Kenya facts come at you hard and fast the minute you step off the plane. The focus is usually on wildlife stats, weather seasons, migration paths and everything you might want to know if you’re in the market for a safari. All worthy contenders but there’s also room for some fun facts about Kenya, that take you away from the bumpy 4×4 worn tracks. We’ve rounded up some interesting facts that you’re unlikely to have snuffled out before. Though, even we couldn’t resist adding in a fact or two about Kenya’s animal kingdom.
The Small 5
At this point, who hasn’t heard of Kenya’s Big 5? The lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants are on everyone’s Kenya wildlife radar, and rightly so. They are awesome – in the literal sense. But the Small 5? Few of us will be adding lion ants, elephant shrews, rhino beetles, buffalo weavers and leopard tortoises to our safari bingo cards. But perhaps we should be. The birds, insects, small mammals and reptiles of Kenya are just as fascinating. They are, however, a little more difficult to track.
2 million animals pass through Kenya each year…
Time your Kenya safari just right and you could witness one of the greatest shows on earth. Pop the figure of 2 million on your Kenya facts list, as this is the number of animals that migrate through the grasslands of the Masai Mara every year. Around 1.5 million of those are wildebeest, with the other numbers being shored up by zebras, gazelles and eland. Moving clockwise, from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti in a constant annual loop, the search for food takes them through croc-infested waters. Migration season runs from July to October. For the big numbers – you’ll want to book your stay for July. Though, that’s also peak season. October and November sees fewer crowds, but fewer wildebeest.
Kenya’s home to a curious phenomenon
There’s a rather strange rock in Kakamega, near Kisumu city. A first glance, the 7ft heft standing tall on a ridge doesn’t seem all that intriguing. Yes, it kind of looks like a cloaked figure, if you squint a bit, but otherwise it’s a rock. That is until it starts to ‘cry’. Drops of water form, from the part of the stone that resembles a head or face – and, despite the sadness, locals interpret the crying as a good omen for their crops. Hugely intertwined in local folklore, it’s also at the centre of some controversy. Roads around the stone aren’t the most accessible, and there’s talk of developing the surrounding land to make the stone more of a tourist attraction.
It could be the Cradle of Humankind
Long before becoming one of the world’s top wildlife destinations, Kenya was busy creating humankind. At least, that’s what some of the archeological evidence points to. In the Tugen Hills, 7million year old human remains were unearthed and Kenya’s collection of human fossils is the largest in Africa. Some of which you can see at the National Museum of Kenya, in Nairobi. The Great Rift Valley clocks in some impressive stats too. The craggy fissure in the earth’s crust was created 20million years ago. Which, whether you’re hiking over it or staring at it in awe, puts life into a little perspective.
Kenya’s Rhino Charge raises millions for conservation
It might not be as flashy as the Gumball 3000 rally, but the Rhino Charge race is perhaps a smidge more fun. Every year, the country hosts an off-road, 4×4 rally to raise funds to protect local eco-systems and reduce human-wildlife conflicts. A worthy cause and a whole lot of fun – teams have raised over £10m in the years they’ve been tackling the treacherous driving conditions. Anyone can take part, but you’ll need to stump up a hefty entry fee in the form of sponsorship money. To give you an idea of the figures involved, a recent team raised approximately £75,000 to take part.
You’ll need that translation app…
It’s hard to really pin down the stats on this one, but there are up to 70 different languages spoken in Kenya, with different dialects pushing that number higher still. So you’ll definitely want a little help from your translation app. Languages vary from tribe to tribe, and from region to region. Kikuyu is one of the most common, spoken by around 7 million people in central Kenya. The good news? Swahili and English are Kenya’s official languages – and the two you’re most likely to encounter.
Orbzii tip: Part of the Kenyan culture is to always greet someone – regardless of whether you know them or not. A little wave, a thumbs up or the universal (across Kenya) greeting of jambo! will do just fine.
Kenyans haven’t embraced coffee culture… yet
Despite coffee being one of Kenya’s biggest earners and exports, you might find it harder than usual track down a decent espresso. Famous for their rich and flavourful Arabica beans, Kenya prefers to send their best beans overseas, rather than brew up a pot for themselves. Just 3% of the annual crop stays in the country, and it’s mostly to keep tourists caffeinated. Java House – an African coffee chain, started life as a Nairobi coffee shop in 1999, and has been trying to woo Kenyans over to the coffee side ever since. Despite their best efforts, and more than a few cups of the good stuff, Kenyans still prefer a tea, or a beer.
Kenya’s a star of the silver screen…
When you set eyes on the wildlife flanked waterholes, impressive mountain ranges and endless savannah, it makes sense that major studios choose Kenya as a filming location. You’d expect to see the likes of Born Free and Out of Africa on the list of big screen stars shot here, but Love Actually? Few people watching the Christmas classic know a whole storyline was filmed in Kenya, but didn’t make the final cut. The list includes blockbusters such as Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and the classic, The Colour Purple.