacy, then opt for the honeymoon bandas, which have separate verandas on stilts—perfect for canoodling to your heart’s content under the stars. Don’t be surprised if you see a herd of elephant strolling along the riverbank or crocodiles and hippos right in front of your banda, as during the dry season many animals come to the river to drink. Pros: bush walks are excellent; the quality and standard of the food is superb. Cons: credit cards are not accepted; dinners are off a set menu. | Rooms from: $520 | Tsavo East | 040/320-2431, 040/320-2218 | | 15 bandas | No credit cards | All meals.

Permanent Tented Camps

Satao Camp.
$ | This small and friendly camp lies on a traditional migration route, so it’s not short of game. It’s not short on comfort either. You’ll stay in one of 20 tents placed in a semicircle looking out onto a water hole, each with its own veranda. All are built under individual thatch canopies and shaded by ancient tamarind trees. There’s a handmade bed inside your green canvas tent, with lots of attractive African-patterned soft furnishings. The bathrooms are en-suite with flush toilet and a bucket shower, which the attentive staff makes sure is hot and ready when you are. The food is wholesome and fresh, and it’s great to sit under the 200-year-old tamarind tree and watch the elephants at the water hole. There’s a thatch viewing deck on stilts where you can sit and read, or just watch, wait, and see what walks up. There’s an attractive dining area under thatch, but lunch is usually taken alfresco under the trees. Kids under 2 stay free, and those 2 to 12 pay 50% of the adult rate. Pros: excellent views of a watering hole from the observation tower; it’s fully equipped for people with disabilities. Cons: parts of the camp look onto unsightly power lines. | Rooms from: $165 | Tsavo East | 020/243-4600, 011/47-5075 | | 15 tents, 5 suites | All meals.

Budget Lodgings

Rock Side Camp.
$ | Between Tsavo East and West, this former hunting camp (formerly Westermann’s Safari Camp) is a great base to explore both parks. The Tozers, who live here permanently, have transformed this delightful getaway into a luxury destination that’s simply but tastefully decorated with en-suite facilities. Accommodations are at the foot of a rocky kopje (small hill) that look out toward plains in the foreground and mountains in the background. It’s all about personal service and individual attention here. The slate, stone, and thatch bar and restaurant with rustic wooden furniture is surrounded by flowering plants and trees—you can’t help but feel immediately at home here. Food is homemade, often homegrown, and delicious. The camp doesn’t offer game drives, but you can go for a walk in the bush, climb up the kopje, or just sit with the tipple of your choice and watch the spectacular sunsets. Pros: Rock Side is inexpensive because it’s not in the park; it’s been upgraded. Cons: activities are not offered; they don’t take credit cards. | Rooms from: $150 | Tsavo East | 020/204-1443, 043/30-233 | | 16 bandas, 7 bungalows | No credit cards | All meals.

Voi Wildlife Lodge.
$ | This immense resort is set on the boundary of Tsavo East National Park; it’s a two-hour drive from Mombasa, and is a great favorite with beach holidaymakers. Don’t expect perfect peace and tranquility though, as it’s a popular family destination (kids under 2 stay free, 2-12 at half price). Its saving grace is the water hole, which attracts masses of widlife. Apart from game drives, which are extra, there’s plenty to do at the resort. If you’re feeling active, there is billiards, badminton, and table tennis, a pool with a Jacuzzi, and a spa. Bringing the kids? Ask about the babysitting services. There’s also a children’s play area outside and a discovery room inside with wildlife DVDs and games. There are specially designed rooms for physically handicapped people near the lobby. Pros: lovely swimming pool; all rooms overlook the water hole. Cons: no a/c; it is—and feels like—a large resort; drinks are expensive. | Rooms from: $188 | Near, Tsavo East Gate | Tsavo East | 020/712-5741 | | 178 rooms | Closed in May and June | Multiple meal plans.

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Laikipia Plateau

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Where to Stay

Stretching across the western flank of Mt. Kenya, Laikipia Plateau, gateway to Kenya’s little-visited northern territory, isn’t in itself a national park or reserve, but it’s become one of Kenya’s most recent conservation successes. It’s still free from the hordes of game vehicles and flashing cameras that are found in more well-known regions.

Amid spectacular scenery, traditional ways of pastoral life continue side by side with an abundance of free-roaming game. This is high country, with altitudes from 1,700 meters (5,577 feet) to 2,600 meters (8,530 feet), so bring those sweaters and jackets. Habitats range from arid semi-desert, scrubland, and sprawling open plains in the north and south, to the thick forests of cedar and olive trees in the east. The area around the Laikipia Plateau has one of the biggest and most diverse mammal populations in Kenya—only the Masai Mara can boast more game. The Big Five are all present, plus the wide-ranging wild dogs; there’s even a chance of seeing the rare aquatic sitatunga antelope. Grevy’s zebra, which is more narrowly striped than its southern cousin, was once hunted almost to extinction for its fine desirable skin, but is reestablishing itself well in the area.

Laikipia Plateau

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Laikipia is about a six-hour drive from Nairobi, but few travelers attempt these far northern areas (the fringe of the old Northern Frontier District) on their own. There are many superb private lodges in the area, and they will look after your transport arrangements from Nairobi.



Fodor’s Choice | Borana.
$$$$ | The traditional Borana cattle ranch—a part of Kenyan highland history—was given a whole new lease on life with eight luxuriously spacious and well-appointed cottages. Private verandas offer views of large numbers of resident game that come to drink at the lake in front of the lodge in a landscape that has attracted countless artists and photographers. Visitors are given an added opportunity to sample ranch life with some of Africa’s most spectacular horseback safaris. Aerial tours (in small planes or helicopters—a part of daily life in these remote areas) and rhinoceros spotting at neighboring Lewa Downs are a regular part of any visit to beautiful Borana. Pros: unique views up to the peak of Mt. Kenya; a chance to meet the Dyer family, one of Kenya’s founding farming dynasties. Cons: people are often surprised at how chilly it can be at night at this altitude, but hot-water bottles and romantic open fireplaces in all cottages add to the cozy atmosphere. | Rooms from: $1120 | Laikipia | 020/211-5453 | | 8 cottages.

Il’Ngwesi Lodge.
$$$$ | Situated on a rocky outcrop in the north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, this intimate and environmental award-winning lodge prides itself on its successful efforts to integrate community development and sustainable environmental management. The comfortably furnished open-walled bandas with open-air showers are made of local materials and built on a slope—their fronts rest on wooden stilts—thus giving uninterrupted views of the surrounding wilderness. Make sure you take the opportunity to sit out at the main lodge and watch the water hole below or cool off in the horizon pool, which gently flows down into the bush below; water is gravity-piped from a nearby natural spring. You’ll see plenty of game including lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, the elusive wild dog, and large herds of elephant and buffalo, plus the plains game. Learn about hunting, gathering honey, animal trapping with indigenous poisons, or fashioning beadwork with the local Masai at the nearby Masai Cultural Manyatta. You won’t want to miss the dancing of the warriors and maidens—it’s the genuine article. Il’Ngwesi Camp is a shining example of how a safari lodge can reduce poverty and strengthen partnerships between the tourist trade and local communities. Built only with local materials, the camp is completely solar powered, and its water comes from a nearby spring and is gravity fed to the lodge. The local Masai community helped build and continues to run the camp through a communal group. Pros: good children’s facilities; you can sleep under the stars, excellent community outreach and sustainability. Cons: open-air showers only; no a/c. | Rooms from: $770 | Samburu Game Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 020/203-3122 | | 6 bandas | All meals.

Lewa Wilderness Trails.
$$$$ | Lewa Downs, at the foot of Mt. Kenya, is another one of Laikipia’s conservation successes. The Craig family emigrated from England in 1924 and still lives on the same 65,000-acre property, but instead of raising cattle, with the cooperation of the local communities they have returned the area to a wildlife haven. Descendants of the original family will lead you on all sorts of activities and claim that you’ll see as much game here as almost anywhere else in Africa. Game drives are thrilling and action packed, but try game-spotting from a different angle—on top of a camel or from the back of a horse, or on your own two feet. (If you’ve got a dodgy back forget about the camel riding.) Look out for Grevy’s zebra, the more elegant cousin of the regular plains zebra, and the rare aquatic sitatunga antelope. The cottages are attractively furnished with a big wooden bed, hand-carved chests, comfy chairs, and en-suite bathroom. Hot water and electricity are available morning and evening; if you need to cool off, take a dip in the lovely pool. The food is wholesome and hearty with lots of organically grown herbs, vegetables, and fruit. Pros: it’s ideal for families; there’s a huge range of activities available. Cons: you need to book in advance. | Rooms from: $1700 | Lewa Wildlife Conservancy | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 020/607-197 | | 8 cottages | All meals.

$$$$ | This lodge sits plumb in the middle of game-rich Laikipia, on a 300-meter (984-foot) plateau that looks south to Mt. Kenya with stunning views across the Laikipia plains. Built of cedar, stone, and wood, this lovely lodge is nestled among gardens of aloes, succulents, and flowering trees. From the veranda of your en-suite room, gaze out at the dizzying views or just watch the water hole below with its passing show of animals. If you fancy something even more special, opt for one of the star beds (closed in November), which have been created with the local community. Don’t expect a meager stretcher under the stars. You’ll stay in an en-suite “platform” with half-covered thatch roof, handcrafted furniture, and wooden floors set among big rocks. The Kiboko star beds overlook a water hole, whereas the Koija star beds overlook the Ewaso Nyiro river. Every evening your friendly and attentive Laikipia Masai attendants will wheel out your double bed under the star-studded clear night sky, where, carefully shrouded under a mosquito net, you can watch the world turn. If you’re looking for something even more different, go for a quad bike ride. Pros: other activities include game drives, tennis, horseback riding, and camel trekking; laundry service is included. Cons: no a/c; Internet connection is slow. | Rooms from: $1300 | Loisaba Wilderness Laikipia Plateau | 020/600-3090, 603-090 | | 7 rooms, 8 star beds | All meals.

Sabuk Lodge.
$$$$ | This lodge organically created out of local thatch, stone, and wood clings to a hillside on the northwest of the Laikipia Plateau. Overlooking the ever-flowing Ewaso N’giro River, the lodge offers spectacular views and great hospitality. In between activities, lie on your uniquely designed handcrafted big bed in your charming open-fronted room and gaze out at the river below. If you can’t tear yourself away from the view, then just move into the bathroom, slip in the deep stone bath, flip water over the edge to the rocks below and keep gazing. The comfortable main open-sided lodge ensures you’re never far away from those memorable views. On chilly nights a roaring log fire keeps you cozy and warm. Food is plentiful, fresh, and delicious with superb breakfasts on the viewing deck. Spend a night out under the stars at a fly camp after a day’s camel safari, go walking, birding, or fishing, or try tubing down the river. Game is plentiful, and you should see elephants, lions, leopards, giraffe, Grevy’s and plains zebras, and much, much more. Because there are no fences, the game can wander at will. Pros: the food is excellent; camel safaris highly recommended. Cons: rooms don’t have safes; no à la carte menus. | Rooms from: $1370 | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 071/813-9359, 020/359-8871 | | 5 cottages | All meals.


Larsens Camp.
$$$$ | The best tent camps provide peaceful refuge from the bush without sacrificing outdoor magnificence, and few can match the exquisite relief you’ll find at Larsens. The arid Samburu environs give way to a cool, shady retreat under the thick forest that envelops this Small Luxury Hotels camp along the Ewaso Nyiro River. A young Masai stands with slingshot at the ready, so that you can enjoy a gourmet riverside meal undisturbed by the vervet monkeys who wander the grounds. (They are unharmed; he merely disperses them.) Come out of the shade to swim in the pool with gorgeous views of the Samburu hills to the east. Or head up to Larsens’ tree platform overlooking the hills to the west for a spectacular sundowner. Your tent with private porch is just a short stroll away. Inside you’ll find a generous king-size bed, some with an additional twin, and spacious bathrooms with large rainshowers and thoughtful touches such as Molton Brown toiletries. Pros: game viewing right from your porch; dense trees provide a sanctuary feel; large, comfortable common areas. Cons: monkeys can be a nuisance; no in-room safe. | Rooms from: $1000 | West Gate Conservancy | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 60300 | 020/204-5835 | | 20 tents | All meals.

Lewa Safari Camp.
$$$$ | If it’s rhinos you’re after, then this delightful but small tented camp in the 65,000-acre Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, right where the old Rhino Sanctuary headquarters used to stand, is for you. There’s a comfortable main building for eating and relaxing, and wide verandas outside each tent for soaking up the beautiful environs. But if it’s game-viewing you’re after, then one of the camp’s expert team of professional guides will take you on an exhilarating drive. Spacious tents protected by a sturdy thatch roof have comfortable beds, a desk for keeping up on those precious journal notes, and spacious en-suite bathrooms. The food is homegrown and tasty. Bird-watching is spectacular in this area, but it’s likely that while you’re watching out for feathered friends, you’re likely to spot big game as well, including lions. Burn up some calories and have a unique experience at the same time by going on a guided game walk. Pros: tents are private; very few other vehicles. Cons: no a/c. | Rooms from: $1140 | Lewa Wildlife Conservancy | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 020/600-3090, 20/607-197 | | 12 tents, 3 rooms | All meals.

