When you think of Africa, you probably have an image of Kenya in your mind. The wide-open plains and plethora of wild animals combine to create the perfect African safari. Keen for your own "Out of Africa" adventure?
Head to the Maasai Mara or any one of Kenya's wildlife-rich game reserves to see the Big 5. However, a trip to Kenya is at its best when it coincides with Mother Nature's greatest show – the Great Migration. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Great Migration is when millions of wildebeest followed by zebra and gazelle migrate across the plains in search of greener pastures.
But Kenya has more than just wildlife. It's a country of contrasts, from the snow-covered peaks of Mount Kenya to the sun-kissed beaches of the Indian Ocean. The scenery embraces mountains, forests, deserts and lakes such as Lake Victoria. At Rhino Africa, we are Kenyan experts and can plan an itinerary to suit your exacting requirements, budget, and interests.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Kenya
There are many international flight connections from all over the world that fly into Kenya. These include a direct flight from New York City and JFK into Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, otherwise known as the “hub” of Kenya, is listed as one of the five largest airports in Africa. This is likely going to be your first point of entry into Kenya and your first introduction to this beautiful country.
From here, you have an array of different options, and the choice is yours. You can either stay a few nights soaking up the city culture or even a night to enjoy a proper bed after the long flight over. You also have the choice, depending on what time your international flight arrives, to skip out on the city and head straight to what you came for – safari!
But before we go into more details on the fun bits, back to your question on how to get to Kenya. Here is a list of airports along with various airline choices which fly into Kenya:
- From Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways
- From Amsterdam with KLM or Kenya Airways
- From Bangkok with Kenya Airways
- From Dubai with Emirates or Kenya Airways
- From Doha with Qatar Airways
- From Frankfurt with Lufthansa
- From Istanbul with Turkish Airways
- From London with British Airways or Kenya Airways
- From Mumbai with Kenya Airways
- From Paris with Air France or Kenya Airways
- From Zurich with Swiss Air
Yes, but being the most convenient way to connect the dots from point A to B comes with a price tag. The internal flights in East Africa, in general, are operated by smaller light aircraft, like Cessna Caravans. Most of these internal flights fly in and out of Kenya's Wilson Airport, located a short 90-minute drive from the international airport.
If you plan to connect your regional flight with your international flight, make sure you discuss this with your travel consultant when booking to ensure you have enough time to add in the drive between the two airports.
Fly-in safari is also a great way to see key locations from the air, including the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, perhaps even Mount Kenya if you’re lucky.
The alternative to air travel is travelling by road, but you still have a few options here, depending on your price range for this trip. Travelling by road in East Africa can be a long journey, passing through villages and wide-open spaces with little to see in between your destination. The vehicles used are most often 4x4 7-seaters, which are comfortably modified with a closed roof.
This would be a more cost-effective option than flying, where your group would take exclusive use of the safari vehicle and tour. With this option you have the flexibility to completely tailor-make your trip with the areas you wish to see and focus your time on. When you arrive in Kenya you are met by your own driver/guide and are transferred to the different points by road in your own private vehicle.
This would be an even further cost-effective option than the private tour, as you are joining a set departure itinerary, where other guests might also be booked on. You would be purchasing a seat in the vehicle and therefore the vehicle and driver/guide costs are shared equally between the guests on board – everyone is guaranteed a “window seat” with only 7-seaters in the 4x4. These tours are mapped out to cover the most interesting points in the country and would tick the boxes for most of the travellers visiting the country. These scheduled tours have specific dates departing key points, like Nairobi, covering a determined number of days and returning on a particular day.
This would be your most affordable way to travel around a country and can be related to the backpacker-type safari experience. Just like the scheduled safari, the overland trips also have scheduled departure and return dates; but instead of smaller 4x4 7-seater vehicles they are operated with large 4x4 trucks with up to 24-seater capacity. This type of safari would usually suit a younger demographic, but you can never rule out the adventurous-type who have no age limit!
Why choose one, when you can combine them! The ideal itinerary would be to combine some fly-in safari with some private road safari between points. This way you are not only saving costs when on the road, but you have the opportunity to see areas from the air as well as the ground. The ultimate package to see beautiful Kenya!
Throughout the year, the animals in Kenya move around. This pilgrimage is led by rainfall, which can be very unpredictable. However, here is a rough breakdown of where you can see them and when.
