Kenya

Kenya is a country that beckons with iconic sights, tribal cultures and natural wonders – the snow-capped peak of mighty Mt Kenya, the Masai Mara's golden, grassy plains, the pink blush of Lake Nakuru and the annual migration of millions of wildebeest are but some of the delights waiting for you in Kenya.

Kenya Tours & Travel

Top holiday deals in Kenya

Departing Days Price USD
12 Sep 2015 Kenya Wildlife Safari 8 $1005
26 Sep 2015 Kenya Wildlife Safari 8 $1092
10 Oct 2015 The Masai Heartlands 15 $2475

All our Kenya trips

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Visit Africa and travel through Kenya and Tanzania to follow the road to Zanzibar. From Nairobi to Dar es Salaam,...
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The wonders of Kenya and Tanzania unfold on this African adventure tour. Enjoy Serengeti safaris, the Ngorongoro...
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The ultimate African adventure tour. See chimps in Uganda's Kibale Forest, Rhino in Kenya and go on a gorilla safari...
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Roam the vast Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, camp beside Lake Victoria and spot Africa's Big Five....
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Travel to Africa and visit Kenya, where an Intrepid wildlife safari awaits. From Nairobi, head to Lakes Nakuru and...
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Travel through East Africa to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visit Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar, the...
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Visit Africa and travel from Kenya to Cape Town through Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and...
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Travel to Africa and visit the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro. From Nairobi in Kenya to the Serengeti National Park and Mt...
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Visit Africa and travel to Kenya for an overland tour to spot gorillas and rhinos in the jungles of Rwanda and Uganda...
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Experience the highlights of Kenya and Tanzania with Intrepid Travel. Take in some of Africa's best nature reserves,...
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Travel through East Africa to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. Meet gorillas and visit Lake Nakuru, the...
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Visit East Africa and travel through Kenya and Tanzania, taking in the ultimate sights from the Serengeti plains to...
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Treat the family to a true taste of Africa. Prepare to be amazed by Kenya’s world-famous wildlife and spend time...
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Embark on a comfort style intrepid journey through Kenya. Visit Lake Nakuru, set out on game drives through the Masai...
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Visit Africa and travel from Cape Town to Kenya through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi...
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Travel to Africa and visit the cosmopolitan city of Nairobi and the castles and palaces of Gonder as well as game...
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Travel to Africa and visit the cosmopolitan city of Nairobi and the castles and palaces of Gonder as well as game...
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Jump aboard this epic tour from Cape Town to Nairobi. From safaris in Tanzania and Kenya to gorilla trekking in...
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Fall in love with wild plains and sandy beaches on this unique tour of Africa. Travel from Zimbabwe to Kenya via...
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This epic East African adventure tour travels from Zimbabwe to Kenya. Safari in the Serengeti, go gorilla trekking,...
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This East Africa adventure tour travels from Zimbabwe to Kenya. Visit Zanzibar beaches, explore the Serengeti and...
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Visit Kenya, tour Tanzania and relax on Zanzibar beaches. Spot wildlife on the Serengeti plains, visit the Usambara...
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Travel to Kenya and visit Nairobi. Embark on a journey across the Great Rift Valley to the Masai Mara National Park...
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Travel to Africa and tour Kenya and Ethiopia on a trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa. Visit Lake Nakuru, the Samburu...
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CAD $4,750
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Tour Kenya and Ethiopia on a trip from Nairobi to Gonder. Visit the Samburu Reserve, the remote Omo Valley, the...
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CAD $2,910
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Travel to Africa and be immersed in traditional cultures, spot Africa's Big Five on game drives and journey through...
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AUD $4,791
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ZAR R47,438
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Travel to Ethiopia and visit the unique landscapes and cultures of this almost untouched region before visiting Kenya...

Kenya trip reviews

Our Kenya trips score an average of 4.65 out of 5 based on 66 reviews in the last year.

