Kenya is where the African safari was born and remains the perfect destination for unparalleled game-viewing, cultural interactions and lots of unique activities.

Kenya has a tremendous diversity of both landscapes and animals: the awe-inspiring animal migration and open grassy plains of the Maasai Mara, the Amboseli’s stunning views of the snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro, and the arid landscapes of Samburu. Kenya is the perfect destination for an active traveler with all the horseback riding, camel riding and tubing you can handle. There is something for everyone.

Conservation is central to Kenya’s tourism industry and is of great importance throughout the country, and the work of communities and old families with historic ties to the land ensures the continuity and success of Africa’s animals. From the rhino breeding programs in Lewa to the elephant research at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and predator programs, there is a groundswell of support for the precious resources of this fascinating country.

Part of the wonder of traveling is to see how others live without getting the (often) cheesy, touristy front, and in this Kenya excels. If you do it properly, Kenya offers travelers the opportunity to get a true sense of the country and its people, and opportunities to interact with locals who are eager to meet and converse with travelers are truly unique in the safari world.

Although Kenya is perhaps best known for views of the wildebeest migration that travels into the Maasai Mara between July and August, you can visit Kenya at almost any time of year. If any time should be avoided it is the long rains between Mid-March and late May.

With Nairobi as a major African hub, it is easy to combine Kenya with Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar, Northern Mozambique, Seychelles and Ethiopia. Combining Kenya with Southern Africa requires a bit more complexity and travel time but can be done.

Secrets and Tips

  • Combine the Maasai Mara with an area with lots of activities like Laikipia.
  • Adopt an elephant and get special afternoon access to the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphange to interact with the babies.
  • October and Mid-January through March are both great times to be in Kenya with good game and fewer crowds.
  • Meru National Park has excellent game-viewing and birding.

Good To Know

Kenya offers incredible safaris and game-viewing, as well as the most unique family-owned properties. Kenya is the perfect destination for active travelers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who would like Kenya?

Kenya is perfect for travelers looking for an unparalleled game experience, opportunities for cultural interactions and lots of activities. It is perfect for couples, honeymooners, families and small groups, and if you are hoping for a classic tented camp safari experience, look no further.

Kenya offers accommodation that suits a tremendous range in both budget and style, from tented camps and large lodges and beach resorts to small, quirky, family-owned properties; you can tailor-make your trip to suit your needs. Kenya particularly excels at what we call barefoot luxury, beautiful properties that have a wonderfully relaxed style and feel, and which are quite open to nature. The only hesitation we have is for guests looking for numerous super-luxury options. For those looking for a 5-star Singita-level safari experience, the options in Kenya are limited to a small handful of properties. Perhaps look towards Tanzania if you feel you need a more polished experience within East Africa.

Kenya is absolutely perfect for those looking for lots of activities to do alongside classic game drives. With a range of exciting things to do, active people will never be bored. The Lewa/Laikipia area is a hub of fun activities, from bi-plane flights and helicopter excursions to camel and horseback ridingfly fishing, biking, quad biking, tubing, game walks and game drives. Families are well catered to, and as any parent knows, when the little ones are entertained and happy, the parents are also having a good time!

Culturally, Kenya offers some of the most interesting and authentic experiences that can be had on safari, with numerous opportunities to interact with and learn from members of Kenya’s 40+ tribes, including the semi-pastoral groups such as the Maasai and Samburu. While canned cultural experiences do exist, we value working with properties that offer clients continuous opportunities for simple authentic interactions like casual conversations with the staff and guides at your camp or a visit to the local village to see the schools, workshops and projects that many properties support. When done right, Kenya offers you the chance to immerse yourself in another culture, without feeling as though you are being humored, and return home with a true sense of the country.

This friendly nation welcomes visitors, and its people are always happy to discuss their traditions and culture with new friends. In short, Kenya’s got soul, that illusive aspect that makes a visit so memorable.

Who wouldn't like Kenya?

With a travel warning - which has been in place for over 10 years now - and much bad publicity, Kenya may be a little more than some travelers want to handle. That said, no incidents of violence in Kenya have targeted tourist areas and properties in and around the national parks which are very remote with few people of any kind around. We would all personally travel to Kenya in a heartbeat but another destination such as Tanzania or Botswana might be a better fit if you want to avoid the worry.

Travelers with very low budgets should avoid Kenya for safari. There is a quite substantial mass tourism market in Kenya, which means if you cannot afford to be in the private conservancies, or in the exclusive camps, you could find yourself being part of the mini-bus craziness during peak season, which will make for an unpleasant experience.

Kenya is a barefoot luxury destination in many ways, and for those looking for very polished luxury accommodation will have a hard time finding it. Upmarket accommodation in Kenya is quite open, often with bucket-showers and solar power, which may not suit those who prefer to be well-enclosed with solid walls and air-conditioning. Many of these camps are quite special and unique but definitely are not to everyone’s taste.

