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Kenya

Main attractions

Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya / , / CC BY-SA 2.0

Kenya has very diverse natural and cultural heritage with some truly unique monuments. Among the highlights of the country should be mentioned:

  • Remnants of the very first humans - humans have lived in Kenya always, since their origin. And here lived ancestors of humans, ancestors of these ancestors and so on. The geological deposits in Kenya - for example Koobi Fora and Olorgesailie - contain remnants of all these humans, hominins, hominids, as well as some of the oldest man made tools in the world.
  • The "islands" of biodiversity - remnants of ancient tropical forests in isolated mountain ranges. Characteristic feature of Kenyan landscape are separate mountain ranges, divided by hundreds of kilometres of savannah or even desert. Several such mountain ranges - such as Taita Hills or Matthews Range - have well preserved tropical forests, often containing numerous unique species of plants and animals. Very impressive are the afromontane biotopes in the high mountains - Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon.
  • Old coastal cities and villages - the Eastern African coast in 12th - 19th centuries was a melting pot of very diverse cultures. Swahili and other indigenous cultures here met with Arab, Persian, Ottoman, Portuguese, English and even Chinese influences. Several medieval trade towns now are covered with jungle (Gedi, Takwa), but some continue to live up to this day (Old Mombasa, Lamu, Faza).

Natural landmarks

Volcanoes and geothermal landmarks

  • Loburu Geysers and Hot Springs, Lake Bogoria (Loburu Geysers) - Rift Valley Province. A group (circa 18) of active geysers on the western bank of beautiful Lake Bogoria.
  • Suswa Volcano - Rift Valley Province. Volcano with unique double crater - it resembles a mountain with deep pressed ring around its summit. The isolated inner summit is covered with dry bush - forest. Fumaroles are observed here. Volcano has more than 30 interesting lava tube obsidian caves.

Caves

  • Kitum Cave and Makingen Cave - Nyanza and Western Provinces, Mt. Elgon. Unique caves in pyroclastic rocks, up to 200 metres long. Entrances are behind waterfalls. Possibly created by elephants and other animals digging the salt in caves up to this day. Kitum cave became known worldwide after two people caught the extremely dangerous and deadly Marburg virus in this cave.
  • Leviathan Cave - Eastern Province, Chuylu Hills. Sixth longest lava tube in the world - 12.5 km long, 3 - 10 m in diameter. Some 100 lava tube caves are known in Chuylu Hills.
  • Suswa Lava Caves - Rift Valley Province. Up to 11.0 km long caves (9th longest lava tube cave in the world). In total some 40 caves are known here.

Waterfalls

Thomson's Falls
Thomson's Falls / , Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Gura Falls - Rift Valley Province. 305 m tall waterfall with 3 drops. Considered to be the tallest waterfall in Kenya.
  • Karuru Falls - Rift Valley Province. 272 m tall waterfall with three steps. Tallest plunge is 130 m tall.
  • Thomson's Falls - Rift Valley Province. Beautiful 74 m tall waterfall. The Ewaso Narok River here falls in a single plunge.

Ancient human finds

  • Kanapoi Fossil Site - Rift Valley Province. Important find of remnants of Early Pliocene fauna including remnants of early hominids Australopithecus anamensis. More than 4 million years old sediments have yielded also remnants of surprisingly modern humans.
  • Kariandusi - Rift Valley Province. Find of very old man made tools. These stone tools were made 0.7 - 1 million years ago. It is possible that this was a factory of stone tools, made by Homo erectus people.
  • Koobi Fora fossil find - Eastern Province. Pliocene - Pleistocene sediments near Lake Turkana. Here in hundreds of locations have been found remnants of numerous hominins, who lived here over the last 4.2 million years. In this find were discovered such hominins as Homo rudolfiensis, Australopithecus anamensis and early stone tools. Contains remnants of other mammals.
  • Lothagam - Rift Valley Province. Very important find of fossils, including ancestors of man. In deposits have been found remnants of numerous now extinct mammals, fish, birds and reptiles who lived in Late Miocene. Very interesting are remnants of primates, including hominoids (Australopithecus).
  • Olorgesailie - Rift Valley Province. Important archaeological site of early humans. Here have been found numerous tools made by man 600 - 900 thousand years ago. Here have been found also numerous bones of now extinct animals, which, possibly, were hunted in this region. Tools have been made by Homo erectus - there have been found also remnants of these people.
  • Rusinga Island fossil finds - Nyanza Province. Very rich finds of the remnants of Miocene fauna, including numerous species of extinct primates, early ancestors of humans, and also other extinct mammals.
  • Tugen Hills - Rift Valley Province. Valuable find of fossils in a succession of deposits, which are between 14 and 4 million years old. Here have been found remnants of one of the oldest (6 million years old) bipedal hominins Orrorin tugenensis, as well as more recent hominids.

