Kenya is one of the best-known African countries, and for those taking their first safari it offers the very best opportunities. With dozens of national parks, several of which are well-stocked with game, it has a tourism heritage that dates back longer than in most countries of this region. Kenya has one of the richest avifaunas in Africa, with around 1,090 bird species recorded, of which at least eight are national endemics.
Named after Mount Kenya, at 17,000 feet the second tallest mountain in Africa, it is not quite as large as Texas, but twice the size of the United Kingdom. It shares Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh water lake, with Tanzania and Uganda, and rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean to mountains and plateaus at its centre. Kenya has a huge cultural history, with recent archaeological diggings revealing the oldest human remains going back to 7 million years.
Nairobi, the capital, is surely the best birding capital in Africa - if not the world! At an altitude of 5500 feet the city is surrounded on one side by a national park where over 600 species have been recorded. About a two hour drive away is the Rift Valley where a must-see are two incredible lakes – Naivasha and Nakuru. The latter is the main feeding site for up to a million flamingos depending on water conditions.
Here, you are near the Equator, but the high elevation brings pleasant cooler air. Moving up the Rift Valley another birding hotspot is Lake Baringo where seeing 100 bird species before breakfast is not unreasonable! In the west, there are remnants of the rainforest and focusing around the town of Kakamega. The forests hold a number of restricted range species found in a few places both here and in Uganda. Another swathe of forest lies on the coast north of Mombasa, and the areas around Sokoke are particularly important.
Although running your own private trip is not out of the question I do recommend using local guides if seeing the majority of available birds is your goal. In recent years, waves of violence have led to U.S. state department travel advisories. Check the status before you travel. Contributed by Keith Betton/African Bird Club.
Kenya has more than 50 National Parks, reserves and sanctuaries, both terrestrial and marine. These cover some 4.4 million ha, roughly 7.5% of the country’s land area. A large part of this area (over 2 million ha) is accounted for by the two biggest National Parks, Tsavo East (IBA KE024) and Tsavo West (KE025). Kenya’s National Parks and reserves are mainly in arid and semiarid parts of the country, dominated by woodland, bushland and grassland habitats.
Birdlife International idenfies Important Bird Areas in Kenya.
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The best times to visit Kenya are during the short rains from November to early December when breeding behavior and plumage can first be seen, as well as the long rains from April to May. If you want to avoid the messy rainy season visit in June where you can still observe all the beauty of species breeding plumage!