Kenya – possibly the most famous safari destination in Africa – has much to offer the traveller. The wildlife, the culture and the range of landscapes have long been attracting visitors from all over the world, and despite its fame, it is still possible to have a holiday in Kenya that takes you off the beaten track.
You can experience big game safaris on foot or in vehicles, swim in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, visit forests, mountains and lakes, and much more.
If you would like to see remote, wilderness areas, then Meru and Laikipia are two beautiful and largely unknown destinations where you can have your own unique safari.
The vast wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara is a great spectacle to behold, and one of the world’s most famous migrations. Imagine floating in a balloon over the wide-open savannah plains of the Mara, looking down over the thousands and thousands of Wildebeest.
Feeling fit? Close Encounters Africa can organise a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya for you. Or perhaps you want to see the huge herds of elephant in Amboseli, or spend time with the Maasai people who live there.
The annual wildebeest migration is rightly famous and a most extraordinary natural spectacle, but with a total of 59 National Parks, making up 11 per cent of the total land area, there are abundant wildlife and game watching opportunities in Kenya. Many visitors choose to include a stay on the coast, where the allure of sandy beaches and the warm Indian Ocean offer a chance to unwind.
North-east of Nairobi and the least visited of Kenya’s National Parks, this is a rugged, beautiful and largely road-free area. It was made famous though the writings of Joy Adamson in her book ‘Born Free’.
It is its wild remoteness that attracts people to come here, and if you want to experience the big 5 while having an intrepid adventure, this is the place! It is very unlikely you will see anyone else during your stay in the Meru National Park.
A wild and sparsely populated land, Laikipia offers the visitor something more than game drives on open plains. You can experience game viewing and also other activities like horse riding and hiking, and you can learn more about traditional cultures.
Accommodation is mostly in privately owned ranches, which are largely dedicated to sustainable tourism and the re-introduction of endemic species to the area. A visit to Laikipia will definitely get you off the well beaten paths of the National Parks.
Lake Nakuru is situated 200km from Nairobi and is world famous for its protection of stunning flocks of Lesser Flamingo, which literally turn the shores pink. Hippo and clawless otter live around the water, as do many species of bird. The park spans a wide range of habitats, from wooded and bush grasslands, which are home to buffalo, lion, leopard and Rothchild’s giraffe, to rocky escarpments and ridges. The woodlands and forest are home to black and white rhino – there is a sanctuary within the park where numbers are now growing, after the ravages of poaching left only two rhinos.
The Maasai Mara is situated 300km from Nairobi and is one of the best known wildlife areas in Kenya. It also offers a view of the untouched life in Africa as it has been for thousands of years. Here there are herds of elephant browsing amongst the rich, tree studded grasslands. Thompson gazelles, zebra, eland and many more species offer a rich choice for the predatory lion, leopard and cheetah that hunt in the reserve and surrounding areas.
The spectacle for which the Mara is renowned is the annual wildebeest migration. During the months of August and September the sight of more than a million of these beasts moving as a great mass through the savannah is one of the most breathtaking sights nature can offer.
The Aberdare National Park lies 200km from Nairobi and is part of the Aberdare mountain range. According to traditional Kikuyu folklore the mountains are one of the homes of Ngai (god).
The Aberdare Rainforest area is a must for landscape lovers, with v-shaped valleys and streams and rivers cascading over spectacular waterfalls. Above the forest is a belt of bamboo, a favourite haunt of the bongo, a rare and elusive forest antelope.
Animals abound in the forest, and a fence is being built to protect this area by the Rhino Ark Trust.
The Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Park is situated 350km from Nairobi in the hot and arid northern area of Kenya. It is home to the Samburu tribe and to wildlife species rarely found elsewhere, including Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk gazelle, oryx, reticulated giraffe and Somali ostrich. Some of these species are so well adapted that they can survive for long periods without water. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah and the more common game are also found here.
Amboseli National Park is 250km from Nairobi and borders onto Tanzania. It is a place of stark contrast. Meaning a place of water in Maasai, Amboseli, despite its dusty and dry appearance, has an endless source of water from the snow melt from Mt Kilimanjaro, filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock.
During the dry season false mirages appear over the dry water beds, punctuated by real herds of zebra and wildebeest. The principal attractions in Amboseli are the herds of elephant. There is plentiful game include zebra, wildebeest, impala and leopard. Birdwatchers can see pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African fish eagles and pygmy falcons.
The Kenya Wildlife Community Service works closely with the Maasai elders to develop eco-tourism attractions which benefit indigenous communities and protect the fragile eco-system.
Tsavo East is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest parks, situated 333km north-east of Nairobi, near the coast. Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast make safaris here popular. It is one of the world’s leading bio-diversity strongholds, from bushy grasslands and open plains to savannah and semi-arid acacia scrub. North of Galana is a true wilderness and camel safaris are a feature here.
Tsavo East is recommended for photographers, with its fabulous light and unbelievable views, particularly Mudanda Rock, Yatta Plateau and Luggard’s Falls. There are 500 recorded bird species here. Game includes elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk and zebra.
Tsavo West is smaller than Tsavo East and is nearer to Nairobi at 240km away. It is well known as a major battlefield in World War 1 and for its notorious ‘Man Eaters of Tsavo’ lions, which preyed on the railway workmen during the building of the great Uganda Railway in 1900. It offers tremendous views, ranging from mountains and river forest to lakes and wooded grassland. Its plains border the Southern Serengeti plains in Tanzania and a wide range of game can be seen here.
The Chaimu volcanic crater can be explored, and there are a number of nature trails. Mzima Springs, which is a pool of natural spring water with underwater viewing hides for observing hippo, is a star attraction.
The island of Lamu, just off Kenya’s far north coast, is a place of great natural beauty, with long deserted beaches framed by rolling sand dunes and the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Ideal as somewhere simply to unwind, Lamu is also a cultural melting pot, whose fascinating history many visitors won’t be able to resist delving into.
This is a very small selection of the places you can see in Kenya. The network of flights, both charter and scheduled, is extensive and Close Encounters Africa will plan an interesting and varied itinerary with you for your perfect Kenya trip.
There are two rainy seasons in Kenya, a short rainy season in November and a longer one that usually lasts from the end of March into May. It doesn’t necessarily get cold, but the roads can become impassable.
If you are on safari you can usually see more animals during the dry season, as they congregate around the waterholes. If you wish to plan your trip around the annual migration of the wildebeest, you should visit between the end of July – September.
This is the cooler dry season. Peak tourist season is July – August, when there are excellent viewing conditions, though many roads are dusty. Wildebeest are normally encountered in the Maasai Mara in large numbers in late July through October. This is a good time of year for climbing Mt. Kenya. The average daily high temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit.