Kenya Tours and Travel Guide
Kenya Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Kenya, the heart of the former British East Africa, was the setting for the books and films “Born Free,” “Out of Africa” and many others. As a result, countless Westerners have been inspired to experience a Kenyan safari for themselves. If you’re one of them, Kenya may be the right country for you.
Its modern capital, Nairobi, provides a good transition when flying in and out, but the real action is in the savannahs and valleys of the south, the semi-arid deserts of the north, and the 300-mile-long Indian Ocean coast to the east, with its lovely beaches and intriguing Swahili culture.
Top National Parks in Kenya
Kenya has numerous National Parks, filled with beautiful scenery, botany, and animals.
Check out these parks on your Kenyan Adventure:
1. Mt. Kenya - this is the second tallest mountain in Africa. The surrounding area is filled with lakes, glaciers, dense forest and animals. Activities include mountain climbing, camping, and animal spotting.
2. Amboseli National Park - known as the “home of the African Elephant,” and is one of the best viewing areas to see herds of animals. Sitting by Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, there is a variety of habitats in the National park, including wetlands, savannah, and a dried-up lake bed.
For travelers looking for a local, authentic, cultural experience, visit the nearby Maasai community. Wildlife includes leopards, cheetahs, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, and crocodiles.
3. Nairobi National Park - sitting about an hour outside of Nairobi, this makes for an easy day trip from the city. Experience the wildlife (including black rhinos, leopards, lions, buffalo, and giraffes) running through the wide open grass plains, with the city skyline in the background.
4. Samburu National Reserve - a game reserve that sits on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in the Rift Valley area of Kenya. The park is noted for being quiet and serene, since it’s distance and inaccessible prevented major tourism for a while. While the park is home to the normal big five, there are rare species that are exclusive to the park, including Grevy’s zebra, and Kenya leopard.
5. Maasai Mara National Park - one of the most famous safari parks in the world, and is known for its high density of lions and leopards. Many visitors come to Maasai Mara to watch the Great Migration that happens during the dry season (July-October). This reserve is also located in the Great Rift Valley. Most visitors of Maasai Mara are likely to see all of the big five because of the abundant wildlife.
Wildlife on a Kenya Safari
Like most African Safaris, there is a good chance that all five of the “big five” will live in the park. The big five include lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhinos. Other common animals on Kenya Safaris include zebra, the African impala, giraffe, warthogs, and wildebeest.
In July-October, there is the Great Migration, where millions of animals (wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle) move up from Tanzania into Kenya. Of course, visitors will still be able to spot these animals throughout the year, but it’s a magical experience to witness the Great Migration.
No two safaris are the same, even if you go on multiple game drives in one day. Each drive offers an opportunity to see different animals. With that, there is no guarantee you’ll see every animal on every drive.
Regardless, little compares to the serenity and beauty of seeing wildlife roaming free. A lot of animals spend time in the shade midday, as the sun is hot. Consider safaris that offer sunrise and/or sunset tours, which is when most animals are out walking around. If you do go on a safari during the afternoon, keep a lookout under trees, and above branches, as they like to relax in the shady spots.
For travelers who want to get out and see the animals and the wild, but may be hesitant about “roughing it” or sleeping out in a tent, a luxury safari may be the perfect solution! There are plenty of lodges that have actual bedrooms, viewing decks, provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even have spas and pools!
For those who are looking for a bit more of a “tent luxury safari,” consider a stay at the Angama Mara. The individual tents are made up of one glass wall that look over the rift valley. The other three walls, and the roof, are made up of canvas. Walk out the sliding glass door onto the deck incredible views of the valley. Feel the fresh air at night and hear the wild, by sleeping with the sliding door open. There is a mesh door that can be latched for safety.
Luxury safaris can start in the low hundreds (American dollars) per room per night, and can climb into the thousands, per night! Having all meals provided, and safaris with knowledgeable guides included are usually worth the high costs of luxury safaris.
One of the best parts about traveling is getting to try new foods!
