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Top 12 Animals in Kenya and Where to See Them

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Leopard in Samburu National Park, Kenya

Leopard in Samburu National Park, Kenya

Kenya offers an exceptional experience of abundant wildlife, stirring landscapes, and is home to a wide variety of fascinating and incredible animals. 

When you imagine the beauty of a safari, you are most likely thinking of Kenya. As the savanna stretches endlessly to the horizon, the snow-capped mountains straddle the equator, and the harsh desert terrain seems a world away from the lush setting of the Great Rift Valley. 

The variety of animals and wildlife is yours to explore, and these animals listed below are just the beginning.

1. Elephant

Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Whether thinking of elephants marching in unison or searching for the babies scampering to keep pace with glorious tuskers, they are an iconic image of a Kenya safari and one of the nation’s greatest symbols. African elephants are bigger than their Indian counterparts, with their larger ears resembling the shape of the African continent. One elephant is always an impressive sight, the ears flapping and the eyes marked with melancholy as the pachyderm walks lonely, while a herd can result in a classic sunset scene as they wander one behind the other beneath an iconic African sunset.

Where to See Elephant: Tsavo East & West | Amboseli National Park | Samburu National park | Maasai Mara National Reserve

2. Giraffe

Giraffes in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Giraffes in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The giraffe ascends above the landscape with serene grace. As another iconic African image, they are easy to find as their heads poke above the woodlands with their long necks visible for miles across the plains. While giraffes exude effortless tranquility, they are not easy prey. Their strong hind legs make only the babies realistic targets for predatory cats. They can stand over 16 feet tall, the astonishing necks providing access to the bounty of the landscape's more towering trees.

Where to See Giraffe: Amboseli National Park | Samburu National Park | Maasai Mara National Reserve | Aberdares Park

3. Hippopotamus

Group of hippopotamus in Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Group of hippopotamus in Lake Naivasha, Kenya

The hippo is another icon of a Kenya safari. Rumbustious yet delectably cute, hippos are one of safari's easiest finds but also one of the most dangerous animals. They consistently gather in large pods grunting and grumbling their way through the day with a succession of eyes and snouts peeking above the water. From a distance, the scene resembles a series of gray stepping stones. Get closer, and there will be emotion in those eyes, something thoughtful behind their languid demeanor. A hippo's behavior is somewhat predictable, and guides will be well aware of the water they inhabit.

Where to See Hippo: Maasai Mara National Park| Lake Nakuru | Amboseli | Tsavo East | Lake Naivasha

4. Wildebeest

Wildebeest crossing Mara River during the Great Migration in Kenya

Wildebeest crossing Mara River during the Great Migration in Kenya

The wildebeest is one of Africa's most memorable and abundant mammals, famed for thundering across the great plains during the Great Migration. The dazzling herd of some 1.5 million members unfurls in great balls of dust as they rumble towards fresh grazing land. They can quickly and easily become a mainstay of your safari in Kenya as they travel close to other wildlife like zebra and antelope. As individuals, they are rarely impressive, but herds are phenomenal sites with strong males galloping and rutting, babies chaperoned between shaggy manes, and confusion reigning when the herd momentarily lacks leadership.

Where to See Wildebeest: Maasai Mara National Park | Old Pejeta Conservancy | Amboseli National Park

5. Zebra

Close up of a young zebra in Masai Mara, Kenya

Close up of a young zebra in Masai Mara, Kenya

The blurred stripes of a zebra have a mesmerizing effect. Found across Kenya, they live mostly in small groups of around six to eight. Zebras remain a gracious sight on safari that seems elegant and serene with herds grazing or wandering across the plains. Like fingerprints, each zebra’s stripes are unique, showing originality that distinguishes them as individuals. In a large herd, the young must use these stripes to find their mother.

Where to See Zebra: Masai Mara | Lake Nakuru | Amboseli | Samburu

6. Lion

Portrait of a lion in Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya

Portrait of a lion in Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya

Spotting a lion while on safari is almost a must, and this is possible in various parks in Kenya. With a few days on safari, you will watch the layers of survival peel away with lionesses out on a hunt or witnessing the glamour of a lion’s mane at sunset. The lion is one of the easiest predators to spot as the pride lounges with authority that comes from their regal prowess. They have been immortalized in documentaries and remain a captivating presence whether actively prowling or sleeping in the spreading sunlight.

