Kenya may be famous the world over for its diverse wildlife, but the country is home to several other attractions as well. As soon as you step in its capital, Nairobi, the sight of Matatus (private buses that are used to transport people) will catch your attention. These minibuses distinctly use the logos and colours of English football teams. Some even sport paintings of international brands and faces of Hollywood stars.
Two must- visit cities other than Nairobi are Mombasa and Lamu, a small island northwest of Mombasa, which has buildings inspired by Indian, Arabic and European styles of architecture.
Some major attractions in Mombasa are Fort Jesus (built by the Portuguese from 1593-1596), and the Nyali, Bamburi, Shelly, Tiwi and Diani beaches. Malindi, another town, is home to Malindi Museum, which displays artefacts related to Vasco da Gama.
Interestingly, this place may remind you of the museums in Goa. Although it was humanely impossible to cover the entire length and breadth of the country in a limited number of days, we did manage to visit a few other interesting places.
Nairobi National Museum
Built in 1929, the museum focuses on the heritage, culture, history and contemporary art of Kenya. Fossils are a major attraction here. The skeleton of a 1.6 million-year-old male hominid found near Lake Turkana is fascinating. The hominid skull room contains the skulls of some of our ancient ancestors such as Homo erectus. The museum also houses shopping and dining facilities, botanical gardens, and an art gallery.
Karen Blixen Museum
Located on the outskirts of Nairobi, and built in 1912, this is the home of Danish author Karen Blixen, and her Swedish husband, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, whom she later divorced. She fell in love with a safari hunter, Denys Finch Hatton, and stayed with him in the house.
Situated on the foot of the Ngong Hills, this 6,000-acre property is surrounded by lush greenery. The house gained prominence after the release of the Oscar-winning film, Out Of Africa (1985), which is loosely based on the life of Blixen. In 1964, the Danish government bought the house from several owners, and later gifted it to Kenya, as an independence gift. Blixon sold most of the house’s furniture to pay off her debts.
However, some of her possessions, including a bookcase and a cabinet in the dining room, were recovered and donated to the museum. A phonograph, a dining table, and a cuckoo clock, which were used on the sets of Out Of Africa, are also on display. The house has a library, a dining room, a foyer, a lavatory and a kitchen.
Ruins of Gedi
The remnants of a 12th century Swahili town, first visited in 1884 by Sir John Kirk, spans over 44 hectares of land. It is located 94km from Mombasa. The ruins consist of mosques, a palace and houses built on a 45-acre forest area. It is believed that the town’s residents abandoned it in the 17th century due to various reasons. The palace has a porch, courts and rooms, a mosque, a tomb dating back to 1399, toilets, a 50m deep well and a baobab tree, which is at least 400 years old.
Watamu Marine National Park
This park is the oldest in East Africa. It covers a distance of about 5km from north to south. The central part of the park, the Coral Gardens, is the hotspot for snorkelling. Here, there are buoys, where boat operators can tie up the boat, while you snorkel safely. If you are not a swimmer, divers, who accompany tourists on the boats, will take you underwater. The main coral gardens are situated in a 500m area. Whale sharks, manta rays, parrotfish and octopuses can be found here.
Mida Creek Boardwalk
Mida Creek is a large saline lagoon that merges with a 1,600-hectare mangrove forest. It spans across an area of 32km. It is also a resting spot for migratory birds from Eurasia. The sight of a huge number of tiny crabs in the sand is an added attraction. A 260-meter-long suspended rope bridge, made of wooden planks, will guide you to a shelter, from where you can watch the birdlife. You can spot greater flamingos and crab plovers on the way. At the end of the boardwalk, board canoes that will take you into the sea, and catch a glimpse of see sea urchins, sea cucumbers and cowfish.
Disclaimer: The writer travelled to Kenya as a guest of the Kenya Tourism Board