Safari in Kenya: Best Places to Visit in Kenya
Safari and Wildlife
Kim Paffen Travel Specialist & Photo Safari Tour Guide
Safari and Wildlife
06/14/2024
20 min
0

Safari in Kenya: 10 Best Places to Visit in Kenya in 2024

06/14/2024
20 min
0

Going on safari in Kenya is a bucket list item for many nature enthusiasts. It's no wonder that Kenya is one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa. Due to my work as a safari specialist and Africa Travel Writer, I have been fortunate enough to visit Kenya a couple of times over the years. Magical Kenya holds a special place in my heart, and I keep returning for its magnificent landscapes, rich cultures and colorful tribes like the Maasai and Samburu, as well as the abundance of wildlife freely roaming the vast Savannah plains, including the Big Five.

Let's dive into the best places to go on a safari in Kenya, including the reasons that make these safari destinations special.

1. Amboseli National Park

kenya safari amboseli national park

Amboseli National Park is a fantastic safari destination in Kenya, with its breathtaking landscapes and abundance of wildlife. The park is renowned for its African elephant population, making it one of the best places in Africa to see these majestic creatures up close. You can also spot lions, hyenas, zebras, wildebeests, and leopards. Amboseli Park is also a good birding destination, with more than 420 bird species like ostriches, various birds of prey, kingfishers, and flamingos.

flamingos Amboseli Safari Kenya

The park boasts five distinct habitats, ranging from swamps and wetlands to Savannah plains and acacia woodland, providing diverse opportunities to observe wildlife. 

Amboseli Park

Amboseli is also known for the views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, which provides a stunning backdrop to the park's scenic views. You may have seen the iconic photographs of elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, all of which were captured in the beautiful Amboseli National Park.

Africa Kilimanjaro seen from Amboseli Park Kenya

For a few years now, the entire Amboseli ecosystem has been experiencing a severe drought that has killed thousands of wild animals. During our last visit to Amboseli National Park, we were confronted with dozens of dead animals, especially zebras and wildebeests. Nevertheless, Amboseli National Park remains one of the best places to go on safari in Kenya.

amboseli Kenya

While it is an all-year-round destination, the best time to visit Amboseli in Kenya is from June to October and January to February.

Kitirua Conservancy

Wildlife photography in Amboseli Kenya

In the Western part of the Amboseli ecosystem, you can find the 30.0000-acre Kitirua Conservancy, bordering Amboseli National Park in Kenya. 

ostrich silhouette at sunset in Amboseli Kenya

Yearly, many professional photographers visit this conservancy to capture herds of elephants or giraffes crossing the dry lake in search of water and food. This offers amazing wildlife images with stunning scenery and background, especially during the dry seasons, when the lake is completely dried-up.

Elephants Amboseli and Kitirua

The Kitirua Conservancy offers an exclusive experience, because only a few lodges are allowed to do game drives in this area. The amazing Elewana Tortilis Camp is one of these lodges. If you are looking for a luxury Kenya safari destination, Elewana Tortilis Camp Amboseli is the place to be. 

bush breakfast amboseli kitirua

Apart from guests staying at Elewana, you will hardly see other guests during your game drives in the Kitirua Conservancy, and you’re totally secluded from civilization.

lions of Kitirua Conservancy in Amboseli Kenya

The advantage of game drives within the conservancy is having the opportunity to get out of the vehicle to photograph from a low angle. It’s a wildlife photographer's dream destination; especially during the dry seasons when the lake is completely dried-up. 

photographing wildlife in Amboseli Kenya

Where to stay in Amboseli, Kenya?

Amboseli offers plenty and varied accommodation to stay. The earlier mentioned Tortilis Camp Amboseli is the best luxury safari lodge to stay in Amboseli. It is an excellent choice for wildlife photographers wanting to capture elephants and lions, and for guests looking for an ultimate luxury experience.  

elewana tortilis camp view of amboseli

Another suggested mid-range accommodation in Amboseli is Sopa Lodge, located outside the park in the Kimana group Ranch on the foothill of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.

Search and Compare Amboseli Safari Tours at Safaribookings.com to decide where and when to go!

Kenya Safari Packages including Amboseli National Park

2. Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha Kenya

Nestled in the heart of Kenya lies Lake Naivasha. With abundant hippos, birds and thrilling outdoor activities like boat safaris, Lake Naivasha is a must-visit on your Kenya safari itinerary. 

With over 1500 hippos and 400 bird species, Lake Naivasha is a paradise for birdwatchers. You can find many African Fish Eagles and Pelicans, but also the Pel's fishing owl, Kingfishers and other bird species are present. 

