Experience a safari vacation in Kenya, the place where safari travel originated. The best Kenya tours and safaris include Big 5 game viewing, incredible natural beauty and cultural encounters, often combining Kenya’s top attractions with Tanzania and the tropical beaches of the Kenyan coast.
The safari bucket list for Kenya includes seeing the Great Migration in the legendary Masai Mara, Amboseli’s unforgettable views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Samburu’s leopards. Encounter fascinating cultures in authentic Masai villages and taste the flavours of Africa, India and Europe in the melting pot that is Swahili culture. Kenya’s biggest attraction is the natural movement of mega-herds – wildebeest, zebra and gazelle – following the summer rains and sweet grasses in an annual pilgrimage called the Great Migration. Depending on when your Kenya safari takes place, you may witness the life-and-death struggles of the Mara River crossings or dramatic encounters with Africa’s top predators on the open plains.!
Kenya combines easily with Tanzania and Rwanda, which means you can add gorilla trekking to your Kenyan safari. You’ll also find a wide range of safari and beach combination tours to make the most of Kenya's Out of Africa scenic beauty and wildlife, rounded off with R&R on a tropical island. Kenya offers a holiday for every traveller. From unforgettable Kenya family safaris that offer child-friendly activities and services, to exclusive hideaways for romantics, from adventurous honeymoons to small groups of friends and family celebrating a milestone anniversary. Whatever type of traveller you are, there’s not much that beats a Kenya holiday – the standards of service are high and Kenya’s top destanations offer luxury accommodation ranging from lavish, colonial-style lodges to funky boutique hotels and amenity-packed resorts.
A diverse geography means a variable climate across the country but Kenya is considered a year-round destination for both safaris and beach holidays. Most Kenya safari destinations are at their best between January and the end of March; the climate is mild, mostly dry and game viewing is at its peak. Naturally, this time is considered the best time to go to Kenya on safari but a rainy season visit - between mid-March to June and again between October and December - is well worth considering in order to avoid the peak-season crowds and to take advantage of cheaper, off-season rates on accommodation and tours. If however it's a case of choosing when to go to Kenya for the Masai Mara wildebeest migration, then go between mid-August and late October when the herds have returned from their months in Tanzania's Serengeti. The best time to visit Kenya beach destinations is a moot point: Kenya's Indian Ocean coast is hot and humid all year round and rain can fall at any time. We would however recommend avoiding the coast during the mid-March to late May season when temperatures and rainfall are at their highest.
The Masai Mara is where to go in Kenya for the dramatic wildebeest migration but there's a great deal more to this East African country. Other classic big game destinations such as Amboseli and Tsavo are easily accessible as is the recently opened-up Laikipia Plateau region. And after the drama of a Kenya safari, what could be better than a few lazy days on a white-sand beach? Kenya's tropical coast offers everything from buzzing resorts to exclusive island hideaways making the country ideal for safari and beach vacations.
Kenya's flagship conservation area is not the country's largest but as part of the Masai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and home to the famous wildebeest migration, it offers the most dramatic game viewing and widest range of safari experiences. It's where to go in Kenya for hot air balloon flights, action-packed game drives, cultural interactions and guided nature walks in private conservancies - no wonder it's one of the world's greatest travel destinations.!
Scuba diving and snorkelling on pristine reefs, sunset dhow cruises and swimming with dolphins - the unspoilt Lamu Archipelago combines all the elements of a fantastic beach holiday and is a perfect add-on to a Kenya safari or as a sensational honeymoon destination. Superb luxury accommodation is available both on Lamu Island and nearby Manda Island.!
With the majority of our Kenya safaris starting or ending in Nairobi, a stopover in this city is almost inevitable. International visitors will fly into Jomo Kenyatta Airport but it's Wilson Airport, some 90 minutes away, that provides regional and charter flights Kenya's safari destinations such as the Masai Mara. Nairobi is an extremely lively city - the largest between Johannesburg and Cairo - and is one in which you can experience the authentic 'everyday Africa'. Downtown Nairobi is best avoided however, especially as most of the city's main places of interest - the Karen Blixen Museum, the Giraffe Centre and the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage - are located in the city's leafy suburbs. The Nairobi National Park, despite a startling backdrop of city skyscrapers, is a haven for lion, rhino, zebra and various species of antelope and serves as a great introduction to East Africa's wildlife. !