Ol Malo.
$$$$ | Choose a luxurious tent or a thatch cottage perched on a cliff edge at this lovely camp to the west of Samburu overlooking Mt. Kenya. You’ll find yourself under the personal supervision of the owners, Rocky and Colin Francombe. Spacious and elegant tents with elephant-theme interiors have en-suite bathrooms made out of natural rock, while the stone-and-thatch cottages, some built on two levels, have king-size beds and baths that you can lie in and look out at the passing wildlife. The main lodge, also built of natural rock and olive wood, is cozy and comfortable. There’s a huge pool, which clings to the rock edge, spilling its waters to the rocks below. Drives are extremely rewarding with game galore, but for something a little different try a camel ride (not for bad backs), a nature walk, an overnight stay in the Look Out Hut—a little wooden hut in the bush—or go camping under the stars. Horseback riding is a fascinating way to spot game: there are also safe and friendly ponies for kids, and children’s gift packs on arrival, plus other kids’ activities. There’s also the opportunity to meet and mix with the local Samburu people and to take part in some of their activities. Pros: it’s very child-friendly; the afternoon tea is excellent. Cons: no a/c, no TV in rooms. | Rooms from: $1700 | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 20/600-457 | | 4 cottages, 2 tents | All meals.

Porini Rhino Camp.
$$$$ | This delightful eco-friendly tented camp is nestled among Kenya’s ubiquitous Acacia tortilis trees in a secluded valley in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This 90,000-acre stretch of game-rich wilderness lies between the snow-capped Mt. Kenya and the foothills of the Aberdares. This location treats guests to a double whammy—abundant game including the Big Five and the endangered black rhino and superb views across the open plains. Each beautifully placed tent has stunning views from its personal veranda, and inside there’s an en-suite bathroom with flush toilet and bucket shower with hot water heated by solar power. Sip sundowners from a carefully chosen vantage point, and then take a spectacular night drive. By day stretch your legs on a guided bush walk with a Masai guide or have your heartstrings tugged at the nearby Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. If you’re feeling extra energetic and really want to walk on the wild side, then the camp also offers walking safaris. TIP The all-inclusive price includes round-trip transfers by air from Nairobi, Ol Pejeta conservancy fees, all game drives, sundowners, walks with Masai warriors, full board, and free house wines, beer, and soft drinks. Porini Rhino Camp is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa. The camp has no permanent structures and is strategically constructed around trees and shrubs to minimize the human footprint on the natural landscape. The camp uses solar power for electricity, and water is heated with eco-friendly, sustainable charcoal briquettes; there is no generator. The camp has a silver eco-rating for its low eco-footprint. Pros: the camp benefits the local community and is eco-friendly; single supplements are reasonable. Cons: it can be cooler than reserves south of the country; there is only solar power, no electricity; no pool. | Rooms from: $1150 | Ol Pejeta Conservancy | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 877/710-3014, 020/712-3129 | | 6 tents | All-inclusive.

Sarara Tented Camp.
$$$$ | This small, tented camp lies below the peaks of the Mathews Mountains in the 850,000-acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, a community project between landowners and the local Samburu people. Accommodation is in six spacious tents, sited under pole-supported thatch roofs with flush toilets and open-air showers. There is also a two-bedroom house with a shared sitting/dining area. The main sitting room and dining area sits on stilts in front of the water hole and natural rock pool—yes, you swim here overlooking the water hole and you are quite safe—with stunning views of the Mathews Mountains. Game is plentiful with resident lion and leopard, and there’s an excellent chance of seeing wild dog as there are two packs in the area. Look out for the attractive colobus monkeys when you go for a guided hike in the forest. Go donkey trekking in the mountains, or take a camel safari with an overnight stop at a fly camp. Pros: there’s a wide range of activities available; staff are from the local community. Cons: it’s off the beaten track; no power points in tents; Wi-Fi is available only during the day. | Rooms from: $1350 | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 020/6000-457 | | 6 tents | Closed Apr. 15-end of May. Closed Nov. | All meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Sasaab.
$$$$ | It’s not just where Sasaab is located but how it’s situated that makes it a popular place to stay in Samburu. Because it’s in a conservancy rather than a game reserve, you can explore the surroundings without a vehicle; and because it spreads across a hillside high above the Ewaso Nyiro river, there are spectacular views from every vantage. You can go on a morning bird walk, take an afternoon hike over kopjes (hills) to a spectacular sundowner, or ride a camel through a dry riverbed. Sasaab balances opulence, characterized by oversize rooms and fine Moroccan architecture, with environmental consciousness, exhibited by solar-powered electricity and community outreach. They actively support local villages and collaborate with Ewaso Lions, a lion conservation-study program. Every room is a palatial, split-level affair with four-poster beds, personal plunge pools, and grand sitting rooms that quite possibly have the longest couches you’ve ever seen. Pros: sumptuous, spacious rooms; guided walking safaris; beautifully designed common areas. Cons: some rooms are far from the dining lodge; long, bumpy drive to and from local airstrip. | Rooms from: $970 | West Gate Conservancy | Samburu National Reserve Laikipia Plateau | 020/502-0888 | | 9 tents | All meals.

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If You Have Time

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Nairobi National Park | Meru National Park | The Lakes of Kenya

Although the reviews go into great detail about the must-see parks in Kenya, there are many others to explore if you have time. Here, a few good ones are mentioned.


The most striking thing about Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s oldest national park, isn’t a mountain or a lake but the very fact that it exists at all. This sliver of unspoiled Africa survives on the edge of a city of almost 3 million people. Where else can you get a photo of animals in their natural habitat with skyscrapers in the background? As you travel into the city from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, you’re likely to see hartebeests grazing near the highway.

The park is tiny compared with Kenya’s other game parks and reserves; it covers only 117 square km (44 square miles). It’s characterized by open plains that slope gently from west to east and rocky ridges that are covered with rich vegetation. Seasonal streams run southeast into the Mbagathi Athi River, which is lined with yellow-colored fever and acacia trees. In the west the river runs through a deep gorge where rocky outcrops are the favored habitat of leopards.

Fences separate the park from the nearby communities of Langata and Karen, but they don’t always prevent the occasional leopard or lion from snacking on a dog or horse. This is because of an open corridor to the south that allows wildebeests and other animals to move to other areas in search of food; researchers believe the annual migration in this area was once as spectacular as that in the Serengeti.

Despite the urban pressures, the park contains a good variety of wildlife, especially during the dry season. Animals migrate here from other areas knowing that there’s always a source of permanent water. You can see the Big Five, minus elephants as the area isn’t big enough to support them. TIP If you want to see baby elephants, visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage close to the main entrance of the park. Zebras, elands, impalas, and Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles are well represented. Warthogs and ostriches are common on the open plains. Larger game includes Masai giraffes, which browse in the woodland, and a population of 40 black rhinos, sometimes found in the light bush around the forest area. Black rhinos have been particularly successful here because it’s been easier to keep track of and control poachers. In the extreme western border of the park, a low ridge covered by a stand of hardwood trees is home to herds of bushbucks and impalas as well as some of the park’s olive baboons. Impala Point, at the edge of the ridge, makes a good vantage point to scan the plains with binoculars for concentrations of game.

Predators include lions—you have an excellent chance of seeing a lion kill—and cheetahs. Rangers keep a careful note of the movements of the larger animals, so it’s worth asking at the gate where to look for lions or rhinos.

More than 500 species of permanent and migratory birds have been spotted in the park. Around the dams used to create marshes you’ll find Egyptian geese, crowned cranes, yellow and saddle-billed storks, herons, African spoonbills, sacred ibis, hammerkops, Kittlitz’s sand plovers, and marabou storks. In the plains look for secretary birds, vultures, helmeted guinea fowls, bustards, yellow-throated sand grouse, larks, pipits, and Jackson’s widow birds, which display their long tails and attractive plumage during the long rains in May and June. The forests hold cuckoo shrikes, sunbirds, waxbills, flycatchers, and warblers.

Getting Here and Around

A 20-minute drive from downtown Nairobi (7 km [4 miles]), the park’s network of paved and all-weather dirt roads can be negotiated by cars and vans, and junctions are generally signposted and clearly marked on the official park map, which you can pick up at the gate or any bookstore or tourist office. Open-roof hatches aren’t permitted in the park. Don’t leave your vehicle except where permitted, as unsuspecting tourists have been mauled by lions and attacked by rhinos.

Booking and Visitor Info

Most safari operators will arrange a trip, usually four to five hours long, to the park. Otherwise, you can take a taxi. The park is very busy on weekends, when locals visit.

Kenya Wildlife Service. | 020/242-3423 Nairobi National Park | | $40 | Daily 6 am-7 pm.


Until fairly recently, there were no accommodations available in the park. Now, there’s a luxury lodge and a luxury tented camp. Both are a good way to kick-start your safari. Stay here and you could be viewing lions and rhinos within an hour of stepping off your plane.

The Emakoko.
$$$$ | A half-hour drive from Nairobi’s international airport is a luxurious paradise bush lodge in a seemingly remote and hidden valley. In earshot of the roars of the Nairobi lions, the Emakoko offers spacious, beautifully designed rooms with huge verandas overlooking a jungle valley. Game drives are included in the room price. The owners are experts on Kenya and its wildlife and could be the best advisors you encounter on any of your travels. The lodge bar and communal dining (optional) frequently offer further opportunities to pick up safari tips and anecdotes. Pros: very close to Nairobi’s airport, but in a remote area; dinner by the pool is a starlit experience; log fires in the rooms turn potentially icy highland nights into sheer romance. Cons: the beautiful freestanding baths are positioned immediately in front of large panorama windows. | Rooms from: $670 | Nairobi National Park | Nairobi | 072/327-3668 | | 10 rooms | Some meals.

Nairobi Tented Camp.
$$ | Insulated by a hidden glade—home to leopards, lions, and hyenas—Nairobi Tented Camp is in a secluded part of Nairobi National Park, providing an authentic bush experience within a few miles of the city center. Tents are luxuriously equipped with large en-suite bathrooms (with traditional canvas hot-water bucket-showers). The lounge tent is sumptuously furnished with all the comforts of home (and then some), but this is a carefully prepared eco-camp that could potentially be removed within 48-hours, leaving zero imprint on the natural habitat. Game drives are included in the tent price. Hot water bottles tame Nairobi’s cool, high-altitude nights, but the bush around is as wild as anywhere in Africa. Pros: in the bush in the city—best of both worlds!; lodge manager Kelvin is a wealth of information on the park and Nairobi’s must-see attractions. Cons: the dining area feels rather formal for such an atmospheric bush camp. | Rooms from: $416 | Nairobi National Park | Nairobi | 020/260-3337 | | 8 tents | All meals.


Situated 370 km (230 miles) northeast of Nairobi and west of Mt. Kenya, this little-visited park (1,810 square km [699 square miles]) offers some of Kenya’s wildest country, but was taken off the mainstream safari circuit because of the lawless poachers who wiped out the white-rhino population in the 1980s. Although the Kenyan government has gotten a grip on the security situation, the park still finds it difficult to shake off its negative image. But rest assured that all is now well and the park is a safe and fulfilling destination—after all, this is the place where wildlife champions Joy and George Adamson hand-reared Elsa the lioness made famous by the 1966 film Born Free.

A successful rehabilitation program reintroduced elephants and rhinos to the park in 2001; both populations are doing well. There’s a lot of other game here, including buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, lesser kudu, hartebeest (grassland antelope), Grevy’s and Burchell’s zebra, the gerenuk, the reticulated or Somali giraffe, waterbuck, oryx, and Grant’s gazelle. The park is part of an ecosystem that includes Kora National Park and Mwingi, Rahole, and Bisanadi reserves. It straddles the equator and is home to a great variety of habitats, including scrubland dotted with baobab trees, lush green grasslands, and riverine forests. Tana, Kenya’s longest river, is fed by 13 rivers that create a superb habitat for bird life, including the Somali ostrich and raptors such as the red-necked falcon and the palm-nut vulture. You may also see that mega-score on a serious birder’s “life list,” the Pel’s Fishing Owl, which hides in the huge ancient trees along the rivers.

Getting Here and Around

There’s a daily flight to Meru National Park from Nairobi Wilson Airport with Airkenya, which takes 1¾ hours. You can drive from Nairobi; the road isn’t particularly bad but it takes five to six hours. If you’re already at a property in the area, it can make sense to drive. Visitors would need a 4x4 vehicle for driving within the park.

