Spotting a beautiful pride of lions lying on the road blocking your route, experiencing territorial fights between hippos, seeing elephants bathe in mud under the midday sun and following millions of wildebeests as they migrate from one national park to the other, this is what awaits you in one of those African safaris. East Africa is where you need to be for your adventure, with Tanzania and Kenya offering a similar experience in terms of the biodiversity and animals. There is no such thing as the ‘best safari destination’ as your ultimate choice depends on your personal preferences and the season you choose to visit the African continent. Bookmundi examines Safaris in Kenya, and highlights what you need to know about the country and its wildlife, to help you prepare for your Kenyan Safari.
Why Do Your Safaris in Kenya
East Africa gave birth to the concept of safaris, but the word safari actually originated in Kenya. And what could be better than enjoying your safari in the very country that presented this concept to the world! Kenya and Tanzania have always been at each other’s throats trying to grab a large share of tourists visiting the region, but traditionally, Kenya has always managed to beat its neighbor thanks to its historic charm and mammoth reputation. After all, watching an elephant pose for your camera with the Kilimanjaro acting as a backdrop is a view of a lifetime! Kenya is known for its breathtaking diversity, both in terms of its landscapes and also its animals. From stunning Migration scenes of the Maasai Mara to those large elephant herds in Amboseli, listening to the roar of the lion under a starry sky or searching for predators in the savannah, safaris in Kenya really know how to bring on the romance. The camps and lodges found here are exceptionally well-maintained and despite the number of tourists these safaris attract, it is still possible to enjoy a sense of solitude and remoteness in most national parks of Kenya. The country’s wildlife covers as many as 25000 animal species and more than 1100 species of birds. The Mara is perhaps its crown jewel, home to some of the largest lions on the planet, but places such as the Amboseli National Park, Lewa Conservancy and Samburu are equally exciting. With most national parks in the country presenting postcard-perfect views, a classic safari circuit and year-round guaranteed animal sightings, you really couldn’t ask for more.
The Safari Circuits of Kenya
Kenya doesn’t have obvious safari routes, but it does present certain clusters which can be combined in the same itinerary. Most people tend to fly into Nairobi, choose a particular safari circuit and dive into the wild. And unlike Tanzania, Kenya is very compact. So one doesn’t need to stick to the confines of a particular circuit. It is entirely possible to mix and match, taking in highlights from different circuits.
- Central Kenya and Nairobi: Central Kenya is a must-visit for adventure lovers. The area is full of remote alpine moors and breathtaking waterfalls, majestic peaks and stunning African landscapes. Some of the parks in Central Kenya include Nairobi National Park, Nairobi Animal Orphanage, Mount Kenya National park, Nairobi Safari Walk and Aberdares National Park.
- Coastline: The coastline is most famous for its sun-kissed beaches, warm inviting waters and glittery sand, but it also presents easy access to sleepy rivers, entrancing inlets and beautiful ecosystems. Diving, water sports, seeing endangered primates, sun-bathing and exploring remnants of an African tropical rainforest are the top activities here. The parks found along Kenya’s coastline include Tana River Primate Reserve, Arabuko Sokoke National Reserve and Malindi National Park.
- South: The southern region is mostly dominated by Tsavo West and East, the largest national park in the country. Also vying for your attention is Amboseli, home to the great Kilimanjaro. The area is rugged and much more remote than some of the more popular circuits and game viewing is an interesting activity here.
- East: The eastern circuit is located right outside Nairobi and it covers three parks, Shaba, Buffalo Springs, and Samburu, each separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River. The Meru National Reserve is also located here. This circuit presents unique accommodations where you don’t even have to make the effort of going for a safari. Simply sit with a glass of wine in your hand and wait for the animals to come and see you.
