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Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
Kenya

Kenya

Kenya: In depth

A guide to visiting Kenya

Straddling the Equator, and stretching from the Indian Ocean’s coral reefs and white-sand beaches to the colossal spread of the Great Rift Valley and beyond, Kenya is a country of huge variety and exceptional natural beauty. The country’s lush grasslands, riverine forests, high plains and moorlands, mountain slopes and semi-deserts provide an amazing range of habitats for the full panoply of East African wildlife, and an equally wide choice of options for Kenya holidays. ‘Safari’ was a concept invented here – the word means journey in Swahili.

Wildife in Kenya

The wildlife in Kenya is often remarkably approachable. While never tame (and you should treat all wildlife with great caution), Kenya’s wild animals have lived with a comprehensive hunting ban for the last 40 years, meaning their fear of humans is greatly reduced. There are few other places on earth where you can easily watch large predators hunting, or megafauna such as giraffe, elephant and hippo interacting and behaving quite naturally while you capture their images on a sensor.

Kenyan safaris

Our safaris in Kenya are fly-in safaris, based around hops in light aircraft out of Nairobi and staying at small to medium-size safari camps. You may be under canvas, but you’re definitely not camping in the normal sense of the word: Kenyan safari camps consist either of very large, permanent, fully furnished luxury tents with built-in bathrooms, or are built around the concept of imaginative open-air rooms incorporating thatched roofs, twisting branches, extensive deck areas, outdoor showers and ‘loos with a view’.

Not only does Kenya offer terrific wildlife safaris but it is also home to peoples of more than 40 different cultures, with their own languages, music and traditional dress. Traditional cultural expression is still very much alive, especially in the Mara region, throughout the north and in pockets around the rest of the country, and while we don’t offer any purely cultural safaris you are very likely to experience some fascinating encounters with the various Kenyan tribes in your host communities – whether trying your hand at warrior-training with the Maasai at your safari camp, leaning about Samburu life-cycle ceremonies during a village visit, or simply picking up folklore and phrases in the local Kenyan language from the night guards at your camp every time they escort you to and from your tent.

Kenya’s well-justified popularity means it has some very large and busy lodges. As the country plays host to some of the most popular safaris in Africa, certain areas can be especially busy at key times from July to September and over Christmas and New Year. This is where Expert Africa’s depth of knowledge is invaluable. We’ll help you design a trip that avoids many of the crowds while advising about the Kenyan climate and highlighting Kenya’s best features: superb camps and lodges, good infrastructure, and breathtaking wildlife encounters in some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes.

We have taken time to develop our Kenya safari holiday programme and we’re confident that the range of locations, safari lodges, camps and hotels offers an unrivalled programme of tailor-made wildlife safari and Kenya beach options. We're able to advise you about these with genuine expertise, on the basis of personal experience.

On a Kenya safari with Expert Africa you will be met and transferred at each stage, usually by a driver-guide in a 4WD vehicle from the safari camp or lodge where you’re spending the night. Game drives, bush walks and other activities are conducted by the host or guides at your camp. Sometimes you will have exclusive use of a vehicle (this partly depends on the size of your group), but usually you will be sharing a safari vehicle with other guests. Depending on the style and size of the camp, meals on safari are eaten either at individual tables or hosted by the camp manager with other guests. If you prefer to eat separately, join up with others, or have dinner on your veranda, these options can usually be arranged. Stylish informality is the hallmark of many tented camps in Kenya and you are encouraged to let them know about your preferences.

Kenya in the news

Of course, if you keep up with the news, you’ll know that Kenya isn’t all postcard-perfect. Kenyan politics are complicated and fast-moving and it’s a good idea to understand some of the background to the country’s present challenges – and keep the news in perspective when considering safety in Kenya.

Where to go

The simplest geographical division in Kenya is between the Indian Ocean coast and the highland interior – or ‘up-country’ as Kenyans often call it. The two are different worlds, separated by south-east Kenya’s vast plains of dry bush and scrub. Once you start exploring the country, you’ll find it divides into numerous regions, in many of which we can offer safaris. The following short sections provide a quick overview of safari areas in Kenya.

