A Glimpse into the Cradle of Humanity

Kenya is often referred to as “the cradle of humanity”, with some of the earliest evidence of mankind found in this effervescent country. The thriving wildlife, stunning landscapes and untouched beaches with coral reefs make it the perfect location for an exotic getaway in Africa.

The country is an African melting pot, with a little bit of various African ethnicities co-existing here. The Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii and Meru all live up to the national slogan “Harambee” in Swahili which loosely translates to “let’s all pull together”. Compared to other sub-Saharan countries, Kenya has historically been relatively developed in infrastructure and general living standards. During the colonial period, England controlled the country and developed the area till the Kenyans rebelled and eventually became independent on December 12, 1963. Following independence, Kenya continued to grow economically and the standard of living was the envy of much of Africa. Unfortunately, corruption threw a wrench in the proceedings the country, bringing down the economy. In 2002, with a new government, things turned around and have been improving since.

Kenya ascends from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of mountain ridges and plateaus which rise up above 9,000 ft in the center of the country. The Rift Valley bisects the country above Nairobi, opening up to a broad arid plain in the north. Mountain plains cover the south before descending to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west. The climate varies from tropical in the south, west, and central regions to arid and semi-arid in the north and the northeast.

A visit to Kenya is synonymous with a trip to Masai Mara. It’s one of the best known and most popular parks in Africa, and it’s really worth visiting. At times and in certain areas it can get a little overrun with tourist minibuses, but there is something so extraordinary about it that it tempts you back time and again. Here you can view lions, leopards, rhinoceros and over 450 bird species. The Maasai Mara game reserve is said to host over 10 prides of lions if not more, with marked territories and locations. The African lion in Maasai Mara is famous for its black mane, with starts out as a golden luster in the lion’s youth, darkening as it ages. The safari land park is rife with succession battles between male lions. The dominant male is constantly fending off other competing males. The male will in most cases be heavily scarred on the face as a result of battles fought and won previously. The lions will nonchalantly cross your path, hang out below and besides your vehicle for hours, ignoring you completely for most part. The wildebeest migration across the crocodile-filled Mara river is a display of nature in all its instinct and glory, and is an unforgettable experience to behold. Wildebeest birthing in January – February is another glorious event on the undulating landscape.

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Other Africa lion tours safari parks in Kenya famous for their African lion populations include the Tsavo, Amboseli, Nairobi, Nakuru and Meru safari Parks.

Tsavo has featured in the movies, made famous by The Ghost and the Darkness starring Val Kilmer. The lions of Tsavo East especially, are the most dreaded and killed hundreds of railway workers and at one point halted the construction of the East African railway line in 1890’s. They came to be known as the “man eaters of Tsavo”.

Nairobi National park is the only wildlife park in the world within capital city boundaries. It is therefore easily accessible and a showcase of what other lion safari parks have to offer. The African lion prides of Nairobi national park are fewer due to the relative size of the park. They can however be heard in the early mornings and late evenings roaring away. It is always an exciting experience in your Africa lion tours safari to see the elusive lions in this park before proceeding to the major national parks in Kenya.

The Meru National park, unlike other parks is home to very aggressive and un-habituated wildlife. The African lions of Meru National park compare to those of Tsavo and are dreaded. Meru national park however is a favorite with tourists in search of virgin natural places in their Africa lion tours safari photo hunt.

Lake Nakuru national park is the most visited park in Kenya. The park is also located 2½ hours northwest of Nairobi and within the Nakuru town and is host to Lake Nakuru, an important Ramsar site. Lake Nakuru is a very shallow, strongly alkaline body. The landscape includes areas of marsh and grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs and outcrops, stretches of acacia woodland and rocky hillsides covered with a Euphorbia forest on the eastern fringes.  The park is famous for the millions of the pink coloured flamingo that line the sides of the lake.  The African lion park prides are easily found and are located in a particular area called the lion hill. L. Nakuru is a very famous park since it also hosts the Black and White African Rhino. The white Rhino populations in the park have improved tremendously and are promoted as a resonating success of the rhino breeding programme by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The Shaba National Reserve, which lies east of the road linking Isiolo with Marsabit, took its name from the Mount Shaba (1525 meters), a volcanic mountain that became extinct around 5,000 years ago. Mount Shaba lies on the border of the reserve. It has a specific place in the history of Kenya game conservation for it was here that the author Joy Adamson died; her trilogy of books on the rehabilitation of the compliant leopard to a wild environment remaining unfinished. Shaba was one of Joy Adamson’s preferred African haunts, it was in this placid wilderness that she released the first hand-raised leopards.

