Geography & Wildlife
Kenya is blessed with many different environments, from snow-capped mountain ranges with cool wooded slopes, to flat savannah plains and deserts, lowland equatorial forests, coasts with mangrove swamps and sandy beaches sheltered by coral reefs.
With this variety of natural habitats, it is hardly any wonder that Kenya boasts over a hundred species of mammals, 12 different types of primate, a range of reptiles and more than 1,000 species of birds, including over 75 birds of prey and more than ten different woodpeckers.
Kenya’s diversity of flora also reflects the varying conditions, with many plants adapted to their surroundings, such as the Acacia thorn tree which withstands the fires and drought of the grasslands. Some families of plants, such as mallows and orchids, thrive across a range of habitats and can be found throughout the country.
Mammals you may or may not know
The common predators and grazers, such as giraffes, zebra and antelope, can be seen in abundance by safari tourists.
But Kenya is also home to a number of less well-known species. For example, the lucky visitor may see large cats such as the spotted and striped serval or the tuft-eared caracal (Caracal caracal), a kind of lynx (see photo).
A fish out of water
An unusual resident of Kenya's mangrove swamps is the mudskipper, a fish which lives out of water on its evolutionary road to becoming an amphibian.
Other unusual animals include omnivores like the civet and genet (both relatives of the mongoose), termite-eaters such as the aardvark and pangolin, rodents such as the jumping hare and giant forest squirrel and rock and tree hyraxes. Hyraxes look like rodents, but are in fact ungulates (hoofed animals) and their closest living relative is the mighty elephant.
Into the water
In the marine environment, the dugong – see Mozambique Geography & Wildlife – lives in the shallows around the Lamu Archipelago.
The coastal region contains an abundance of fish, with important coral areas protected by reserves. As with Kenya’s birds, many marine species are wonderfully colourful, like the butterfly and angelfish. Larger and less conspicuous underwater residents include eels, octopus and barracudas.
Kenya has four species of turtle – the green, hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback. Private initiative projects to protect egg sites and release baby turtles back into the sea are protecting these populations.