With all the attention on Kenya's safari destinations, it's easy to forget that the country has a dazzling tropical coastline. Mainland Mombasa is a popular family choice for got-it-all beach resorts but ask us about Kenya's more exclusive mainland beach lodges where the accent is on exclusivity, luxury and indulgence.!
A short distance from Nairobi, Amboseli is where to go in Kenya to get classic views of Mount Kilimanjaro, ironically situated across the border in Tanzania. There's great big game viewing as well - especially around the Amboseli's wetland areas - although it's a popular and busy park at the best of times so expect to share your sightings with other visitors.!
Kenya's newest safari destination lies north of Nairobi on the rim of the Great Rift Valley. An area of thriving private reserves, luxurious family-friendly accommodation and huge honeymoon views, Laikipia is a must-do for those who want an air of exclusivity and a diverse Kenya safari experience away from the crowds.!
While there's no doubting the allure of the Masai Mara, visitors to Kenya who want less crowded safari destinations should head for the rugged Central Highlands. Africa's second highest peak, the 5200m Mount Kenya looms over much of the region which includes great wildlife destinations such as family-friendly and multi-activity Meru National Park, the private Lewa Downs Conservancy in the foothills of Mt Kenya, the Mount Kenya National Park and the amazing forests of Aberdares National Park. If you're looking for a relaxed Mount Kenya safari, then any one of these parks fits the bill. Recently UNESCO has announced that the Mount Kenya-Lewa Wildlife Conservancy will be added as an extension to Mount Kenya National Park, enhancing the protection of the property as a World Heritage Site.!
Home to a shallow soda lake, Nakuru is the place to go for the best chance to see Kenya's famous flocks of flamingos but there's game viewing too around the lake shores. Rhino and hippo are among the heavyweights though bird watchers will be more interested in the 400 species of birds recorded here.!
Shaba and Samburu National Reserves lie to the north of the region where Kenya's savannah gives way to desert scrub and mountains. The scenery is dramatic, and besides a familiar cast of classic African animals you'll find species here that don't occur in Kenya's more popular parks, making it one of Kenya's most appealing places of interest.!
Basecamp Masai Mara is a stunning eco-lodge built within the Maasai Mara. 12 tents and a traditional, relaxed safari atmosphere..
Located on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river in Samburu National Reserve, Elephant is the perfect location for luxury in the wild.
Chui Lodge consists of 8 luxury cottages set above the shores of Lake Naivasha in a beautiful private wildlife conservancy spanning 18,000 acres.
There's nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts - get essential Kenya travel advice before you go.
Can I travel to Kenya?' is a question asked by many travellers, especially first-timers wanting travel advice for this wildlife-rich East African country that is home to the Great Wildebeest Migration over the plains of the Masai Mara. Although Kenya has been a victim of tragic terrorist attacks, it is important to remember that these are very far from the main tourism hubs. Security has been stepped up at all airports - especially Jomo Kenyatta and Wilson - and at hotels across Nairobi. We will never send a client to any place that we would not visit ourselves; we created a seamless itinerary that ensured private drivers, trusted suppliers and experienced lodge staff all the way. In addition to knowing where each and every one of our clients is every step of their way, all Leiden Expedition travellers also have exclusive access to a 24/7 hotline manned by senior staff in the event of any emergency, no matter how small.
Kenya's national currency is the Kenyan Shilling and although foreign currencies such as US Dollars are widely accepted (and indeed the currency required for activities like hot-air balloon safaris) we'd recommend using local currency to pay for bar bills, souvenirs and meals not included in your itinerary. Please note that due to the number of fake notes in circulation, no US Dollar bills printed before 2003 are accepted in Kenya and, in fact, your safest bet is to carry notes printed after 2006. Banking facilities and ATMs are found throughout Kenya's major travel destinations and all major credit cards are widely accepted, in particular MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Banking hours are from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 11am on the first and last Saturday of the month for most banks.
Tipping for good service is customary in Kenya although it is of course at your discretion - bear in mind that some of the larger hotels will add a service charge onto your bill. A 10% tip is customary in city restaurants and bars when a service charge is not included. For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts - they'd be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 20°C / 68°F to 34°C / 93°F
Average winter temperatures: 18°C / 64°F to 29°C / 84°F
Rainy season: mid-March to June ('long rains') and October to December ('short rains') Refer to best time to visit Kenya for climate charts, details on the best wildlife-viewing times and when to witness the Masai Mara migration.
