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Wild Side

Kenya is no stranger to Bollywood but its stunning landscape is now even more accessible to film producers thanks to generous incentives

Kenya made its Bollywood debut with the 1992 blockbuster Vishwathma. It was the story of a dedicated police officer Prabhat (Sunny Deol) on a mission to apprehend the most-dreaded crime lord Ajgar Jurrat (late Amrish Puri), who lived in Kenya but operated in India. The chase unfolded in Kenya, followed by series of breathtaking revelations and plot twists.

A large part of the film was shot in Kenya’s main cities of Mombasa and Nairobi. The song Saat samundar was shot at the Bubbles Discotheque, a popular club in Nairobi in those days. The climactic car chase was shot on the open plains of the Masai Mara National Wildlife Reserve. Many of the beach scenes were shot in Mombasa’s various beaches and beach hotels.

The film also employed many Kiswahili phrases and words in the script like ‘jambo’ (hello), ‘mzuri sana’ (very nice) and ‘Mimi ni kubwa sana.’ (I am very great)


The best time to shoot in Kenya is from January to March or mid–May to September, although filming can be carried out throughout the year as there are no distinctively marked winters as Kenya lies on both sides of the Equator. Do note that the perfect filming season for wildlife lovers is in January and February, when the weather is hottest and driest.


Kenyan cities are modern and abuzz with amazing skyscrapers, fun nightlife and a thriving urban culture. You can see rich history dotting different sections of the city. The cities, lit up at night, make for an amazing backdrop.

Nairobi city is surrounded by the Nairobi National Park, with a 113 sq km of plains, cliffs and forests and it is rightly known as the world’s only ‘wild capital’. Mombasa, a town that overlooks a wide harbour, is an island connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries. The fascinating commercial and cosmopolitan port town Mombasa is filled with the scent of spices engulfing the narrow, winding streets and Arab architecture of the exotic old town.


Kenya is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes that can be used as a backdrop in the movies. From awe-inspiring ragged peaks crowned with snow, like Mount Kenya; to the country’s best-kept secrets, the highlands and escarpment of the North, Rift Valley, the Western Highlands;

Apart from the urban and the wild, Kenya also offers some amazing forests like Mount Kenya, Aberdare, Arabuko Sokoke and Kakamega forests. Thousands of endemic and exotic trees grow here and are home to thousands of species of mammals, birds and herbivores.

The coast is lined with pristine, palm-fringed beaches, and the calm, inviting waters of the Indian Ocean. The offshore reefs are alive with coral, myriad fish, sea turtles and dolphins. Both outer and inner reef walls offer world-class diving with spectacular coral gardens and drop-offs, and Kenya’s best wreck diving

Kenya is very accessible and equipped with spectacular landscapes and traditional cultures, making it a perfect cinematic setting for a range of genres. The country has starred in over 80 international films so far.

Kenya’s film and television production industry boasts some of the most sophisticated production and post – production facilities and offers a pool of skilled technicians and crew.

The industry has invested considerably in keeping facilities up to date with the latest in film and television technology, resulting in more foreign as well as domestic producers choosing to produce films in Kenya. Sound and stage studios can be hired through several production and broadcast companies, at varied rates.

The country has a large pool of skilled technicians and crew available locally for most productions. While crew hiring costs are increasing in Kenya, they are still low compared to other countries. Alongside technical and crew staff, other service staff such as accountants, lawyers and doctors can be hired locally.

Kenyan production or service companies will arrange budgets, shooting schedules, breakdowns, recruitment of cast and crew, location surveys and reconnaissance trips, hire of equipment, facilities and service, accreditation for work permits, location permits, post production staff services, and payrolls, cost reports and budget reconciliations.


Kenya has three international airports; these airports service numerous international carriers including the national airline Kenya Airways.

Kenya has good connections to destinations throughout Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the US and Africa.

Non-stop flight time from Mumbai to Nairobi is 5 hours 45 minutes. Fastest one-stop flight between Mumbai and Nairobi takes close to 8 hours. However, some airlines could take as long as 33 hours based on the stopover destination and waiting time.

Kenya can be accessed by road from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Immigration is processed at land border stations.

Entry by sea is possible, and immigration should be processed at a port facility.


Foreign nationals and international filming crew are required to apply online for special passes and visas.

Special passes are issued by the Department of Immigration. These special passes or work permits are available for KES 15,000. Application requirements need to be forwarded to the department by the film agent who is facilitating the international film production. Visit https://fnsimmigration. for information of the alien card, pass and permit

Equipment that comes into the country can be cleared in different categories:

The first scenario being (accompanied equipment) shipped in for a temporary stay in the country. The required upfront payment is 30,000 KES that serves as a security bond. When the production company finishes their work, they are refunded the money on departure of personnel and equipment.

In the second scenario, for unaccompanied equipment, a temporary import form is filled for the equipment. The security bond amount is calculated against the value of the imported equipment.

The execution bond is usually done by the licenced clearing agents, for example, DHL, Kuehne & Nagel, Ballore Africa and Urgent Cargo.

It is important to note that there are no taxes charged on filming equipment imported into Kenya, either by road air or sea.


The Kenya Tourism Board has increased its budget for the Indian market to `5.3 crore ($800,000) in 2016-17, which will hopefully boost tourist growth rate from 28 per cent to 40 per cent this year.

With India being the third-largest tourism generator for the East African nation, after the US and the UK, it now expects to increase market share from the subcontinent on the back of new segments like Bollywood-based tourism.

The tourism promotion authorities in Kenya are offering cash rebates and duty waivers up to 30 per cent to Indian production companies willing to shoot in Kenya.

The largest competitor of Kenya in this segment is South Africa, which offers cash rebates of up to 35 per cent.

– Miral Patni

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