How to organize a safari in Kenya

How to organize a safari in Kenya

Practical guide to organizing the perfect safari in Kenya

Kenya, like Tanzania, is a safari destination par excellence. Compared to Tanzania, however, costs are a little lower as the state has been open to tourism for longer and is therefore less exclusive.

However, less exclusive does not mean low quality. Simply the parks are more established, visited for longer and by more people and also smaller than the Tanzanian ones.
When I say small, obviously I mean it by comparing them to the immense protected wild spaces of Tanzania , but even in Kenya it can take days and days to travel the length and breadth of the parks.

In Kenya the landscapes are incredibly fascinating. From dawn to dusk there is a succession of colors and rhythms of animal life which will enchant you.
It’s easy to fall in love with Africa on a safari.
It’s crazy to experience nature in such a visceral way. Finally, it is immediate to understand that the sickness of Africa has hit us.

Even though Kenya has been accustomed to safari tourism since the 1970s, we are still in East Africa. Finding information from home to organize the safari of your dreams is complicated.

Contacting agencies means receiving standard proposals and pre-packaged packages that often fail to satisfy personal needs and preferences. Searching online is complex because the question is who to trust? Who to trust? Who’s behind it? How is the money spent distributed?

Don’t leave anything to chance: Africa provides a series of unexpected events on its own. Better to avoid unpleasant surprises due to the rush to book or incorrect pre-departure considerations.

If you are planning a safari in Africa be sure to read these posts:

Kenya Travel

Which airport to choose for a safari in Kenya

In Kenya there are two main airports to consider for safaris: Nairobi and Mombasa . The first inland and the second on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Depending on the parks you intend to explore, you choose one or the other. Even better, if you have at least two weeks available, land in Nairobi and return from Mombasa. In this way the discovery of Kenya is complete and a few days at the sea can be added to the long safari.

Flights to Kenya from Italy, if purchased in advance, can cost up to €400 return .

What documents are needed to travel to Kenya 

The passport is logically necessary, accompanied by a tourist visa which can be requested at the Embassy before leaving or directly at the airport . To avoid queues upon arrival, perhaps at night, I recommend doing it before departure. The visa costs €40 or $50 .

The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the moment you enter the country,

The vaccination booklet and especially the Yellow Fever one are mandatory, but they will also tell you about it at the ASL during the medical consultation.

Which parks to visit during a safari in Kenya

The most famous and most recommended parks are all in the central south of the country.

The Masai Mara is very famous , it is the natural extension of the Tanzanian Serengeti. It is here that the greatest number of safaris take place in which sightings of the big 5 are almost guaranteed and this makes the park a must see. It lies entirely in the Great Rift Valley and this makes it unique among Kenya’s parks. It is ideal for those who have a few days available and want to stay near Nairobi, because this is a park that gives its all.

Samburu , north of the city, and Amboseli further east are also easily reachable from Nairobi . The latter is the park from which it is possible to admire Kilimanjaro from the Kenyan side: the highest mountain in Africa. Combining it with the Masai Mara is easy if you plan at least 5 days of safari.

For those who want to stay close to the coast and still guarantee a respectable safari, I recommend the Tsavo National Park which is divided into East and West. It is a huge and very varied park, easily accessible from the coast. I recommend including a night in the park or its surroundings.

There are other interesting parks in the north of the country, for example near Lake Turkana, but the current political and economic instability in those areas make them unsafe for tourists.

Take a trip

Combine safari with trekking in Kenya 

In Tanzania the immediate answer would be: to Kilimanjaro ! Kenya, on the other hand, boasts its own record-breaking mountain: Mount Kenya . It is the highest in the state and also the second highest in Africa with its 5199 m above sea level, in short, a very respectable colossus.

The park that develops on its slopes allows you to take a very special safari, in an almost alpine natural environment due to its geographical characteristics and unique biosphere in the world.

