KENYA

Wildebeest Migration

PARKS & DESTINATIONS

The parks and destinations listed here are some of the best Kenya has to offer. Ujuzi African Travel is committed to customizing a travel package that meets your travel interests and fulfills your vacation dreams. If a particular place you'd like to visit isn't listed here, let us know and we'll incorporate it into your itinerary.



animated wildebeest migration map

Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park is part of the beautiful Aberdare mountain range in Kenya's central highlands. They were named after Lord Aberdare, one of the founding members of the Royal Geographical Society. The mountains here soar to around 14,000 feet, giving way to deep valleys where streams and rivers cascade into spectacular waterfalls.

Three main ecological zones band the mountain range. Rainforests lie at the lowest elevation and are lush, green and full of wildlife, from colobus monkeys to leopards to elephants. Next some the bamboo forests from around 8,000 to 11,000 feet. The elusive bongo antelope can sometimes be found hiding. At the highest elevations are the drier moorlands which, with their low-growing vegetation, are reminiscent of the European highlands. Here you can find black leopards, waterbucks and the eland, the largest of the antelope.

Black rhinos, lions, baboons, giant forest hogs, cape buffalo and suni (one of the world's smallest antelope species) are also plentiful in the Aberdares. Bird viewing is incredible, with over 250 species of birds recorded.

Activities Include: Fishing, Game Drives, Birding


Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is a place of stark contrast. One of Amboseli's most amazing spectacles is a shimmering dry lake bed where false mirages of populated horizons, punctuated by real herds of zebra and gnu, hover in front of you. Amboseli's often dry surface (its name means "salty dust" in the Maasai language) is coated in a powder-like dust of volcanic ash that was thrown from Mount Kilimanjaro a millenium ago.

But the park is not all desert. Hiding beneath the ground are a network of underground streams born from Kilimanjaro's snow melt. After filtering through thousands of feet of volcanic rock, these streams converge into clear fresh water springs in the heart of the park.

The main attractions of Amboseli are its vast elephant herds. The bull elephants here have some of the largest tusks in Kenya. You're also likely to see a wide variety of waterbirds, buffalos, zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, Maasai giraffes, lions, and cheetahs, with Mount Kilimanjaro providing a majestic backdrop. Amboseli is one of the most popular game parks in Kenya and has a number of lodges and a tented camp.

Activities Include: Game Drives, Cultural Visits


David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Orphans' Project

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Orphans' Project is a temporary home for orphaned elephants and rhinos. Here, young animals who have lost their mothers to poaching, illness or human encroachment receive nourishment and learn valuable skills they will need when they return to the wild, such as gathering their own food and socializing with other members of their species.

In early 2012, the orphanage was caring for one rhino and about two dozen elephants 4 years old and younger. The animals sleep at the orphanage, then spend the day with the human caretakers in Nairobi National Park learning to forage and becoming familiar with the scents and behaviors of local herds. Once they’re old enough, the orphans are released into wild herds in Tsavo National Park, which David Sheldrick established, and adopted by the adults there.

The Orphans' Project is open to visits from the public during limited hours, when visitors can watch elephants feed and play. Individuals can "adopt" an elephant for $50 a year; you'll receive a monthly update about the elephant and have the opportunity to learn about other elephants in the program.

Activities Include: Animal Visits


Giraffe Centre

The Giraffe Centre is an educational sanctuary dedicated to rescuing the endangered Rothschild giraffe. The center attracts thousands of visitors each year who are looking for the unique experience of interacting closely with these gentle giants. Unlike other giraffes, Rothschild giraffes are born with five ossicones (horns) on their heads; have orange-brown spots that grow dark at the center as the giraffes age; and lack dark markings on their lower legs, so that some people say it looks like they're wearing white knee-socks.

The Giraffe Centre is a project of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. When AFEW was started in 1979, only 120 Rothschild giraffes lived in the wild. Through breeding and conservation, the Giraffe Centre has helped raise this number to 300 giraffes in five groups across Kenya.

One of Giraffe Centre's core missions is to educate Kenyan school children and their teachers about the country's wildlife and environment, instilling a lifelong appreciation for their nation's unique resources and the practical benefits of conserving them. Kids visit the center and, along with international visitors, have the opportunity to pet and feed some of the world's tallest land mammals from the second story of the visitors pavillion.

