A country known for its wildlife and nature experiences, Kenya will exceed your expectations in more ways than you perhaps thought possible.
Home to 54 million people and 42 tribes, all with their own languages, Kenya offers a kaleidoscope of cultures that attests to Africa’s diversity at large. The country is an epicentre for activity with bustling cities and thriving national parks that boldly stand as one of East Africa’s finest.
From the dreamy sands looking out to the paradisiacal shores of the Indian Ocean to the rugged peaks of Mount Kenya and across the border to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Kenya’s safari experience never stops.
Dried up lake beds, swamps and giant dunes make up just a few of Kenya’s thriving ecosystems. With such diverse landscapes, come animals in great numbers: Kenya has both the Great Wildebeest Migration and some of the largest herds of elephants in the world. This bold corner of the African continent is said to be the home of safari experiences: both Amboseli and Masai Mara will easily prove their contributions.
Perhaps the least expected part of Kenya’s tours and safaris is the many beaches that form the barrier between the Indian Ocean and the country – the most impressive is Diani Beach. Powder white sands, crystal clear waters and the distant shake of palms will lull you into the easy-going pace of this resort town, the perfect end to your Kenya trip!
Tap into the boundless beauty of Kenya with this travel guide;
When to Visit Kenya
From late June through to October, Kenya has its dry season when the most wildlife are in the country – this is the best time to visit. The Great Wildebeest Migration, Kenya’s most famous wildlife event takes place in August. The wildebeest remain here until October when they return to Tanzania. This is also a great time to visit if you wish to hike while in Kenya as there is little chance of rain.
From July to November and January and February, Kenya receives its highest numbers of tourists. When planning to visit popular areas at this time, be mindful that prices are much higher at this time of year.
Between March and May, Kenya’s rainy season takes over and most parks close. To avoid disappointment, it’s best not to travel at this time.
Experiences and Places to Visit in Kenya
The Great Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara
Over a million animals cross the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in a huge movement led by the greatest confusion (group) of wildebeest ever recorded.
Following an ancient route in search of food and water, the wildebeest make their way from Tanzania to Kenya. A migration safari is a unique opportunity to witness the circle of life in a way that you’ll never experience anywhere else in the world. Predators come to the well-known route to take their prey while many wildebeest also manage to give birth on the dash. As millions of wildebeest stampede towards their new destination, dust rises as the frenzy ensues.
Although it can be witnessed at any time of year, the migration comes to Kenya’s Masai Mara in August, as you’ll see in this luxury safari in Kenya, and leaves again in October.
The rolling savannah plains of Masai Mara are a big part of why Kenyan safaris became so famous. The park is known for its truly spectacular ecosystem and biodiversity, resulting in large numbers of lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhino, wildebeest, and zebra that call this vast expanse of land home for some time in the year.
The land stretches far, only to be interrupted by acacia trees, shrubs and bush that create the perfect environment to spot wildlife as well as an impressive range of birdlife.
Lake Nakuru and Thomson Falls
Birders and wildlife lovers will delight in the beauty of Lake Nakuru, a blue-green algae lake surrounded by a lush national park. As you approach Lake Nakuru, you’ll see a baby pink haze that covers its waters; drawing nearer, they start to take the shape of hundreds of flamingoes that feed on the algae. In addition to the flamingoes, an estimated 200 species of birds come to enjoy its fruits – a highlight of all wildlife Kenya trips!
What’s more, walking trails and a small reserve make for the ultimate Kenya safari day trip where you’ll find black rhino protected among giraffes, lions and hyenas that roam free.
Tumbling down 72 metres, Thomson Falls -originally known as Nyahauhuru which means ‘storm’ in Swahili- sits just outside the town of the same name. The waterfall interrupts a gorge that carves into the landscape with spectacular precision, adding to the majesty.
To make the most of your experience, you can add both Lake Nakuru and Thomson Falls onto your Kenya trip from Masai Mara which are all just a few hours away.
Hiking Mount Kenya
The jagged peaks of Mount Kenya have been formed over thousands of years by an extinct volcano. This is Africa’s second-highest mountain.
Snow-capped peaks and small glaciers carve out a dramatic landscape that makes for a truly spectacular alternative to a safari Kenya holiday as you’ll see in this 4-day Mount Kenya climb. With a range of routes and lengths to choose from, hiking Mount Kenya is a challenging alpine experience that will take you through forests and moorlands over several days.
There are three main peaks to tackle, Batian, Nelion and Lenana; which peak you take on is dependent on your hiking abilities and time of year. No matter what you choose, the changing terrain, dips into Kenyan culture in its many forms, and ever-evolving landscapes will be a lasting memory.
Kenya’s capital of cool is a city like no other. Nairobi is one of the few places in the world where wildlife and nature sit in such close proximity to an urban metropolis.
Kenyan traditions linger in the streets of Nairobi which are juxtaposed by the modernity of its ever-increasing number of skyscrapers. The city is full of oppositions that overwhelm almost all who enter it, however, once you’re in among the chaos on a Nairobi city tour, you’ll quickly relax into its pace and discover its charms.
