Masai Mara and Beyond:
Return to Safari Origins

Kenya is where classic safari began. The Masai Mara Game Reserve remains the most prolific area in all of Africa for big cat viewing and arguably the best game viewing overall. Seasonally, the existing top wildlife viewing of the Mara is augmented by a large portion of the Great Migration that pours into Kenya typically from late July into October.
Kenya is diverse with vibrant culture and a wide range of activities, such as hiking, walking safaris, biking, horseback riding, and cultural experiences.
The conservancies bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve offer an uplifting partnership with local communities to benefit from tourism enterprise. The conservancies are on par with the reserve for quality wildlife viewing yet they also operate with exclusive traversing rights, ensuring a non-crowded experience. Off-road driving, night drives, and guided walking safaris enhance the safari experience and can complement a safari in the Mara Reserve with convenient road transfers. The Laikipia area, in Central Kenya, has become an outstanding place for game viewing of rare species such as African wild dogs and Grevy’s zebra, and offers great adventure with diverse activities; this is outstanding for active travelers who want more variety than a heavy dose of game drives. While there is plenty to experience in country, a trip to Kenya can easily be combined with safari in Tanzania, primate trekking in Rwanda or Uganda, or a beach finale.
Great migration across the Masai Mara
Maasai jumping in the Mara

Kenya Sample Safaris

Classic Kenya Adventure: The Roots of Safari (Origins Collection)

From $3,995 per person This Classic Kenya Adventure incorporates all the highlights for a first-time safari traveler, with a bit of extra flair for adventure! View outstanding wildlife in the most iconic location in all of Africa, experience the thrill of off-road and night time driving in the wild bush, place foot to Earth among the flora and fauna as you connect on a deeper level with nature's smaller intricacies, and experience authentic local Maasai culture with your guides and at local community projects.

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Kenya Luxury For Less

From $9,995 per person This safari includes some of our favorite unique Kenyan accommodations and a huge variety of activities, all for an incredible discount- over 40% off of the high season rate.

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Kenya Family “Lion King” Safari

From $9,950 per person Kenya is the original safari country and still delivers the classic game viewing experience. This family safari is inspired by Disney's 2019 remake of its classic animated film, "The Lion King."

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Wild Kenya: Big Cats and Biodiversity in the Mara

From $3,995 per person Kenya is the original safari country and still delivers the classic game viewing experience. Featuring the Masai Mara Reserve, which is quite likely the most productive wildlife viewing area in all of Africa, this is a superb location for serious game viewing and photography.

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Kenya Safari Regions

Amboseli National Park

Overview

Amboseli National Park sits on the border with Tanzania, offering unparalleled views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In the rain shadow of Kilimanjaro, it receives little rain yet is the recipient of the mountain’s subterranean water, which surfaces in Amboseli as freshwater springs. As such, the park supports a vast diversity of wildlife including about 1,500 elephants and over 400 bird species. The park is a critical component of ancient elephant migration paths between Kilimanjaro, Tsavo, and Amboseli and offers one of the last remaining opportunities to observe the large-tusked elephants known as “tuskers,” a genetic quality which poaching has bred out of the species.
In 1991, the Government of Kenya and UNESCO designated the greater Amboseli region a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” with the purpose of protecting the ecosystem as well as the important cultural heritage of the Maasai communities that surround. The human-wildlife conflict that is inevitable when cohabitating with elephants requires a great deal of public education and community upliftment.
Activities in Amboseli focus on day time game drives. For those who are staying in an adjacent private concession, guided walking safaris and night game drives are possible.

Location

Amboseli is located in the Loitoktok District in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya south of Nairobi and west of Tsavo National Park. It sits across the border from Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park. It spans about 150 square miles.

Wildlife

Amboseli’s swamps are great for water birds as well as large herds of elephants. Flamingos may be present in the wet season (March-May and October-December). The park has about half of the bird species of the Somali-Masai biome that occur in Kenya and over 400 bird species recorded. The short grassland ecosystem mixed with woodland and swamp offers ecosystem diversity that encourages a rich variety of wildlife.
  • Elephants
  • Exceptional Birdlife
  • Cape buffalo
  • Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Gerenuk
  • Lesser kudu
  • Fringe-eared oryx
  • Cheetah
  • Impala

Best Times to Go

Mid December to March or July to October are the best months for wildlife viewing and views of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Laikipia Plateau

Overview

Laikipia is predominantly comprised of large private ranches, the majority of which have converted from agriculture to conservation tourism enterprises. While cattle and fencing can still remain part of the landscape, the stunning vistas, free-ranging wildlife, and activity variety remain an attractive combination. The cultural opportunities are also a regional highlight. The Laikipia Plateau includes the sub regions of Ol Pejeta, Loisaba, Il’Ngwesi, etc.