Lucky visitors may even get a "kiss of life" – the nice term for getting slobbered on by one of those blue tongues! Giraffe "kisses" earned this term because giraffe saliva has natural compounds that help fight bacteria and sanitize wounds. This special property evolved to help their tongues heal quickly from scratches the giraffes get while noshing on thorny acacia bushes, their favorite delicacy.

Activities Include: Animal Visits, Giraffe Feeding


Kenya Coast

The Kenya Coast consists of long stretches of white beaches fringed between coral headlands broken by occasional river creeks. Most of the coastline is protected by a coral reef half a mile out in the Indian Ocean. This allows for safe bathing and fascinating goggling and scuba diving. Fringed by coconut palms and casuarina trees, the coast forms a complete contrast to the rest of the country in climate, scenery, and cultural history.

Mombasa

Not everyone realizes that Mombasa is, in fact, an island served by two deep harbors. Big ocean liners park at Kilindini Harbor, an international seaport serving much of East and North Africa. On the other side of the island is Old Mombasa Harbor,where picturesque dhows (sailboats) arrive and depart with the monsoon winds. These natural port facilities have given the island a long history dating back to the Middle Ages, giving it the distinction of being one of the oldest settlements in East Africa.

The old harbor and old town are major tourist attractions, comprising a traditional waterfront, fish market, and a maze of narrow streets and passages. Nearby is Fort Jesus, constructed in 1593 and the scene of many battles between the Portuguese and their various enemies. (The early name of Mombasa was "Kisiwa cha Mvita," meaning "The Island of War.")

Today, Mombasa is a veritable museum of coastal antiquities. It has many curio shops and is a good place to buy the colorful cotton kikois and kangas worn by the local townspeople. Mombasa is served by Moi International Airport and is connected to Nairobi by road and rail.

Activities Include: Beach Safari, Cultural Visit

Tana River Delta

The Tana River Delta is one of the most peaceful and breathtaking locations on the East African coast. Combining beach, river, and bush, the Tana River Delta offers the only wetland of its type in Eastern Africa. It has miles of rippling sand dunes and uninhabited beaches with fabulous views overlooking the old delta of the Tana River on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. It offers excellent exploration of incredible birdlife, aquatic life, and wildlife, or just plain relaxing in the sun.

Activities Include: Birding, Boat Cruises, Cultural Visits, Fishing, Kayaking, Sandboarding, and Snorkeling


Lake Baringo National Park

Lake Baringo is a freshwater lake with unusually spectacular scenery. Cone-shaped islands make this stretch of water particularly interesting. This is a breeding ground for many species of freshwater birds, such as fish eagles, Verreaux's eagles, darters, cormorants and a large colony of goliath heron. A large number of hippos also live in the lake.

Baringo is also home to the Njemps, a tribe that makes its traditional living by fishing from handmade and nearly unsinkable reed boats.

Activities Include: Birding, Boat Launches/Cruises, Cultural Activities


Lake Bogoria National Reserve

Lake Bogoria itself occupies most of the reserve and is a spectacular sight, reflecting searing blue skies and the rose pink of the flamingos who feed there. It has significant ornithological interest with over 135 species of birds.

The surrounding bushed grasslands are home to a number of animals. The reserve's herd of rare greater kudu makes it unique; other game to view include buffalo, zebra, impala, dik-dik, and many other small animals.

Activities Include: Birding, Game Drives


Lake Naivasha & Hell's Gate National Park

Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake almost 8 miles across and fringed by thick papyrus. Within the lake is Crescent Island, which was formed from the rim of an ancient volcanic crater. Because there are no large predators, fences or cars on the island, visitors can walk freely among the herbivores: zebras, impalas, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, waterbucks, antelopes, dik-diks, steenboks, buffalos and several other types of animals populate the island. If you’re lucky, you may spot a python.

The island and Lake Naivasha’s shore is populated by forests of the yellow-barked Acacia xanthophlea. European settlers called it the fever tree because they noticed that people tended to get yellow fever in areas where it grew. They later came to understand that the tree was not the source of the fever, but mosquitos. Thanks to modern vaccines, sickness is less of a concern in these swampy areas and the forests can be enjoyed for their bounteous bird life. Giraffes wander among the acacia, colobus monkeys call from the treetops, and the lake's large hippo population sleeps the day out in the shallows.

