Five things to expect when volunteering in Kenya

Africa is a continent of huge contrasts, with diverse landscapes, languages, and ways of life.

This rich variety is reflected in each of our host destinations, so whether you choose to volunteer in Ghana, Kenya or Zanzibar, you’ll have a unique experience that will challenge your perceptions of Africa and leave you with a new appreciation of everything the continent has to offer. 

At African Adventures, we’re counting down the days until we can get back to doing what we love – giving our volunteers a life-changing experience in Africa. To help prepare for the day (hopefully in the not-too-distant future!) when our volunteers can embark on their own African Adventures once again, we’ve put together a list of five things to expect when travelling to each of our destinations – and some of them might just surprise you!

First up, Kenya…

Kenya is a country of real contrasts

When you think of Kenya, you probably think of breathtaking safari experiences, stunning scenery, and a thriving tourism industry. You may even have heard of the luxurious Giraffe Manor – an exclusive boutique hotel near Nairobi, set amongst 12 acres of private land, where guests can get up close and personal with the endangered Rothschild giraffe.

While Kenya does have a hugely popular tourism industry, this is just one side of the coin. 45% of Kenya’s population live below the poverty line, surviving on less than 80p per day. In Nakuru, where our partner projects are based, the costs associated with attending a government school are out of reach for many. As a volunteer, you’ll be supporting community-run schools that provide a free education for hundreds of disadvantaged children from the local area, giving you a real insight into life beyond the tourist trail. 

It’s not all sweeping savannahs

Kenya is famous for its wide-open grasslands, home to a variety of wildlife, including the Big Five. But did you know that Kenya is also home to serene lakes, lush forests and Africa’s second highest peak? 

In fact, Kenya takes its name from Mount Kenya, rather than the other way around. The mountain, which is located 85 miles north-east of Nairobi, stands at 5,199 metres tall, and is only surpassed by Mount Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania. One advantage of COVID-19 has been the drop in pollution levels in Nairobi, which has given residents of the city a rare glimpse of the mountain

Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa

In addition, the serene Lake Nakuru, situated on the outskirts of the town in Lake Nakuru National Park, is famous for having an abundance of algae which attracts a high population of flamingos to its shores. Lake Nakuru is one of eight lakes located in the Kenyan section of the ancient Great Rift Valley, which stretches all the way from Lebanon to Mozambique.

Finally, as a volunteer you can opt to explore one of Kenya’s lush forests on our thrilling Zipwire Adventure Day. Glide more than 2 kilometres across the treetops of Kereita Forest, part of Aberdares National Park. The Kereita forest covers 47 square kilometres and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and the colobus monkey.

Glide through Aberdares National Park on our Zipwire Adventure

Time is relative 

One of the first things you might notice when you arrive in Kenya is that time is a relative concept, so be prepared to slow down and relax – you’re on Africa time now! 

This flexible approach to timing can apply to everything from public transport to mealtimes. Whilst you may find this frustrating at first, you’ll soon learn to adjust and enjoy the sunshine on your face as you wait. And don’t worry – our staff are always on hand if needed!

It’s very diverse

In addition to Kenya’s two official languages of Swahili and English, there are 62 other languages which are used by different ethnic groups across the country – including the Bantu and Nilotic languages, whose speakers are traditionally cattle herders.

Similarly, whilst the majority of Kenyans adhere to Christianity, a variety of other religions are practiced throughout the country, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Some Kenyans also practice traditional African religions, which emphasise the relationship between natural phenomena and our daily lives. Followers of the traditional Kikuyu religion, for example, believe that the god Ngai resides on the slopes of Mount Kenya, and say their prayers facing the mountain.

Nakuru is a bustling, urban centre

Lastly, you might be surprised by how urban Nakuru feels. As Kenya’s fourth largest city after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, Nakuru is one of the country’s largest urban centres, with a bustling centre and rapid development taking place. 

Nakuru is a bustling, urban town

Manufacturing, agriculture and tourism are the backbone of Nakuru’s economy, and the town, which is the capital of Nakuru County, has an increasingly cosmopolitan Central Business District. In fact, a 2011 UN study found that Nakuru was Africa’s fastest growing city. 

As a volunteer, you’ll stay just outside the centre of Nakuru, giving you a real insight into day-to-day life in the town and giving you the chance to witness rapid urban development in action. 

Learn more about Kenya, and explore our other host destinations, here.