Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve covers some 1 530 square km and is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment to the west and Masai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open savannah grassland with seasonal riverlets. Wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle migrate into and occupy the Mara reserve from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita plains in the pastoral ranches to the north-east, from July to October or later. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1.5 million wildebeests, 360 000 Thomson's gazelles and 191 000 zebras. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
All members of the ‘Big 5’ are found in the Masai Mara, although the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek rivers. Cheetah is also found, although their numbers are threatened. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles and African pygmy-falcons.
The park was named after the people who have made their homes in the area for centuries, the Masai. The Masai Mara tribe is arguably the most famous of all African tribes and have been in the region of the Masai Mara Reserve for centuries, using the plains to feed their livestock, hunt and make their homes. While visiting the reserve you’ll have the opportunity to meet the Masai, visit their villages and learn about their customs.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is named after the alkaline lake that it encircles. Nakuru means ‘dry or dusty place’ in the Masai language. Although it was initially established as a bird sanctuary, it is now home to a surprisingly large number of animal species, including the Big Four – lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo but sadly there are no elephants in the park. Lake Nakuru is famous for the vast flocks of flamingos that line its shores, attracted by the abundance of algae. It is also a sanctuary for black and white rhino and has recently been extended to protect these endangered animals.
Lake Bunyonyi ("Place of many little birds") lies on the border of Rwanda. It is 25 km long and 7 km wide, covering an area of 61 square km. The depth of the lake is rumoured to vary between 44 m and 900 m, which if true would make the lake the second deepest in Africa. It is one of the few lakes in the region that is free of bilharzia and safe for swimming (please check locally for up to date information). Its 29 islands are concentrated in the central part. These islands have few settlements, mostly tourist facilities, schools and missions.
Jinja was formerly a fishing village that benefited from being on long-distance trade routes. The city was founded in 1901 by the British, as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria’s importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu, a Kenyan town on the lake, with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 1 400 km away. Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. In 1906 a street pattern was laid out and Indian traders moved in from around 1910.
Jinja once had a large East Indian community until they were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1971 and 1972. Much of Jinja’s architecture is Indian-influenced, although the detailed shop-fronts and buildings were poorly maintained after the Indians left. Local industrial concerns also collapsed. Many of the East Indians who are now returning to Uganda are choosing to set up businesses again.
Eldoret, strangely, is a Kenyan town founded by Afrikaners in 1910. The town was originally known as 64 or “Sisibo” by the locals, because it was established at the 64th mile post on the wagon route from Londiani. In 1908, the Eldoret area had been settled by Afrikaans-speaking South Africans who "trekked" there from Nakuru after a journey from South Africa by sea and by rail from Mombasa. Other European and Asian settlers and traders began arriving shortly afterwards. When the governor decided to establish an administrative centre the town was officially named Eldoret in 1912. Becoming an administrative centre caused an enormous increase in trade within the prospective city. A bank and several shops were built.
Eldoret is the hometown of numerous legendary Kenyan runners, the most renowned of whom is Kipchoge Keino. The high altitude is an ideal training ground for many middle and long distance athletes. The runners from Eldoret have contributed significantly to the economy of Eldoret town from their winnings in races all over the world.
Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Masai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is surrounded by several expanding villa suburbs.
Founded in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railway linking Mombasa to Uganda, the town quickly grew to become the capital of British East Africa in 1907 and eventually the capital of a free Kenyan republic in 1963. During Kenya's colonial period, the city became a centre for the colony's coffee, tea and sisal industry. Nairobi is the most populated city in East Africa, with a current estimated population of about 3 million.
Nairobi is now one of the most prominent cities in Africa politically and financially. Home to many companies and organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN Office in Africa, Nairobi is a hub for business and culture. The Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is one of the largest in Africa, ranked fourth in terms of trading volume and capable of making 10 million trades a day. The Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) defines Nairobi as a prominent social centre.