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7 Hidden Gems in Kenya You Never Knew

The Republic of Kenya or Jamhuri ya Kenya in Swahili is a country in East Africa. Kenya is “The Land of the Lion King“. Although it is a premier destination for safaris, there are several hidden gems in Kenya that are worth exploring.

In this post, we explore Kenya and its hidden gems, learn its national language, and know more about its national dishes. If you want to know answers to the questions below. Here we go!

  1. Where is Kenya?
  2. Where are the hidden gems in Kenya?
  3. What is the national language of Kenya?
  4. What are the traditional dishes of Kenya?
  5. Is Kenya worth visiting?

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Where is Kenya?

Kenya is the 48th largest country in terms of total land area and has a population of 47 million as of December 2019. This country borders South Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Somalia, and Uganda.

The national government of Kenya practices a presidential representative democracy in which elected officials represent the people while the President is its Head of State.

Kenya devotes a large area of its land to wildlife rehabilitation with several national parks that offer tourists a safari experience. The Big Five are in Maasai Mara National Park.

Origins of Name

According to World Atlas, Kenya comes from the name of its highest mountain, Mount Kenya. The name was first mentioned by Johann Ludwig Krapf in the 19th century. The story was that he asked the locals the name of the mountain he saw in his travels.

As Johann was traveling with the Kamba tribe, the name given to the mountain was Kĩĩma- Kĩĩnyaa or Kĩ-Nyaa. He then met the Kikuyu tribe who referred to the mountain as Kĩrĩma Kĩrĩnyaga. The last tribe he met was the Embu who lived on the slopes of the mountain.

They called the mountain Kirenyaa. All three names have the same meaning. As the British could not pronounce Kirinyaga correctly, the name became the British East Africa Protectorate in 1895. In 1920, Kenya was part of the British colony. Kenya was known as British Kenya at that time.


The earliest evidence of humans were found at the Karandusi Prehistoric Site. In 1929, Louis Leakey discovered a variety of ancient tools such as picks, flakes, and handaxes. The tools were believed to have been made by our human ancestor, the Homo Erectus who developed and improved on the Oldowan tool-making ability. 

Kenya is one of the countries that is part of the Afar Triangle which is part of the Cradle of Humankind.

Do you know an ancient child grave was the earliest human burial site is in Kenya?

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes the maritime trade routes from Egypt to East Africa and Tanzania. The book gives a vivid description of the places visited by the author. 

To know more about Kenya’s ancient history, read An Ancient Island At The Centre of the World, Ancient Human Burial Discovered in Africa, and A Kenyan Woman Probes Ancient Links Between Africa and Asia.

International Trade and The Arrival of the Portuguese

It has been established that international trade in Graeco-Roman pottery, glass beads, and pottery from Persian means that ancient civilizations were interacting with each other much earlier than we thought.

The Portuguese were the first to explore Kenya and its surrounding regions. Vasco Da Gama arrived at Malindi in 14 April 1498. In Malindi, Vasco da Gama contracted the services of a pilot who used his knowledge of the monsoon winds to guide Da Gama’s fleet to Calicut, India.

Modern Kenya

Fast forward to modern Kenya, it was the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that ushered in a new political and economic governance system. The first democratic elections were held in 2013 and between 2015 till 2019, Kenya achieved an average economic growth of 5.7% which made it the fastest growing economy in Africa.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 has the Big Four pillars that would take the country to a “newly industrialized, middle-income nation that provides its citizens with high quality of life in a clean and secure environment.”

This vision was possible because the two political giants in Kenya decided to put aside their differences and agreed to work together for the good of the nation. Read the Handshake That Shaped A Nation to know more.

Visa Requirements

The official portal to apply for a Kenyan visa is through the Republic of Kenya Electronic Visa System. The e-visa process has three steps which are by creating an account, applying for the visa required, and downloading and completing the necessary form.

According to Xinhuanet, Kenya is shifting towards a 100% e-visa service beginning 1st January 2021. With the e-visa, the traveler would have to show e-visa to officials at the port of entry. A hardcopy visa would then be endorsed on the passport.

Citizens from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Australia are some countries that require a visa. Category 1 countries that are exempt from visas and Category 2 countries that require a visa can be found at the eCitizen Department of Immigration website.

Read the 6 Types of Visas That Are Available For Travelers To Kenya to know more.

Do you know that the Kenyan passport is the 8th most powerful passport in Africa?

Where are the hidden gems in Kenya?

We explore the 7 Hidden Gems in Kenya shown in the map below.

