As I said in my Ol Tukai Lodge post last month, the abundance of wildlife in Africa is one of, if not, the main reason so many tourists flock to the continent, and more so Kenya given the numerous safari parks the country boasts.
But here lies the problem. There are countless safari parks; from the larger, more well known parks such as the Maasai Mara and Tsavo, to the smaller ones like Amboseli, or the less popular choices like Hell’s Gate or Mount Kenya.
It can be increasingly difficult to decide which park to tick off your African safari bucket list item at. And although I haven’t ticked off every Kenyan safari park, I have ventured to a number of them, so I thought it might be helpful for me to write a post on how you might go about deciding on a park.
I’ve also got fellow blogger Debra from Miel E Koth to come on board and help me with this post; given Debra is from Kenya I thought who better to collab with on this one. Just a little background info on the lovely lady: I met Debra a very long time ago, in fact I can’t even pinpoint the exact year because it’s been that long. We went to primary school together in Kenya and last year she moved to Melbourne for uni, so it’s safe to say our friendship has lasted the years and distance.
First things first, you have to decide when to visit as this will greatly impact which park you choose.
Really, any time of the year is a great time to embark on this experience, but particularly popular months to visit are between January and March, and then again in July to September as the great migration takes place.
So if it’s the great migration that you’re wanting to experience then visiting between the months of July and September are key, and heading to the Maasai Mara is the most popular destination during this time (this can be a bit of a bugger at times as it means it can get quite crowded due to the large number of visitors that are also flocking to see the migration, so just keep that in mind).
Another thing to consider is what are the key animals you want to see, obviously every African animal will be on your list but those particularly keen on seeing elephants in abundance should consider Amboseli as their destination.
The only downside to Amboseli is that if leopards or rhinos are on your to see list, you won’t catch a glimpse of any here.
In which case I would suggest heading to the Ol Pejeta Conservatory in Nanyuki where you’ll have the chance to see a rhino (the photo seen earlier in this post was taken in this park). And if you look hard enough and keep your eyes peeled you might even be lucky enough to see one of these guys ↓ (these photos were also taken at Ol Pejeta).
Another place worth checking out is Mount Kenya National Park where you’ll be treated to incredible views of Mt Kenya.
The added benefit of Mount Kenya National Park is that if you stay at Serena Mountain Lodge and are lucky enough to have a room that overlooks the watering hole, you’ll have amazing views of the many animals that come to quench their thirst from zebras to buffalos.
Last but not least on the ‘to consider list’ is your method of transport, and there are a few options to consider with this one.
Of course you could just drive yourself, which would be my top pick so long as you are familiar with the route and where you need to go. The reason behind this being the best option is because of the freedom it comes with. You can come and go on as many game drives as you please knowing that you’re not having to pay a driver each time, you have the space to pack as much as you want, and it makes for a fun road trip.
The alternative is to book a tour group, which is what Jordan and I did on our most recent safari to Amboseli. This is the best option if you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself and want the added benefit of having a driver that is highly knowledgable on the route as well as in the park. If you do opt for this method, there are a few companies you can go with but might I suggest Bonfire Adventures (we used them for Amboseli and we found them great in all aspects from pricing to organisation), or Liberty (who one of my close family friends owns, so I can vouch that they too are great to deal with, however, are on the more pricey side compared to Bonfire).
The final option when it comes to transport is to fly, which is the best option if you’re short on time as it eliminates several hours.
Given that traveling around Kenya to different national parks was a huge part of Debra’s childhood she has been lucky enough to visit different parts of Kenya. Although she’s ticked of a few Kenyan national parks she, of course, has 2 favourites: Samburu National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park. Here’s her tips on the both of them from a locals point of view.
Samburu National Park
Samburu National Park is situated in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. Although I haven’t been there many times this park is definitely one of my favourite places.
Best time to visit:
- Samburu is stunning all year round but the best time for animal/game viewing is during the dry months.
- Dry months – June to October & December to March.
- Driving – You can get to the national park by road (who doesn’t love a good road trip, right?!) and the drive from Nairobi is around 5-6 hours. Road trips are definitely part of the fun and the experience but I must warn you, some of the roads in Kenya are not the smoothest.
- Driving (tour company) – If you chose to hire a tour company to drive you up to the park, there are some pros and cons to consider. Pros of hiring a tour company include that you do not have to drive yourself so you can relax a little more and once you get there, the guide will know exactly how to get you to your lodge and have general knowledge about the park. A massive con to consider when booking with a tour company is obviously the cost. It can be quite expensive and for those looking to save some money I would opt for the ‘road tripping alone’ route.
- Flying – There are daily flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to the airstrip in Samburu National Park. The flight is around 45 minutes and costs vary between airlines and times of year but normally range between US$150-300 (return).
Where to stay:
- There are many lodges at the park, most of which feature incredible views of the Usaso Nyiro River where animals can be seen drinking during the dryer months.
- There are 4 campsites available throughout the park – you must come with your own camping gear.
- Non-residents – US$70
- Kenyan residents – US$10
- Kenyan citizen – US$5
Lake Nakuru National Park
This park holds a very special place in my heart because I visited it several times a year for the first 15 or so years of my life. I have so many great memories at this park and I would highly recommend visiting it!
Best time to go:
- The best time to go would be the hotter/dryer months of January-March.
- Driving – Driving to Nakuru is probably the easiest way to get there as it’s an easy 3 (ish) hour drive on a straight road.
- Flying – You can fly in to the park and land at the Naishi airstrip.
Where to stay:
- Camping – Camping is the most common form of accommodation as there are over 10 campsites throughout the park.
- Lodges – There are some privately owned lodges (my family and I have been going to Lake Nakuru Lodge for years and it’s great!).
- The biggest attraction has to be the pink flamingos that live on the lake. Unfortunately, the older I’ve gotten, the less flamingo I see at the lake due to varying water levels and the alkalinity of the water. However, when the flamingos are there, it’s one of the most breathtaking views ever!
- There are 3 famous viewpoints – Out of Africa viewpoint, Baboon Cliff and Lion Hill, which all feature stunning views of the park and the lake.
- Animals such as buffalo, waterbuck and the endangered white rhino can be seen at the park.
- Non-residents – US$60
- Kenyan residents –US$10
- Kenyan citizens –US$8
Here’s why a safari adventure in Kenya should really be in the top 10 of your bucket list (these are just a few snippets of the very many animals my family and I have had the pleasure of seeing during our time in Kenya):
While this post aims at helping you pick a safari park destination, please keep in mind that it doesn’t mention every single park in Kenya because there are absolutely far too many to include in just the one post!
Other Kenya posts you may enjoy: Ol Tukai Lodge ↠ Amboseli, Kenya Medina Palms ↠ Watamu, Kenya Rolf’s Place ↠ Nairobi, Kenya Kitengela Hot Glass ↠ Nairobi, Kenya Day Trip to Hell’s Gate ↠ Naivasha, Kenya Top 5 things to do ↠ Nairobi, Kenya