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Your eco-tour around Diani beach, the most beautiful beach
in Kenya.


THE LAND OF KENYA

On a map, Kenya’s shape resembles that of a harp and is situated on the eastern side of Africa.  It abuts the Indian Ocean on one side, and on the three others by Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania, bisected by the Equator.

 

It’s People

It has been named The Cradle of Mankind, since the earliest remains resembling a human being have been found in East Africa on the shores of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.  There are records that about 1.8 billion years ago ancestral hominids were living on these lake shores.  Discoveries by the Leakey family and in particular Richard (who went on to serve Kenyas  As Head of Wildlife Services and later head of Civil Service) altered previous anthropological views when he unearth evidence establishing man’s erliest ancestors lived in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Oral and linguistic evidence indicates that Kenya has also been the centre of three major land migrations routes through Africa and, beginning around 2000 B.C, successive waves of Cushitic, Bantu and Nilotic people passed through, bringing with them toolmaking and agricultural skills.  These are the ancestors of more than 40 different ethnic tribes who make up modern Kenya – the Cushites from the north some 9000 years ago, the Bantu from the western forests around 1000 AD and at the end of the 16th century, the Nilotes from area of what is now Sudan.

Around the 16h century at the coast, the Mijikenda (nine tribes) culture was formed which exists today.


It’s size

Kenya’s 582,644 sq.km/224,960 sq.m encompasses a world in microcosm, containing almost every known land form – from glacial ice to arid desert, from mountain massifs to rich savannah, from large lakes to dense forest – breathtaking scenery. 

Variations in altitude are extreme and so, too, are the contrasts in climate.  While varying with locality, it is seldom harsh and in areas frequented by visitors, is little short of perfect.  The variations create contrasts – the heat of the coast to the frosty early mornings of the highlands, and the burning heat of the northern deserts – but at the coast, fanned by the ocean breezes, it is neither too hot or too cold, offering long sun-filled days – apart from the ‘green’ month of May when the rains replenish the earth.


Geo-physical features

Kenya has four distinct geo-physical features, with two other sub-divisions.  Of these the Great Rift Valley (a massive fracture line in the earth’s surface which runs 5000km from Jordan in the north through Kenya to Mozambique in the south) is perhaps the most outstanding.  Within the kenya rift valley lies a chain of eight lakes of various forms and composition, including the alkaline waters of an inland sea in the far north, Lake Turkana which has the popular name The Jade Sea because of its greenish colour.  Extinct volcanoes stud the Rift Valley floor interspersed with the lakes.

The second distinct geo-physical feature, the Central Highlands, spreads like a giant mantle on both sides of the Aberdare Mountains, which stretch northwards more than 100 miles from Nairobi.  This is an area of rich agricultural land and dense forest.  The principal cash crops are coffee, tea, maize, horticultural produce like flowers and green beans, and pyrethrum (used in insecticides).  This is an area of bracing air, farming activity and restful  scenery.

The third distinct geo-physical feature is the vast arid and semi arid deserts of Kenya’s northern regions which occupy around 200,000 sq.km. of the nation’s total landmass.  Receiving only minimal rainfall, these lands are home to hardy nomads who number fewer than one fifth of the total population of Kenya.  The awesome ruggedness of this terrain of withered thorn, scrub, laval rock and sand is punctuated by occasional forest-crowned mountain peaks, such as Marsabit, Mount Nyiru, Mount Kulal and The Nodot mountains

The fourth major geo-physical feature is the coast area, a tract of nearly 300 miles of idyllic coastline stretching inoand between 10 and 20 miles.  It has long stretches of white sandy beaches protected by a coral offshore reef, with clear aquamarine lagoons fringed by waving palm trees.  Home to nine tribes known as Mijikenda, and the oldest settlement in Kenya, is Mombasa, the major seaport of East Africa.

Inland, between the coast and the central highlands, is a fifth feature, a large tract of savannah housing three major game parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West and Amboseli.

Southwest of the Central Highlands, lies a sixth, the rolling grasslands of the Maasai Mara, considered one the most beautiful game parks in the world.

Kenya has a unique combination of wildlife sanctuaries, with resorts and camps, a beautiful coastline with sophisticated accommodation, welded together by a hospitable and happy people. 

This is Kenya - The Magic Land.

 

THE GAME PARKS & RESERVES OF KENYA

Thanks to stringent conservation activities, the game parks and reserves in Kenya remain an attraction and a delight for both foreign and local tourists.


There are 40 of them, occupying an area much the size of Switzerland and about 7.5% of Kenya’s land surface.  36 are huge land sanctuaries, the habitat for a fantastic variety of animals and birds.  No one park is a replica of another, they vary in abundance and variety of flora and fauna (animal and vegetation), and all are well managed and quite safe, with beautiful lodges and tented camps to stay.

Perhaps the most famous is annual wildebeest migration, a spectacle which has been described as one of the 7 wonders of the natural world, when these great shaggy beasts in their millions migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, searching for grazing, accompanied of course by predators skulking in the long golden grass, and the crocodiles waiting for them in the rivers.

The remaining 4 are marine parks, a water wonderland of delight, a protected home for amyriad sea creatures, creating sanctuaries which make snorkeling and diving a delight. 

It would be hard to place Kenya’s tourist attractions in order of merit – and it is of no importance to do so – for the quantity and quality of the country’s attractions is so great that the visitor can return year after year and still find new sights to see and new experiences to savour. 