Ecosystems

Millions of flamingos in Lake Nakuru
Millions of flamingos in Lake Nakuru / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Giant groundsel forests on Mt. Kenya - Eastern Province. Afro-alpine zone of the mountain (just below the snow line) contains unique stands of unusual plant - up to 8 metres high Dendrosenecio keniodendron ((R.E.Fr. & T.C.E.Fr.) B.Nord.) which has evolved special form for survival in harsh montane conditions. Numerous other endemic species of plants and animals.
  • Kasigau Forest - Coast Province. Remnant of ancient African forests, mountain rainforest in 1400 - 1641 m height. This forest is geographically well isolated and surrounded by savannah.
  • Lake Nakuru flamingos and Lake Baringo flamingos - Rift Valley Province. At times these lakes are colored pink by millions of flamingos nesting along the shores - this is one of the greatest spectacles provided by live nature in the world. Lakes are very rich with algae and thus can support rich ecosystems.
  • Mount Marsabit Forest - Eastern Province. Unique, isolated 150 km² large tropical forest. One of few places in the world where a pure, wild natural coffee is found.
  • Matthews Range (Mathew Ranges) - Rift Valley Province. Mountain range covered with tropical forest. For many thousands of years this forest has been isolated with dry lands extending for hundreds of kilometres around it. As a result here have evolved unique species of plants and animals. Here grows the Matthews Cycad (Encephalartos tegulaneus).
  • Ngangao Forest, Mbololo Forest and Chawia Forest - Coast Province. The largest remnants of the Taita Hills forests - some of the most ancient African forests. In Taita Hills still are found numerous endemic species of plants and animals not met outside these mountains, including species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. In each of the smaller forest remnants have been found numerous species which are not known even outside these forests, for example only in Mbololo Forest is found Saintpaulia teitensis - beautiful flowering plant. Some parts of forest are sacred to local people, there are still existing caves with skulls of ancestors.
  • Shimba Hills - Coast Province. Remnant of Eastern African coastal tropical forests with very high level of endemism. Here grow approximately 280 species of endemic plants (out of 1,100 total) which are not met outside this forest. In the hills live hundreds of elephants.
Crystal of tsavorite from Scorpion Mine
Crystal of tsavorite from Scorpion Mine / , Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Glaciers of Mount Kenya - Eastern Province. Glaciers close to equator on 5,199 m high mountain. Largest glacier here is Lewis Glacier. All glaciers of Mount Kenya are disappearing and in a few decades they might be lost. In the night here often is freeze, has formed a permafrost.
  • Kit-Mikayi - Nyanza Province. Unusual rock formation - a natural sculpture. This 70 m high stack of stones served as sacred site for local community.
  • Mzima Springs - Coast Province. In the middle of savannah are emanating four powerful springs which create Mzima stream. The clear water attracts numerous animals, springs maintain a population of Nile crocodiles and hippos.
  • Ngangao Mother Tree - Coast Province. Giant tree - Newtonia buchananii - in the primeval Ngangao forest.
  • Ol Njorowa Gorge - Rift Valley Province. Impressive, narrow gorge. The cliffs often are overhanging and hiding the sky. Here are located also hot springs.
  • Scorpion Mine near Mwatate ("Bridges Mine") - Coast Province, Taita Hills. One of the few finds of beautiful green gemstone - tsavorite.

