Kenya Car Hire
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The Republic of Kenya is located on the equator in the east of Africa and is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, Somalia to the east and Ethiopia to the north. Its capital is Nairobi, its population is 52.57 million and it covers a total area of 580,367 square km.
With natural scenery that ranges from sweeping savannahs to majestic mountains, amazing wildlife and a rich traditional culture, Kenya encapsulates everything that’s most magical about Africa. Kikuyu, Luo, Swahili and English are some of the main languages and this is an extremely ethnically diverse nation with a fascinating history and dynamic contemporary culture. Palaeontologists have discovered some of the earliest evidence of mankind’s ancestors in the Great Rift Valley, which has earned Kenya the nickname of ‘the cradle of humanity’ ̶ perhaps no other nation on Earth can claim such a seminal influence on our very existence. At 3,825m high, Mount Kenya is the second-highest in Africa after Kilimanjaro and national parks like the Maasai Mara have pioneered wildlife conservation and protected the nation’s biodiversity. Meanwhile, the beaches at Diani, Watamu and Nyali are breath-taking and Nairobi is a fast-paced metropolis with many unique attractions and amenities. If you want a walk on the wild side and the rare opportunity of immersing yourself in some of Africa’s most legendary cultures, welcome home.
Prices for hiring a car in Kenya start at €66.20 per day for a compact car like a Toyota Corolla Fielder and €112.33 for a rugged Toyota Hilux crew cab. Hire a car in Kenya with Enjoy and your African adventure awaits, but first, here are a few crucial facts about this ancient and awe-inspiring country.
- About Kenya: the scenery here is a highlight reel of iconic African images ̶ you’ll find blazing savannah sunsets with silhouetted acacia trees, snow-capped mountains spilling downwards to arid deserts, palm-lined coastlines caressed by golden beaches, and lush forests brimming with fauna and flora. This is also a nation teeming with wildlife and creatures featured here include zebras, wildebeests, rare black rhinos, elephants, flamingos and countless other awesome animals. Several species were poached to near extinction here in the 1970s and 1980s until Kenya became one of the world’s first nations to train and deploy armed rangers, and the watchword for today’s nature reserves is conservation rather than exploitation. Finally, Kenya’s greatest assets are its people ̶ this is a marvellous multicultural society which has been shaped by the proud traditions, creativity and ingenuity of groups like the Kikuyu, Samburu, Turkana, and Maasai.
- Airports and access: the largest airport in Kenya is Nairobi/Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), which connects the nation to 45 countries around the world, but there’s also Kisumu International Airport (KIS), Moi International Airport in Mombasa (MBA), Eldoret International Airport (EDL), and Wilson Airport (WIL).
- Famous Kenya: celebrated sons and daughters of Kenya include women’s rights activist, environmentalist and Nobel prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai, cardiovascular surgeon Professor Peter Amollo Odhiambo, freedom fighters Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, footballer Victor Wanyama, musician Fundi Konde and writer Binyavanga Wainaina.
There’s evidence that Cushite people from north Africa first settled in the east African area that would become Kenya as early as 2000BC and by the 1st Century AD Arab traders were visiting the Kenyan coast and established trading outposts. Bantu and Nilotic people also settled here throughout the first millennium AD and today around 92% of modern Kenyans are descended from these groups. Portuguese navigators arrived in 1498 and Mombasa became a prominent port of call for ships restocking on their journeys to the Far East, but the nation then fell under the control of the Imam of Oman in the 17Th Century. Britain took control in the 19th Century during the colonial scramble for Africa, with the British Government establishing the East African Protectorate in 1895, settlers flooding in and Kenya officially becoming a British colony in 1920, with Africans and Asians denied political participation.
In 1942, against this backdrop of subjugation, the Kamba, Meru, Embu and Kikuyu tribes swore an oath of allegiance to unite and fight for freedom against British rule, and the Mau Mau movement for national sovereignty was born. Kenya was placed under a state of emergency from 1952-59 due to the Mau Mau rebellion, leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta were imprisoned, others like Dedan Kimathi were executed and thousands of Kenyans suffered under harsh conditions in detention camps. However, the first elections of Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957, Jomo Kenyatta was released in 1962 and Kenya declared independence on 12th December 1963. The maintenance of democracy since has not been without its challenges, but Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 which limited presidential power and increased regional devolution, oil was discovered in 2012 and a new, cutting-edge railway line was opened in 2017 between Nairobi and Mombasa, constituting the most comprehensive infrastructure project since the nation gained independence. Kenya today is a beautiful, diverse and exciting nation which has emerged from considerable struggles to take its rightful place as one of the most significant seedbeds of human civilisation and welcome visitors from around the world.
