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Top 10 Must-See Safari Destinations in Kenya

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Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Kenya’s stirring must-see landscapes conjure the perfect image of an African safari with an epic setting of calderas and mountain ranges divided by the majestic Great Rift Valley. 

The topographical diversity quickly immerses you in the relative harmony of the natural world, impressive lakes and throngs of wildebeest thundering across the plains during the Great Migration. Kenya's colorful coastline compliments the browns and greens of the safari savannas and forest and makes for the perfect beach and bush combination. 

Any safari in Kenya is an unparalleled experience, and there are several must-see destinations you can enjoy during your trip.

1. Maasai Mara National Reserve

Pride of lions in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Pride of lions in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Gazing across the Maasai Mara is like rekindling a childhood image of a safari with world-famous grass plains filled with abundant predators stalking their prey. Sporadic groups of rocks interrupt the grassland, and a great mix of life occupies the savanna. However, few dominate more than the likes of millions of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle. As the river rages and various predators line the banks, the frenzied wildebeest crossing is one of Africa's most famous safari scenes. The Masai Mara has more big cats per square mile than anywhere else and is undoubtedly Kenya's premier park.

Why You Should Go: Experience one of Africa’s safari highlights as the national reserve offers both wildlife and cultural wonders.

Recommended Length of Stay: Spending at least three to four nights at minimum will afford the opportunity to experience much of this great reserve.

Best Time to Visit: The drier seasons of June to September are the ideal time to experience this magnificent park, with late July/early August and again in October, the highlighted months to witness the great migration.

2. Amboseli National Park

Herd of elephants with view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Herd of elephants with view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Amboseli offers the timeless image of elephants roaming across the savanna beneath the majestic peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the park offering that famous and picturesque view of Kili. You may spot lion prides and various grazers, buffalos rolling around in mud baths, with the chief attraction being the elephants and the landscape. So many classic images of Africa come together in a single panorama; the pachyderms, the towering volcanic mountain, the rolling open savanna, the sprinkle of acacia trees offering you the perfect introduction to an iconic safari experience.

Why You Should Go: Amboseli can be called a gem of a safari experience, and an amazing add-on to any Maasai Mara visit. The iconic and most-seen picture of Mt Kilimanjaro is viewed from Amboseli.Recommended Length of Stay: Two to three nights is ideal. Take the time to breathe as you stare at a vast, beautiful space.

Best Time to Visit: June through to September is a wonderful time to be in Amboseli. The weather is dry and mild.

3. Samburu National Reserve

Impalas in Samuru National Reserve, Kenya

Impalas in Samuru National Reserve, Kenya

Wrapping itself around mountain slopes and alpine plateaus, the land of the Samburu is entirely untouched by modernity and home to an eclectic mix of Africa's great mammals. This is old Africa, ruggedly dancing to the beat of ancestors. Visitor access to most of this area is limited as the site has been restricted into various private reserves. There's a strong sense of community involvement in most of the reserves. The whole region is full of wonder, with impalas gazing up at a crowned eagle, elephant tracks in the forest, and walking safaris with warrior guides bringing intimate encounters.

Why You Should Go: A lesser-frequented reserve, rich with elephant life and an array of plains game and wild dog and predator sightings good, too. Discover the culture of the Samburu people and admire the many flower species found here.

Recommended Length of Stay: Spend two or three nights in the Samburu National Reserve

Best Time to Visit: June to September is excellent for game viewing, and December to March brings terrific wildlife. It is best to avoid the wet season, which has light rains in November and heavy rains in April and May.

4. Lake Nakuru National Park

Buffalo with flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Buffalo with flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Lake Nakuru is an ecologically diverse experience lying within the Great Rift Valley, Boasting some of Kenya’s best bird watching and offering landscapes that range from open plains to picturesque mountain ranges. Beauty meets nature and an abundance of wildlife. Waterfalls and viewpoints impress, and spotting flamingos on the lake from Baboon Cliff is simply mesmerizing. Waterbuck, reedbuck, and hippos delight, and the park boasts a good variety of predator bird species. Lying around three hours from Nairobi, this destination can be visited as a day excursion.

