Holidays in Kenya
An affordable and diverse safari experience
Kenya is synonymous with the word ‘Safari’: renowned for playing host to the annual Great Wildebeest Migration, this stunning destination offers superb wildlife viewing, scenery and experiences. Because the country is blessed with a long coastline, it is easy to combine your safari with some time on the beach, making for a superb combination of activity and relaxation.
Safari destinations are numerous and possibly complex: costs vary wildly, but in short, there are areas which are frequented by mass tourism vehicles: but for those on a tight budget, a small group trip will allow a glimpse of what Kenya has to offer, even if in busier areas. We highly recommend trying to get off the beaten track: the areas such as Laikipia / Lewa, Meru and Shaba all offer off a more priviledged and authentic safari experience – and in the renowned Masai Mara and Amboseli Parks, we would suggest staying on one of the private concessions to benefit from a greater range of activities and a more remote experience.
One of the most famous safari destinations in the world, the Masai Mara is situated in Southwest Kenya, stretching north from the Tanzania border, and is renowned for being home to over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope between July and October, when the migration of huge herds make a dash across the rivers. Lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah are abundant … this is the area of the Big 5 safari.
It is also the area for mass market safari tourism: we highly recommend getting away from the crowds by staying on a private conservancy such as Mara North, Olare Orok, Namoisho or Ol Kinvei, where your experience will be far more privileged, authentic and varied, with walking safaris and night drives available.
Located between Mount Kenya and Samburu, Laikipia is a fabulous off-the-beaten track area made up of large private conservancies and Samburu tribal lands. With a variety of landscapes including high altitude plateaus, low-forested valleys and deep rocky river gorges, the area has become a sanctuary for elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, wild dog and a wealth of plains game. Many of the lodges in this area are community run, allowing visitors authentic interaction with local tribal communities. Lodges in this area focus heavily on wildlife conservation. Activities at the lodges can include walks, drives, picnics, cultural interaction and, depending on the lodge, fishing, horse-riding, rafting, mountain biking and camel treks. The further north you go into this area, the more remote from the busier areas frequented by the tourist buses
Located in Kenya’s Northern Province, Samburu is a hot and arid, semi-desert landscape with lush vegetation surrounding the Ng’iro river and waterholes where huge herds of elephant, leopard, reticulated giraffe, Oryx and Grevy’s zebra gather to drink. Samburu’s species also include zebras, gerenuks, and Somali ostriches. There is also a good range of predators, including lions, leopards and spotted hyenas. Activities here focus on vehicle safari, walking safari, mountain hiking, camel safari and cultural interaction. Much of the Samburu reserve is fairly busy, with some large lodges frequented by scheduled trips. For those looking to be off the main tourist track, the Shaba reserve provides an authentic wildlife experience dedicated to the memory of Joy Adamson.
Best time: Dec-Mar / Jul – Oct
The Mathews Range is a chain of mountains which runs from Samburu in Central Kenya for around 200km into the wild lands of the Northern Kenya. This remote area, well away from mainstream tourism, is not as rewarding for high density wildlife sightings, but offers a range of other activities, including mountain treks, forest walks, stalking elephants on foot. The area works well for seasoned safari travellers looking for a contrast and some activity
Meru National Park
This little-visited gem lies to the east of Mount Kenya in Central Kenya features dry acacia scrub, with stretches of open grasslands and strings of riverine forest, and is home to lions, cheetahs, leopards and spotted hyenas, as well as giraffe, buffalo herds, ostrich – to name a few. Activities focus on game drives and walking safaris. The area is ideal for visitors wanting to be away from the mainstream routes.
Amboseli borders Tanzania, and is located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, creating a stunning backdrop, and crucially supplying the plains with a steady flow of water which feeds the various swamps and wetlands, thus attracting a huge variety of wildlife, including elephant, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest and various grazing antelope. The park can get busy with tourist traffic in high season: we recommend staying on one of the private conservancies, where walking safaris and cultural interactions are offered in addition to the traditional vehicle safari.
Best Time: Jan-Fe/ June - Sep.
Split into 2 parks by the railway from Mombasa, East and West, the parks cover a combined area of 22,000km2. Tsavo East is one of the oldest parks and is the larger of the two with dry flat plains, making game spotting perhaps easier than its counterpart. Tsavo West is more mountainous and wetter, with swamps and a series of 4 natural springs known as Mzima, famed for its many hippos that frequent the waters.
For beach options in Kenya, we tend to recommend Diani, where turquoise sea and white powdery sand beaches make for the idyllic beach setting. Snorkelling and diving are readily available, as well as other watersports. We will select accommodation according to whether you want to be close to the restaurants and bars in town, or away from intrusions of modern life. Watamu and Malindi – North of Mombasa, are less visited than the Southern stretch of beaches. Watamu Marine Park is particularly well known for its excellent marine activities.