Contact Kenya Wildlife Service. | 061/230-3094 Meru National Park | | $65 per day | Daily 6-6.

Kenya’s Tribes


The Kikuyu account for almost 25% of the country’s total population. Most Kikuyu live around Mt. Kenya, and because of the fertility of the land there, they have become largely a pastoral people, farming the rich fields around the mountain and up in the Kenyan highlands. The Mau Mau Rebellion (1952-58) was a sad time in Kikuyu—and Kenyan—history, with frustrations among Kenyan tribes toward the colonizing British resulting in guerilla warfare. During this time, many Kikuyu were killed and detained in British camps. This difficult era spurred the move toward independence, and in 1964 Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, became Kenya’s first president. Kenya’s third president, Mwai Kibaki, is also Kikuyu, as is Nobel Peace Prize-winner and Greenbelt Movement founder Wangari Maathai.


Mainly in Western Kenya, the Luo tribe is one of the country’s largest, accounting for about 15% of the population. Most members make their living through fishing and farming. The culture is rich in musical traditions, and the sounds and melodies common in their music are said to be the basis for Kenya’s modern pop music. Raila Odinga, the top opposition-party leader who ran against Mwai Kibaki in the much disputed 2007 presidential election, is Luo. Odinga and Kibaki entered into a power-sharing government in early 2008. Barack Obama’s father was from the Luo tribe.


Known to be great warriors, the Masai are also largely associated with Kenya. This red-clad tribe is mainly found in southern Kenya and Tanzania.


Elsa’s Kopje.
$$$$ | This multi-award-winning lodge is set above George Adamson’s original campsite, where he and his wife, author Joy Adamson, released their lioness, Elsa (after which the lodge is named), back into the wild. It’s a strikingly attractive lodge both for its elevated position and for its imaginatively designed thatch cottages. Each cottage is unique, with boulders for walls, trees growing through the roof, and spacious interiors furnished with handcrafted furniture, hand-woven rugs, and earth-tone cushions, throws, and bedspreads. All the cottages have complete privacy, but if you would like your family to stay together and have your own private infinity swimming pool, go for Elsa’s Private House, which sleeps four (extra beds can be added for kids) and has a small garden. Watch the plains game ambling through the grasslands from your veranda or view predators or rhinos in open-sided game vehicles before sundowners at the palm-fringed hippo pools. The home-cooked, homegrown food is principally northern Italian, but if you’re not a pasta person, there’s plenty more to choose from. Pros: delicious homegrown vegetables; free laundry service. Cons: not all rooms have tubs; no a/c. | Rooms from: $1400 | Meru National Park | 020/600-3090 | | 10 cottages, 1 private house | All meals.

Leopard Rock Lodge.
$$$$ | Antique furniture, Persian rugs, and understated elegance characterize this exclusive lodge, which sprawls out along the banks of the Murera River. You’ll stay in one of the thatch and wood bandas, with his-and-her en-suite bathrooms; or a family cottage or suite, all with stunning views. The food is superb even by high Kenyan standards, and there’s a great wine list and open-air kitchen. The lodge offers a pottery workshop and an unforgettable pool that allows you to come safely nose to nose—there’s a glass panel between the river and the pool—with crocs in the river. Pros: other activities on offer include fishing and bird-watching; there’s a pool bar and Jacuzzi. Cons: dinner requires formal dress; no a/c. | Rooms from: $710 | Meru National Park | 020/600-0031 | | 15 cottages, 5 family cottages, 10 suites | All meals.


In addition to its great game parks, Kenya is home to huge, beautiful lakes that are often covered with uncountable flocks of flamingos. Here’s just a snapshot of four of them.


One of the Rift Valley’s few freshwater lakes, Lake Naivasha is a popular spot for day-trips and weekends away from Nairobi. The pleasant forested surroundings, which are a far cry from the congestion and noise of Nairobi, are another big draw. Keep an eye out for the fever trees, and the abundant populations of birds, monkeys, and hippos. Such an attractive location lured a group of British settlers to build their homes on its shores. Known collectively as “White Mischief,” these settlers were internationally infamous for their decadent, hedonistic lifestyle. A 1987 movie of the same name, starring Greta Scacchi, was based on a notorious society murder set during this time in this location.

Getting Here and Around

Lake Naivasha is a one- to two-hour drive from Nairobi. There are two routes—a shorter but badly potholed route along the escarpment, or a longer but better maintained road, the A104 Uplands, which leads to Naivasha town. Hotels and lodges in the area will arrange pickups from Nairobi, and taxis can transport you around the area. Safarilink has a daily flight from Nairobi Wilson airport.


Crescent Island Game Park.
Cross over by boat to Crescent Island Game Park, where you can see giraffes, zebras, and other plains herbivores, but absolutely no predators. | 073/357-9935 | | $25.

Where to Stay

Crater Lake Tented Camp.
$ | Crater Lake Tented Camp is a classy place to stay with great views of the lake. | Rooms from: $208 |

Naivasha Simba Lodge.
$$ | Naivasha Simba Lodge, though primarily a conference center, has lovely grounds, big rooms, and loads of facilities. | Rooms from: $360 | 020/444-4401 | | 70 rooms.


If it’s birds and flamingos you’re after, then Lake Nakuru hits the spot. You’ll find millions—yes, millions—of these engaging birds to gaze upon. From the air, and even when you see them from far off, the flamingos color the lake bright pink. There are more than 400 other bird species here, plus incredible game including leopards, the endangered black rhinos, and lots of plains game.

Getting Here and Around

Lake Nakuru is 166 km (103 miles) northwest of Nairobi. The lake is in Lake Nakuru National Park, which you can drive around in a few hours. The main road that circles the lake has the best game viewing. Lake Nakuru is a popular day-trip from Nairobi, and can be arranged through safari operators. The drive takes approximately 2½ to 3 hours along the main A104 road. Otherwise, you can hire a car and drive here yourself. Lodges and hotels can arrange transfers from Nairobi, and many taxi drivers in Nakuru town know the lake well and can take you around. Chartered flights go to Lake Nakuru Naishi Airstrip, in the southern part of the park.

Booking and Visitor Info

There’s limited accommodation in the park, so book in advance. There’s no right time to come here to see the flamingos, the amount you’ll see depends on luck.

Where to Stay

If you’d like to do an overnight, Lake Nakuru Lodge ( and Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge ( are both on the lake.


The tip of Lake Turkana, in Kenya’s northwest, runs into the Ethiopian highlands, but the rest of Kenya’s biggest lake stretches for 250 km (155 miles) south. Sometimes called the Jade Lake because of its vivid green color, it’s a shallow alkaline lake in the Great Rift Valley that’s been drying up alarmingly over the past decade. Surprisingly, it’s still home to the legendary giant Nile perch, huge herds of hippos, and more Nile crocodiles than anywhere else in the world—more than 20,000 reside here. There’s abundant bird life with many European migrants wintering around its shores.

Getting Here and Around

The roads to Lake Turkana are in bad condition, so it’s better to fly. Fly540 flies daily from Nairobi JKIA to Lodwar, via Kitale.


Kenya Tourist Board.
Coconut Beach | 020/271-1262 |


Kenya shares Africa’s biggest freshwater lake with its neighbors, Uganda and Tanzania. Tanzania has the lion’s share: 49%; Uganda has 45%; Kenya only 6%. The lake is so huge (68,000 square km [26,000 square miles]) that it has its own weather system with unpredictable storms, squalls, and high waters just like the ocean. The dhow was first introduced to Lake Victoria by Arab slave traders, and the local Luo shipbuilders quickly adopted the shape and lateen sail. You’ll see fishing fleets of white-sailed dhows all over the lake, fishing mainly for the delicious Nile perch. These fish, which can reach the size of a fully grown shark, now account for about 80% of the fish in the lake. Their presence still arouses controversy. On the one hand, they’re the basis for a multimillion-dollar processing and export industry; on the other, scientists say they’re destroying the lake’s ecosystem.

Getting Here and Around

Kenya Airways and Fly540 fly from Nairobi to Kisumu, a town on Lake Victoria. The flight takes approximately 45 minutes. The airport is 4 km (2½ miles) out of the center of town (a 10-minute drive). Driving from Nairobi will take about 5½ hours. When you’re in Kisumu, bicycle taxis are a quick and cheap way of getting around.


Kisumu, on Lake Victoria’s shore, is the main town of western Kenya, and Kenya’s third largest, although it lacks the post-independence prosperity and development of Mombasa and Nairobi. It’s got a bit of a run-down feel reminiscent of some of the small towns on the Indian Ocean coast.

Where to Stay

Rusinga Island Lodge ( and Mfangano Island Camp ( are top-of-the-range luxury lodges.

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Exploring | Where to Eat | Where to Stay

As Nairobi is Kenya’s capital city and the main hub for visitors, it’s very likely that you’ll be spending an overnight here between flights. The following information will help you plan those hours productively and safely.

The starting point for safaris since the days of Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, Nairobi is still the first stop for many travelers headed to the wildlife parks of East Africa. Just over a century ago Nairobi was little more than a water depot for the notorious “Lunatic Express.” Every railhead presented a new nightmare for its British builders. Work was halted by hungry lions (a saga portrayed in the film The Ghost and the Darkness) as well as by masses of caterpillars that crawled on the tracks, spoiling traction and spinning wheels. Nearsighted rhinos charged the noisy engines. Africans fashioned jewelry from the copper telegraph wires, leading to a head-on collision between two engines after the communication wires were cut.

Nairobi, which means “cool water” in the language of the Masai, wouldn’t remain a backwater for long. In her 1942 memoir, West with the Night, aviatrix Beryl Markham wrote that less than three decades after it was founded, the city “had sprung from a collection of corrugated iron shacks serving the spindly Uganda Railway to a sprawling welter of British, Boers, Indians, Somalis, Abyssinians, natives from all over Africa and a dozen other places.” Its grand hotels and imposing public buildings, she wrote, were “imposing evidence that modern times and methods have at last caught up with East Africa.”

Today Nairobi’s skyline surprises first-time visitors, whose visions of the country are often shaped by wildlife documentaries on the Discovery Channel or news reports on CNN. Since it was founded little more than a century ago, Nairobi has grown into one of the continent’s largest capitals. Some early architecture survives here and there, but this city of around 3 million people is dominated by modern office towers.

This isn’t to say the city has lost all its charm—the venerable Norfolk and Stanley hotels recall the elegance of an age long since past. Sometimes you can even describe the city as beautiful. After a good rain the city seems to have more green than New York or London. Brilliant bougainvillea line the highway from the airport, flame trees shout with color, and, in October, the horizon turns lavender with the blossoms of jacaranda.

But Nairobi has more than its share of problems. This city that grew too fast has paralyzing traffic jams, with many unsafe or overloaded vehicles on the road, and no hint of emissions control. Crime is on the rise, and stories about muggings and carjackings have led to the capital’s moniker “Nairobbery.” In addition, there’s a growing disparity between rich and poor. Private estates on the edge of Nairobi resemble those in Beverly Hills or Boca Raton, with elaborate wrought-iron fences surrounding opulent mansions with stables, tennis courts, and swimming pools. The upper crust is known as the wabenzi, with wa a generic prefix for a people or tribe and benzi referring to the ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz cars lining the driveways. Not far away you can glimpse vast mazes of tin shacks, many with no electricity or running water.

These problems have pushed many travelers to the sanctuary of the suburbs. The Ngong Hills, mark the southwestern boundaries of Nairobi, embracing the suburbs of Langata and Karen. The latter is named after Baroness Karen Blixen, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen about her life on a coffee farm here. Purple at dusk, the Ngong Hills are a restful symbol of salaam, Swahili for “peace.”

Exclusive guest homes, such as the Giraffe Manor, Ngong House, and the House of Waine, provide a sense of peace in the suburban bush. Some of the better boutiques selling everything from antiques to art are found in Karen and Langata. The suburb of Langata lies on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, a great introduction to the magnificent wildlife of Kenya. No wonder many visitors return here year after year. They discover how Blixen felt when she wrote in one of her letters: “Wherever I may be in future, I will always wonder whether there’s rain on the Ngongs.”


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Getting Here and Around

Nairobi National Park is to the south of the city, with Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport on the park periphery. Karen and Langata, suburbs of Nairobi, are southwest of the city center, and the Ngong Hills, on the edge the Great Rift Valley, are beyond them. Muthaiga, Gigiri, and Limuru are to the north.

Most major European airlines fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Kenya’s major airport, which is 15 km (9 miles) from the city. The airport has several ATM-equipped banks and Bureaux de Change. Barclays Bank, National Bank of Kenya, and Transnational Bank have branches and 24-hour money changing daily. You can also use the ATMs, although some accept only Visa. It usually takes about 40 minutes to drive from the airport to the city center by taxi (about US$20; always negotiate first) or regular shuttle bus, although protracted road works mean that it can take about two hours in rush hour. Many hotels have shuttle services; be sure to organize this when you book your room.

