Kenya is a top safari destination. Some may even argue that Kenya is the best safari destination in Africa. For more on that, our article Which African Country Is Best To Visit will provide very insightful information. Further still, our article Is Kenya Worth Visiting will narrow down on why magical Kenya should be on anyone’s travel bucket list. Anyway, if you happen to find yourself in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, whether as a foreigner or a local, there are several safari trails in all directions from the city that promise adventure. The question then becomes: Which are the best Kenya safaris from Nairobi? Well, from the city under the sun you really cannot go wrong whatever trail you choose to follow. However, we will highlight some of our favorites.
Nairobi National Park
Admittedly, Nairobi National Park may not offer the most immersive wild safari experience in Kenya. However, it is a marvel in itself that it is a full-fledged wildlife national park just 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) from Nairobi’s CBD. Nairobi National Park is the only one of its kind in the world being a national wildlife park within a capital city. Quite literally, in 25 minutes one could go from closing a business deal in an office space to ditching one’s suit for a pair of cargo shorts and binoculars and spotting wild animals on safari. In fact, while at the park, the city’s skyscrapers form the backdrop to the vast acacia bushland creating a surreal experience where the urban jungle meets the natural jungle.
Nairobi National Park tops our list for simply being so convenient to access from Nairobi. A safari here can span one afternoon allowing one to get back to the city and on to other businesses the following day. It does not require much planning yet the experience is quite fulfilling. There are splendid lodges such as The Emakoko, Ololo Lodge, and Masai Lodge just to mention a few that offer accommodation for extended stays. Book with us for special discounts. Safaris to Nairobi National Park are ideal for thrill-seekers pressed for time or even money as such safaris are significantly more affordable compared to safaris to other destinations.
Nairobi still has more to offer in terms of wildlife viewing. Other spots such as the Giraffe Center and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is an orphanage for elephants and rhinos are points of interest. The Giraffe Manor in Nairobi is a world-renown hotel that offers one of the most unique dining experiences in the world. Every morning, breakfast is served for both guests and the resident giraffes. The giraffes walk to the restaurant’s windows and poke their long necks into the restaurant for the guests to feed them as they also have their own breakfast.
Masai Mara National Park
Masai Mara National Park needs little to no introduction. It is arguably Kenya’s most famous wildlife park and for good reasons. Firstly, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration takes place here during the months of July to August. Roughly two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle make the perilous journey from Tanzania’s Serengeti into Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of greener pastures, literally. Hot on their trail are predators such as lions and cheetahs. The Mara River crossing is particularly spectacular as the wildebeests and company cross the crocodile-infested river.
Secondly, the Masai Mara is home to the Big Five (the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the Cape buffalo, and the rhino) among other exotic wild animals. One can go on safari drives using four by four Land Cruisers specifically built and modified for going on safari. Hot-air-balloon safaris are also a unique safari experience that one should definitely try.
Masai Mara is also home to some of the most luxurious safari lodges and glamping sites the world has to offer. The lodges showcase Kenyan hospitality at its best. One can satisfy their palate with the local cuisine or settle for more familiar continental dishes at the lodges. Bush dinners and breakfasts are also an immersive way to experience the wilderness of the Mara and there’s nothing like a sundowner after an exhilarating day of game drives.
Masai Mara is also a cultural center as many safaris include visits to Maasai villages. This world-renowned tribe has most of its traditional way of life preserved. One can immerse oneself in the Maasai culture which includes dressing up in their tribal regalia, applying red ochre on one’s head, and feasting on a mixture of milk, blood, and meat and other delicacies. Kidding about them being delicacies, of course. The Maasai tribesmen are also a common source of entertainment in many lodges as they perform traditional dances for tourists. If all of this has inspired some wanderlust here are Kenyan Safaris for Non-residents and Masai Mara Packages for Residents.
Masai Mara National Park is just over 309 kilometers (192 miles) southwest of Nairobi. One can get there by road which takes about 6 hours or a short 45-minute flight.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is known for two things: its large herds of elephants and its splendid views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. The park can serve as a safari stop as one then proceeds into Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Most of the lodges in Amboseli National Park have waterholes where elephants and other wild animals come for a drink. This allows for guests in such lodges to enjoy game watching from the comforts of the lodge either by the pool, while having lunch or from their private balcony.
One can spot all the members of the Big Five except the black rhino so Amboseli National Park still offers quite a plethora of wildlife to see.
Amboseli National Park is 215 kilometers (134 miles) from Nairobi which is a four-hour drive or a 30-minute flight.
Residents Amboseli National Park packages.
Mt. Kenya Region Wildlife Parks
The Mt. Kenya region encompasses Mt. Kenya National Park, Aberdares National Park, Meru National Park, and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia County such as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancy among others. Safaris to this part of the country are usually off-the-beaten-path experiences. While typical safaris include dry vast savannah bushlands, the Mt. Kenya region is characterized by more vegetation cover sometimes thick enough to form large tracts of forested areas.
