Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses Savannah, lake, lands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands. It’s also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. From Nairobi, the capital, safaris visit the Masai Mara Reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, Tsavo national park, Lake Naivasha national park, Samburu national park, Lake Nakuru national park, and Meru national park.
- Capital: Nairobi
- Population: 44.35 million
- Currency: Kenyan shilling
- President: Uhuru Kenyatta
- Official languages: Swahili, English
The Masai Mara National Reserve has fence-less borders with a number of private conservancies, including Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. This vast protected landscape is one of the top wildlife destinations in Africa, and Kenya’s flagship conservation area.
Game viewing Game viewing in the Masai Mara is excellent all year around thanks to the diverse population of resident game, including the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino – plus popular species like zebra, giraffe, hyena, eland and gazelle.
From July to November one of nature’s greatest spectacles, the wildebeest migration, reaches the Mara – the sheer number of wildebeest arriving in the area is staggering. The migration is a dramatic mass movement of almost 2-million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle in a seasonal annual cycle driven by rainfall.
To reach the Mara’s fresh grazing, wildebeest make dramatic river crossings, facing enormous crocodiles to feast on the Mara plains and regain their strength. November’s short summer rains trigger the last leg of the migration, when the wildebeest move south to their Serengeti calving grounds.
The calving season also happens in the Mara between December and January. Known as the green season, it’s a time when surface water is plentiful and wildebeest, zebra and antelope give birth to their calves, foals and fawns. With so much easy prey around, it is also a good time for predators to raise their cubs and pups, making for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Given its Great Rift Valley location, many are often surprised that the lake itself resides above sea level at 1,884 metres and given this point, this further explains why the lake is called as such, as Naivasha is translated as Nai’posha (rough water) in the Maasai language. This elevation exposes Naivasha to strong winds which can all of a sudden whip the usually calm waters up into a rather bumpy waterline for vessels. As a wildlife paradise, Lake Naivasha is a must-visit location for wildlife enthusiasts who can witness everything from birdlife to warthog and monkey within the surrounding area.
Travelers should keep their eyes peeled for the colobus monkey that reside in the vast green areas of papyrus that encircle the lake. It is estimated that up to an incredible 400 different species of bird life inhabit Lake Naivasha while hippo are also commonly sighted in the area. When travelers reach Lake Naivasha, there are a range of things to see and do. Many tourists enjoy taking a boat cruise of the lake itself which is actually rather shallow with an average depth of just six meters. Traveling by boat is the only way to reach Crescent Island which is located on the eastern fringes of the lake and is a game park in its own right. Giraffe, hippo, buffalo and impala are all found here.
While boating on the lake, eyes can’t help being averted to Mount Longonot that casts a shadow over Naivasha. Longonot is actually a volcano but hasn’t been recorded to have erupted since the 1860s.
Longonot resides in a National Park of the same name and reaching the crater takes four to five hours by foot, but for those brave enough, the views of the surrounding Great Rift Valley are incredibly gratifying at the top.
Lake Naivasha is quite truly a fascinating lesser-known location for any would-be adventurer.
Amboseli National Park:
Second in popularity after the legendary Masai Mara, Amboseli National Park not only offers great game viewing but is also the place to go for the best views of iconic Mount Kilimanjaro. The world’s tallest free-standing mountain
actually rises just across the border in Tanzania but Amboseli has a postcard-perfect view of its snow-capped peaks, rising almost six vertical kilometers above the Savannah.
The best time to view ‘Kili’ is at dawn and sunset when the clouds lift and the light is clear and soft.Located about 200km south-east of Nairobi and accessible by road or air, Amboseli is an area of low scrubby vegetation and open
grassy plains, all of which makes for easy game viewing , and you’ll explore the park on game drives, horse-back safaris and guided nature walks.
At only 392km² Amboseli is a small park and the range of animals is not as extensive as that of other parks in Kenya but streams from Kilimanjaro surface in the center of Amboseli, creating wetlands that support a rich diversity of wildlife and most of the classic big mammals are there. The species list includes lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, spotted hyena, giraffe and cheetah, and bird watchers will be happy with a list that tops 300 species.
Lake Nakuru National park:
Lake Nakuru National Park is a must for your central Kenya tour of the Great Rift Valley with African Mecca! Seasonally, see firsthand one to two million lesser and greater flamingos dip their curved bills into the warm, alkaline water of the lake to extract their favorite food – special algae that are found in abundance in this unique water outback. Established in 1961, the park has gained global recognition as an ecologically significant region having been named a RAMSAR Site and Important Bird Area.
Lake Nakuru is also part of the Great Rift Valley Lake System that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park covers 73 square miles (188 square kilometers) that not only includes the lake, but also savannah, forests and swamps, and the southern end of the park also encompasses the Makalia Falls. The most prominent wildlife in the park includes 56 mammals and 450 bird species. Tour exploring Nakuru Park with an expert guide offers an opportunity to see and engage in many of East Africa’s most prized fauna in a natural and beautiful setting.
The lake itself is frequently dotted with the pink tones of flamingos that are joined by pelicans, herons, storks and other wading birds. Overhead, you see the distinct brown, black, white and bright yellow coloration of an African fish
eagle looking for meaty carcass of flamingos while gliding on wings that span six to eight feet. One of the most colorful birds at Nakuru lake is the African pygmy kingfisher. As one of the smallest in the kingfisher family, this little insect-eating bird is about five inches long, but the brilliant plumage more than makes up for the small size.
Explore beyond the lake, and you will find a world of forest dwellers, plains game and other creatures – large and small. Three species, though, have found the greatest solace at Lake Nakuru, and these animals are the reason that you will see an electrified fence around the park. The white and black rhinos, as well as the Rothschild’s giraffes that you see in the park have been rescued from the threat of poaching in other areas of Africa and also Kenya. Tourists who seek a thrilling Kenyan safari will have plenty to write home about when they see one of the park’s most sought-after and elusive predators – the leopard. Although demanding to locate, these spotted carnivores are most often found lounging in the trees of the acacia forests that are set back from the shores of the lake.
Your game drives take you into the woodlands where you may catch sight of the colobus and vervet monkeys.
Enjoy watching these primates, but be careful not to stand under them as they are known to be quite messy eaters, a habit that helps propagate the forest trees and vegetation.
Thomson’s gazelles, impalas, Grant’s gazelles, water bucks, reed bucks, buffalos and hippos are just some of the other herbivores found in the park.
Keeping a constant watch over some of these prey animals are striped hyenas, lions, the rare wild cats, golden cats and other highly elusive predators.