Wilson Airport 6 km (4 miles) south of the city on the Langata Road is Nairobi’s second airport. It’s used for domestic, charter, and some international flights. A taxi into the center of town is about $12.

There are plenty of cheap and efficient domestic flights available, including daily flights on Air Kenya between Nairobi and Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu. Air Kenya also flies daily to Amboseli, Kiwayu, Lamu, Malindi, Masai Mara, and Meru. Fly540 flies from Nairobi JKIA to Lamu, Malindi, Masai Mara, and Mombasa, and Safarilink flies from Nairobi Wilson to Diani Beach, Lamu, Amboseli, Samburu, Tsavo, and Masai Mara. When you book a local flight, make sure to note which airport it departs from.

You’re probably only in Nairobi overnight or for a few hours, so you definitely won’t need a car. Take a taxi. There’s an 80 km (50 miles) per hour speed limit, and it’s compulsory to buckle up. Always negotiate the price before setting out. Locals travel around on matatus (passenger minivans carrying up to 15 passengers), but the drivers are notoriously reckless and the vehicles not always road worthy.


Police in general are friendly and helpful to tourists. There are two private hospitals (avoid the government hospitals) with excellent staff and facilities, which have 24-hour pharmacies. There are plenty of pharmacies all over downtown Nairobi. Consult your concierge or host.


Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) | 020/661-1000 |
Wilson Airport (WIL) | 020/660-9000, 072/425-6537 |

Emergency Contacts
Aga Khan University Hospital. | 3rd Parklands Ave., Parklands | 020/366-2000.
Central Police Station. | University Way | 00100 | 999 for all emergencies, 020/227-2420 |
Nairobi Hospital. | Argwings Kodhek Road | 00100 | 020/284-5000 |



David Sheldrick Orphanage for Rhinos and Elephants.
Take a morning excursion, which you can book through your tour guide or hotel concierge, to this amazing rescue center that was set up by Dame Daphne Sheldrick after the death of her husband, David, who was famous for his anti-poaching activities in Tsavo National Park. You’ll be able to watch baby elephants at play or having a bath, knowing that one day when they’re old enough they will be successfully reintroduced into the wild. It’s an absolutely unmissable and heartwarming experience. Make a donation, however small, or go for gold and adopt your own baby elephant. | Entrance is at Maintenance Gate on Magadi Rd. | 00503 | 020/230-1396 | | Ksh500 | Daily 11 am-noon.

Karen Blixen Museum.
Out of Africa author Karen Blixen lived in this estate from 1913 to 1931. This is where she threw a grand dinner party for the Prince of Wales and where she carried on a torrid relationship with aviator Denys Finch Hatton. The museum contains a few of her belongings and some of the farm machinery she used to cultivate the land for coffee and tea. There’s also some of her furniture, but most of it is found in the McMillan Library in Nairobi. There is a magnificent view of the surrounding hills from her lawn, which is dominated by euphorbia, the many-armed plant widely known as the candelabra cactus. On the way to the museum you may notice a signpost reading “ndege.” On this road, whose Swahili name means “bird,” Finch Hatton once landed his plane for his visits with Blixen. After his plane crashed in Voi, he was buried nearby in the Ngong Hills. Guides will take you on a tour of the garden and the house, but there is little reference to the literary works by Blixen, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen. | Karen Rd. | Karen | 00502 | 020/800-2139 | | Ksh 800 | Daily 9-6.

Nairobi National Museum.
On Museum Hill off Chiromo Road, this interesting museum has good reproduction rock art displays and excellent prehistory exhibits of the archaeological discoveries of Richard and Mary Leakey. When working near Lake Turkana in the 1960s, the Leakeys discovered the skull and bones of Homo habilis, believed to be the ancestor of early humankind. Their findings established the Rift Valley as the possible Cradle of Humankind, although both South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves and Ethiopia’s Hadar region claim the same distinction. There are also excellent paintings by Joy Adamson, better known as the author of Born Free, and a good collection of Kenya’s birds and butterflies. The Kenya Museum Society takes guided bird walks every Wednesday morning at 8:45. There are some good craft shops and a museum shop, and it’s worthwhile popping in to the Kuona Trust, the part of the museum that showcases young Kenyan artists. | Museum Hill, off Chiromo St., Nairobi | 00100 | 020/374-2161, 020/374-2131 | | Ksh 800 | Daily 8:30-5:30.


City Market.
Designed in 1930 as an aircraft hangar, this vast space is a jumble of color, noise, and activity. Head to the balcony to view the curio stands on the main level. Outside the market entrance is Biashara Street, where you’ll find even more curios, as well as flower sellers and butchers. Look for kikois and kangas, traditional fabrics worn by Kenyan women. They make for colorful sarongs that are good for wearing over a bathing suit or throwing over a picnic table. They’re half the price here than in the hotel shops. | Muindi Mbingu St. | 00100 | Free | Mon.-Sat. 8-4.

Railway Museum.
Established to preserve relics and records of East African railways and harbors, this museum is enormous fun for rail enthusiasts and children of all ages. You can see the rhino catcher that Teddy Roosevelt rode during his 1908 safari and climb into the carriage where Charles Ryall, a British railroad builder, was dragged out a window by a hungry lion. There are great photos and posters, plus silver service from the more elegant days of the overnight train to Mombasa. Rides on steam trains take place on the second Saturday of each month. | Off Haile Sellasie Ave. | 00100 | 020/222-1211 | | Ksh 400 | Daily 8-5.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Olorgesailie. Set in the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley, Olorgesailie is one of Kenya’s best-known archaeological sites. Discovered in 1919 by geologist J. W. Gregory, the area was excavated by Louis and Mary Leakey in the 1940s. They discovered tools thought to have been made by residents of the region more than a half million years ago. A small museum shows some of the axes and other tools found nearby. The journey here is unforgettable. As you drive south on Magadi Road, you’ll find that past the town of Kiserian the route climbs over the southern end of the Ngong Hills, affording fine views of the entire valley. Volcanic hills rise out of the plains as the road drops into dry country where the Masai people graze their herds. | 65 km (40 miles) south of Nairobi | | Ksh 500 | Daily 8-6.


$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | A firm fixture on the tourist trail, Carnivore became famous for serving wild game. Although this is no longer the case, you can still get crocodile, camel, and ostrich as well as beef and lamb. The emphasis, as ever, is firmly on meat, and lots of it. Waiters carry the sizzling meat to your table on long skewers and carve whatever you wish onto the cast-iron platters that serve as plates. Only when you offer a little white flag of surrender do they stop carving. As strange as it may seem, there are also many excellent choices for vegetarians. There’s an à la carte option if you feel your appetite may not be equal to the set menu. | Average main: $40 | Langata Rd. | 00509 | 020/600-5933 | | Reservations essential.

$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Although the road leading here is steep, once you’re inside the property (Moonflower is part of the Palacina Hotel), you will find the restaurant a tranquil oasis. Tables are on an open-air patio, looking out onto trees and next to a soothing fountain. The menu is mainly Mediterranean with Swahili touches and is wonderfully varied, ranging from salads (Niçoise, grilled chicken, couscous) to burgers, steaks, pasta, and chicken. Fish dishes include red snapper with lime hollandaise, and there are some good vegetarian options. Lunchtime is popular with local businessmen, and a jazz band plays on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The Palacina Hotel has tastefully decorated suites and all modern amenities. | Average main: $20 | Palacina Hotel, State House, Kitale Lane, off Denis Pritt Rd., Kilimani | 00100 | 073/377-7173, 072/049-3747 |

$$$$ | SEAFOOD | Hands down the finest seafood restaurant in town, Tamarind is famous for its deep-fried crab claws, ginger crab, and piri piri (spicy, buttery prawns grilled over charcoal). Everything is flown up daily from the coast, including the Malindi sole and the Kilifi oysters, tiny but very flavorful and served either raw or as classic oysters Rockefeller. Try the delicious kokonda, based on a famous dish from Fiji—raw fish and shrimp are marinated in lime juice, coconut cream, fennel, mustard seed, and local chili peppers. The setting is quite lovely, with stained glass by renowned Kenya artist Nani Croze. | Average main: $60 | National Bank of Kenya, Harambee Ave. | 00200 | 020/225-1811 | | Reservations essential.

$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | The interior of the Norfolk Hotel’s fine-dining restaurant is minimalist and modern, with large black-and-white prints of tribespeople on the walls, an open-plan kitchen, leather tablecloths, and soft lighting in muted shades of orange, yellow, and green. The menu specializes in steaks, with some interesting sides, such as truffled Parmesan fries and mac and cheese. There’s a fantastic selection of seafood, too, including Mombasa spiny lobster, giant tiger prawns, Nile perch, and classic comfort dishes such as chicken potpie. The wine list features New World labels with a good selection by the glass. Waitresses in beautiful kanga-print dresses round off what is altogether a very elegant dining experience. | Average main: $69 | Norfolk Hotel, Harry Thuku Rd. | 00100 | 020/226-5555 |


The two landmark lodgings in the capital, the Norfolk Hotel and the Sarova Stanley, have thrown their doors open to visitors for more than a century. Both have been renovated in recent years and now have everything from health clubs to business centers. Newer luxury hotels, such as Sankara Nairobi, are giving them a run for their money.

Although corporate travelers may need to stay in Nairobi, those wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle can head to the distilled air of the Ngong Hills, which prompted Karen Blixen to write, “Here I am, where I ought to be.” Many visitors feel the same affinity with this landscape where several country establishments offer more peaceful surroundings.

Another option, perfect to kick-start your safari, is to stay in Nairobi National Park. There are two properties—The Emakoko, a luxury lodge, and Nairobi Tented Camp, which is tucked into a forest in the park. Both offer fantastic, comfortable accommodations within an hour of Nairobi airport.

Giraffe Manor.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Yes, giraffes really do pop their heads through the windows and bat their improbable eyelashes at you at this stately old look-alike gabled Scottish hunting lodge. Built of honey-color sandstone and set in a forest in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, it’s 20 minutes by road from the town’s center. It’s a haven of peace and tranquility, unless you reckon curious giraffes and snuffling warthogs as stressful. Rare, endangered Rothschild’s giraffes roam freely through the estate, and you can find out more about the species at the adjacent Giraffe Centre. If possible, choose a honeymoon master bedroom with an art-deco bathroom. There’s also a family suite with two rooms that can sleep two adults and up to three children, and the Karen Blixen annex that’s decorated with the author’s original furniture. Pros: the rate is all-inclusive, with no hidden extras; nonguests can book a table for lunch, subject to availability. Cons: you need to book ahead as it’s often fully booked; no pool. | Rooms from: $970 | Koitobos Rd., Karen | 073/281-2896, 073/322-4446 | | 10 rooms | All-inclusive.

House of Waine.
$$$ | HOTEL | You’ll find nostalgia, history, and romantic surroundings at this family-owned boutique hotel. Set in lush gardens, it’s 20 minutes from downtown Nairobi in the quiet suburb of Karen. It was here that the notorious Danish womanizer, man-about-town, and wannabe coffee farmer, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, brought his lovely young wife, Karen. It was also here that Karen met and fell hopelessly and helplessly in love with the English hunter and adventurer Denys Finch Hatton—their tragic romance was brought vividly to life in the movie Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Colonial ambience mixes comfortably with modern luxury in the beautifully appointed guest suites, each uniquely decorated in vivid colors with elegant furniture and a marble en-suite bathroom. Kids under 2 are free and those 2-11 are half-price. The Karen Blixen Museum is just next door if you want to find out more about this extraordinary woman writer. Pros: you can choose to take your meal in your room, next to the pool, or in the dining room; the swimming pool is heated. Cons: the dining room feels too formal; the wooden floors can be noisy. | Rooms from: $500 | Near junction of Masai La. and Bogani Rd., Karen | 020/260-1455, 020/260-1456 | | 11 suites | All-inclusive.

Ngong House.
$$$$ | HOTEL | A contrast to the rather grand, colonial-era hotels such as the Norfolk and Stanley, Ngong House is a fabulous boutique hotel located in the quiet suburb of Karen. Accommodation is in six individual treehouses set in a large garden, and constructed from indigenous materials that blend in with the surrounding thorn and acacia trees. Each have individually carved wooden beds, and a few have baths made from traditional canoes. Service is unobtrusive but attentive, and the impeccable attention to detail is followed through from the fresh roses by the front door to the beautifully presented meals served in different parts of the property. All drinks and meals are included. There’s also a cottage and log cabin, each with two rooms, and a double room in the main house for less mobile guests. Pros: the design of the treehouses is wonderfully quirky; guests are invited to gather by the bonfire for pre-dinner drinks. Cons: the pool is small; the nocturnal tree hyraxes are fascinating, but can be extremely noisy. | Rooms from: $900 | Ngong Rd., Karen | 00502 | 072/243-4965 | | 9 rooms | No credit cards | All-inclusive.