Whether you are looking to learn more about Kenyan history, looking for a bargain at the Masai Market or want to dance the night away in Westlands – Nairobi promises fast-paced fun. Once you are ready to escape to the quiet, Nairobi’s national park is just a short drive away.
Although often used as a starting point for Kenya safaris from Nairobi, the city warrants a little time. It’s the perfect introduction to the Kenyan way of life.
Amboseli National Park Tours
Amboseli National Park is home to one of Kenya’s best wildlife experiences; it’s known for its large herds of elephants with some of the highest numbers ever recorded.
Amboseli has five different habitats that lead up to Mount Kilimanjaro, sitting on the other side of the Tanzanian border. Between the dried-up lake bed, savannah and swamplands, you’ll encounter the Big 5 and many more while exploring the park, like in this 7-day Kenyan bush and beach adventure. An experience that is only made better by the backdrop of the tallest mountain on the African continent.
Within the larger catchment of the national park, there is a small private Masai-owned reserve that is maintained by the people. With the help of our Local Designers in Kenya, you can enter the reserve to meet the Masai tribe, the largest in Kenya and learn about the culture and history of their land.
If you are visiting Nairobi and want to experience an African safari in Kenya, Amboseli National Park promises not to disappoint.
Tsavo East and West National Park
Should you be looking for the ultimate safari to Kenya, look no further than Tsavo – this is one of the largest parks in the world!
This vast expanse of land is so big they had to divide it in two. Tsavo East and West national parks collectively make up over a million acres of wild savannah and montane forest fueled by its river system. The parks are divided by a railway that workers daringly built while tigers tried to attack them, lending the park’s name ‘Tsavo’ – the slaughtering.
With a warm and dry climate, Tsavo East has bushlands, acacia, grasslands and open plains, and in Tsavo West, rolling hills, vibrant greenery and swamplands characterise the landscape. Such diversity encourages an array of wildlife: large herds of dust-red elephants, rhino, leopards, hippos, kudus and over 200 species of birds stay within its grounds.
Diani Beach and Tana Delta
Sitting just south of Mombasa, Diani is a long string of sand on Kenya’s coastline that is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in the country. Swaying palms stand tall in front of pearly white sand and the vibrant hue of the water creates a balmy atmosphere for the relaxing resort town that hides behind it.
Striking the perfect balance between nature and development, it doesn’t take long to ease into the beachside way of life, where a stroll on the beach and lazing in a hammock seem like the order of the day. After all the excitement of safaris in Kenya, Diani Beach is the dream escape you have been looking for, just like in this 6-day relax on the beach in Kenya.
The Tana River is the longest in Kenya and acts as an invaluable source of life for communities and an impressive array of wildlife. The Delta sits in its most remote corner, just moments from the coast where mangroves meet mighty sand dunes. This creates a unique blend of safari, bush and beach time that surprises all who choose to visit. The Tana River Delta will ease you into a relaxing safari experience, soothed by the calming flow of the river.
How to Get Around When Visiting Kenya
With a strong promise of long and bumpy roads no matter where you travel to Kenya, flying comes highly recommended. Although, there are some things to have in mind when travelling. Flight times often change if your selected time is not popular, our Local Designers in Kenya will take care to make sure you have lots of time on either side of your original flight time to accommodate these changes.
For smaller planes, the route will often mean taking off and landing several times to collect passengers in other destinations – taking airbus to a whole new level.
Rental Cars and Driver-Guides
Most national parks in Kenya allow private vehicles. This brings an unlimited amount of freedom as you take to exploring Kenya’s wildlife at your own pace.
The roads in Kenya are unpredictable and require a fair amount of driving experience to tackle. On your way to national parks, you can expect to run out of tarmacked roads at any time and be met by drivers who are trying their best to stay on the flattest part of the road. However, everywhere else in Kenya is linked by a well-maintained highway.
Should you not feel ready to take on Kenya’s roads by yourself, you can hire a driver-guide to accompany you. Our Local Designers have the knowledge base needed to organise the perfect trip, so all you’ll need to do is sit back and enjoy the (potentially bumpy) ride.
Matatus and Taxis
A Matatus is a shared minibus taxi service that operates in all of Kenya’s towns and cities. You pay the conductor when you get on. If the bus is empty, you must be prepared to wait until it is full before it leaves the bus terminal.
Private taxis are also found everywhere in Kenya’s towns and cities. It’s best to negotiate a price before you hop in.
Where to Stay on Your Kenya Tour
Amid the chaos of the rapid pace of Nairobi, there are some stunning accommodation options in Nairobi Central or the Westlands that will put you right at the heart of it all. This is the best option for first-timers to this hectic city as other locations could result in a long journey and much less time to enjoy the Nairobi tours on offer.