Why You Should Go:  Pink splashes everywhere for such a stunning sight. Lake Nakuru is also one of Kenya’s most rhino-populated parks, making sightings most probable. It is close enough to Nairobi to visit in a day if need be.Recommended Length of Stay: At least one night is recommended to enjoy the spectacle of the lake. One can visit as part of a day-excursion if time constraints dictate.

Best Time to Visit: June to March is great for general game viewing, with January and February fantastic for bird viewing and the birthing season.

5. Laikipia Plateau

Female black rhino with calf in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Female black rhino with calf in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Stretching out across Kenya’s north, the Laikipia Plateau hides some of the country's most exclusive and unique experiences in the vast wilderness that specializes in intimate walking safaris. It is a home for the rare and elusive as you will hardly see another person and very rarely encounter a vehicle as you explore. Whether a safari enthusiast or a first-timer, this mix of rare species and open space makes Laikipia a legendary destination with wildlife stretching over a vast area that celebrates diversity and quality rather than mere quantity. Discover Ol Pejeta, a non-profit wildlife conservancy located in Laikipia County.

Why You Should Go: Ol Pejeta is a popular conservancy in Laikipia and open to day visitors. Black rhino and African wild dog can be seen here, and the Sweetwater Chimpanzee Sanctuary is also located here.

Recommended Length of Stay: Two night stays are popular, and day visitors are welcome at Ol Pejeta.

Best Time to Visit: June to September are the drier, winter months and great time to visit. Some lodges may be full over this time, as are the December to March seasons when bird watching is excellent and the birthing season is in full swing. Avoid April, May and November when roads will be muddy and access a little more difficult.

6. Mount Kenya National Park

Mount Kenya National Park

Mount Kenya National Park

Majestic snow-capped peak and primates roaming through the lower-altitude forest, Mount Kenya represents Africa’s second-highest peak. The hiking trails receive far fewer footsteps than Kilimanjaro and you still get the experience of walking across the African snow for sublime views over iconic plains. Black and white colobus monkeys and buffalo are among the attractions as you ascend through the lower-altitude forest before you cross a lunar-like landscape that blurs into the snow line. Exploring is done by foot, preserving the pristine environment and presenting a quieter experience overall.

Why You Should Go: Explore on foot, discover immense beauty and enjoy colobus monkey sightings.Recommended Length of Stay: Give yourself time to acclimatize before exploring with two full days offering an ideal time to enjoy the trails and surroundings.

Best Time to Visit:  December to March are sunny and warmer and the ideal time to visit. Even light drizzle or rain may affect stunning views.

7. Tsavo East and West National Parks

Red and yellow barbet in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Red and yellow barbet in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Together these two national parks form one captivating and substantial national park, offering sightings from the Big Five to wallowing hippos. Tsavo West has more wildlife viewing opportunities however both locations cannot compete with the safari experiences in both the Maasai Mara and Amboseli parks. Tsavo East is a haven for birdlife and antelope sightings, while Tsavo West presents a volcanic landscape of jagged rocks and where the Mzima Springs brings relief to the thirsty land and creates the foundation for forest palms and fever trees to exist.

Why You Should Go: Enjoy walks to the Mzima Spring, exceptional birding to be expected and there is the chance to see black rhino. Breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro can be enjoyed on a clear day. Consider Tsavo West over their East counterpart.Recommended Length of Stay:  A minimum of two nights in this area is recommended with a focus on Tsavo West.

Best Time to Visit: June to October is the dry season and great for general wildlife viewing. January and February are great for birding. Avoid the rainy months of November, April and May.

