Kenya’s geographical diversity is truly awe-inspiring. Its tropical forests, desert savannas, mountains, and coastal areas are perfect for adventure. Kenya’s citizens are as diverse as its scenery. Kenya is a melting pot with an endless array of activities and destinations that promise undiluted fun.
In fact, Kenya is the world center for animal safaris. In Kenya, gappers will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see rare wildlife, eat exotic cuisine, sip wine aboard while sailing down the Indian Ocean, or whatever your heart desires. Take your gap year in Kenya and you will be spoiled with choices!
Photo Credit: Akarshan Kumar
Types of Programs
Volunteers in Kenya will be provided with a life changing experience. Volunteers are given first hand opportunities to help people in a welcoming nation. Kenya is a luscious country, but has poor infrastructure outside of the cities, and an overwhelmed school system. Kenya has a significant problem with HIV/AIDS and systematic corruption within the country.
Volunteers are needed to get involved with a wide range of projects from planting trees, to building medical centers and working in orphanages. While volunteering can be overwhelming and, at times quite tragic, volunteer projects are often flexible and will give you time to explore the country. Volunteers will have the opportunity to go on safari and stay in traditional Kenyan lodges. They may take boat trips on the beautiful Lake Victoria, or learn how to make Fairtrade items. Perhaps the greatest experience of all is meeting the helpful and generous Kenyan people. Any volunteer in Kenya will take a piece of the country away in their heart!
Explore Nairobi, Kenya and head off to Rift Valley, were you can climb Mt. Longonot, trek past Mt. Kenya (Africa’s 2nd highest mountain), walk through Hell’s Gate National Park, or take a safari in Lake Nakur National Park. While exploring this lush and beautiful country make sure to participate in community-based projects. There are ample opportunities to get involved!
Take a white-water rafting trip, track chimpanzees, support economic self-sufficiency and health, help protect the Masai Mara National Reserve. Kenya is home to some of the best wildlife parks in Africa. Here you can see the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra as they cross the plains.
If you love fun and adventure, Kenya is the perfect place for adventure travel. Enjoy unparalleled wildlife while performing meaningful work for the disadvantaged.
One of the most important issues throughout Africa is widespread disease. There are many internships focused around medicine and health research. Working with a non-profit will help you gain experience in your field of study, giving you the tools you need to succeed in the future. An internship in Africa should not simply be a way to build a strong resume, but an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture while gaining valuable experience in the field.
The major industrial centers in Kenya are found in the urban areas of Mombasa and Nairobi. Most of the manufacturing work is linked to the processing of agricultural products. There are limited meat processing and dairy industries as well as leather, paper, textile, and sugar production. Kenya is not the ideal place for a business internship, but if you’re looking for an internship in healthcare, politics, or environmental protection/research, then interning Kenya will help you gain the confidence you need to succeed!
Planning Your Trip
Cost of Living in Kenya
The cost of living is much lower in Kenya compared to Europe or the United States. In fact, 1 Kenyan Shilling is equivalent to .012 US Dollars. So with a favorable exchange rate against many international currencies, Kenya is a fairly inexpensive destination. Housing in Kenya is as low as $50 a month and taxis are only a fraction of what they cost in the Westernized world. All expenses are significantly cheaper than in the United States or Europe. A gapper could eat out every night of the week without having to worry!
Culture and Etiquette in Kenya
Kenya is far from being a homogenous country. Kenyans are made up of 13 ethnic groups with numerous sub-ethnicities. Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic. “Harambee,” (coming from the Bantu word meaning “to pull together”) defines the people’s approach to others in life. The concept is about mutual assistance, mutual effort, mutual responsibility and community self-reliance. Kenyans believe that the extended family is the basis of the social structure. It includes relatives on both sides of the family as well as close friends. When people marry, they join their families, ensuring that there will always be a group to turn to in times of need.
Like most Africans, Kenyans place a large emphasis on the respect and reverence of their deceased ancestors. Kenyans believe that when someone dies, their spirit lives on and their spirit must be acknowledged. The person doesn’t die completely unless their relatives no longer remember them. Since one’s ancestors are thought to be in a limbo state and closer to God, they are able to influence events in life more than the living.
Health and Safety in Kenya
The Kenyan healthcare system is improving, but is still a major issue throughout the country. Health risks in Kenya include insect-borne diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, typanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), relapsing fever, tick-borne typhus, plague, and dengue fever; food- and water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), intestinal worms, giardiasis, amebiasis, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and E, and cholera; hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. Be careful and receive all necessary vaccinations before leaving for your gap year.
Unfortunately, crime in Kenya is very high in most regions, and you should be wary of the “snatch and run” and stay close to your belongings at all times.
Why Take a Gap Year in Kenya?
Kenya offers everything from enchanting safaris to a chance to practice marathon running with the world's greatest athletes and gold medalists. Get lost in the mystical mountains of the Great Rift Valley. Watch lion cubs play in the savannah grass. Try eating nyama choma with the locals, or whatever interests you. With its fascinating culture and scenic majesty, Kenya is a great country to spend your gap year.