Where & when to go, and what to see
Kenya is one of East Africa’s premier safari destinations, with massive open savannah regions hosting a huge breadth and depth of classic African wildlife. Over 10% of the country is protected in some form or other, and national parks in Kenya rate as some of the best in the world. A safari in Kenya almost guarantees you a sighting of the big five African animals of lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard. Alongside these big-hitters are hundreds of other species of African animals, and some of the world’s most diverse bird-life.
Straddling the equator, Kenya is dominated by the Rift Valley – a huge range of valleys strung along a 5,000km crack in the earth’s crust that runs through East Africa. Within the Rift Valley are Africa’s highest peaks – in Kenya these are the volcanoes of Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon. East of the Rift Valley are the coastal plains, whilst the north of Kenya is made up of arid wastelands. The prime safari destinations in Kenya are the Central Highlands and areas within the Rift Valley. The south of the country hosts the great migration of plains animals and their predators each year between June in November. In short, safaris in Kenya are up there with the best in terms of wildlife and scenery.
Alongside safaris and wildlife spotting, a visit to Kenya allows you to easily extend your safari with a visit to a resort on the Indian Ocean coast, or with an activity such as trekking, hiking, sailing or diving.
Kenya Safari Highlights
Safari Lodges In Kenya
As a tourism-focussed country, Kenya has plenty of choice when it comes to safari accommodation. Lodge standards vary from rustic to modern, from the simple room to extreme luxury with en-suite private plunge pool.
Kenya Safari Tours
There are plenty of companies offering safari tours around Kenya. The focus is on the high end, but there are some companies that specialize in mid and budget safaris. Check out our reviews of safari tour companies in Kenya.
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All National Parks in Kenya
Aberdare National Park
The Aberdare National Park, with an area of 767 Km2 covers the higher areas of the Aberdare Mountain Ranges of Central Kenya, from altitude of 1829M to 4001M above sea level. The topography is quite diverse with deep ravines that cut through the forested eastern and western slopes. Animals easily observed in the park include; the Black Rhino, leopard, baboon, black and white Colobus monkey and sykes monkey. Rarer sightings include those of lions, the golden cat and the bongo- an elusive forest antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Animals like the eland and spotted and melanistic serval cats can be found higher up in the moorlands.
Visitors can also indulge in picnics, trout fishing in the rivers and camping in the moorlands. Bird viewing is rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in the park, including the Jackson’s Francolin, sparry hawk, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds and plovers.
The park is located about 100 km north from Nairobi and stretches over a wide variety of terrains because it covers altitudes from about 7,000 feet (2,100 m) to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above sea level. Established in May 1950, the Aberdare National Park covers an area of 766 square kilometers and forms part of the Aberdare Mountain Range. The park contains a wide range of landscapes – from the mountain peaks that rise to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above sea level, to their deep, v-shaped valleys intersected by streams, rivers, and waterfalls. Moorland, bamboo forests and rainforests are found at lower altitudes.
Arabuko Sokoke National Park
largest stretch of coastal dry forest remaining in Eastern Africa.It is second in africa in birdlife conservation from Congo . The ecosystem comprises of three forest types, Mixed forest, Brachystegia Woodland and Cynometra, each containing different rare species of Birds, Mammals, Butterflies, and Plants. There are 270 birds, 261 butterflies, 79 amphibians , 52 mammals and 600 plants species . The Clarke’s Weaver is completely endemic to the forest, while the Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, east coast akalat, Amani Sunbird and Spotted Ground Thrush are only found in the park and a few in Tanzania. 3 mammals which are endemic species :- Aders duiker, Sokoke Bush Tailed Mongoose, and Golden rumped elephant shrew.
It is located 110km north of Mombasa 45km from Kilifi and 20 km south of malindii, you can get there by road, from Mombasa town or by plane through Malindi. Access through Mombasa tarmac road.
Hell’s Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park lies to the south of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, North West of Nairobi. The park which is mainly comprised of savannah ecosystem habours a wide variety of wildlife. There are over 100 species of birds in the park, including vultures, Verreaux’s Eagles, augur buzzard, and swifts. African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, and baboons are also common. The park is also home to klipspringer antelope and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck.
#Hell’s Gate National Park lies south of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, north west of Nairobi. Hell’s Gate National Park is named after a narrow break in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley
Kakamega National Park
Kakamega Forest is a tropical rain forest situated in the Western Province, of Kenya, North West of the capital Nairobi, and near to the border with Uganda.
The forest including reserves encloses about 238 square kilometers, a little less than half of which currently remains as indigenous forest. The forest is elevated at predominantly between 1500 m and 1600 m above sea level. In the north of the Forest is the 4,468 hectares (45 km2; 17 sq mi) Kakamega National Reserve, given national forest reserve status in 1985. Just to the north is the Kisere Forest Reserve. Throughout the forest are a series of grassy glades, ranging in size from about 1 to 50 ha, with a few larger clearings. The origins of the glades are uncertain. Some are certainly recent clearings, but others predate recent records. These may have originated from past human activity such as cattle grazing or may be the result of herbivory and movements by large mammals such as buffalo and elephants (both now extirpated from the region). The glades vary a great deal in structure, some being open grass and others having a considerable number of trees or shrubs. A number of streams and small creeks run through the reserve. The larger creeks are usually bordered by a few to tens of meters of forest on either side which divide the glades, while the smallest creeks flow through open grasslands, often forming small marshy patches.
Lake Bogoria National Park
The lake is alkaline, feeding blue-green algae which in turn feed flamingoes. At times the number of flamingoes feeding in the lake may be as high as two million. Raptors such as tawny eagles prey on the flamingoes. In total, 135 species of bird have been recorded.
