Kenya is beautiful and attractive, but it can be sporadically dangerous as a tourist destination

Friends of mine who have a hotel in Orlando, Florida, are originally from the African country of Kenya. They are all Americans now, but they still visit Kenya, roughly every year. Their brilliant descriptions of the country and natural beauty, as well as their personal invitations to stay with them, have made me seriously consider traveling to Kenya.

“Kenya is rich in adventure and a very fascinating country,” they enthused. “You’re going to love it!”

Well, I was also looking forward to visiting the Residence Karibuni timeshare complex. The single timeshare destination is located in Mambrui, about 20 kilometers north of Malindi, according to the brochure. The complex is made up of villas surrounded by bougainvillea and lawned areas. You could visit the local market and buy fresh pineapples and elegant carved souvenirs. Or you could go on a Safari to see the animals in the National Park, or perhaps visit the Tsavo East Nature Park. In southern Malindi there is even a marine reserve with snorkeling, white sand and glass bottom boat adventure trips to observe the coral reef and colorful marine life.

A timeshare preview trip in Kenya and seeing my friend’s home country seemed like a pretty good idea.

Earlier today, however, my reverie ended when I received an email alert about travel to this part of Africa from the US State Department.You, too, should always be on the lookout for current political situations in any country you plan to visit.

There appears to be widespread violence in parts of Kenya, including areas of greater Nairobi and the cities of Eldoret, Kisumu and Mombasa. Problems have escalated since the December 30 announcement that President Kibaki was the winner of the December 27 election.

Although violence has subsided in recent days, isolated incidents of rioting are still reported. The good news is that the availability of food, fuel, cash and air cards for mobile phones is improving. So far there have been no reports of US citizens injured.

Kenya’s three western provinces, Western Nyanza and Rift Valley, are the hardest hit by the unrest. Road trips in western Kenya remain unsafe. Sporadic illegal roadblocks by gangs or criminal elements make travel often only possible with convoys escorted by the police.

Some, but not all, official US citizens, who were out of Kenya when the violence began and delayed their return to the country, have since returned. The Peace Corps Volunteers who left the three western provinces have yet to return to the areas in which they were initially stationed. US officials have advised US citizens residing in Kenya to carefully consider their own safety. Safety and security situations make travel very risky both within and outside of Kenya.

Kenya’s international airports (Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi and Moi in Mombasa) are reportedly operating normally. My travel advisor tells me that there are seats available for international flights outside of Kenya. Most domestic flights continue to operate in Kenya, although some flights remain canceled due to fuel shortages.

It appears that protest demonstrations are likely to continue sporadically. These protests often arise fairly quickly and without warning. American citizens have been warned to avoid all demonstrations and protests, as even protests intended to be peaceful can turn violent in a matter of minutes.

The situation in Kenya is likely to remain politically unstable and volatile for the foreseeable future. So for the near future I postpone any trips there. No matter how persuasive my friends may be and how fascinating the country is, the risk of traveling seems too high.

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