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Safaris in Kenya: Top National Parks to Visit

by Cris Puscas

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The birthplace of safari travel, Kenya offers incredible natural beauty, great game viewing, the heart-pumping wildebeest migration, and interesting cultural encounters.

From the vast expenses of the Masai Mara and the astonishing views of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park to the birds on Lake Nakuru, there are a lot of safaris in Kenya to choose from.   

That’s why, in this article, we are sharing information about eight of the country’s most amazing national parks and reserves so that you can choose the perfect one for your next safari.

 

Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai-Mara-National-Reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most well-known reserves on the entire continent. More than 40% of Africa’s larger animals can be found here, even though it contains 25% of what’s left of the Kenyan wildlife.

It is located in south-west Kenya and belongs to the Maasai people, and is being administered by the local county councils.

The terrain is mostly open grassland. In the south-east region, one can find the distinctive acacia tree. The plains between the Mara River and the Esoit Siria Escarpment are the best area for game viewing, especially when it comes to lions and cheetahs.

The Mara is famous for the river crossing during the Great Migration, when wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, topi, and zebra go to and from the Serengeti in Tanzania every year between July and October. The predators are also present for the show.

All members of the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros) can be found here, just as other wildlife that can be spotted here, which includes hippopotamus, crocodile, hyenas, cheetah, jackals, antelopes, and the Masai giraffe. More than 470 species of birds call the Masai Mara National Reserve their home.

 

 

  • How to reach Masai Mara Game Reserve: most safari operators offer airport pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi (NBO) or the hotel in Nairobi
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 80 USD for an adult, 45 USD for a child
  • Best time to visit: July to October
  • Famous for: endless expanses of savannas, Great Migration river crossing

 

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli-National-Park

The second most popular park in Kenya, Amboseli National Park, is well-known for the views of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Sprawling over 392 sq km/ 151 sq mi, Amboseli National Park spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The park protects two of the main swamps and offers one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world.

It is famous for being the best place in the world where you can get close to free-ranging elephants. Set against the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the sight is magnificent.

Due to the long, dry months, the vegetation is sparse which is perfect for spotting wildlife. The animals that can be seen here are the African bush elephant, impala, Cape buffalo, cheetah, lion, hyena, wild dog, wildebeest, zebra, crocodile, mongoose, and Masai giraffe. Over 600 species of birds call Amboseli their home, too.

  • How to reach Amboseli National Park: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi (airport or hotel)
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 60 USD for an adult, 35 USD for a child
  • Best time for safaris: June to October
  • Best time for bird watching: October to January
  • Famous for: large tusked elephants roaming against the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Maasai villages

Do you want to go on a safari in Amboseli and don’t know where to start planning? Read our detailed guide to visiting Amboseli National Park.

Lake Nakuru National Park

flamingos at lake nakuru

One of the Rift Valley soda lakes, Lake Nakuru stands at 1,754 m (5,755 ft) above sea level and is protected by the Lake Nakuru National Park. The abundance of algae attracts a lot of flamingos, which made the lake so famous.

However, the number of flamingos at the lake depends on the water and food conditions. The best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff. But, unfortunately, due to weather changes lately there are only a few of them left at Lake Nakuru as many have migrated to Lake Bogoria, located within Lake Bogoria National Reserve

The national park can easily be visited on a day trip from the capital, but most often it is part of a circuit together with the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

Other birds that live here are pelicans and cormorants. As for the animals, the area is home to warthogs, baboons, waterbucks, eastern black rhinos, and southern white rhinos.

 

  • How to reach Lake Nakuru National Park: a trip to Lake Nakuru is most often included in a safari package traveling to the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, or can easily be visited on a day trip from the capital Nairobi
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 60 USD for an adult, 35 USD for a child
  • Best time to visit: year-round
  • Famous for: pearl-white pelicans and pink flamingos

 

Mount Kenya National Park

mount-kenya

With its rugged glacier summits and forested middle slopes, standing 5,199 m (17,057 ft) tall, Mt. Kenya is an impressive sight. Mount Kenya National Park was established to protect the mountain, the surrounding environment, and wildlife. The national park and the forest became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

It is an ancient extinct volcano, now Africa’s second highest mountain. There are still 12 glaciers on the mountain, but they are receding rapidly.