Also memorable is a trek on Mount Kenya, accompanied by mountain guides with everything you need for camping and the climb to conquer the record-breaking peak. To do this you need at least 4 or 5 days.

The sea after the safari in Kenya 

Malindi is the place of luxury resorts and mass tourism. The offer of exceptional solutions and the fabulous sea are not lacking here and are integrated with an evolving African spirit capable of satisfying the needs of the most pretentious European tourist.

Quieter and still authentic Diani Beach which, with its 13 km of coastline with white sand as fine as talcum powder, attracts tourists from all over the world. Behind Diani, a lush hinterland that can be explored on day trips brings the mind back to inland safaris. 

Looking at the sea, however, two excellences: Wasini and Chale Island . The first is immersed in the Marine Park of the same name where it is possible to snorkel and swim with dolphins. The dhows depart from the coast and, under full sail, take them to Wasini where it is possible to eat fish on the beach and relax on a dream island.

Chale Island, on the other hand, is a paradise for tourists who love luxury resorts. It is an exclusive island where the most refined travelers can stay in unforgettable pampering for a honeymoon or romantic getaway.

How much does a safari in Kenya cost

The budget to foresee for a week-long safari in Kenya, with car and driver/guide shared with other travellers, is around 1700 dollars per person.

This amount allows you to visit the parks closest to Nairobi such as the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Naivasha and Nakuru on an all-inclusive basis and accommodation in tented camps. The solution is certainly basic but affordable, however it should be considered that prices can increase in high season.

Obviously, even if conditions change, rates can rise significantly. Think for example of choosing more luxurious accommodation, such as lodges, or private transport or extending the safari to two or more weeks, etc.

Kenya is vast and has a lot to offer at a lower price than neighboring Tanzania. Despite this, it cannot be said that a safari here is absolutely cheap. Many aspects must be evaluated and each trip must be personalized according to needs and periods.

black and white giraffe on brown grass field

Where to sleep in Kenya 

The accommodation solutions during the safari are numerous and range from basic to the most luxurious.

Campsites are tented camps that are generally located near parks and reserves. However, a selection of fields are also available inside the parks at a higher cost than the former. The characteristic of these campsites is that guests sleep in tents. These are well organized and safe tents, with beds inside and private toilets and showers. A good quality-price compromise for those who want to go on a safari with an eye on costs.

The lodges  are accommodation facilities located outside the parks and suitable for service-conscious and demanding tourists. The offer of the lodges is varied but can reach that of a five-star hotel. The main feature is to offer excellent quality rooms, perhaps with a terrace overlooking the savannah, river or Great Rift Valley for example, set in a protected naturalistic context.

At the seaside the offer is very varied. Tourist villages of various levels alternate with resorts and minimalist accommodation rented to backpackers. If the goal at the seaside is to enjoy relaxation and eliminate worries, villages and resorts are the solution. Especially since there are ones for all budgets.

Why didn’t I mention tent and sleeping bag? Because in Kenya it is not possible to camp freely inside or outside the parks . The wild and uncontrolled nature, combined with the absence of suitable structures, would make European camping too dangerous.

How to get around Kenya

Thinking of a safari in complete freedom, you easily imagine yourself driving a sand-colored Jeep. Raised roof, cameras with lenses ready and endless savannah around complete the dream.

Realizing the safari of your life as you imagine it is possible. It is obviously necessary to rent a private jeep by presenting an international driving license . The daily cost of renting the vehicle is around 250 US Dollars and generally includes petrol and often also the driver. By changing the type and choosing a van with a sunroof you can save a little: the daily cost is around 150 US Dollars.

Don’t forget that driving is on the left and that the presence of road signs is rare and confusing. For this reason it is always better to also have a driver who is perhaps also a naturalistic guide. During the safari he will be able to give you a lot of information about the fauna and flora and also about Kenya itself.

