Kenya’s great lakes and cities

What to do after your safari

Kenya’s great lakes and cities
By Julie Olum

Great lakes of Kenya

Kenya makes up part of Africa’s Great Lakes Region — a group of freshwater lakes along the Rift Valley that run from Ethiopia in the north to Malawi in the south. Highlights in Kenya include Lake Victoria, largely regarded as the source of the Nile and also the largest freshwater lake on the continent, and Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. There are migratory birds to watch, healing waters at mineral hot springs, opportunities for boating and fishing and many fascinating legends of the communities who have lived around the lakes for centuries.

Each of the lakes is home to several bird species, including migratory ones such as the elegant pink lesser flamingos that cover the shores of Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita in the dry seasons and populate Lake Bogoria for most of the year. Other birds of note include white pelicans, storks and more. Practically all of Kenya’s major lakes combine stunning birdlife and relaxation on all budgets with good game viewing — Lake Nakuru National Park is a great place to see game at any time of the year.

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Group of pink flamingoes, Lake Nakuru

Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu

Kenya’s three main cities — Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu — each have their own unique personalities and generally don’t get the recognition they deserve from travellers.

Continental hub and capital Nairobi is so much more than just the place you enter Kenya from. It’s a vibrant hotspot of art, music, the tech industry and cultural heritage — all worth exploring for a few days. The city has no shortage of live music venues, art shows, artisanal markets and so many quality bars and restaurants of various cuisines that it’s almost overwhelming. Don’t make the mistake many travellers do of leaving straight after arriving into Nairobi.

Mombasa offers a different experience. It is the country’s largest port and has been a gateway into Kenya and the region for centuries — the influence of generations of people of Arab, Indian and Portuguese heritage is evident here, from the city’s architecture to styles of dress and even the street food. Historical sites like Fort Jesus and the Old Town will stir up your curiosity for Swahili culture. If this piques your interest, head up Kenya’s coast all the way to the Lamu archipelago in search of more. Here, you can learn more about Swahili culture in Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited town as well as exploring the 200-year old Lamu Fort or heading out into the ocean on a traditional dhow boat.

Finally, Kisumu, known as the city by the lake — Victoria, that is — is the gateway to Kenya’s second coast and claims the best sunsets in the land. Kisumu is a key stop in exploring Western Kenya with its lush, hilly landscapes, fascinating giant rock formations (and the legends that go with them) and year-round warm climate. There are even lush, unspoiled islands in the lake that you might confuse for the Caribbean with their palm trees and gentle waves lapping at sandy shores. This is beach holiday territory.

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Nairobi cityscape

Kenya’s great lakes and cities

By Julie Olum

Julie Olum is a nomad, writer, YouTuber and architecture graduate from Nairobi, Kenya. The hands and mind behind FrameAmbition.com, she makes online content around solo travel, festivals and visa hacks for holders of “weak passports". Her love affair with travel is now a near-obsession with slow travel and exploring cultural similarities across the world.

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