Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya?

If you’re asking: is it safe to travel to Kenya in 2016? We’re glad to report that it is.

Kenya’s authorities deal with the international terror threat in much the same way as other allies of the USA and Britain. You’ll find strict security at airports and visible policing in public places like shopping malls and outdoor markets. Kenya’s impressive military is very active along the eastern border with Somalia, which is the base of a small Islamic militant group called al-Shebab.  They have targeted Kenyans living in border towns by harassing buses, village markets and schools.

It’s important to know that tourists don’t visit eastern Kenya. You would explore the famous game reserves on the opposite side of the country, along Kenya’s western border with Tanzania. This area is so stable and peaceful that the national border separating Kenya’s Masai Mara from Tanzania’s Serengeti is marked by simple stone cairns. 

Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Balloon safari
Kenya remains Africa's favourite destination for bucket-list safari experiences.

Like Parisians and Londoners, Kenyans are courageous in standing up to terrorists. When militants targeted a bus in December, the Muslim passengers refused to be separated from the Christians onboard. Instead, these brave men and women physically shielded the Christians on the bus and transformed a terror attack into a triumph of humanity.  You can read more here.

In another demonstration of courage, Kenyan authorities allowed an Air France flight to divert to and land at Nairobi's International Airport to asses a bomb threat. This act of terror had absolutely nothing to do with Kenya except that Nairobi was the safest place for the plane to land after the threat was made. By helping Air France, Kenya took a very bold stand against terrorism with Kenyan emergency services taking the risk to evacuate the Air France passengers and investigate the threat. You can read more here.

During 2015, Kenya welcomed such international dignitaries as President Obama and Pope Francis as well as accepting an apology in person from CNN global Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Tony Maddox, for CNN’s misleading portrayal of Kenya in the news report that sparked the #SomeoneTellCNN hashtag. The tag trended on Twitter for several days as people shared images of their comfortable, modern daily live in Kenya. You can read more here.

Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Anja & Ashley
2015: Go2Africans Anja and Ashley about to board their short flight to Amboseli.

How Tourism Helps

An influential promoter of Kenya tourism is Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson (he owns Mahali Mzuri in the Motorogi Conservancy). In July 2015, Branson outlined why travel advisories hurt countries and help terrorists in his blog (you can read it here). His argues for two main considerations: firstly, incidents occur very far from the premier tourism attractions. You’re much safer on a game drive in a private conservancy in the Masai Mara than driving your car on a multi-lane turnpike! Secondly, without tourist dollars, unemployment in rural areas skyrockets. This inevitably leads to a general increase in crime but, worst of all, poverty makes people more vulnerable to being recruited into desperado organisations, like al-Shabab.

As Branson puts it, ‘[Travel] advisories destroy economies, causing dire circumstances and resentment, from which environments are created where extremism is more likely to thrive.’

Where extremism gains a solid foothold, it becomes more difficult to extinguish. The conservation of Africa's wildlife relies heavily on the foreign currency generated by tourism – without these funds, important conservation projects would have to scale down or close, national parks are forced to lay off rangers and anti-poaching units, and poaching thrives. If the tourism industry suffers, the domino effect of suffering for rural communities and endangered wildlife are truly horrifying.

Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Game Drive
Kenya continues to provide world-class safari holidays to guests from all over the world.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Samburu
2015: Anja, Mary and Ashley enjoying sundowners in Samburu Game Reserve.

We know Kenya is safe because we go regularly

Three senior Go2Africa Safari Experts – Ashley Gerrand, Mary Keet and Anja Naude – recently returned from an extensive tour of Kenya where they stayed at properties in both Nairobi and the Masai Mara.

They reported back that airport security is very high, giving passengers peace of mind. Some hotels in Nairobi have also instituted security measures such as metal detectors but that these are a minor inconvenience that is soon forgotten.

As part of Go2Africa’s seamless door-to-door approach, Ashley, Mary and Anja did not drive themselves or take any form of local transport; as Ashley says, ‘It certainly added to our sense of comfort and security to be met at the airport and being in the care of a local guide or driver throughout our visit.’

And although Kenyans are undoubtedly upset by the incidents, Anja says lodge and camp staff are as resilient, charming and efficient as ever, not dwelling on politics. ‘It was usually us guests who brought the situation up – but not often, as it really didn’t seem to be something to discuss as we felt no threat whatsoever. The beauty and scenery of this incredible country was far more relevant to talk about.’

Our ASEs stayed at Hemingways Nairobi and Nairobi Tented Camp in the city, two tranquil spots that are firm favourites with travellers. From there, they zigzagged Kenya, staying at Ol Donyo, Porini Amboseli Camp in elephant country, Sasaab and Saruni in Samburu, Branson’s own lodge Mahali Mzuri, and Porini Lion Camp. Their itinerary allowed for chartered flights and private transfers with trusted and professional suppliers all the way, ensuring their safety at every step.

Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Elephant
Destinations like the Daphne Sheldrick Orphanage in Nairobi, are huge highlights for international visitors.
Is it Safe to Travel to Kenya? On safari in Amboseli
While you may notice increased security in the cities, in parks like Amboseli, it's just another day in paradise.

Multi-million investments in Kenya in 2015 and 2016

In addition to Branson recently completing Mahali Mzuri, three other new lodges are due to open in 2015 and 2016. In June 2015, Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald – the renowned and experienced team behind more than 60 &Beyond camps – unveiled Angama Mara, an incredible lodge set on the escarpment of the Mara Triangle. With more than three decades in the safari game, the Fitzgeralds know their stuff and investing heavily in Kenya is significant endorsement of the country’s attractiveness as a safe, comfortable and stable travel destination.

Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Dhow
If you're travelling to Kenya in 2016, take normal travel precautions as you would going to any other international destination.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya? Family safari
Kenya remains a fantastic destination for multi-generational family safaris.

November 2015 Travel Update

Senior Go2Africa consultants Lisa Liprini and Genevieve Stewart travelled to Kenya in November 2015. They report that security is high in Nairobi following the visits of President Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Genevieve says that the thorough checks extend from the airport to the entrance of every hotel she and Lisa visited in the city. While they did feel a little nervous at this visible policing because they aren't used to it, this proactive approach is clearly working: Nairobi is positively thriving! Genevieve and Lisa didn't experience this sort of security in the Masai Mara, which is far removed from the security challenges of a major city like Nairobi. They returned from Kenya 100% confident about recommending the country's legendary game reserves and encouraging clients to make the most of a Nairobi stopover, which offers unique experiences like Giraffe Manor.

If you're interested in a Kenya safari, have a look at our guide to your first Kenya safari, or our round up of where to go in this incredible country and when to go for the best weather.

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