For a classic safari, nothing beats Kenya safari. Its picturesque scenery that materializes any “real Africa” image in one’s head; impressive abundance of wildlife including the Big Five and all the big cats found in Africa; affordable safari options; and remarkable accommodation all promise to create the quintessential African safari that’s just impossible to forget. No wonder it’s a famous setting for many travel diaries, documentaries, and movies such as Disney’s Lion King and BBC’s Big Cat Diary.
What to expect in a Kenya Safari
It doesn’t take a bucket list buster or a wildlife enthusiast to know that Kenya is among the dream-come-true destinations for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. As loosely translated in Swahili, a safari is “a journey”. In that journey, here are the top things you can look forward to. These things are also the major reason why Kenya safari is a must-visit.
1 – Incredible landscapes
Spanning an approximate area of 224,081 square miles, 17,000 square miles or 8% of the country is dedicated to wildlife parks and game reserves alone. Its diverse landscapes feature unfenced borders that allow animals to roam freely in their natural habitat. In Kenya, you will find savannas, forests, wetlands, marine and arid as well as semi-arid regions. In the vast Kenyan plains, you can also find baobab and acacia trees peppered across the land. These dotted trees provide an even more dramatic look especially when the golden sun touches the area.
2 – Jaw-dropping wildlife & birdlife
Many travelers flock to the country to see Africa’s famous Big Five. But, beyond these iconic creatures — lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and buffalos — are a high concentration of game including zebras, baboons, giraffes, waterbucks, cheetahs, servals, wildebeests and even a thriving population of the endangered wild dogs. Interestingly, the country also hosts the “Little Five” which is made up of the antlion, the buffalo weaver, the elephant shrew, the rhinoceros beetle, and the leopard tortoise.
Kenya safari also provides a fantastic ecosystem for birds, which is why more than 500 avian species have been found to inhabit the country. Many of these birds can also be found on Kenya’s lakes. So if you stop by a lake or watering hole during your safari or game drive, be sure to not only look out for terrestrial animals but also the many birds that are rather fascinating as well.
3 – Superb animal activity
Kenya is a famed big game destination. On a typical day, if you’re lucky, you can see a jackal fighting with a hyena, a leopard attacking a zebra or even a lion versus another lion. These animal interactions are astounding enough to witness, but do you know that there is something colossally amazing than those sights?
Around July to October, Kenya’s flagship park, Masai Mara Game Reserve, hosts the World Cup of Wildlife and the “world’s greatest wildlife show”: The Wildebeest Migration. During this iconic event, about 2.5 million hooves (wildebeests, zebras, gazelle, and kudus) stampede across the Mara River in a fight for survival while braving the strong river surge, the opportunistic land predators and the territorial river predators like the Nile crocodiles and hippos. Successful migrants then feast on fresh grazing and water in the Masai Mara ecosystem. So if you’re in Kenya around these months, this bucket-list experience is a must-see.
4 – Gorgeous sunsets and awe-inspiring mornings
The wildlife-ridden plains that display rocky outcrops, kopjes and lone acacia trees make a perfect setting to a stunning sunset or sunrise. In the morning, aside from being able to enjoy a good cup of coffee while looking at the sun slowly making the savannah golden, a lot of animals come out during this time of day. It’s the perfect time to see cheetahs, lions, etc. Photos are also best taken in the early morning or late afternoon. Aside from the perfect sunrise and sunset shots, it’s much easier to get good wildlife photos without the glare of the midday sun.
5 – Long drives and bush picnics
Parks are huge and not all of them are close to one another. So, expect to go on long game drives so you can maximize your Kenya safari by seeing as plenty of animals as you can. Also, since most animals are most active early in the morning, expect your safari to start early, maybe even just before sunrise.
For lunch, since going to your lodge or camp is quite impractical and time-consuming, packed lunches are often the thing. What makes this experience unique is that you get to eat your meals in the middle of the wild!
6 – Unique safari opportunities
Kenya safari has a lot of exciting things in store for everyone. You can go on an exhilarating hot air balloon ride. This ride takes you floating up the savannas, giving you a 360-degree panoramic view of the wildlife-inhabited, beautiful Kenyan plains. You can also experience horseback riding safaris that either take you to a hoard of giraffes, a herd of elephants or even a pack of lions close by. Other exciting safari activities include bush walks, night drives and even boat cruises.
7 – Tropical climate
Being near the Equator means the climate is fairly stable. With only two seasons in the country: wet and dry, it’s easy to predict the type of weather you’re more likely to experience. The best thing in Kenya is, it’s almost always sunny year-round! No wonder why many safari-goers add a little beach time to cap their “wild adventures”.
8 – Fascinating culture
It’s easy to get in touch with the heritage of Africa while in Kenya. You get to immerse into their culture as you meet Maasai warriors and Samburu tribe members and learn about their traditions and skills, which are all inextricably tied to life in the savanna.
9 – First class accommodation
Kenya offers a wide range of accommodation options — from budget tents to hotel-style lodges to luxurious tented camps! But, what’s nice in Kenya is that your money can take you far. Compared to other safari destinations, Kenya’s accommodation options are known to be easier on the pocket. What’s “mid-range” in price in other countries is already “luxury” in Kenya. This means that you can get even the most luxurious places in Kenya for a price of only the mid-level accommodations in other safari countries. Of course, this may vary from one property to another.
What’s most unique about staying in the wild is that you get your own piece of land, exclusively tucked in a game-filled location. And even amid the wilderness, you still get to enjoy things like electricity, internet connection and ensuite bath. For some, even a private swimming pool!
10 – “Wild Experience”
Being in the wilderness means you have the perfect time to unplug from the usual busy world. You get to enjoy Mother Nature at its finest and spend a magical night under a blanket of stars. What could be more beautiful than that?
11 – Budget options
Budget is what’s great about Kenya safari. Even backpackers would agree. There are several ways to still enjoy this wildlife paradise without breaking the bank. These ways include group-joining safari, budget camping on public campsites, etc!
- Masai Mara National Reserve: Home of Africa’s big cats and the sought-after Great Wildebeest Migration, an event of epic proportions.
- Amboseli National Park: A picturesque park renowned for its elephant population and a stunning backdrop featuring the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain.
- Lake Nakuru National Park: A unique, wide-open soda lake that highlights an incredible number of pink flamingos and rhinos.
- Meru National Park: Home of Elsa, the semi-tamed lioness that starred in the bestselling book Born Free. The park features sweeping grassland and tangled forests teemed with large mammals.
- Tsavo National Parks: One of the largest protected areas in Kenya. It provides a haven for big animals like hippos, rhinos, giraffe, elephants and lions.
Best time to visit
Kenya is spectacular all year-round but for the best wildlife viewing experience, late June to October is highly recommended. It is dry season meaning there is little to no rain. Vegetation is also scarce and so wildlife is easier to spot. Conveniently, it is also time for the grandest wildlife movement: the Great Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara.
A safari destination like no other.
Kenya is indeed a magical country that’s just truly astounding in many levels. Whether you visit to come face to face with Africa’s storybook animals or witness the incredible Wildebeest Migration, or even just take snapshots with the Lion King himself, Kenya safari has long proved to guarantee once-in-a-lifetime adventures that cannot be easily experienced anywhere else in the world.