The Maasai Mara

The land of Big Cat Diary and Disney’s African Cats and location of one of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Migration, the Maasai Mara is at the top of most people’s wish lists on a Kenya safari holiday. The Maasai Mara (also known as Masai Mara, but the double-a spelling is increasingly common as it’s the way the word is spelled in the local Maa language) is a gloriously beautiful, wildlife-rich savannah landscape, where traditionally dressed Maasai pastoralists herd their cattle and goats. It’s also where herds of minibuses jostle for the best photo opportunity amid a panorama of African wildlife. We’re not going to pretend otherwise: ‘the Mara’ is one of the busiest of Kenya’s safari regions. Happily, there are strategies for avoiding the crowds on a Maasai Mara safari – and we have lots of experience in doing just that.

Laikipia

On the other side of the Great Rift Valley, north-west of snow-capped Mount Kenya, the high plains of Laikipia are increasingly recognised as one of the best wildlife regions in Kenya (Ol Pejeta being one Laikipia's most popular areas), challenging the Maasai Mara for overall safari experience, if not for raw numbers of animals. With the occasional exception of Ol Pejeta, which does get busy, you won’t need to escape from any crowds here: in an area not far off the size of Wales, there’s plenty of room for a few people on safari.

Samburu

Another 100 kilometres further north, where the Ewaso Nyiro – Kenya’s biggest northern river, the life-blood of the region – turns east, the hot, dry, much lower country is the traditional territory of the Samburu. The Samburu are Maa-speaking camel-herders who migrated into the region several centuries ago, along with the Maasai. The river banks in Samburu National Reserve are distinguished by the area’s characteristic forked doum palms, branching out above thick stands of riverine acacia forest, offering cover to prey and predators alike. A safari in Samburu is always rewarding and the reserve's small size means game drives concentrate on watching animals rather than covering the miles.

Meru National Park

Meru National Park, where George and Joy Adamson released their most famous lioness, Elsa, back into the wild (a story immortalised in the book and film Born Free), is increasingly re-appearing on Kenya safari itineraries. For more than a decade in the late 1980s and 1990s this entrancing wilderness was virtually off limits due to out-of-control poaching. Then, championed by the French Embassy, the park became a KWS cause célèbre and was comprehensively restored, with newly cut earth roads, a dedicated force of rangers and, near the main gate, a poacher-proof rhino sanctuary that is home to both black and white rhinos. More and more visitors are opting to included Meru in their safari holidays.

Northern Kenya

Most of northern Kenya is arid country, scorched and roasting under the equatorial sun, and sometimes going for months or even years without a drop of rain. The landscapes vary from craggy, volcanic cinder fields to impassable areas of sand-dune systems and gritty scrub where jackals scamper and ostriches peck. But the mountains that rise from the deserts are often luxuriantly forested and the region makes for some of Africa’s most adventurous safaris. The north is where safaris are as much about culture as about wildlife and you'll have plenty of opportunity to meet members of Kenya's traditional tribes.

Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley runs north-south through Africa from Jordan to Mozambique. Some of its most dramatic landscapes are found in Kenya, where a string of lakes - Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmenteita, Naivasha and Magadi – create pools of colour and vegetation in the dry plains and bush country. While 'big game' is generally less prolific in this region, bird-watching safaris are particularly good here.

Amboseli & the Chyulu Hills

On the broad, flat plains south of Nairobi, Amboseli is Kenya’s elephant park par excellence. One of the oldest parks in Kenya, originally part of the colonial era’s ‘Southern Maasai Reserve’, Amboseli became a wildlife sanctuary in the 1940s and was declared a national park in 1974. It is rightly one of Kenya’s most popular safari regions and, with its iconic views of the wildlife against a backdrop of majestic Kilimanjo is a highlight of many Kenya holidays.

