Although it is known worldwide for its safari industry, Kenya has much wider appeal than this would suggest. Other highlights include pre-historic excavations, well preserved ruins, cultural diversity, mountains, adventure sports and water sports. There are also a number of unique festivals that take place annually.
Kenya boasts one of the longest and most complete records of man’s cultural development in the world. Excavations in the Tugen Hills near Lake Baringo have exposed some of the earliest fossil beds. Other fascinating sites are found in Sibiloi National Park on the shores of Lake Turkana, at Hyrax Hill and Kariandusi near Nakuru, on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria and at Olorgesaillie near Lake Magadi.
Striking and atmospheric ruins date back to earlier civilisations that flourished during the emergence of the Indian Ocean trade routes. Gede, near Watamu, was at the peak of its prosperity from the 13th to the 17th centuries, then was mysteriously abandoned. Stories abound of ghosts and inexplicable happenings in the area. Takwa, on Manda Island near Lamu, also thrived for centuries before being abandoned in the 17th century. Malindi, Lamu and Mombasa all have Old Towns which are both genuine historic towns and current-day functioning urban centres.
Each of the tribes of Kenya has its own culture and traditions. The Maasai, Kenya’s best known tribe, have a reputation for being warriors, and are recognised worldwide for their vivid red garments and exotic beaded jewellery. The El Molo are the least numerous of Kenya’s tribes, and traditionally hunt fish, crocodile and hippo in Lake Turkana. The nomadic Rendille rely on camels for food, milk, clothing, trade and transport. The coastal Swahili have cultural ties to the Arabs and Persians. The Kalenjin are most famous for producing Kenya’s marathon-winning athletes. A growing number of tour operators offer cultural safaris that include interaction, or volunteer work, with local people.
Kenya boasts two of Africa’s five highest mountains. Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain, offers spectacular trekking and climbing. Mt Elgon, Africa’s fourth highest mountain, also has stunning viewpoints and interesting climbs. Other mountains and hills that offer exciting trekking and walking include Mt Longonot, the Aberdare National Park, the Cherangani hills and Marich Pass.
Adventure tourism is diversifying across the country. White water rafting is offered on both the Tana and Athi Rivers. Rock climbing, camel safaris, horse riding, game bird shooting, caving and fishing are available at a number of places. The coast provides a wealth of water sports, including scuba diving, water skiing, kite surfing, windsurfing and jet skiing.