Guide to Kenya
The first chapters of the human story unfolded in Kenya and today it’s a vibrant tapestry of dramatically varied terrain, vivacious culture and wonderful wildlife.
Wild at heart
Kenya is one of the world’s wildlife hotspots and through a concerted effort over the last few decades it has proved that by placing conservation first and foremost, humans and the species they share their environment with can live together in symbiotic harmony, with the lucrative by-product of an ecotourism sector which now contributes significantly to what has become east Africa’s most robust economy.
The primary ecosystems here are tropical and subtropical forest and savannah, and you’ll see Africa’s ‘Big Five’ of buffalo, leopards, rhinos, elephants and lions in abundance, as well as giraffes, zebras, baboons and much more. The Maasai Mara reserve alone supports 25,000 unique animal species, hosts the impressive annual wildebeest migration and is also home to cheetah, hyena and gazelle, the Mara and Talek rivers are teeming with crocodile and hippo and the acacia forests are home to hundreds of native bird species. Meanwhile, the Lewa Conservancy project focuses on supporting endangered rhinos, and the Amboseli National Park is renowned for elephants.
The birthplace of famous fossil hunter Louis Leakey, the remains of at least seven hominid species have been unearthed in Kenya, so the roots of humanity’s family tree are firmly planted here. The Orrorin Tugenensis hominid fossils were discovered here in the Tugen Hills in the west in 2001 and they date from 5.5 million to 6.2 million years ago, while at Kanapoi in northern Kenya, the first fossil of the Australopithecus anamensis was discovered, which lived from 3.9 million to 4.2 million years ago. Furthermore, in 1984 in West Turkana, fossil hunter Kamoya Kimeu discovered the almost complete skeleton of a nine-year-old homo erectus child that lived 1.6 million years ago. Soon dubbed ‘Turkana Boy’ researchers concluded that the child was over 5 feet tall when he died and would likely have been over six feet tall had he survived to adulthood.
The people of Kenya comprise 13 ethnic groups and 27 subgroups represented, and although the official languages are English and Swahili, 62 languages are actually spoken here, most of which are African tribal tongues, with a minority of Arabic and Asian languages imported by settlers.
The majority of Kenyans are of Bantu extraction and this tribal group includes the Kamba, Luhya and Kikuyu peoples, while Nilotic tribes such as the Maasai, Turkana and Kalenjin are also significant, there are Hamitic tribes such as the Rendille and Samburu and a minority of non-African groups of European, Indian and Arab descent. In terms of culture and traditions, each of these groups is distinct, but the unified national psyche of Kenya is community oriented rather than individualistic, with the concept of ‘Harambee’ (a Bantu word meaning ‘pulling together’) supporting a civic-minded approach to life based on community self-reliance and mutual responsibility for land, resources and each other.
What to do in Kenya?
From spotting exotic animals on safari to chilling out on soft seaside sands and soaking up the nightlife in bustling cities, Kenya’s eclectic attractions are by turn inspirational, cathartic and thrilling.
There are plenty of safari parks to choose from in Kenya but if you’re forced to settle for one, it’s tough to see past the iconic Maasai Mara in Narok, Rift Valley Province. The best time to visit is between June and October as this is the dry season and the wildebeest migration usually arrives in July before moving to the neighbouring Serengeti in Tanzania. Your wardrobe here should consist of green and khaki shades, rugged walking shoes, a warm jacket and scarf, sunscreen, binoculars and a good camera or camera phone. Awesome animals here include the aforementioned wildebeest, as well as cheetah, zebra, gazelle and pretty much everything else. Maasai Mara is renowned for having the most approachable animals in Kenya, but please be sensible and follow the advice of your professional tour guide.
Kenya isn’t readily associated with beaches to anyone not yet initiated to its diverse delights but there are several stunning seaside resorts to choose from. If you’re based in Mombasa, Nyali is a stone’s throw away and well worth a visit. The long sweep of white sand and azure waters are perfect for rest and relaxation, the coral reefs of Mombasa Marine National Park are a scuba diver’s paradise and you’re also close to crocodile farms, Hindu temples, shopping malls and supermarkets.