Tsavo West National Park

Although they share a name – and a common border, coinciding with the Nairobi–Mombasa highway – Tsavo West and Tsavo East are two distinct national parks with different eco-systems: the open, flat-to-undulating plains and scattered bush of Tsavo East and the much more wooded and hilly landscapes, dotted with volcanic cones and dramatic, black lava flows, that characterise Tsavo West. To the south of Tsavo West National Park, the Lumo Community Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Kenya’s most successful new community conservation initiatives. Lumo offers a very affordable safari experience, making it great for families.

Tsavo East National Park

Tsavo East is by far the biggest of Kenya’s parks. At more than 13,700km2, it’s nine times bigger than the Maasai Mara National Reserve: indeed you could fit the whole of the Mara reserve into the southern tip of the park, south of the Voi River. Most famous for its huge herds of dust-red elephants (more than 10,000 of them bulldoze their way around this vast park), Tsavo East has another big draw: while on safari you can set off on a game drive across the seemingly empty wilderness, and return to camp three hours later without having seen a single other vehicle.

The Kenya Coast

Some of the first contacts between East Africa and the wider world were along what is now the Kenyan coast. The monsoon winds dictated the Indian Ocean’s annual trading calendar: merchant ships arrived from the Persian Gulf and the Arabian peninsula, but had to wait for the annual change in the wind to return home. So they anchored here, in the creeks and ports, for months at a time. Such a long stay in Kenya might turn anyone’s head and, every season, some visitors chose to settle on the coast.

Over the course of the first millennium AD, Swahili society was born – still today a vibrant and complex cultural mix of African roots and imported styles; a classic Bantu language with hundreds of Arabic loan words; and a highly nuanced class structure in which claims of overseas ancestry are as critical to high-status families as they are to the Norman aristocracy in Britain or to American descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims.

Fascinating as its history is, most people visit the Kenya coast after the intense experience of a safari, simply to relax on the beach. Kenya beach holidays are the real deal: endless stretches of fine white sand lapped by an azure, bath-warm sea, looking out to the coral reef at the ocean’s edge across a safe expanse of shallow, tidal lagoon. And if you're in the mood for more wildlife action, a safari in the beautiful Shimba Hills National Park is only a short drive from the coast.

Nairobi

Kenya’s sprawling, traffic-choked capital is an unavoidable stopover on many itineraries, and most people wouldn’t choose to spend longer in Nairobi than necessary. But the city is not nearly as bad as its ‘nairobbery’ reputation might suggest: there are some great hotels and restaurants, and the shopping opportunities – in malls or outdoor curio markets (so-called ‘Maasai markets’) – can be very good. More importantly, Nairobi has some creditable must-sees of its own, of which the standout safari attraction is the remarkable Nairobi National Park, where all the 'Big Five', with the exception of elephants, can be seen.

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in Kenya

This is their success in sighting key species on our safaris in Kenya. Click on a species for more detail. How we work this out.


Zebra

98% success

Giraffe

98% success

Elephant

97% success

Wildebeest

90% success

Buffalo

88% success

White Rhino

88% success

Lion

85% success

Spotted Hyena

81% success

Hippo

78% success

Gerenuk

77% success

Eland

74% success

Cheetah

56% success

Oryx

55% success

Leopard

51% success

Black Rhino

38% success

Striped Hyena

15% success

Wild dog

12% success

Aardvark

2% success

Pangolin

2% success

Sable antelope

0% success

Kenya holiday styles & special interests

From family adventures to romantic breaks, find ideas here for your perfect Kenya safari


Beach holidays

Beach holidays

Discover Africa's coast and tropical islands.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching

Diverse habitats, discreet hides and superb guiding.

Cultural experiences

Cultural experiences

Get an insight into Africa's cultures and history.

Family holidays

Family holidays

Hand-picked camps for an incredible family safari.

Honeymoons

Honeymoons

Romantic safaris and castaway island retreats.

Luxury

Luxury

First-class service, scenic vistas and unparalleled comfort await you during these carefully selected luxury holidays. 

