5 Things That May Surprise You About Kenya
I recently completed my trip to Kenya with the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB). Kenya is an amazing and beautiful country that was full of surprises.
1. Kenya has a surprisingly mild climate!
It is similar to that of Medellin, Colombia. It is ‘winter’ there now which means temperatures range from around mid 70sF to about 50F at night (around 23C to 10C now). In the summer it is about 10 degrees warmer.
Although Kenya is on the equator, they are higher in elevation (similar to Medellin, Colombia). Between that and the wind patterns, Kenya remains relatively mild compared to other equatorial countries.
When you go to Kenya, remember to bring long pants, and a couple warm shirts and a jacket. Especially if you are going on safari in open sided jeeps.
2. There is a lot of English!
Swahili is the official language (along with a multitude of smaller tribal languages), but in Kenya, schools are taught in English. This means that almost everyone you run into speaks some level of English.
If you are going on safari or staying in more tourist-visited areas, the English will be even better. In Nairobi you will notice many signs and billboards are in English too.
But learning even a few words in Swahili helps a lot. For the mere fact it is respectful, at the least, to say things like Jambo (“Hi”), Asante Sana ( “Thank you”) and Habari ya asubhi (“Good morning”).
3. People are amazingly nice!
I know that you may think “But Dani, You were on a press trip. Of course they are”. But I met a few Kenyans on the way to Kenya, and some after, and everyone has a very polite and friendly demeanor. I’m not saying EVERYONE in Kenya is friendly (that would just be silly), but there does seem to be a certain politeness in the culture.
This was especially noticeable in a traffic jam. Cars let each other merge lanes, and do so willingly. There is a lot of waving people in front of you. The best line was when our driver allowed another car in front of us during a traffic jam, and explained it as, “He is one of my brothers. To not allow him in, when we are in the same situation, would be rude to my brother.”
And by brother he meant ‘fellow Kenyan’. It was beautiful. How can you not love this mindset?
4. Delicious food!
I never thought Kenya would be a foodie destination until I started eating! Kenyan food is comprised of flavour combinations you may not have thought of before, like Carrot and Orange Soup. Kenya has some spices I don’t recognize (or maybe it is just the combination of spices I don’t recognize) but they are delicious!
The food is insanely fresh. Beef, goat, fish and chicken are the common meats. Pumpkin is also common – which wasn’t expected.
I am hoping to receive some of the recipes of the food we ate soon and will be making a whole post about Kenyan foods when I do. So you can cook some for yourself.
5. You get so close to the animals!
We did a lot of safaris on this Kenyan trip. Kenya is famous for it’s safari’s and variety of ‘exotic’ animals (exotic to us foreigners). But never did I expect to be so close to the animals, as to have an elephant almost steal my camera! (and yes, I have it on video)
The best part about being on safari is that I felt I come second to the animals – which I should. There will also be whole posts about the animals their conservation.
Kenya is way ahead of the USA on its conservation policies and ways they involve the local people in helping promote and protect the animals. All I can say is, in Kenya, you are able to get up close with the animals in their natural habitat without impeding on them. I was originally worried safaris would feel like expensive zoo trips, until I was there. Never do you feel like the animals exploited for the sake of tourism. Especially when you take safaris that are involved with the conservancies. (I will get to that in another post).
(Below is a short video, shot with my phone, of the elephants that came to visit us our first afternoon in the Maasai Mara. You get even closer to them when out on the safari game drives).
A big part about the push for Kenya tourism is to answer the question, “But is Kenya safe?”. The short answer: “YES!”
Unfortunately what we (in the USA) hear in the news is only the bad things. Just like in Kenya, they mostly hear about our school shootings and gang violence. But Kenya is safe. There may be some bad things that happen there, but no more than here (and realistically, way less than here).
We weren’t able to visit Lamu when I went due to a conflict near the island, that was spun as an act of terrorism, but was actually more of a ‘gang’ dispute, to put it in terms we understand. It was not terrorism, and not aimed at tourists or religions. And not going on this safari because of a shooting near Lamu, would be like not visiting Las Vegas because of a shooting in East LA. (And honestly, if I had enough time and money, I would have visited Lamu on my own.)
Kenya is a large country whose beauty is unsurpassed. Stay tuned for more photos and stories about Kenya.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.