Kenya is known worldwide for its scenic landscapes and abundant wildlife, making it one of the best tourist destinations in Africa. It is one of the few countries in the world with numerous animal reserves and safari parks.
Although there have been a few skirmishes here and there in the past, Kenya is still one of the most beautiful, developed, and peaceful nations on the continent.
Learn more about this colourful country with these 10 little-known fun facts about Kenya:
1. The origin of the name Kenya
Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, did not have this name up until 1920. It was initially known as the British East Africa Protectorate or British East Africa. The earliest recorded version of this name was in the 19th century by a German explorer called Johann Ludwig Krapf.
As the story is told, Ludwig was travelling with a Kamba caravan led by the legendary long-distance trader called Chief Kivoi. On their way, Krapf noticed a mountain peak and asked its name.
Chief Kivoi told him “Kĩ-Nyaa” or “Kĩĩma – Kĩĩnyaa” probably because the pattern of black rock and white snow on its peaks reminded them of the feathers of the cock ostrich (according to the Kamba language).
On the other hand, the Agikuyu, who inhabit(ed) the slopes of Mt. Kenya, called it “Kĩrĩma Kĩrĩnyaga,” while the Embu called it “Kirenyaa.” Apparently, all three names had the same meaning.
Ludwig Krapf recorded the name as both Kenia and Kegnia. Others state that this was, on the contrary, a very precise notation of correct African pronunciation. However, the Europeans found it hard to pronounce the names as they were, ending up naming it “Kenya” as it was easier for all, yet had a close pronunciation to all the indigenous names of the big mountain.
After the declaration of independence, Kenya retained the name.
2. Close encounters with the Big Five
The Big Five” are the five African animals that the early big game hunters considered being the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt. These animals include the African elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros.
You sure might have seen these animals in pictures or videos, but trust me, the experience of seeing them live is unexplainable.
With numerous game parks and reserves all over the country, one can have a closer view of these animals both in the wild and in a controlled setting. For instance, at some of the best animal sanctuaries in Kenya, you can have a closer interaction with the animals, including feeding them.
Kenya has also been the home to some unique animals, including the Northern white rhino. Apart from hosting the Big Five, Kenya is host to thousands of other wild animals.
3. It is considered the cradle of mankind
Another fun fact about Kenya that you probably would get taught in school, is that it has the largest number of fossil human remains appr. 1000 individuals than any other country in Africa. There have been numerous Paleolithic remains found in various places of the country and well-stored at some of the best museums in Kenya.
Kenya is believed to be the birthplace of humanity, with some of the oldest found remains at Tugen Hills in Baringo being traced 7 million years back.
Other old remains are found in Ethiopia = 4.5 million years; South Africa 3 million years, Tanzania = 2 million years.
Complete skeletons which can be traced to 1.6 million years back can be seen at Turkana Boy, a place you can check out when visiting some of the best tourist destinations in Turkana.
4. Home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
UNESCO sites are special places considered to be of significant physical or cultural value. They include:
- Fort Jesus, Mombasa (2011)
- Lamu Old Town (2001)
- Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (2008)
- Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (2011)
- Lake Turkana National Parks (1997)
- Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest (1997)Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape (2018)
5. A destination for Hollywood films
You probably didn’t know this but one of the fun facts about Kenya is that it has been a destination for numerous Hollywood films. Some of the hits that were shot in Kenya include:
- The Constant Gardener
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life
- Out of Africa
- Rise and Fall of Idi Amin
- Sense8, and many more.
There are also other notable Hollywood stars from Kenya such as Edi Gathegi, Lupita Nyong’o, and many others.
6. One of the largest producers of Roses in the world
So let’s put it this way, Valentine’s would be senseless if Kenya wasn’t in the picture. Kenya is the third-largest producer of roses in the entire world.
If you’re thinking of going out to some of the most romantic holiday destinations, just know that there is a high possibility that the roses you got came from Kenya.
In one way or another, you might have used the roses coming from Kenya as they are also compressed into oils to produce some of the best designer perfumes such as Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris and Hermes’ Rose Ikebana.
7. Elizabeth became Queen while in Kenya
Princess Elizabeth was staying at the ‘The Treetops Hotel’ with her husband, now Prince Philip, when she got the news that her father, King George VI, had passed away.
Of course, she had to go back home and get coronated, but technically, she became Queen of England while in Kenya.
8. 1st African Female Nobel Peace Prize winner
Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win a Nobel peace prize in 2004. Even after her unfortunate death to cancer in 2011, she is still remembered as one of the best environmentalists to have lived.
9. Cultural diversity
Kenya is a culturally diverse country with over 60 spoken languages and 44 documented tribes. Each of these tribes has their unique cultural background with some of them found majorly in specific parts of the country.
However, you don’t necessarily have to get a translator when in Kenya, as long as you understand English or Swahili, which are the official languages in Kenya.
Much of the population, especially in the urban setups comprehend English. You can also get our basic guide on Learning Swahili to help you further.
10. Kenya is a free country
We don’t mean that you don’t have to spend money in the country (oh but Kenyan were actually voted to be the most generous country in Africa) but Kenya is generally a liberal state. People understand their rights and the state ensures that the rule of law is adhered to.
You’ll have an easy time in the country (as long as you don’t break the laws) and you can move and interact freely with the locals.
There are many other fun facts about Kenya, such as:
- It is the home to the former US President’s dad – Barrack Obama
- Lots of record holders in the track field. (The first, and so far only person in the world to ever run under 1:41 in the 800 meters run, David Lekuta Rudisha. Eliud Kipchoge, who is the first and only man to break the 2-hour barrier in the marathon with a record time of 1:59:40, among many other broken records.)
- Home to the Great Rift Valley
- Home to the Great Wildebeast Migration.