Photography holidays

Photography holidays

Great holidays to suit the keen photographer.

Private villas & houses

Private villas & houses

Enjoy Africa with just your friends & family

Riding holidays

Riding holidays

Explore Africa's wilderness on horseback.

Solo Travel

Solo Travel

Trip ideas ideally suited for a solo traveller.

Walking

Walking

Explore Africa's most scenic trails on foot.

Walking safaris

Walking safaris

Explore Africa's untouched wildernesses on foot.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing

Wellness escapes in stunning locations

Wildlife safaris

Wildlife safaris

These trips include hard-hitting game and fascinatingly elusive species alike, as well as superb guiding and a variety of diverse ecosystems.

Inspire me

Need inspiration?

Let our trip chooser narrow down the options for you

Inspire me

Our top safaris in Kenya

Here are 24 great Kenya safaris to inspire you.


Itinerary image

Black Kite Fly-in Safari

10 days • 4 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Explore Kenya in-depth with visits to Nairobi and Meru National Parks, the Mara Conservancies and Amboseli. Nestled in remoter regions, four camps provide fantastic access to rich game, a range of activities and beautifully diverse landscapes.

US$8,380 - US$9,630 per person

Itinerary image

Gabar Goshawk Fly-in Safari

10 days • 4 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Experience Amboseli, the Maasai Mara ecosystem and Laikipia during this economically priced safari. Two simple camps offer adventure before a stopover in Nairobi and a final stay in the charming, wildlife-rich Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge.

US$4,790 - US$4,790 per person

Itinerary image

Elephant Safari

10 days • 3 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

This example of a mid-range Kenya safari and beach trip explores the wildlife of Tsavo west's volcanic plains and woodlands, Tsavo East's immense plains and the white sand beaches and lush environment of Diani Beach.

US$4,320 - US$4,630 per person

Itinerary image

De Brazza Monkey Fly-in Safari

9 days • 3 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Enjoy a range of activities in the remote wilderness of northern Kenya before exploring the wildlife-rich plains of the Mara ecosystem. Private vehicles and guides heighten the personalisation of this highly immersive safari.

US$9,700 - US$11,350 per person

Itinerary image

Hamerkop Fly-In Safari

8 days • 2 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Different wildlife, contrasting camps and a whole host of activities, this is a safari for those wanting to get out and about and not just sit in a vehicle.

US$5,500 - US$8,280 per person

Itinerary image

Rothschild Giraffe Safari

8 days • 3 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

A example of a luxury Kenyan safari, starting at the iconic Giraffe Manor before fabulous stays on the spectacular Solio Reserve and Sala’s Camp in a remote corner of the Maasai Mara.

US$9,200 - US$12,650 per person

Itinerary image

Golden Jackal Fly-in Safari

8 days • 2 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

A contrasting safari of a lodge and a tented camp, action-packed activities in Laikipia and wildlife-filled game drives in the Maasai Mara, yet overall a consistently high quality experience.

US$8,050 - US$10,300 per person

Itinerary image

Big Cat Fly-in Safari

8 days • 2 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Combining two of Kenya’s best wildlife viewing areas, this slow-paced safari to the Lewa Conservancy and Maasai Mara guarantees iconic wildlife. The long established, well-rated camps are great value too.

US$5,060 - US$7,460 per person

Itinerary image

Lanner Falcon Fly-In Safari

8 days • 3 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

Three sister camps offer access to wonderfully remote regions across northern Kenya and the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Enjoy an exclusive safari experience with a range of activities that include great wildlife, superb guiding and considerable comfort.

US$6,170 - US$8,220 per person

Itinerary image

African Finfoot Fly-in Safari

7 days • 3 locations
NAIROBI AIRPORT TO NAIROBI AIRPORT

A unique start to the safari in Nairobi National Park, then classic, luxurious camps combine for a high end and exclusive safari in fantastic wildlife destinations.

US$8,180 - US$12,640 per person

View all holidays in Kenya

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