Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What to Do

There are lots of things to do in Kenya. From big game safaris to balloon safaris, there are interesting adventures within Africa’s best safari country.

Mountain Climbing and Hill Walking

Mt. Kenya is the main attraction for serious climbers. The north face route to Batian (the highest peak – 5199 m) is Grade IV+ and the south east face of Nelion (5188 m) is Grade IV. Hill walkers can easily reach the third peak Lenana, 4985 m. The peaks are the remains of the “plug” of an ancient volcano, estimated at 3 million years old. The original cone, now worn away would have made the summit considerably higher than Kilimanjaro. With 10 mountain ranges exceeding 3000 m, and a multitude of lesser hills, some clad in the dense forest, others rising stack from the desert (and all offering the chance of encounters with wildlife !) hill walking in Kenya is certainly hard to beat. Still, with the outdoor enthusiast specialised tour operators offer pony trekking, horse safaris and camel safaris. And if none of these appeal to you, there are escorted walking safaris. An interesting event is the International Camel Derby held every October at Mararal.

Cycling, Canoeing, Rafting, Sailing, Windsurfing, & Scuba Diving

Cycling tours are gaining popularity to the extend that there are several tour operators now specializing in this field. It is also possible to practise canoeing and rafting made that much different by the presence of wildlife. There are sailing clubs at Nairobi, Mombasa, Naivasha and Kisumu all of which welcome visiting enthusiasts. Windsurfing is extremely popular at the Coast, but it can also be undertaken at Lakes Naivasha, Baringo and Victoria. The warm limpid waters of the Indian Ocean attract scuba devotees. The numerous centres along the Coast make carrying equipment unnecessary. There is a British Sub-Aqua Club branch in Nairobi.

Horse Racing and Others

As a spectator spot with an avid following, horse racing is unparalleled. Racing takes place at the beautiful Nairobi Racecourse on 40 days a year, almost all Sundays. The stunning finds in the field of paleoanthropology, which have earned Kenya the sobriquet “The cradle of mankind”, now attracts visitors from all over the world. A safari to the eastern shores of Lake Turkana can be combined with an expedition through Samburu District where Japanese scientists have uncovered 8-million year old apelike fossil remnants. Still, in scientific circles, tours are arranged for archaeologists who will be interested in the excavations at the Coast where well-preserved remains of many city states, dating back to the 9th Century, have been uncovered. There are interesting sites, too, in western Kenya and numerous stone age finds mainly in the Rift Valley. Horticulture, which is a flourishing industry in Kenya, and its sister, floriculture, attract a number of special interest groups. These include botanists and orchid lovers or just plain gardeners for whom tours are arranged with the help of the Kenya Horticultural Society. Farmers, too, are catered for and tours are arranged through the wide spectrum of farming. An interesting but under-utilised possibility is the light aircraft flying instruction. Top instructors are available in Nairobi and Mombasa and the constant good weather makes it possible to qualify in a remarkably short time. Gliding can be learnt and practised at Mweiga and near Nyeri, not far from Mt. Kenya. This review of special interest safaris is not complete. At various times arrangement have been made for groups as diverse as railway enthusiasts and entomologists; rock hounds and lepidopterists.

Conferences

Kenya joined the world league as a conference destination after the completion of the striking Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi in 1973. This immensely practical conference centre complemented Nairobi’s other attractions notably a pleasant year-round climate, a unique array of pre and post-conference tours and a wide range of accommodations all within walking distance of the centre. The centre opened with a World Bank conference for 4,000 delegates.

The centre caters not only for giant single meetings but also for small working groups, sub-committees and secretaries. Apart from the enormous plenary hall of 2415 sq. m, (often used for exhibitions) there is a dramatic amphitheatre which seats 800 at tables on three balconies encircling the auditorium , two medium sized conference rooms and two smaller rooms in one. Services are excellent. Banks, tour operators, airline booking offices, boutiques and restaurants are within the complex. Simultaneous interpretation, telex and telefax, international telephone services and a fully equipped press centre make the Kenyatta International Conference Centre suitable for the most fastidious of congress organisers.

The Centre currently hosts about 40 major conferences a year and the number is growing. It is important to note that the favourite month for conferences coincides with Nairobi’s hotels’ period of lowest occupancy.

Conference facilities also exist, on a smaller scale , in Nairobi and at several dramatic locations throughout the country. For those entitled to use it, the United Nations Complex at Gigiri, on the outskirts of Nairobi, has a custom-built facility with eight rooms , two of which can accommodate about 500 participants each. The Charter Hall within the Nairobi City Council’s precincts, and close to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, can seat 1,000 participants, theatre style and has simultaneous interpretation equipment. All the major Nairobi hotels have conference facilities. Of these Safari Park Hotel has a custom built centre which can accommodate 1000 people. The Hilton and the Inter Continental both have meeting rooms which can house 400 participants. Outside Nairobi, the Mt. Kenya Safari Club at Nanyuki, is a luxurious destination with a facility for 100 persons and such a romantic destination is certain to draw delegates. Other centres are at Nyeri and Tsavo National Park and even at a tented camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. At the Coast several hotels have purpose built conference rooms, notably the Inter-Continental, Mombasa and Nyali Beach Hotel. Many others have multi-purpose function rooms which can be used for smaller meetings. Kenyan tour operators are well experienced in handling conference traffic, both accommodation reservations and transport requirements. Additionally, they can buy in, or in some cases provide further services such as interpreters, P.R and print. Kenya is a conference country.

Incentives

The incentive market is possibly Kenya’s fastest growing segment within the tourism industry. This is, perhaps, not surprising as the country offers such a wide range of activities. Many of the Coast hotels can offer sufficient rooms for incentives of 200-300 people. Nairobi hotels can also handle these numbers and at the same time offer a wide range of leisure pursuits ranging from casinos to golf. African theme evenings are no problem at both the beach and city hotels. Often incentives are combined with safaris and although the safari circuits cannot handle the large numbers as can beach and city hotels, it is possible to accommodate up to say 80 participants. If the incentive organisers are willing, the safaris can be run on a back to back basis so doubling the possible numbers. Another way in which large groups can be handled is to have a base at a large hotel and fly groups, daily, by light aircraft to a variety of parks. In addition to the Coast and Nairobi, the Mount Kenya Safari Club at Nanyuki makes an ideal base for such an arrangement.

As with study tours, it is often possible for participants in an incentive group to meet their Kenyan counterparts.

Cruises

A growing number of cruise ships are including Mombasa in their itineraries. The attractions are obvious – flying safaris to the more distant parks and road safaris to Tsavo and Amboseli are easily arranged – as are visits to Lamu and even a day out at sea, in a different vessel, taking in some deep sea fishing.

All members of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators are able to arrange to meet visiting cruise ships and can pick up clients at the dockside and deliver them back when the tour or safari is over.