The Aberdares are a remote volcanic range that form the eastern wall of the Rift valley, running roughly 100km north south between Nairobi and Thomsons Falls. The Aberdare National Park was formed in 1950 to protect the forested slopes and moors of the Aberdare Mountains. While the park has elephant, rhino,  black leopard, lion and the striking but elusive bongo antelope, it is rarely visited by safari companies and individual travelers. Soils are of volcanic origin and red. There are two main peaks Kinangop (3,906m) and Ol Donyo Lesatima (3,999m) separated by a lengthy saddle of alpine moorland at over 3,000m. The high rainfall turns the roads to mud and you need a 4×4 to get anywhere. The park often closes in the wet season. There are many clear streams and waterfalls.

Mt. Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano dominating the landscape of the Kenyan Highlands, East of the Rift Valley. Mt. Kenya lies about 140 km North, North-East of Nairobi with its Northern flanks across the Equator. The mountain has two main peaks – Batian (5200m) and Nelion (5188m). The mountains slopes are covered in forest, bamboo, scrub and moorland giving way to rock, ice and snow on the high central peaks. Mt. Kenya is an important water catchment area, supplying the Tana and Northern Ewaso Ngiro systems. Lake Magadi is the most southerly of the Rift valley lakes in Kenya. The place is very remote and hence is scarcely visited by tourists. However, it is an excellent place to visit as the thick encrustation of soda gives it a lunar appearance. This is the most mineral rich of all the soda lakes.

History enthusiasts can head to the Gede ruins hidden in the forests. These ruins consist of a vast colony of houses and mosques, which are shrouded in mystery. There are no records of this place’s existence in the textbooks of history making them even more mysterious. Excavations, which were carried on in this place, have led to the discovery of startling facts about the history and trade of the place.

Find the most enthralling chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall’s Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Also worth a visit is the Rothschild Giraffe Center, home to Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”.

The Samburu National Park and Hell’s Gate National Park are also worth a visit. Other Kenyan safari highlights include hot air ballooning, white water rafting and other adventure sports. Of course, you will feel compelled to buy the pretty Kazuri beads. And for some clear waters, head to Malindi with its extensive reefs and beautiful beaches. Diani beach near beautiful Mombassa is another pristine paradise.

The African way of life, the wildlife, the landscapes and the mountains – all keep calling for a trip to the soul of the continent.

Adventures in Namibia

Namibia may evoke vivid monotonous images of an endless, arid panorama of technicolor dunes, shimmering mirages and treacherous dust clouds, but this is just an illusion. The deserts, savanna, canyons, saltpans and windy coastline come together to create a dramatic and magnetic landscape, with safari options to get close to elephants, rhinos, lions and giraffes in their natural habitat. The range of activities you can indulge in the unsurpassable physical environment is truly impressive. Ballooning over the desert, skydiving over land and sea,  coastal and fresh water angling, hiking, desert camel riding, and sand skiing along coastal dunes are good activities for starters. More adventurous games to pick from include abseiling, scuba diving, paragliding, whitewater rafting, 4×4 desert runs and mountaineering.

Namibia is sparsely populated, with the native Bushmen ingeniously adapting themselves to the punishing climate, harsh environment and scarce resources. They speak in a unique click language and are very gifted in storytelling, mimicry, and dance. Namibia’s other people, mostly of Bantu origin, are thought to have arrived from western Africa from about 2,400 years ago. The African groups include the Owambo, Kavango, Caprivians, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama and Tswana. The Coloureds in Namibia, of mixed racial heritage, such as black- white, have a separate identity and culture. The Afrikaans-speaking Basters, descended from Hottentot women and Dutch settlers of the Cape, also have a differentiated identity.

