Visit Kenya – Plan Your Trip

Best Time to Visit Kenya:

July through September are the best months to visit Kenya. This is the time when the wildebeest migration travels through the Maasai Mara.

Kenya – Visa Requirements

Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Kenya, however there are more than 40 countries on the list of exceptions. Obtain a visa at the Nairobi airport or get one in advance through a Kenyan embassy or a visa service.  Based on our visit in 2013, we recommend that you obtain your visa upon arrival. The line ups are just as long whether you have your visa ahead of time or not.  heck out requirements for your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Recommended Kenya Travel Vaccinations:

Consult a travel clinic before visiting Kenya. Hep A, Hep B, yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid and malaria are standard precautions. A yellow fever certificate is only required when arriving from a yellow fever zone. Malaria is a risk only in areas with suitable wetland for female anopheles mosquitoes. The Maasai Mara and other areas outside Nairobi are good places to take malaria medication. Review our general Medical Travel Advice too.

Lion, Maasai Mara Safari

Lion, Maasai Mara Safari

G Adventures Maasai Mara Safari Provisions

G Adventures supplied everything I needed for my Maasai Mara Safari. They supplied vehicles, English speaking driver & guide, permits, water and sleeping arrangements. I took my own malaria medication, but many people don’t use it in the Maasai Mara.

Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is located in the Rift Valley in southwest Kenya, along the border with Tanzania. The reserve adjoins the Serengeti. It is a 6 hour drive from Nairobi or for wealthy visitors, you can take a 45 minute flight. The Maasai Mara can also be accessed from the Serengeti through Tanzania. The Mara Triangle forms the western third of the reserve.  The Triangle has only one safari lodge. There are 5 gates into the Maasai Mara reserve, but Sekenani Gate is the main access.

Elephant, Maasai Mara Safari

Elephant, Maasai Mara Safari

The Great Migration

The Maasai Mara is the number one tourist destination in Kenya. It is famous for the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra that cross the Mara River. The best time to view the Great Migration is from July to August, since more than two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelles pass through the reserve. The Maasai Mara also has one of the highest densities of lions in the world. Lions are permanent residents and do not follow the migration. At the Mara River crossing, crocodiles wait patiently for their annual feast. Lions often lay in wait at the opposite bank to ambush weary prey.

The Maasai

The Maasai live in Maasai bomas (villages) within the reserve boundaries, which is typical of many parks in Kenya and Tanzania. They survive by herding cattle. They do not hunt wildlife in the reserve. Their tradition is to live off milk and blood letting from their cattle. In more recent times, they supplement their income by hosting tourist visits and selling souvenirs.

Lion Cubs, Maasai Mara Safari

Lion Cubs, Maasai Mara Safari

Weather for my Maasai Mara Safari

The weather is never too hot in the Maasai Mara, because the elevation ranges from 5,000 ft to 7,000 ft.  venings were comfortable and the days were warm. I was there in September, so there was no rainfall and no problems with muddy roads. The dry season from July to October is also when the migration occurs, but I arrived at the tail end of it. There were lots of animals, but wildebeest, zebra and gazelles weren’t as numerous as during the height of the migration.

Hippo, Maasai Mara Safari

Hippo, Maasai Mara Safari

Maasai Mara Safari Wildlife

More than 90 species of mammal live in the Maasai Mara reserve. I saw lions, wildebeest, zebras, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, hippos, Maasai giraffes, Thompson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, ostriches, hartebeest, jackals, impala, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, topi, warthogs, bat-eared foxes, mongoose, hedgehogs, crocodiles and baboons.

There are more than 550 species of birds. I saw guinea fowl, secretary birds, kori bustards, crowned cranes, lilac breasted rollers, weavers, woodland kingfishers, storks and vultures.

Fig Tree Tented Camp, Maasai Mara Safari

Fig Tree Tented Camp

Accommodation for my Maasai Mara Safari

With hundreds of camps and safari operators in the Maasai Mara, choosing one can be difficult. Luckily, G Adventures decided for me, which led to the perfect choice.  I stayed at the Fig Tree Camp. This tented camp was incredible. It has a rustic feel, but with all the modern conveniences. All the patios look out onto the river bank, where you can see crocodiles, baboons, hippos and weavers. Local tribesmen patrol to ensure animals don’t breach the boundaries of the grounds. They are armed with spears and bow & arrows.

Maasai Mara Safari Slide Show

Leopard, Lake Nakuru Safari, Kenya

Leopard, Lake Nakuru Safari

Getting to a Lake Nakuru Safari

Lake Nakuru is located in the Rift Valley about 2 hours northwest of Nairobi by vehicle.  The roads to the lake are good on good roads.  I used G Adventures for my Lake Nakuru Safari.  G Adventures supplied vehicles, an English speaking guide, a driver, permits, park entry fees, water and sleeping arrangements.  Some safari companies offer day trips from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru.  There is also an airstrip at the park.

White Rhino, Lake Nakuru Safari

White Rhino, © Can Stock Photo / Apurva

Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The town of Lake Nakuru borders the northern edge of the lake.  Woods and grassland surround the lake.  The name nakuru means “dusty place” in the Maasai language.  The park was established in 1968 to protect the lesser flamingos, but it has become extremely popular due to the successful introduction of white and black rhino.  The park is fenced for protection of the animals, so its mammals cannot migrate.  Therefore, the wildlife is more concentrated than in other areas of Kenya.  The lake surface makes up 1/3 of the park.  Blue-green algae give the lake its distinct coloring and entices flamingos to the lake.  At some times, the shore areas support thousands or even millions of pink flamingos.

