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One thing is for sure: Kenya consistently ranks as one of Africa's greatest safari destinations. Every year, thousands of safari goers see the country's astonishing wildlife areas and spectacles like the Great Wildebeest Migration.

Thanks to a mild climate, wide open spaces, and an abundance of wildlife in heavyweight destinations like the Masai Mara and Amboseli, Kenya delivers sensational safari experiences any time of the year.

If you're planning a first-time safari in Kenya, you've come to the right place. Since 1998, we've tailor-made unforgettable trips to the 'birthplace of safari' for thousands of travellers from across the globe. In this handy Kenya safari guide, we share our best planning advice – from travel budgets and the top wildlife areas to Wildebeest Migration timing and the best places to stay.

Location & Landscape

Location & Landscape

Kenya is a fairly small country in East Africa. Its capital and central transport hub is Nairobi, which is more or less in the centre. Safari travellers fly into the international airport known as Jomo Kenyatta and use the domestic airport next door – called Wilson – for connecting flights to safari destinations.

Using Nairobi as a central point, these are the major areas to the north, south, east and west of the capital:

Central Kenya

This is typically where all Kenya safari itineraries start, as Nairobi is the country’s logistical hub. The area around Nairobi also has plenty of conservation areas, the most popular being Nairobi National Park, Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha as well as the Aberdare Mountains. The land is green and lush during the rainy season while the lakes attract plenty of bird- and wildlife.

Nairobi, Kenya
Giraffe Manor - Safari Collection - Kenya Giraffe Manor - Safari Collection - Kenya Edited-Giraffe Manor- KBS-outside-2 Edited-Giraffe Manor-KBS-room-1 edited-Giraffe Manor-KBS-room1-b Edited-Giraffe Manor-Lynn-Bathroom-1 Edited-Giraffe Manor-Lynn-Bedroom-2

The Giraffe Manor

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal interactive experience Day tours High tea on offer

Western Kenya

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 Wildebeest Migration. Present in their hundreds of thousands from about August to November, the massive wildebeest and zebra herds attract constant attention from Africa’s top predators, and consequently visitor numbers are high in peak season (about June to October).

The biggest reason that the Masai Mara attracts the Migration is because its open, flat savannah produces superb grazing. There are few thickets, forests or high peaks: the wide landscape is a safari classic with green grass that turns golden as the seasons pass. The plains attract game like reticulated and Masai giraffe, topi, Thomson’s gazelle, and are dotted with occasional flat-topped acacia trees.

Northern Kenya

The further north you travel, the drier and hillier the landscape becomes as the area doesn’t benefit as much from the rains received by the south-west of Kenya.

That being said, there are still superb safari options here, including Samburu National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Laikipia. The more arid conditions suit species like gerenuk, the Somali ostrich and Grevy’s zebra. Lewa is also the best place in Kenya to see rhino regularly and consistently. On a clear day, you may be lucky enough to see Mounts Kenya and Meru.

Southern Kenya

Because it shares the longest part of Kenya’s border with Tanzania, this is the best place to see snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Kili actually lies in Tanzania, but Kenya’s Amboseli National Park is so close to the border that it boasts incredible vantage points.

This part of Kenya is wetter and the terrain more varied: Amboseli, for example, is a beautiful mix of open savannah, wetlands, woodlands and hills, making it ideal for a wide variety of species, from bat-eared foxes to elephants. Nearby are the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo East and West National Parks.

Way down on the south-eastern coast are some of Kenya’s best beaches. Hit Diani and nearby Galu for top beach lodges and water sports like kitesurfing. Head to Funzi Island for snorkelling and diving.

Getting Around

Kenya Travel Guide: Getting Around

The perfect photographic opportunity with a lion in close proximity to the safari vehicle in the Masai Mara, Kenya | Go2Africa
Preparing for the perfect photo | Govenor’s Camp

International flights land and depart from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. It’s a major flight hub in East Africa and the gateway to the rest of Kenya.

Light aircraft flights for fly-in safaris to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu and other areas depart from Wilson Airport, which is about 15km (10mi) away from JKIA. Ensure you have time between your international flight and domestic flight to make the transfer between the two airports – it can take up to 90 minutes for the road transfer on a good day.

Chartered flights are a great way to get around Kenya, saving you long road transfers and allowing for more time on safari. Road transfers from bush airstrips to lodges are conducted in 4X4 safari vehicles.

Budgets

Kenya Safari Costs & Advice

A woman stands in an elevated wooden boma surrounded by camping chairs with an open firepit behind her overlooking the river | Go2Africa
Admiring the views | Sanctuary Olonana

It’s tricky to give costs for a Kenya safari because there are so many variables: the time of year you travel, the luxuriousness of the accommodation you prefer, whether you drive or fly between destinations, and what extra activities you add on like hot-air ballooning, spa treatments, mountain biking or even cultural visits.

At Go2Africa, we don’t sell one-size-fits-all packages. We prefer to match your budget to give you a tailor-made Kenya experience, splurging and saving where it makes sense for your individual needs. A bare-bones budget may involve sharing transport but then upgrading to the area’s best lodge. Or choosing a slightly more economical tented camp in order to spend a day or two longer on safari. There are no rules and thus no two Kenya safari itineraries are the same.

