December through March are the warmest summer months. July and August are considered their winter and are the coolest months. September and October are springtime and weather again gets a little warmer.
In late July through September, you will see the annual migration of wildebeest into the Masai Mara. Although the sun is intense, early mornings and evenings can get quite cool, especially in the mountain areas.
Kenya is GMT + 3 hours in the winter, and GMT + 2 in the summer
Travel in East Africa normally begins and ends at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi or Kenya Moi International Airport in Mombasa.
Upon arrival, proceed through immigration and baggage claims and customs. Big Five personnel will be waiting for you with a Big Five sign with your name on it. We will help you with baggage and escort you to your hotel and assist with check-in formalities.
Kenyan Shilling (KES)
Amboseli Wildlife Conservancies: This land of elephants, this fragile ecosystem also plays host to wildebeest, buffalo, impala, Thompson’s gazelle, lion, cheetah, and rare rhino as well as more than 420 species of birds. It is also home to the Maasai people. Conservancies protect the land and encourage wildlife conservation as an alternative to subsistence farming. They also support indigenous communities through employment and educational opportunities as well as income for the community. Migrating species from Amboseli that were previously killed or driven away from farmlands are now encouraged to make the conservancy their home. Recent years have witnessed a significant increase in wildlife numbers, with elephants returning to the land after a 20-year absence. African Wildlife Foundation helps identify critical wildlife corridors such as the Kitenden Corridor, which links the Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve in Tanzania to Amboseli National Park.
Chyulu Hills: Chyulu Hills is a collection of ancient volcanic cones and craters with breathtaking views that embrace Mt. Kilimanjaro. Private conservancies insure excellent wildlife viewing of bushbuck, eland, warthog, zebra and, of course, the big cats such as leopard and lion. Game drives, walking safaris, horseback riding, hiking in the mountains and visits to traditional Maasai villages make for a classic safari experience. It is important to note that Chyulu Hills has achieved the lowest rates for elephant poaching in all of Africa through anti-poaching patrols and education.
Laikipia Plateau: This remote part of Kenya was made famous by Kuki Gallman’s classic book, I Dreamed of Africa. Laikipia’s safari lodges are small and intimate, catering to a limited number of guests. In this region, it is possible to do game walks in the company of Samburu guides, whose knowledge of local flora, fauna, culture and history is unmatched. Horseback riding on the plains of Africa with a herd of zebra, graceful giraffes or elephants is quite unlike any other equestrian experience in the world. This is one of the last refuges for endangered rhino, and it possesses Kenya’s largest elephant population outside the parks.
Lamu: Lamu Old Town is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Founded in 1370, this UNESCO World Heritage Site it is characterized by simple architecture build on coral stone and mangrove timber with inner courtyards, verandas and elaborately carved wooden doors. Lamu Fort on the seafront was begun the end of the 18th century. A center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures, Lamu is home to 23 mosques. The island has a donkey sanctuary. Dhows take visitors to explore the islands. There are no roads, so residents move about on foot or by boat, and donkeys are used to transport goods and materials. A port was founded here by Arab traders at least as early as the 14th century. The Portuguese invasion was part of a successful mission to control trade along the coast of the Indian Ocean. The island prospered on the slave trade. In 1890, the island became part of Zanzibar. Today, Lamu is a great place to unwind and explore narrow alleys of Old Town.
Malindi: The small town is surrounded by beaches, making is a popular spot in Kenya. Silversands Beach just south of town features very fine sand, excellent for long walks. Along with Watamu Marine National Park, Malindi Marine Park is enclosed by the Malindi Marine National Reserve. The park keeps the area free from fishing and is great for snorkeling. Popular activities include sunset sails on a dhow (traditional sailboat), sunbathing, dolphin watching, diving and all manner of water sports. Tourism is the major industry here, especially with Italian vacationers. Malindi is served with a domestic airport and a highway to Mombasa. The park at Malindi is about 118 km/73 mi. north of Mombasa and is protected and administered by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies: The Masai Mara Game Reserve is Kenya’s most prized wildlife sanctuary, renowned for the ancient pageantry of the annual wildebeest and zebra migration. Several conservancies have been created around the Masai Mara to help further protect land for wildlife as well as to support local communities. In addition to providing revenue from land leased from the local Maasai community, conservancies also offer education, medical care and employment opportunities previously unavailable. This is pristine wilderness with open savanna plains, riverine forest, springs, streams, rivers and rolling hills. Intersected by dark green veins of rich acacia woodland, this area is where parts of the movie Out of Africa were filmed. Herds of buffalo, hartebeest, impala and gazelle graze the savannas. Giraffe and elephant collect along the Mara River and pods of hippos gather in the water below. Here, too, is Kenya’s largest predator population, with lion prides up to 20 strong. Activities include a day trip to Lake Victoria and a breathtaking hot air balloon ride (weather permitting) over the stunning, animal filled Mara plains.