For those looking to discover Nairobi but like to keep their distance from the chaos, Nairobi National Park offers a little nature while still remaining within close proximity to the city. As Nairobi’s traffic is notoriously hectic, you’ll also enjoy being able to get from A to B with ease, this particularly popular with luxury and business travellers.
Safari Lodges in Kenya
Kenya is broadly considered the birthplace of safari experiences and with that comes luxurious safari lodges in the most idyllic locations. From the Masai Mara to Amboseli, accommodation options bring you closer to nature with stunning viewpoints, scenic swimming pools and chalet settings like you wouldn’t believe.
As one of Africa’s finest beaches, Diani has a host of accommodation options suited to everyone from backpackers in Kenya to high-end luxury honeymooners with hostels, hotels and beautiful villas on offer.
The beach locations of Diani offer an outstanding opportunity to wake up to the sound of the waves and embrace the beauty of one of Africa’s most sought-after destinations.
What to Eat While in Kenya
Known as the national food of Kenya, ugali is your staple addition to any meat or fish dish. With a similar texture to polenta, ugali is made of maze or cornmeal which is pounded over hot water until it reaches a dough-like consistency. The density of the ugali varies from town to cities and villages: it’s often considered to be more nutritious if ugali is particularly dense, which is typically favoured with farmworkers.
Samaki and Nyoma Choma
Directly translating to ‘mean fish’ in Swahili, samaki can be tilapia or Nile fish, depending on where you are in the country. Samaki is a staple among Kenyans which is dried or fried and served with ugali.
Kenyans are big meat eaters, so nyoma choma, which is typically grilled goat or beef on an open charcoal fire, is an everyday meal for everyone. You’ll also find chicken is a popular option for this style of cooking. Nyoma choma is always served with ugali and kachumbari which is like salsa.
A speciality in the highlands of Mount Kenya, mukimo is a must when in Kenya. Best served along with a meat-based stew, mukimo is a green mashed potato that is mixed with peas, spinach and corn to add more nutrition, lots of flavour and vibrant colour! This is the sort of accompaniment that you’ll want to make when you arrive home!
This hearty, meat stew is a staple in all households and restaurants. No matter where you go, you’ll find that locals will promote this as a must-try when travelling in the country – the smell alone will convince you to try it!
This slow-cooked dish is typically made with goat or beef and a variety of vegetables such as carrots and onions for more depth in flavour.
Festivals in Kenya
With more tribes and cultures than most, Kenya’s festivals are surprisingly few and far between, however, they still aim to celebrate age-old traditions and preserve local culture.
Lake Turkana Cultural Festival
Music, food, intricate costumes and lots of colour characterises Lake Turkana Festival. Set over three days in May or June, this wholesome festival seeks to bring local cultures and people together to celebrate each other’s traditions.
With a stunning backdrop of Lake Turkana, the festival is a mixture of parades and performances with many food stalls that create an atmosphere filled with happiness and goodwill. Overall, the festival aims to create a sense of togetherness.
Lamu Cultural Festival
Set in the beautiful island location of Lamu, the festival is a colourful celebration of Swahili culture within the island’s old town.
Lamu Cultural Festival takes place over three days in November where the streets are filled with Swahili traditional food, songs, and trinkets. The highlight of the occasion is the boat and donkey races.
One of the most important events in the Muslim calendar is Maulidi which celebrates the birth of the prophet, Mohammed.
Kenya’s Muslim community predominantly live on the coast, which is the best place to witness the celebration, taking place on the third month of the Islamic calendar. Over the course of four days, prayers, parades and great feasts take place as pilgrims arrive in great throngs.
Lamu Island is well-known for being particularly special, among locals practising the faith, two pilgrimages there are equal to going to Mecca!
Things to Know Before You Go to Kenya
Visa: There are a total of 43 countries that can enter Kenya without a visa. Should you require a visa to travel, the cost varies from country to country. It’s always best to check your respective country’s requirements before travelling.
Currency: The currency in Kenya is Shilling. At the time of writing, June 2021, 107.80 Kenyan Shillings was equal to 1 US Dollar.
Language: Kenya has many different languages that belong to the many tribes living here. The main languages spoken are Swahili and English.
Baggage Rules: Small planes that take you to national parks often have a 15kg soft baggage limit with no exceptions. Take care to abide by these rules.
Vaccines: Among the basics for travelling, an in-date certification of your Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory. Anti-Malaria tablets are advised for Kenya’s safari tours.
Eager to Plan Your Trip to Kenya?
From snow-capped peaks to tropical beaches; savannah to swampland, Kenya has it all! As this beautiful country is so big and information scarce, planning ahead is essential!
To see what is possible, browse our range of fully customisable tours to Kenya and be inspired by the beauty of this country. Our Local Designers in Kenya will be at hand with any questions you may have about editing the trip to match your budget and style.
Customisation elevates any private tour! To start planning your trip from scratch click ‘design your own trip’ and answer some simple questions and begin your travelling planning process to create your very own Kenya tour and safari experience.