A farmer at work in Kenya's Mount Kenya region © Neil Palmer
Kenya sits at the centre of the African safari experience, with an outstanding variety of wild animals and Big Five viewing opportunities. Although safaris are its greatest attraction, it is a country of great diversity with much more to offer.
Essentially, it is a place for outdoor living - the coast offers beaches and water-based activities, the mountains present a challenge to hikers and climbers, and the rolling savannahs are a game-viewer's paradise.
The country sits astride the equator, offering fabulous scenery and a variety of tribal cultures. From its central location, the sacred peaks of Mt Kenya reign over a landscape primarily covered by grasslands and thorn trees, much of it enclosed within its many national parks and reserves.
To the west, the spectacular Great Rift Valley is sprinkled with lakes teeming with a variety of birdlife, whose shores and surrounds are traversed by agricultural farmlands. To the east lies the promise of an idyllic beach holiday with the requisite white palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral reefs.
Inhabiting the highlands and Rift Valley are two of the most well-known of the numerous African tribal cultures, the Kikuyu farmers and the tall, red-clad Maasai cattle herders. The coast is home to ancient Swahili civilisations and old port towns that are rich in a history of exotic spice trading and fighting.
Kenya has a sophisticated tourism infrastructure, with two major cities controlling the majority of the tourism trade. Nairobi, the capital, is the safari and hiking hub, situated in the cool Central Highlands, while on the east coast the hot and humid trading port of Mombasa functions as the gateway to the resorts and pristine beaches of the area.
Sadly the heavy influence of tourism has meant excessive prices for safaris, souvenirs, and most activities of interest to foreigners, as well as the constant hassle by touts, guides, and sellers to part with as much money as they can dupe the guilty traveller into spending.
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