Bahrain – Always warmer

You probably already know about Bahrain’s sun-kissed climate, but how about the warmth of its culture, hospitality and people? This is your guide to Bahrain’s best bits, from outdoors adventures under sunny skies, to the best ways to befriend the heart-warming locals.

Kayaking in Bahrain Bay

Bahrain – an archipelago of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf – offers dreamy beach holidays starring idyllic shores, watersports and incredible wildlife. Beach-lovers have plenty of choice here, including public stretches of sand and private slices of paradise attached to the luxurious hotels and resorts. Try beach volleyball or just unfurl your towel and stretch out at Bahrain Jazair Beach (near the Zallaq area) or Marassi Beach, two of Bahrain Island’s most popular public beaches.

Jarada Island

Prefer island-hopping to beach-lazing? Join a boat trip and sail from island to island. Couples can make a beeline for romantic Jarada Island, which appears in the ebb and vanishes in the tide. Al Dar Islands is Bahrain’s natural beach resort and the nearest getaway from the city, offering a variety of watersports and beach activities.

Dolphin in Bahrain

Stay in the water to meet some of Bahrain’s finned and feathered locals. Hawar Islands attract dolphins and flamingos to their calm waters.
Bahrain is famous for its ponderous dugongs (aka sea cows); at certain times of the year, herds of up to 100 of these gentle giants can be spotted swimming majestically in the Arabian Gulf.

Block 338

Back on dry land, continue to enjoy the wonderfully warm weather by making the most of Bahrain’s al fresco dining scene. Head to Block 338, a fashionable quarter of Manama’s Adliya neighbourhood that’s packed with art galleries, cafés and restaurants. There’s plenty of choice when it comes to food and drink, but some firm favourites include: Attic for its roof terrace overlooking the city skyline; Coco’s for creative salads and iced tea, and the Orangery Tearoom & Patisserie, which has a beautiful outside seating area and serves a faultless saffron French toast (among other treats).

Kenya Adventure

There’s nowhere better for off-the-beaten track adventures than Kenya, which has 59 National Parks for visitors to explore. You’ve heard of the Big Five – but what about the Samburu Five, a quintet of rare animals a short flight from Nairobi? Hop in a Jeep to the Samburu National Reserve for the five headline acts: the gerenuk, the reticulated giraffe, the Somali ostrich, the Grevy’s zebra and the beisa oryx. While you’re there, meet the Samburu tribe, related to the Maasai. The Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists who herd cattle, but also keep sheep, goats and camels. Samburu is one of the best places on earth to see elephant and cheetah; visitors can also go rhino-tracking with Saruni Rhino, a luxury camp that’s an hour and a half from Samburu by car.

Laikipia

If you like the idea of having the Big Five (almost) to yourself, swap the Maasai Mara for Laikipia in central Kenya, which is gaining recognition as one of Kenya’s best safari spots. Laikipia offers plenty of room for discerning explorers and is home to a wealth of endangered species, including roughly half of Kenya’s black rhino population. Why not try an alternative safari here? Explore the region with a walking tour, or go horse-riding or mountain-biking. Another Laikipia lure is Ol Pejeta, the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa. Ol Pejeta is home to the last two remaining northern white rhino in the world; it’s also the only place in Kenya where you can see chimpanzees.

Mount Kenya

Keen climbers and walkers may already know that the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya is the continent’s second-highest mountain, measuring in at a lofty 5,199 metres. There are plenty of treks to choose from, with options to suit all abilities: the lush, green lowlands make for pleasurable, scenic strolls; thrill-seekers can pick from the main summit, Batian, and the second summit, Nelion (the third peak, Point Lenana, is more accessible at 4,985 metres). Wildlife-lovers are in luck: elephants, Cape buffalo, colobus monkeys, bushbucks and giant forest hogs can be seen in the park’s 228 square miles of foothills. You could also explore Karura Forest just northwest of Nairobi or go hiking in the Ngong Hills, southwest of the capital.

Lamu Dhow Boat

If you love the idea of experiencing island life, Kenyan style, head to Manda or Lamu: two beautiful, historic islands off the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya, linked by a ferry service. On Manda, discover the ruins of the once-prosperous ports of Takwa and Manda town, which date back to the ninth century. There are no roads on Lamu – instead, locals get around on foot or by boat, and donkeys are used to pull carts and transport goods. These unspoiled coastlines make for incredible diving and snorkelling.

Shimba Hills

Land-lovers might prefer to spend time at Shimba National Reserve, which is just a couple of hours from Mombasa. This ideal day trip stars Kenya’s only population of Sable Antelope; visitors can also admire more than 700 elephants roving in the park. Here, Kenya’s wildlife comes with beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. Hikers should head to the Chyulu Hills, just west of Tsavo, considered to be some of the youngest volcanic mountains in the world. This trekkers’ paradise is bordered by an expanse of black lava flow known as Shetani: the source of many local legends. The region is famous for its elephant herds, leopard and breathtaking views from the Hills. Go horse-riding, camping, mountain climbing and bird watching; look out for buffalo, bushbucks, elands, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, reedbucks and giraffes – plus myriad reptiles and insects.