 

With our experienced tour operators, any visitor to Kenya is assured that he is in the best hands for a holiday of a lifetime.  Call in on Diani’s tourist centres for advice on where to go and how to do it the best possible way.  It is possible to have your coast holiday and take a trip to a game park, either by road to the ones near at hand, or by small plane to the ones further away.

 

KENYA - A DANCE OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY

The title of the famous book by Brian Tetley and Mohammed Amin, writer and photographer and long time friends and workmates, called  ‘Kenya, the Magic Land’  - sums up this extraordinary country, so full of contrasts, history and culture that it is truly magical.

One of the most fascinating things about it is the tremendous ethnic and cultural variety.  With almost 50 tribes and sub tribes, most speaking a different dialect, with customs so wide and varied each could be a different country – yet all live in harmonious inter-relationships, both in business, and in friendship and companionship.

The largest tribe, the Kikuyus, are of Bantu origin.  Considered the ‘business people’ of  Kenya, they have a distinct cultural identity where the women are as smart, or smarter than, the men, and are expected to do their own business.

The Hamitic influence is largely in the hilly areas of Nandi, Kipsigis and Kalenjins. Slender, long legged, fine featured people, it is these tribes which have largely bred the world famed long distance, medal scooping, runners.  As one young man has said “If you are used to running 40 miles after the dogs in a chase for food, and even small children run many miles to and from school, running is second nature to us”.

The Nilotes settled in Western Kenya.  Large, strong people with dark skins, they have a quite distinct cultural heritage.  These people dominate the so-called intellectual professions, e.g. medicine and law (it is considered their diet of fish living on the shores of Lake Victoria, has given them their sharp brains!).  They have many unique burial systems and traditions of passing on wives to brothers of a deceased husband.

The coastal people have been largely influenced by the Arab traders coming to their shores, and many are a mix of African and Arab descent.  The influence of Islam is largely felt at the coast, although the rest of Kenya is predominantly Christian, with their influence coming from the missionaries who arrived at the beginning of the 20th century.

Then there are the nomadic tribes with their unique culture, and many of the Maasai who were in the 19th century the all-conquering warriors, still live in mud huts and drink cows’ blood, although they are in demand now at coastal hotels as entertainers with their unique dance rituals which comprise stiff legged jumping and haunting hunting calls.

The national language of Kenya is Swahili (though the official language is English) - a mixture of African dialects heavily influenced by the language of the various traders and adventurers, with many words derived from the Arab languages.  Widely spoken throughout the land, it is accepted as the means of communication.

Yet all this binds the people together.  It is an amazing symbiosis of culture.  Even the national dress is widespread, influenced by various incoming adventurers and traders.  The lesso, the equivalent of the Hawaian sarong, is worn throughout the length and breadth of the land by the artisan and agricultural classes; two are used, one tied round the waist as a skirt, the other draped over the head and flowing around the shoulders like a cape.  On formal occasions the women dress in a parody of the 19th C. English Edwardian dress – full length, with huge puffed sleeves, but in the strong colours of the African continent, worn with a matching turban.  The young wear what all young people wear – i.e. blue jeans – but everyone tolerates everyone else’s style.

The men have largely adopted the western dress of trousers and jacket although the safari suit of cotton trousers and a matching short sleeved jacket is quite popular as a middle-of the-road style accepted for business but also comfortable for the tropics.  In the coastal town of Mombasa and surrounding areas, especially in the Lamu archipelago, the Muslim white kanzu and pill-box cap is widely worn, the women clad in an all encompassing flowing black bui-bui – and it is still possible to see women wearing the face veil too.  Yet nothing is frowned upon, it is all accepted.  It is not unusual to be served in a top ranking bank by a woman in a bui-bui for example.

Such is this land of contrasts.  Polygamy is accepted, indeed expected in western Kenya, and the muslims feel the Koran allows them 4 wives.  Yet again, there is little dissension.  It is accepted and people live in harmony with each other.

In some areas, particularly in the north where Kenya borders Somalia, Ethiopia and further north Egypt, female circumcision is still practiced (Egypt being the world leader in this archaic custom, with almost 75% of the girls forced to endure ‘the cut’).  Arranged marriages still take place, but the modern young Kenyans are more and more choosing the one they love, forgetting about bride price, being monogamic and loyal, and only having 2 or 3 children, and marrying outside their tribe.  Yet all modes are tolerated – ‘live and let live’ is a motto which could be Kenyan.

Belief in the witchdoctor, the mganga, is still fairly widespread, but again – accepted, perhaps regarded more now in the light of a herbal practitioner and counsellor.

Kenyans love song and dance, and it is this which perhaps portrays mostly the beauty, originality and diversity of their various cultures. The songs and dances tell of their history, their beliefs, hopes, fears and joys.  They, above all, tell the story of this land and to witness these performances is quite an experience.  From the soul stirring singing; from the war dances with the men in feathered head-dresses, carrying spears and wearing loincloths of animal skins, to the women’s dances  portraying suffering and toil, and themixed sex dances performed to the rhythmic, arousing thumping of drums, often tastefully erotic – they are all different, all telling the story of  a diverse mixture of a people with different cultures, history, beliefs and tongues, who have learned to live in harmony, to tolerate each other, and to combine forces when necessary and stand as one.

Kenya is truly a dance of cultural beauty – especially at the coast.  Don’t miss the performance!

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