Here are some of the must try foods for anyone visiting Kenya:
1. Ugali - Known as Kenya’s most common food staple, Ugali is often made from cornmeal that is mixed with boiling water. The cornmeal is heating until it forms a block of cornmeal paste. It’s heavy and feels like a grainy dough. Ugali is often eaten with mixed vegetable or stew.
2. Irio - another famous dish in Kenya. Green peas and potatoes are boiled and mashed up before mixing with corn. Combine the mixture with some roasted nyama choma meat and serve. For vegetarians, substitute the meat for some stew.
3. Wali wa Nazi - a more popular food found on the coast along the Indian Ocean. White rice is cooked with grated coconut, giving it a fun hint of flavor. This food is often served with fish, chicken curry, vegetables, or stew.
4. Nyama Choma - also known as roasted meat, is another popular food choice in Kenya. While the most common forms of nyama choma is goat and beef meat, there are also chicken and fish options. The roasted meat is combined with salt for a little bit of extra flavoring. Some places offer an option for the meat to be “fried” rather than roasted.
5. Chips Mayai - also known as a French fry omelet, is a combination of French fries that are mixed with beaten eggs. Pop the “fries” (or chips) in the pan, cover with the beaten egg, and cook.
This dish is often served with chili tomato sauce. Tomato sauce and fries are a popular combination in Kenya. Other options include KenyanBajias (French-fries with tomato salsa) or MasalaChips (French-frieds with tomato and chili sauce, herbs, and whatever other foods the chef decides to throw in.
6. Mandazi - this makes a great snack, breakfast, or dessert option. This deep fried dough is basically a Kenyan doughnut. Any doughnut lover should be on the lookout to try Mandazi when in Kenya
Masai and Merchants
Kenya is diverse: scattered among the most populous native tribespeople (such as Kikuyu, Luo, Meru, Samburu), you’ll find Masai warriors in their red tribal garments the far south, black-robed Muslim women on Lamu Island, merchants from China and east India along the coast, British expats in Nairobi, and global archaeologists and anthropologists out in the field. The only thing excluded from that list are the visitors from around the world who come to view and photograph some of the most remarkable wildlife on earth -- they can be found nearly everywhere.
If you book with an experienced safari operator, you can expect to see all or most of these creatures in their natural settings: lions, elephants, giraffes, Cape buffalo, rhinos (both white and black), hippos, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeest, hyenas, warthogs, ostriches, flamingos, and many more.
While it’s not necessary to visit a half-dozen different game parks to see most of the animals you want to see, tours that take you to several distinct parts of this fascinating country have the advantage of allowing you to drink in views of some of the most extraordinary landscapes on earth. The volcanic, lake-pocked Rift Valley, the vast sprawling savannahs, the red-tinged soils and desert sands of the interior, the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean – all combine to create magical backdrops that are doubly enhanced by glimpses of giraffes galloping by the roadway or the sounds of elephants marching and trumpeting in the distance.
The Great Migration
While most everyone would like to be in Kenya in late summer and early fall for the Great Migration of wildebeest, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles racing north from Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains into Maasai Mara National Reserve , don’t overlook the quieter pleasures of game-viewing at Meru National Park or Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya. Other great spots can be found in the wide-open spaces of vast Tsavo East and West national parks to the south.
The January-February dry season is ideal for these parks, but even during the spring rainy season game viewing can be productive and rewarding, especially in the hands of expert guides. To help you find those guides, Stride offers an ever-expanding list of reputable safari tour operators who respect the environment and know how to find the animals and the best angles for photographing them.
With a wide selection available, you’re sure to find the right Kenyan safari to suit your level of adventurousness and budget. And before you know it, you’ll be starring in your own production of “Into Africa.”
Things to Know Before You Go
Best time to visit Kenya
The best time to visit Kenya is also the most popular time, which is in the dry season, between June and October. This is when the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra occurs. (Read more below about the Great Migration.)
If you're looking for a less crowded experience, consider the rainy season toward the end of the year, where there are fewer visitors. The landscape is still incredible, growing green and lush vegetation from the rain.
December brings an opportunity to see newborn animals. Rainy season does bring out more mosquitoes, though, so make sure you bring a lot of mosquito spray! April and May bring flooded roads, due to the wet weather, and limits the animal sightings.
