The Best Safaris in Kenya You Have to Go on

Leopards are among the major attractions of a visit to Samburu National Reserve
Leopards are among the major attractions of a visit to Samburu National Reserve | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Jackline Wambugi

To many, the ultimate safari trip is all about checking off the Big Five and other popular wildlife. Yet a safari in Kenya is all about the experience – to go out deep into the wild and observe the animals in their natural habitat. The best time of year to go on safari in Kenya is during the dry season, which runs from late June to October – but where exactly is best to go? Here, we take a look at the best safaris in Kenya.

Dreaming of a Kenyan safari? Book yourself onto Culture Trip’s seven-day Kenyan adventure, where you’ll venture into national parks on game drives, visit an extinct volcano and stay at one of the best safari lodges in Kenya, the Ark. We’ll handle all the details for you.

1. Aberdare National Park

Natural Feature, Park

Two African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in Aberdare National Park, Kenya, Africa
© JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ / Alamy Stock Photo

Located near Mount Kenya, Aberdare can get relatively cold and is often plagued by an early morning mist that nonetheless dissipates as the sun rises. It has two contrasting habitats; the Kinangop Plateau, which is comprised of moorland, and the Salient, which is all dense, lush rainforest dotted with waterfalls. Due to its high altitude, Aberdare provides some of the best panoramic views, hiking and wildlife experiences in Kenya. But you do have to be on high alert here as the thick vegetation forms a good hideout for animals. Elephants, leopards, hyenas, buffaloes, black rhino and even the rare black leopard are some of the wildlife you might encounter here.

2. Samburu National Reserve

Park, Natural Feature

Samburu National Reserve, on the other hand, is dry most of the year. Encompassing three adjacent parks – Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba, all served by the Ewaso Nyiro river – the hilly landscape here is accentuated by humongous termite mounds. The vegetation varies from shrubs and dry grassland to distinctive doum palm trees. As this spot lies on the Equator, animals native to both sides of the line can be found in the same place. They include Grevy’s zebras, gerenuks, reticulated giraffes, blue-legged Somali ostriches and beisa oryxes.

4. Maasai Mara National Reserve

Park

Two wildebeest walk the plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve
© BlueOrangeStudio / Alamy
This is the most visited park in the whole country. Why? As the grass in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park dries up, millions of herbivores, mostly wildebeest, begin their annual journey back to the Maasai Mara where by this time the grass is long and green following the long April rains. The excitement around the Great Migration also comes from the hurdles these animals face along the way – namely lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, and jackals, who all prey on them. Then, when they cross the Mara river, crocodiles lie in wait. To witness this spectacle, July and August are best.

5. Shimba Hills National Reserve

Natural Feature, Park

Kenya, Kwale District, Shimba Hills. A herd of Sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) in the Shimba Hills, south of Mombasa
© John Warburton-Lee Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

This small nature reserve has just as much to offer as its larger counterparts – if not more – and is low-key one of the best safari parks in Kenya. Located in the southern coastal region and frequented by tourists staying in Diani Beach, it hosts a variety of beasts including elephants, buffaloes, sable antelopes, Masai giraffes, warthogs, baboons and some 300 butterfly species.

6. Meru National Park

Natural Feature, Park

This is perhaps the least-known national park in Kenya but Meru still has a lot to offer. The landscape is stunning, with dry grassland contrasting the rolling hills and riverine forests found along the several streams. Indigenous baobab trees stand side by side with doum palms. The array of wildlife includes lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos and Grévy’s zebra among others.

7. Lake Nakuru National Park

Park

Two white rhino face off on the shores of a bird-filled Lake Nakuru
© Dipak Pankhania / Alamy
Once famous for its flamingo population, Lake Nakuru hasn’t lost its lustre. It is a couple of hours away from Nairobi, making it a perfect destination for a one-day safari trip. The Rift Valley escarpment, the expansive lake and the surrounding vegetation, with patchy grassland, form the landscape here. Expect seasonal waterfalls depending on the time of year whilst the river skirting the lake hosts hippos, waterbucks, both black and white rhino, elands, impalas and plenty of birds. The forested area, near the designated campsite, is where to find lions – up in the trees.

8. Nairobi National Park

Natural Feature, Park

Ostriches walk across the plains of Nairobi National Park, with the capital as a backdrop
© Maurice Brand / Alamy
Nairobi National Park sits just to the south of the city centre. Despite its odd location, it is teeming with wildlife. You can spot lions and hyenas in the open grassland as well as buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, gazelles, zebras and ostriches. There are also 400 bird species further down in the forested area near the river. The park offers two game viewing options: a drive around the park or a safari walk across a canopied bridge.

9. Tsavo West National Park

Park, Natural Feature

This is the epitome of wilderness. With rocky hills, natural springs, swamps, dormant volcanoes and even a bed of igneous rock, Tsavo West is a stellar option home to a dramatic vista. Hippos and crocodiles dominate the springs while gazelles, impalas, lesser kudus, rhinos, zebras, oryx, giraffes and elephants opt for the numerous waterholes. Where there is prey, predators are not far behind. Lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas lie in wait by the water.

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