Mt. Kenya & Northern Kenya Conservancies: The Northern Kenya Conservancies are home to elephant, leopard, bushbuck, giant forest hog, buffalo as well as ancient cycads, spectacular butterflies and wild orchids. Semiarid Laikipia is one of the last relatively undiscovered frontiers of wildest Africa. Pastoralist nomads and wildlife still live in harmony and the ecosystems remain intact. Laikipia stretches from the equator near Mt Kenya, to the edge of the Great Rift Valley. This malaria-free area has an average altitude of 1,829 m/6,000 ft. Kikuyu, Turkana, Pokot, Samburu, Maasai, Ndorobo, Jamu and Kalenjin tribes inhabit the area. Lions, leopards and cheetahs stalk the savannas, and the area is a haven for elephants and hippos. The conservancy is renowned for wild dogs, an increasingly rare sight outside the region. Imposing Mt. Kenya is the highest in the country and second tallest in Africa. Its highest peak sits at 5,200 m/17,060 ft., and is encircled by a national park. The slopes are dressed in forest, bamboo, scrub, and alpine moorland, with rock, ice and snow at the highest elevations. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve. As an integral part of the Laikipia/Samburu ecosystem, Loita Hills is among Kenya’s last remaining ‘true wilderness’ areas. Here is a place to truly enjoy the landscapes and walk with the local Maasai to gain an unaffected look into their world and their everyday lives. The area also has day and night game drives, bush walks and specialized bird watching. Travelers can sleep under the stars in the Mara, and hike deep into Maasai country to areas seldom visited. This is where the most traditional Maasai still live and their cultural practices still thrive. Remote forest glades, the edge of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, stunning views of Lake Natron and sunrises over distant Kilimanjaro are all on the bill of fare here.
Nairobi: Founded in 1899, Nairobi is one of the most prominent cities in Africa. Much in the city harks back to its storied past such as the home-turned-museum of Isak Dinesen (Baroness von Blixen), whose writings left us a picture of Kenya at the turn of the 20th century – a colonial world of romance, daring, struggle and triumph. The Giraffe Centre helps protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe found only in East Africa; and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an important center for the care and protection of rescued and orphaned elephants and rhinos.
Northern Rangelands Trust: Northern Rangelands Trust is a home-grown institution aimed at addressing local problems and creating long-lasting local solutions. It connects local groups with a collective goal of developing strong community-led institutions that can serve as a foundation for investments in both community development and wildlife conservation. These conservancies are home to some 60,000 pastoralists of different ethnic origins, including Samburu, Rendille, Laikipiak Maasai and Meru. The long-term conservation of wildlife in Kenya’s northern rangelands is inextricably linked to the fate and future of local communities. In the Matthews Range, a private conservancy was also established to promote wildlife conservation and socio-economic development, using sustainable practices. This conservancy is known for singing wells; although the wells do not actually sing. During the dry season, the Samburu and other pastoralists in this area, such as the Rendille, herd their cows, goats and camels to the same sand rivers that generations have used for centuries. A herder will dig a hole just deep enough to find water and then fill a bucket or container with water for the animals. The water becomes harder to reach as the season passes and the hole gets deeper. Eventually, the herder gets help to form a chain of three or four men passing the bucket, hand to hand, all while they sing a chant that reverberates all along the sand river, where four or five other groups of warrior herdsmen are doing the same thing. The animals learn to recognize the song of their owner and will gather there.
Private Conservancies: Private conservancies play a vital role in maintaining habitat for wildlife. Millions of acres are under private ownership and protect important conservation areas. Conservancies have developed facilities and conservation projects along with local communities, who share the revenues generated, which helps develop health, education and enterprise initiatives to alleviate poverty. Each reserve offers its own activities, many of which cannot be done in national parks such as bush walks, night game drives, and horse or camel trekking. Some also have mountain biking and river rafting. The conservancies also encourage guests to meet villagers in authentic settings to learn something of their ancient traditions. Many are adjacent to national parks and reserves such as the Masai Mara, Samburu, Tsavo and Amboseli national parks, maintaining vital wildlife corridors that allow animals to move freely between areas. Travelers also benefit as the conservancy camps and lodges allow only limited numbers of visitors at any one time, insuring a quality of experience not often found in many national parks.