Where to See Lions: Maasai Mara Reserve | Samburu National Reserve | Amboseli National Park | Tsavo East

7. Buffalo

Buffalo with an egret in Kenya's Masai Mara

Buffalo with an egret in Kenya's Masai Mara

A popular site on a Kenyan safari is the buffalo, one of the “Big Five” and a delight to see frolicking and wallowing in mud pools. They travel in groups or solo and love to be near water and spread far and wide across Africa’s savannas and forests. They rely on a great sense of smell and remain one of the most dangerous animals in the wild due to their unpredictable behavior. Their ridged, curved horns are impressive, and spotting them on a game drive truly completes any safari.

Where to See Buffalo: Masai Mara | Lewa Conservancy | Amboseli National Park

8. Leopard

Leopard with her cub at Olare Orok River in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya

Leopard with her cub at Olare Orok River in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya

On a single game drive in Kenya, you might see 20 or more mammals but spotting the elusive and secretive leopard is always an exciting moment. Think beyond the iconic species and diversity that manifests in different national parks, and you will find the leopard radiating a certain mystique. They silently explore the grass and stalk with astute expertise, suddenly disappearing from the panorama or perhaps resting on a tree branch, watching the world through thoughtful eyes. Their broad diets allow them to adapt to most environments creating a large but controlled area precisely patrolled.

Where to See Leopard: Samburu National Park | Maasai Mara National Park | Laikipia Plateau

9. Cheetah

Cheetah in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya

Cheetah in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya

Cheetahs can be elusive and solitary but remain a mystical sight that is redolently memorable. They have gained infamy and notoriety as Africa's fastest mammal but also provide an enchanting highlight for any safari. They hide in the grasslands and savanna, effortlessly camouflaged when rain brings profuse rising grasses, elegantly standing above the plains when the grass is short. They're secretive and veer away from most noises, making them relatively difficult to find, impressing with their great speed, however, should you be lucky enough to watch one sprint away.

Where to See Cheetah: Samburu National Park | Maasai Mara National Park | Amboseli National Park | Tsavo East and West

10. Flamingo

Flamingos at Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Flamingos at Lake Nakuru in Kenya

The picturesquely pink landscape of Kenya is thanks to the thousands of flamingos that scatter across some of the country’s most famous and popular lakes. Two species are found in Kenya, and the range of darkness in hue creates splashes of color on the lakes of Kenya. No one fully understands why flamingos stand on one leg, but whether to conserve energy or conserve more body heat, gathering en masse makes for a spectacular sight. They are also considered very noisy birds, which out on safari make them an essential part of the African symphony.

Where to See Flamingos: Lake Nakuru  | Lake Naivasha |  Lake Elementaita

11. Nile Crocodile

Crocodile in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Crocodile in Maasai Mara, Kenya

The Nile crocodile is a fixture along many of the waterways in Kenya during a safari. They can grow over six meters in length, munching on fish and the unassuming undulate, lurking on riverbanks. Their bite is incredibly powerful, stronger than a great white shark’s, an absolute force to be reckoned with. They are also surprisingly vocal, with five different calls representing important communications between mates, hunters, or babies. They are terrifyingly fascinating as they glide through the waters across Kenya.

Where to See Crocodile: Tsavo East | Maasai Mara | Nairobi National Park | Lake Turkana

12. Kikuyu Colobus Monkey

Colobus monkey in Mount Kenya National Park

Colobus monkeys are bashful, preferring higher branches and staying clear of confrontation. They speckle the landscape of Kenya’s forests as one of the dozens of distinct species swinging and foraging a path through the trees. Their striped tails and flowing beards make them an unforgettable sight, with pretty hair flowing as they glide through the branches for a photogenic moment with alluring tranquility. Colobus monkeys provide a serenity that vervet monkeys always seem to shatter.

Where to See Kikuyu Colobus Monkey: Mount Kenya National Park | Arusha National Park | Aberdare Range

See Wildlife Your Way

Wildebeest and zebras during the Great Migration

Wildebeest and zebras during the Great Migration

Kenya is an exceptional combination of safari tradition and immersive accessibility that reflects the celebrated wilderness. Knowing what you want to experience can help you understand the best time for a Kenya safari, from visiting vast savannas peppered with herds during the Great Migration or finding renowned red elephants. Zicasso’s Kenya Travel Guide has helpful information and tips for your ultimate safari. If you would like to plan a trip, you can also speak to a Kenya safari specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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