Your Kenya itinerary could easily go something like this: Spend a night or two in Nairobi and then devote your time to safari game drives. After all, what’s more exciting than staring a full-grown lion in the face from just a few feet away?
Well, whether or not they compete for sheer heart-pumping adrenaline, many more types of outdoor adventures await in Kenya, which counts 58 national parks and reserves, two gigantic mountains, and one shimmering coastline. Here’s a closer look at the rich variety of activities for those who love to get outdoors.
Explore the Indian Ocean
Kenya’s coast has yet to register on most tourists’ radars, so the crowds are zero to none. Aqua Ventures operates a PADI dive center in Watamu, and on a $45 outing you’ll witness just as much wildlife as on a Jeep drive through the Mara. (Tip: Plan on going between November and March for calmer seas and better visibility.) Sea turtles, spotted rays, octopus...you name it, it’s here. For activity enthusiasts who prefer to stay on top of the water, a variety of experiences like fishing excursions, boat cruises and windsurfing are available.
Spot Dolphins and Whales
For dolphin lovers, the place to go is Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park, which will likely strike you as the bluest, most crystalline water you’ve ever seen. Eco-conscious tour operator Diviac offers chartered boats that take you up-close with bottlenose, humpbacks, and spinner dolphins. (Diviac also offers whale shark excursions in February and March.) Don’t scuba? The snorkeling is fantastic, too.
Spend the night in a Traditional Maasai Village
Here’s a chance to connect in a more extended way with Kenya’s indigenous Maasai population. During a homestay at Maasai Mara Village, you’ll cook, sleep, gossip, and dance alongside locals. In short, you’ll experience their everyday life—and you’ll help support the community. A portion of the proceeds goes to Semadep Community Development Foundation, which aids with school supplies, health centers, and water treatment. Another immersive opportunity involves taking a walking safari at Simba Camp, near Amboseli National Park, led by actual Maasai warriors.
Hike Up Mount Kenya
There are a few ways to the top of Mount Kenya, though the Chogoria route remains the most popular. Spanning six days, the itinerary (which includes the 3-hour drive from Nairobi) takes you through breathtaking scenery—bamboo and lush rosewood forests, speckled with a few elephants and buffalo here and there. By the time you get to Lenana Point (elevation: 16,355 feet), it’s nothing but sweeping views in every direction.
Trek Mount Kenya takes the Naro Moru route, which has a reputation for being more challenging. After ascending through Teleki Valley, which looks vaguely like something out of Patagonia, you’ll face a brutal 2,300-foot scramble to the top that requires a 2am wake-up time. If you're having trouble sifting through the options, Mount Kenya Climbing does a great job breaking down the different routes, and has 5-day treks starting at $910 per person, including transportation from Nairobi to the mountain base (not all tours offer this).
Bike Mount Kenya—and Beyond
Xtreme Spots now allows travelers to tackle Mount Kenya on two wheels. Its 8-day bike tour is rigorous, with rocky valleys and unpredictable, winding dirt trails, so it’s not recommended for beginners. For something more relaxed, there are quiet village roads and beach routes that can also be explored.
Twende Safari also has a notable bike trip: A 174-mile route that unfolds over 10 days as a greatest hits tour of Kenyan scenery. As you wind up from Nairobi through the Great Rift Valley, you’ll brake to soak in hot springs (Lake Bogoria), throw spears with Maasai warriors in Maji Moto village, and join a traditional game drive in Maasai Mara. (For those who like their adventure with a 4-poster bed, Eyes On Africa offers luxury bike tours that include 5-star hotels.)
Take a Guided Nature Walk
Meanwhile, a good old-fashioned nature walk allows for plenty of fresh air, while exploring the Kenyan countryside at your own pace, and still benefitting from a guide's expert knowledge. Forty minutes from Nairobi, the enchanting Ngong Hills require little hiking experience, and at the end of the 5-hour trek (which includes lunch), you’ll come away with a better appreciation of central Kenyan geography. The company offers a similar trip to Karura Forest, where you’ll go in search of a 50-foot waterfall.
Go Birdwatching at Aberdare
Over 290 species have been recorded in the forests of Aberdare, and your pleasant mid-morning stroll might well be accented with the bright blue-green plumage of a rare Hartlaub’s Turaco. Aberdare Country Club, which sits squarely between Aberdare National Park and the foothills of Mount Kenya, hosts such guided walks.
Descend into a Lava Tube
Near Amboseli National Park, Ol Donyo Lodge commands views of Kilimanjaro and sits on 275,000 private acres. But its most exciting asset is proximity to Chyulu Hills, which conceal the world’s deepest lava tube (not to worry, the lava hasn’t actually flowed here for centuries). After trudging through dense undergrowth, with your headlamp firmly fastened, you’ll descend into a cave with bone-littered floors and bats sleeping on the ceiling.