To the world, this is just an average East African country, until you encounter the most interesting facts about Kenya. For example, there’s an unofficial official language, sheng, which combines English, Kiswahili the national language, and bits of other Kenyan languages depending on which part of the country you are visiting, learn it.
You will be surprised by how much you can negotiate your way and probably cut costs. And oh, make friends with the locals…It is so Kenyan to prepare large amounts of food to cater for the unexpected guests. While at it, expect to be served tea, food, or other drinks without being consulted depending on the time of your visit.
You don’t have to confirm your attendance either, just show up, they will expect you to. So, what else can you expect from Kenya?
Read further to learn more.
What are the Most Interesting Facts about Kenya?
- Kenya is Named After a Mountain
- Kenya is the Home of Running Champions
- Kenya Is The Home Of The Big Five
- Kenya Shares Lake Victoria With 3 Other Countries
- Kenya Has Some Of The Best Beaches In The World
- Kenya Is The Gateway To East And Central Africa
- Kenya Comprise of 42 Tribes Plus Others…
- Kenya Has Famous People
- Nairobi, Kenya’s capital is the only city with a National Park
- Kenya Has Only Two Seasons
- Kenya is Surprisingly Good at Rugby
- The Great Rift Valley Runs Through Kenya
General Facts about Kenya
- Population: 53,771,296
- Capital: Nairobi
- Official Language: Kiswahili and English
- Currency: Kenyan Shilling
- Islands: 16
- Highest Mountain: Mount Kenya is 5199 meters above sea level
- Country Area: 377.915 km2
- Religion: Christian
- Country Number: +254
- Time Zone: UTC+3 (EAT)
- Country Code: KE
1. Kenya is Named After a Mountain
Like in most African traditions, Kenya is named after a physical feature. And what can be more imposing than a 17,021 ft mountain?
Apparently, the communities around Kirinyaga, the local name for the mountain, had varied pronunciation of the name, and the easiest sounded just like Kenya. The mountain is religiously significant to the region since it is believed to be the dwelling place of “Mwene Nyaga”, god the creator.
If you are planning on touring the region, this is one attraction that you can’t miss. Hiking is a year-long activity with the aim of reaching Batian, the highest peak.
How good are your rock-climbing skills? To climb the mountain and especially the rocky sections, you have to pass through some steep cliffs in windy sections. Reaching the top takes around 3-4 days with well-spaced rest-stops.
Camping is also allowed with wildlife and forestry guards ready to keep off elephants, monkeys, and buffaloes.
2. Kenya is the Home of Running Champions
Kenya makes headlines for dominating the world of distance running. Actually, there’s a popular saying that Kenyans don’t compete against others, just against their own records.
I’m talking about the majority wins in marathons, 3000m steeplechase, the Olympics, the world marathon…the list is endless but hey, stop imagining a medium-sized country with people running all over the place!
The majority of these champions are predominantly from the Kalenjin tribe of the Rift Valley province of Kenya. Apparently, lean bodies, high altitude environment, and strenuous childhood activities have worked in their favor.
If you are into sports, you can rub shoulders with Kenya’s and the world’s best athletes right in Iten, a town in the rift valley province of Kenya that is fondly christened ‘the home of Champions’.
Situated 22 miles from Kenya’s fifth-largest city Eldoret, Iten sits at an altitude of 7900 feet, just the perfect environment for high altitude training. Here, you can watch, join in or just mimic the several thousand athletes that live and train in the center.
3. Kenya is the Home of the Big Five
Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros, Elephants, and Cape Buffaloes…Kenya has all of them and in large numbers. Tourists flock the country in large numbers to see these marvels of nature. Between them, the Big Five represents the most skillful prey and the deadliest herbivores in the wild.
Are you a fan of nature shows? BBC’s Big Cat Diary is filmed at Maasai Mara, a game reserve in Kenya that extends to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Simply known as The Mara, this reserve hosts the Big Five plus other predators like cheetahs, crocodiles, and the African wild dog.
Are you aware of the Seven New Wonders of the world? Head to Kenya from June to witness one of the newest; the breath-taking annual wildebeest migration.
Thousands of wildebeests crisscross between Kenya and Tanzania in search of pasture. Here is where the adrenalin notches up; the “survival of the fittest” affair requires them to cross a wide crocodile-infested river.
Lake Victoria is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. With a surface area of 23,146 square miles, it is bigger than Denmark.
The lake was named after Queen Victoria in 1858 by John Speke, one 19th century’s greatest explorers. The Briton was an expedition to find the source of the River Nile.
Many of the region’s important and largest towns are located on the shores of the lake. Jinja, an industrial town in Uganda, is situated at the shores of the lake and near the source of the Nile.
The people around the lake are mainly fishermen. Kisumu, in Kenya, is a city renowned for its mouthwatering fish dishes. The most common food is Tilapia fish served with a chunk of Ugali, a local maize flour meal.
Ferries and boats transverse the lake which is shared among 3 East African countries; Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Travel within the lake will also take you to over 15 islands.
4. Kenya has Some of the Best Beaches in the World
One of the interesting facts about Kenya is the level of domestic tourism that this particular attraction pulls. During the months of April, August, and December, people from all over the country flock to Mombasa, a coastal town at the shores of the Indian Ocean.
So huge is the crowd that you can’t swim for more than 10 feet without bumping into someone. Tourists, on the other hand, are not limited by time. They flock to the coast throughout the year to swim and sunbathe in the ocean. The beaches, both public and private, are pristine and safe to explore.
To keep away from the crowds, glass-bottomed boats can take vacationers to the deep parts of the ocean. Marine life in the area includes corals, jellyfish, turtles, and sea stars.
The clear blue and deep ocean waters are also favored for windsurfing, deep-sea diving, water skiing, and snorkeling.
