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Where to Go on a Kenya Safari

Africa's best tailor-made safaris

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Where to Go on a Kenya Safari

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By Matthys van Aswegen

Safari Travel Planner

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Kenya’s many national parks and reserves, each have their own unique attractions and wildlife experiences. 

Here’s a detailed guide to the key regions across this East African country and what you should consider them for your next Kenya safari:

1. Maasai Mara National Reserve
An aerial view of the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
An aerial view of the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Overview: The Maasai Mara is arguably Kenya’s most famous safari destination, renowned for  the spectacular Great Migration, which showcases its expansive wildlife diversity.

Key Highlights:

  • Great Migration: Witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles migrating from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara, usually between July and October. The dramatic river crossings of the Mara River are a highlight.
  • Big Cats: The Maasai Mara is one of the best places in Africa to see big cats, including lions, cheetahs, and leopards. The reserve’s open plains make it easier to spot these predators in action.

Unique Facts:

  • The Maasai Mara is named in honor of the Maasai people, who inhabit the region, and the Mara River, which runs through it.
  • The reserve covers an area of approximately 1,510 square kilometers (580 square miles) and is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania​ 
2. Amboseli National Park
Close-up of zebras in Amboseli National Park | Photo credit: Angama Amboseli
Close-up of zebras in Amboseli National Park | Photo credit: Angama Amboseli

Overview: Amboseli National Park is famous for its stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. The park’s name is taken from the Maasai word meaning “salty dusty”, referring to its arid conditions.

Key Highlights:

  • Elephants: Amboseli is known for its large free-roaming elephant herds, which can be seen against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • Bird Watching: The park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 400 bird species recorded.

Unique Facts:

  • Amboseli covers an area of 392 square kilometers (151 square miles) and features a mix of wetlands, savannah, and woodlands​.
  • The park is a protected area for elephants, Cape buffalo, impala, lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, Masai giraffe, Grant’s zebra, and blue wildebeest. 
3. Samburu National Reserve
Cheetah family in Samburu National Park
Cheetah family in Samburu National Park, Kenya

Overview: Located in the northern part of Kenya, Samburu National Reserve is known for its unique wildlife species and arid landscapes.

Key Highlights:

  • Unique Species: Samburu is home to species that are rare in other parts of Kenya, including Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx.
  • Ewaso Ng’iro River: The reserve is centered around the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which attracts a variety of wildlife, especially during the dry season.

Unique Facts:

  • Samburu’s arid conditions and unique wildlife make it a fascinating destination for safari enthusiasts.
  • The reserve covers an area of 165 square kilometers (64 square miles) and is part of a larger ecosystem that includes Buffalo Springs and Shaba reserves.
4. Tsavo National Parks (East and West)
Amazing sunset at savannah plains in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
Amazing sunset at savannah plains in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Overview: Tsavo East and Tsavo West together form one of the largest national park areas in the world, offering vast, unspoiled wilderness and diverse wildlife.

Key Highlights:

  • Tsavo East: Well-known for its red elephants (coated in the park’s red dust) and the Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, formed through successive eruptions of the nearby Ol Doinyo Sabuk and Kilimambogo volcanoes thousands of years ago.
  • Tsavo West: Famous for its dramatic landscapes, including the Mzima Springs, Shetani Lava Flows, and the Chyulu Hills.

Unique Facts:

  • Tsavo National Park covers an area of approximately 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles), making it one of the largest protected areas in Kenya.
  • The parks are named after the Tsavo River, which flows from west to east through the parks​​.
5. Lake Nakuru National Park
Pair of southern white rhinos in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya.
Pair of southern white rhinos in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya.

Overview: Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its flamingo populations and is a sanctuary for both black and white rhinos.

Key Highlights:

  • Flamingos: The park is renowned for its large flocks of flamingos that feed on the algae in the lake.
  • Rhino Sanctuary: Lake Nakuru is one of the best places in Kenya to see both black and white rhinos.

Unique Facts:

  • The park covers an area of 188 square kilometers (73 square miles) and is centered around Lake Nakuru, one of the Rift Valley soda lakes.
  • Besides flamingos, the park is home to over 450 bird species and a variety of other wildlife, including lions, leopards, and Rothschild giraffes​.

Start Planning Your Safari

Kenya’s diverse regions each offer unique wildlife experiences and opportunities. Whether you want to witness the dramatic river crossings in the Maasai Mara, marvel at the large elephant herds in Amboseli, or explore the unique species in Samburu, Kenya has something for every safari enthusiast.

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