As a great sporting nation, Kenya is probably best known for her award-winning athletes who scoop several awards at the Olympics and other international meetings worldwide. However, despite athletics being almost synonymous with Kenyan sports, there is a lot more on offer to the sporting enthusiast.
Most world sports – golf, football, rugby and cricket, to name a few – have taken root in Kenya and are fast growing in their popularity and participation. As such, Kenya is now a sports safari destination where one can enjoy:
- golfing on some of the world’s most beautiful courses;
- diving in the lovely tropical waters at the coast;
- rugby action at the Safari Sevens Rugby tournament;
- high-altitude training camps;
- and much, much more!
Kenya has a rich history of sporting legends, and her prowess at track, field and marathon events lives on with past sporting greats like Kipchoge Keino, Joseph Ngugi, Moses Tanui, and current ones such as Paul Tergat, Tecla Lorupe and Catherine Ndereba, among others.
Track and field events in Kenya are mainly held at the national sports stadiums, including:
- Moi International Sports Center- Kasarani;
- Nyayo Stadium;
- Nairobi City Stadium;
- Nairobi Gymkhana.
There are several associations that coordinate the track and field events held all over the country.
The Lewa Marathon was established in 2000 with the aim of raising funds for conservation and community projects in and around Northern Kenya. It is held at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Runners from all over the world are invited to enter for the race, which has a reputation for being one of the ten toughest marathons in the world. Run at an average altitude of 1,650 m, it is unique in being the only race of its kind run within a game reserve.
Given Mombasa’s reputation as a tourist destination, the race serves an important role in attracting and promoting sports tourism. The sea-level altitude is a key attraction that makes this event one of the world’s elite marathon competitions. It takes place in the month of May.
This event is organized by the Standard Chartered Bank as part of its community assistance programmes. The inaugural Standard Chartered Nairobi marathon was held in November 2003. It has since become an annual event. The basic idea behind the marathon is to provide Kenya, one of the superpowers of world athletics, with a world-class marathon of its own.
Kericho Tea Run
The Tea Board of Kenya has upgraded its marathon, first organized in 2010, to a full international event of 42 km. It is an exceptional experience where participants run through the well manicured plantations in the west of the Rift Valley.
One of Kenya’s best-kept secrets is the numerous golf courses. Few places in the world offer such a perfect mix for fantastic golf holidays as Kenya does. The opportunity to play your favourite game, to see wildlife, sometimes on the course!, and to relax on the beautiful white sandy beaches all during the same holiday is unique.
Kenya has 40 golf courses, 12 of which are 18 hole and 10 of which are used for championship events. Six of the courses are within a 20-mile radius of Nairobi. The oldest 18 hole course is the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, founded in 1906, and the newest is the David Jones-designed pay-and-play 9 hole golf course, the Golf Park within the Nairobi race course. There are several new courses under construction, and a number are being upgraded from 9 holes to 18 holes. Kenya’s ideal weather allows for golfing all year round.
For the visiting golfer, Kenya has a broad appeal. There is everything for the fanatic golfer, whilst the avid golfer can fashion his safari to include some wildlife viewing as well. A golfer who prefers to laze on the beach can still fit in a game or two, and the business traveller with an afternoon off can easily play his favourite game right at his doorstep!
Kenya Open Golf Championship
This is the main event on the Kenyan golfing calendar, which was started in 1967. The idea of the championship originated from Peter Thompson, an Australian golfer, and former Kenya Golf Union president “Champ” Sullivan. The event takes place at the Muthaiga Golf Club, home of the Kenya Golf Union, with the exception of 1968, when the event was held at Karen Country Club, and in 1976, when the competition was not played. The Kenya Open is the oldest championship on the African leg of the P.G.A European Challenge Tour.
The game of rugby was introduced in Kenya around the beginning of the century. During the colonial times, rugby was strictly for whites only. With the coming of independence, and schools and clubs becoming multi-racial in the late 50’s and early 60’s, rugby gained a wider appeal. Over the years, rugby has become an established sport on the Kenyan scene. Local teams have played visiting foreign teams and toured other rugby-playing countries around the world. The Kenya Rugby Football Union was formed in 1923 with a role to manage, administer and develop the sport of rugby in the country.
Safari Sevens Rugby Tournament
For the rugby enthusiast, an event not to be missed is the Safari Sevens Rugby tournament. Rugby fans from all over the globe flock to Kenya for the annual Tusker Safari Sevens. This classic annual event is held at the R.F.U.E.A grounds in Nairobi. The Tusker Safari Sevens is now a world recognized tournament in the annual Safari Sevens Rugby tournament in the global sevens rugby series.
Motor sporting is well loved in Kenya, and includes motorcross for the younger generation, motor rallying, off-road racing and go-karting. The links below have more detailed information on the sport in Kenya.
This world-famous rally is the only African event on the World Rally circuit, and is without doubt the toughest of the 14 international rally courses. The first rally was held in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and the race has since then become an annual event. The promise of the world’s most grueling race brings many international drivers to Kenya, and the race is broadcast to a television audience of millions.
The annual Rhino Charge is a local event that is aimed at raising money for conservation. It is a 4WD-rally through the wilderness of the Laikipia region of Kenya. The race involves 4WD-vehicles following a course through extremely rough terrain to reach a series of pre-arranged points in the fastest possible time. The course is designed with challenge in mind, and each year these off-road vehicles are pushed to their absolute limits.
Water sports of all types are available in Kenya. The warm seawater is ideal for swimming, with none of the health risks that inland waters have. Windsurfing, parasailing, water-skiing and jet-skiing are available at many coastal resorts and clubs. Also available is yachting, sailing, boating, kayaking and white-water rafting. The thrills of white-water rafting are possible on three main rivers: Tana, Athi, and Ewaso.
For nature lovers, Kenya’s crystal waters in the marine parks offer excellent opportunity for snorkelling, scuba diving and the unique possibility to swim with dolphins.
Excellent fly-fishing for trout can be done in the mountain streams of the Aberdares, the Mau Escarpment and the Cherengani hills. Lake Victoria in Western Kenya is the best inland outlet for game fishing.
Kenya is reputed for having some of the best sports fishing grounds in the world, with a long season running from August to May. The most popular species found include marlin, swordfish, sailfish, dorado, kingfish and shark. However, for conservation and research purposes, operators are encouraged to tag and release.
Another sport that has grown in popularity in Kenya is cricket and, with the success of the national team on the international circuit, it is poised to gain even more fame. The website below will give you more information on the sport in the country, in addition to the fixtures and upcoming events.
The most loved sport throughout Kenya is football. With the establishment of several football clubs, it is possible to catch some local soccer action over the weekend at the numerous sports stadiums. Kenya’s national team is the Harambee Stars, and the Kenya Football Federation regulates and controls the sport in the country.
If you enjoy hiking, Kenya has a lot to offer. The most favourable areas for hiking are the Aberdare Mountains, the Chyulu Hills, Hell’s Gate, Mt. Suswa, Mt. Longonot, the Menengai Crater in the Rift Valley, the Ngong Hills, the Cherangani Hills, Mt. Elgon and Mt Kenya.
Mountain climbing can be organized through your local travel agent or hotel.
As an athletics giant, Kenya now offers training facilities for local and international athletes. The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) Regional Development Centre in Nairobi provides training opportunities for both coaches and athletes. The most notable training camp is the High Altitude Training Centre, which is located near Eldoret in Western Kenya.