6. Kenya is the Gateway to East and Central Africa
In terms of infrastructure, business, and politics, Kenya is at the region’s center. With the economy and position, Kenya holds a significant position among other countries in the region.
To reach Kenya from Western or Eastern countries, air travel is well catered for. There are 16 paved airports in the country; 3 international ones and over 170 airstrips.
As such, movement from Nairobi, the capital, to anywhere in the country is fast and easy. There is also a railway system that connects the Kenyan coast to Uganda, and Tanzania.
Game parks and national animal reserves are serviced by private planes that operate from Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret airports.
Kenya’s important position in the global table is evident by being the seat of the United Nations Environment Programme. Kenya also hosts many international companies including IBM, Heineken, Toyota, Nestle, and General Electric.
7. Kenya Comprise of 42 Tribes Plus Others…
For those who have taken interest in Kenya as a tourist destination, the common depiction of a Kenyan national is a warrior donning a colorful shawl, beadwork, and headgear, with a spear in one hand and a shield in another. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
And you haven’t seen enough if you haven’t seen pictures of similar warriors jumping to heights of 2.5 feet or above. This is a spectacular representation of the rich Kenyan culture from the Maasai community, a minor tribe estimated to have a population of 900,000 out of Kenya’s 53 million people.
Kenya is made up of 42 tribes and like most other tribes, there are sub-tribes within. The ‘others’ include groups that aren’t established or recognized as tribes.
Kenya has more than 42 languages without counting the national and official languages Kiswahili and English.
While it is possible to have similar aspects, each of these tribes comes with unique cultures and traditions.
8. Kenya has Famous People
Do you know that Former US President Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan? Barack Obama Sr. was born in Kogelo, a small village in Kisumu county and an hour’s drive from Kisumu International Airport.
The first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was Dr. Wangare Mathai, a Kenyan conservationist champion. Most of the country’s forests and animals are greener and more vibrant thanks to her activism.
I don’t want to talk more about athletics, but it is hard not to mention Eliud Kipchoge. The Kenyan athlete who entered world records after running a marathon (about 26.2 miles) in under 2 hours. The 2020 event attracted over 500 million viewers.
The 2010 Guinness World Record holder for the shortest stuntman Kiran Shah was born in Kenya. The Kenyan-India actor has appeared in blockbusters such as Spiderman, Harry Potter, and Titanic.
Shah joins Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o and Twilight’s Edi Gathegi in a long list of Kenyans in Hollywood.
9. Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital is the only City with a National Park
This, by the way, doesn’t mean that wild animals roam Nairobi city freely. That said, you can’t rule out the not-so-good occasional interaction between wild animals and the people of Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park, situated only 4 miles from the Nairobi CBD, is a natural habitat for most African game. This means that you can land at the airport in the morning, drive up to the park, do some sight-seeing, and be back for an afternoon departure.
What’s more, except for Elephants, all the big five can be found inside the park as well. Despite the park’s proximity to the city, it hosts many more species. Such include giraffes, ostriches, zebras, hippopotamuses, impalas, gazelle, baboons, and waterbucks.
More interesting facts about Kenya? The country’s main railway runs through the park and is elevated with huge pillars to allow animals to roam free. This makes riding the train an attraction in itself.
10. Kenya has only Two Seasons
There are many interesting facts about Kenya that should put it right into your travels-to-do list. The main one is that Kenya has a favorable climate.
When Europe and much of the Western world are facing cold weather, much of Kenya remains relatively hot and sunny. There are no winter or autumn in the country, just wet and dry seasons.
Kenya enjoys a tropical climate with slight variations as you move from the coast to the inland. The rainy season occurs from mid-march through June and again from October to December.
The fact that tourism’s high season is from September to December should tell you that the rain should not stop you from visiting.
Even during this tropical rainfall, the temperatures are relatively high, with daytime temperatures of between 680 F-820F.
11. Kenya Shines at Rugby
When people talk about sports in Kenya, it is running that takes the top spot, however, rugby is just as popular.
Football is the country’s most played and watched sport. Where trophies count, rugby deserves to be mentioned. The Kenya rugby clubs command respect in Africa and the world over.
Turning up in large numbers at floodlight stadiums in the evening is a favorite pastime. Revelers, especially in the urban areas, come to cheer their respective teams. Afterward, they hold huge celebrations and dance the night away.
Rugby as a sport is one of the well-managed sports in the country. 13-19 year-olds are introduced to the sport after joining high school.
From there, teens bulk up and acquire an “elite” status which they carry on to the university. The prestige of the sport has been likened to American football or European soccer.
So popular is Safari Seven, the local rugby circuit, that it competes with teams from the UK, South Africa, Wales, Samoa, and England.
12. The Great Rift Valley Runs Through Kenya
One of the largest geographic features is a series of trenches that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique. This intercontinental feature is about 3,700 miles long.
Part of the African branch of the ridge runs through Kenya, from the south to the north. Along its length, the rift valley hosts dozens of geographical features that are huge tourist attractions.
There are hills, lakes, volcanoes, valleys, geysers, and escarpments. Of much interest are a series of 8 lakes that dot the floor of the valley.
Lake Turkana, 160 miles in length, is the largest and is located at the northern end of the valley. In the world, it is the largest desert lake. It also takes the first spot among the largest alkaline lakes.
A boat ride in the lake will take you to Central Island that has 3 active volcanoes.
Your travel plans should also include Lake Bogoria, host to the world’s largest population of flamingos. It also contains geysers and hot springs.
There you go! Armed with this list of the 12 most interesting facts about Kenya, you are just a flight away from having a great time in Kenya. This is just the tip of the iceberg, be on the lookout for much more if you have an adventurous spirit.