The Norfolk Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | This grand old colonial lady will take you back to the heady early days when settlers, adventurers, colonial officers, and their ladies arrived in the capital to make their names and their fortunes. Built in 1904, the Norfolk was one of Nairobi’s first hotels and quickly became the meeting place and watering hole for everybody who was anybody in the colony. The hotel is now owned by the Fairmont Group, but the original mock-Tudor facade and colonial opulence still remain, so you can easily imagine yourself back in the early days as you sip your G&T—it’s always called G&T, never gin and tonic—or an excellent local Tusker beer on the terrace or in the leather-chaired bar. Pros: the breakfast buffet is the best in town; the terrace is a great place to watch the world go by. Cons: Internet use is not free; some of the older rooms need updating. | Rooms from: $319 | Harry Thuku Rd. | 020/221-6940, 866/840-8208 toll-free in U.S. | | 129 rooms, 18 suites, 6 luxury cottages | No meals.

Sankara Nairobi.
$$ | HOTEL | This stylish city hotel is conveniently located in Westlands, close to a number of restaurants and shopping centers, although you will find all you need for a relaxing stay in the hotel itself. Striking contemporary East African art decorates both the rooms and public areas, and the rooms themselves are comfortable and modern, with panoramic views, marble bathrooms, and all possible modern conveniences. There’s a deli and patisserie, which turns into a cheese and wine bar at night, a brasserie serving global cuisine, and a Southeast Asia-styled noodle house, plus rooftop dining next to the pool (check out the glass panel on the floor of the pool, which looks down onto the street hundreds of feet below). The Angsana Spa is exquisite, and the hotel boutique has specially commissioned, high-end souvenirs. Pros: varied dining options; the hotel has been beautifully designed. Cons: the pool is small; spa treatments are expensive. | Rooms from: $360 | Woodvale, Grove, Westlands | 020/420-8000 | | 156 rooms | No meals.

The Sarova Stanley.
$$$ | HOTEL | Also one of Nairobi’s oldest hotels, the Stanley was named after the journalist Henry Morton Stanley who immortalized himself by discovering a long-lost Scots explorer with one of the best sound bites in history: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” At the hotel’s famous outdoor Thorn Tree Café, named for the acacia tree at its center, early travelers would pin notes and messages for fellow travelers to the tree. Today, there’s an Internet café where the communication tradition continues, and you can get light meals and live music. Public areas retain a trace of the elegance of times past and rooms offer all the standard amenities of a modern business hotel—soundproofing (useful in central Nairobi), blackout curtains, satellite TV, and coffee-makers. Although they are comfortable, the rooms themselves are slightly bland and uninspiring. Pros: security is good; the pool is heated. Cons: it’s right in the hustle and bustle of downtown Nairobi; standard rooms are small. | Rooms from: $505 | Corner Kenyatta Ave. and Kimati St. | 020/275-7000 | | 217 rooms | Breakfast.

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Beach Escapes

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Planning | Mombasa | Southern Beaches of Mombasa | Malindi | Lamu

Intricately carved doorways studded with brass and white walls draped with bougainvillea distinguish the towns that dot Kenya’s coastline. Arab traders who landed on these shores in the 9th century brought their own culture, so the streets are dominated by a different style of dress and architecture from what you see in other parts of Kenya.

Men stroll the streets wearing traditional caps called kofias and billowing caftans known as khanzus, while women cover their faces with black veils called bui-buis that reveal only their eyes.

The creation of the Swahili language, a combination of Arabic and African Bantu, came about when Arab traders married African women. The term “Swahili” comes from the Arabic words sahil, meaning “coast,” and i, meaning “of the.” As seductive as the rhythm of the sea, Swahili is one of the most melodic tongues on earth. The coastal communities of Lamu, Malindi, and Mombasa are strongholds of this language and culture that once dominated communities from Somalia to Mozambique.

Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city, was once the gateway to East Africa. Karen Blixen described people arriving and departing by ship in the book Out of Africa. Mombasa’s harbor still attracts a few large cruise ships, but nothing like the hundreds that sailed here before World War I. In Lamu, a Swahili proverb prevails: Haraka haraka haina baraka (Haste, haste, brings no blessing). The best-preserved Swahili town in Kenya, Lamu has streets hardly wide enough for a donkey cart. Narrow, winding alleyways are lined with houses set tight against one another. It’s said that the beautifully carved doors found here are built first, then the house constructed around them. By the same token, a mosque is built first, and the town follows.

Azure waters from Lamu to Wasini are protected by the 240-km (150-mile) coral reef that runs parallel to the coast. Broken only where rivers cut through it, the reef is home to hundreds of species of tropical fish. The beaches themselves have calm and clear waters that hover around 27°C (80°F). As Ernest Hemingway put it, “The endless sand, the reefs, the lot, are completely unmatched in the world.”

Be sure to get your feet in this ivory white sand. A few days at the coast is an ideal way to round off a safari trip.



Getting to the towns along the Kenya Coast is easier than ever. Mombasa has an international airport, but you can also fly directly to Malindi, Diani Beach, or Lamu. Traveling by car around Mombasa is fairly safe.


The excellent cuisine reflects the region’s rich history. Thanks to Italians, basil is everywhere, along with olive oil, garlic, and fresh lettuce. The Portuguese introduced tomatoes, corn, and cashews. Everything is combined with pungent spices such as coriander and ginger and the rich coconut milk often used as a cooking broth.

The Indian Ocean delivers some of the world’s best fishing, so marlin, sailfish, swordfish, kingfish, and many other types of fish are on every menu. Not surprisingly, sashimi made from yellowtail tuna is favored by connoisseurs (and was listed on menus here as “fish tartare” before the rest of the world discovered Japanese cuisine). Prawns can be gargantuan, and wild oysters are small and sweet. Diving for your own lobster is an adventure, but you’ll easily find boys who’re happy to deliver fresh seafood to your door. You can even place your order for the next day.


Accommodations along the Kenya Coast range from sprawling resorts with several restaurants to small beach houses with kitchens where you can prepare your own meals. Most accommodations along the coast can arrange snorkeling, windsurfing, waterskiing, and deep-sea fishing.


You may well find yourself in Mombasa for a few hours or an overnight stop. The city (which is actually an island linked to the mainland by a ferry) is the second oldest trade center with Arabia and the Far East. Today it still plays an important role as the main port for Kenya. Although it lacks the beautiful beaches of the north and south, it has a rich, fascinating history. Visit the Old Town with its narrow streets lined with tiny shops and souks (markets). The Old Harbour, frequented by numerous dhows, is an ideal place to arrange a short cruise on one of these local boats that have plied the oceans for centuries. Fort Jesus, designed by an Italian and built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century, is a major visitor draw and well worth a visit. In summer there’s an impressive sound-and-light show.

Getting Here and Around

Kenya Airways and Fly540 have daily flights between Nairobi and Mombasa, and from Mombasa you can fly to Malindi and Lamu. Safaris to Tsavo East or Tsavo West can also depart from here. The airport is located 10 km (6 miles) from the city center, on the mainland. Several taxi companies operate from the airport and have fixed rates to either the center of town or the beach resorts. You can also arrange for your hotel to pick you up. Taxis in Mombasa are inexpensive. The drivers are friendly and helpful and will wait or return to collect you if you ask. Tired of flying? There’s an overnight train that runs four times a week from Nairobi to Mombasa. It departs Nairobi at 7 pm and arrives in Mombasa around 10 am the following morning. First class is very basic, but clean, and dinner and breakfast are included in the price ($75 one way). You can buy tickets at the station but it’s best to book in advance. It saves you a battle with Nairobi traffic (it really is a nightmare). Karen-based operator Twiga Tours ( can reserve and purchase the ticket for you.

Money Matters

Barclay’s Bank has several ATMs in Mombasa. There’s one on Malindi Road, on Kenyatta Avenue near Digo Road, on Nkrumah Road near Fort Jesus, and on the main road out of Mombasa to Nairobi. If you want to change money, Forex Bureau has exchange shops on Digo Road near the Municipal Market and near the entrance of Fort Jesus.


The best way to see Mombasa is on foot, but you shouldn’t walk around at night. If you take a taxi at night, make sure it delivers you all the way to the door of your destination. Purse snatchers are all too common. Beware of people who might approach you on Mombasa’s Moi Avenue offering to become your guide. Tell them “Hapana, asante sana” (“No, thank you”) and move on.

Visitor Information

Mombasa Coast Tourist Information (MCTA), near the Tusks, sells books on city sights such as Fort Jesus. It’s open weekdays 8-4:30 and Saturday 8-12:30. The best map is The Streets of Mombasa Island, which sells for Ksh500 (US$7.50).


Emergency Hotline. | 999 from a Kenyan landline, 112 from a mobile phone.
Mombasa Central Police Station. | 041/231-1172.

Aga Khan Hospital. | Vanga Rd., Kizingo | 80100 | 041/222-7710.
Pandya Memorial Hospital. | Dedan Kimathi Ave. | 80100 | 041/222-9252.

Kenatco Taxis Ltd. | Ambalal House, Mombasa Trade Centre, Nkrumah Rd. | 80100 | 041/222-7503 |

Visitor Info
Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association. | Corner Moi Ave. & Agakhan Rd. | 80100 | 070/842-7444 | |


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Anglican Cathedral.
Built in the early part of the last century, the cathedral is a memorial to Archbishop James Hannington, a missionary who was executed in 1885. The influence of Middle Eastern Islamic architecture is clear in the frieze, the dome, and the tall, narrow windows. The paneling behind the high altar is reminiscent of the cathedral in Stone Town. | Nkrumah Rd. and Cathedral Rd. | 041/223-0502.

Biashara Street.
To get a good insight into the daily life of downtown Mombasa, head to narrow, cluttered Biashara (Swahili for “business”) Street, which is just off Moi Avenue. Here, you’ll find all sorts of small shops that have been around for generations—selling everything from leather to textiles, live chickens, and food. People are friendly and hospitable but, as in most poor backstreet areas, watch your belongings. While you’re here, take a wander through the vegetable and spice market, near where Biashara Street meets Moi Avenue. | off Moi Ave. | Mombasa.

Fort Jesus.
This massive edifice was built in the late 16th century by the Portuguese, who were keen to control trade in the region. When the Omanis captured the fort at the end of the 17th century, they made some adjustments. The walls were raised to account for the improved trajectory of cannons mounted aboard attacking ships. By the end of the 18th century, turrets were erected. For water, the garrison relied on a pit cistern, which was used for bathing when the fort was a prison, between 1895 and 1958. The captain’s house retains some traces of the Portuguese—note the outline of the old colonnade. The exhibits at the museum include an important display on ceramics of the coast and the remains of a Portuguese gunner, San Antonio de Tanna, which sank outside the fort at the end of the 17th century. Objects from the ship—shoes, glass bottles, a powder shovel, and cannon with its muzzle blown away—bring the period to life. There are also exhibits of finds from archaeological excavations at Gedi, Manda, Ungwana, and other sites. | End of Nkrumah Rd. | 80100 | Ksh 800 | Daily 8-6.

New Burhani Bohra Mosque.
The elaborate facade and soaring minaret of this mosque overlook the Old Harbor. Built in 1902, it’s the third mosque to occupy this site. | Buchuma Rd. | 80100

Dominating Moi Avenue are the famous elephant tusks that cross above the roadway. They were erected to commemorate the 1952 visit of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II. Up close, they can be somewhat disappointing, as they are made of aluminum. | Moi Ave. at Uhuru Gardens | 80200.


Blue Room.
$ | INDIAN | Serving the best samosas in Mombasa, this family-owned Indian restaurant has been in business for more than 50 years. It seats 140 people, making it one of the largest restaurants in the city. The menu features more than 65 items of both Western and Indian origin, and its bright clean interior with tiled floors and plenty of chairs and tables keeps people coming. The curries and Indian vegetarian dishes are especially good, as are the tasty snacks. Try the samosas, kebabs, or even fish-and-chips. There’s also an ice-cream parlor. You’ll find a cybercafé inside, where you can send an e-mail back home. You’ll need a Ksh5 coin to use the bathroom. | Average main: $10 | Intersection of Haile Selassie Rd. and Digo Rd. | 80100 | 011/222-4021 |

Hunter’s Steak House.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | This small, intimate international restaurant is one of Mombasa’s best and very popular with foreign visitors and Mombasa’s expatriates. With trophy animals mounted on the walls, the place resembles a hunting lodge. Although it serves a wide range of dishes including excellent seafood and venison, Hunter’s is best known for its mouthwatering steaks and homemade desserts like apple pie. It’s also a good place to stop for a cold beer. | Average main: $22 | Mkomani Rd., Nyali | 80100 | 041/474-759 | No credit cards | 3-7 pm; closed Tues.

$$$$ | SEAFOOD | What the Carnivore restaurant does for meat in Nairobi, this fine restaurant does for seafood in Mombasa. A 15-minute drive from downtown and a welcome house cocktail—a dawa made of lime, vodka, honey, and crushed ice—will introduce you to a memorable meal and unforgettable experience. Overlooking a creek flowing into the sea, the restaurant is designed like an old Moorish palace with fountains, high arches, and tiled floors. If you love seafood, you’ll be in heaven. You can also take a lunch- or dinner-dhow cruise ($80 for a set menu) around Tudor Creek and soak up some sun and sea air by day, or watch the moon rise over Mombasa Old Town by night, as soft Swahili music makes the food and wine go down even better. | Average main: $60 | Silo Rd., Nyali | 80100 | 041/447-4600 | | 3-7 pm.

