Kenya safaris rock! Kenya is one of East Africa’s premier safari destinations, with massive open savannah regions hosting a huge breadth and depth of 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 5,000 km 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 Kenya safari destinations 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 and November. In short, Kenya safaris are up there with the very best in terms of wildlife and scenery.
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 Kenya before arrival in the country.
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 activities such as trekking, hiking, sailing or diving.
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Kenya safari highlights
Experience Maasai culture
The Maasai are one of the few African tribes who have retained most of their traditions, lifestyle, and lore – along with their distinctive red robes. Many safari lodges and operators work with local Maasai on community projects. Experiencing some time in a Maasai village whilst in Kenya is a unique cultural experience that will help put your visit in context.
Big five spotting
Big five spotting in Kenya is high on most visitor’s safari checklist, and with Kenya’s superb network of national park gems seeing Africa’s biggest beasts up close and personal is a realistic goal. Destinations rich in lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo are clustered in the south of the country, particularly Amboseli, Masai Mara and East and West Tsavo (for the Tsavo lions!) national parks.
Watch the ‘Great Wildebeest Migration’
Listed as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the awe-inspiring Great Wildebeest Migration sees more than two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle marching across the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti and surrounding parks in Tanzania – closely followed by plenty of predators. Exact timings vary year to year, so be sure to check in with a local expert.
Indian ocean beach perfection
One of the beauties of taking a safari in Kenya is the easy access to picture-postcard white sand beach with turqoise waters. Many Kenyan tour operators will help arrange your trip to work on your tan with a pre- or post-safari break on a tranquil Indian Ocean beach.
Best time to safari in Kenya
The peak tourist season in Kenya is January and February when the weather is consistently warm and dry, with wildlife easy to spot in large concentrations. If you take a Kenya safari in peak season expect to be in company with crowds of tourists, and paying top dollar for your safari. If you’re specifically after catching sight of the annual great migration, June to October is the time to head to the Masai Mara National Park in southern Kenya.
The long rains hit Kenya through March, April and May, and the short rains from October to December. During the short rains, it generally rains only for short periods at a time, meaning your wildlife viewing will not be too disrupted. This is the time you can get some great deals on safari tours, or safari lodges if you’re travelling independently.
National parks in Kenya
With a stunning array of wildlife and more than 10% of the country given over to national parks and reserves, Kenya is undoubtedly one of the world’s best safari destinations. Whilst the world-famous Kenyan national parks such as Masai Mara and Amboseli National Parks can be uncomfortably heaving with tourists in January and February, Kenya has plenty of smaller, out of the way national parks that see only a trickle of visitors year-round. As such it’s well worth taking the time to consider whereabouts in Kenya to go on safari if you’re visiting during peak season.
Top Kenya national park picks
Masai Mara National Reserve
Situated in southwest Kenya, the Masai Mara is part of the northern section of the Serengeti National Park, and is generally recognised as one of the greatest wildlife reserves in Africa. The reserve is famous for the abundance of predators – particularly big cats – and the great wildebeest migration to feed these predators, as well as the Maasai people themselves.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The stunning Lake Nakuru National Park is on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by bushy grasslands and woods. There are 56 species of mammal in the park, but the star show are the thousands of flamingos, arriving in their millions some years.
Amboseli National Park
Crowned by Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli is one of Kenya’s most popular parks. The name ‘Amboseli’ comes from the Maasai language and means ‘salty dust’… perfect for the large herds of elephants that roam the park.
Meru National Park
Meru National Park is a Kenyan park is located 350 km from Nairobi, featuring multiple landscapes including grasslands, swamp, jungle and rivers. It’s a birders paradise with over 427 recorded bird species, in addition to the big five.
- 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
Kenya safari resources
Kenya safari companies
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.
Kenya safari lodges
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. Search and book accommodation in Kenya.
For a trip to Kenya, travellers are required to apply for a visa. The easiest, most commonly used visa for going on a safari in Kenya, is the Kenya e-visa . It is valid for 90 days, and can even be extended once to 180 days once you arrive in Kenya. The visa can easily be applied for online and will save you the hassle of having to apply at an embassy or consulate.