Oserian Two Lakes Kenya

Its diverse wildlife makes it a haven for nature photographers and wildlife lovers alike, and with its stunning scenery and rolling hills, it's no surprise that Lake Naivasha is a favorite safari destination in Kenya for many.

Whether you're seeking a tranquil escape or an adrenaline-fueled adventure, Lake Naivasha has something for everyone. 

Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary

Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary Chui Lodge

Above the shores of Lake Naivasha and the bordering Lake Oloidien, we found the stunning 8,000-acre Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary. Spanning over 18,000 acres, this private sanctuary is home to over 50 mammal species, including the elusive leopard, hyena, wildebeest, hartebeest, waterbuck, eland, and giraffes. 

grevy zebra oserengoni wildlife sanctuary chui lodge

The Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to the endangered Grevy's zebra, the largest of the three zebra species, which the sanctuary is trying to breed. Bird enthusiasts will also appreciate the sanctuary's wide variety of bird species, from the majestic African Fish Eagle to the regal Somali Ostrich and Secretary bird, as well as various vultures.

Eland Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary Kenya

The Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the mid-1990s to provide a safe space for the resident wildlife. The animals can move freely between the neighboring Hell's Gate National Park and the lake shore using wildlife corridors, which are safe areas for migratory animals to pass through. This keeps the ecosystem constantly moving and thriving.

Where to stay at Lake Naivasha, Kenya?

Chui Lodge Kenya peaceful getaway

In the heart of the Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary lies the luxury Chui Lodge, a hidden gem that is named after the area's healthy leopard population. Chui lodge offers the perfect getaway for a relaxing and enjoyable safari in Kenya. Its convenient location near the lake, diverse activities, excellent facilities, and friendly staff make it a choice for your Lake Naivasha safari. If you want to experience the best of both worlds - bush & lake experience - I highly recommend booking your stay with Chui Lodge Naivasha.

Chui Lodge Bush Dinner

If you’re looking for mid-range accommodation near Lake Naivasha, I would suggest staying at Lake Naivasha Country Club. It’s located on the banks of the Naivasha Lake in Naivasha, Kenya, and is a few minutes from Crescent Island Game Park.

Kenya Safari Tours including Lake Naivasha

3. Lake Nakuru National Park

nakuru lake kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya is one of the Rift Valley's popular soda lakes. There are many reasons to visit this beautiful lake, but perhaps the most compelling is the opportunity to witness the incredible wildlife and birdlife that call the park home. 

Lake Nakuru Africa

From large mammals like buffaloes, zebras, rhinos, and giraffes, to lions and the elusive leopard, a safari in Lake Nakuru offers plenty of opportunities to spot fascinating creatures. One of the best ways to experience Lake Nakuru Park is by taking a morning or afternoon game drive.

safari nakuru lake Kenya

Nakuru Lake Africa is home to over 400 bird species, making it a paradise for bird enthusiasts. The best time for birdwatching is from October to March when the flamingos are in full force.

safari lake nakuru kenya

The masses of pink flamingos at Lake Nakuru attract guests from around the world, but the population at the lake varies based on the alkalinity of the lake. The lake is also home to other bird species like pelicans, storks, and cormorants.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a hike to Baboon Cliff. This cliff offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding landscape. The hike takes about an hour, and it’s suitable for all fitness levels.

Where to stay at lake Nakuru, Kenya?

main building Chui Lodge Kenya

There are several places to stay at Lake Nakuru, including lodges and campsites. Some of the most popular lodges include Lake Nakuru Lodge and Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge,. If you prefer camping, there are several campsites within the park that offer basic facilities like toilets and showers. It’s also possible to stay at Lake Naivasha and take a day excursion to Lake Nakuru. There are various affordable Kenya safari packages that include a visit to Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivaisha. 

Find the best Lake Nakuru accommodation deals on booking.com or check out these complete Lake Nakuru Safari Packages.

Kenya Safari Packages including Lake Nakuru

4. Masai Mara

Spot the Big Five on Safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Masai Mara National Reserve is widely known as the most famous and leading safari destination in East Africa, and the most popular safari destination in Kenya. Without a doubt, a visit to the Masai Mara guarantees a memorable experience with spectacular game drives and stunning landscapes. 

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River during Great Migration

The Masai Mara National Reserve is characterized by endless open Savannah plains with the iconic umbrella-shaped desert date trees, and rolling hills. It's most famous for its abundance of wildlife that includes plenty of big cats and the annual ongoing Great Migration with many crocodiles in the Mara & Grumeti River, waiting for the wildebeest and zebras to cross. The Mara is home to Africa’s big five game animals, as well as other impressive animals like cheetahs, giraffes, hyenas, and lots of antelope species, hippos, and more.