Next to the lake is Hell's Gate National Park, named for a narrow break in the cliffs carved out by an ancient river. The Fischer's Tower and Central Tower columns are two of the park’s other geological features. There are over 100 species of birds in the park, including vultures (watch for the rare lammergeyer vulture), Verreaux's eagle, Augur buzzard, and swifts. The park is also home to klipspringer antelope and Chanler's mountain reedbuck, Cape buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson's gazelle, hyenas, and baboons.

Activities Include: Game Drives, Hikes, Boat Trips, Bird Watching


Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru is world famous for its birdlife, which is a beacon for leading ornithologists, scientists and wildlife filmmakers. Greater and lesser flamingo dot the shores pink and are complemented by pelicans, hammerkops, snowy egrets, multiple heron species, sacred ibises, and more.

The park spans an attractive range of wooded and bush grassland around the lake, offering wide ecological diversity, from lakewater and woodland, to the rocky escarpment and ridges where rock hyraxes, klipspringers and baboons make their homes.

Notable game within the lake include hippo and clawless otters. White rhinos, waterbucks, Bohor's reedbucks, zebras, cape buffalo, impalas, elands and Thomson gazelles roam the shores. Deep in the forest, shy black rhinos can occasionally be spotted as they browse among the undergrowth; the rare tree-climbing Nakuru lion is another jewel of this unique ecosystem.

Activities Include: Game Drives, Bird Watching


Masai Mara National Reserve and Mara North Conservancy

The Masai Mara is probably the most visited reserve in Kenya. Visitors flock here each year for the Great Migration of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles from the plains of the southwestern Serengeti to the northern grasslands from July through October. The drama of the migration reaches its height at the Mara River, where crocodiles lie in wait for any creatures that show signs of weakness. But gentler moments of mothers nursing newborns and young animals learning to play are also plentiful.

Apart from the Great Migration, Masai Mara offers breathtaking views and an extraordinary density of animals year-round. These include the "Big Five" – elephant, cape buffalo, lion, leopard and rhinoceros – as well as ostriches, hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and a wide variety of plains game. More than 452 species of birds, 53 of which are raptors, can be seen in the reserve.

At the edge of the park, the Mara North Conservancy offers the same great game viewing, as well as game walks and night game drives. Unlike the reserves, which are managed by local governments and the Kenya Wildlife Service, the conservancy is owned by local Maasai tribal members who decided that their land was better served by providing homes and passageways for wild animals than being used as year-round pasture for their herds. The Maasai receive income from the land in three ways: safari fees paid to them by visitors to the land, rent paid by lodges located on the land, and an additional occupancy fee paid by the lodges when rooms (or tents, as the case may be) are filled. Mara North Conservancy is a vibrant example of the benefits that conservation can have for local communities.

Activities Include: Game Drives, Hot Air Balloon Safari, Tribal Visits, Walking/Hiking


Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon is the third highest mountain in East Africa. Situated on the Kenya/Uganda border, it was formed by the same eruption of the earth's crust that created the Great Rift Valley. With vast areas of untouched forest, this national park is one of Kenya's most beautiful. Game viewing is excellent; the park is home to an estimated 500 elephants, buffalo, leopard, the protected colobus and blue monkeys, giant forest hog, waterbuck and various other types of antelope, as well as more than 240 species of birds. Huge Elgon teak and cedar trees – some more than 80 feet tall – dominate the forest scenery.

A major attraction is a series of four explorable caves . The largest of these is Kitum, extending more than 650 feet horizontally into the heart of the mountain. Its Maasai name means "Place of Ceremony." The caves are a favorite gathering place for elephants: every night, long convoys venture deep into the caves to feed off the rich salt deposits. This nightly practice has earned them the title "underground elephants."

Mount Elgon also offers excellent climbing and walking opportunities. No special equipment or experience is required. The highest peak on the Kenyan side is Koitobos (13,000 feet). On the way up, travelers cross beautiful moorlands and can rest at hot springs.

Activities Include: Cave Exploration, Game Drives, Walking/Hiking


Mount Kenya National Park

At 17,000 feet high, Mt. Kenya is Africa's second highest mountain. It offers both easy and challenging ascents with superb scenic beauty.

To the Kikuyu tribe, it is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Kamba and Masai tribes. In traditional prayers, Ngai is addressed by the Kikuyu as Mwene Nyaga, "the possessor of brightness." The Kikuyu name for the moutnain is Kere Nyaga, meaning "the mountain of brightness."