Kenya Wildlife Safari, August 2015

Kenya Wildlife Safari, August 2015

Video

Articles on Kenya

Life unplugged: 6 reasons your next family break should be an African safari

Posted on Tue, 9 Jun 2015

An African family safari is on the once-in-a-lifetime end of the holiday spectrum. Here are 7 reasons why you should make this the year of the family safari.

Read more

8 African snacks you must try

Posted on Tue, 11 Mar 2014

In Africa, most action takes place on the streets and roadsides – people hawking their wares, kids running to and from school, friends hanging out just chatting. There’s always movement […]

Read more

Top 15 wild animal encounters

Posted on Mon, 17 Feb 2014

From sloths hanging out, to whales breathtakingly breeching and lions stalking their prey – when we asked you about your best experiences with animals when travelling, we were inundated with […]

Read more

East Africa: land of the extraordinary

Posted on Fri, 20 Dec 2013

Almost everyone who has done a tour of East Africa will tell you it’s fantastic. It’s renowned for being wild, authentic, spectacular and rugged, but Intrepid’s Skye Gainey wondered if […]

Read more

Transport

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is in getting there and getting around once there. Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport, which usually have less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.

Depending on which trip you're on while in Kenya, you may find yourself travelling by:

Accommodation

Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.

When travelling with us in Kenya you may find yourself staying in a:

About Kenya

At a glance

Capital city: Nairobi (population 2 million)
Population: 40 million
Language: Swahili, English
Currency: KES
Time zone: (GMT+03:00) Nairobi
Electricity: Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
Dialing code: +254

Best time to visit Kenya

Kenya receives a lot of tourists in January and February when the weather is hot and dry and generally the most pleasant. It’s also the best time for bird watching, as birds migrate to the lakes of the Rift Valley in large numbers. It’s generally less busy from June to September, but the weather is still dry during this time. Wet season is from March to May and October to December. During this time tourist sites are less crowded, hotels have more rooms available and prices are usually cheaper. The annual wildebeest migration occurs between July and August, and again in October each year. Millions of wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti in search of greener pastures and then return. The Masai Mara National Park is the best place to see this event.

Nairobi weather chart

Culture and customs

Happy tribal children Traditional dancing
Kenya is one of Africa’s most multicultural countries, with a population as diverse as its terrain. There are more than 40 different ethnic tribes, each with their own language, culture and customs. The red-robed, beaded Maasai of the south are undoubtedly the most famous tribespeople of the region. The unique Swahili culture dominates the coastal regions and Islam is quite common in the North. Nairobi is home to a large swirl of humanity, with significant Indian, African and Western populations. As a result, you’re likely to see mosques, churches and temples, taste international cuisine from all over the world and hear the sounds of Kenyan hip-hop, traditional African drumming and Western pop.

Depending on where you are in Kenya, the culture and customs vary according to the area you are visiting. The northern and coastal regions tend to be more traditional, while Nairobi, as an international hub of trade and commerce, tends to be more liberal. The Maasai and other tribes typically lead pastoral lives based on agriculture and animal husbandry. Their daily life is based on centuries of tradition and if you get the chance to visit a tribal village, you’ll be able to see the customs of these fascinating people firsthand. Traditional clothing, dance, song and ceremonies keep this proud culture alive in the face of modernisation, which is sweeping through the country.

Eating and drinking

Pineapples

Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating. Whether you're sampling street food, savoring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.

As a multiracial society, Kenya has many different cuisines for travellers to try. From traditional Swahili cuisine to Indian, European and Middle Eastern food, many cultures are represented, especially in large cities like Nairobi. While the average Kenyan lives mostly on maize, beans and vegetables, tourist areas and large cities offer much more variety for visitors.

Things to try in Kenya

1. Seafood

Kenya’s coastal areas, such as Mombasa and Lamu, are the best places to feast on fresh crab, lobster, oysters and kingfish cooked to perfection in sumptuous spices.

2. Nyama Choma

One strictly for the carnivores, Nyama Choma is a popular Kenyan style of cooking and eating meat. Goat, beef and chicken are roasted and served on a communal cutting board, sometimes with condiments such as chilli, salt, chopped tomatoes and avocado.

