The best safari parks in Kenya and not to be missed during your first African safari
Kenya is a world-renowned safari destination and offers some of the most beautiful parks in the world where you can experience this adventure.
Among the main safari parks in Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is certainly one of the best places in the world to spot big cats, including lions, leopards and cheetahs. The park is also famous for the great migration of zebras and nus, which move from the Serengeti to Tanzania during the summer months (particularly between late July and September).
But Kenya hosts many other parks that are worth visiting because they are very beautiful and different from the most famous reserve in the country.
I’m talking for example about Amboseli National Park, famous for its view of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Tsavo National Park, Kenya’s largest national park, home to a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards oSamburu, much less visited than the others but where you can see native and very particular species of zebra and giraffe.
During my last trip to Kenya I dedicated a couple of weeks to safari and this adventure gave rise to this post in which I propose the best parks to go on safari in Kenya and practical advice for visiting them.
Priceless emotions are those that each of the 10 best safari parks in Kenya can convey and leave as a pledge for the eyes and heart. In fact, in Kenya safaris are done not only in the Masai Mara but there are many more parks where you can go on game drives.
So where can you feel these vibrations? In the 10 best safari parks in Kenya obviously. Let’s get to know them one by one.
Masai Mara National Reserve
When we talk about safaris in Kenya, the park, although we should say the reserve, that we think of is certainly the Maasai Mara, a small extension of the much larger Serengeti park in Tanzania.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s park par excellence: it is here that the greatest number of safaris take place in which it is sightings of the big 5 are almost guaranteed. Lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos are present here in large numbers and can be seen in every season.The park extends for over 1500 square km of boundless prairies that we usually identify with the name of savannah, interspersed with characteristic groups of African acacias.
In these immense spaces wild flora and fauna live in perfect symbiosis and offer an unforgettable spectacle at every game drive.
Crossed by the Mara river, the Reserve, which takes its name from it and the Masai population, borders to the south with the Serengeti national park on Tanzanian territory.
It’s this contiguity that allows man to see one of the most impressive spectacles of nature: the great migration of herds of wildebeest, zebra, antelope and gazelle from south to north in the months from July to October and vice versa between January and February.
The meeting with the Masai, the approach to their tribe and their traditions certainly completes the safari experience also on a cultural level.
Within the Reserve it is also possible to take a special safari: a hot air balloon flight (balloon safari) which allows you to see the unfolding of savannah life from above. It’s from the skies of Kenya that we thus have a global idea of the interactions between wild animals and flora, of their movements, of the great circle of life that we can see here in total and natural fulfillment.
If when landing in Nairobi you have to choose just one park in which to go on a safari, the Masai Mara Reserve which rises along the Great Rift Valley is the spot not to be missed.
Amboseli National Park
The Amboseli National Park was made official in the seventies south-east of Nairobi, almost on the border with Tanzania.
It’s a park very rich in waters that filter from the volcanic rocks and originate from the sources of the highest mountain in all of Africa: Kilimanjaro.Kilimanjaro. a>
In addition to these, Lake Amboseli is also a source of life for the animals and flora that live there. Here there are large herds of wildebeest, elephants, zebras, giraffes, impalas and leopards that populate the savannah at over 1000 meters above sea level. The possibility of meeting lions and hyenas cannot be ruled out and the charm of the 370 different species of birds living here is certain.
Its uniqueness is given by the postcard background guaranteed by the presence of Kilimanjaro. Every game drive facing south has this incredible background: the great mountain covered in snow, sometimes surrounded by clouds, other times shrouded in mist. Who wouldn’t want a shot of the savannah with Kilimajaro in the background?
And what about the presence of the Masai. This is their land, here the culture and traditions of this ethnic group are so close that they can be scrutinized, explored and experienced together with them.
Easily reachable from both Nairobi and Mombasa, Amboseli Park is accessible all year round.
During the dry season which goes from May to October and from January to March the aridity reaches high peaks and Lake Amboseli dries up. in its bed new tracks for game drives are available to reach the heart of the park through an undoubtedly unusual setting.
The rainy period should not, however, be frightening: these are mostly medium-lasting showers that leave room for clear, clear skies immediately afterwards.
Nakuru National Park
The Nakuru National Park is located in the Rift Valley region of Kenya and covers an area of approximately 188 km². The park was established in 1961 as a wildlife reserve and was later elevated to a national park in 1968. The park takes its name from Lake Nakuru, a vast expanse of alkaline salt water, which takes up much of the land. park area.