Lake Victoria

The magnificent expanse of Lake Victoria lies at Kenya’s Western frontier. This massive (nearly 70,000 sq kms) lake forms a natural boundary between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The lake is at the heart of the African continent – it’s the source of its mightiest river, the Nile, and its mighty body of water is rich in fish life, with shimmering shoals of colourful cichlids and large Nile perch. Many visitors to the lake are lured here by the latter: Nile perch are ranked as a world-class game fish. Join a fishing expedition, or explore Kisumu: a quiet port town on the Lakeshore, which has elegant colonial architecture and wide streets. Get your wildlife fix at the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, which shelters herds of impalas and zebras; its animal orphanage protects cheetahs and baboons.

Kenyan Culture

Prepare to feel at home in Kenya, where the hospitality is as warm as its weather. Kenya has a fascinating culture: it’s one of the most diverse African countries, both culturally and linguistically. More than 42 tribes reside here with 70 different ethnic groups including large populations of Europeans, Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis, many of whom came here in the 19th century. Kenya’s culture reveals this vibrant mix of influences – its popular music, for example, often blends African, Indian, European and American styles. Listen to Benga while you’re here: this upbeat pop music combines traditional African drum and dance rhythms with modern electronic sounds and melodies.

While, Kenya’s largest ethnic group is the Bantu, by far the most famous are the Maasai and their colourful warriors. Further north, the equally colourful Samburu people hold strong on their traditions while the dominant tribe, the Swahili, are found in the coastal region. The country has a colourful history, once being a British colony and you will find various museums and places of historical interest in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.

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Want to get involved in authentic experiences? Many lodges and camps have links to the local community through social and wildlife projects. This could include visiting a local school, village or even going out on patrol with rangers to learn how they protect the wildlife in the parks. You might even be lucky enough to take part in important ceremonies such as a Maasai blessing ceremony, or watch a traditional dance performance. Don’t forget that each year Loiyangalani, a small town on Lake Turkana, comes to life during the annual Lake Turkana Festival. The three-day carnival is a celebration of the rich cultures of the El Molo, Samburu, Gabbra, Rendile, Watta, Dasannach and the Turkana who live around the lake, also known as the Jade Sea.

Food is an important part of Kenyan hospitality, and further proof of the country’s rich cultural mix. Local dishes to try here include snacks such as roasted maize (sometimes served with chilli lime salt), samosas, mutura (Kenyan sausage) and mandazi (breakfast doughnuts), plus more substantial specialties such as nyama choma (roast meat) and Kenyan stew. Caffeine-fans are in luck: Kenya’s coffee beans are world-famous for good reason; tea is also very popular, traditionally brewed dark, mixed with lashings of whole-fat milk, and sweetened with a generous dose of sugar. The perfect fuel for adventures…

Kenya Safari

Welcome to your insider guide to Magical Kenya. Kenya has it all: thrilling wildlife, beautiful beaches, exciting adventures and fascinating culture. Come for the Big Five, the rugged national parks, the unspoiled coastlines, the friendly locals and all the bucket-list memories you’ll make. Here, dream-encounters with rare animals are the stuff of daily life; then there’s that beautiful sunny climate…

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There’s a lot more to Kenya than the Maasai Mara – but it’s not a bad place to start. No amount of David Attenborough-narrated documentaries can prepare you for the incredible majesty of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and its wide open plains. If you want to spot the Big Five, you’ve come to the right place: this is the birthplace of safari, after all. The Reserve is most famous for the Great Wildebeest Migration: the annual pilgrimage of 1.5-million wildebeest and zebra from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara’s emerald pastures. If you’re here between July and October, get a bird’s-eye view of the migration from the comfort of a hot-air balloon. At any time of year, however, you can expect to see lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, hippos and so much more.

Photo by Marca DeJong

Second only to the Maasai Mara National Reserve is the spectacular Amboseli National Park, in Kenya’s Kajiado County. Amboseli’s landscapes are full of vivid contrasts, from Lake Amboseli’s dried-up bed to savannahs, woodlands and wetlands with wildlife-rich swamps. The park offers incredible game-viewing (you’re likely to spot herds of elephants here) and its 400-plus bird species include pelicans, kingfishers, water birds, hammerkops, crakes and 47 types of raptors. The park is crowned by majestic Mount Kilimanjaro – so don’t forget your camera!