If the intention is to share the means with other travel companions to keep costs down, then it is better to rely on agencies that organize safaris . Hotels in the city often offer standard but certainly reliable solutions.

silver van on road

Best time to go on safari in Kenya 

I feel like saying that there is no better time for a safari in Kenya. Whether it is winter or summer, the naturalistic conditions of the parks change but the spectacle is still guaranteed.

I would instead consider the seasons of nature that do not correspond to those of man. For the Masai Mara and Amboseli the dry season which goes from July to October is recommended because you can see savannah animals and big 5 more easily. In fact, they go in search of water in the few pools available and well known to the guides. The wetter season, however, includes rapid downpours and night-time rains in April and May and from October to December. However, this does not prevent the success of good safaris.

The season of the great migrations which is divided into two phases is very fascinating. The flow from Tanzania back towards Kenya runs from July to September. The return of the wildebeest species to Tanzania begins in October.

Lake Nakuru is completely covered in pink flamingos and is one of the most spectacular natural oases in the world according to National Geographic. When to see it? Between July and September and between January and March it reaches its peak of splendor.

On the coast and in Tsavo National Park, the rainy months are to be avoided: May-June-early July and November.

In short, every park, every region of Kenya, every activity has its ideal month. Don’t be held back by those who tell you not to leave: Kenya is vast enough to welcome tourists all year round.

Choice of operator and responsible safari 

If you choose to go on a safari nothing should be left to chance. First of all because it is one of the most electrifying experiences you can have and then because it can have its complexities.

At an organizational level, it is always better to rely on expert agencies who usually offer all-inclusive packages. By this I mean that if you travel alone or in two it is easy to be placed in pre-formed groups and go on safari in company. In this way, the most impactful costs are also shared, i.e. driver, guide, car.

The agencies I am telling you about are registered ones, with at least one office and a professional operator. They can be found in Nairobi, but also in cities close to the main parks.

However, be wary of those who solicit business on the street: you cannot be sure of the type of business your friend of your friend has. And importantly, always make sure that the agency always carries out its business regularly and that it is insured in case of unforeseen events .

The prices offered to you with downward negotiations may seem attractive.
But ask yourself if that cost is enough to pay for the car, park fees, food and water, and even the staff. It is from personnel expenses that usually cut costs, also because car rental and parks have fixed prices. This is totally incorrect and amoral.

Would you ever work for free? I think not. And the guys who guarantee the success of a perfect safari shouldn’t do the same. Don’t be misled by the cost, always think about the people and their value before booking. Being in Africa on safari doesn’t mean having a superficial adventure without opening your eyes. It means taking the great journey into nature and into the people who usually live in Kenya and other states.

Organize a safari in Kenya with local operators

If you are looking for a local operator to organize your safari in Kenya, contact us on Kipepeo Experience. For 10 years we have been collaborating with local operators, designing tailor-made and personalized trips to discover some of the most beautiful destinations in the world

What to wear on safari 

Depending on the time of year and the areas, the heat can be more or less suffocating and the cold more or less present. Always check the temperatures on a reliable site and remember that the seasons do not correspond to ours. In August it is winter in Kenya, muggy on the coast and cool in Nairobi and its surroundings.

Lightweight and comfortable shorts and t-shirts, I recommend that they are easily washable and quick drying. Long trousers for the evening and light colored sweatshirts to discourage mosquitoes from buzzing around you. Cap or in any case a hat to protect you from the equatorial sun.

Health and vaccines for a trip to Kenya

At the local health authority in your area they will be able to give you the most precise and detailed information on vaccines or recommended prophylaxis. For Kenya it is usually Yellow Fever and Antimalarial. Then there are accessory vaccines such as Typhoid, Rabies and Tetanus which are often recommended. But there is nothing else to do than seriously consult a doctor well in advance. The local health authorities are often clogged with travellers, especially during the high season, so move in time. Obviously, repellents and an excellent travel pharmacy with personal medicines and even broad-spectrum antibiotics cannot be missing.

Read also: SOUTH AFRICA What to See and Do; Guide 2024

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