Castle Royal Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | Originally built in 1919, this white, old colonial building is in Mombasa’s town center only a short distance away from the old town and Fort Jesus. Rooms are small but comfortable with wrought-iron bed heads, colorful soft furnishings, and big picture windows. Front rooms have a balcony. The Long Bar, reminiscent of the cool, colonnaded colonial bars of Singapore and India, is a great place for a drink as you watch the sun set, and there’s a good terrace restaurant. Pros: the central location is unbeatable; rooms have fridges. Cons: some of the rooms are very noisy; there’s hot water in the mornings and evenings only. | Rooms from: $130 | Moi St., Central Mombasa | 80100 | 0720/843-072, 0735/339-920 | | 68 rooms | Multiple meal plans.

The Serena Beach Hotel and Spa.
$$ | RESORT | This gorgeous resort at Shanzu Beach was built to resemble a 13th-century Arab town. A visit here will transport you to another time and place with its courtyards brimming with fountains, narrow twisty lanes and hand-carved balconies. Spacious rooms have an old Arab ambience with hand-carved wooden furniture and hand-woven rugs. Set in lush tropical gardens next to an improbably blue sea, you won’t have to leave home to enjoy a full-on beach holiday. Food is excellent with lots of fresh fish, seafood, and vegetables flown in daily. There’s plenty to do here, including day excursions to Shimba Hills National Park, the Arabuko Sokoke forest, the Kipepeo Butterfly Farm, or the haunted ruins of the ancient town of Gedi. There are all manner of water activities available, too, but a trip in a glass-bottomed boat to the nearby coral reef is a must. Pros: there’s a free daily shuttle to Mombasa town; the spa is good. Cons: the resort has a serious monkey problem; Internet is not free. | Rooms from: $385 | Shanzu Beach | 050/22059, 020/284-2000 | | 164 rooms | Some meals.


Kenya’s coast south of Mombasa has some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. The highway from Mombasa runs all the way to the Tanzania border, providing easy access to a string of resorts.

Getting Here and Around

Most people fly into Mombasa’s Moi International Airport and make their way down the coast by taxi, rental car, or hotel shuttle. There’s an airstrip at Ukunda for charter flights. You must take the Likoni Ferry to travel south of Mombasa. Two ferries run simultaneously, departing about 20 minutes apart, with fewer departures late in the day and in the evening. Vehicles are charged by length, usually about Ksh90 per car. Pedestrians ride free. Matatus leave the city center (in front of the post office) on a regular basis down to the ferry terminal.

Money Matters

Barclay’s Bank has an ATM in Ukunda.


If you take a taxi at night, make sure it delivers you all the way to your destination. Tourist Police officers patrol beaches, but don’t tempt fate by bringing jewelry, cameras, or cash. Women shouldn’t walk alone on the beach.

If you’re walking from Tiwi to Diani, consult the tidal chart beforehand. A creek that you must swim across at high tide is known as “Panga Point.”

Drink plenty of bottled water and wear sunscreen. It’s a good idea to wear a thick T-shirt to protect your back from sunburn when snorkeling.


The city code for Diani Beach and the surrounding communities is 040. If you’re calling from outside Kenya, drop the “0” in the city code.


Diani Beach.
Once a true tropical Eden with gorgeous weather and equally gorgeous scenery this 20-km (12-mile) stretch of sand, 30 km (19 miles) south of Mombasa, is the most developed along the southern coast. One reason that it’s so popular is that the reef filters out the seaweed, so the sandy shores are truly pristine. If you stay in one of the private cottages, local fishermen will take your order and deliver lobsters and other delicacies of the deep to your door. Best for: snorkeling, sunrise, walking, windsurfing. Amenities: food and drink, watersports | Mombasa | 80401.

Just 60 km (37 miles) south of Diani, on the tip of a peninsula known for its excellent deep-sea fishing you’ll find the village of Shimoni, which means “place of the holes.” Ocean currents dug out a maze of coral caves, one of them 11 km (7 miles) long. This catacomb was used as an underground tunnel for loading slaves onto dhows. You can see iron shackles that still remain on the cave walls. There is no beach here, but you can take a dhow from here to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park. Best for: fishing. Amenities: none.


Kaya Kinondo.
If you’re in the Diani Beach area, be sure to spend an hour or two exploring the Kaya Kinondo forest. This Unesco World Heritage site has been sacred territory for the Digo people for centuries. You’ll need to walk with a guide, who will tell you about the beliefs and ceremonies held here, as well as the medicinal and culinary uses of the plants growing in the forest which, although only 75 acres, is said to boast 187 species of trees. You’ll also see Colobus and Sykes monkeys, as well as baboons. A walk here is highly recommended. If you have time, ask your guide to show you around the local Digo village, or even to introduce you to the spiritual healer. | 4 km south from the end of the tarmac at Diani Beach | Diani Beach | | Ksh800.

Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park.
A few miles off the coast, this 39-square-km national park is known for its beautiful coral gardens. Staghorn, brain, mushroom, and pencil are just a few of the more than 40 varieties of coral that have been identified. And more than 250 species of fish have been spotted feeding around the reef, including butterfly fish, parrot fish, and angelfish. Humpback dolphins are a common sight, as are big schools of bonitos and frigate mackerels. The entire protected area, just past Wasini Island, is in shallow water and can be easily reached by motor boat or dhow. You can arrange a day-trip from boat captains at the dock in Shimoni. | 40 km from Ukunda | Shimoni | 80409 | | $20.

Wasini Island.
Take a walk to the ancient Arab settlement near the modern village of Wasini Island. Here you’ll find the ruins of 18th- and 19th-century houses and a Muslim pillar tomb inset with Chinese porcelain. If you’re into snorkeling or diving, make this a definite stop. You can book an excursion or hire a motorboat from Ksh 1,500 to Ksh 3,000 one-way. Remember to dress respectfully when walking around the village. | 1 km (½ mile) from Shimoni | 80409 | 040/320-3154 |


African Pot.
$ | AFRICAN | This relaxed beachfront restaurant, made of thatch and wood, is in front of the Coral Beach cottages, 300 meters (984 feet) north of Ukunda junction, Diani Beach. It serves excellent Swahili food, including the traditional ugali—which some say is the inspiration for grits—greens, and gumbo. Live African music is occasionally featured here. | Average main: $8 | Near entrance to Coral Beach Cottages | Diani | 80401 | 072/234-6155 | | No credit cards.

Ali Barbour’s Cave.
$$$$ | INTERNATIONAL | You can dine in a naturally formed cave deep underground or on an outdoor terrace at this popular seafood restaurant, where the experience and location outweigh the meal. You can’t go wrong with the crab salad marinated with lemon and chilies. You can also dine on French food. There is a shuttle bus that will pick up people staying in the Diani Beach area. | Average main: $50 | Diani Beach Rd. | Diani Beach | 80401 | 040/320-2033 | | Reservations essential.


It may seem odd that there are no addresses listed for the hotels in this section, but this is the norm. Most of the hotels and resorts are located on one or two roads running parallel to the beach. The properties aren’t usually numbered, so landmarks are used to guide people instead. Everyone knows where all the places are, so you don’t need to instruct a taxi driver with specific details.

Alfajiri Beach Villa.
$$$$ | RESORT | Built of stone and thatch, these luxurious double-story villas are elegantly furnished with the wit and style you would expect of owner and host Marika Molinaro, one of Kenya’s top interior designers. You can choose between the Garden Villa, the Cliff Villa, or the Beach Villa (book months in advance for the latter) where Marika has put together handmade furniture—made on the property—and comfortable beds, chairs, and sofas that complement her husband Fabricio’s global collection of fascinating artifacts. Each villa has four en-suite bedrooms with extra rooms for the kids, wide balconies and verandas, and a geometric-shape pool that borders the Indian Ocean. The service is superb and so is the à la carte Mediterranean cuisine, served either alfresco or in your villa. Go for a safari, enjoy all the beach and water activities, or leave the kids with a nanny and be alone for a while. Each villa sleeps eight, and even if there are only two of you you need to book the entire villa. Pros: daily menus are tailored to your preferences; villas have private pools. Cons: the beach next to the hotel is not great for swimming; you may find you don’t use all the included activities, such as golf, gym, and yoga. | Rooms from: $1400 | Diani Beach Rd. | 040/320-2630, 0722/727-876 | | 3 villas | All meals.

Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa.
$$ | RESORT | This luxurious resort will make sure you get the best out of your beach break. There are stylishly decorated, well-equipped rooms each with a balcony or terrace, all the sporting and entertainment facilities you could wish for, and 300 meters (984 feet) of lovely palm-fringed beachfront. Choose a garden room overlooking lush greenery and flowering plants, or a deluxe room with its own Jacuzzi. Fresh delicious food is served at two restaurants including an Asian one. Or pig out on mouthwatering oven-fresh goodies from the pastry shop. There’s a huge range of activities from tennis, squash, pool, and table tennis, to water skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, and sailing. A ride in a glass-bottomed boat out to the coral reef is mandatory. Don’t pass up the chance to get a massage at the Maya Spa. At the end of the day watch a movie in the state-of-the-art cinema, or try your luck in the glitzy casino. There’s a great kids’ program that will entertain the tots while you do your own thing. Pros: the staff are extremely friendly; organized activities are good. Cons: wine and Internet use is expensive; resident monkeys can be annoying. | Rooms from: $280 | Diani Beach Rd. | 073/320-2723, 073/478-6304 | | 143 rooms | Some meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Kinondo Kwetu.
$$$$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | One of Kenya’s finest boutique resorts, Kinondo Kwetu was built in an idyllic beachfront location in a section of sacred forest. Tribal elders advised on the layout so that the most important trees—ancient baobabs included—were preserved, adding a certain spirituality to this exclusive and spacious retreat. The exquisitely appointed suites are thoughtfully orientated, facing either the sea or one of the two swimming pools, to ensure maximum privacy. Owned by distant relatives of Karen Blixen, Kinondo Kwetu offers a very personal “Out of Africa” experience, while the thoughtful decor and original African artefacts continually transport you to fascinating parts of the continent. All around the property—along the beach and in alcoves in the extensive gardens—you’ll find daybeds and loungers inviting you to soak up the serene atmosphere. Pros: dinner can be served in a variety of romantically secluded locations, so you need never eat in the same place twice; there are a variety of activities, including yoga and horseback riding on the beach. Cons: the beach is swimmable only at high tide. | Rooms from: $920 | Diani Beach Rd., Kinondo | Diani Beach | 80401 | 071/089-8030 | | 7 suites, 4 cottages, and 1 villa | All-inclusive.


Malindi, the country’s second-largest coastal town, is 120 km (75 miles) north of Mombasa and has been an important port for hundreds of years. In ancient Chinese documents, “Ma Lin De” is referred to as a stop on the trade route. The town battled with Mombasa for control of the coast, which explains why Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama received such a warm welcome when he landed here in 1498 but was given the cold shoulder in Mombasa. The Vasco da Gama Cross, made from Portuguese stone, sits on a promontory on the southern tip of the bay. Malindi has become very much an Italian holiday destination, and although it’s laid-back, it has a somewhat seedy atmosphere, and sex tourism is rife. That being said, the beaches are picture-postcard-perfect, with white sand and coconut palms, and there are some good restaurants in the town and some excellent resort hotels. Old Town is a great place to hunt for colorful fabrics, antiques, and sandals, and the beach is clean and attractive, although it does get a bit seaweedy in spring. Malindi has two nearby parks, Malindi Marine National Park and Watamu Marine National Reserve. These are marine parks, where you can watch fish and coral from a glass-bottom boat or snorkel, but the collection or destruction of shells is strictly forbidden. It also offers deep-sea fishing and other water sports. It’s an easy place to get around because there are lots of tuk tuks (auto rickshaw) and boda bodas (bicycle taxis), which are everywhere day and night.

Getting Here and Around

Kenya Airways and Fly540 fly to Malindi frequently.

Taxis are inexpensive. The drivers are friendly and helpful and will wait or return to collect you if you ask. There are lots of tuk tuks, and although the journey can be bumpy, they’re an easy and inexpensive way to get around town.

