Tourism and Wildlife in Kenya

There can be few other countries in the world that are able to offer a traveler the variety of landscape and wildlife that Kenya can. The country has become synonymous with the word ‘Safari’ and a safari in Kenya can be as strenuous or as restful as you wish. It can also be as dear or as cheap as you want.

Kenya African safari - hippos wallowing in pool
Hippopotamus, also called hippo, plural hippopotami are the third largest land animal. Weighing up 3,968 pound / 1,800 kg, they can remain submerged for up to six minutes.

But the people of Kenya will want to make certain of one thing — that you will never forget it. For sure, Europe has its castles and cathedrals and America has its cities and its canyons, but Kenya has its mountains and its National Parks, its animals and its birds, its beaches and its coral reefs. Tourist in Kenya are welcome no wonder the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ has come to be known by many, meaning ‘There is no worries’.

It all started at the beginning of this century when professional hunters took clients, some very important ones like President Theodore Roosevelt, on hunting expeditions. The settlers, too, often lived and built their houses among the teeming herds of game and went once or twice a year to the white-sanded beaches at the coast.

A few hotels were built and the word went round and the passengers on the ships that called at Mombasa’s harbor also saw the beauty of the land and the glory of its animals. And then the airplane came, first in the form of flying boats, and the Second World War (1939-1945) ended and soon the trickle became a flood.

Wildebeests on road Masai Mara African Safari
Herd of wildebeests on the road in the Masai Mara.

And when the first of the films and the books, ‘Where No Vultures Fly’ and `Born Free‘ were seen and read all over the world, there was no stopping the tourists and with the package tourists on charter flights there will now never be any way of stopping them. It was always in those earlier days fostered and managed as an East Africa-wide operation.

It was not until the Tanzania border was closed to Kenya-registered vehicles in 1977, after the East African. Community was dissolved, that Kenya’s tourism industry was forced to develop on its own. Tourism has now become Kenya’s fastest growing sector and the largest single foreign exchange earner, with receipts just under the proceeds from coffee and tea combined.

It is also a major source of employment. Direct employment in tourism in 1987/88 was 110,000, of which 60 per cent was in accommodation establishments and was equal to one quarter of all private sector employment outside agriculture and forests. These figures should also be compared with a total for the manufacturing sector in 1988 of 170,000.

African safari in Kenya. Thomson's gazelle in grassland.
A curious Thomson’s gazelle (Gazelle thomsoni). These graceful antelopes can be seen in grasslands and savannah all over Kenya. They signal danger by tightening and loosening the muscles on their flanks. They can leap extraordinarily high straight up in the air from a standing position. They live for about ten to twelve years.

To this direct employment should be added all the indirect employment to farmers and grocers, to construction, transport and financial services and to the purveyors of curios and souvenirs.

In some streets in Central Nairobi and Mombasa half the shops are tourist-oriented. Receipts from tourism grew from Kshs. 2,440 million in 1983 to Kshs. 8,640 million in 1989, representing 22 per cent of all foreign exchange receipts from the export of goods and services. This compares with an estimated 8 per cent in 1964. As a result in 1989 the combined share of tourism, tea and coffee was 45 per cent, up from 35 per cent in 1980.

Tourism has become the most dynamic and reliable element among all our foreign exchange earners. Other indicators of the growth in tourism are the increase in the number of tour operators and vehicle hire enterprises from 82 in 1970 to 288 in 1980 to 1,240 in 1990, and in-the number of licensed curio shops from 49 in 1970 to 147 in 1980 to 532 in 1990.

Young hornbills, bird watching in Kenya
Young hornbills. Kenya is a popular bird watching destination and home to more than 1,070 bird species.

The actual number of tourists nearly doubled between 1980 and 1989 from 362,600 to 713,800. There seems no doubt that, in spite of the disadvantages of its long distance from Europe, America and Japan, Kenya has a unique drawing point in its environment and its animal and bird life.

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