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KENYA is a country of moderate size on the eastern side of the African continent. The Indian Ocean is to the southeast, with Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, and Somalia to the east. The equator almost bisects the country in two and provides a dividing line between the deserts in the north and the south’s savannah.

Mountains run north to south through central Kenya and are divided by the steep-sided Great Rift Valley. The highest peak is Mount Kenya at 5,200 meters or 17,000 feet.

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Several tree species are found in the distinct climatic regions, including palm, mangrove, teak, and sandalwood on the coast, acacia, and others in the lowlands, bamboo in the rainforest, and lobelias in the mountainous alpine areas.

A vast range of animals more than matches the variety in plant life. Aided by the existence of several national parks, Kenya has many of the big game species, such as elephants, rhinoceros, lion, giraffe, zebra, and a large number and variety of birds and reptiles.

The coastal lowlands have a hot, humid climate, but in the mountains, it is colder and rainfall more massive. In the east, it is very arid. The southwestern region well watered with vast areas of fertile soil, and it accounts for the bulk of the population and almost all of its economic production.

Nearly three-quarters of the population live in rural areas. Still, the capital, Nairobi, in the southwest of the country, has a population of well over one million and is a center for industry and commerce and tourists coming to visit the country’s game parks, including the Nairobi National Park.

Agriculture is an essential part of the economy, and a wide variety of crops are grown for domestic consumption, including wheat, maize, and cassava. Tea, coffee, sisal, sugar cane, and cotton are grown for export.

Oil refining at Mombasa is the country’s largest single-industry, but other mineral resources, including deposits of silver, lead, and gold, are few or undeveloped. Kenya’s many game reserves are a significant attraction for visitors, and tourism is an essential foreign revenue source.

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Kenya has a great diversity of terrain, ranging from barrier reefs off the Indian Ocean coast to sandy desert, forested uplands, and the perpetually snow-covered Mount Kenya. A particularly prominent feature is the Great Rift Valley of East Africa that runs through Kenya. However, the most striking geographical distinction is the difference between the higher land, encompassing the southwestern one-third of the country; and the remaining two-thirds of the nation, consisting of low plateaus and plains. Geographically, the country may be divided into seven major regions: a coastal belt; plains adjoining the coastal strip; a low plateau; northern plains; the fertile Kenya Highlands; the north-south Rift Valley Region bisecting the Kenya Highlands; and an area of western plateaus that forms part of the Lake Victoria basin.

Kenya faces the Indian Ocean to the southeast. A coral reef running for more than 480 kilometers (300 miles) lies just off the Kenyan coast and protects its coastal beaches from destructive waves. There are three marine parks along the coast: Kisite, Watumu, and Malindi.

Did you know about Kenya?

With a total length of about 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile is the world’s longest river. Even though the river does not run through the country, about one-tenth of Kenya’s land is part of the Nile River Basin. This region, located near Lake Victoria – a primary source for the Nile River – is its wettest area. As a result, about 40 percent of the population in Kenya lives in this area.

Tourism-related to wildlife safaris is a mainstay of the Kenyan economy. Kenya contains some of the best-preserved national parks and game reserves in Africa. Within these wildlife areas, visitors can see a wide range of animals, including lions, cheetahs, hippos, buffalo, giraffe, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, black & white Colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys, bongos, giant forest hogs, and many more. Conservation of wildlife and efforts to restore the endangered African elephant and black rhino populations within reserves is a high priority in Kenya. Five biosphere reserves have been recognized under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) Man and the Biosphere Program.

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