Kenya travel guide, including map of Kenya, top Kenya travel experiences, tips for travel in Kenya, plus where to see wildlife in Kenya
Think safari, think Kenya. Nestled on the coast of East Africa, Kenya is where Roosevelt, Hemingway and Churchill put romance into hunting, and started off the safari industry.
These days Kenyan safaris are all photographic, but the excitement remains. The greatest density of game is in the Masai Mara, the northern part of Tanzania's Serengeti. This is packed with wildlife during the annual wildebeest migration, but is busy with game and predators year round: sighting come thick and fast.
There are a number of parks in the east. Framed by Kilimanjaro, Amboseli is a small park with too many elephant. You'll get good sightings, but there's no longer enough meltwater coming from Kili's shrinking ice-cap to support the park's game. The situation is better in the wide expanses of Tsavo, where animals roam freely and and there aren't too many other vehicles. Shimba Hills National Park is a little gem within easy reach of Kenya's southern beach resorts, best known for its roan antelope but with cute little bushbabies who cluster round the lodge at night.
Head north and Nakuru is a small park around a beautiful, flamingo-filled lake: its size makes it easy to find the park rhino, but after a bit of birding it's best to move on. Aberdares is a fantastic park on the foothills of Mount Kenya, with forested slopes that get plenty of rain, but this does mean that game is harder to find. Carry on to Samburu, a beautiful - if arid - park, where you can easily find wildlife if you know where it drinks.
Raise your budget and you can also consider private reserves, often run in conjunction with local tribes, Hot spots include the Laikipia Plateau to the north and the Chyulu Hills west of Tsavo.
Leaving the cool highlands of Kenya's central plateau and heading east you drop down to Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. The city of Mombasa has a fantastic island setting and an impressive Portuguese fort, but it's not especially geared up for travellers. Most accommodation is across the causeway north of town, in a string of resorts that line the beach.
The coast road continues up to the charming little village of Watamu and then the slightly seedy Malindi. The road continues (but traffic, including matatus, generally does not) up to the island of Lamu, a welcoming little Islamic enclave generally reached by air. With just four cars - but plenty of boats and donkeys - this is a good place to experience the coast's Muslim culture.
Head south from Mombasa and you have to take the Likoni ferry. The pace of life slows sharply and there are a line of beautiful beaches, often quite undeveloped, with the best known (and best) being Diani Beach.
Don't miss the richest part of a Kenyan journey: the Kenyans. There are more than 70 tribes in Kenya, many with their own distinctive costumes and customs. On private reserves these are the people who will be your guides, or they are easy to meet if you step out of your safari bubble. Head north for the Samburu and Turkana people, clustered by the edge of croc-infested Lake Turkana, while in the south the Maasai prevail, proud warriors struggling to adapt to a world where land can be - and increasingly is - privately owned.
For safaris in Kenya, pack a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off and neutral-coloured clothes; don’t wear blue as it attracts tsetse flies. Also, be prepared to get up early – game-viewing starts at dawn.
Upcountry Kenya is almost all at 600 metres or more above sea level, making for a very pleasant climate with warm days and cool nights. Coastal regions are generally hot and steamy year-round, with far more mosquitos.
Kenya’s peak season, when it’s dry and hot and flamingoes flock to Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes, is January-February – prices are high and accommodation booked well in advance.
For better deals and fewer tourists, visit during the shoulder season (June-October); this is also when the Great Migration passes through Kenya’s Masai Mara – one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles.
March to May and October to December are generally wetter, though it doesn’t tend to rain all day, the vegetation is lush, and you can get some great deals on accommodation. Climbing Mount Kenya is best done during the drier months.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) 15km from Nairobi; Moi International (MBA) 12km from Mombasa
There is a good network of internal flights all over Kenya, useful for time-poor travellers, and for accessing remote lodges in the bush (via tiny, sometimes wildlife-inhabited airstrips).
Hiring a car in Kenya is costly and for many areas you’ll require a 4WD. Some hire companies bury a $10,000 excess in their rental agreement, which is not so good in a country where car-jacking is relatively common: pay someone to guard your rental car whenever you park. Matatus (share taxi minivans) ply Kenya’s roads; they leave when full, are very cheap and often break down. Buses link Kenya’s big cities and vary greatly in quality; size up the vehicle before boarding. Avoid travelling at night: unlit cattle and vehicles - as well as occasional bandits - make it hazardous.
Along the Kenyan coast, sailing by dhow (traditional boat) is the most atmospheric way to access offshore islands.
From the simple to the sublime, accommodation in Kenya covers the full range. Budget travellers can take their own tent and camp out in the wilderness; the national parks have basic sites with toilets and taps. Kenya’s bandas, no-frills chalets with beds, bathrooms and sometimes kitchens, are good-value options.