Kenya’s towns and cities have much to recommend them too and there are plenty of delightful distractions in capital Nairobi as well as Mombasa. In Nairobi you can take in a terrific cultural performance with authentic costumes, music and dancing at the Bomas of Kenya venue, pick up fresh fruit and vegetables and sample dishes like nyama choma (meat grilled on an open fire) at the City Park Hawkers market and let your hair down in the trendy Westlands district at craft beer emporium Brew Bistro and late night live music spot The Alchemist.
Eating out in Kenya
Authentic Kenyan dishes include Ugali, a maize flour porridge which is often eaten with fish stew or spicy beef, mukimo, a tasty delicacy made from potatoes, corn, onions and peas, and maharagwe, a dish comprising red beans cooked in coconut milk. However, you’ll find a range of restaurants here serving local and international fare.
For fine dining with an Asian twist, try the Hero Restaurant at Nairobi’s Limuru Road Trademark Hotel. The ambience is laid-back and elegant, dishes like green chili rolls, crispy panko prawn rolls, and chicken teriyaki are terrific and, since you’re on the hotel’s 9th floor, the panoramic views across Nairobi’s skyline are stunning. Main courses range from 700 to 2000 Kenya Sillings (approx. €6 - €16 or £5 to £15)
If you’re in Mombasa and yearning for mouth-watering seafood, visit Sea Haven Restaurant for dishes like deep-fried prawns, snapper, or the seafood platter ̶ all washed down with wonderful white wine and inspirational Indian Ocean views. Prices for main courses range from 1000 to 5000 Kenya Sillings (approx. €8 to €38 or £7 to £35).
Vibrant Indian eatery Hashimi BBQ is located in Nairobi’s busy Nakumatt Mall and its colourful food is uncommonly good. Try the fish tikka with scorching hot poussin chips or the delectable chooza chicken in sauce. Prices change from from 1000 to 2000 Kenya Sillings (approx. €8 - €16 or £7 to £15).
Transport in Kenya
The main airports in Kenya are Nairobi/Jomo Kenyatta (NBO) and Moi International Airport (MBA) Mombasa. Enjoy partners with reliable car hire providers at Kenyan airports like Green Motion Car and Van Rental, amongst others.
Buses, boats and boda-bodas
The only city with a municipal bus service is Nairobi and the network covers the city centre and suburbs during daytime only, while Metro Shuttle and City Hopper services operate to the airport. Meanwhile, there’s a public ferry at Likoni between the mainland and Mombasa island, another which traverses Lake Victoria and another service between Mbita and Mfangano Island. None of the above modes of transport is particularly safe ̶ hiring a car and travelling under your own steam is by far the best way to get around.
Driving in Kenya
you won’t be surprised that in a country with such spectacular terrain, there’s some superb driving available. Here are just a couple of recommended road trips:
If you’re based in Nairobi and fancy a super safari experience, the 270km road trip to Meru takes around five hours but you’ll pass dramatic mountains and verdant agricultural lands along the way, passing locations like Nyeri, Nanyuki, Timau and Isiolo. Amongst Meru’s bushlands, swamps, rivers and grasslands you’ll spot cobras, buffalos, pythons, zebras, hartebeests and elephants. This is where George and Joy Adamson raised the lioness Elsa, documented in the iconic book and movie Born Free and the park is situated on the doorstep of Mount Kenya.
For a shorter trip from Nairobi, hit the road for around two hours to Naivasha, where you can see the Longonot volcano, Crater Lake and Hells Gate National Park in the Rift Valley, which has a lunar landscape moulded from volcanic activity and is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 100 species recorded, including swifts, buzzards, Ruppell’s Vultures and Verreaux’s Eagles.
Kenya Driving tips
You always drive on the left side of the road in Kenya. Speed limits are 80km/h (50mph) on the highway, 50km/h (31mph) in urban areas and you should drive at 40km/h (25mph) off-road.
Roads in and around Nairobi are tarmac and usually in good condition, although roads in more rural areas can be unsurfaced.
Seatbelts are mandatory and use of hand-held phones is illegal, although hands-free systems are acceptable.
Always carry your driver’s license and car rental documents whenever you get behind the wheel.
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