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A Birdwatchers Guide to: Kenya

Country Facts

This section provides some basic country information. The coverage here is by no means extensive, but the purpose is simply to give a brief overview of the country at a high level. For the interested reader there is a plethora of information to be found on the net and and are two very good sites to start. Much of the text on these 'Country Facts' pages is derived from these two sites.
The first part below describes the natural history of the country with the subsections 'Geography', 'Climate' and 'Wildlife'. The 'Wildlife' section emphasises other aspects than birds with main focus on mammals. For information about birds, please consult the 'Birder's Facts' section.
The second part gives background information about people and society. The information about the people is in the subsections 'People', 'Religion' and 'Languages', while a broad outline of the society is described in subsections 'Economy', 'Tourism' and 'Politics'.

Quick links to the information on this page:

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The text on this page is partly derived from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; Permanent Link: 'Kenya'

Natural History

In this section I will give some background information about the natural history of Kenya. "Natural History" will here be understood in the broadest sense, thus also including the geography and climate of Kenya.
First is a description of the physical and political boundaries of the country and then some of the main geological features are described.
The physical features of Kenya is also what defines the climates in the different regions, and these climates are briefly outlined in the next section.
Finally is a short overview of other wildlife that you might encounter in Kenya. As this website for 99% concentrates on birds, and this group is represented in the main sections, there is only a brief mention of them here. This overview focuses on mammals which I presume many birders will also be interested in finding and that might be identified without extensive knowledge of the subject matter.

a general map of Kenya
A map of Kenya.

Kenya is situated in est/central Africa. It lies across the equator and borders the Indian Ocean between Tanzania and Somalia (563 kms of coastline). Neighboring countries are Somalia and Ethiopia in the north, South Sudan in the northwest, Uganda to the west and Tanzania in the south. The two major waterbodies in Kenya are Lake Victoria in the southwest and Lake Turkana in the north.
Kenya's terrain is for a large part composed of low plains that gradually rist into the central highlands. A central geological feature of Kenyais the Great Rift Valley, which runs north-south across the country and thereby separates the western highlands from the central highlands. These highlands are home to two of Africa's highest mountains; Mount Kenya (5199 m) which after Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and Mount Elgon (4321 m).
The two main rivers of Kenya are the Galana and the Tana, both flowing into the Indian Ocean. The Uaso Nyiru river flows from Mt. Kenya in the arid northern plains where it eventually evaporates.
Approximately 10% of the land is arable and the most fertile soil is found around Lake Victoria and, particularily, in the highlands. The central highlands has a very rich, volcanic soil and is one of the richest agricultural regions of Africa. In the Rift Valley large tracts are irrigated, a significant part is for horticulture.

various temperature ranges for selected moroccan cities
Temperature ranges for selected Moroccan cities.

The climate of Kenya varies between the varous regions, but generally speaking most parts of the country experiences two rainy seasons; the "long rains" falling between March and the end of May and the "short rains" in October and into December. The hottest and driest months are January and February and this is also the main tourist season in Kenya. The second dry season from June to September is cooler than January-February, but the difference is only a few degrees.
The temperatures along the coast are rather constant throughout the year and in the high twenties (C). Also the amount of rainfall is more constant throughout the year than in the rest of the country. Moving inland from the coastal region the climate gets more arid.
Elevation has, as one would expect, a major impact on temperature and rainfall. Nairobi at above 1500 m, for instance, has an average daily temperature range in the low twenties, and at higher elevations the temperature is lower even. On Mt. Kenya nights and early mornings can be chilly. At the generally low elevations in the Rift Valley however, it can be blisteringely hot. The same applies to the lower lying areas of northern and eastern Kenya.
The plateau of western Kenya is also hot, but it has generally speaking rainfall throughout the year. But again, the heaviest rain falls in April and January is the driest month.


People and Society


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the koutoubia mosque in Marrakech
The Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech with the Atlas mountains as a beautiful backdrop.

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