3. Curries

With a significant population hailing from India, Kenya is a great place to savor spicy curries made with an East African twist.

4. Tropical Fruit

For a cheap and cost-effective snack, head to the market stalls that sell a colorful array of tropical fruit. Pineapples, papayas, bananas, and passionfruit are usually plentiful in Kenya. Any fruit that you can peel is a more hygienic, easy option than one you have to wash.

Geography and environment

Mount Kilimanjaro
Kenya is located in East Africa, sharing borders with Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. With a diverse topography, Kenya has a wide variety of terrain – lofty mountains, dense rainforest, stark plains and soft-sand beaches.

This diversity also applies to the environments that Kenya’s people live in. Kenya’s crowded capital is a heaving melange of cars, buses, skyscrapers, street stalls, markets and people; the idyllic Loita Hills is the heart of Maasai country; the national parks run wild with exotic creatures; and rustic Lamu Island is a car-free piece of living history. Overall, most Kenyans either live a fast-paced existence in the modern metropolis of Nairobi or a quieter, agricultural-based life in Kenya’s rural towns and villages.

History and government

Nairobi family Elephants roaming a national park in Kenya

Early History

Recent archaeological findings in Kenya have revealed the remains of one of the earliest species of hominid, placing Kenya among the first places inhabited by humans. Before the arrival of outsiders, Kenya was inhabited by nomadic tribes who most likely entered Kenya from the north. The Maasai and the Kikuyu were the most dominant in numbers, although the Maasai were well known for their reputation as strong warriors who often raided their neighbours.

During the 19th century, Kenya came under the influence of outside cultures due to the arrival of traders from the Middle East and Asia, and settlers and missionaries from Europe. Britain and Germany both had vested interests in Kenya for its abundance of natural resources (especially ivory) and because it was an important point for trade. As such, settlers from Britain, Germany and other European nations flooded into the country in large numbers, setting up agricultural empires such as coffee plantations. These plantations relied heavily on local tribespeople for labour, much to the resentment of the indigenous populations. As a result of this, a large number of Indian labourers were brought to Kenya to work on plantations and build railroads. This Indian influence is reflected in the current population of Kenya.

Recent History

After much infighting, confrontation, uprising and reform, Kenya was granted its independence from British colonial rule in 1963. The “Mau Mau Uprising” of the 1950s was responsible for drawing attention to the plight of the African population, and was also the catalyst for the change in how Kenya is governed.

The 1970s saw Kenya’s international economic profile grow due to the successful development of a free-market economy, with agriculture and tourism creating more a more stable economy. More recently, Kenya’s tourism industry has continued to develop and flourish, mainly due to its wealth of exotic animals, national parks, coastal hot-spots and unique cultures. Standards of living have also improved in Kenya, with an overall improvement in life expectancy, infant mortality and fertility rates – probably due to the increased investment in family planning, education and health by both the Kenyan government and NGOs. Despite this, many Kenyans still live below the poverty line and struggle to provide the bare necessities for themselves and their children. Regardless of this, travellers will be touched by the generosity of spirit and genuine hospitality that Kenyans display to visitors.

Top Picks

Baby elephant bathing Family of Cheetahs MIrgrating wildebeast Flamingos on Lake Nakuru in Kenya Giraffes in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

Top 10 Wildlife Encounters of Kenya

1. Cheetah Chase

The cheetah, the Ferrari of the animal kingdom, is the fastest land animal on the planet. This slick predator can reach speeds of up to 120 km/hr and can accelerate to 103km/hr in just three seconds. Seeing a cheetah stealthily stalk, then pursue, a gazelle, springbok or an impala is a thrilling sight.

2. Lioness Kill

See the circle of life play out in Masai Mara National Reserve. Lions might be the kings of the jungle, but in Kenya, it's the lionesses that do the hunting. Working in groups, these big cats track down prey such as wildebeest, impalas, zebras and buffalo. If you are lucky, you will see a kill - the lionesses hunting together, encircling a herd then targeting the closest animal. The attack is swift and powerful - an experience you will never forget!

