From wide open savannahs to the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya, Kenya is nothing if not magical. The Indian Ocean meets Kenyan shores to the east, while Lake Victoria joins Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda together in the west. Dust clouds form across the plains as over a million wildebeest and zebra make their annual stampede to and from the Maasai Mara.
Walk in the footsteps of Maasai guides as you are led through the savannah, trundle through grasslands on safari, or soar above the plains while The Great Wildebeest Migration rumbles on below in the shadow of a hot-air balloon. Stroll along the foot of Karen Blixen’s Ngong Hills, amble between the rocky walls of Hell’s Gate, or bury yourself in the powder-white sand of the coastline, lapped by the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean.
If tourist crowds aren’t your thing, consider a safari in Mount Meru National Park—home to the second tallest peak on the continent and fewer crowds thanks to its remote and off-the-beaten-track location. Speaking of peaks, on a clear day visitors can marvel at Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, from the grassland of Amboseli National Park, a sanctuary famous for its impressive elephant population. Meanwhile, Aberdare’s varied inhabitants are the perfect additions to a Maasai Mara itinerary.
Popular safari destinations in Kenya
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly Kenya’s most notable and revered reserve. Its sheer size — extending to and eventually joining Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park — and remarkable wildlife populations of lion, cheetah, and leopard, have made it famous. The Maasai Mara is also home to one of the oldest pilgrimages on earth: every year the Great Wildebeest Migration sees thousands of zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle leave clouds of dust in their wake as they stampede toward greener pastures in the Serengeti.
After the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park is the second most frequented in Kenya. It offers some of the best views of Mount Kilimanjaro just across the border, and of the free-ranging African elephants that are subject to the longest ongoing elephant study in the wild. Mount Kilimanjaro’s expansive base culminates in its snow-covered peaks seen rising from the earth.
160 kilometres of mountain range extend across the elevated terrain of Kenya’s central highlands, wrapped in the small yet diverse protective borders of the Aberdare National Park. The park is approximately 150km north of Nairobi and near to The Great Rift Valley, making it an easy addition to an itinerary in the region. Visitors to the park will be treated to lion, leopard, buffalo, and elephant sightings, to name a few, while those with a very keen eye may spot the elusive bongo or the mysterious golden cat hiding out between bamboo shoots and dense foliage.
Unhindered by crowds of tourists, game-viewing in Meru National Park is an authentic and unique affair. The Big 5 can be found roaming its savannahs and lush woodlands, although the elusive leopard and sprightly cheetah prefer to remain hidden if they can. The steeply inclining gradient and peak of Mount Kenya can be seen from the park, providing a perfect backdrop to game drives, bush walks, and cruises along the Tana River and stopovers at Adamson’s Falls.
Although a lengthy drive from Nairobi, Samburu National Reserve rewards its guests with untouched, acacia-spotted savannahs, and riverine forests growing along the banks of the crocodile-crowded waters of the Ewaso Ng’iro. Once inaccessible to the broader public, Samburu was able to flourish undisturbed and now offers visitors excellent game viewing opportunities.
Cloudy skies leave dappled shadows over the verdant slopes, deep depressions, and circular cones of Chyulu Hills National Park. This volcanic mountain range extends for some 100km; covered by the thicket, vast grassland, and lush montane forest. It offers magnificent views of the continent’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Large mammals such as elephant and rhino roam across the plains while leopards conceal themselves in trees. Beneath its surface, the hills are dotted by the Kisula Caves and extensive underground reservoirs.
Steeped in history, the expansive Tsavo National Park was originally home to a Stone Age community that lived near the Galana River some 6,000 years ago. Later, the Orma people — who still populate parts of Kenya today — made this their territory. The park is now divided into east and west by a railway. Both ‘mini-parks’ offer abundant opportunities and different vantage points from which to observe the African landscape.