Mida Creek

The first in our hidden gems in Kenya is Mida Creek. This tidal inlet comprises different types of habitats. With mud and sand flats, open shallow waters, and mangrove forests, it’s no wonder that Mida Creek is the most productive ecosystem in the world.

It is located with the Arabuko Sokoke National Park which is 68 miles from Mombasa. This creek and its forests are a nature lovers paradise. With over 40 recorded species of mammals and 270 recorded species of birds, this place is a must-visit.

To mitigate climate change and in line with the government’s initiative to increase forest cover by 10%, Kenya’s Forestry Research Institute has planted 50,000 mangrove seedlings in Mida Creek.

Have you heard of Kenya’s Mangrove Mama, the Mother of the Mangroves?

Check out The Arabuko Sokoke Forest & Mida Creek Trail Tour to explore the mangroves and mudflats of Mida Creek while exploring the largest coastal reserve in Kenya.

Lake Baringo

The second in our hidden gems in Kenya is Lake Baringo. This lake is one of the eight lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Lake Baringo is the second largest with a surface area of 50 square miles and an elevation of 970 meters above sea level. 

The lake is fed by three rivers which are Molo, Perkerra, and Ol Arabel. Lake Baringo is one of two freshwater lakes in Kenya. In recent years, Lake Baringo has experienced increasing water levels that has swelled the lake.

What is happening in Lake Baringo?

After months of heavy rainfall coupled with deforestation and poor farming practices could have contributed to the swelling of the lakes. However, as the lake sits along the Rift Valley fault lines, the water would naturally seep underground.

In a heartwarming story, a Rothschild giraffe named Asiwa and seven other giraffes were living a carefree life on the peninsula of Lake Baringo.

Heavy rains and increasing floodwaters quickly turned the peninsula into an island. A giraffe named Asiwa became separated from her tribe as the water levels rose. Read her rescue on the Giraffes Are Stuck On A Flooding Island, the Giraffes Trapped On Kenyan Island Are Marooned To Safety, and the Last Two Giraffes Rescued From A Disappearing Island.

Check out The Things To Do In Lake Baringo And Lake Bogoria to know more.

Lake Chala

hidden gems in kenya, lake chala, crater lake
Photo by Joachim Huber on Wikipedia Commons

The third in our hidden gems in Kenya is Lake Chala. This lake is a crater lake that sits on the borders of Kenya and Tanzania. Lake Chala is located about 5 miles north of Taveta, the closest town to this lake.

Lake Chala Tilapia is the only native fish of this lake. Interestingly, this fish can not be found anywhere else in the world. 

Can you swim in Lake Chala?

No, swimming was prohibited after a British woman was killed by a Nile crocodile while swimming in the lake. 

How was Lake Chala formed?

Lake Chala was from volcanic activity over a quarter-million years ago. It is a crater lake. Crater lakes are caldera that has been filled with water. For instance, underground streams feed Lake Chala and drain into neighboring Lake Jipe.

Legends Surrounding Lake Chala

Some many myths and legends surround this lake. The first myth is that an ancient Maasai village disappeared into this lake and that their screams can be heard today.

Another legend tells the story that there were once two clans who lived on the shores of the lake. One day, a mysterious woman appeared and asked the first clan for some food and a place to sleep.

The first clan wascenturiesradiocarbonPortuguesest of celebrating their annual bumper harvest festival and told the woman to go away. She then went to the second clan who welcomed her with food and a place to sleep.

The next day, she woke up happy and warned of the curse that was to befall the clan that had chased her away. That same night, there were tremors on the grounds of the cursed clan. Overnight, the ground sank and water welled up and the village disappeared.

As for the things to do here, read Chala, Kenya’s Most Fetching Yet Unfrequented Lake to know more.

Ruins of Gedi

hidden gems in Kenya, Gedi Ruins, ruins of Gedi
Photo by Maclemo on Wikipedia Commons

The fourth in our hidden gems in Kenya are the Ruins of Gedi. These ruins are located about 58 miles north of Mombasa, within the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. Gedi or Gede is the remains of a medieval town along the coasts. It is one of the many coastal settlements that stretch from Mogadishu, Somalia to Zambezi River in Mozambique.

Who built Gedi ruins?

There are no written records by the British, Portuguese, Arabs, or Swahili as to who built this site. The legends mention that the “Old Ones” who are the spirits of the past priests are guarding this place. These spirits can be kind while placing a curse on anyone that disrespects this site.

The Giriama are currently maintaining this site and view the place as sacred and spiritual. These ruins are Kenya’s Machu Pichu.