3. Wildebeest Migration

The annual migration of 1.5 million wildebeest across the grassy plains of Eastern Africa is an extraordinary spectacle of nature. The wildebeests risk drowning in rivers and attacks from big cats and crocodiles, to travel nearly 2,000 km in search of food and water. Around 200,000 zebra and 500,000 Thomson's gazelle also join this boisterous group each year, making it one of the greatest shows on earth.

4. Sea of Flamingos

See Lake Nakuru turn a shimmering sea of pink as millions of flamingos flock to feed in the shallow waters. The sheer amount of these long-legged creatures - among 400 species of birds that inhabit the area - is an incredible sight.

5. Elephant Bath Time

Elephants love water and, despite their size, they are excellent swimmers. To cool off from the scorching African sun, they splash about in lakes, paddle in rivers and give themselves a shower using their trunks. Witnessing these gentle giants having a bath is a truly memorable experience, but don't stand too close or you'll likely get very wet.

6. Rhino Love

A baby rhino stays by its mother's side for up to five years after it is born and, during this time, mum is extremely protective of her calf. With an adult white rhino weighing up to 3,600 kg and reaching speeds of up to 50 km/h when charging, you don't want to get between a mother rhino and her baby. The best place for spotting the rare black rhino is Kenya's Aberdare National Park.

7. Giraffe Parade

It's the classic African image – giraffes striding across the African savanna at sunset, nibbling on acacia trees and carving a graceful silhouette on the orange-tinged skyline. Kenya has the biggest giraffe population on the continent, so a dusk safari to see these unique creatures is a must.

8. Hippos Wallowing

One of Africa's best locations for hippo spotting is Lake Naivasha. Here, you can see large pods of these mighty animals submerged in the water and wallowing in mud. More than just social interaction, the water helps them cool down and protects their skin from drying out. With the exception of feeding, hippos spend most of their lives in the water - from childbirth and reproduction, to fighting with other hippos - so it's very likely you'll see them playing in their aquatic playground.

9. Zebra Crossing

For many, the highlight of the annual zebra migration is hundreds of thousands of these black-and-white-striped animals making the death-defying dash across the Mara River. Vulnerable to massive crocodiles lying in wait for a tasty meal, the zebras don't waste any time once they decide to take the plunge.

10. Monkey Business

That chatter from treetops above is most likely from cheeky colobus monkeys. As these creatures spend nearly all of their lives in the forest canopy, your best chance of spotting them is as they dart through the trees, a flurry of black and white fur. Treating branches like trampolines, they leap high into the air, then drop downward, using the long hair on their shoulders like a parachute. Listen out for males, whose croaking roars can often be heard resonating throughout the forest.

Shopping

Maasai Jewellery

From the large, lively markets of Nairobi to the small, slow-paced markets of the villages, shopping in Kenya is definitely "market-centric". Nairobi and other large cities have a range of boutiques and malls but, as in most other African countries, the buzzing markets are some of the best places to shop, eat and mingle with locals.

It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to import certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand for example have strict quarantine laws.

Things to buy in Kenya

1. Handicrafts

The wood and soap stone carvings in Kenya are of great quality. Peruse the carvings at city markets and shops, or alternatively, buy direct from artisans in countryside villages.

2. Maasai Jewellery

The colorful beaded creations of the Maasai make excellent souvenirs. Wear them as a bold, statement piece or hang them on walls at home as a unique reminder of your time in Kenya.

3. Fabric

Kenyan markets are full of vibrant fabric sarongs and wraps (also known as kikoys or kangas). Put these on your shopping list as they offer great protection from the African sun.

4. Kenyan Music

Reggae, afro-rap and African hip-hop are popular (especially in Kenya’s big cities), so stock up on some local music to bring a bit of Kenyan rhythm home with you.

Festivals and Events in Kenya

Jamhuri Day

Feasts, speeches, parades, music and dance all feature in this national holiday commemorating Kenya’s independence and the establishment of its republic. A mass celebration of freedom and unity, this is a big day for all Kenyan people. The day is celebrated on 12th December each year.

