Most people opt to avoid the cities in Africa and focus on the wildlife and wilderness. Much can be said for time in cities where you can get an insight into local life, past history and unique cultures. There are three main cities in Kenya that you just may come across in your research and indeed during your stay.
Nairobi is the only wildlife capital in the world. This bustling city has a conservation core being Nairobi National Park, a safe haven for wildlife. Where else can you be on a safari with a city skyline on the horizon?
Next is Mombasa, a frenetic port town steeped in a fascinating history. Mombasa is an island connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries, overlooking a wide harbour that is home to commercial ships from all over the world and traditional sailing dhows.
Finally it’s Kisumu.
Welcome to Kenya’s capital. This is the main tourist hub and home to the international airport, Jomo Kenyatta. Most Kenya tours and tailor-made Kenyan holidays begin and end here.
There are a few great activities in Nairobi if you have time on your hands. We recommend you visit Nairobi National Park. It is seven kilometres from the city with an impressive variety of wildlife including buffalo, giraffe, lion and more than 400 bird species. The Giraffe Centre is home to the rare and beautiful Rothschild’s Giraffe and you get up close to the animals and even the chance to feed them. Kazuri is a must, a local bead and pottery factory that up-skills disadvantaged women and men providing them employment opportunities. Visit the Carnivore Restaurant when you’re hungry for succulent steaks and meats cooked Maasai style on skewers over huge open pit barbecues.
Our all time favourite is adopting an orphaned elephant and getting the opportunity to meet and tuck them into bed late afternoon at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphange. Find out more here.
Accommodation ranges from skyscraper style hotels in town to more boutique lodges and B&Bs on the outskirts plus a handful of airport hotels.
Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city and the city’s economic hub with a bustling port and international airport. There are some lovely experiences to be had in Mombasa. Visit the Old town and explore the maze of narrow streets that are overshadowed by elaborately styled balconies of quaint shuttered houses. You can lose yourself amongst the vibrant open markets and bazaars.
Visit Fort Jesus, a fine example of 16th century Portuguese military fortification. Check out the Gedi Ruins, an ancient town that was mysteriously deserted back in the 16th Century. Take a dhow cruise up the harbour and enjoy a seafood meal and live entertainment by local musicians and traditional dancers.
If you want a marine safari, visit Malindi Marine Park and take a glass bottomed boat out for a few hours then head in for a seafood lunch on the beach.
Imagine Mombasa town a little peninsula of its own and here you will find traditional large hotel style accommodation. Head north or south for beach resorts, lodges and hotels. Our favourite is the Serena Resort and Spa simply for its creature comforts, location and great service. We wouldn’t have a beach holiday here, it is only if you need to stop for a night or two.
Kisumu is Kenya’s third largest city and an important port town on the shores of Lake Victoria. From here, goods are shipped to Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo.
Kisumu is a quiet port town on the shores of Lake Victoria and it’s seldom visited. With wide streets and fine colonial architecture it’s lovely to wander for a day. You can visit Kisumu Museum, a quaint resource for visitors and locals alike. It shares information on cultural and scientific issues with an emphasis on Western Kenya. Close by on the shores of Lake Victoria is the Kanam Prehistoric Site where Louis Leakey’s expedition discovered a fossil ‘Neanderthaloid’ dating between 1 and 6 million years.
Fifty kilometres away you’ll get to the tiny Ndere Island National Park. This 4.2 square kilometre island is home to impala, hippo, crocodiles, African fish eagles, swifts and many other bird species. You set out in a small boat from Kisumu, taking a few leisurely hours to reach the island. You then enjoy a walking safari and return home same day.
You can expect large chain hotels here and efficient city service.