Location

The Laikipia Plateau is north of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares and south of Samburu. While it is possible to drive the 3.5 hours from Nairobi, we recommend flying.

Wildlife

The Laikipia Plateau offers different wildlife strengths as the landscape changes from forests, plains, and valleys. The region offers the chance to observe unique sub species such as Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe. It also offers the chance to encounter endangered species such as African wild dog and black rhino. Your expert safari planner can pair you with the appropriate region within Laikipia based on your specific wildlife goals.
  • Elephant
  • Grevy’s zebra
  • Reticulated giraffe
  • African Wild Dog
  • Thompson’s gazelle
  • Rhinoceros (both black and white)
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Spotted hyena
  • Oryx
  • Kudu
  • Eland
  • Klipspringer
  • Cape buffalo
  • Coke’s hartebeest

Best Times to Go

The wildlife and weather are at their finest during the dry season months from June through September with hotter temperatures beginning in October.

Lakes System of the Great Rift Valley

Overview

Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the three Great Rift Valley alkaline lakes of Nakuru, Elementaita, and Bogoria cover over 32,000 hectares and are home to 13 globally threatened bird species. In addition, the lakes house some of the highest bird diversities in the world. The lakes are the most important foraging site for the lesser flamingo as well as a breeding site for great white pelicans. Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake, which means the flamingos avoid it but serves as an important location for African fish eagles and other waterfowl.

Location

The lakes can be reached by road transfer and are approximately 3 hour’s drive northwest of Nairobi to reach the first of the lakes. Lakes Elementaita and Nakuru are west of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares with Lake Bogoria farther north. They are north of the Masai Mara, south of the Laikipia Plateau, and east of Lake Victoria. Because of the proximity to Nairobi, the lakes are a popular driving route stop and business conference location. We prefer less crowded areas, but for those who want to focus on bird life, this is a good stop.

Wildlife

1.5 million lesser flamingos rely on the Lake System’s algae for foraging. The lakes are also the Great Rift Valley’s most important breeding ground for the Great White Pelican. 100 migratory bird species use the lakes as an integral connection within the Eurasian-African migration route. Lake Nakuru has been delcared a rhino sanctuary with both black and white rhino species found.
  • Black rhino
  • Nubian giraffe (previously known as Rothschild’s giraffe)
  • Baboons
  • Greater kudu
  • Lions
  • Exceptional Birdlife

Best Times to Go

We recommend this regions specifically for individuals who want to including important birding sites. The movement of the Lesser flamingos is difficult to predict, however they tend to be present between August and October before the short rainy season of November. Bird life is best during the months with higher chance of rain, so end of October through June.

Lake Turkana National Park

Overview

In Kenya’s remote northern desert sits the world’s largest alkaline lake and the largest permanent desert lake. As Africa’s fourth largest lake, it is fondly named the Jade Sea because of it expansiveness and striking color. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also designated by Birdlife International as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It is a critical habitat for migratory birdlife and the largest breeding ground for Nile crocodile. It is also the source of major fossil discoveries with five distinct species of human and pre-humans found within one location, which makes it a critical site for studying human evolution. There are 100 identified archaeological and paleontological sites in the area. Sadly, the lake is under threat from Ethiopia’s dam and irrigation development in the Omo Valley.
Lake Turkana National Parks is actually three separate national parks: Sibiloi National Park, the South Island, and the Central Island National Parks. The Turkana Basin is over 7 million hectares, so exploring the area fully requires ample time. The lake is a sport fisherman’s paradise where Nile perch, tilapia, catfish, and tiger fish are abundant. Other activities include meeting the Turkana tribe, visiting the Koobi Fora archeological site and museum, and boat trips to the Central Island where flamingo and crocodile breeding areas can be found.

Location

Lake Turkana National Park sits at the northern Kenya border with Ethiopia where the Omo River flows through the Omo Valley into Kenya and fills the lake. It is a remote region of Kenya, which is most commonly accessed by charter plane. The closest city is Lodwar to the west.

