Kenya Safaris – The Birthplace of African Adventure
Kenya safaris evoke the raw brilliance of Africa. The drumroll of wildebeest hooves across the Masai Mara. Elephants wandering beneath Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli. Leopards and lions patrolling the savannah. This is the country where African safari really started and the experience remains as evocative as ever.
Kenya safaris are intimate. You get incredibly close to the complete array of wildlife, on landscapes without borders. Rather than watch from the sidelines, you’re always in the thick of the action, whether bumping across the endless Samburu or taking a walking safari in a lesser-known park. Not only are animals abundant: you gain an incredible insight into their daily life, from tracking zebra herds to following cheetah cubs on the Mara.
And what abundance there is! From July to September there are more wild land mammals in Kenya than anywhere else in Africa. We’re talking millions here. You don’t watch a few wildebeest but are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of them. Hundreds of black and white rhinos can be seen in the same park. Sometimes you even spot giraffe and antelope along the highway. Some of the animals are so abundant they become part of the scenery – just imagine a safari when there are so many zebra, the sight of another one no longer raises an eyelid.
Diversity is the other highlight of Kenya safaris. The country has more national parks and safari destinations than any other. This means there will be somewhere that suits your interests and preferred style of safari. It could be a very relaxed private conservancy, where short leisurely activities combine with downtime around the pool. Or perhaps a rugged and wild adventure, where you spend every daylight hour tracking predators and their prey. Fly-in safaris connect distinct destinations, creating a wonderfully varied experience. Such diversity also means there’s a destination for every budget as well.
The range of destinations and animals on Kenya Safaris is complemented by the wide-ranging choice of accommodation. If you want to go glamping on the savannah, surrounded by the great wildebeest migration, we know where to send you. Certain safari areas offer very exclusive experiences, with boutique lodges and just a handful of other guests. We also use loges that offer excellent value safari in Kenya’s most iconic destinations. From an entry-level adventure to a romantic retreat, there’s a Kenya safari for every kind of visitor.
Wildlife and wilderness take center stage. Then Kenya has another trick up its sleeve. Whisper it quietly but the country really does have the finest white sand beaches in the world. There are a thousand kilometers of Indian Ocean coastline with hardly another soul in sight.
Unlike some of the Indian Ocean islands, Kenya offers beach privacy without the inflated price tag. Boutique resorts are well spaced out along the sand and you’ll be amazed by how exclusive they feel, for the price you pay.
Kenya Safari Highlights
- Track the great wildebeest migration in the Masai Mare from July to October – the famous Mara River crossing is usually in late July.
- Encounter black and white rhinos in the same park, a wildlife experience unique to Kenya.
- Wander empty white sand with a beach escape in Mombasa or Diani.
- Gaze up at the snow-capped cone of Mount Kilimanjaro, as elephants and giraffe wander past in the foreground.
- Experience the thrill of a walking safari, available in all the private conservancies, most famously around Samburu.
- Get friendly with hippos and rare birds on Kenya Safaris in the Great Rift Valley.
- Discover one of Africa’s friendliest cities when you layover in Nairobi; here you spot giraffe and rhinos backdropped by city skyscrapers.
- Hot air balloon above the Masai Mara grasslands.
- No other country in Africa offers such intimate big cat sightings, with lions, leopards and cheetahs all part of the daily scenery.
- Kenya’s Great Rift Valley was formed around 20 million years ago when the crust of the Earth was split.
- Kenya was under British colonial rule between 1895 and 1963.
- ‘Safari’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘Journey’
- Kenya shares Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake, with Tanzania and Uganda.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is located along the border between Kenya and Tanzania.
- Kenya’s most popular game park is the Masai Mara, which borders the Serengeti plains in Tanzania. Between July and September, visitors can witness the remarkable annual wildebeest migration which takes place in the Mara.
- Treetops Hotel is where the then Princess Elizabeth of England was staying with her husband when her father died. So she technically became a queen while in Kenya. Kenya still has a special place in the heart of the British royal family.