 

Fans of The Crown may remember that Aberdare National Park in central Kenya – and its royally luxurious Treetops Lodge – is where Princess Elizabeth learned that she had become the Queen of England. In addition to its historic credentials, Aberdare is famous for its vivid green moorland, its forested ravines and abundant wildlife. Sightings of rare animals are common: keep your eyes peeled for giant forest hogs, bongos, wild cats (golden, serval, civet and co.) and the blue duiker antelope.

Kenya’s cinematic lakes include Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Lake Elementeita. Lake Nakuru National Park was traditionally famous for its candyfloss-pink flamingos, which gathered in large numbers – effectively making the lake blush. More recently, the flamingoes have moved north to Lake Bogoria and Boringo, making way for other, plentiful bird life. Expect to spot pelicans and cormorants, grebes, white-winged black ferns, stilts, avocets and ducks. The Park doesn’t skimp on four-legged lures, either: set off in search of rhinos, buffalo, impalas, hyenas, lions and co. on a wildlife safari drive. Leopards and the rare Rothschild’s giraffe can also be admired here; don’t miss the hippo pool, where you can pause for a peaceful picnic and admire the hefty bathing locals.

If you’d like to tick off two national parks in one go, visit Tsavo in Kenya’s Coast Province, which spans Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. Kenya’s largest national park measures in at 22,000 square kilometres – making it one of the biggest parks in the world. Tsavo East is dry while its Western counterpart is more mountainous and wet, with swamps, Lake Jipe and the Mzima Springs. It’s known for bird life and for its large mammals: black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, hippo and lion, for example.

Fancy admiring giraffes, rhinos, lions, hyenas and more, with cloud-poking skyscrapers and the occasional plane touching down or taking off in the background? You can do exactly that in Nairobi National Park: the only national park in the world whose borders are this close to a capital city. The park is just a short drive from Nairobi’s Central Business District, making it easily accessible to visitors and locals alike. There are one-hundred mammal species to tick off here, plus 400 bird species. Stay in Nairobi for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nursery, where rescued baby elephants are reared, rehabilitated and eventually returned to the wild.

Kenya Beach

You already know about Kenya’s wonderful wildlife and wide open plains – but what about its world-class beaches? More than 500 kilometres of beautiful, white-sand Indian Ocean beaches await here. Mombasa’s stretches of sand are perhaps the best-known, thanks to their ease of access for visitors flying into Moi International Airport from the UK and Europe, or entering Kenya on cruise ships and internal flights from Nairobi. Base yourselves around Nyali Beach, which offers plenty of stylish resort accommodation. Step back in time on Mombasa Island, whose Old Town dates back to the 13th century; visitors can still admire traces of its Arab and Portuguese periods of rule.

Beach-bunnies can expect pristine white sands, crystalline azure waters, balmy breezes and protected coral reefs. If you want to just lie back and feel the sun on your skin, you’re in the right place. If you prefer to be more active, take advantage of your hotel and resort facilities, and try watersports and diving. Oceanic activities on offer here include: deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, whale-watching, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, dhow boat expeditions and swimming with whale sharks. All that sea air and excitement will make you hungry: indulge in a beachside feast – coconut rice with fish curry and chapatis or bajias (moreish Kenyan chips), perhaps – and soak up the local culture and history, too.

 

 

Popular beaches along the south coast include photogenic Diani (easily accessed by a short domestic flight). Diani has been named Africa’s Leading Beach Resort for three years in a row, thanks to its powder-soft sands, honeymoon-worthy looks, vivid greenery and deliciously warm waters. Embark on a camel tour while you’re here, or hire bikes and explore Diani’s inland villages. Secluded Tiwi Beach, roughly 17 kilometres south of Mombasa, is also worth visiting. Protected by reefs, these beaches’ calm, inviting waters are rich in coral, tropical fish, sea turtles and dolphins. The outer and inner reef walls offer world-class diving: expect rainbow-hued coral gardens and dramatic drop offs.

To admire the marine life up close, visit Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve, AKA the ‘Home of the Dolphin’. The park lies in the coral gardens south of Wasini Island and encompasses three small coral rag forest islands. Kisite offers unrivalled snorkelling locations; look out for dolphins and more than 250 fish species. It’s also a great spot for sunbathing, birdwatching and diving.

Just a two-hour drive from Mombasa, the small town of Malindi lies at the heart of a strip of gorgeous tropical beaches on the north coast. Pick from world-class resorts and quiet, romantic hideaways – wherever you bed down, you’re bound to relax and unwind.

Further south, discover the sleepy village of Watamu, which is fronted by wide white beaches. Private guest-houses are clustered in the forest along the deserted shore, alongside several big-name resorts. While you’re here, visit the Marine National Park just outside Watamu. The coral gardens 300 metres from the shore are home to 600-plus species of sea-life. You could also go game-fishing or try watersports here.