There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya. In this list, 4 are cultural sites and the remaining 3 sites are natural.
Kenya UNESCO Sites
- Fort Jesus, Mombasa (2011)
- Lamu Old Town (2001)
- Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (2008)
- Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (2011)
- Lake Turkana National Parks (1997)
- Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest (1997)
- Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape (2018)
Fort Jesus, Mombasa (2011)
This fort is one of three cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya. It was inscribed into the list in 2011 as this 16th-century fort was designed to guard the Old Port of Mombasa. This fort is the only one that is maintained by the Portuguese in the Swahili Coast. Hence, it is also a symbol of how Western power successfully established their influence on the trading activity in the Indian Ocean. The architecture of the fort itself was important to the cultural heritage of the site. Aside from showcasing Renaissance architectural style, the labor, materials and masonry techniques are inspired by the local Swahili people. Meanwhile, the fort is considered as one of the best military fortifications during the late Renaissance era.
Lamu Old Town (2001)
The Lamu Old Town is considered as the best preserved and oldest Swahili settlement in the coastal strip of East Africa. This town has been continually inhabited for 7 centuries. Even today, this town still has some of Kenya’s most conservative societies.
Lamu Old Town serves as the cradle of civilization for the Swahili people. This is commemorated through the many cultural festivals and Islamic celebrations in the town. In 2001, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya.
Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (2008)
The Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests in Kenya is another entry to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya. It is composed of 11 forest sites that are located along the coast of fortified villages by the Mijikenda people. These villages are locally known as kayas.
These villages were formed in the 16th century. But by 1940s, the villages had been left in an abandoned state. They are then regarded as sacred sites and are still being maintained by a council of elders. Due to its unique testimony to a rich cultural tradition in Kenya, it earned a spot in the UNESCO list.
Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (2011)
The Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley is the first natural site in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya. It is a natural landscape consisting of three lake basins that are located at a valley floor. This site is noted for its rich population of migratory birds, great white pelicans, and lesser flamingo.
The three lakes that are encompassed in this lake system are as follows: Lake Elementaita, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Bogoria. These lakes are hydro-geologically connected to each other via subsurface seepage of water. The alkaline from these lakes supports the algae formation that serves as food for the flamingos.
Lake Turkana National Parks (1997)
This natural site composes three national parks within Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya, the coverage of the site was expanded in 2001. This site is considered important as a stopping point for migratory birds, as well as the breeding ground for various species of reptiles including snakes, hippopotamus, and Nile crocodile.
The main components of this park are Sibiloi National Park, Lake Turkana, and Central Island. In addition to being a breeding ground and stopping points for migratory birds, it is also home to Koobi Fora fossil deposits.
Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest (1997)
This national park and forest were founded in 1949 and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya in 1997. The aim for the establishment of this national park was the protect Mount Kenya, along with its wildlife and environment. This natural environment is crucial as a natural habitat for the animal species that live in the area. Furthermore, it acts as a water catchment area that provides water supply to all of Kenya.
It is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In fact, this site was primarily a forest reserve before it was elevated into the status of a national park.