Kenya Travel Guide: Wildlife & National Parks

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Did you know that Kenya is home to more than 50 different national parks that stretch cross-country from the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria? In fact, close to 8% of the country is protected by national parks and reserves where you’ll find everything from herds of elephants to hordes of pink flamingos and big cats on the prowl. You’ll find 23 national parks and 28 national reserves to choose from on land as well as a further four marine parks and six marine reserves and four sanctuaries. Most of these parks are not fenced which means the animals are free to roam freely. Each park and reserve is open to private visits.

Struggling to decide which parks to visit? Here are Best at Travel’s Recommendations…

Best at Travel recommends

  • Maasai Mara National Reserve: the most famous and most visited of Kenya’s parks, this is one of the best places to see the Big Five and witness the annual wildebeest migration.
  • Amboseli National Park: Kenya’s second most popular park. Visit for exceptional wildlife experiences and views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
  • Tsavo East National Park: Great for wildlife spotting along Kenya’s coast.
  • Tsavo West National Park: Taking up 30% of Kenya’s total park area, this is one of the largest and easily accessible from Mombasa.
  • Nairobi National Park: A great way to see wildlife without straying too far from the city. This park and rhino sanctuary is perfect for shorter visits or twin-centre holidays!
  • Mount Kenya National Park: Hike the slopes of Kenya’s highest mountain to see incredible snow-capped peaks and glaciers and some of Kenya’s wildlife on the endangered list.
  • Samburu National Reserve: To spot the rare Kenya leopard
  • Mount Elgon National Reserve: To spot cave-dwelling elephants in the Rift Valley
  • Lake Nakuru National Park: For lake views and a chance to see over 400 species of birds, including the iconic greater and lesser flamingo flocks

Entry fees

National park and reserve entry fees are in US dollars and can be paid in dollars, pounds, euros or Kenyan shillings (cash only). You will be charged per person per 24-hour visit. Entry to the eight most popular parks is done by a pre-loaded smartcard called a Safari Card but if you are visiting the parks as part of an organized safari, this will all be handled for you.

Unusual wildlife

There are some phenomenal wildlife experiences to look forward to in Kenya. In addition to herds of elephant and lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo (The Big Five), you may also spot a host of unusual wildlife on your Kenyan safari. Spot rare red elephants of Tsavo and the endangered black rhino. Our game viewing highlights include the aardvark, pangolin, caracal, serval and fierce honey badger. Did you know that you get more than one type of giraffe in Kenya? Keep an eye out for Reticulated giraffe in Samburu National Reserve, Rothschild giraffe at Lake Nukuru and Maasai giraffe in the open plains! 

Game viewing

If you’re staying at one of our lodges, two game drives will be included in your stay – one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon. Each lasts approximately two to three hours and offers the chance to track wildlife throughout the reserve. Most lodges offer both a dedicated ranger and a wildlife tracker who will track the footprints of your chosen animal to give you an unforgettable safari that’s tailored to your interests.

Different safaris

Want to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time? Scenic flights are a great way to see Kenya from above. Note that getting around by internal flights will be pricey but you will get to see much more of Kenya. Want to enjoy a bird’ eye view without the hefty price tag? A hot air balloon safari at sunrise is one of the best ways to experience the savannahs from above – the silence is incredible! A one-hour balloon flight can be added to any safari in the Maasai Mara – chat to your specialist about including this in your itinerary.

There are countless ways to game view in Kenya, from workouts for horse riding and cycling to camel-assisted safaris. The more daring may opt for a guided walking safari where you can explore the parks less known for their predators, such as Hell’s Gate and Lake Bogoria, on foot. You can also hike Aberdare and Mount Kenya at your own risk.

The great migration

The annual wildebeest migration should be a highlight on every Kenya bucket list. From July to October each year, the Maasai Mara is a hive of activity when over two million animals make their way from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. We’d highly recommend travelling during this time as the game viewing is unparalleled – at no other time of the year is the wildlife so concentrated. You’ll get to witness predator action on land and in water – by big cats (the Maasai Mara is home to the largest concentrations of lion in the world) and by crocodiles as they try to cross the Mara River. Don’t want to miss the action? We have a variety of mobile camps where you can follow the migration as it moves.

Find out more

Want to plan a trip to Kenya? Visit our website to view our tailor-made itineraries or give us a call today to get expert advice from our travel specialists. See our best Kenya offers.

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