When to see the Great Migration in Kenya
There are few things that compare to the Great Migration - the movement of over one million wildebeest, and hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelle. This happens during the dry season, when the animals cross over the Tanzanian border to Kenya, in search of food and water. For travelers hoping to see the Great Migration in real life, the best time to see it is during the dry season, between July and October. A great viewing point for this action is at Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Travel Tip – consider going on the “should seasons” of the Great Migration to avoid the crowds. The animals are starting to cross in early June and are still making their way in September and October. July and August line up with school holiday schedules, making it an extremely busy period to visit. If the schedule allows, try to visit Kenya either right before July or after August, when schools are back in session.
Weather in Kenya
The temperature in Kenya is pretty consistent throughout the year, with highs in the 60’s to low 80’s. There is a dry and wet season. Expect lows to hover around the 50-degree mark year-round. If you’re looking for warmer, drier weather, the best time to go is between mid-December and March.
Temperatures begin to drop around April, as the rainy and cooler weather begins to roll in, lasting until August. Temperatures start to rise again in September, as the rain begins to clear out. Still expect some rain through early-mid fall. Heading out towards the coast will bring hotter and more humid weather.
Packing list for Kenya
When packing for your Kenya tour, it’s important to bring breathable clothing. Bring items such as t-shirts and shorts for during the day. At night, it’s important to have long pants and long sleeve shirts to cover up your body from the mosquitoes and other disease transmitting insects.
The sun in Africa can be deep and heavy, so make sure you’re protected with sunglasses and a hat, too. If you’re heading on a safari, make sure to pack neutral clothing, such as khaki, so you “blend in” with the surroundings. Bring proper footwear for the savannah, especially if you’re doing a hiking safari that involves a good amount of walking.
Just like any international travel, make sure you have a proper travel adaptor for electrical outlets. If you forget yours, these are available to purchase at airports. Bring chargers for any electronics. You’ll need protection from the intense sun, so make sure to grab some sunscreen.
A first aid kit is advised, with any medication needed, and some anti-malaria medication. Since proof of vaccines may be required upon arrival, bring documentation of vaccinations.
For anyone going on a safari, bring binoculars. Most animals can be seen without binoculars, but if there is an animal in the distance, it may be worth bringing a pair. Don’t forget a camera too. Take plenty of photos to remember this amazing trip!
Other things to keep in mind before traveling to Kenya
1. Visas - Check to make sure you do not need a visa. As of July 2019, Kenya offers single-entry visas that are available upon arrival. Kenyan immigration plans to end that soon. If you need a multiple entry visa (such as you plan on leaving the country, and then coming back), you must apply for a visa prior to traveling to Kenya.
2. Vaccinations – In order to enter Kenya, proof of a yellow fever vaccination should be prepared. For those who are arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever, that proof is required. Before traveling, check the Kenya Travel Information to ensure you’re up to date with all required (and recommended) vaccines.
Side Note – Malaria is common in Kenya. Taking precautions, such as covering up at night, and taking anti-malaria medication, can help reduce your chance of getting malaria.
3. Transportation – Kenya offers budget airlines, that can help travelers get to cities across the country (and internationally) for relatively low prices.
Make sure to read the terms and conditions before purchasing. Some budget airlines require check-in before reaching the airport, and require travelers to print their airline ticket at home.
Those who do not print their ticket before reaching the airport will be hit with a fee to print the ticket at the airport. Trains are also an affordable way to travel between destinations.
4. Currency and banking – The Kenyan currency is the Kenyan Shilling. Consider exchanging money through your bank before you leave home. For those who forget, or need to pull out more money, you can draw out Kenyan Shilling from ATMs. Check with your bank and make sure to set any required travel notices.
Failure to notify your bank may result in your card getting denied through the ATMs, meaning you can’t pull out money. Bringing cash is a good idea in case you have trouble withdrawing money. Also, some services allow payment in the form of United States Dollars.
5. Passport/Identification – In Kenya, it is required by law to carry your passport on you at all times. You may be asked to present it if you are stopped by police.
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