Namibia has four distinct geographical regions. The Etosha Pan in the north is home to exotic African wildlife and is the heart of Etosha National Park. The narrow Caprivi Strip between Zambia and Botswana is a wet forested area with a few rivers. Along the coast is the 80 million year old Namib Desert, considered as the world’s oldest desert. At the coast, the chilly Atlantic meets the blazing African desert, resulting in dense fogs. The well-watered central plateau runs north to south, and comprises rugged mountains, magnificent canyons, rocky outcrops and expansive plains.

The capital Windhoek is the only true city in the country, and the first base for those traveling to more remote regions. German influence is distinct in the charming style of older buildings in the city. Places of interest in the city include the State Museum, State Archives, and the Namibia Crafts Centre. The Dan Viljoen Game Park, 24 km west of Windhoek on Khoma Hochland, is where you can find ostriches, baboons, zebras and over 200 species of birds. The Waterburg Plateau Park, located 230 km from Windhoek is popular with weekenders. This extensive mountain wilderness is home to cheetahs, leopards, kudus, giraffes, and white rhinos.

Namibia’s biggest attraction is the Etosha National Park, rated as one of Africa’s finest game sanctuaries, drawing wildlife lovers. The park is comparable in size and diversity of species with the best in Africa. The unusual terrain of Etosha holds savanna grassland, dense brush and woodland. But it is the Etosha Pan, a depression that sometimes holds water and covers 5,000 sq km, that is the heart of park. The perennial springs around the pan, attract many birds and land animals in the dry winter months. The effect of this background is magical and some of the best wildlife photographs have been taken here. There are 144 mammal species in the park and elephants are particularly abundant. Some other interesting wildlife here includes giraffe, leopard, cheetah, jackal, blue wildebeest, gemsbok and black rhino. The best time to see animals is between May and September, when water draws them in huge numbers to the edge of the pan. Etosha is 400 km to the north of Windhoek by road. The birding is great at Etosha and over 300 bird species have been recorded. There are excellent accommodation facilities at the three rest camps of Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo.

The Fish River Canyon is unrivalled in Africa and only the Grand Canyon in the U.S in larger. The Canyon runs for 160 km and reaches a width of 27 km and depth of 550 m. But size alone does not explain the appeal of the canyon. You experience incredible views at various points along the rim. Adventure lovers do not merely come for the views. Hiking through the canyon is the ultimate endurance adventure for hikers. There is an established 90 km hiking trail that will take you 4-5 days to cover.

The trail ends at Ai-Ais hot spring resort where you can unwind. You are allowed to hike between early May and end of September. The hike is quite strenuous and needless to say, you must be physically fit. The authorities disbelieve the capacity of most people to undertake the hike and will actually insist on seeing a medical certificate of fitness before allowing you to start off. Fish River Canyon is 580 km to the south of Windhoek.

The Skeleton Coast with its dense fogs has been the graveyard of seafarers and whales, and justifies its morbid name. Ahead is the Namib Desert, one of the driest and harshest places. Adventure travelers love trekking along the coastline as they enjoy the stark beauty of the area. The Skeleton Coast Park covers 16,400 sq km and begins at 355 km northwest of Windhoek. To the south at Cape Cross, you find a seal colony carrying tens of thousands of seals.

Further south is the Namib-Naukluft National Park, a vast, diverse wilderness covering mountain outcrops, majestic sand dunes, and deep cut gorges. The Sossusvlei area has spectacular dunes, some rising upto 300m. The orange tint giants extend as far as the horizon, making it a surreal experience.

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To the northeast of the country, the well-watered Kavango and Caprivi Strip region offers virgin wilderness suitable for rugged game viewing and camping. The area also promises a feast for bird lovers. Game reserves in the area include Kaudom, Caprivi, Mahango, Mudumu and Mamili. Some of the wildlife in the region includes leopard, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, lion and various antelope species. The Caprivi Reserve falls in an area of swamps and flood plains. Here you have an opportunity for water activities such fishing and river trips in traditional mokoro boats.

Adventure, romance, wildlife and 300 days of sunshine are a compelling draw, and make Namibia the perfect exotic African destination.