Home to red-robed warriors and caramel-coloured lions, roamed by wildebeest and scarred by the Great Rift Valley, nowhere says ‘Africa’ quite like Kenya. Touchdown in the capital and drink dawas in an expat bar, or gain perspective in the sprawling slums. Visit the busy port of Mombasa and stretch out on a sandy beach, or balloon-ride over the Maasai Mara and peer down on endangered rhinos.
As the largest city in East Africa, there’s plenty going on in Kenya’s sprawling capital. Browse heritage exhibits at the National Museum and tee-off in a golf course, enjoy the expat café culture and feast on barbequed meat. Nairobi National Park is the city's crowning glory, so take a taxi here and look for lions stalking their prey in the grasses, or go gooey-eyed over baby animals at the elephant orphanage.
Step inside the Helen Blixen Museum and learn more about the Out of Africa author. Buzz around the city in a ‘matatus’ minibus and take a tour of the sobering slums. Join joggers, dog walkers and bushbacks in Karura Forest, then visit a colonial-era country club for local Tusker beers or tongue-tingling dawa cocktails.
A train-ride from Nairobi, the holiday hotspot of Mombasa is Kenya’s second biggest city. Smell spices as you stroll through the streets to the muttered chants of a Jain temple. Tuck into a breakfast of maharagwe (beans cooked with coconut) and chapatti, then book a spice boat at the old harbour and sail along the Kenyan coast.
Stretching north of Mombasa are miles of white sand beaches. Fringed by palms and backed by hotels, Nyali is the nearest and the offshore reefs make super snorkelling spots. Visit Kisite Marine National Park to swim with dolphins and dive with rainbow-coloured fish, or track sable antelope in Shimba Hills Reserve. Visit Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary to find some big-eared friends or set sail on a dhow and go-slow on Wasini Island.
Prepare for a spectacle of epic proportions in this world-renowned national park. Take a game drive past the acacia trees and keep your eyes peeled for the Big Five. Walk through the bush or float over in a hot-air balloon and see swaying giraffe and grazing gazelle, sunbathing hippos and squabbling hyenas. These undulating grasslands are home to Africa's largest lion populations, so prepare to catch the big cat in every act.
Meet the semi-nomadic Maasai people and visit their ‘boma’ homes. Join a jumping ceremony and learn how to hunt game, buy a traditional red robe and come home dripping in Maasai jewellery. For the ultimate safari experience, visit the park in winter (August to October) for the Great Migration and watch more than a million wildebeest travelling north from the Serengeti.
Catch clouds of pink flamingos rising from a lake, watch nomadic herdsmen tending their cattle and safari across the savannah alongside lions, rhinos and elephants. An ancient tectonic furrow stretching 6,000 km down the African continent, the Great Rift Valley is a geographical marvel that’s splashed with glittering lakes, brimming with birdlife and tracked by cheetahs.
Visit the flower farms of Lake Naivasha and meet Masai warriors near Lake Mgadi, or stand on the shore of Lake Nakuru and watch pelicans swoop over the water. If you’re ready for an adventure, cycle past baboons and dramatic cliffs in Hell’s Gate National Park, or visit the small village of Iten to train with Kenyan marathon winners in the Home of Champions.