The mountain gives the park a different feel than the other national parks in the country, but the African animals are still present. One can spot elephants, monkeys, antelopes, buffalos, bushbucks, leopards, giant forest hogs, porcupines, and a lot of birds.

  • How to reach Mount Kenya National Reserve: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi (airport or hotel)
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 52 USD for an adult, 26 USD for a child (packages are available)
  • Best time to visit: year round
  • Famous for: unique alpine and mountain vegetation

 

The Tsavo National Park

tsavo-national-park

Tsavo is so large that it’s made of two parks: Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. The largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world is located between Nairobi and Mombasa.

Tsavo East is slightly larger and features flat, dry plains and the Galana River. It is famous for the Tsavo lions, a population that often lacks the manes entirely. Other animals in this part are bushbuck, caracal, African dormouse, African bush elephant, gazelle, giraffe, spotted hyena, striped hyena, impala, leopard, lesser kudu, monkey, plains zebra, and Grevy’s zebra.

Tsavo West is wetter and more mountainous, known for the large mammals, such as black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, Masai lion, leopard, and hippopotamus. Other animals that can be spotted here are the bush baby, lesser kudu, and the Masai giraffe.

 

 

  • How to reach the Tsavo National Parks: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi or Mombasa (airport or hotel)
  • Park fee per day: non-residents 52USD for an adult, 35 USD for a child
  • Best time to visit: May to October
  • Famous for: the Big Five

 

Samburu National Reserve

samburu-giraffe-kenya

Samburu National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro River, which flows through dorum palm groves and thick forests.

Due to its inaccessibility for many years, the reserve still fascinates visitors with its natural serenity.

The river attracts a variety of wildlife. All three big caps – lion, cheetah, and African leopard- can be spotted here but Samburu does not host the Big Five. However, it is famous for being home to its own Special Five - the beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, and reticulated giraffe.

Other animals that can be spotted here include the olive baboon, the warthog, the waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, and impala. A variety of birds call this park their home.

  • How to reach Samburu National Reserve: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi (airport or hotel)
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 70 USD for an adult, 40 USD for a child.
  • Best time to visit: December to March, July to October
  • Famous for: Samburu’s own ‘Special Five’

 

Aberdare National Park

Aberdare-National-Park

Aberdare National Park is a high-altitude park. Due to its location, the park is very rainy and misty but offers spectacular views of waterfalls, ravines, and streams. It is also home to the second largest herd of the endangered black rhinoceros.

Some of the animals that can be spotted here are elephants, leopards, spotted hyenas, olive baboons, warthogs, and bushbucks. Rare sightings include those of the serval cat, African civet, and golden cat.

Bird viewing is also great here as the park is home to more than 250 species of birds.

  • How to reach Aberdare National Park: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from Nairobi (airport or hotel)
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 52 USD for an adult, 26 USD for a child
  • Best time to visit: May to October
  • Best time to visit for the waterfalls: March to May
  • Famous for: stunning scenery

 

Nairobi National Park

Nairobi-National-Park-Kenya

Nairobi National Park is only a short drive from the capital city of Kenya, Nairobi. It is also the country’s first national park, established in 1946.

During the dry season (January to March), migrating herbivores gather in the park. Thereby, Nairobi National Park is also one of the most successful rhinoceros sanctuaries.

Despite its proximity to a city, the park houses a large and diverse wildlife population. Some of the animals that can be spotted here are Cape buffalo, baboon, eastern black rhino, wildebeest, cheetah, Grant’s zebra, African leopard, lion, impala, Masai giraffe, hippopotamus, and waterbuck. There are 400 migratory and endemic bird species that call this park their home.

  • How to reach Nairobi National Park: most safari operators offer pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in Nairobi
  • Park fee per day: non-resident 43 USD for an adult, 22 USD for a child
  • Best time to visit: year-round
  • Famous for: herbivores and rhinoceros

Fascinated by the variety of wildlife to see in Africa? Choose one of the many safaris in Kenya that we have on offer!

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