Wildlife

Lake Turkana is not a traditional wildlife destination, although mammals can be found in Sibiloi National Park. In addition to being an important breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, it is also an important site for waterbirds (84 species) including the wintering ground for 34 Palearctic migrants. Approximately 100,000 little stint migrate from northern Europe to winter here and at least 23 species breed here. The lake has 47 species of fish including 7 endemics.

  • Crocodile
  • Flamingos
  • Exceptional birdlife
  • Hippo
  • Genets
  • Hedgehog
  • Porcupine
  • Zebras
  • Grants gazelle
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Striped hyena
  • Oryx
  • Greater kudu
  • Cheetahs
  • Monitor lizards
  • Nile Perchs
  • Tilapia
  • Tiger fish

Best Times to Go

Lake Turkana is one of the hottest places in Kenya with usual temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius / 100 Fahrenheit. It can drop as low as 32 degrees Celsius / 89 Fahrenheit in the winter (July). The harsh weather conditions typically dictate the seasonal preferences, but birdlife would be best from December to April.

Lewa Conservancy

Overview

With expansive views of Mt. Kenya, OlOlokwe Mountain, and the Mathews Range, the 45,000-acre Lewa Wildlife Conservancy offers stunning scenery as well as rich biodiversity. The conservancy has been a successful haven for rhino with both black and white species present. In addition to being a rhino sanctuary, it offers some of the stronger wildlife viewing outside of the Mara for mammals and is one of the only places in Kenya where sitatunga antelope can be found. Activities within this private conservancy vary widely and include game drives, guided walks, pre-historic site visits, conservation and community engagement, camel trekking, and horseback rides. Guests also have the option of visiting the Ngare Ndare Forest to enjoy the canopy walkway and waterfall swims.

Location

Lewa Conservancy is situated south of Samburu and north of Mount Kenya. It is approximately 3 – 4 hour’s drive from Nairobi, and we recommend scheduled flights.

Wildlife

  • Bushbuck
  • Gerenuk
  • Zebra
  • Lions
  • Leopards
  • Elephants
  • Somali ostrich
  • Hartebeest
  • Gunther’s dikdik
  • Rhinoceros
  • Sitatunga

Best Times to Go

Peak season for weather and wildlife conditions is July through September. October can start getting a bit hot. Camps are generally closed November, April and May.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Overview

The Masai Mara National Reserve is appropriately the most iconic park in Kenya. No Kenya safari is complete without including it. With grasslands, woodlands, jutting escarpment, and sinuous rivers, the mixed habitat is home to some of the highest concentration of mega fauna on the continent. With the Mara River flowing through the Serengeti and into the Masai Mara, the two parks are a conjoined ecosystem that hosts the famous Great Migration of 2 million wildebeest and zebra. As early as late June, herds begin to cross the Mara River and flood the grasslands until their return to the Serengeti usually in September and October. Without the spectacle of the Great Migration, the resident wildlife viewing is outstanding year-round.
In some regions of the Mara, such as the Mara Triangle, off-road game driving is permitted, but otherwise activities are focused on day time game driving. Depending on the camp, it may also be possible to organize a walking safari outside of the park boundary. A hot air balloon ride is a popular add-on experience as well.

Location

The Masai Mara is the natural southern border of Kenya adjacent to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. A six-hour road transfer from Nairobi is possible, but we recommend regularly scheduled flights.

Wildlife

The Masai Mara is an Eden for big game with excellent chances of encountering the majority of the iconic safari species during a stay with some of the largest numbesr of big cats anywhere.
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Cape buffalo
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Gazelle
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Maasai Giraffe
  • Exceptional birdlife
  • Wildebeest
  • Black rhino
  • Hippopotamus
  • Crocodile
  • Waterbuck
  • Eland

Best Times to Go

Wildlife viewing in the Mara is excellent year-round, although many camps close during the rainy season months of April and May. Precipitation is possible in the short, rainy season of November, but many still travel at this time. Precipitation is possible in the Mara year-round, but the driest months are July through September.
For those looking to optimize their chances of observing the Great Migration river crossings, it is best to travel from late July through early September. For those looking to avoid the crowd potential, January, February, September, and October are lovely.

Mara Conservancies

Overview

The Mara National Reserve is surrounded by private conservancies with no fencing between to interfere with wildlife movement. With fewer regulations in the private conservancies, most of the properties offer night game drives, off road driving, and guided walking safaris. In addition, many of the conservancies are in partnership with with local communities, which makes for more genuine community engagement.
Because the safari camps within the conservancies have exclusive traversing rights, there tends to be fewer vehicles to contend with at sightings. Many travelers enjoy spending time in the Mara Reserve for convenient access to the Mara River and then finish with time in a conservancy to enjoy the activity variety and exclusivity.