Conservancies in Laikipia are known for their rare rhino species such as the black and white rhinos. Mt. Kenya National Park has lots of elephants as well as other herbivorous wild animals. Leopards are a rare spot but are known to reside within the park. Climbing Mt. Kenya, Kenya’s tallest mountain and Africa’s second, is a popular activity with tourists. The journey to the top introduces varying mountain flora and physical features such as lakes, glaciers, and tarns. At the top awaits snow-capped peaks which are in themselves quite astonishing seeing that Mt. Kenya is so close to the equator.
Aberdare National Park is home to herds of elephants, the black rhino, leopards, the African wild cat, the spotted hyena, and buffalos among other wild animals. The park is characterized by forested ravines and open moorland. Kenya’s tallest waterfall, Karuru Falls, is found in Aberdare National Park. Meru National Park is a rarely visited park hence quite pristine and massively underrated. The park together with its sister park, Kora National Park, is characterized by khaki grasslands with rivers coursing through them. One can easily spot the Grevy’s zebra, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, the reticulated giraffe, hippos, and buffalos among others.
Lodges in the Mt. Kenya region are designed to feel like luxurious log cabins with some built around natural waterholes where animals frequent to quench their thirst. In fact, Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton whilst staying in the secluded Rutundu Cabins in Mt. Kenya which speaks to the appeal of the region.
The Mt. Kenya region is mostly accessed from Nanyuki which is 194 kilometers (120 miles) from Nairobi. A journey by road usually takes just over three hours while flying there takes about an hour and 15 minutes.
Residents Mt. Kenya Region weekend getaways.
Tsavo East & Tsavo West National Parks
Tsavo East & Tsavo West national parks combined cover about 4% of Kenya’s land area. This makes the two parks among the largest wildlife parks in the world. They are divided by the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway and were split into two separate wildlife parks for ease of management. The Tsavo parks were home to the infamous man-eater lions of the Tsavo. Other members of the big five also reside in the parks as well as cheetahs, wild dogs, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and many more wild animals.
While wildlife parks are mostly known for their wild animals, the Tsavo parks also boast captivating volcanic features. The Yatta Plateau in Tsavo East is the world’s longest lava flow covering a distance of 300 kilometers (186 miles). Mzima Springs in Tsavo West spew out millions of gallons of crystal clear water every day. The Shetani Lava Flow is another notable volcanic feature found in the Tsavo parks, more specifically, in Tsavo West. The term Shetani means ‘devil’ in Kiswahili. 500 years ago when the Shetani Lava Flow feature formed the locals must have thought the devil himself was rising from the ground hence the name.
Tsavo West is 294 kilometers (182 miles) from Nairobi and takes just under six hours to journey by road or just under an hour using a plane.
Residents Tsavo safari packages.
Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve is located along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River which in turn separates it from Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The reserves are home to a myriad of wildlife species such as the Somali ostrich, the Grevy’s zebra, the reticulated giraffe, the gerenuk, and the beisa oryx which are collectively known as the Samburu Special Five. Elephants, leopards, cheetahs, and lions can also be spotted in the reserves. In fact, Kumunyak, a famous lioness that adopted a baby oryx, once resided in Samburu National Reserve.
The Samburu People add to the attraction of the reserve by showcasing their culture. While one may mix up the Samburu People with the Maasai People due to similarities in their cultures, the two tribes are different and interesting in their own unique ways. While the Maasai may be more renowned, the Samburu can make a case for themselves as being more traditional having preserved most of their culture.
The lodges in Samburu National Reserve take full advantage of the natural resources in the reserve to offer guests memorable safari vacations. Some of the lodges are set along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, therefore, offering guests a splendid vista of the river. Wildlife viewing can also be done from the comforts of the lodges as the river attracts wild animals looking to quench their thirst. Finally, the lodges borrow heavily from the local Samburu culture in terms of decor as well as offering cultural visits to Samburu villages.
Samburu National Reserve is 332 kilometers (206 miles) from Nairobi which is a six-hour road trip or about an hour’s flight.
Residents Samburu National Reserve safari packages.
Nakuru & Naivasha
Nakuru and Naivasha offer a similar safari experience to Nairobi as the parks and game sanctuaries are located fairly close to urban centers. The appeal of these two Kenyan towns goes beyond just game watching. There are plenty more adventurous activities to partake in as well as enjoying the buzzing nightlife.
Lake Nakuru National Park is perhaps the main attraction in Nakuru. It is home to rhinos, zebras, buffalos, hippos, giraffes, and the occasional lion and leopard. Another major attraction at the park is the pink flamingo which flocks the shores of Lake Nakuru.
Hell’s Gate National Park is Naivasha’s main attraction. The eerily-named park is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and game viewing featuring a line up consisting of the African buffalo, zebras, and the Thomson’s gazelle among others. The park is located within the Great Rift Valley and has scenic physical features such as stark rock towers, gorges, and geothermal spas. Crescent Island is another popular attraction in Naivasha that allows for guided walks among herbivorous wild animals. Lake Naivasha is also alluring with its hippo population as well as being a site for boat rides and picnics on its shores. If Naivasha sounds interesting here are Places To Visit In Naivasha.
Nakuru is 170 kilometers (105 miles) from Nairobi while Naivasha is 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Nairobi.
Like we mentioned earlier, you really cannot go wrong in choosing the best Kenya safaris from Nairobi. One only has to consider what type of adventure one is after as well as the time and money at one’s disposal. Happy safaris.