Last updated: 06:00 AM ET, Thu October 19 2017

Kenya

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The East African country of Kenya was the first sub-Saharan country in Africa to gain footing as a tourist destination. Kenya travel may offer the best game viewing in all of Africa. It shares the huge Serengeti Plains with its neighbor Tanzania, and that is where the great migrations take place every year as the wildebeests, various antelopes and zebras migrate in search of fresh grasses in the wake of the rainy season. Their migration makes a circle and continues all year and they are relentlessly pursued by the predators, the lions, cheetahs and leopards. It’s one of the grandest spectacles in the world. It’s impossible to understand the exhilaration of seeing so many big wild animals traveling and living free of human hindrances. It’s something you have to see for yourself.

Kenya has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, which goes way back and has its roots in the big game hunting concessions that were run in Africa in the early 20th century. Today’s safaris are no longer about shooting animals, but they still use much of the lore and infrastructure that was developed in the early days. Lodges and tented camps still look and function much as they did in the days when Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway went on safari to hunt. Today’s safari goers just shoot pictures, or merely observe, which is a good thing because many of Africa’s most spectacular animals are now endangered.

Safaris are still the biggest attraction in Kenya. Tour operators fly their customers into Nairobi and usually fly them in small aircraft out to the many game preserves in the country, such as Amboseli National Park, the Masai Mara and Samburu. The operators are highly professional, have their model of operations down pat and accidents or injuries are practically unheard of even though they are able to take their customers to within a few feet of where lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and zebras are engaging in their life and death struggles in the wilderness.

Though movies of Africa may have portrayed it mostly as a jungle, Kenya is mostly open plains, known as savannah. The country also has mountains, white sand beaches and desert areas, but 75 percent of the land is plains. Kenya straddles the equator, but because of the high altitude of the high plains, the temperatures are generally moderate.

Before the 1960s Kenya was a British colony. English was the official language under the British Empire, and it is still almost universally spoken, along with the native Swahili. Driving is on the left, but for most American visitors, professional guiding is more or less essential. Travelers can sample the local culture of city life in Nairobi, Mombasa or Kisumu City on the shore of Lake Victoria. Though most safari-goers will not stop in Mombasa or Kisumu, most will be traveling through Nairobi on the way to the bush, and there is urban culture to be explored in Nairobi. There are plenty of good restaurants in Nairobi, offering a variety of cuisines.

If safaris don’t provide enough adventure, there is much more available to adventure seekers, including hot air balloons over the Masai Mara, horseback riding, white water rafting, mountain biking, walking safaris, big game fishing and even golf. For climbers, Kenya offers a range of snow-capped mountains, including its tallest, Mt. Kenya.

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Kenya Videos

A Talk with Kenya's Najib Balala

James Shillinglaw interviews Najib Balala, minister of tourism for Kenya, about the country's tourism comeback, how it's targeting the U.S. market and what visitors can expect from one of Africa's great safari destinations.

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Continent Africa

Population 37,538,000

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