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Lying on the equator, with the glaciated peaks of Mount Kenya - second highest mountain in Africa - rising from a natural environment of exceptional beauty, Kenya is a hugely rewarding place to travel. The country's dramatically diverse geography has resulted in a great range of natural habitats, while its history of migration and conquest has brought about a complex social panorama. But if the world-famous national parks, colourful ethnic mix and superb beaches lend an exotic image, the glossy hype of the tourism industry ignores Kenya's post-colonial poverty and deep political tensions.
In any case, treating Kenya as a succession of tourist sights isn't the most stimulating way of experiencing the country. Travelling independently, or at least with eyes open (something this guide is designed to facilitate), you can enter the very different world inhabited by most Kenyans: a ceaselessly active landscape of farm and field, of streams and bush paths, of wooden and corrugated-iron shacks, tea shops and lodging houses, of crammed buses and pick-up vans, of overloaded bicycles, and of streets wandered by goats, chickens and toddlers. Off the more heavily trodden tourist routes, you'll find a rewarding degree of warmth, openness and curiosity in Kenya's towns and villages. And out in the wilds, there is an abundance of superb scenery - vistas of rolling savannah dotted with
and their herds, high
bursting with bird song and insect noise, and stony, shimmering
- all of which comes crisply into focus when experienced in the context of an economically beleaguered African nation four decades after Independence.
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