Plusher hotels are available in cities, but the real treats are Kenya’s high-end safari lodges. Often breathtaking in design and location, these are set on private or community-run reserves on the edges of Kenya’s national parks that offer chic rooms, stylish communal bars, quality cuisine and safari activities; they sounds pricey but food and often drink is included and the experience first-class.
Meals at Kenya’s high-end and mid-range lodges are generally Western and delicious, with snacks available in between – you won’t go hungry on a posh Kenyan safari. If trekking, camp food is hearty and plentiful – expect big portions of soup, pasta, meat and fish, veggies and fruit.
Local Kenyan fare is pretty basic and meat-based: expect mutton stews, ugali (stodgy maize porridge) and vegetables such as spinach. Vegetarians may struggle. There’s plenty of homegrown fresh fruit in Kenya, including mango, pineapple and passion fruit; fruit juices are also delicious.
Tusker beer, a G&T or a glass of (imported) wine all make good sundowners – the traditional way to end your day on a Kenyan safari. Coffee is generally weak and instant; chai (sweet milk tea) is the Kenyan’s drink of choice.
In Kenya drink boiled/purified water and practice good food hygiene – travellers’ diarrhoea is relatively common. Make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations. Malaria prophylaxis is required for most of the country though mosquitos are not too much of a problem unpcountry; ask your GP for advice.
If climbing Mount Kenya, be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness (headaches, nausea and disorientation). Drink plenty of water and ascend slowly. Avoid driving at night.
HIV is a major problem in Kenya. Assume that anyone who propositions you is HIV positive as you are most unlikely to be the first person they've tried.
Special destinations. Zero crowds. Here are the enlightening experiences in Oman, Palestine, Kenya, Guyana and beyond that haven’t made it on to travellers’ radars - for now... More
Tough on the outside, soft on the inside, the scaly pangolin is one of the planet's most enigmatic creatures. Sightings in the wild are very rare, but they are possible... More
Kenya's Masai Mara is among the world's most famous locations to witness increasingly rare and dramatic wildlife encounters. Find out what to see, and when... More
Regal and majestic, spotting a lion in the wild is the highlight of any safari. Jonathan and Angela Scott, the Big Cat People, reveal the very best places to in Africa to see them... More
Mya-Rose has been birdwatching since she was nine days old. At 16, she became the youngest person in the world to see 5,000 bird species. So, we can all trust her picks for best birdwatching spots... More
With chances to see the Big Five, stunning landscapes, walking tours and a whole host of other activities at both national parks, it can be hard to choose where to visit. Which is best? Let's find out... More
We reveal the best destinations to travel to in June, for warm sunny weather, cultural festivals, epic wildlife watching experiences and longer-term trips... More
From bubblegum-coloured lakes and baby pink palaces to a Japanese garden covered in garishly pink moss, life always looks rosy in these pretty pink-hued attractions... More
Our Wanderlust experts have selected the cream of the upcoming 2019/2020 solo travel-friendly tours, that avoid you having to stump up the dreaded single supplement… More
From Kenya and Zambia to Botswana and South Africa, big cat experts Jonathan and Angela Scott reveal the best African safari spots for a view of the majestic leopard... More
Wildlife experts Jonathan and Angela Scott are back on TV, documenting the fascinating lives of the wild lions, leopards and cheetahs of Masai Mara National Reserve... More
Going on safari is a dream trip for many, but making the most of that opportunity can be trickier than it sounds. We present your tips for ensuring every wildlife adventure is one to remember… More
The Wanderlust Photo of the Year 2018 results will be revealed tomorrow! Have a look at the final 10 photos from this year's wildlife category to get an idea of how steep the competition is this year... More
Do you want to track big game on foot or in a dugout canoe? Explore vast savannahs or sweeping dunes? Focus on birds or bigger beasts like lion and rhino? Plot the perfect African safari for you... More
The BBC’s Dynasties has thrilled viewers by documenting the complex lives of some of the most endangered species on earth. Now you can encounter them first hand on these exciting wildlife tours More
Fluffy, tiny and cute: prepare to fall in love with Michael Poliza's pictures from Kenya, Botswana and Borneo of baby lions, cheetahs, elephants and more... More
Learning doesn’t have to be dull. From the awesome geology of the Canyonlands to the ancient monuments of Jordan and Cambodia, these trips prove that travel is the best teacher More
We have announced the winners of the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2018. From overlanding in West Africa to walking in Italy and cruising the Mekong, here’s how you can have an amazing trip with them More
“The world always has the capacity to surprise and delight!” Kate Humble on walking, well-being and her new book… More
With World Rhino Day just passed, we take a look at the Remembering Rhinos project. Wildlife photographers, including Art Wolfe and Mark Carwardine, captured intimate photos of rhinos around the world. More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
From: £8995.00More …
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!