Kenya is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. It pays homage to diverse savanna plains, the Great Rift Valley, arid and semi-arid deserts, a snow-capped mountain, and white sandy beaches along the coastal strip. Within these landscapes are 61 national parks and game reserves inhabited by wild animals which include the big five, thousands of bird species, and many rare endangered species.
The list below outlines 11 travel destinations for you to consider visiting next time you’re going on vacation.
1. Maasai Mara National Reserve
This is probably the most popular game reserve known both in the country and worldwide. It is where the “Great migration” occurs in which wild beasts and zebras cross the Mara and Talek rivers in search of lush green pastures.
This migration is a result of varying climate conditions in Maasai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti national park in Tanzania. Over 1.5 million wildebeests normally start trekking several miles across the reserve around mid-July which can last up to weeks. On their way, they cross rivers which always pose a great danger to them due to the thriving Nile crocodiles within the waters. This migration mostly continues from mid-July till August when the movement of the herds starts declining.
The sight of this migration, as well as the struggles these animals go through while searching for pastures, is what thrills many tourists and makes it one of the great wonders of the world. Hot air balloons are a popular activity on this site as many tourists enjoy viewing game life from above and while moving.
2. Amboseli National Park
Gazetted back in 1974 as a national park, Amboseli remains to be one of the best places to visit on a vacation. With over 900 free-range wild animals roaming in the park, it provides a perfect environment for long game drives and camp outs. You’ll find the big five roaming within the grasslands particularly in the dry seasons when animals congregate around small water spots scattered throughout the park. This is normally around the months of January to March, July to October, and December. For tourists taking summer vacations, the July to October season is a perfect fit.
From Amboseli, you can also view Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the highest mountain in Africa. You can always have a breathtaking view of the flat snow-capped mountain every time you drive through the park.
Hot air balloons are also available in the park in case you want to get bird’s eye views of the wild animals ranging from large herds of elephants, lions, zebras, gazelles, rhinos, cheetahs and many more.
This is also a popular tourist destination, just an hour’s drive from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Many tourist attractions surround this small suburban town. These include the Hell’s Gate national park, Crescent Island, Lake Naivasha, Mount Longonot, Crater Lake, Lake Oloiden, and Lake Elementaita.
The area is also characterized by lots of mild volcanic activity giving rise to relaxing natural recreational facilities like geothermal spas. You’ll also find naturally heated pools within Olkaria, which is located at the heart of Hell’s gate national park. This is a one-of-a-kind feature that singles out the region from other tourist centers in Africa.
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4. Mt. Kenya
This is the highest mountain in Kenya, with a peak rising to 5,199m above sea level. It can be viewed at a distance, on a free-mist clear chilly morning in Nairobi as well as surrounding the towns. If you have a wild taste of adventure, you can hike up the mountain and reach any of its three topmost peaks; Point Lenana, Nelian Peak, and the highest Batian Peak. However, you may need to undergo training before climbing due to the harsh environment as you go up.
The lower slopes of the mountain is home to the rare mountain bongos and a wide variety of wild animals. These slopes are characterized by unique mountain vegetation made up of bamboo and the African rosewood trees.
It also has crater lakes that have spectacular views when you walk around its slopes. Some of these include Lake Alice, Lake Ellis, Lake Rutungu, and Lake Hohnel.
5. Laikipia Nature Conservancies
Laikipia is a large nature park saturated with nature and wildlife conservancies, including Ol-Pejeta. Other conservancies include Ol-Jogi wildlife conservancy, Loisaba, Mugie, Ol Lentille, Sosian, and Ol Ari Nyiro conservancies. They are natural habitats gazetted to protect highly endangered species like the northern white rhinos, Grevy’s Zebra, reticulated giraffes and elephants. It also pays homage to a wide variety of wildlife that is stunning to view when grazing in their natural habitats. More than 400 bird species live in these conservancies as well as unique wildlife like the African wild dog, greater kudu, and the Laikipia hartebeest.
Within these parks and conservancies are exotic and expensive eco-lodges, designed to camouflage the natural wild habitat of the region. This creates an exquisite experience when touring the parks.
The capital of Kenya is also a great travel destination. You may never exhaust all the places of interest in one round of a summer vacation. First up is the Nairobi national park, which overlooks the city from Lang’ata. Many wild animals roam within this park, at times coming close to the city and you may be lucky to see some giraffes, gazelles, zebras and maybe lions as you traverse the Southern bypass highway. It also has strategic picnic sites, three campsites and nature trails you can trek.