Iconic view of giraffe under a Balanite tree in the Maasai Mara

The Masai Mara National Reserve is named in honor of the Maasai people, an indigenous ethnic group of semi-nomadic people famous for their culture and traditions like the red clothes, and jumping. For that reason, visiting a Maasai village is a must-do cultural activity when visiting the Maasai Mara on safari in Kenya.

Maasai making fire in Maasai Village

The Masai Mara National Reserve is located in Southern Kenya, along the Great Rift Valley, about 224 km from Kenya capital Nairobi. It borders Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Both of these beautiful parks are part of the larger Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem, one of the largest and most protected ecosystems on Earth.

Savannah views of the Maasai Mara Kenya

In addition to the areas within the Masai Mara National Reserve, there are various private conservancies located on its borders. These Mara conservancies are also part of the vast Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem, without any barriers, allowing wildlife to move freely between the national reserve and the conservancies. Opting for a safari in the Mara Conservancies bordering the Masai Mara National Park, can provide a more exclusive experience with fewer tourists and lots of animals, great for safari photography. Some examples of Mara Conservancies include Enonkishu Conservancy, Lemek Conservancy, and Naboisho Conservancy. 

Giraffes and Zebra Enonkishu Conservancy Kenya

Read my complete Masai Mara safari guide to learn everything you need to know for a safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Visiting the Masai Mara is totally worth it! Whether it’s your first safari in Kenya or one out of many, you won’t regret going (back) to the Mara. The amount of wildlife is stunning, and the landscapes and African sunsets are magical! Don't forget your camera gear and binoculars. 

Where to stay in the Masai Mara?

Places to stay in the Maasai Mara in Kenya

There are lots of places to stay in the Maasai Mara, the best accommodation in Maasai Mara depends on your preferences and budget. The southeastern part of the reserve, near the Talek, Sekenani, and Olumununa gates, offers a range of budget accommodations to luxury safari lodges.

Cheetah cubs of famous cheetah mom Kisaru

However, for a more exclusive experience, we recommend staying in a private Mara conservancy. These conservancies limit the number of visitors and often allow ethical off-road driving, providing a more intimate safari experience. Local guides, usually Maasai people, who have an excellent knowledge of the area, conduct game drives. Additionally, the wildlife population is often higher due to the conservancies' strict conservation management. Here are some examples of accommodations in the Masai Mara we recommend:

  • Mid-Range: Wild Bandas in Enonkishu Conservancy
  • Mid-Range: Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge in Ololaimutia Hills, located on the northeastern side of the reserve
  • Luxury: Ashnil Mara Camp in Talek, located inside the Masai Mara Game Reserve along the confluence of the Mara and Olkeju Rivers
  • Luxury: House in the Wild in Enonkishu Conservancy.

Find the best Masai Mara hotels on booking.com!

Kenya Safari Packages including Masai Mara

5. Samburu National Park

samburu national reserve in kenya

Samburu National Reserve Kenya is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro River and covers an area of about 165 square kilometers. The park is known for its unique wildlife, which includes several species that are not commonly found in other parts of Kenya, such as the reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, Grevy's zebra, and Beisa oryx. 

grevy zebras samburu safari Kenya

One of the best things to do in Kenya when visiting Samburu National Park in Northern Kenya, is visiting the colorful Samburu tribe

samburu tribe Kenya

You can visit a village where the Samburu people show you around, and sing and dance. In these villages you can also buy colorful souvenirs.

Samburu People in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve

samburu woman kenya

Where to stay in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve?

When booking accommodation in Samburu, consider factors like proximity to wildlife hotspots, amenities, and reviews from previous guests. I'd recommend reserving your stay well in advance, as the top camps and lodges tend to fill up quickly during peak safari seasons.

reticulated giraffe samburu national park kenya

Examples of safari lodges in Samburu are Ashnil Samburu Camp, Samburu Sopa Lodge, Elephant Bedroom Camp, and Saruni Samburu. Saruni Samburu is an eco-luxury lodge is situated on top of a huge red rock in the heartlands of the Kalama Conservancy, near the northern Samburu border. It has just 6 villas and offers an intimate safari experience with breathtaking views. On booking.com, you can search for more places to stay in Samburu or book a complete Kenya Safari Package including safari in Samburu National Park.

Kenya Safari Tours including Samburu

Other 5 beautiful places to go on safari in Kenya!

Leopard in a tree in Maasai Mara National Reserve

Apart from the above best places to go on safari in Kenya, there are still some Kenyan safari destinations on my bucket list like Tsavo, Ol Pejeta, and the Chyulu Hills. I would also love to go back to Samburu National Park, and explore more of Northern Kenya.

