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Kenya Safari Guide For Beginners

Birthplace of the classic Hemingway-style safari, Kenya is home to some of the best game viewing and most famous reserves on the continent. But unlike neighbouring Tanzania, whose most popular parks lie on a well-trodden circuit, Kenya's safari destinations are scattered throughout the country and planning an itinerary depends on what you want to see and who you're travelling with.


A safari itinerary in western Kenya usually begins in Nairobi (as indeed most Kenya safaris do) and includes the country's famous lakes - Lake Naivasha and Nakuru are the most rewarding. The biggest name in western Kenya is of course the Masai Mara National Reserve, home to some of Africa's best year-round game viewing as well as the annual migration. Present in their hundreds of thousands from around July to November, the wildebeest and zebra herds attract constant attention from Africa's top predators and consequently visitor numbers are high in peak season.

There's plenty of Masai Mara accommodation: many lodges are family-friendly - they offer special kids' programmes for example - while others focus on romantic exclusivity. For front-row seats to the Great Migration it's vital to book your accommodation or safari early - sometimes as much as a year in advance. And if it's privacy you want on your Kenya safari, head for the Masai Mara's private conservancies for exclusive game viewing without the crowds.

Get your wildebeest migration timing right with our short animation below!


Kenya Safari Guide - witness the wildebeest migration
Expect dramatic action in the Masai Mara during the Great Migration.


Amboseli National Park is eastern Kenya's flagship reserve. Easily accessible, Amboseli sits right on the border with Tanzania and is famous for its scenes of elephants ambling across the plains as a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro looms behind them. Full of animals, Amboseli's mostly flat and open terrain makes for easy game viewing and there's a wide range of accommodation. January and February are good months to visit as well as June through September but visitor numbers are high in these months.

Kenya Safari Guide - cheetah mother & cubs
Expect great sightings in Kenya's top national parks.
Kenya Safari Guide for beginners
Views of Mount Kilimanjaro on a game drive at Ol Donyo Lodge.
Kenya Safari Guide for beginners
Watching the sun set over the Kenyan savannah is an unforgettable experience.


The first thing you'll notice on a Northern Kenya safari is the lack of other visitors. The second thing that'll take you aback are the unusual-looking animals - reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich and gerenuk antelope - are semi-arid specialists and absent from Kenya's more visited destinations.

Often hot and dry, the reserves of the north are where second-time-around safari travellers like to end up. The Samburu and Shaba National Reserves flank the life-giving Ewaso Ngiro River and are often combined on an itinerary. Both offer classic game viewing, and Samburu is further known for its leopard sightings while Shaba ranks as one of Kenya's more scenic reserves - great for romance!

Other places to visit in the north include unspoiled and largely unvisited Meru National Park (of Born Free fame) and the Laikipia Plateau. The latter is fast becoming the place to visit in Kenya. Made up of private reserves and home to the Big 5, Laikipia features a range of accommodation - its family-friendly lodges offer a mix of activities while its honeymoon suites enjoy sensational views. Visit the north between December and the end of March or July through October.

Kenya Safari Guide - luxury tented camps await
The Mara is best enjoyed while staying in a luxurious & romantic camp.


We've done the planning for you: here are our top recommendations for a flawless safari in Kenya.

  • Majestic Mara Balloon SafariPerfect for the traveller who is short on time, this 4-day fly-in safari focuses purely on Kenya's iconic Masai Mara. Enjoy game drives, guided walks and spot-lit night drives before getting up extra early for the big one: a hot-air balloon flight over the savannah.
  • Kenya Wilderness ExperienceThis exciting 7-day safari delivers fantastic game drives, superb service and guided walks with Maasai warriors in the Kenyan wilderness. You'll be staying at three exclusive Porini eco-camps which means you'll be giving back to the environment while enjoying the trip of a lifetime.
  • Memorable Masai Mara ExperienceUsing owner-managed and -run properties, with the highest conservation standards and excellent private guiding, we recommend this 7-day adventure for abundant wildlife encounters and a range of activities in the Masai Mara.
  • Discover Kenya Wilderness AdventureIf you're adventurous at heart, this incredible 11-day journey offers contrasting landscapes and a range of activities and wildlife in three of Kenya's top reserves: Samburu, Masai Mara & Shaba.


Written by Dominic Chadbon. Connect with him on Google+.

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