The park is famous for its large population of pink flamingos, which attract visitors from all over the world. Pink flamingos are present in large numbers on the shores of the lake, where they feed on algae and small crustaceans. The park is also known for its large population of rhinos, both white, the largest population of this species lives here, and black.
In addition to pink flamingos and rhinos, Nakuru National Park offers a wide variety of wildlife, including buffalo, giraffe, zebra, antelope, crocodile, hippo and numerous predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah. The park is also an important breeding site for waterfowl, including pelicans, African spoonbills and sacred ibises.
The landscape of Nakuru National Park is characterized by a variety of habitats, including acacia forests, open grasslands, wetlands and rocky cliffs.
These diverse habitats offer a wide range of wildlife spotting opportunities. The park is easily accessible by both car and air, with Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport located just 160km away.
In summary, Nakuru National Park is a popular tourist attraction in Kenya, famous for its large population of pink flamingos and rhinos, but with a wide range of wildlife and diverse landscapes to explore.
Aberdare National Park
To the north of Nairobi, in vertical development, is theAberdare National Park. It is a mountainous park with the most disparate landscapes, as the altitude here ranges from 2000 to over 4000 metres.
The change of terrain, environments and scenarios is the true richness of this park: the variety ensures lively and never tired interests.
I safari that take place at Aberdare are unique due to the altitudes reached, the animals encountered here are rare elsewhere, such as theilochero (bushpig), the hyraxes, the tiger genet and the bongo (a very rare antelope). Are these all names you’ve never heard of? It’s here that they are discovered and remain forever imprinted in the mind.potamocero (giant forest pig), the
Obviously the park is also populated by the most famous African animals such as elephants, rhinos, leopards, hyenas, baboons, colobus monkeys, wild dogs, warthogs and many others that will satisfy visitors in search of wildlife.
Between a waterfall, a passage through the equatorial forest, a picnic in the boundless prairies, you can also include a guided walking safari or why not activities fishing in mountain streams or bird watching.
For enthusiasts, accompanied by expert guides, it is possible to go horse riding: riding in a landscape as unique as it is lush is a must for lovers of the genre.
Boredom here, as has been perceived, is a banned term as there are many sighting and sporting opportunities offered by the Aberdare National Park. A couple of days of safari are due in order to fully enjoy everything the park has to offer.
Samburu National Park
Samburu is certainly not the most famous park in Kenya and precisely for this reason it is the one that should be explored far and wide, because reserves many surprises.
Usually once you land in Nairobi you head towards the parks in the south, in this case instead you go north to the Samburu Game Reserve. Endless skies, arid expanses and palm-lined rivers are the astonishing landscape that awaits visitors.
Its surface extends in an impressive manner from the center of the country to Lake Turkana and its vastness brings together a succession of different landscapes that range from flat, rocky areas with dry rivers to greener areas surrounded by hills.
The safaris that take place here are suitable for those with the spirit of an explorer and for those who don’t want to miss out on some unique features, such as the presence of a colony full of Grévy zebras, leopards and the very rare beisa oryx.
The Samburu live here, a population belonging to the Maasai, about whom much has been said in novels such as “The White Masai” or “I dreamed of Africa“. The charm of ethnic groups that are so traditional and rich in culture linked to their land is certainly a plus of this Reserve.
Tsavo East National Park
The Tsavo East park is the largest protected area in all of Kenya and, together with Tsavo West, is the closest to coast of theIndian Ocean.
Easily reachable from the seaside resorts on the coast such as the famous Diani, Watamu and Malindi it is recommended for those who want to enjoy a safari combined with a holiday relaxing on the white beaches of Kenya.
The red and dusty earth covers every street of the park creating a very suggestive and characteristic atmosphere.
Another natural element distinguishes this protected area: the‘lava plateau called Yatta Plateau, almost 300 km long, which develops from north to south along the river that crosses the park.
The life of the fauna that lives here runs wild and free as well as protected like never else.
At Tsavo East you can perceive the harmony between species and the strength of nature at the same time: the big 5 are all present, as are other animals such as giraffes or impalas, bison, sky monkeys and flocks of the most disparate birds.
The best possible safari is with a jeep due to the vastness of the park, but also on foot for small stretches, near the lakes, in the plains, accompanied by guides and guards for the safety of visitors.
Due to its well-preserved biodiversity, scientific research and studies are carried out within a protected and reserved area. It’s this is evidence of an exceptional habitat for flora and fauna, an exceptionality unique in the world.
Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West is adjacent to Tsavo East and an ideal destination for a safari when staying on the east coast of Kenya. Here the savannah and the open areas alternate with green expanses vast enough to make you lose your gaze.