Money Matters

In Malindi, there are several ATMs dotted around the town.


The best way to see Malindi is on foot, but you shouldn’t walk around at night. If you take a taxi at night, make sure it delivers you all the way to the door of your destination. Purse snatchers are all too common.


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Jamaa Mosque.
The 14th-century tombs beside this mosque are among the oldest in Malindi. It was here in the 1800s that slaves were auctioned weekly until 1873. | Near Uhuru Park | 80200.

Malindi Marine Park.
Home to an impressive variety of colorful coral, you’ll find two main reefs here that are separated by a deep sandy-bottom channel. There’s very little commercial fishing in the area, which means the kingfish found here are trophy size. The water ranges from 25°C (77°F) to 29°C (84°F), making this a particularly pleasant place to snorkel or scuba dive. If you want to stay dry, try one of the glass-bottom boats, although visibility is not very good from January to March. | Offshore from Malindi | 80200 | | US$15 entry fee | Dawn-dusk.

Malindi Museum.
Delve into some of Malindi’s fascinating history at this museum, which was once the home of a 19th-century trader. You’ll find it on the seafront near the Malindi jetty and the fish market. It has temporary exhibitions and also serves as a visitor information center. | Vasco da Gama Rd. | 042/31479 | | Ksh 500 | Daily 8-6.


Baby Marrow.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Malindi’s fine-dining option is, naturally, Italian owned, so you’ll be able to sample prosciutto e melone, pizzas, and a variety of pastas (including baby marrow [zucchini] ravioli) alongside such seafood dishes as ginger and black-pepper crab, jumbo prawns, and lobster. Seating is under an attractive thatched roof, and it’s rather romantic at night. | Average main: $27 | Vasco da Gama Rd. | 80200 | 072/758-1682 | No credit cards.

The Baobab Restaurant.
$ | CAFÉ | Eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner or just have a beer or juice at this friendly, cheerful restaurant. There’s a choice of soup, burgers, pasta, grills, steak, and seafood. The fish curry is particularly tasty, and there is a good selection of African dishes. | Average main: $7 | Vasco da Gama Rd. | 80200 | 072/282-9867 | No credit cards.

I Love Pizza.
$ | PIZZA | Overlooking the bay, this place is famous for its, you guessed it, pizza, although there is a good selection of sophisticated seafood dishes, such as kingfish carpaccio with horseradish, and risotto with clams, prawns, and squid. The calamari salad is excellent. | Average main: $7 | Vasco da Gama Rd. | 80200 | 042/20672 | No credit cards.

The Old Man and the Sea.
$ | AFRICAN | Near the fishing jetty, this stylish former Arab house is known as one of the best places in town for its fresh seafood. Try the marinated prawns wrapped in smoked sailfish, a Malindi specialty, or the red snapper with a champagne sauce. | Average main: $8 | Vasco da Gama Rd. | 80200 | 042/213-1106.


Rates can be very high in season—June through October—but prices drop dramatically off-season. It’s best to stick to lodging near the beach as downtown gets noisy, isn’t always safe, and accommodations can be squalid.

Diamonds Dream of Africa.
$$$ | RESORT | There are four Planhotels stretched out in a row down this part of the coast, and their five-star resort, Diamonds Dream of Africa, is the jewel in the crown—the perfect place for a honeymoon or some après-safari pampering. Service is excellent, with welcome little touches, such as a cocktail brought to your room before dinner and a bottle of cold water placed next to your bed at night. Stylish suites, with Indonesian teak furniture, flat-screen TVs, large bathrooms, and private patios, are lined along a breezy coral-colored central walkway. Superb four-course meals are served in the restaurant overlooking the pool and beach. The Neptune buffets, with all conceivable seafood delicacy on display, are outstanding, and on Fridays there are gala dinners around the pool with live music. The reception areas are a bit impersonal, reminding you that the hotel is part of a chain, but the service and attention to detail is equal to that of a smaller boutique hotel. Pros: there are only 35 rooms; all alcohol except premium brands included. Cons: the beds are a little hard; rooms do not look out onto the ocean. | Rooms from: $486 | Casuarina Rd. | 80200 | 020/268-2229 | | 35 rooms | All meals.

Driftwood Club.
$ | HOTEL | In an attractive garden, these Swahili-style individual bandas, each with a thatch roof and small veranda, are seconds away from the pool and beach. The rooms, which have cool white tiled floors, colorful cushions and bedspreads, and sturdy wooden furniture, are in need of an update, but the bar and restaurant area is comfortable and attractive. The staff, always eager to see to your needs, can arrange for any type of water sports. The restaurant serves reasonably priced seafood, and the pub is a gathering place for many expats living in the area. If you’ve always wanted to dive, the club will set up lessons for you; it also caters to experienced divers. The hotel is a favourite with sports fishermen. There are some private villas ideal for larger groups and families. TIP Ask for a banda directly facing the sea. Pros: right on the beach; rooms have good a/c. Cons: rooms are a bit basic for a hotel in this price range; use of the in-room safe is extra; some bandas look out onto the walkway so are not very private. | Rooms from: $249 | 3 km (2 miles) south of Malindi | 042/212-0155, 0721/724-489 | | 37 rooms | Breakfast.

Kilili Baharini Resort and Spa.
$$ | RESORT | This elegant resort, much favored by Italians, is in large grounds amid a profusion of tropical flowering plants 4 km (2½ miles) from Malindi. Spacious airy rooms, mostly decorated in white, have classy antique furniture, complemented by the dark browns of the rugs, bedspreads, and lamps. A private furnished veranda looks out onto the pool where your breakfast is served each morning. Even the Romans hardly had it so good. The cuisine is international, with delicious seafood dishes. Pros: rooms have air-conditioning; there are five pools. Cons: lunch is buffet only; airport transfers not included. | Rooms from: $300 | Casuarina Rd. | 042/212-1264 | | 29 rooms, 6 suites | Closed May-July | Multiple meal plans.

Sandies Tropical Village.
$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | This extensive seafront resort, three kilometers from Malindi, has spacious thatched or beamed rooms and suites, all of which have sizable verandas opening onto lush gardens. A range of activities are on offer, including a number of watersports, and there’s a kids’ club, disco, large pool, and two comfortable TV areas. Other facilities, including a gym and spa, are available (for a fee) at Diamonds Dream of Africa, the five-star resort next door. Pros: each room has a minibar fridge; if you’re in a suite, there’s a free laundry service and room service for breakfast. Cons: no sea-facing rooms; pool area can be noisy; public beach is overserviced by beach vendors. | Rooms from: $236 | Casuarina Rd. | Malindi | 80200 | 072/060-7075, 073/595-5666 | | 109 rooms | All-inclusive.

Scorpio Villas.
$ | HOTEL | The thatch-roof rooms of this hotel are filled with handcrafted furniture such as huge Zanzibar beds, and day couches are scattered around the exotic gardens of this resort near the Vasco da Gama Cross. The buffet meals have a wide selection of dishes, and staff are friendly and eager to please. There are three pools, and the beach is a short walk down a narrow path. Pros: the half-board option allows you to choose lunch or dinner; rooms have fridges. Cons: use of the safe is extra; payment by cash only. | Rooms from: $95 | Harambee Rd. | 80200 | 042/212-0194 | | 45 villas | No credit cards | Some meals.


Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001, Lamu Old Town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Some 260 km (162 miles) north of Mombasa—and just two degrees below the Equator—Lamu is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel that’s fringed with thick mangroves protected from the sea by coral reefs and huge sand dunes. Visit this tiny town and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. Winding narrow alleyways lead past the ornate carved doorways and coral walls of magnificent merchant houses to the bustling waterfront. Life goes on much as it did when Lamu was a thriving port town in the 8th century; there are no cars (all transport and heavy lifting is by donkey), and more than 1,000 years of East African, Omani, Yemeni, Indian, and Portuguese influences have resulted in a unique mix of cultures, reflected in the faces of its inhabitants as well as the architecture and cuisine. A stronghold of Islam for many centuries, you’ll see men in kofias (traditional caps that Muslims wear) and khanzus (white caftanlike robes) and women in bui-buis (black veils). Some merchant houses have been converted into gorgeous boutique hotels, and rooftop restaurants offer abundant, fresh seafood for very little.

The island is roughly divided into two parts: Lamu Town, in the south, and Shela, a smaller, quieter village in the north and next to the beach. Some visitors split their holiday between staying on both sides of the island, or you could opt to stay on Manda Island or in farther flung hotels on the far northern or southern edges. You can walk between Lamu Town and Shela in about 45 minutes; a popular option is to walk one way and take a boat back. The beach offers 13 km (8 miles) of unspoiled coastline.

It’s very easy to relax into the pole-pole (“slowly” in Swahili) pace of life in Lamu, spending hours on the beach or on your hotel terrace reading a book and sipping a delicious fresh fruit juice. There’s plenty for the energetic to do here, however: you can go windsurfing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, and, if you’re lucky, see pods of wild dolphins or turtles laying their eggs (or the eggs hatching) in the sand. You can also take a dhow cruise to visit ruins on Pate and Manda islands.

Tourism hasn’t made much of an impact on Lamu, and that’s what makes it so special.

Getting Here and Around

Flights land on Manda Island, and a speedboat takes about 10 minutes to get to Lamu (your hotel will pick you up). Lamu is a very easy town to get around because it’s so small. The cobbled streets are laid out in a grid fashion with the main street—known simply as Main Street—running parallel to the harbor.

Kenya Airways has daily flights from Nairobi. AirKenya has frequent flights to Lamu and Kiwayu from Nairobi, Mombasa, and Malindi. It also offers hops from Lamu to Kiwayu. Fly540 flies here from Nairobi and Malindi.

Most hotels can arrange for a trip by dhow between Lamu and Shela. Find out the going price from your accommodation and confirm with the captain before setting out.

Festivals and Seasonal Events

The Maulidi festival, marking the birth of Muhammad, has been celebrated on Lamu for more than a century. Dhow races, poetry readings, and other events take place around the town’s main mosques. Maulidi, which takes place in the spring, attracts pilgrims from all over Kenya. The three-day Lamu Cultural Festival takes place each November and offers a unique insight into island life. The event showcases traditional dance, handicraft displays, and music and theater performances from both local and visiting artists.


The best way to see Lamu and Shela is on foot, and it’s safe to walk in the villages at night. However, locals caution against walking between Lamu and Shela after dark.


The area code for Lamu is 042. If you’re calling Lamu from outside Kenya, dial the country code, 254, the area code, 42, and the local number.


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Donkey Sanctuary.
Donkeys are the main transport in Lamu. The sanctuary was started in 1987 by Elisabeth Svendsen, a British doctor who founded The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK. Its main function is to protect and look after the working donkeys, and it’s managed by the Kenyan branch of the charity. There’s a treatment clinic where locals can get their donkeys wormed, a training center, and a resting place for a few of the old animals that can no longer work. If you don’t want to go inside, you can eyeball a few donkeys over the low wall in front of the yard. An annual prize is given to the Lamu donkey in the best physical condition. | Harambee Rd.,Mkomani Location | | Donations accepted | Weekdays 7 am-2 pm, then 3-5.

Jumaa Mosque.
Located in the north of the town, just off Harambee Avenue, Jumaa is the second oldest mosque in Lamu. It dates from 1511, and was used up until the late 1800s for trading slaves. | Off Harambee Ave. | 80500.

Kiwayu Island.
This strip of sand is 50 km (31 miles) northeast of Lamu. The main attraction of Kiwayu Island is its proximity to Kiunga Marine National Reserve, a marine park encompassing Kiwayu Bay. The confluence of two major ocean currents creates unique ecological conditions that nurture three marine habitats—mangroves, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs. Here you have a chance of catching a glimpse of the most endangered mammal in Kenya, the manatee. Because of its tasty flesh, this gentle giant has been hunted to near extinction all along Africa’s eastern coast. The best way to get here is to charter a dhow from Lamu. If you can muster a group of six people, it should cost you about US$15-US$20 per person including food, water, and snorkeling equipment. Otherwise, your lodge or hotel will arrange the trip for you; it’s 90 minutes by speedboat.

Lamu Fort.
This imposing edifice, which was completed in 1821, is set one street away from the seafront. It was used as a prison from 1910 to 1984, when it became part of the country’s museum system. Today, it is a central part of the town as it hosts conferences, exhibits, and theater productions. If you have a few moments, climb up to the battlements for some great views of Lamu, and pop into the vegetable and meat markets, which are just to the left of the fort. If you see a man pressing sugarcane, limes, and ginger to make juice, buy a glass—it’s delicious. | Main St. | 80500 | | Ksh 500 (one ticket will get you admission to both the fort and Lamu Museum) | Daily 8-6.

