5 Best Areas For Safari Holidays In Kenya

May 13th 2016  |  Kenya, Wildlife Safaris  |  by  Richard Smith
Masai at Angama Mara - look out point, Masai Mara, Kenya

Safari holidays were invented in Kenya, albeit that the first safaris wouldn’t have been purely photographic. The word safari means journey in Swahili and would have been used in that region for multi-day expeditions into the uncharted African bush.

Safari Holidays In Kenya

Kenya offers those on a safari holiday a wide range of experiences, wildlife, cultures and landscapes. It’s a country with open grassy plains, rocky gullies, arid semi-deserts, mountains and forests. This variety of habitat means diverse wildlife and incredible safari encounters.

Flying is a great way to combine wildlife areas in Kenya. It means more of your safari holiday is spent enjoying the wildlife or scenery than would be the case if you take long road transfers.

You’ll get to appreciate the lie of the land from the air before arriving on a tiny airstrip in the middle of nowhere.

Kenya works brilliantly as a safari destination between December and March when you can holiday away from the British winter. If you want to experience the wildebeest migration then travel between July and October.

Masai Mara National Reserve & Surrounding Conservancies

The Masai Mara tops many lists for the best place for a safari holiday in Africa and is Kenya’s most popular park. To include it among the best areas for wildlife in Kenya is therefore a bit of a given.

It has good resident wildlife, which is boosted by the arrival of the wildebeest and zebra migration between July and October. During these months the millions of herbivores battle for survival against stalking lions, speeding cheetahs, ambushing leopards, and crocodiles lurking below the surface at the river crossings.

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Mara Plains Camp wildebeest crossing

Where to stay: Try Angama Mara for its views; Mara Plains for luxury tents in a private area alongside the reserve; or Rekero Camp for a camp overlooking the river during the wildebeest migration.

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Luxury tent at Mara Plains Camp

Getting There: By twice daily scheduled flights from Nairobi.

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is the second most popular national park for those on safari in Kenya. It enjoys some of the best views of Kilimanjaro just across the border in Tanzania and while there is little water locally, the park has a series of five swamps at its heart. These draw in wildlife from miles around, particularly elephants which gather in large numbers.

The neighbouring plains and hills of the Chyulus teem with wildlife and enjoy some of Kenya’s most spectacular scenery. The area is Masai owned, with conservation a partnership between local communities and the small number of lodges based here. As it is outside the national park, visitors can enjoy walks, riding and cycling as part of their safari.

Tortilis Camp - Game Drive - Zebra Amboseli Kenya

Zebra on a game drive Tortilis Camp, Amboseli

Where to stay: Try Tortilis Camp for easy access to the national park; or Ol Donyo Lodge for its spectacular hillside position and to learn about its conservation partnership with the local communities.

Getting There: By road it is between two and three hours to the park from Nairobi, depending on where you are staying. We recommend flying and there are daily scheduled flights to Amboseli and lodges in the Chyulus from Nairobi.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Want a safari holiday in Kenya where you might see white and black rhino together? Then Lewa and neighbouring Borana are the places to visit. Lewa was set up primarily as a reserve to conserve black rhino, sitatunga and Grevy’s zebra. In addition it has done excellent work for elephants. Recently the fence between itself and Borana was dropped ensuring an even bigger range for the wildlife.

As it is not a national park, there is great freedom for those on holiday. Walking safaris, camel safaris, and riding are all possible alongside more traditional game drives.

Lewa Wilderness - swimming in forest masai kenya

Lewa Wilderness – swimming in forest

Where to stay: The cottages at Lewa Wilderness have fabulous views from the hillside; or if you prefer to stay under canvas try Sirikoi. For those looking for holiday adventures try Borana Lodge from which you can enjoy different activities every day.

The Safari and Conservation Company - Sirikoi bedroom lewa kenya

Sirikoi bedroom, Lewa

Getting There: There are daily scheduled flights to Lewa from Nairobi, with easy access by vehicle into Borana.