Location

The conservancies adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve are essentially a contiuation of the Mara.

Wildlife

  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Cape buffalo
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Gazelle
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Maasai Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Black rhino
  • Hippopotamus
  • Crocodile
  • Waterbuck
  • Eland
  • Exceptional birdlife

Best Times to Go

Same as the Masai Mara National Reserve

Meru National Park

Overview

Meru National Park was made famous by Joy Adamson’s, Born Free, a story of rehabilitating and releasing Elsa, the lioness in the 1960’s. The book was made into a feature film, which showcases the beautiful scenery of Meru National park. The park’s landscape includes more wetland than the Mara as well as semi-desert ecosystem that includes giant baobab trees. The park also houses an 84-sq kilometre rhino sanctuary, which is returning the species to Meru after poaching in the 90’s extirpated rhino and nearly killed off elephants.
Meru National Park has been resurrected through the conservation efforts of the Kenya Wildlife Service and tourism support. Over 1,350 animals have been translocated to the park including elephant, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, reedbuck, and leopard. The popularity of the Born Free story has certainly contributed to its successful rehabilitation.

Location

Meru National Park is situated northeast of Mt. Kenya and east of Samburu.

Wildlife

  • Lion
  • Hippopotamus
  • Lesser kudu
  • Grevy’s zebra
  • Caracal
  • Aardwolf
  • Leopard
  • Elephant
  • Giraffe

Best Times to Go

The peak season months of July through October offer dry conditions to encourage wildlife to reliable water sources.

Mombasa and Diani Beach

Overview

It is difficult to believe white sand beaches and warm ocean waters are within such close proximity to world class safari parks. Mombasa is Kenya’s oldest and second largest city. Diani Beach is a quieter area with arguably the best beaches in Kenya and exclusive resorts adjacent to the Diani Chale Marine Reserve.
Activities in the area include snorkeling and diving along the barrier reef in the marine park. The reef protects the shores from large waves, making it a good location for paddling and swimming. Kite surfing is also popular.

Location

Diani Beach is a one-hour drive from Mombasa Airport, which receives direct flights from Europe. The Ukunda Airstrip at Diani Beach receives scheduled flights from the Masai Mara and Samburu.

Wildlife

With the pressures of a large human population and shipping port nearby, the marine park is an important sanctuary to a colorful variety of tropical fish, turtles, and migratory birds. The area is recommended more for a beach holiday than a wildlife experience.

Best Times to Go

Mombasa is hot and humid year-round with higher levels of humidity during rainier months of November, April, and May.

Nairobi

Overview

The capital city of Kenya is a bustling metropolis that has become known as Africa’s Silicon Valley. With a diverse global community that attracts business investment worldwide, Nairobi is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Unfortunately, the traffic can be terrible. It is helpful that international airport allows arrivals to avoid the heart of the city by staying in Nairobi National Park or the neighborhoods of Karen and Langata. These areas offer access to local highlights including the Sheldrick Widlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, AFEW Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen Museum, Kazuri Bead Factory and more. They also provide convenient access the domestic airport for access to the safari areas.
Nairobi National Park sits on the southern boundary of the city, and the park surprises people by the quality of the sightings, uniquely staged with a skyline backdrop. This is a productive area for safari and offers the travelers who prefer to avoid time in the city to jump instantly into nature while settling into the new time zone on arrival.

Location

Nairobi is located in south-central Kenya. It offers a convenient point to move into iconic safari regions and is one of the most well-connected hubs with other countries.

Wildlife

Nairobi offers very special wildlife interaction experiences from the AFEW Giraffe Centre and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage. Visitors to the Giraffe Centre have the opportunity to get up close to friendly Nubian (previously known as Rothschild’s) giraffe and feed them treats while learning about the threatened species. These are the same giraffes that famously visit the iconic Giraffe Manor, located on the grounds.
Nearby, travelers can visit the world’s most successful orphan rescue and rehabilitation program for elephants, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The nursery is open to the public for one hour every day at 11 a.m. and travelers who foster an elephant in advance have access to the evening foster family visiting hours. It is also possible to book a private evening visit, which must be organized far in advance due to the popularity.
Nairobi Natinoal Park Wildlife:
  • Cape buffalo
  • Rhino (black and white)
  • Giraffe
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Ostrich
  • Baboon
  • Coke’s hartebeest
  • Hippo
  • Waterbuck
  • Gazelles
  • Zebra
  • Exceptional birdlife

Best Times to Go

This is a year-round destination, but most travelers prefer to avoid the rainy season months of April and May.

