Many Africa travel enthusiasts recognize Kenya as one of the top holiday destinations in the continent. After all, it is in Kenya that the concept of an African safari was born. The country is blessed with more than 50 game parks , national reserves, and wildlife conservancies, each of which has its unique selling points.
You can therefore travel to Kenya as many times as you want, and still not be able to cover all the destinations. Which is why, if you are going for your first (or only) Kenya safari, you need to know the most popular of these destinations to make the most of your safari. If you ask any two people which the top destinations are, you are most likely to get two different lists. However, I am pretty sure they’ll feature most of the destinations below, which I consider among the best.
1. Masai Mara National Reserve
I have heard some people say that the Mara is over-hyped, at the expense of other equally deserving destinations. But the fact remains it is the best place for a wildlife safari in Kenya. What with its high concentration of wild animals all year round, coupled with its unending savannah grasslands plains that make game watching an extremely enjoyable experience?
All the big five African animals are present in the Masai Mara. In any one safari, you are guaranteed to see plenty of lions, elephants, and buffaloes. The rhinos and leopards are however harder to spot, but on a good day, you might just see both. Other animals you’ll find in the Mara include cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, plenty of antelope species, hyenas, jackals, hippos, and much much more.
What makes Masai Mara most famous however is the annual wildebeest migration that takes place between June and October. The event is considered one of the most spectacular natural spectacles of the modern world. About one million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras and other plain animals migrate in one huge mass from the Serengeti national park in Tanzania, into the Mara, then later on back to Serengeti.
2. Amboseli National Park
If the Mara is popular because of the migration, Amboseli is famous because of its large herds of elephants and its perfect setting for wildlife photography. The park is located close to Mt Kilimanjaro, which forms the ideal backdrop for taking photos of the wild animals, more-so the elephants.
Yet besides just the elephant herds, Amboseli is an equally good destination for seeing other African game animals. All the big five are resident here, though the rhino population is quite low. Like in most other parks, leopards are quite hard to spot, being mostly nocturnal animals and very elusive. There are plenty of other animals here too, making Amboseli a potential one-stop destination.
3. Mt Kenya
Being Africa’s second highest mountain, Mt Kenya is probably the country’s most important land feature. No wonder the country is named after the mountain.
The mountain stands at 5199 meters above sea level at its highest peak (Batian). You can trek all the way to Lenana Peak (at 4985m) without needing any specialized mountaineering equipment. Beyond that however, you have to be an expert mountaineer and you’ll need special equipment to make it to Nelion (5188m) and Batian (5199m).
If mountain trekking is not your thing however, you can still enjoy viewing the snow-peaked mountain from the slopes and plains around it. There a few national parks and wildlife conservancies around the park where you can enjoy great safaris and scenic views of the mountain. These include Meru National Park, Ol Pejeta conservancy, and Mt Kenya National Park.
4. The Great Rift Valley
You probably already know that the Great Rift Valley is one of the most phenomenal natural features on earth. It stretches all the way from Syria in the Middle East to Mozambique in Southern Africa. The Eastern Africa Rift is perhaps the most renowned branch of the Rift Valley, and what better place to see it than in Kenya?
The floor of the Kenyan Rift Valley is home to many beautiful and significant places, including several hot springs, prehistoric sites, lakes, and wildlife sanctuaries. The popular Masai Mara itself lies in the Rift Valley.
You can catch some stunning views of how deep the valley itself is at the Rift Valley view point just 2 hours drive from Nairobi. There’s also another, arguably more beautiful, view point at Subukia.
5. The Coastal Beaches
With a 536 km long coastline stretching from the Somalia border in the North to the Tanzania border in the South, Kenya is home to some of the finest beaches along the Eastern coast of Africa. They may not rival the Caribbean beaches or those in the Seychelles and Mauritius, but many are stunningly beautiful and idyllic enough to make for great romantic holiday destinations.
The most famous beaches are near or around Lamu and Malindi in the North Coast, and Diani in the South Coast. The ones at Wasini and Chale islands are particularly beautiful, though a bit pricier than in most of their other counterparts.