The Serengeti plains turn yellow, and the herds move north. Crossing the Grumeti River in Tanzania, they make their way to Kenya's Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle next. Then, before reaching the Mara, they have to cross another river, the Mara River filled with ravenous crocodiles. Consider witnessing this dramatic show from Angama Mara.
September through November:
The Mara plains are filled with large herds, with predators short on their heels. The best place to stay during this time is at Governors' Camp.
November and December:
The rains fall in the south again, and the animals start their trek back down to Tanzania to give birth to little ones. During the short rains of November, consider Klein's Camp when deciding where to see the Great Wildebeest Migration.
Kenya in East Africa is famous for its wildlife-rich plains and breathtaking landscapes. Here are a few of Kenya's highlights that you shouldn't miss:
- Witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration – although the herds are also made up of topi, zebra, Thomson's gazelles and other plains game.
- The "Samburu Special 5" consist of unique species found nowhere else, namely Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, beisa oryx and reticulated giraffe.
- Massive unfenced parks where large herds of animals roam free and move freely.
- The people of East Africa, the Maasai and Samburu cultures, are striking, colourful and beautiful.
- The successful cohabitation of people and wildlife in conservancies surrounding national parks.
- World Heritage Sites such as Lamu Old Town on Lamu Island on the coastline of Kenya and Mount Kenya.
- The Swahili coastline. Ruins of ancient Arab port cities built on the coastline during the 13th century and Arab architecture on islands such as Lamu Island.
- The best "bush and beach" combinations with easy access to islands of Lamu, Zanzibar Archipelago, and further afield such as Seychelles.
- East Africa is very family-friendly as closed vehicles are used for overland safaris, and lodges are more accepting to allow triple rooms. Many properties have family units and child-specific activities.
Travelling to any international country can be a daunting experience, and having to think about medication to take when travelling to Africa can also seem unnerving. Still, it's not as bad as one might think.
Specific to Kenya, travellers should always advise their doctors and medical advisors as they will know your medical history and know what is best for you. We are not doctors, but the main preventative medications you should consider are Malaria prophylactics and a Yellow Fever vaccination, depending on your route through East Africa. Yellow fever vaccinations are required for all travellers from yellow fever endemic countries/regions.
All clients in transit for twelve (12) hours plus and/or who leave the immediate airport vicinity in a yellow fever endemic area must show proof of vaccination upon arrival in any port of debarkation into East Africa.
However, direct arrivals from non-endemic countries in Europe and North America are not required to show the certificate. It is always best to make sure of these facts before travelling, as they are subject to change.
Most bookings will include AMREF Flying Doctors insurance. These are air evacuation services in medical emergencies across East Africa, as well as air ambulance transfers.
Kenya has a very rich and fascinating history that dates back to 6 million BC, with the earliest known Orrorin tugenensis (one of the oldest early humans) who lived in the Tugen Hills. Still, today this part of Kenya is protected and preserved, and the history can be explored by visitors at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi.
As the years went by, further tool-making Homo erectus and Homo sapiens were recorded, which only highlights the deep roots this land has cultivated.
By 1498, the Portuguese, along with Vasco da Gama, arrived in Kenya and took rule over most of the ports including Mombasa. Two hundred years later, Arab influence forced the withdrawal of the Portuguese. And, by the 1840s, European missionaries were in awe of their first sighting of Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania).
By the 1850s, lakes Tanganyika and Victoria were discovered by Burton and Speke – which you can read about their expeditions in the historical novel by William Harrison. After an increasing British influence in Kenya, the British Government acquired Kenya and Uganda to become “British East Africa” by 1895.
Over the following six years, Nairobi was forcibly transformed from a Maasai farming village into the railway headquarters between Mombasa and Uganda, which reached Kisumu on the edge of Lake Victoria in 1901 to open up trading between these flourishing lands. By 1920, Kenya was officially declared a British colony.
Following many attempts to further colonise Kenya, its people fought back. By 1942, members from numerous local tribes united to fight for freedom from British rule. Ten years later, Jomo Kenyatta, 61 at the time, was actively directing this movement of independence and was subsequently imprisoned along with 82 other nationalists. The rebellion continued!
By 1963, Kenya gained its independence, and Jomo Kenyatta was elected as Prime Minister. Since its independence, Kenya has been paving the way for its people, and although it has been a journey filled with a dark history, the country continues to fight back and stand together to flourish and grow for the future of its country. Today, tourism is a big part of Kenya’s growing economy and success.