Many of the camps and lodges are family- or staff-hosted. Sitting around a communal dinner table, or socializing around a camp fire is part of the package. If you are looking for a private experience you may need to look further south for a safari destination – South Africa would be more appropriate. Part of Kenya’s charm is sitting and chatting with the people who have lived and worked the land for generations, taking in their views on life.

Finally, if you are very interested in a self-drive program we do not recommend Kenya. The roads can be harrowing and your game-viewing experience will suffer. If you are committed to self-drive, South Africa and Namibia are your best options.

What are our favorite areas?

Kenya is a country of varied landscapes, cultures, animals and activities that make for a wonderfully diverse safari experience. It is very rare that the Maasai Mara isn’t included in a Kenya itinerary and it is second to none in Africa for game-viewing. SamburuAmboseli, Meru and Tsavo also offer good game-viewing opportunities. We love combining the Maasai Mara with the Laikipia area, particularly Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, to give you the chance to get out of your game vehicle and out into the bush on a horsecamel or  foot. There are great opportunities for different kinds of cultural interactions throughout Kenya and the quality of the experience varies more by property than by region. A night or two in Nairobi  offers a chance to see a bit of the city and get up close and personal with giraffes and elephants while shaking off the jetlag, but if the city doesn’t appeal, it’s easy enough to head straight out on safari.

When is the best time to go?

Classic peak season in Kenya is July through September when the wildebeest migration is most likely to be in the Mara. Game-viewing during this time is sure to be great but it is also the most crowded time of year in terms of other visitors, especially in August. As a result we love the less crowded months such as June and October when you have great weather and great game-viewing combined with fewer people and lower prices.

All that said, Kenya is viable almost year-round as a destination particularly because of all the activities available in addition to game-viewing.

Although Kenya is on the equator and the temperature does not fluctuate that much, there are two rainy seasons to take note of: the long rains between mid-March to mid-June, and the short rains in November. June to August is the coolest time of year but is by no means cold.

We don’t think the November short rains should discourage anyone from traveling during that period, but many camps are closed in March, April and May and the rain can make driving a sticky and muddy process.

August is peak season in the Maasai Mara and unless you are staying in the private concessions it will get unpleasantly busy in the park. If you would like to see the wildebeest crossing then we suggest aiming for mid-September, but of course we can’t guarantee where the migration will be!

Is there a time you should avoid going?

If you are averse to crowds we don’t recommend traveling in August, as this is peak season and the Maasai Mara gets very busy. As mentioned above there are two rainy seasons to take note of: the long rains between March to mid-June, and the short rains in November. We don’t think the November short rains should discourage anyone from traveling during that period, but be prepared for some showers. As for the long rains, many camps are closed in March, April and May and the rain can create muddy conditions.

What animals will you see?

Kenya supports a wealth of animals and some of the best game viewing and highest wildlife concentrations in Africa. You will see the Big 5 in addition to numerous grazing species, big cats, wild dog and stunning bird-life. Between August and October you have an excellent chance of witnessing the wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara. If you combine areas like Samburu or Laikipia with the Mara you will also have opportunities to see animals only found north of the equator, such as the rare Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe.

Rhino - both black and white - are found in Kenya’s parks. Reserves such as Solio, Lewa and Ol Pejeta are well known for their rhino conservation work, ensuring you will see these endangered species.

Highlights in Nairobi can be found at the Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary and Giraffe Manor. You can adopt and visit a baby elephant at Sheldrick while Giraffe Manor offers the chance to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures as they stroll freely about and poke their heads through the windows. Only those who stay at Giraffe Manor have access to the property. If you stay in another Nairobi area hotel, you can visit the AFEW Giraffe Center which is open to the general public.

How much should I budget for a safari to Kenya?

Kenya has a range of accommodation options from budget to luxurious properties and you can combine stays in big hotels hotels, small bush camps and lodges to suit your particular limits.

We recommend you look at staying in the private conservancies if you can afford it. They offer a better safari experience away from the crowds and allow you to drive off-road, go on walks, or head out for a spot-lit night drive. 

The budget tours can start as low as $300 per person per night - but this is the bottom of the range for mass-market tourism and we don’t recommend or sell these trips. The upmarket, exclusive properties cost up to $700-$1000 per person per night. For the best experience we do not advocate going below $500 per person per night for a Kenya safari.

What are some of the ways you can experience Kenya?

Kenya offers so many ways to experience the country, from a basic tented camp or safari lodge to a beach resort and from a game-vehicle to the back of a camel or a helicopter. In addition to flying or driving between regions, multi-day walking safaris are a fantastic option for active travelers. Take a helicopter to fish in the snow fed streams on Mt. Kenya, bike through the tea plantations of Tigoni, ride a quad bike to your fly camp for a night under the stars or head out on a game survey and count rhino in Lewa. We can't emphasize the variety of experiences in Kenya enough-it's the perfect place if you want to get out and explore.

Regions in Kenya

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Marcia Gordon