Recommended Destinations in Kenya
Amboseli National Park
Everyone’s picture of Kenya – a lion or elephant against the backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. This majestic old volcano sets the scene for a surreal wildlife display. The park features all of Africa’s famous big game and is a great first destination if you’ve never been on a safari before. While other parks have a greater quantity of animals, starting in Amboseli provides easy encounters with Africa’s four-legged icons.
Samburu National Reserve
The third stop in Kenya’s famous trilogy of destinations, Samburu is an open and eternal land protected by the Samburu tribe. It’s baked and arid, in comparison to the lushness of the Mara. And it’s a real adventure, with walking safaris, nighttime game drives, and exhilarating hours bumping across the bush. Endemic species add more spice to your Kenya safari and you’ll regular come across the rawest of safari scenes. Samburu is usually connected with the Masai Mara and Amboseli by short safari flights.
Conservancies Around Laikipia Plateau and Mount Kenya
A number of luxury safari conservancies are located in the heart of Kenya. These offer a very relaxed and upmarket safari experience. Each is a compact park so you’ll encounter the full range of wildlife without needing long safari activities. Accommodation is very luxurious while still connecting you to the wild. The wildlife is superb and these are the best destinations in Kenya if you seek a classic big five experience. We’d recommend these conservancies for senior travelers, families, or anyone who just wants a two or three-day safari before hitting the beach.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The beautiful Lake Nakuru National Park lies on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland. Visitors can enjoy the game drives and varied habitats that range from the Lake itself to the surrounding escarpment and picturesque ridges. Lake Nakuru National Park is ideal for bird watching, hiking, picnic and game drives.
Everyone who visits Kenya will need to make a layover in Nairobi. Transport connections make this unavoidable. You’ll probably land here then take an onward domestic flight. It’s a friendly, fun-loving city with a serious traffic problem, so we recommend hotels that minimize travel between local points of interest. Amazingly, wildlife coexists with the city, in the superb Nairobi National Park. With a one-day layover, you can safari with rhinos and elephants, backdropped by skyscrapers. Or watch giraffe crane their necks into your room with a visit to Giraffe Manor.
The Masai Mara
Africa’s most famous safari destination and the most unmissable for visitors. Great herds of wildebeest and zebra graze the grasslands, alongside buffalo, Thomson’s gazelle and other antelope. This is true storybook Africa, with over 2 million animals arriving with the great wildebeest migration from July to October. However, don’t feel restricted by these months. Only the zebra and wildebeest actually migrate; you can encounter a brilliant abundance of wildlife in the other months as well, just without the safari crowds.
The Masai Mara is also Africa’s ultimate big cat destination. Lions lounge around and often doze off in the shade created by your safari vehicle. Cheetahs and leopards raise their cubs in the grasslands. Hyena will march straight past you.
Do note that location is everything. Parts of the Masai Mara are quiet at different times of the year. Most of the entry-level camps are a good two to three hour drive from the Mara River. At SafarisOnline we’ll recommend the best camps and lodges dependent on the time of year.
Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks
These enormous dusty parks are full of safari surprise. Lions lurk, red elephants roam, hyena prowl and strange antelope stand beside the baobab trees. You need patience here. The parks are big and the game drives long, without the same quantity of big game as in the Masai Mara or Amboseli. However, these parks are on route from Nairobi to Mombasa so make a good stopover. They’re also a great addition to a beach holiday in Mombasa or Diani.
Aberdare National Park
A fairyland reserve in the trees, Aberdare is a complete contrast to Kenya’s other destinations. Don’t visit for the big five. Instead, the park is a haven for primates and rare animals not usually spotted on an African safari. Lodges overlook salt licks and waterholes, offering prime nighttime game viewing. Plus, the walking safaris are among the best in Africa.
Lake Naivasha and the Great Rift Valley
Giraffe and buffalo roam around the roads in the Great Rift Valley. Colobus and vervet monkeys call from the trees and you can walk with the zebra. Hippos fill Lake Naivasha and the entire area is the best in East Africa for birdwatching. Best of all, you don’t need an expensive safari. There’s nowhere cheaper in Africa for encountering many of the animals, although do note that big game like lion and elephant are missing. We’d recommend the Great Rift Valley as a stopover on an overland safari, or as a return two-night trip from Nairobi.