Check out The Ancient Gedi Ruins of Kenya, Mystery Continues to Surround Kenya’s Gedi Ruins, the 5 ‘Haunted’ Sites in Kenya That Scare Tourists, and the 9 Most Spectacular Lost Cities In The World to know more.

Mount Kenya

hidden gems in Kenya, Mount Kenya, highest mountain in Kenya
Photo by Sara Gold Smith on Wikipedia Commons

The fifth in our hidden gems in Kenya is Mount Kenya. This mountain is the highest in Kenya and second highest in Kenya, after Mount Kilimanjaro. The three highest peaks are Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana.

This ancient volcano was created approximately 3 million years ago when the East African Rift began to open. This mountain was covered in snow caps for thousands of years and its heights before glaciation was estimated to be 7,000 meters. The highest peak today stands are 5,999 meters.

Mount Kenya has 11 small glaciers that Diani Beach is a perfect holiday destination with would be gone by 2050 as they are shrinking rapidly.

How hard is it to climb Mt Kenya?

The two highest peaks of Batian and Nelion should only be attempted by experienced hikers. The third peak, Point Lenana is easier and a suitable option for fit trekkers. The four routes to reach Point Lenana are:-

  1. Naro Moru on the western slopes,
  2. Sirimon is a longer route and requires a high degree of fitness and stamina,
  3. Chogoria is another challenging route on the eastern slopes. This route is the most picturesque among the route.
  4. Burguret is the most remote trail and is suitable for those who want to experience an authentic wilderness adventure.

You can consider a 5 Day Hike on Mount Kenya via the Chogoria Route where you can capture picturesque views of Mount Kenya, Lake Ellis, and the Gorges Valley.

How far is Mt Kenya from Nairobi?

Mount Kenya National Park is approximately 108 miles from Nairobi. If taking a private vehicle or coming with a guide, the parking options are:-

  1. Nanyuki-Isiolo Road for the Sirimon trek,
  2. Nyeri-Nanyuki Road for the Naro Moru trek, and
  3. Embu-Meru Road for the Chogoria trek.

A rare glimpse of Mount Kenya seen from Nairobi last year sparked disbelief on social media. 

You can consider a 5-Day Climbing Experience or an Overnight Safari at Mount Kenya where you will spend the night at Serena Mountain Lodge which lies on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

Diani Beach

hidden gems in Kenya, Diani Beach, south of Mombasa
Photo by Nicor on Wikipedia Commons

The sixth in our hidden gems in Kenya is Diani Beach. This beach faces the Indian Ocean on the coasts of Kenya about 19 miles south of Mombasa. Diani Beach has a tropical climate and is a favorite among families, honeymooners, and backpackers.

The best time to visit is from November to mid-March when the temperature is cooler. Check out the Five Places To Go In Diani Beach and Eight of Kenya’s Most Beautiful Beaches You Don’t Want To Miss to know more.

Can you swim in Diani beach?

Diani Beach is a perfect holiday destination with swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches, and surfable waves. The beach is safe for swimming and from January to March, you can spot whale sharks patrolling the shoreline.

Maasai Mara National Park

The seventh in our hidden gems in Kenya is Maasai Mara National Park. The Mara was named to honor the Maasai tribe who are the ancestral inhabitants of these lands.

The Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem is part of the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem that covers Tanzania and Kenya. The Tourism and Wildlife Ministry launched its first National Wildlife Census. A census would be conducted on land and sea life in Kenya.

Charity Cheruiyot is Maasai Mara’s first female safari guide. In Exploring Nairobi with the Maasai Mara’s First-Ever Female Safari Guide, she talks about where she goes to eat, shop, and spends her time off from the Mara.

Which is the best month to visit Masai Mara?

The Great Wildebeest Migration begins in July through October. This iconic phenomenon is an annual event and showcases a large number of wildebeests, gazelles, and zebras, and other hoofed herds as they trek from Serengeti to Maasai Mara.

The birthing season or “Toto Time” is where you can see infant wildlife taking their first steps and staggering to their feet begins in December through February which is the peak period. Expect to pay a premium price for accommodations and traveling during this period.

Check out Planning A Trip In The Masai Mara, The Ultimate Safari: Seeing the Great Migration, and A Massive Animal Migration Is Still Happening But Few Can See It to know more. 

Do you know that Pride Lands from The Lion King was based on Maasai Mara?

Check out the Real-Life Locations That Inspired The New Lion King Movie, The Real-Life Scar, and ‘Lion King’ Revives Interest In Real Lions In Kenya to know more.