The lake lies in a trough below the Ngendelel Escarpment, a sheer wall 600 metres (2,000 ft) high. The lake covers 32 square kilometres (12 sq mi). It is geothermically active on the western shore, with geysers and hot springs. The geologist J.W. Gregory described the lake in 1892 as “the most beautiful view in Africa”.
The reserve is in a semi-arid area. T opened in 1970
Malindi Watumu National Park
The park’s coral reefs form the physical and biological backbone of the area. With over 150 species of hard and soft corals, such as brain corals, fan corals and sponges, it provides for abundant nutrients for fish. The main park has over 500 species of fish and the reserve over 1000. There are also whale sharks, manta rays, octopus and barracuda as some of the larger species in the park.
Watamu National Park is part of a complex of marine and tidal habitats along the Kenya’s north coast. It is enclosed by the Malindi Marine National Reserve which also encloses Malindi Marine National Park. Habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud, fringing reefs and coral gardens, coral cliffs, sandy beaches and the Mida Creek mangrove forest. Marine life attractions include fish, turtles, dugongs and crabs. The Mida Creek forest has a high diversity of mangrove species including Ceriops tagal, Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Avicennia marina and Sonneratia alba. These provide refuge to a variety of both resident and migrant bird species.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mt. Elgon is located 420 kms from Nairobi. Access is via tarmac road to Kitale, branch to murram road then to the Chorlim Gate
- Roads: Mt. Elgon is located 420 kms from Nairobi. Access is via tarmac road to Kitale, branch to murram road then to the Chorlim Gate
- Airstrips: There is one airstrip in the park
- Chorlim (main gate)
SIZE / LOCATION
- 196 km2
- On the western border of Kenya with Uganda, in Trans-nzoia District of Rift Valley Province
- The climate is moist to moderate dry. Annual rainfall is over 1,270mm
Mount Kenya National Park
The national park has an area of 715 square kilometres (276 sq mi), most of which is above the 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) contour line. The forest reserve has an area of 705 square kilometres (272 sq mi). Combined this makes the area of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 1,420 square kilometres (548 sq mi).
A small portion of this park’s borders near heavy populations have electrified fences to keep the elephants out of the surroundingfarmland. Volcanic sediment in the surrounding region’s soil and the huge volume of fresh water coming down the slopes makes the area particularly favourable for agriculture.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is a unique ecosystem by being the only protected area in the world close to a capital city. The park is located only 7 km from Nairobi city centre. The savannah ecosystem comprise of different vegetation types. Open grass plains with scattered acacia bush are predominant. The western side has a highland dry forest and a permanent river with a riverine forest. To the south are the Athi-Kapiti Plains and Kitengela migration corridor which are important wildlife dispersal areas during the rain season. Man-made dams within the park have added a further habitat, favourable to certain species of birds and other aquatic biome.
Major wildlife attractions are the Black rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, buffaloes, Giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elands and diverse birdlife with over 400 species recorded. Other attractions include the Ivory burning site Monument, Nairobi Safari Walk, the Orphanage and the walking trails at hippo pools.
Saiwa Swamp National Park
The park is located at 385km from Nairobi and 27 km from Kitale town in Trans-Nzoia District of Rift Valley Province. The park ecosystem comprises of forest and swamp vegetation. The swamp is dominated by tall bull-rushes and sedges and is bordered by open grasslands and riverine forests.
The park was established to protect the endangered Sitatunga, a semi-aquatic antelope. Other wildlife species commonly found in the swamp include the Otter, Genet cat, Serval cat, mongoose, bushbuck and monkeys. The ecosystem is also rich in birdlife, harbouring about 372 species.
Shimba Hills National Park
The national reserve lies approximately 33km south of Mombasa town, in Kwale district of coast province. The coastal ecosystem comprise of a heterogeneous habitat including forestlands, exotic plantations, scrublands and grasslands. The ecosystem holds one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa after Arabuko-Sokoke forest.
The reserve is rich in flora and fauna and hosts the highest density of African elephant in Kenya. Other animal species found in the area are Sable antelope, black and rufous elephant shrew, bushy tailed mongoose and other small mammals like fruit bat. The forest is an important bird area and is endowed with forest birdlife while the grasslands hold localized species such as red-necked-Spurfowl, Croaking Cisticola and Zanzibar Red Bishop.
Tsavo National Park
The Joint mass of Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks forms one of the largest National parks in the world and covers a massive 4% of Kenya’s total land area. Tsavo East the larger of the two, lies to the east of the Nairobi –Mombasa road, equidistant between Nairobi and Mombasa, and offers a vast and untapped arena of arid bush which is washed by azure and emerald meandering of Galana River. Guarded by the limitless lava reaches of Yatta plateau and patrolled by some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya
Self drive safaris are an option in many national parks in Kenya, though to enjoy full access to the most remote (and tourist free!) areas you’ll need a 4WD car or jeep. If you fancy taking a tour or arranging your own guide and/or driver have a look at our list of safari tour companies in Kenyabefore arrival in the country.
- Aberdare National Park
- Amboseli National Park
- Arabuk Sokoke National Park
- Hell’s Gate National Park
- Kakamega National Park
- Lake Bogaria National Park
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Malindi Watumu National Park
- Masai Mara National Park
- Meru National Park
- Mount Elgon National Park
- Mount Kenya National Park
- Nairobi National Park
- Saiwa Swamp National Park
- Shimba Hills National Park
- Tsavo National Park
Have you been to a national park in Kenya, or got some useful information you’d like to share on the topic? Please feel free to get involved in the comments section below.
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An article detailing all you need to know for researching and booking safaris in Kenya - where to go, best time to go, top national parks, wildlife, lodges, tour companies and more.