Weather for my Lake Nakuru Safari

Lake Nakuru has an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, which makes day time temperatures quite pleasant throughout the year.  During the rainy season in March & April and the winter months of July and August, nights can be quite cold.  My safari visited in September, so rainfall wasn’t a complication.

Lilac Breasted Rollers, Lake Nakuru Safari

Lilac Breasted Rollers

Lake Nakuru Safari Wildlife

Lake Nakuru National Park has become famous for its white rhino and black rhino.  The name white rhino doesn’t refer to their color, but is a mispronunciation of “wide” rhino.  This refers to the wider mouth of a “white” rhino.  We saw lots of wildlife, including cape buffalo, lions, hippos, flamingos, Rothschild giraffes, zebras, baboons, jackals, hyrax, impala, Grant’s gazelle, reedbuck, dik-dik, waterbuck, eland, warthog, vervet monkeys, Colobus monkeys and storks.  My best photo happened when a leopard came out of the brush and posed for a shot.  There are three good view-points in the park: Lion hill, Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa.  Baboon Cliff provides the best location to get an overview of the flamingos. Makalia Waterfall was a pleasant surprise, since I didn’t expect to see something like it at Lake Nakuru.  Watch out for baboons in the tree tops, because they enjoy peeing on vehicles.

Accommodation in Nakuru:

G Adventures made the arrangements for our stay at the Lake Nakuru Lodge.  The lodge is located in the southeastern section of the Park, near Nderit Gate.  This was a nice location with baboons on the grounds and views over the park.  However, there was very little time to enjoy the facilities, since we maximized our safari time instead.

Lake Nakuru Slide Show

Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli Safari, Kenya

Mount Kilimanjaro, © Can Stock Photo / Gbuglok

Getting to an Amboseli Safari

Getting to an Amboseli Safari takes about 4 hours by vehicle from Nairobi.  From Nairobi you can reach Meshanani Gate via Namanga on the Nairobi – Arusha Road.  You can also get there through Emali on the Nairobi – Mombasa Road.  Small planes regularly fly in to Amboseli Airport from Nairobi, which is convenient for visitors who can afford it.  To enter the park, a Safari Card must be purchased from any Kenya Wildlife Service office or at the Iremito Gate.  Four wheel drive vehicles are necessary, because of the nature of the roads and the risk of heavy rainfall.  Bring drinking water with you.  For my Amboseli Safari, G Adventures supplied vehicles, English speaking driver/guides, permits, water and accommodation arrangements.

Elephants, Kilimanjaro, Amboseli Safari

Elephants & Kilimanjaro, © Can Stock Photo / paul104

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park is located in the Rift Valley on savannah grassland that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border.  The name amboseli means “salty dust” in the Maasai language.  The park is famous for its wild elephant herds, which can frequently be photographed against a backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro.  The runoff from “Kili” creates swamps and rivers, which flow into Lake Amboseli.  The elephant herds wander through these swamps and the adjoining grasslands.  The reliable supply of water supports permanent elephant herds.

Maasai Women, Amboseli, Kenya, Tracie

Maasai Women, Amboseli, Kenya, Tracie

Weather for my Amboseli Safari

The weather in Amboseli is similar to Nairobi, because of the elevation.  Evenings were comfortable.  During the day, it was warm, but not hot.  I was there in September, so there were no problems with rainfall or muddy roads.

Maasai Boma (Village) Visit

Thatch huts within the park boundaries are the Maasai’s living quarters.  Other groups aren’t allowed to live in the park.  Cattle provide their source of milk.  The Maasai drink cattle blood too!  The Maasai don’t hunt wildlife, but they will use spears and clubs to defend their herds from lions and elephants.  In recent years, the Maasai started supplementing their income by hosting tourist visits and selling souvenirs.  Our visit to a Maasai Boma allowed us to see their traditional dress and hear tribal songs.  One Maasai warriors suggested that I should leave the safari group to become one of his wives!

Gerenuk Standing, Amboseli Safari

Gerenuk Standing, Amboseli National Park

Amboseli Safari Wildlife

The wildlife viewing on my Amboseli Safari was excellent.  I saw lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wildebeest, elephants, cape buffalo, zebras, wild dogs, hippos, crocodiles, mongoose, hyrax, dik- dik, lesser kudus, bat eared foxes, Maasai giraffes, turtles, yellow baboons, impala and Grant’s gazelle.  The variety of species was impressive.  The gerenuk are amazing, because they look like other gazelles, but they stand up on two legs to eat.  At Observation Hill, you can view the entire park.  From the hill, you can see elephants, hippos, pelicans and Egyptian geese in the savannah and the nearby swamps.

Lookout Tower, Kilima Safari Camp

Lookout Tower, Kilima Safari Camp

Accommodation for my Amboseli Safari

G Adventures made arrangements for our Amboseli Safari to stay at the Kilima Safari Camp.  This was magnificently appointed tented accommodation, which felt like a cottage.  The bathroom was a brick structure the size of a living room with a double vanity and a bidet.  If you left the outside light on at night, the bugs bouncing off the canvas were the only indication that it was a tent.  There was no problem keeping the bugs out.  The bullfrogs at night were loud.  There were views of Kilimanjaro from everywhere on the site.  The property has a large restaurant with a spiral staircase to a lookout with views of Kilimanjaro.  There were many opportunities for bird watching from the lodge.

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