That being said, here is our Kenya travel guide with some ballpark figures for a safari, with transfers and accommodation included on a price-per-person-per-night (PPPN) basis:

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low Season High Season Low Season High Season Low Season High Season
$450 – $550 $600 – $700 $715 – $825 $900 – $1,155 $1,200 – $1,375 $1,450 – $1,900

Don’t be shy to chat with your Africa Safari Expert about your budget and what you hope to get out of your vacation to Kenya. We advise clients to have an idea of a budget band that they feel comfortable working within and disclosing this at the earliest opportunity. This will hugely expedite the consultation process and you’ll arrive at your ideal itinerary sooner.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking or talking about what you’re willing to invest in your first-time safari in Kenya, but knowing what budget we can work with has a massive impact on planning a safari to Kenya.

Tipping in Kenya

In Kenya, it is customary – but not obligatory or mandatory – to give tips to service staff in gratitude and thanks for good service. Cash tips are the norm and can be handed to the relevant member of staff, the lodge or camp manager, or placed in a staff tip box – most safari lodges have these.

It’s customary to tip taxi or shuttle drivers in Kenya; hotel, railway and airport porters; restaurant and bar staff; chambermaids; tour guides; game rangers and trackers; and golf caddies.

At restaurants and bars, 10–15% of your total bill is customary, although some establishments may include a service fee for larger groups.

For transfers, consider tipping about US$5 per couple in your group. Game lodge staff can be tipped about US$15 per couple per day, and rangers and trackers about US$10–15 per couple per day.

For more information about how to tip on safari, have a look at our complete tipping guide.

Best Accommodation

Kenya Safari Guide: Accommodation

Accommodation in Kenya ranges from down-to-earth mobile camps that move with the Wildebeest Migration to very lavish lodges and modern city hotels. Here is our Kenya travel guide on some tried-and-tested favourites across the country:

Nairobi

Nairobi, Kenya
Giraffe Manor - Safari Collection - Kenya Giraffe Manor - Safari Collection - Kenya Edited-Giraffe Manor- KBS-outside-2 Edited-Giraffe Manor-KBS-room-1 edited-Giraffe Manor-KBS-room1-b Edited-Giraffe Manor-Lynn-Bathroom-1 Edited-Giraffe Manor-Lynn-Bedroom-2

The Giraffe Manor

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal interactive experience Day tours High tea on offer
Nairobi, Kenya
Ololo Safari Lodge at Nairobi National Park. The perfect place to relax after or before a long-haul flight. Game drives in Nairobi National Park. Private veranda of the Tented Cottage. Main lodge living room. Tented Cottage interior. Tower Room at Ololo Safari Lodge.

Ololo Safari Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Day tours Game drives Sundowners
Nairobi, Kenya
House of Waine in Nairobi. The pool pavillion with a view of the Poolside Cottage. Meander through the lush gardens of the House of Waine estate. Enjoy fresh meals on the terrace. After you've arrived in Nairobi, settle into your room at House of Waine and then enjoy a refreshing dip in the swimming pool.
Cross over the peaceful koi fish pond to enter the house. Relax in the library.

House of Waine

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Day tours

Masai Mara

Masai Mara, Kenya
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Angama Mara

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris
Masai Mara, Kenya
RekeroCamp-Exterior-MainEntrance RekeroCamp-Dining-Drinks RekeroCamp-Exterior-ArealView RekeroCamp-Interior-Supper RekeroCamp-Activity-WalkingSafari Rekero-sunrise-breakfast Talek river views

Rekero Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits
Masai Mara, Kenya
Governors_Camp_cultural_experience Governors_Camp_exterior Governors_Camp_tent_exterior Governors_Camp_wildlife governors_2017_tent1_highres Governors_Camp_photographic_safari_vehicle Governors_Camp_hot_air_balloon_safari

Governors' Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Day tours

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Porini_Amboseli_Camp_exterior-tent Elephants enjoy a wallow in the waterhole. Dramatic skies in Amboseli. The mess tent. porini-amboseli-camp-gallery-image-26-14450030491 Porini Amboseli Camp_porini_0301 Tent interior.

Porini Amboseli Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Full-day safaris Game drives
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Tortilis-Camp-Main-Areas- Tortilis-Camp-Swimming-Pool Tortilis-Camp-Swimming-Pool-2 Tortilis-Private-House-Double Tortilis-Family-Tent-Double Tortilis-Camp-Sundowners-in-front-of-Kilimanjaro tortilis_camp_-_bar__lounge_area

Tortilis Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Game drives
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Satao Elerai Camp, en-suite bathroom Satao Elerai Camp, Amboseli reserve Satao Elerai Camp, tented bedroom Satao Elerai Camp, tented suites Satao Elerai Camp, swimming Maasai people with cattle Satao Elerai Camp, outdoor dining

Satao Elerai Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walking safaris Local village visits Night drives

Samburu National Reserve

Samburu, Kenya
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