Tips for the first time traveller
When it comes to safaris, Kenya delivers some iconic images: hundreds of wildebeest spilling over the croc-filled Mara River, herds of elephants in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, lionesses stalking dusty savannah. If watching wildlife is the reason you’re heading to Kenya (and let’s face it, it probably is) then you won’t be disappointed, whether you’re looking to go on a luxury honeymoon, rough it on a camping safari or find family-friendly animal encounters.
There aren’t words that are adequate enough to describe how amazing this holiday was. A dream come true! Phenomenal! Magical!
– Dean Maylon, after returning from our Kenya wildlife camping safari
But there is more to holidays in Kenya than getting out into the bush. There are formidable challenges for hikers in the form of Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Range, as well as sublime stretches of coastline around Mombasa and beyond. Offshore, the enticing island of Lamu is a heady mix of incredible beaches and Swahili architecture. For a real adventure, follow bumpy tracks through the parched desert landscapes of the north, where you’ll find old frontier towns, vibrant tribal culture and the shimmering ‘Jade Sea’ of Lake Turkana.
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Biking itself and meeting the locals on the way was fascinating enough, but camping on Maasai grounds and talking to the villagers was a bonus on top.
– Roman Holderbach on our biking holiday in Kenya and Tanzania
If you'd like to chat about Kenya or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
There’s a huge amount to see and do in Kenya, so it’s unlikely you’ll pack it all in a single visit. Instead, take a look through our highlights and choose a tour that takes you to a few favourites.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli delivers the quintessential safari photo op: the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro looming over huge herds of elephants crossing the plains below. You’ll also see zebras and wildebeest here, and there’s a good chance of spotting lions, cheetahs, white rhinos and hyenas, along with hippopotamus and birdlife in the soggy swamplands, fed by the mountain’s meltwater. Walking safaris and night-time game drives are allowed in the conservancies bordering the park.
Beach breaksKenya’s coastline – all palm-fringed white sands and warm Indian Ocean – can rival that of any tropical island. Diani’s 10km of white sands are a classic retreat, complete with reefs and colobus monkeys, while Lamu Island offers archaeological sites as well as beaches, and Mombasa, the gateway to the coast, makes for a fascinating history lesson. It dates back almost 1,000 years, and is peppered with 16th-century forts, Swahili architecture and Islamic mosques.
ConservanciesOwned and managed by local communities – often the Maasai – conservancies are filled with wildlife and are a great way to interact with local people in a genuine way. Activities such as bushwalks and night-time game drives are permitted and there are far fewer visitors. In some cases, there’s more wildlife, and more variety, found in the conservancies than in the parks and reserves. On top of that, your fees go back into the community and conservation. You can find out more in our guide to responsible tourism in Kenya.
Great Rift ValleyThe 9,600km-long Rift Valley cuts across Africa, leaving behind a trail of lakes, islands and lush oases. Eight of these lakes are in Kenya. Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world, Naivasha has over 400 species of birds, and Elementaita is a deep blue soda lake, attracting white pelicans. There’s some impressive geological activity here too, with hot springs and steam vents bubbling from the deep.
This national reserve is synonymous with both wildlife and the Maasai tribes. A stage for the Great Migration, the Mara sees some two million wildebeest and zebras spilling into it from June to October – if they survive the precarious Mara River crossing. The surrounding Maasai conservancies give the chance to spend time with the Maasai people, with bushwalks, village visits and warrior training lessons.
Arriving in the village – the warmth of the welcome, the pleasure of staying in a manyatta (mud hut). Also, the activities are wonderful – walks amongst the zebra, milking cows, firing bows and arrows, lighting fires.
– Helena Smith on our Masai Mara safari camp in Kenya tour
Mount KenyaAfrica’s second highest mountain, Mount Kenya soars to 5,199m. It’s topped by glaciers, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is home to gorgeous flora and wildlife, yet it’s surprisingly quiet, in stark contrast to nearby Kilimanjaro’s barren yet busy slopes. Want to make it to the summit? Most tours will take about five days of trekking to achieve this feat. If you’re sticking to the base, check out the nearby Mau-Mau Cave – a national monument – which sheltered the Freedom Fighters in the 1950s.
Samburu National ParkSamburu, which doesn’t feature on many standard Kenyan safaris, was the home of Elsa the lioness of Born Free fame and is still a wonderful place to see lions, as well as leopards and cheetahs, which hunt in this wild landscape. The park is also home to the ‘Samburu Five’ – five rare animals found only in the Samburu ecosystem: the Somali ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and Beisa oryx.
...and what not to do
Best time to go
How long is needed to see Kenya?
In a week
Internal flights connect Nairobi to airstrips around the country, so a week will give you enough time to tackle one or two national parks, for example Lake Nakuru National Park alongside the Masai Mara or Masai Mara and Samburu National Park. For a more adventurous choice, try a walking safari or a small group camping safari, or for something more sedate, you could choose to combine a safari with time at the beach. Travelling as a family? You can definitely take the kids if you choose an itinerary that’s designed for it. Then there’s always the option of ignoring safaris altogether and focusing on tackling the slopes of Mount Kenya.
In two weeks
Two weeks is a good amount of time to start to get to know Kenya, although there’s still a chance you’ll wish you’d stayed longer. Most tours offer an overview of the main highlights: beaches, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and some culture. Lots of tours, including family holidays, are tailor made, while many combine the highlights of Kenya with a neighbouring country such as Tanzania or Uganda.
More about Kenya
The best time to visit Kenya depends on whether you’re interested in visiting the Masai Mara, Mombasa or Mount Kenya - but we've covered it all in our guide.
The Maasai, the Mara and the greatest of migrations - our Kenya guide reveals how to explore these vast landscapes and meet the people who live alongside this extraordinary nature.
There are a remarkable amount of places to visit in Kenya with Samburu, Amboseli, Tsavo and the Mara River Crossing all featuring on our interactive map.
From game drives and walking safaris to meeting the Maasai, kicking back on the coast or embarking on volunteering projects - we have plenty of worthwhile things to do in Kenya.
Travel to East Africa and you can squeeze the maximum wildlife watching from a single holiday.
Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s most popular safari destinations.
Long established as a superb destination for a safari holiday, Kenya has abundant wildlife, iconic landscapes and plentiful accommodation to suit all budgets.
The Masai Mara is one of Kenya’s most compact reserves, yet huge populations of wildlife thrive here, their numbers swelled by the arrival of millions of wildebeest and zebra during the Great Migration.
Mount Kenya is Africa’s second highest mountain, a 5,000m+ dormant volcano that features rugged peaks, glaciers, waterfalls and lakes.
Meeting Kenya’s Maasai people is a cultural highlight of any holiday to Kenya and time spent with them brings multiple benefits to you, the visitor, and to the Maasai community.
The annual circular Wildebeest Migration in East Africa sees mega herds moving across the plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya, on a constant quest for food.
Travelling in Kenya with kids isn't as scary as it might at first sound. There is an abundance of child friendly activities here, and you'll be spoiled for choice.
We share our top tips on the Great Rift Valley, climbing a mountain in East Africa and staying safe in Nairobi, plus valuable advice from our holiday reviews.
There are plenty of ways to travel right in Kenya with understanding Kenya responsible tourism issues, the perfect place to start.