Located in the heart of East Africa, Kenya shares borders with the Indian Ocean as well as 5 countries: Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. The country is named after Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak, and is also home to Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The Great Rift Valley runs through the country from North to South.
Thousands of visitors flock to Kenya every year, attracted by its stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife, and rich traditional cultures. The national parks of Kenya are home to thousands of animal species, and the Great Migration of millions of wildebeest from the Serengeti in Tanzania into the Maasai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest spectacles on earth. From the beautiful white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean to the arid deserts on lake shores to the rolling plains of the Maasai Mara, this iconic East Africa country retains the charm, adventure, and romance of safaris from years gone by.
Because Nairobi is an international hub, there are many connecting flights to other parts of Africa, especially within East Africa. Combining a Kenya safari with other countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Seychelles is common, and new flights to southern Africa are emerging as well.
Kenya has an impressive 24 national parks and 15 national reserves covering over a tenth of its total land area. The range of natural habitats varies from high altitude mountains to lowland equatorial forests, coasts with sandy beaches to vast savanna plains and deserts. It is no surprise that the land supports over 100 mammal species, 12 types of primates, many reptiles, and over 1 000 species of birds. Some of the popular regions include:
Meaning a “place of water” in Maasai, Amboseli is Kenya’s most popular park after the Maasai Mara. Located 257km from Nairobi, it offers a stunning view of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. For many visitors, the main attraction is the vast herds of elephants, whose massive bulls have some of the largest tusks in Kenya. Amboseli is an important rangeland in Maasai culture, and the ranch areas outside the park offer a wealth of game viewing and walking safaris. The Kenya Wildlife Community Service works closely with the local elders to develop eco-tourism attractions which benefit the indigenous communities and protect this fragile eco-system.
The Laikipia region is located to the north-west of Mount Kenya, in the Rift Valley province and has been formed from the conglomeration of private and communal landowners. It is in the central highlands and has wide range of landscapes from open grasslands dotted with kopjes, to basalt hills and dense cedar forests. Due to conservation efforts by the local landowners, the area has become a sanctuary for game and is home to come of Kenya’s most endangered animals such as Black Rhino, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Situated in the foothills of Mount Kenya, Lewa is today a 62,000 acre private reserve with terrain consisting of forest, savannah grasslands, swamps and semi-desert. The perimeter is almost entirely fenced, for security, but gaps are left in the fences to allow for the movement of the animals. Thanks to the conservation efforts, Lewa is home to the highest concentration of rhino in East Africa. Lewa also protects the endangered Grevy’s zebra and the rare Sitatunga swamp dwelling antelope. Other wildlife include lion, leopard, elephant, cheetahs and over 440 species of birds. The range of activities on Lewa is vast with everything from game walks, day and night drives, bush picnics, horseback riding, camel treks and and scenic flights.
The most visited of Kenya’s reserves is the Masai Mara National Reserve, offering breathtaking views and world class game viewing opportunities year round. Situated in the southwest of Kenya and bordering the Serengeti of Tanzania, the Mara is the best park in Kenya from which to enjoy the spectacular Great Migration.The terrain is primarily open savannah grassland that is punctuated by rocky outcrops, small valleys, clumps of acacia trees and some forested areas around the rivers. There are three main rivers: Sand River (seasonal), the Talek, and the Mara. The Talek and the Mara meet in the centre of the park and continue on as the Mara River. Named after the traditional inhabitants of the area, the Masai, this park is famous for its cats and of course for the annual migration, and is also great for birding, viewing larger animals and plains game.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is located in the Narok South district, within the Great Rift Valley and borders the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve. Naboisho, which in Maasai means “coming together”, is a community driven initiative to create a wildlife conservation and tourism area that supports the livelihoods of the landowners and surrounding communities. The core conservation area for the conservancy comprises of over 200 km2, which is dedicated to wildlife conservation. The highest population of giraffe is found in Naboisho. The core objectives and benefits of the conservancy are to support the biodiversity conservation and the socio-cultural heritage of the region while generating income and jobs for the community using tourism as the economic driver.
The former home to Elsa the Lioness, the Samburu National Reserve is full of birdlife, plains game and predators. Samburu has a very evocative and iconic landscape… dry and stunningly beautiful and wild, yet at the same time serene. Samburu also has one of the best concentrations of elephant, but also good numbers of lion, leopard, as well as the plains game. The Samburu Special Five are Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, Somali ostrich and gerenuk (species that occur only in this part of the country). Wild dogs are also regularly seen. This is also home to the proud Samburu tribes people, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who have long shown tolerance for the wildlife that co-exists alongside their cattle.