Man made landmarks

Historical towns

Lamu Old Town
Lamu Old Town / , / CC BY 2.0
  • Faza fishing village - Coast Province. Interesting monument of urban planning: a fisher settlement taking whole small island, surrounded by mangrove swamps and water. Long elevated causeway leads to the village, there are no cars in Faza. Development of this town started in 14th century.
  • Kaya Kinondo, Kaya Kwale, Kaya Giriami and other Mijikenda settlements (in total - 11 settlements) - Coast Province. Coastal hillforts - settlements - ceremonial centres developed by immigrant Mijikenda culture in 16th - 17th centuries. Abandoned in 19th centuries. Now covered with forest and considered to be sacred places of ancestor spirits. Belong to the few locations where in Eastern Africa has been preserved coastal tropical forest.
  • Lamu Old Town - Coast Province. Oldest town in Kenya, established by Swahili and influenced by Chinese, Arabian, Turkish and Portuguese settlers. Flourished in 17th - 18th centuries. Contains many excellent examples of Swahili architecture, no cars can enter the old town. Impressive structure is Lamu Fort, built on the seafront.
  • Mombasa Old Town - Coast Province. One of the main historical metropoles in East Africa, developed since medieval times. Buildings and planning represent a fusion of Swahili, Portuguese and Islam architecture. Buildings often are adorned with intricately carved doors.
  • Old Gedi - Coast Province. Historical, abandoned city, developed since 15th century. Preserved parts of ancient mosque, palace. City is abandoned since the late 16th - early 17th century.
  • Takwa Ruins - Coast Province. Jungle covered ruins of Muslim town, which was established by 1500 and abandoned in the 18th century. Well preserved is the Great Mosque. Interesting monument is Pillar Tomb, still used by local people to pray for rain.

Prehistoric monuments

  • Hyrax Hill - Rift Valley Province. Interesting Neolithic settlement from 1500 BC. Found remnants of tombs and stone fortress, burials of 19 beheaded human bodies in crooked positions. Here found also Sirikwa Holes - interesting cattle enclosures built by Sirikwa culture in 12th - 16th century. These enclosures represent some 2.4 m deep holes with 10 - 20 m diameter, enclosed with stone walls.
  • Mawanga Cave amd Kwitone Shelter - Nyanza, Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria. Cliff paintings - red and white concentric cirles, spirals, suns. Considered to be 1 - 4 thousand years old. Island contains numerous diverse sacred sites including sacred groves.
  • Namoratunga I and Namoratunga II - Rift Valley Province. Two very interesting megalithic sites. Both are cemeteries from circa 300 BC, adorned with rings of massive standing stones with cattle brand symbols. In Namoratunga II 19 standing basalt stones have astronomical alignment.
Kenyatta International Conference Centre
Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Fort Jesus in Mombasa - Coast Province. Large fort, built in 1593 by Portuguese. From air the plan of fort resembles a man. The first European fortress outside Europe built to resist cannon fire. Much used in warfare.
  • Kenyatta International Conference Centre - Nairobi. This landmark building was constructed in 1966 - 1973. Hotel is 105 m tall, has 30 floors.

List of described attractions by provinces

Kenya is divided into 8 provinces.

Provinces of Kenya

Central
Coast
Eastern
Nairobi
North Eastern
Nyanza
Rift Valley
ArrowChemurkeu Hot Springs, Lake BogoriaSprings, Geysers
ArrowKoibobei Hot Springs and GeysersSprings, Geysers
ArrowLogipi GeyserSprings, Geysers
ArrowLoburu Geysers and Hot Springs, Lake BogoriaSprings, Geysers
ArrowNorth Island Geyser, Lake TurkanaSprings, Geysers
ArrowSoro Hot Springs, Ol Kokwe IslandSprings, Geysers
Western

Map of Kenya