Kenya remains at the forefront of wildlife safari and beach holidays. Whether you’re a newbie traveler looking to dive into the wild or an enthusiast longing for more authentic adventures, a visit to Kenya will definitely blow you away. Here is a list of the top 8 Kenya national parks and game reserves you should see in 2019:
#1 MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Nestled in the Great Rift Valley, the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve encompasses a breathtaking 1,510 square kilometers of the scenic patchy landscape of dotted acacia trees in sprawling grasslands, extensive marshes and swamps, and a mighty Mara river.
It is home to the Great Wildebeest Migration where millions of wildebeest along with thousands of zebras, impalas, elands and gazelles thunder across the East African plains in search for better grazing while facing a series of predator dangers. There is certainly nowhere else in the world you can marvel at this spectacular, hair-raising event.
The dramatic migration ensues around October to early November in the Mara. Other than that, the reserve remains to be a quintessential year-round safari destination. It features an incredible abundance and diversity in wildlife including the famous Big Five, as well as over 470 bird species. In the 2018 World TravelAwards, Masai Mara Game Reserve has been awarded as Africa’s leading national park. A visit to the Masai Mara Tribe is also a must.
Recommended safari: 4 Days Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru Safari
#2 AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Remember the postcards of Africa where you see herds of elephants against a picturesque facade of the world-renowned snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro? That’s Amboseli National Park, a park centered around Observation Hill and home to over 50 mammal species and more than 400 bird species.
It also hosts some of the largest tuskers on the planet as well as one of the most incredible elephant herds in the country.
For ease of travel, you can easily reach Amboseli from Nairobi by air or road. If you take the road, it will only take you about 4 hours.
Also, in Amboseli, you won’t only be able to go on a game drive on the floor of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, you will also be able to easily go on an exciting trek up the iconic mountain.
Recommended safari: 9 Days Classic Kenya Family Safari
#3 LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
Popular for its massive flocks of vibrantly colored flamingoes by its soda lake, Lake Nakuru National Park has always been a tourist day-trip favorite.
It offers an unspoiled landscape that features a shallow soda lake and a scenic waterfall surrounded by a wooded and bushy grassland. You can find 56 mammal species in the area including lions, white rhinos, waterbucks and baboons. You can also find abundant arrays of birdlife including waterbirds and flamingoes on top of the 448 other bird species.
Because of its beautiful landscape that allows spectacular views of its rich avifauna, Lake Nakuru has been known as a “Birder’s Ultimate Paradise.” Activities around this park include game drives, walking safari, night game drives, cruise on Lake Naivasha and hot springs at Lake Bogoria.
Recommended safari: 3 Days Lake Nakuru and Naivasha Kenya Safari
#4 MOUNT KENYA NATIONAL PARK
Mount Kenya National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers Mount Kenya as well as its surrounding environment that provides habitat for wild animals including elephants, Cape buffaloes, and monkeys.
Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak, offers diverse landscapes including forests, alpine vegetation, hot springs, streams and a permanent glacier at the top – something that’s incredibly rare for a mountain that stands only 16km from the Equator.
Recommended safari: 5 Days Mount Kenya Hike Sirimon-Chogoria Route
#5 NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
Nairobi has always been known as the “World’s Wildlife Capital.” And what better way to stand by its name than to actually have a wildlife park in the city, right?
Nairobi National Park is perhaps the only wildlife park in the world that you can visit by taxi or bus. It encompasses vast open rolling grassland studded with acacia bush and a variety of wildlife that includes lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinos, hyenas and giraffes.
It also offers a backdrop of the city. So if you are in Nairobi for just a couple of hours and you want to explore the wild, Nairobi National Park is always a good idea.
#6 TSAVO EAST & WEST NATIONAL PARKS
What makes Tsavo so famous is the common sighting of elephants bathing in red dunes and playing in the Galana river. What makes safaris in Tsavo unique is that aside from being able to explore the untouched wilderness of Africa, you also get to be closer to the crocodiles and hippos through an underwater glass tank.
You can also do other unique and exciting activities such as exploring caves, go to Mzima Springs, climb the Roaring Rocks and even trek a lava flow!
Recommended safari: 4 Days Tsavo East West and Amboseli Kenya Safari
#7 MERU NATIONAL PARK
If you’re looking into having a very intimate safari experience, Meru National Park can be your best bet. It is a relatively smaller and quieter option that is highly recommended to be reached by air travel, but it guarantees plenty of tall grass and greenery as well as prolific wildlife that’s ample enough to satisfy any craving for a wildlife adventure.
Meru National Park also features streams and rivers, giving the place an even more romantic vibe. Among the wealth of wildlife in the park are black and white rhinos, which are super easy to spot around.
Recommended safari: 3 Days 2 Nights Meru National Park Road Safari
#8 SAMBURU GAME RESERVE
No list of best parks in Kenya will ever be complete without Samburu Game Reserve. It doesn’t only boast of a breathtaking landscape and unique ecosystem, it also displays an incredible wildlife concentration albeit its small size.
These animals include the famous Big Five, all other large cats plus a myriad of unique animals that only thrive in the Samburu and Laikipia plains such as reticulated giraffes, long-necked gerenuks, and Beisa orynx.
Samburu Game Reserve is a 5-hour drive from Nairobi. It is also the place in the 1960s where 160 fossil remains of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus were discovered. One of the most popular activities in this park is camel safaris and a visit to the Samburu tribe is always a highlight of any trip.
Recommended safari: Samburu Fly-In Safari Featuring Sarova Shaba Lodge
With 60 national parks and reserves plus a plethora of historical and cultural sites, it is no secret that Kenya has been getting more tourism receipts lately. In fact, its tourism sector has recently become the second largest foreign exchange earner in the country despite its national problems since 2011.
Kenya national parks and game reserves have also continued to gain massive visitors each year from the US, UK, other European countries and even Asia. According to analysts, remarkable growth in tourism for the year 2019 is to be expected in Kenya as it just scooped several global awards in the 2018 World Travel Awards, further advancing its status and fame across the world.