Northern Rangelands

Overview

The Northern Rangelands comprises several conservancies, which are governed and managed by local indigenous communities and are connected by the contemporary model of community-led conservation. Tourism is the economic engine for this model, which strives to develop sustainable business opportunities that are linked to conservation.
The community-management concept formed in the 90’s through the efforts of Ian Craig of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Il Ngwesi community north of Lewa where they showed proof of concept with balancing livestock husbandry and wildlife tourism. The Namunyak Conservancy, an 850,000-acre area connected to the Mathews Mountain Range, was established soon after, and the Northern Rangelands Trust was formed to provide training and funding for the increasing number of communities who wished to participate.
In 2015, the Sera Conservancy became the first community conservancy in East Africa to establish a black rhino breeding sanctuary.
The most recent example is the success of the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, which works in partnership with the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to serve as the northern location for rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned elephants, fully operated by the local Samburu people.

Location

The Northern Rangelands conservancies are a large swath of protected community land north of Samburu in the center of the country. It is an 8-hour drive to reach the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary from Nairobi, for example. There are scheduled charter flights to reach the area.

Wildlife

  • Giraffe
  • Elephant
  • Gerenuk
  • Lion
  • Cheetah
  • Grevy’s Zebra
  • Wild dog
  • Eland
  • Oryx
  • Black rhino
  • Cape Buffalo

Best Times to Go

Typically, camps are closed for the month of November as well as April and May. The driest months are July through September.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs

Overview

Samburu is a relatively small reserve, which focuses on wildlife viewing along the Ewaso Nyiro River and serves as an ecosystem cross section between the central highlands and the dry, desolate north. This results in a unique species diversity including subspecies that prefer arid landscapes such as the Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, and reticulated giraffe while the river offers respite for thirsty elephants and ideal territory for ambush predators such as leopard and lion. Bird life is good as well. With larger properties sharing a relatively small area, visitors will need to be accepting of the likelihood of having other vehicles at sightings.
Buffalo Springs is the northern boundary of Samburu with relatively similar wildlife viewing.

Location

Samburu sits north of Mount Kenya and south of the Northern Rangelands’ Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Wildlife

  • Beisa oryx
  • Elephant
  • Reticulated giraffe
  • Gerenuk
  • Grevy’s zebra
  • Leopard
  • Exceptional birdlife

Best Times to Go

Typically, camps are closed for the month of November as well as April and May. The driest months are July through September.

Tsavo National Parks

Overview

The Tsavo Conservation Area is technically three distinct national parks: Chyulu Hills, Tsavo West, and Tsavo East. Tsavo is the largest park in Kenya and one of the largest on the continent. The park is split by the railway to Mombasa, which was made famous by the book, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, by John Henry Patterson in 1907 which recounts the story of a pair of lions who were preying on laborers during the railway construction. Today, Tsavo is a favorite spot for birders and also serves as the reintroduction site for the Shelrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphans.
The landscapes of the parks are quite distinct with more swamps and springs in Tsavo West that attract good birdlife while Tsavo East is more arid and flat.
Chyulu Hills National Park sits just north of Tsavo West and was coined by Earnest Hemingway as the “Green Hills of Africa.” The volcanic rock topography jutting out from the surrounding flat lands offers a unique ecosystem for flora and fauna as well as stunning vistas. With private luxury lodges inside the park, activity variety includes waterhole hides, horseback riding, hiking, biking, and guided walking safaris in addition to the standard safari activities. The Sheldrick Widlife Trust has also established a new orphan reintegration unit at Umani Springs in Chyulu Hill’s Kibwezi Forest. It is also one of the better areas to experience Maasai culture.

Location

Tsavo Conservation Area is located half way between Nairobi and Mombasa in the southeastern corner of the country. Transfer options are a four-hour drive from Nairobi, commuter train, or scheduled flights.

Wildlife

  • Black rhino
  • Elephant
  • Cape buffalo
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Hippo
  • Kudu
  • Giraffe
  • Forest hog
  • Bush pig
  • Mountain reedbuck
  • Exceptional birdlife

Best Times to Go

Typically, camps are closed for the month of November as well as April and May. The driest months are July through September.

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