Kenya is the regional hub of tourist attractions. From the famous Maasai Mara migration where wildebeests migrate in thousands, to the spectacular snow-capped Mount Kenya that sits on the equator. However, there is a lot more the country has to offer.
If you are planning to take a tour around the country, here are five tourist attraction, sites that are underrated yet filled with awe.
- Lake Turkana
Situated in the northern part of the country, Lake Turkana (formerly known as Lake Rudolf) is perhaps one of the most resilient of lakes. It is positioned in a dry area that sees little water per year, yet, the lake stands strong, defiant of the intense rays of the sun perched right above it. Lake Turkana is the world’s largest salt lake and the area surrounding is usually referred to as the cradle of mankind. The title is from recent fossil excavations that prove early man’s origins in the area. The lake is also home to the single largest crocodile population.
Though you can access the place via plane chatters, I would recommend you use the road (a multiple of safari operators offer trips to the lake). Through road, you’ll be able to see the beauty and majesty of Northern Kenya. You will see culturally rich communities like the Pokot, Gabbra, Borana, Samburu and more. You might also get a camel ride. Turkana County also has a great cultural festival – read more about it Turkana Tobongu Lore Festival.
- Rusinga Island
Located in the eastern part of Lake Victoria, Rusinga Island is relatively a small island stretching 16 km from end to end and 3 km at its widest points. It is prevalently known for its contribution to Miocene mammal’s history with fossil remains dating back 18 million years.
More recently, the island has been morphed into a tourist destination. Some of the activities you will get to experience include;
- Bird watching- Due to the serenity and ambience of the island, it is the home to many fascinating birds. While there, you will get a chance to see arrow-first kingfishers, Stanley fish eagles, iridescent sunbirds and more. All through the day, you’ll see birds taking to the sky. You are also treated to free and wildly enchanting bird songs straight from the source.
- Fishing- It wouldn’t be a complete island experience without fishing. Some of the species found in the surrounding waters of Lake Turkana are the Nile Perch and the Tilapia.
- Ruma National Park- the park houses the last surviving group of the Kenyan roan antelope as well as the Impala, leopards, oribi, hartebeest and Rothschild giraffe.
- Rusinga Cultural Festival– This is an annual festival held on the Thursday and Friday before Christmas by the Island’s inherent community (the Abasuba). The role of the festival is to strengthen the Abasuba’s culture as well as enlightening the visitors and tourists. In the festival, they showcase their culture’s pride through artefacts modelled from clay and woodwork. Some of the sporting activities you’ll experience in the celebration include boat racing, tug-of-war, and wrestling. They also have fantastic dancing – Meet The Star Performers Of The #RusingaFest2017: The African Genre Shield (AGES Kenya): Photos And Video
- Hiking and Biking- You get to fully experience the beauty of the island through hikes to various destinations. Biking is also a significant activity that you can partake with your family and friends; you get to ride to the shores of Lake Victoria and enjoy the majestic sun fall into the ocean sunset.
- Lamu Island
Lamu is a small island on the Kenyan coastal line and is 340 Km from Mombasa. It is Kenya’s oldest recurrently inhabited town. Initially founded in 1370, it was also one of the original Swahili settlement areas along the East African Coastline. Lamu is renowned for its rich Swahili culture and architecture that has withstood the test of time. The island doesn’t have modern roads, and the streets are narrow, the best way to experience the full glamour of the island is on foot or a donkey’s back. Lamu has seven festivals including the Lamu Cultural Festival and The Lamu Food Festival and this is a great time to experience Lamu at its best. Here is a review of last year’s festival – The Lamu Cultural Festival Brings Out The Magic Of The Kenyan Coastal Islands
Some of the places and activities that make the island stand out include;
- Lamu Museum- Exhibitions in the museum focus heavily on boat building, weddings, domestic life and traditional silver jewellery.
- Donkey sanctuary- as aforementioned, the streets are narrow (as most of the structures were erected long before the modern means of transport). Thus, the island depends on donkeys to get around. There are an estimated 3000 donkeys on the island. A donkey sanctuary was established to care for the hard-worked animals.
- Lamu fort- the castle was incipiently built between 1810 and 1823 by the Sultan of Pate later being used as a prison from 1910 to 1984. Today, it houses the island’s library and holds some of the most excellent pieces of Swahili poetry and literature. The upper walkway is used as a gallery space for temporary exhibitions.
- Lamu Market- the Lamu market can be best described as frenzied yet full of character. The best time to see it at its liveliest is in the morning; it’s full of buyers bargaining for tuna and sailfish while the cats ravage anything they find.
- Swahili House- tucked away in Yumbe Guest House is the well preserved 16th Century Swahili house. It is the gateway to the region’s community and an indication of how well the Swahili have maintained their culture.
- German Post office Museum- dating as far back as the 19th Century, the former post office was set up by the Germans before the British ruled over East Africa. Germans though of Lamu as the ideal base to set camp and exploit the interior region. Today, it is a museum that houses aged photos of Mombasa and German’s dominance back then.
- Arabuko Sokoke National Park
Located 110 kilometres north of Mombasa, the Arabuko-Sokoke is the biggest and most intact coastal forest in the East African region. It houses well over 20% of Kenyan bird species, 30% butterfly species and at minimum twenty rare and endemic mammals, birds and butterfly species. Other animals that can be found in the park are elephants, rhinos, buffalos, Civets, baboons and many more.
Though not very popular, the Arabuko Sokoke National Park is indeed a spectacle to behold.
These are three different parks, but they are often referred to as one because they border each other. They are located in the Northern part of the country, at the foot of Mount Kenya. The parks are home to a variety of wildlife, most notable five species that are endemic to the area. They are the Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk and reticulated giraffe. Samburu County has plenty to offer the curious tourist
Some of the activities you will find in the parks include nature walks, game-viewing safari, entertainment from innate cultural dancers and visits to the cultural villages to get firsthand experience of the nomadic lifestyle of the community.
These are not the first places you will hear about when you want to travel the country; they are more hidden and concealed. If you’re going to experience a turnkey Kenyan experience, I would suggest you include the above in your itinerary. Kenya is truly a marvellous country full of beauty, wonder and awe.
So Tembea Kenya!