There is no shortage of typical African acacias and hilly slopes and even swamps covered by equatorial forest.
All the big 5 are present in the Park and it is said that in Tsavo West it is possible to do one of the most beautiful safaris in the world it is the magnificence of nature.
Natural springs and pools are also a must-see because they become the habitat of hippos and Nile crocodiles, whose population is well nourished here. A safari is therefore ideal for enjoying so much variety and beauty.
Hell’s Gate National Park
A short distance from Nairobi, therefore easily reachable even on a day trip, is theHell’s Gate National Park . The name suggests the treasure it preserves: the park is called the mouth of hell due to theirrepressible geothermal activity that occurs here free.
Famous are its geysers, the geothermal vapors that vent from the ground, the rocky towers and the canyons with a surreal atmosphere.
The setting is crazy and also favors a slow approach and exploration through safaris on foot or by bike, rock climbing and, why not, natural spas in the waters thermal baths present here.
At the same time we are in an African park that is also excellent for its fauna composed mainly of African bison, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, baboons, antelopes, eagles, vultures and hundreds of different bird species.
It’s a well-stocked list of fauna that together with the flora and surrounding lunar environments creates a unique background for exploration, which is 35 million years old and doesn’t look that way because it is well preserved.
From here to Lake Nakuru it is a short step, the visit can therefore continue northwards to the pink body of water which is so covered in the massive presence of flamingos.
Meru National Park
In the geographical heart of Kenya, about 4 hours from Nairobi, lies the Meru National Park. It is, today, one of the best known parks in Kenya thanks to its recent revaluation and the elimination of poaching problems. The park takes its name from the Meru people who live nearby, a tribe that traditionally lives from agriculture rather than hunting or gathering wild animals
Despite this, due to its position far from the most touristy areas, it is little traveled and this makes it very wild. The nature is green and lush, the rivers cross vast prairies and the animals lead a life that is as free as it is wild.
Zebras, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, antelopes, pythons and cobras are just some of the protagonists of the fauna of the Meru National Park.
With the guide, you can organize a walking safari in the forest, reach the great Rojewero river and its observation point for hippos and crocodiles, among other river species. For those who love rhinos, however, inside the Park there is what is called the rhino sanctuary, a protected area with a high concentration of this species.
The Meru National Park is located in the north-eastern part of Kenya, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro and the border with Tanzania. It’s a small park, but it’s home to one of Kenya’s largest elephant populations, as well as other wildlife like lions and leopards.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Nature Reserve)
Ol Pejeta is a nature reserve in Kenya that is home to the last surviving male northern white rhino.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located in the Laikipia region of Kenya and is one of Kenya’s largest and most diverse animal sanctuaries. In addition to a large population of African wildlife, the conservancy is known for its rhino conservation project.
The Ol Pejeta conservancy covers an area of over 90,000 acres of land and is home to over 10,000 wild animals, including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, antelope, cheetah, leopard and numerous predators such as lions and hyenas. The reserve offers several safari circuits, including jeep, walking and cycling safaris. There are also opportunities for night safaris, bird watching and visits to local tribes.
The Ol Pejeta rhino conservation project is one of the most important in the world. In fact, the reserve is home to the largest number of black rhinos left in Kenya, there are over 120 individuals. There are also white rhinos, including two females that were moved to Kenya from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
Furthermore, the Ol Pejeta project has implemented a series of conservation initiatives to protect rhinos and their habitat. It has adopted advanced security methods, such as the use of drones to monitor the territory, and has worked hard on collaboration with local communities to prevent stealth hunting and the use of innovative technologies for soil conservation.
Ol Pejeta is also an important research centre, with numerous ongoing projects for wildlife conservation and scientific research collaborating with universities and international organizations.
Ol Pejeta offers a unique safari experience, with several circuits and opportunities for bird watching and cultural visits and, if you love rhinos, the reserve is the place to see them (actively contributing to the very important conservation work that he carries forward every day).
You can visit Ol Pejeta on safaris that include other parks, such as Samburu National Park or Aberdare National Park.
Mount Kenya National Park & Reserve
The Mount Kenya National Park and the Forest Reserve that contains it are UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the exceptional biodiversity that is still intact.
Its peculiarity lies in its development at altitude, the park is accessed at around 1500 m above sea level and you can reach the highest point of Mount Kenya at 5,199 m above sea level.