- North Rift: The North Rift circuit is incredibly remote, and is one of the few areas in Kenya that is difficult to access. Its biggest appeal is its exotic bird sanctuaries and those refreshing hot springs. The annual camel derby is the most popular event here, but visitors can also enjoy activities such as horse riding, ballooning, game watching, camel riding and mountain biking. The national parks found in Kenya’s North Rift circuit include South and Central Island National Park, Laikipia National Reserve and Nasalot National Reserve.
- West: The Western circuit is the least visited region of Kenya. And as a result, it always presents untouched expanses, some of the remotest swamps and forests, and most of the rarest species found in Kenya. White and black colobus monkeys, roan antelopes, de brazza’s monkey and the sitatunga antelope are a few names to watch out for. The national parks located here include Kakamega Forest National Reserve, Saiwa Swamp National Park, Mount Elgon National Reserve and Ruma National Park.
- Southern Rift: Last but not the least is the Southern Rift Circuit. This is where you get to see the most popular national parks of Kenya. This is where a majority of safari visitors tend to concentrate their energies, for the circuit hosts the top three – the Maasai Mara National Park, Hell’s Gate National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park.
All in all, there is plenty of good reasons to do your safari in Kenya. The country offers amazing wildlife safaris, and several good safari circuits.
Kenya presents the safari you’ve always dreamed of. Its beautiful rainforests and savannahs are home to thousands of species of birds and animals and its charismatic locales feature the most authentic safaris you’ll ever see. The Maasai Mara and its Great Migration is sure to be the highlight of any African adventure, but there are other heavyweights worth considering as well.
- Maasai Mara: Maasai Mara doesn’t need an introduction. Between the months of June to October, its picturesque grasslands attract millions of zebras, wildebeests and gazelle as they make their annual journey between Kenya and Tanzania. These herbivores are closely followed by cheetahs, lions and crocodiles, thereby promising non-stop drama as predators constantly lurk in the shadows stalking their prey.
- Lake Nakuru National Park: Lake Nakuru not only offers Big 5 sightings, it is also famous for the thousands of flamingos that rest in its waters. Located in the heart of the Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru is a picturesque saltwater lake that is a haven for bird and animal lovers. With dense greenery and picturesque waterfalls to keep you company, Lake Nakuru easily becomes the most accessible and exhilarating safari experience of Africa.
- Tsavo National Parks: Tsavo West National Park and Tsavo East National Park combine to become the largest protected area of Kenya. The national park is one of the few places where you get to see the Big 5 (leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard) on the same day.
The best time to visit Kenya is between the months of June to October and from January to February. This represents the dry season, the best weather and clearest of skies. You can expect the most popular national parks such as the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli to be very crowded during these months. March to May is the worst time to visit Kenya as most of the lodges are closed and many national parks become inaccessible due to heavy rainfall.
Nationals of countries such as Bahamas, Barbados, Ghana, Jamaica, Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Zimbabwe do not need a visa to enter Kenya, provided their journey is for less than 30 days. Tourists from all other countries need to apply for a visa. The process is quite simple and Kenya also extends e-visa privileges to a number of countries.
In order to apply for a visa, you need the following documents:
- 2 passport size photographs
- Duly filled application form
- Copy of your biodata
- Application letter
- Visa feesPlease consult the nearest consulate to find out more about the necessary formalities for obtaining a Kenya visa.
Vaccinations are essential for those wanting to visit Africa. Apart from being a visa formality, they go a long way in ensuring that you have a safe and disease-free journey. While there are mandatory and optional vaccines, Bookmundi recommends you to take the right precautions against the following:
- Hepatitis A and B
The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, located at a distance of 15 kms from Nairobi is the most popular point of entry. Nairobi is one of the biggest transportation hubs in the region and a number of international airlines offer relatively inexpensive connections to and from Nairobi. The Moi International Airport, the second international airport of Kenya, is used as well, but this airport is most popular for domestic connections and flights to Zanzibar. The best way to commute between game reserves is via charter flights, or cars, or a bit of both (depending on the itinerary).