Kenya is an equatorial land of mind-blowing landscapes, immense National Parks and a rich tribal culture. Citizen Femme’s guide to getting the best experience in Kenya uncovers it all.
From the sprawling beaches of the country’s Indian Ocean coast to the parched savannahs of the south, it’s an impressive nation to discover. And discovering it authentically makes it all the more memorable. Follow our tips below to make sure your Kenyan adventure is one to remember for all the right reasons.
THE SAFARI PACKING EDIT
It’s not all about the destination
We’re not saying close your eyes, point to a map and pick out a random destination. We’re just saying remember to enjoy the ride too. Whether you’re flying, driving or doing a little bit of both, getting around in Kenya is a total experience in itself.
If you’re heading to Masaai Mara by domestic flight, you’ll appreciate every moment of the journey – especially the giraffes grazing beside the airstrips. There’s something powerful about seeing the vast wilderness from above, extending for miles beyond the horizon, and the tiny planes themselves have safari-style private jet vibes written all over them. What’s not to love! If you’re driving around, you’ll get to see the real Kenya in action – no filters for tourists, just raw, rural, day-to-day life in motion. Try going from Nairobi to Mount Kenya. The ride is about 2.5 hours as opposed to a 45-minute domestic flight, but you’ll get a true feel for the country along the way, if a hit of adrenaline too. Beware: driving in Kenya can certainly be wild.
It’s not all about the animals
Naturally when you think Kenya you think wildlife. You think safaris and the Big Five. You might just find that part of getting the best experience in Kenya is meeting the people, who may make a bigger impression on you than the animals you spot. If you’re in Masaai Mara, make some time between safaris to visit a local village and interact with those who live there. Ask them about their traditions, about why they stretch their ear lobes out or why the men jump. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by their willingness to share their culture and to open their homes.
If you’re elsewhere, try to visit a women’s collective for an inspiring encounter with local entrepreneurial femmes. The Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers (based near Mt. Kenya) for example will show you around their workshop and take you through the steps of creating rather handsome rugs from totally unprocessed wool. While their work is impressive and definitely worthy of some of your wall/floor space back home, it’s the genuine pride and the beaming smiles of these women that make a visit an absolute must. Kenyan hospitality is one of a kind.
Don’t pass on Nairobi
It may not be at the top of your list, but Nairobi is worth a second look, at least before, after and in between your safari adventures. If anything, go for the history – have your Out of Africa moment at Fairmont The Norfolk in the heart of the city, learn all about how Nairobi grew around the hotel, and take the time to process the incredible encounters you’ve had with nature elsewhere in the country. While you’re there, try some gourmet Kenyan cuisine including crispy fried crocodile at the hotel’s Tatu restaurant, and wash it all down with some Kenya Cane, the nation’s very own rum. You can check out Nairobi’s bar scene after dark too
Is there anything worse than wasting an afternoon somewhere that turns out to be a total tourist trap? It’s a sure-fire vacation mood killer and certainly not the best way to spend your time in Kenya – especially when you’re exploring a far-flung destination where you’d like everything to feel undiscovered. We say: be discerning. Do your research and talk to the locals. Do not by any means blindly trust Instagram, *cough* Giraffe Manor *cough*. It’s just one example of many, but when you can see giraffes in the wild do you really want to go see them at a centre designed 100% for tourists? Didn’t think so.
Obvious, we know. A few safari-chic looks et voila. But, it’s actually surprisingly difficult to get it right in Kenya and you don’t want your experience hampered by misplaced wardrobe choices. Don’t be fooled by its position on the equator – yes, things can get sweltering during the day, but as soon as the winds start blowing at dusk you’ll be in desperate need of a few more layers. Don’t forget, popular destinations like Nairobi and Mount Kenya are higher in altitude too, making for colder climes. It’s not much fun feeling freezing so make sure to plan the wardrobe well.
Take a look at our series of influencer packing guides as well as our very own Citizen Femme packing guide for Kenya.