The nature here is surprising because unusual for the African continent. The Alpine flora integrates perfectly with the African fauna and the ecosystem is unique in its perfection. At lower altitudes you can encounter elephants, herbivorous hyraxes, white-tailed mongooses, small antelopes and even bushbucks (African antelopes which are very common in Kenya). Leopards, lions, rhinos, bongos and warthogs are rarely sighted but the mountain environmental conditions do not prevent them from being able to live there.
The Mount Kenya National Park is ideal for mountain lovers at all latitudes, for trekking enthusiasts, for those who want to climb the second highest mountain in Africa.
Due to its grandeur and its position along the Equator line, Mount Kenya is a sacred mountain for the local populations and a myth for the explorers who have ventured into these areas of Africa since the nineteenth century. Here you can breathe a sense of submission to nature, of prostration and respect in the presence of a heritage that is still intact.
Shaba National Reserve
The Shaba National Reserve is located in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya. It’s a small reserve, with only 700 square kilometers to explore, but the diversity of wildlife makes it one of the best places in Africa to see a variety of animals.
Shaba National Reserve is a popular destination for nature lovers seeking an authentic, off-the-beaten-path safari experience.
The reserve takes its name from the Shaba River, which flows through the park creating an oasis of wildlife in an arid region and bare. The reserve was established in 1974 and is made up of a vast area of savannah, acacia forests and rivers, which offer a unique natural spectacle in the world.
Shaba National Reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, cheetah, leopard, lion, oryx, impala, kudu, dik-dik and many other species. Furthermore, the park is famous for its rare and endemic species, such as the Rothschild’s reticulated giraffe and the cat wild African. Birds are no different, with over 400 species recorded, including Verreaux’s eagle, wild eagle and Pel’s owl.
Shaba National Reserve is also famous for being the temporary home offamous naturalist Joy Adamson, who lived and worked on the reserve from 1977 until his death in 1980. The reserve became famous throughout the world thanks to the book “Born Free” and the film of the same name which tells the story of Elsa, a young lioness adopted by Joy Adamson.
In addition to wildlife viewing, Shaba National Reserve offers many other activities, including hiking and mountain biking, visits to local villages and the Samburu communities living in the reserve.
Sibiloi National Park
Extremely remote from both Mombasa and Nairobi, Sibiloi National Park is located in northern Kenya, and borders .eastern shore of Lake Turkana
It is worth a visit not only for its semi-desert geographical conformation and of volcanic origin and for its wildlife, but also for its historical origin and the important archaeological discoveries made here. The human and animal fossil remains found here have been the basis of studies of the evolution of the human species. Nothing more fascinating.
A tour in this area with its arid and hot climate puts a strain on the body, but offers great emotions. Safaris must be properly organized with all the subsistence equipment available: entry to this park is permitted only if travellers’ safety and autonomy measures are respected.
One of the most intense emotions offered by the Sibiloi Nation Park is certainly the encounter with the primitive and traditionalist populations who have settled here forever. Above all, that of the Turkana.
There are several species of animals that can be seen in Sibiloi National Park, including many that have adapted to life in the desert. In the park you can see Grevy’s zebras, oryxes, reticulated giraffes, greater kudu, impala, springbok, dik-dik, gazelles, common zebras, African buffalo and even spotted hyenas. There are also many species of birds including the African sea eagle, pelican, marabou and pink flamingo.
Additionally, Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world and is home to many unique fish species, including the Turkana tigerfish.
Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is a nature reserve located a few kilometers from the center of the city of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The reserve covers an area of approximately 117 square kilometers and has become one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
The park was founded in 1946 as a game reserve and later transformed into a national park in 1961.
The park is a protected area that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including zebra, giraffe, buffalo, oryx, gazelle, antelope, lion, leopard and many others. The park is also famous for its large population of rhinos, which were reintroduced to the park in the 1980s.
Nairobi National Park is an ideal place for nature lovers and those who want to enjoy a safari experience without straying too far from the city. The reserve is open all year round and is easily accessible by car. The park was also designed to be accessible to people with physical disabilities, with specially built trails and accessible toilets.
The park is also a great place for birdwatchers, with over 400 bird species recorded in the area. Among the bird species present in the park are the Pel’s owl, the Verreaux’s eagle and the serpent eagle.
Nairobi National Park is also famous for its elephant orphanage, which is located within the park. The orphanage is home to young elephants who have been abandoned by their mothers or have been orphaned for other reasons. Visitors can witness elephant feeding and also feed baby elephants. To visit the orphanage you must book in advance because access is limited.
The reserve is ideal for nature lovers, birdwatchers and those who want to enjoy asafari experience without straying too far from the city. Additionally, the elephant orphanage within the park is a popular attraction for visitors.