Kenya. A country in East Africa known for its wildlife, diverse landscapes and incredible people and culture. There is so much to see and experience in Kenya, it is a great addition to any African itinerary (or a great stand-alone destination).
We sat down with Michael from African Wildlife Safaris, who has recently visited Kenya, to help us out with their tips and suggestions for visiting this unique destination.
1. Are there specific times of the year that are best to visit Kenya? And how many days do you recommend travellers allow here?
These days Kenya can be seen as a year round destination. June to October is the dry season and July to September is also the time of the famous wildebeest migration so it’s peak season and more crowded. April/May and mid-November to mid-December have more rain but this is usually in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Rates are lower at this time and there are fewer visitors. Our CEO Steve Cameron visited Kenya in November last year to check out the weather, the quality of the game viewing and vehicle density, and was very pleasantly surprised. As it was low season there were very few tourists so there was exclusivity around animal sightings. But most surprising was the quality of the game viewing, with plenty of predators including lion and leopard, and plenty of plains game. There were thunderstorms on some days but the weather did not have an impact on the enjoyment at all.
2. What can travellers expect from Kenya?
Kenya offers incredible diversity in landscape and experiences. The northern region around Samburu National Park is semi-arid desert, whilst the Masai Mara down south has rolling hills and grassland. There are high mountains like Mount Kenya and the Aberdares and the soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. The coast is hot and humid with sandy beaches. Basically Kenya has something for everyone. Also I’ve always found the Kenyan people to be warm, friendly and genuinely hospitable.
3. Tell us about the areas travellers should visit for good wildlife viewing. What wildlife can be spotted in Kenya?
The key areas to visit in Kenya are Samburu where you can see various desert adapted species that you will not see anywhere else, such as the blue-legged Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk antelope and Grevy’s Zebra. Lion, leopard and cheetah, hippo and crocodile can also be seen. The Masai Mara is one of the most famous game viewing parks in the world and is home to the great migration of Wildebeest and Zebra. It’s also known for its many predators – large prides of lions, hyena and Cheetah, which use the open plains to their advantage as their greatest asset is speed, being the world’s fastest land animal.
Within the Great Rift Valley are a number of lakes famous for birds and other wildlife. Lake Nakuru sometimes hosts millions of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, as well as pelicans and other birds. However flamingo numbers can vary significantly due to the ever changing alkaline conditions in the water and sometimes flamingos migrate to other lakes such as Lake Bogoria in the north. Lake Nakuru National Park is well worth a visit with many other species of game including the endangered rhino. If you stay in Lake Nakuru it is possible to take a full day drive to Bogoria with picnic lunch.
4. The Masai Mara is famous for hosting the largest wildlife migration on earth. Can you give us your advice for travellers wanting to experience this?
If you want to witness the greatest wildlife phenomenon on earth then you need to be in the Masai Mara from late July to early October with August and September the key months. The migration is highly weather dependent. The animals chase the rains that bring the fresh grasses needed to support the hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra. The best advice I can give is to allow yourself sufficient time and allow anywhere from 4 to 7 nights. This is nature at work, so nothing is guaranteed. You will see herds of wildebeest but not necessary the huge armies that sometimes cover the plains as far as the eye can see. Choosing a lodge with river frontage is also highly advantageous as it heightens your chances of seeing a river crossing.
5. The people of Kenya are welcoming and unique. Can you tell us a bit about the Maasai warriors and the Samburu?
Visiting a village in the Maasai or Samburu tribal areas can easily be incorporated into your Kenyan itinerary and I highly encourage you to do so. If you visit a traditional village you can learn something about their customs, how they make fires, build their huts, herd and milk their cattle, etc. and it really is quite fascinating. The Samburu live in the north and the Maasai in the south, but they are related. They are both semi-nomadic pastoralists who mainly herd cattle but also sheep, goats and camels. Their languages are similar with many different dialects which are all related to the Nilotic Maa language. Many can also speak some Swahili and English.
6. What are your top 3 unique or special lodges/camps travellers should stay at in Kenya?
Giraffe Manor – in the suburb of Karen in Nairobi is a unique experience where you can share your breakfast with rare Rothschild’s giraffes. You can also enjoy a really fun, intimate interaction with the giraffes on the front lawn of the Manor in the midafternoon each day. A great way to start or end an itinerary.
Angama Mara – Simply the most stunning location for a safari lodge, perched on the edge of the escarpment some 300 meters above the Masai Mara. Enjoy lunch on the patio watching eagles soar at eye level and ‘tiny’ elephants far down below on the plains.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp – Great for families, offering a diverse range of activities to suit everyone’s interests. Game drives both day and night, game walks, lion tracking, cultural and community visits, and the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
7. What is one of the highlights of your travels through Kenya?
Witnessing the great migration sprawled across the plains of the Masai Mara, just the sheer volume of animals really took my breath away.
8. Any other tips or advice for travellers wanting to visit Kenya?
Do not rush your safari. We recommend allow 10 – 14 nights for optimum game-viewing and to discover the complete beauty that is Kenya.
Our consultants are well travelled through Africa and we love Kenya here in our office! Contact us if you’d like to know more about visiting this part of the world. There are a range of great small group tours to choose from and we can work with the team at African Wildlife Safaris to put together the perfect private tailor-made itinerary for you!
All images supplied by African Wildlife Safaris.