Just along the borders of the park, you’ll find an orphanage dedicated to nursing and raising abandoned wild animals before releasing them back to their natural habitat. There’s the safari walk just adjacent to the orphanage where you get a first-hand view of the park from a raised wooden boardwalk.
You can also visit the giraffe centre in Karen, where you’ll get a chance to feed giraffes and perhaps take a 1.5km (1 mile) nature trail which is just behind the center.
Nairobi also has several fun spots such as the village market, the Panari ice skating center, Maasai market, the Nairobi national museum and Karura forest.
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7. Tsavo National Park
Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya cutting across the lower eastern region and stretching onto the coast. It’s also one of the oldest national parks in the country with a rich history of the man-eating lions that plagued the workers who were constructing the Mombasa-Nairobi railway line.
You can engage in a wide variety of activities from birdwatching, sightseeing, and the most thrilling game drives. With the latter, you can drive miles upon miles in the park; either with a guided game tour or simply take a map and tread through the vast savanna grasslands.
You’ll definitely encounter several wild animals such as elephant tribes, lion packs, hunting cheetahs, grazing gazelles, strolling giraffes, and many more.
The distant view of the great Yatta plateau also makes travelling within the park an amazing experience.
Mombasa is the oldest and second-largest city in Kenya, popularly called “Mombasa Raha” by locals within the country. It bears a rich history of the country being the former barter trade center for the Arabs and the inland Bantu communities. This famous long-distance trade area gave birth to the current national language of Kenya, Swahili.
There are several places of interest worth visiting. Haller Park, a former limestone quarry, transformed into a serene nature park full of fenced wild animals. You’ll want to see the old motherly tortoise named Mzee who cared for an orphaned hippo named Owen in the park. Fort Jesus, a 400+ year-old fort built by the Portuguese in the 1590s to protect Mombasa port. The Mombasa old town, an old Swahili residential area characterized by narrow streets, markets, and buildings crafted with the ancient Swahili architecture.
The old city also has exotic beach hotels where you can enjoy vacationing with your family. You can take boat rides, sail on yachts, paraglide in the ocean, surf, jet ski and wake-board in the ocean waters.
9. Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru is a widely known bird sanctuary that is home to thousands of bird species, particularly flamingos. Many people flood the lake every year just to view the distinct pink population of flamingos breeding in the lake. You will also find unique endangered species like the Madagascar Pond-Heron, the Martial Eagle Polemaeteus Bellicosus and the Grey-Crested Helmet-Shrike Prionops. The surroundings around the lake are home to a wide variety of wild animals such as monkeys, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, and the rare white and black rhinos.
The lake also has nice camping spots, picnic sites, and exotic lodges where you can spend the night away from home and enjoy some adventure in the park.
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Watamu is a delightful small village located 105km (65 miles) north of Mombasa. It overlooks long stretches of blinding white sandy beaches with refreshing breezes coming from the Indian Ocean. The Marine national reserve situated in the region is home to some unique fish species. You can enjoy a better view of marine life by scuba diving and sailing on dhows on the crystal-clear waters.
Nearby are the Gedi ruins, an ancient site that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Beyond the white sandy beaches is the thick Arabuko Sokoke forest, consisting of thriving mangrove trees. The Bio-Ken snake farm which hosts a large collection of snakes in East Africa is also worth visiting.
Within Watamu is also the Mida creek which is a major stop-over point for several migratory bird species like kingfishers, fish eagles, and flamingos. You can explore sea turtles, crabs and different kinds of fish species while sailing on boats provided on its shores.
11. Diani Beach
This is another long stretch of white clean sandy beaches located on the South coast, approximately 30km (18.6 miles) from Mombasa. Surrounding the beach are beautiful tropical forests that create a serene, quiet environment along the beach. This is a great spot for meditative long beach walks, kite-surfing, and sunbathing.
You can also enjoy ocean rides on ancient-designed dhows giving you a thrilling feel of the Swahili culture.
These are just 11 among hundreds of tourist destinations spread out across the country. Visiting these parks, cities, and national reserves can be one of the most rewarding experiences as you get to appreciate nature in its most natural state.
Within the parks are also amazing campsites, lodges and hotels in which you can spend the night and enjoy several days of vacation with your family and friends. Try paying a visit one of these days to any of the above-mentioned destinations to experience nature and wildlife first hand.