Where can I hang out in Nairobi?

There are several places where you can hang out in Nairobi. This post will explore the top 3 places to hang out: the Nairobi National Parl, the Karura Forest, and the Giraffe Manor.

Nairobi National Park

The next in our hidden gems in Kenya in Nairobi is the Nairobi National Park. This was the first national park to be established in Kenya. It is about 5 miles south of Nairobi.

The park is known as the “Kifaru Ark” due to its recognition as a successful rhinoceros sanctuary. The park has recently increased in size to 78,000 acres from its previous 29,000 acres after two conservancies pledged land for wildlife conservation in Kenya. 

Check out The Complete Guide To Nairobi National Park, the Nairobi National Park Journal, and Why It’s Hard To Ignore Nairobi National Park to know more.

Or, you can experience a Private Nairobi National Park Tour where you will visit the rhino sanctuary and animal orphanage while exploring the park’s diverse wildlife.

Another experience would be the Nairobi National Park, Elephant Sanctuary, and the Giraffe Center Tour where you would be looking for wildlife in an early morning game drive. You can spot the Big Five animals of Africa on this tour.

Which is the biggest national park in Kenya?

At 22,000 km², the Tsavo National Park is the biggest in Kenya. This park is between Nairobi and Mombasa and consists of two areas which are Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park.

Both Tsavo East and West have unique features. For example, Tsavo East consists of flatlands and dry plains with the Galana River flowing through. The major landmarks here are the Yatta Plateau and Lugard Falls.

Tsavo West has a mountainous region with swamps, lakes, and springs. This makes it a popular destination for tourists who flock to see its varied birdlife and mammals.

Karura Forest

karura forest, mangrove swamp
Photo by Ninaras on Wikipedia Commons

The next in our hidden gems in Kenya in Nairobi is the Karura Forest. Some of the areas of interest within the forest are a 15-meter waterfall, an ancient archaeological site, and an old chimney incinerator used to burn decommissioned currencies.

Check out Karura Forest: The Best Place In Kenya For An Outdoor Workout, From Hotbed of Crime To Jogger’s Paradise, and Karura Forest Attracts 4,000 Every Weekend to know more.

Giraffe Manor

The last in our hidden gems in Kenya in Nairobi is the Giraffe Manor. The design of the manor is based on a Scottish hunting lodge. The Giraffe Manor sits on 12 acres of private property and 140 acres on the Lang’ata suburb in Nairobi.

With only 12 rooms available, it is best to book your stay in advance. Check out A Brief History of Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor and The World’s Best Hotels For Close-up Animal Encounters to know more. A review of the hotel can be found on Telegraph UK.

What is the national language of Kenya?

Kiswahili and English are the national languages of Kenya. This is according to the Constitution of Kenya. Swahili is also the official language in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.


Swahili or Kiswahili is a language of the Swahili people and is the lingua franca in Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, and Uganda. There are at least 10-20% Arabic words in Swahili. This is due to the Arabian trade with the inhabitants of the African East Coast that happened over many centuries.

How do you say hello in Swahili?

Hujambo! That’s how you say hello in Swahili. Asante means thank you while kwa heri means goodbye.

Check out How To Say Hi In Swahili And Other Words And Phrases and Swahili Basics to know more. And, the Swahili word for travel is tembea pronounced as teh-mbe-a which Kenya’s Tourism Board uses to encourage Kenyans to travel throughout the county.

Check out 11 Beautiful Words To Make You Fall In Love With the Swahili Language to know more.

What is the national dish of Kenya?

Nyama Choma 

nyama choma, barbequed meat, kenya national dish
Photo by Shyqo on Wikipedia Commons

Nyama Choma means barbequed meat in Swahili. Goat meat is preferred although chicken and beef can be used as substitutes. The dish is known as mbuzi choma if goat meat is used.

Get the recipe to make nyama choma on Cookpad. Check out Kenyan Food: Best Dishes You Must Try, 18 Kenyan Street Food The World Needs To Try, and The Best Restaurants in Nairobi to know more. 

Is Kenya worth visiting?

Yes! Kenya is worth visiting. With vast landscapes, a diverse culture, and beautiful beaches, Kenya has it all. For the adventurous, hike Mount Kenya and for nature lovers, take a safari in the Maasai Mara, there is something for everyone in the Land of the Lion King.

Check out the 18 Reasons Why Kenya Should Be Your Next Destination,  the 17 Things They Don’t Tell You About Visiting Nairobi, and the 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Kenya At Least Once to know more.


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