Part of the mountain's fascination is the variation in flora and fauna as the altitude changes. The lower slopes are covered with dry upland forest. True montane forest begins at about 6,000 feet and is mainly cedar and podo. At 8,200 feet begins a dense belt of bamboo forest, which merges into an upper belt of glades interspersed with forets of small trees festooned with high altitude moss.

These forest belts are home to many different animals and plants, including at least 11 species unique to the mountain. Game to view includes the black and white colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys, bushbucks, buffalos, and elephants. At lower altitudes, visitors may see olive baboons, waterbucks, black rhinos, black fronted duikers, leopards, giant forest hogs, genets, bush pigs and hyenas. Most elusive is the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope whose beautiful hide was once used to make bongo drums.

The high altitude heath at the top (9000-11,000 feet) is generally open, dotted with shrubs like sage, protea, and helicrysum. Above 11,000 feet is moorland with little game other than high altitude zebra and eland.

Activities Include: Game Drives, Walking/Hiking


Nairobi

With a population of more than 3 million people, Nairobi is the vibrant capital of Kenya. Although it lies just 87 miles south of the equator, it has a comfortable year-round climate. Temperatures rarely fall below 50º F at night or rise above 77º F during the day.

Popularly know as the "Green City in the Sun," Nairobi is an attractive metropolis with many small public parks and gardens full of shrubs and flowers. The main routes out of town are tree-lined avenues.

Nairobi is an important international business and social center. Towering above the city is the Kenyatta International Conference Center, designed and equipped for major international conventions, on top of which is a revolving restaurant that offers superb views of the city and surrounding country. High-rise buildings dot the landscape, and fine hotels and restaurants cater to the tastes of travelers from around the world.

Interesting architectural highlights include Parliament, the Law Courts, City Hall, the Anglican All Satins Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, and the Jamia Mosque. The city is home to two renowned universities: Kenyatta University and University of Nairobi.

The Nairobi National Museum has collections on Kenyan history, nature, culture and contemporary art. Neighboring it is Nairobi Snake Park, which offers rescue and rehabilitation for these oft-misunderstood reptiles and educates the public about their practical benefits. Its staff help reduce human-snake conflicts by offering removal and rehoming services and teaching people the differences between harmless snakes and ones that present a danger to humans. Animals on display at the park include many species of snakes, amphibians, crocodiles, and marine and freshwater fish, Invertebrates at the park include giant snails, baboon spiders, Mombasa train millipedes, and freshwater prawns.

Surrounding Snake Park, the Nairobi Arboretum has the finest collection of trees and shrubs in Eastern Africa, and a guided plant or birdwalk there before your safari begins can provide an excellent orientation to the local landscape.

Shopping opportunities are everywhere, from sophisticated boutiques to pavement stalls, and the City Market is well worth a visit for its colorful arrays of tropical fruits, beautiful flowers and exotic vegetables.

Activities Include: Cultural Activities, Nature Activities


Samburu National Reserve

With unique vistas of rugged hills and undulating plains, the landscape of Samburu is what many picture when they think of "old Africa." With a mix of arid grassland with riverine forest and swamp, Samburu offers opportunities to see many different kinds of wildlife, including elephants, reticulated giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, lions, Somali ostriches, hyenas, countless antelope and gazelle species, and more.

Nearby villages offer the opportunity to interact with local Samburu, cousins of the Maasai who traditionally raise goats and sheep for their livelihood. Many customs and dress are similar and, although the languages are different, they can often understand each other with a little effort. The Samburu are known for being very fast and dynamic talkers, and for their bright and plentiful beadwork.

The Ewaso Ng'iro (Nyiro) River flows through the middle of this area. Although its name means "muddy water" in the local language, it is a vital source of life for the resident animals and humans. Elephants and vervet monkeys play on its shady banks and crocodiles patrol the waters in search of suitable prey.

Several tented camps in the park offer visitors fresh air and close access to wildlife without sacrificing comfort. Most tents are permanent, having wooden floors that are raised off the ground; fully plumbed bathrooms with hot and cold water, showers, sinks and flush toilets; and outlets for charging cell phones and camera batteries.

Activities Include: Cultural Activities, Game Drives, Raft Trips


Shaba National Reserve

As one approaches Shaba National Reserve from Nairobi, the landscape change from lush green forests and farms to arid savannah. Here, the iconic acacia trees are plentiful and provide sustenance for giraffes, elephants and a long-necked gazelle called the gerenuks. Euphorbias (the Eastern Hemisphere's answer to the cactus) also dot the landscape.