Mombasa Beach and Diani Beach
Time spent on the Indian Ocean beaches makes the perfect end to any East African safari. Also consider visiting the beach first, especially if you feel the need to escape the everyday stress of home. Diani is the quintessential white sand paradise and it comes without the crowds. Tourists are thin on the ground and there’s a serenity to every hour spent here. Mombasa is a beautiful city beach, so there’s more going on away from the sunbathing, but a little less pure tranquility. Both destinations are great for snorkeling and beach combing. Also, consider the upmarket resorts further up the coast in Malindi as well.
Key Kenya Safari Considerations
Kenya has suffered from sporadic terrorist attacks over the last 15 years. It should be noted that there have been fewer terrorist attacks here than in London; however, these attacks have had a hugely negative impact on tourism. Unlike other African countries, Kenya continues to see a drop in tourist numbers. This is good news for you. The infrastructure is set up for a high-end safari holiday. None of the wildlife has disappeared. But you don’t need to share the safari with dozens of other vehicles. Even better, fewer tourists mean better prices.
These terrorist attacks occurred in Kenya’s cities, absolutely nowhere near the safari destinations. Travel advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has never recommended for British citizens to avoid travel to Kenya’s safari destinations. Do note that there is a no-go zone near the Somalian border, which is nowhere near the destinations you would want to visit.
The best months for game viewing are generally the dry seasons, which are January to March and June to September.
July and August are peak seasons for Kenya Safaris. The climate is cool and dry, and the wildebeest are crossing the Mara River. It’s the only time of year when the parks become busy, so we’d recommend using private conservancies for a more personal safari experience.
September and October offer even better game viewing, but the safari will be cheaper and quieter.
January to March is also recommended. During these months the lack of rain makes it the easiest time of year to spot wildlife.
Note that many of Kenya’s safari lodges close during the long rains of April and May. June can also be wet.
November and December are also a good time to visit although some of the parks are inaccessible due to rain – we can advise on the best destinations for these months.
The rumble of 2 million wildebeest and zebra hooves fill Kenya’s Masai Mara from July to October. These animals charge over the Mara River from the Serengeti in Tanzania, where the migration is in full swing for all the other months of the year. Bear in mind that the Mara has excellent game viewing all year round, it’s only in July and August when it gets really popular with visitors. For these months we recommend small private camps, away from the crowds.
Also note that trying to catch the actual Mara River crossing can be frustrating. The herds gather for many days before actually crossing, so it can mean many wasted hours or days, when you could be enjoying a more diverse safari experience. Travel outside July and October and we can arrange a safari that combines the great wildebeest migration in Tanzania, with destinations in Kenya.
Language: English and Kiswahili (spoken in Kenya Tanzania & Uganda), are both official languages.
Time zone: GMT + 2
International dialling code: +254
Visas: Citizens of most countries require a visa. Passports must be valid for 6 months. A new e-visa service has been introduced via the e-visa portal. Visas are valid for 3 months from the time of entry and cost $50 (U.S. citizens pay $100).
Apply for visas in advance of arrival into Kenya via the e-visa portal.
Health: Proof of a yellow fever vaccination may be required if arriving from within Africa. Consult your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to your trip, especially since some vaccines require time to take effect.
Money: The unit of currency is the Kenya shilling (KSH). Major credit cards are accepted by many tourist hotels.
Getting there: International flights serve Nairobi and Mombasa. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is the main point of arrival for most visitors; Moi International Airport in in the coastal area of Mombasa, also sees international arrivals and ideal if you are beginning with a beach stay before your Safari.
Getting around: A good network of domestic flights link Nairobi and Mombasa to most other attractions & African destinations. National Parks are easily visited on tailored safaris including internal flights.
Every Kenya safari should be different. With so much choice over what to do and where to go, we don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach to planning your holiday. We’d like to know your interests, preferences, wishes and questions. Then we can handcraft a holiday a lifetime, one that really makes the most of what Kenya has to offer. This country is the birthplace of African adventure and we will find an adventure that is best suited to you.