Rhino Sanctuaries: From 1970 to the early 1980s, Kenya lost an average of 4.5 rhinos a day every day for ten years. The population plummeted from 20,000 to less than 300 due to illegal killing for rhino horn. Some 620 black rhino remain in Kenya. About 75 of those are on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Lewa’s mission is not only to protect wildlife, but to act as a catalyst for conservation across northern Kenya and beyond. By supporting development in the communities outside the conservancy’s boundaries, Lewa has become the leading role model for sustainable wildlife conservation. Since 2000, Lewa’s black rhino population growth rate has averaged 10% due to its conservation efforts. Lewa helped move about ten black rhinos to Sera Rhino Sanctuary, which represented the first time in a quarter century that rhinos had been seen in Samburu ranges since the last individual was poached in the area. Sera became the first community conservancy in East Africa to own and operate a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of the critically endangered black rhino. The sanctuary currently provides state-of-the-art protection for about a dozen black rhinos from other areas. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa with a population of more than 110 black rhinos. The Conservancy employs highly trained rhino protection squads, partners with international veterinary experts and ensures data is gathered regularly on each animal.
Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs National Reserves: Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs are three reserves bordering one another in the dry landscape of North Central Kenya. The wildlife congregates around the Ewaso Ngiro River, which runs through the reserves. The wildlife includes elephant, giraffe, leopard, zebra, blue-legged ostrich, Masai giraffe, and so much more. The Shaba Reserve, east of Samburu, has dramatic scenery including riverside forests, scattered woodlands and dry grasslands dominated by the Shaba Hill Volcano. The plentiful wildlife relies on waterholes and marshes scattered throughout the reserve. Shaba is home to the endangered Grevy’s zebra and the rare Williams’s lark as well as being the setting for the book and movie Born Free, for the film Out of Africa and for the reality show Survivor: Africa. The Buffalo Springs National Reserve is south of the Samburu National Reserve, on the other side of the Ewaso Ngiro River. The reserves share many of the same animals including Grant’s zebra, the endangered reticulated giraffe, elephant, oryx, gerenuk, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena. More than 365 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve including Somali ostriches. A highlight in these reserves are encounters with the Samburu people.
Note: We recommend private conservancies and reserves that share unfenced borders with Africa’s legendary national parks because they offer the best of both experiences: all the advantages of the private conservancy such as night game drives, walking safaris and crowd-free wildlife viewing, with easy access to the national parks.
Best Time to Go
Kenya is a year-round destination, with each season offering its own distinctive rewards, but the best weather is usually July to February.
Special Note: By late July, the herds have begun the dangerous trek from Tanzania northwards into Kenya; August through October is prime migration time in Kenya; during September to October flowers bloom and the migration ends, but animals are plentiful, and visitors are fewer.
Kenya’s peak bird-watching season is October to April.
Please note: Droughts can have unpredictable impacts on migration patterns annually
Day 1: Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi remains the safari capital of East Africa and the portal for most Kenya adventures.
Day 2: Nairobi / Chyulu Hills
Chyulu Hills, in southeast Kenya, has achieved the lowest rates for elephant poaching in all of Africa through anti-poaching patrols and education.
Day 3: Chyulu Hills
Horseback riding among herds of plains animals, hiking in the mountains and visits to traditional Maasai villages make this an extraordinary safari experience.
Day 4: Chyulu Hills / Laikipia Plateau
Kenya's less-visited Laikipia Plateau in the northern region of the country is primeval countryside near the great Rift Valley.
Day 5: Laikipia Plateau
Game walks with Samburu guides and horseback riding on the Laikipia Plains are two of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities available here.
Day 6: Laikipia Plateau / Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies
The Masai Mara is Kenya's most irreplaceable wildlife sanctuary, and hosts the last great animal migration on the planet.
Days 7/8: Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies
The Mara has the country's largest predator population, with lion prides up to 20 strong, and buffalo, bushbuck, eland, elephant, leopard, warthog, wildebeest and zebra.
Day 9: Masai Mara Game Reserve / Nairobi / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Amboseli Wildlife Conservancies (3 days)
This is the land of elephants, and these private conservancies aim to protect that land and encourage wildlife conservation as a practical alternative to farming and other human activities.
Lamu (4 days)
Lamu is one of Kenya’s oldest towns, settled by the Swahili some 700 years ago, and remains a place of donkeys, dhows and the narrow alleys of old town.
Malindi (4 days)
This small town is surrounded by beaches that make this a top stop in Kenya. A marine park keeps the area free from fishing. Making it great for snorkeling as well as sunset sails on a dhow, dolphin watching and other water sports.
Mt. Kenya & Northern Kenya Conservancies (4-6 days)
Acclaimed safari camps and lodges are part of successful conservation efforts that provide refuge for endangered species while providing authentic safari experiences.
Northern Rangelands Trust (4-6 days)
The Northern Rangelands Trust is a group of community conservancies in northern Kenya created to benefit the land and the wildlife, as well as local communities.
Private Conservancies (4-8 days)
The finest safaris today can be found in Kenya’s private nature conservancies. They also offer optimism for the long-term survival of the landscapes, wildlife and cultures of East Africa.
Rhino Sanctuaries (4 days)
Sanctuaries dedicated to the conservation of the endangered rhino are among the best hope for this species’ survival, and they offer unique experiences such as bush safaris on foot.
$750-$3000 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.