8. Lake Naivasha National Park

Group of hippopotamus in Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Group of hippopotamus in Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Noted as the highest lake in the Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake located just north of Nairobi. Meaning “rough water’, the area can see storms that add a dramatic feel to the overall experience. Hippos, fish, and a variety of birds spend their days creating chaos in spectacular fashion. Zebra, hippos, and giraffe graze freely while the fish eagle’s call gives way to a magnificent orchestra of bird sounds. Farmland surrounds the lake, and it lies in close proximity to the Hell’s Gate National park, which is popular with hikers.

Why You Should Go:  The region is beautiful and only a two hour scenic drive from Nairobi.Recommended Length of Stay: This park can be visited as a day excursion and for those wishing to overnight, a night in one of the larger hotels nearby is ideal.

Best Time to Visit: From June through to March, the area experiences little rain and is a good time for general game viewing. The high season is actually in December and January, when a lot of families tend to visit.

9. Aberdare National Park

Landscape of Aberdare National Park

Landscape of Aberdare National Park

Elephants, black rhinos, spotted hyenas, and baboons are just some of the wildlife you could expect to see in the Aberdare National Park. It is a picturesque area featuring steep forest ravines, magnificent waterfalls, and open moorland. The birdlife is prolific here, and the chance to enjoy a picnic or do some trout fishing, rounding off a magical stay in this part of the Rift Valley. The Aberdare mountain range is said to be truly ancient and makes for a spectacular trekking experience, and is a photographer’s delight. Sleep in treetop accommodations and enjoy the night sounds from above.

Why You Should Go: The drive to Aberdare is not far from Nairobi, approximately two hours’ drive. Ther region is a photographer’s delight and a fun place to experience a night or two in a treetop accommodation. It differs from other bigger, more popular parks as it has a rainforest and moorland plateau to discover.Recommended Length of Stay: Spend one night and you will get a good feel for what the park has to offer, but two nights will give you more time to enjoy the beauty of the park.

Best Time to Visit: July to October months are dry and the roads easier to navigate. These are also the coolest months of the year.

10. Mombasa and the Coast

Diani beach, south of Mombasa, Kenya

Diani beach, south of Mombasa, Kenya

Known as the “blue and white city,” the coastal city of Mombasa is a blend of cultures, languages, and cuisine from India, Arabia, and Africa. It is a cosmopolitan port offering beach breakaways that soothe the soul and pique the interest of history enthusiasts. Spice markets and ancient forts complement each other, while luxury accommodation offers the chance to get away from it all or simply reminisce about your recent Kenyan safari.

Why You Should Go: This is a perfect beach combination with a Kenyan safari and a cultural delight. By staying within Kenya, only one visa is required and it is not far from Nairobi.Recommended Length of Stay: Spend three or four nights to fully appreciate the area.

Best Time to Visit:  Post-safari is ideal so this may mean any time from June through to October. The weather will be warmer in September and October and you will be just ahead of the rainy season.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Kenya?

Horseback riding safari in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

Horseback riding safari in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

Before embarking on your Kenyan safari, you will want to spend at least one night in Nairobi before connecting to your safari park or reserve. If visiting just one Kenyan park, a seven-day experience could be enough, however anything up to ten or twelve days  will suffice to ensure you get to experience more of what magical Kenya has to offer.

Each day can be tailored to your expectations and hopes for viewing particular animals or the types of safari experiences you want to have with enough time for a comfortable transfer between two or three camps or even parks across the country. Your best experience will incorporate the most important aspects of any safari--time and patience--as your guides interpret the environment for meaningful signs of the captivating wildlife.

How to Start Your Safari Plans

Great Rift Valley in Kenya

Great Rift Valley in Kenya

Kenya is an endless array of natural beauty and dramatic setting enhanced by the wonders of the wandering wildlife. Every safari experience is unique and your trip will dazzle you with diversity, immersing you in the fascinating untamed ecosystems, from the shadows of Mount Kenya to the splendor of the Great Rift Valley. If you are thinking of planning a trip, you can speak with a Kenya safari specialist for by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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