This rugged landscape is noted for viewing the Big Five – elephants, Cape buffalo, lions, leopards and rhinoceros – and for cheetah. It is also home to animals typical of the drier northern regions such as reticulated giraffe, oryx, and Somali ostrich. Small herds of fine-striped Grevy's zebras – the largest and most endangered of the three zebra species – can often be found grazing in the sun or cooling off with refreshing dust baths.

The Ewaso Ng'iro (Nyiro) River flows through the middle of this area. Although its name means "muddy water" in the local language, it is a vital source of life for the resident animals and humans. Elephants and vervet monkeys play on its shady banks and crocodiles patrol the waters in search of suitable prey.

Activities Include: Cultural Activities, Game Drives, Bird Watching


Seychelles

The Seychelles are the jewels of the Indian Ocean, a necklace of a hundred islands scattered across 150,000 square miles of lagoon-blue seas, each with sparkling white beaches, and its distinct own charm. The islands are classified into two groups: granitic and coral islands. The granitic islands are part of a continental rock dated at 600 million years old.

The Seychelles are a uniquely protected area: they are outside the cyclone belt, have no poisonous snakes, and are free of malaria, yellow fever and typhoid. The Aldabra Atoll is the biggest tropical lagoon in the world, and the Seychelles are a protected area for whales, dolphins, dugong (cousins of the manatee), and turtles. There are 950 recorded species of fish in the Seychelles, with 200 of them co-existing in 1,000 square miles of coral reef. Bird Island is one of the best fishing grounds for the bonefish worldwide.

Bird Island is home to the world's oldest, largest, and heaviest living tortoise. Known as "Esmerelda," he is estimated to be more than 200 years old. Along with the other 180,000 giant tortoises living in the Seychelles, he helps make up the largest population of giant tortoises on Earth.

These islands boast 17 unique species of birds and 81 endemic plants. Praslin is the home of the Coco de Mer Palm, a tree that can grow to an age of 800 years, and is found only in the lush Vallee de Mai forests.

Activities: Whale Watching, Snorkeling, Sailing, Water Sports, Bird Watching


Tsavo East National Park

Tsavo East is one of Kenya's oldest and largest national parks, covering approximately 40 percent of the total area of all Kenya's national parks. Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast make it a popular safari destination. It is one of the world's leading bio-diversity strongholds, with bushy grassland and open plains alternating with savannah, semi-arid acacia scrub and woodlands. Green swathes of lush vegetation arise along the riverbanks that cross the park. North of Galana is a true wilderness. A number of leading tour guides offer private safaris across this area, and camel safaris are a feature.

Photographers flock to Tsavo East for its fabulous light and unbelievable views, especially of Mudanda Rock and the Yatta Plateau, the world's longest lava flow. Lugard Falls, a series of whitewater rapids on the Galana River, is remarkable for the intricate, flowing shapes of its water-worn rocks.

Tsavo East is home to some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya. It's quite a sight to see them taking dust baths by blowing vivid red dust through their trunks over their bodies. Other animals at Tsavo East include rhinos, lions, leopards, crocodiles, waterbucks, kudus, gerenuks and zebras. Don't miss the rare Hunter's hartebeest with its lyre-shaped horns.

More than 500 bird species have been recorded at Tsavo East, including ostrich and migratory kestrels and buzzards.

Activities Include: Camel Safaris, Game Drives, Walking/Hiking, Bird Watching, Game Drives


Tsavo West National Park

In 1848, a missionary wrote in his diary that the land now know as Tsavo West was "Full of wild life beasts, such as rhinoceros, buffaloes and elephants." That description holds true today.

This park has an abundance of wildlife, including a third of Kenya's elephant population. It is an excellent park for visitors who enjoy walking, offering a number of nature trails and the opportunity to explore the Chaimu Volcanic Crater.

The park also offers tremendous views with diverse habitats ranging from mountains to river forests, plains, lakes and wooded grassland. Its plains border Tanzania's southern Serengeti. Animals of Tsavo West include leopards, cheetahs, buffalos, rhinso, elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, crocodiles and small mammals such as mongooses, hyraxes, dik-diks and porcupines.

A star attraction is Mzima Springs, with plenty of spots for observing hippos.

Activities Include: Cave Exploration, Game Drives, Hippo Observation