Meru National Park

Tell people you’re going on a safari holiday to ‘Meru National Park in Kenya’ and most will assume you said ‘Mara’.

The park really is little known which means you will have few people to share the wildlife with. And there’s good wildlife including the ‘Big Five’ of lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant and the ‘Northern Five’ of oryx, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, lesser kudu and reticulated giraffe.

Elsa's Kopje Meru Kenya bath alfresco view

Elsa’s Kopje, Meru

Where to stay: Elsa’s Kopje is named after the orphaned lioness reared by George and Joy Adamson and has cottages on a hillside; while Offbeat’s Meru Camp is a luxury tented camp.

Pool at Dawn (1 of 1) Offebat Meru Kenya

Pool at dawn Offbeat Meru

Getting There: There are daily scheduled flights to Meru from Nairobi

Laikipia Plateau

Laikipia isn’t one of Kenya’s national parks. In fact it’s not an area where wildlife is officially protected at all. The farmers and tribes people of this area simply came together to pioneer the community ranches. These formed the template for the rest of Africa to follow. Fences were torn down and cooperation between neighbouring farms became the norm, opening up a huge landscape of grasslands, forests and dramatic basalt mountains.

Laikipia now has some of the most diverse populations of large mammals in Kenya.  These co-exist with the human population in a wonderful celebration of African diversity.

More than half of Kenya’s black rhino live in Laikipia, as well as a large number of the hugely endangered Grevy’s zebra. Even wild dog, perhaps the most endangered of all carnivores, can be found here.

A safari holiday in this area of Kenya combines brilliantly with a stay in the Masai Mara. The arid north complements the open grassland of the south, and the number of activities possible in Laikipia get you out of a vehicle in a way barely possible in the Mara.

Loisaba view lounge laikipia safari holidays in Kenya

Loisaba view, Laikipia

Where to stay: Loisaba’s new tented camp enjoys stunning views from its clifftop position, while Ol Malo offers the choice of the main lodge or a private house.

Ol Malo House pool and view laikipia - safari holidays in Kenya

Pool and view at Ol Malo House, Laikipia

Getting There: Both these lodges are accessed from daily scheduled flights to Loisaba’s airstrip from Nairobi.

Any questions on safari holidays in Kenya?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been on safari holidays in Kenya, please just send us an email or give us a call.

2 responses to “5 Best Areas For Safari Holidays In Kenya”

  1. Evong says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for putting up the information on the website. It’s been very helpful in beginning to put my thoughts together. I have a few questions:

    1. Is it easy just flying down to Nairobi and locally booking a safari and accommodation? Will that be much cheaper than booking a safari holiday package through UK holiday companies?

    2. What’s the average cost of local safari tickets? What is the average cost of accommodation in the safari lodges?

    3. What’s the average local flight / road travel from Nairobi to the common safaris you have listed above?

    4. What is the security situation around the safaris?

    Many thanks

    • Richard says:

      Dear Evong, Thanks for your questions on the blog:
      1. Is it easy just flying down to Nairobi and locally booking a safari and accommodation? Will that be much cheaper than booking a safari holiday package through UK holiday companies?
      If you want the best safari for you, book ahead. Safari is one of the few things that isn’t cheaper locally – if it is you’re not comparing like with like. Booked in the UK you also get financial protection and some come back if things aren’t up to scratch.
      2. What’s the average cost of local safari tickets? What is the average cost of accommodation in the safari lodges?
      Aardvark Safaris works with small smart camps and lodges who employ great guides and have 4-6 people per vehicle. These typically cost from $450 per person per night to over $1,000 per person per night to include all meals, drinks, park fees and safari activities.
      3. What’s the average local flight / road travel from Nairobi to the common safaris you have listed above?
      Allow $350 per person every time you get on a light aircraft. Some will be more – longer flights – and some less. When you are paying $450+ per night, it doesn’t make sense to miss a safari activity by driving for many hours, just to save a few dollars.
      4. What is the security situation around the safaris?
      You’re safe from both people and animals
      Yours, Richard

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