For your Kenya safari, pack light casual wear in neutral colours (try to avoid white, black and blue) and a warm jacket for evening game drives. For more on what to pack for a safari, refer to our Parking List. In Kenya's major cities the dress code is conservative but not overly formal – jeans and modest tops for women are fine. Swimsuits are acceptable on the beach but you’ll need to cover up in public places.
Kenya is a fairly conservative society, especially where Islam holds sway, and much emphasis is placed on courtesy and manners. Care needs to be taken when photographing local people - always ask permission and prepare to be asked for reward in Kenya's most popular destinations - but by and large the people of Kenya are easy-going, amiable, humorous and helpful, making travelling and interacting with them a real pleasure.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport: East Africa's major flight hub is located 13km / 8mi outside Nairobi and is the gateway to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Mombasa and Kenya's beaches as well as Zanzibar and Tanzania. There are also good connections from here to Uganda, Rwanda and the Seychelles.
Wilson Airport: a regional airport about 90 minutes by road from Jomo Kenyatta, Wilson is the hub for almost all of Kenya's internal flights and serves its fly-in safari locations. Ensure you have time between your international flight and domestic flight to make the transfer between the two airports.
Moi Mombasa International Airport: located about 10km / 6.2mi northwest of the town itself, Mombasa's airport is the gateway to the Kenyan coast.
Chartered flights are a great way to get around Kenya and avoid the country's often dirt roads; transfers from airstrips to lodges are conducted in 4X4 vehicles. Road transfers from airports and between major destinations tend to use mini buses as do scheduled safaris to popular destinations such as the Masai Mara. Sliding windows and a pop-up roof provide passengers on mini buses with ample viewing opportunities on game drives whereas safaris to more remote destinations and private conservancies use open-sided 4X4s.
Visas are required by most visitors to Kenya including British, American, Canadian, European, Australian and New Zealand passport holders. Citizens from some smaller Commonwealth countries are exempt. Visas are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be purchased upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Visitors can pay for their visas in local currency and they must possess a passport that is valid until six months after the initial date of travel. If you plan on travelling onwards from Kenya, visas for other East African countries such as Tanzania and Uganda can generally be obtained in Nairobi for around US$50 each.
Independence from Britain in 1963 may have been the beginning of a new chapter for Kenya but this East African country has a human history that stretches back to prehistoric times. Lying at the heart of a region from which modern humans emerged some 150 000 years ago, Kenya's history has been shaped not only by indigenous and migrating African ethnic groups but by European and Arabian traders, missionaries and colonisers as well. Jomo Kenyatta was the first leader of independent, post-colonial Kenya and his conciliatory rallying cry harambee - all pull together - became the national motto. Today, Kenya boasts the largest and most advanced economy in East Africa. Agriculture accounts for 75% of the work force but it is the service industry, dominated by tourism, which contributes nearly two thirds of Kenya's GDP.
Kenya's predominantly young population (nearly 75% of Kenyans are under 30) is made up of many ethnic groups that include the famous Maasai. English and Swahili are the official languages (any attempts to speak Swahili will be warmly received by locals!) and the vast majority of Kenyans consider themselves Christian. About 10% of the population are Muslim, the majority living on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.
Straddling the equator, Kenya is dominated by the Rift Valley, a raised region of lakes, hills and mountains that is the result of a 6 000km crack in the earth's crust. Dividing the flat coastal plains from the fertile shores of Lake Victoria, the rolling temperate grasslands of the central Rift Valley are home to huge numbers of animals and consequently Kenya's most famous parks and reserves. Northern Kenya's hot and arid scrublands are home to wilder, more remote parks and a different set of animals while the Indian Ocean coast is a place of long sandy beaches, coral reefs and tropical islands. Most famous for the wildebeest migration that moves through the Masai Mara and Serengeti ecosystem, Kenya's ban on hunting plus private and local community conservation initiatives have helped to safeguard one of Africa's most important populations of large animals. There are healthy numbers of the Big 5, abundant predators and plains game, and a long list of bird species. No wonder then that several Kenyan parks deliver the easiest game viewing in Africa!