Maulidi

The birthday of the Prophet Mohammed turns Kenya’s Lamu Island from a sleepy village into a busy hub of activity. Pilgrims and visitors flock here for four days of devotional prayers and reverence, concluding with fun events such as donkey races, dhow sailing, traditional dance and drumming.

FAQs on Kenya

KENYA - overland from Ethiopia:
Kenyan visas can be obtained by most nationalities on arrival at the Moyale border crossing. The cost is approximately US$25. Kenyan visas are required by most nationalities, including the EU, US and Australia. If you plan to purchase your visa on arrival you'll need new (post-2003), clean US dollars cash. Currently you don't require a multi-entry visa between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda due to an agreement between the three countries (eg. if you exit Kenya to Tanzania you can re-enter Kenya on the same visa). If your trip visits Rwanda and re-enters Kenya you may require a double entry visa to Kenya, depending on the border guard on the day. This can easily be purchased at the border if required.
Tipping isn’t mandatory in Kenya but a little generosity will be received positively, especially considering the low wages that Kenyan service workers are typically paid. Setting aside a small amount for porters, guides and drivers is wise, as is leaving spare change at restaurants.
Travellers will be able to access the internet quite easily in the internet cafes of Kenya’s large cities, but should expect limited or no access in regional and rural areas.
Mobile phone coverage is good in Kenya’s large cities and towns, but less so in rural and mountainous areas. Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your mobile phone.
Squat/pit toilets are the standard in Kenya, except for western-style flushable toilets that are sometimes available in large hotels and other modern buildings. Carry your own supply of soap and toilet paper, as this is rarely provided.
Street food (plate of stew) = 80 KES
Bottle of beer in a local bar = 150 KES
Food court or fast-food meal = 300-400 KES
Meal at a sit-down restaurant = 700-800 KES
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Kenya. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found; some hotels we stay in may have drinking water available. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and to peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Credit cards are usually accepted by large hotels and western-style restaurants but not by smaller vendors. Ensure you have adequate cash to cover purchases not able to be made on credit.
ATMs are easily found in large cities and tourist areas like Nairobi and Mombasa, but are rarer in small towns, rural areas and villages. Be sure to have other payment methods available when venturing out of the big cities, as ATMs aren't always an option.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Apr 6 Good Friday
Apr 9 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
Jun 1 Madaraka Day
Aug 19 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
Oct 10 Moi Day
Oct 20 Kenyatta Day
Oct 26 Feast of the Sacrifice
Dec 12 Independence Day (Jamhuri Day)
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Boxing Day

Please note these dates are for 2012. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Kenya/public-holidays

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Kenya Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Kenya

1. Be considerate of Kenya’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. Help protect endangered species by choosing not to buy ivory, coral or animal products.

4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.

5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

6. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice.

8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

11. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

12. Be aware that many coastal communities in Kenya are quite conservative. Beach attire, when swimming, is fine but topless sunbathing isn't. Don’t forget to cover up when leaving the beach and entering towns or urban areas.

The Intrepid Foundation

The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.

In Kenya, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:

Saidia Children's Home

Providing a secure place for orphans and abandoned or abused children, this organisation offers a feeding and education program for children living in disadvantage, and support for HIV impacted mothers and their children in the Gilgil region.

Image supplied by Mark Mitchell

New Hope Children's Centre

Providing a safe home for Kenya’s orphaned and underprivileged children, the New Hope Children’s Centre receives no government funding. Relying on donations from generous patrons and supporters, this centre provides housing, food, clean water, education and health care for some of Kenya’s most vulnerable kids.

Image supplied by New Hope Children's Centre.

To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
The Camel BookmobileMasha Hamilton
The Shadow of KilimanjaroRick Ridgeway
The Worlds of a Maasai WarriorTepilit Ole Saitoti
It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan WhistleblowerMichela Wrong
Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in AfricaMark Seal