6. Tsavo National Park

Tsavo National Park is one of the largest national parks in Kenya, divided into Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and is known for its large elephant herds, diverse bird species, and the Mzima Springs, where you can spot hippos and crocodiles. 

7. Ol Pejeta

Ol Pejeta is a private conservancy located on the equator and is home to the last two remaining northern white rhinos in the world, along with a variety of other endangered species like Grevy's zebras and African wild dogs. 

8. Chyulu Hills

The Chyulu Hills are located in central Kenya and offer stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, including Mount Kilimanjaro, while also providing opportunities for wildlife sightings like buffaloes, leopards, and hyenas. 

9. Nairobi National Park

While Nairobi National Park may not offer the same level of wilderness experience as some of Kenya's larger reserves, it provides a unique opportunity to see a variety of wildlife in close proximity to a major city, making it a worthwhile addition to any Kenyan safari itinerary. Especially because you mostly fly in and out of Kenya through the capital city of Nairobi. Apart from visiting Nairobi National Park, there are a lot more interesting things to do in Nairobi.

10. Beach Destinations in Kenya as an add-on to your Kenya Safari 

Vacation Zanzibar Island

If you like to combine your safari with a beach holiday in Kenya, consider the tropical coastline of Mombasa or the paradise Lamu Archipelago, where you can snorkel on reefs, swim with dolphins and enjoy African sunsets on a sunset dhow cruise. Lamu Island is also known as one of the best beach holiday destinations in Kenya for honeymoon. Find Lamu Beach Hotels on Booking.com. Another option is extending a few tropical beach days on Zanzibar Island in Tanzania.

With its stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity, and welcoming people, there's always more to discover in Kenya. For that reason, I keep returning for safari in Kenya! 

Kenya Safari Packages

photography safari adventure Africa

A Kenya Safari adventure is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. Kenya offers an unparalleled safari experience that is hard to match anywhere else in the world. Check out affordable Kenya Safari Packages that includes the best places to visit for safari in Kenya.

If you rather want to plan your Kenya safari itinerary yourself, then check out affordable places to stay in Kenya through Booking.com.

Safari Guide Course in Kenya

Safari Guide Training Kenya

Ever thought of joining a safari guide course instead of a regular safari? EcoTraining offers short and Professional Field Guide courses in the Masai Mara, Kenya. It will teach you so much more than a regular safari and you can also combine a 7 or 14-day EcoQuest in the Masai Mara with for example 7 or 14-day Kenya Safari Tours. I wrote about my experience of doing a safari guide course in the heart of the Masai Mara giving you 13 reasons why you should consider a wildlife course in the bush.

What is the best time to visit Kenya for Safari?

best time for safari in Kenya

The best time to visit Kenya generally depends on your travel interests and preferences, but here are some of the peak seasons and ideal safari times to consider:

  • Wildlife Viewing: the best time for wildlife viewing is during the dry seasons, which are July to October and January to February. During these dry periods, animals congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot.
  • Migration Viewing: the great wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara National Reserve is a major attraction, and the best time to see the Great Migration is between July to October, when the herds move from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
  • Coastal Areas: if you want to add a beach holiday in Kenya after your safari, please consider that the Beaches in Kenya, such as Mombasa and Diani Beach, are best visited during the dry seasons, from December to March and July to October.
  • Birding: for the best bird watching, the wet seasons are preferable. These are from March to May (long rains) and November to December (short rains). Many migratory bird species can be spotted during these wetter periods.
  • Avoiding Crowds: if you prefer fewer crowds (I do!), consider visiting during the shoulder seasons from March to May (long rains) or Mid-October to December (short rains).

The most popular and ideal time to visit Kenya is during the dry seasons, especially from July to October, when the weather is pleasant, and wildlife viewing is at its peak. 

Embark on a Kenya Safari of a Lifetime

Mating lions on game drive while learning for safari guide

Are you ready for it? Pack your bags and embark on a Kenya Safari Tour of a lifetime to explore the stunning wilderness and majestic wildlife on safari in Kenya. It will be magical, I promise. You can also combine a safari in Kenya with Tanzania. 

To summarize, here is a list of the 10 Best Places to go on Safari in Kenya:

  1. Amboseli National Park
  2. Lake Naivasha
  3. Lake Nakuru
  4. Masai Mara
  5. Samburu National Park
  6. Tsavo East & Tsavo West
  7. Ol Pejeta
  8. Chyulu Hills
  9. Nairobi National Park
  10. Mombasa & Lamu Archipelago as beach add-on
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