Lamu Museum.
You enter the museum through a brass-studded door that was imported from Zanzibar. Inside there are archaeological displays showing the Takwa Ruins excavations, some wonderful photos of Lamu taken by a French photographer from 1846 to 1849 (you’ll be amazed at how little has changed in Lamu), some intricately carved Lamu headboards and throne chairs, and a library. In the Balcony Room upstairs is a fascinating display of musical instruments including the famed Siwa Horn, which is made of brass and resembles elephant tusks; the Pate Siwa horn, made of ivory, is now in Nairobi Museum. Dating from the 17th-century, they’re reputed to be the oldest surviving musical instruments in sub-Saharan Africa. | Seafront | 80500 | | Ksh 500 | Daily 8-6.

Manda Island.
Just across the channel from Shela, the mostly uninhabited Manda Island once held one of the area’s largest cities. The once-thriving community of Takwa was abandoned in the 17th century, and archaeologists have yet to discover why. Reached by taking a dhow up a baobab tree-lined creek, the ruins are a popular day-trip from Lamu and Shela. | 10 min by boat from Lamu | 80500.

Swahili House Museum.
This beautifully restored Swahili merchant’s house has original period furniture. Notice the traditional beds with woven bases of rope, and the finely carved Kalinda screen in the main room. There’s a garden full of flowering tropical shrubs and trees and the original well. | Off Main St. | 80500 | | Ksh 500 | Daily 8-6.


Bush Gardens.
$ | SEAFOOD | Service isn’t the fastest in the world at this lively waterfront eatery, but it’s worth waiting for the delicious seafood and fresh fish—definitely try the tuna, baracuda, or snapper. Entrées are served with coconut rice or french fries. If you stop by for breakfast, make sure to sample the fresh fruit juices. | Average main: $7 | Seafront, south of the main jetty | 80500 | 071/493-4804 | No credit cards | Daily 7 am-10 pm.

Hapa Hapa.
$ | SEAFOOD | With a name that is Swahili for “Here, Here,” Hapa Hapa is known for its outstanding seafood. Make sure to try the barracuda. This restaurant is on the waterfront, making it a great spot to watch the fishing boats heading out into the Indian Ocean. | Average main: $8 | Seafront | 80500 | 042/463-3589, 072/277-3926 | No credit cards.

Whispers Coffee Shop.
$ | CAFÉ | Located in the same building as the Baraka Gallery (which has a wonderful collection of African art, jewelry, and souvenirs for sale), this upscale café has a pretty, quiet courtyard where you can relax over a cappuccino. There’s also a lunch and dinner menu, focusing on salads, pastas, and deli items, or you can order a packed lunch to take away. The homemade ice creams are good. | Average main: $8 | Main St. | 80500 | 042/463-2024 | No credit cards | Closed May & June.


Most of the restaurants and hotels in Lamu town are along the seafront or the road parallel to it, called Main Road. The locals are very helpful, and if you take a guided tour of the town, which is highly recommended, you’ll soon have oriented yourself.

Fatuma’s Tower.
$ | HOTEL | Set against the dunes in little Shela village, Fatuma’s Tower is a beautiful, cool, calm escape from the narrow alleys of the village. The magical homestead was built in the late 1990s on crumbling ruins, and looks like it’s been there for centuries. Bougainvillea clamber up the concrete walls, and a giant tortilis acacia watches over the back garden, where healthy, fresh-cooked meals are served in its shade. A big drawcard for staying at Fatuma’s Tower is its yoga space—owner Gillies Turle teaches very accessible classes every afternoon. The homestead is a five-minute walk through Shela to the beach. Pros: there’s a cook who can do your food shopping and preparation of all meals; it’s extremely peaceful and there’s total serenity beyond the sound of motorboat engines. Cons: mosquities can occassionally be a problem (there’s no malaria in the area). | Rooms from: $95 | Shela | 80500 | 072/227-7138 | | 10 rooms | Some meals.

Kijani Hotel.
$ | B&B/INN | While hotels such as Lamu House and Peponi boast decor straight out of the pages of a glossy style magazine, Kijani House, located in right on the waterfront in Shela, represents a more low-key, old-fashioned style of Swahili living. Rooms are in three converted Arab merchant houses grouped around a pretty central garden with swimming pool and are furnished with antiques sourced in Lamu and Zanzibar. There are high Swahili beds with colorful kikoi bedspreads, woven mats, and charming shutters over the windows. Although the rooms don’t have any amenities, there’s a tranquil, relaxed air to the place; all rooms have a safe, and free Wi-fi. The hotel can arrange excellent dhow trips and tours of Lamu town. Pros: rooms look out onto the waterfront; the hotel is five minutes’ walk from the beach. Cons: can get hot at night. | Rooms from: $25 | Shela | 80500 | 020/243-5700, 0725/545-264 | | 11 rooms | Closed May-June | Breakfast.

Kipungani Explorer.
$$$$ | HOTEL | On the southern tip of Lamu Island, this lodge is for anyone who’s looking for a truly secluded getaway. The immense thatch and reed bandas—a half-hour trip by speedboat from Lamu and just a stone’s throw from the gentle Indian Ocean—feel removed from the rest of the world. If you want, you can do nothing more than lie on the swing beds for hours at a time, but for the more energetic there’s snorkeling (your chances of seeing dolphins are pretty high), kayaking, crab catching, and creek fishing. A model of responsible community development, the hotel has a close relationship with the nearby village (both staff and materials are sourced from it). A visit is a delightful experience, as you’ll meet all the locals as they go about their daily lives and visit the clinic and school. The staff are friendly and engaging and are happy to teach you how to play bue, a traditional Swahili game, or mix you up a delicious cocktail before dinner. Pros: the hotel’s engagement with the local community; the sunsets from the swimming pool. Cons: electricity is on only 8 am to noon and 6 pm to midnight; full-board option only. | Rooms from:$650 | Kipungani | 80500 | 020/444-6651, 020/444-7929 | | 12 cottages | Breakfast.

Kiwayu Safari Village.
$$$$ | RESORT | Fifty kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Lamu you’ll find one of the most romantic destinations in Kenya. The village is a collection of thatch-roof bandas that face the northern tip of Kiwayu Island. The cottages are vast, with views of the lagoon from the hammocks hanging on the private verandas. For dinner, sample local delicacies such as giant mangrove crabs or sweet rock oysters. The area is known for its deep-sea fishing—record-setting sailfish, marlin, and tuna have been caught here. The hotel is very near the Kiunga Marine National Reserve, where coral reefs offer great snorkeling. Book far in advance for holidays. In addition to the per-person, per-day rate, expect to pay a $30 per-day conservation fee. Pros: the bandas are beautifully furnished; there are great water-sport activities on offer. Cons: no swimming pool; trips to Lamu are extra. | Rooms from: $700 | Kiwayu Island | 80500 | 020/600-9414, 020/600-891 | | 18 cottages | Closed end Apr.-mid-July.

Lamu House.
$$ | HOTEL | The rooms in this boutique hotel, located next to the Donkey Sanctuary on Lamu’s waterfront, are all different, but each one is superbly decorated in traditional Swahili style and has a separate dressing room and a terrace looking out either onto the water or the town. The communal areas in the inside courtyard of the hotel are comfortable and tranquil, and there are two pools for cooling off. Don’t miss the boutique attached to the hotel, which sells gorgeous soft kikois, sandals, bags and kaftans. The hotel’s restaurant, Moonrise, is open to non-guests and is one of the best in town. You can order fish of the day steamed in a banana leaf or pan-fried with a tamarind sauce, or lobster, tuna, sailfish, pasta, chicken curry or a good vegetarian dal. Pros: each room has a fridge; there’s are free boats to shuttle you to Shela Beach; breakfast is available all day. Cons: it can be noisy as it’s in the center of town; if narrow, steep staircases are a problem for you, request a ground-level room. | Rooms from: $273 | Seafront | 80500 | 072/060-4048, 073/587-4428 | | 10 rooms | Breakfast.

The Majlis.
$$$$ | RESORT | The rooms in this spectacular hotel are in three villas, and as each has a sitting room with white couches, antique Swahili furniture, and African paintings and sculptures, you’ll feel as though you’re staying in an ultrastylish private beach house. Two of the villas have swimming pools in front, and all look out onto the beach. Rooms are large with spacious en-suite bathrooms, and the Royal Suite has magnificent views and antiques. The whole property suggests a designer with a gifted eye for detail. The food is excellent, with a focus on seafood, and because the owner is Italian, there’s always a pasta course. Nonguests can book for lunch or dinner, and it’s worth making the short trip here from Lamu just to immerse yourself in the surroundings. Pros: unforgettable dhow sunset cruises; an excellent beach; rooms have air-conditioning. Cons: trips to Lamu aren’t included; alcohol isn’t included in the full-board option. | Rooms from: $850 | 020/261-7496, 0718/195-499 | | 25 rooms | All meals.

Manda Bay.
$$$ | RESORT | At high tide, you can dive right off your veranda into the ocean; at low tide, a lovely strand of beach appears in front of your room. The natural rhythms of sun and sea often guide your activities at this secluded resort on Manda Island. If the breezes are strong, you may choose an afternoon of kitesurfing. If the evening light is particularly sharp, perhaps you’ll take a short boat ride to witness thousands of iridescent-red, Carmine bee-eater birds glowing in the trees like ornaments. Schedule a private game drive and stand under a giant baobab tree, explore Takwa ruins, and see abundant wildlife. Or simply lie in your hammock and listen to the gentle surf, then stroll to the waterfront lounge for cocktails. Eleven of the sixteen large bandas (cottages) are on the beach, and each has elegant coastal-style wood furnishings and enormous bathrooms with double sinks and grand showers. There are multiple recreational options from dhow safaris to waterskiing, but most of all, Manda Bay is a place to enjoy relaxed, barefoot luxury. Pros: truly a private island getaway; boutique-hotel amenities with laid-back feel; fantastic for both honeymooners and families. Cons: music from the bar can be heard in cottages near the main area. | Rooms from: $600 | Manda Island | 020/211-5453 | | 16 rooms | All meals.

Peponi Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | Peponi’s is well known for its beachfront location in Shela, lovely accommodations, and superb food. Opened in 1967 and still run by the founding Korschen family, there’s an atmosphere of total laid-back charm. Anything goes here, but don’t be fooled, the hotel is impeccably run and organizes everything from your water sports to your day excursions. You’ll sleep in a sea-facing room with polished honey-color mud floors, whitewashed ceilings with beams of old black wood, a massive four-poster bed and kelim rugs. On your sea-facing veranda, get comfortable on lie-out chairs and watch the boats bobbing out to sea. The food is legendary. There are no bells and whistles, just simply cooked food that’s fresh—try the giant prawns in butter sauce. If you want to go for something other than seafood, eat Swahili-style as you sit round a big brass platter on the floor. Pros: only hotel guests get seating on the outside balcony at dinner; you can sleep with the sea-facing windows and doors open (guards are on duty all night). Cons: drinks are not included in the full-board option. | Rooms from: $280 | Seafront, Shela | 020/802-3655, 072/220-3082 | | 29 rooms | Closed May and June | Some meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Red Pepper House.
$$ | RESORT | Guests here are practically doted on from the moment they cross the threshold of this architecturally stunning beachfront property. After a warm greeting by manager David Morgan and his gracious staff, your personal valet escorts you to your exclusive nyumba (house). These superb accommodations are simply some of the most integrative spaces imaginable, uniting open-air splendor and private luxury under one makuti (thatched) roof. The living area, adorned with the same artisanal Swahili furniture that’s found throughout the property, spreads to a veranda overlooking a private beach garden and enclosed outdoor shower. Relax island-style and stroll your personal grounds wearing your complimentary kikoy wrap. Schedule your meals whenever and wherever—poolside, on the beach, on a dhow—you like, and you’ll dine on some of the freshest seafood on the island. Fishing boats returning with their daily catch are intercepted by Red Pepper staff before they even reach the market. Pros: flexible scheduling of meals and activities; impeccable personalized service; extensive outdoor and indoor space in each room. Cons: gift shop is small. | Rooms from: $360 | Coconut Beach | 80500 | 020/267-9594, 072/940-6582 | | 9 rooms | All meals.

Stone House Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | This lovely 18th-century house is in the heart of Old Lamu. The large en-suite rooms, decorated with old furniture, wooden beams, and colorful linens, are in need of an update but are nonetheless charming. Cool off in the breezy rooftop restaurant, where you’ll hear the calls to prayer (Muslims pray five times a day) and donkeys braying as you gaze out across the rooftops of the town. If narrow, steep stairways are likely to be a problem, request a room on the lower floors. Pros: staff are very friendly; in the heart of Lamu Town. Cons: slightly overpriced for what, in reality, are relatively basic rooms. | Rooms from: $80 | Off Main Street | 80500 | 042/463-3544 | | 10 rooms, 4 share bathroom | No credit cards | Some meals.

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