Kenya is a top African safari destination for both wildlife safari and beach holidays. It boasts some of the best game reserves and beaches in Africa, including the incredibly famous Masai Mara Game Reserve and Diani Beach.
But do not take it from us. This East African country has been repeatedly crowned as the best wildlife safari destination in Africa by the World Travel Awards. But how do you plan a safari to Kenya from a continent away?
Truth be told, planning a safari is exciting but also nerve-wracking. There’s a lot to consider, including choosing the best Kenya travel agency to work with, the best places in Kenya to visit, the best time to travel, how much your trip will cost, what you need to pack, and so on.
In this article, James Gatheru, the safari director for Ajkenyasafaris.com, shares expert advice on the most important questions you may need to answer when planning your first trip to Kenya.
When to go
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Kenya is an equatorial region with clear-cut wet and dry seasons. Of course, the best time to visit for wildlife viewing is during the dry season which falls between June and October and January to March.
During this period, bushes are thin, and many wildlife gathers around water points. There’s also little to no rainfall with sunny days and clear skies. Mornings and nights are cold with fairly pleasant afternoons.
The famed wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara usually occurs during the dry season, falling anywhere from July to October when millions of wildebeests cross the Mara river in search of new grazing lands.
Avoid travelling in March, April, and May. These are the wet and rainiest months in Kenya. However, if you are looking for a budget trip, this is the best period to visit Kenya.
The Cost of a Safari in Kenya
Probably the most complicated question to answer is how much a safari holiday to Kenya will cost you. A lot of factors such as when you want to travel, the number of people in your group, the season of travel, accommodation type, etc. come into play and will affect your travel costs.
Visiting during the high seasons gives you more leverage with regard to the number of wildlife you can view, but also comes with a hefty price tag. Conversely, during the low seasons, safari prices go down.
That being said, a typical African safari in Kenya costs anywhere from $250 to $1,500 per person per night. Luxury travellers get the benefit of using 4×4 off-road safari vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Patrol, Land Rover, Toyota Sequoia, and other luxury cars. Those on self-drive get the chance to use SUVs such as Mazda CX 5, Toyota Harrier, Subaru Forester and other 4×4 vehicles with sunroofs.
There are also budget Kenya safaris that can average $150, mid-luxury safaris that cost approximately $290 per night, as well all-inclusive luxury safaris that cost between $500 t0 $750 per night.
You can also get cheap Masai Mara safari packages starting from $200 per person sharing on a full-board basis. For budget safaris, fuel economy cars such as Toyota Hiace and Mazda Bongo are used.
The Best Places to Visit in Kenya
Kenya’s safari industry is backed up by numerous tourist attractions such that it’s overwhelming to choose the best places to visit. For first-timers, these are considered the best destinations to go to in Kenya.
No African safari to Kenya would be complete without visiting the most popular game reserve in Africa, the Maasai Mara National Park. It’s here that the award-winning BBC Television show, ‘Big Cat Diary,’ was filmed. The park has also won Africa’s Leading National Park award for the five-time in a row since 2014.
Every year, thousands of tourists visit the Maasai Mara game reserve, which is located in Southwestern Kenya. The park is home to a large and diverse collection of wildlife including all members of the big 5 clan. The Mara is also home to the annual Wildebeest Migration across the Mara River. In total, you have a chance to spot over 400 bird species and 99 different species of Mammals.
To get to the Mara from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, you can choose between a 45 minutes domestic flight or a 7-hour road drive in comfortable 4×4 safari land cruisers.
Lake Nakuru National Park
A shallow lake in Central Kenya, Lake Nakuru is famous for what is known as the greatest bird spectacle on earth. All this is made possible by countless pink flamingos attracted by the Lake’s blue-green algae abundance.
Wildlife found in Lake Nakuru national park consists of black and white rhinoceroses, endangered Rothschild giraffes, lions, waterbucks, baboons, leopards, cheetahs, warthogs and more than 300 different bird species.
For five successive years, Diani beach has scooped the ‘best beach destination in Africa‘ award. The pristine beach is located about 30 miles south of Mombasa and receives thousands of tourists every year. According to visitors, Diani offers nothing short of a real tropical island vacation and is the best destination for an unforgettable beach holiday in Kenya.
The best months to visit Diani Beach are from June to October because of the excellent weather during these months. Diani beach can be accessed through a 7-8 hr drive from Nairobi by road, or a 50-min domestic flight.
What to Pack for a Safari in Kenya
You must be wondering what to pack for a first time trip to Kenya. Whether you are a first-time Safari vacationer or are an experienced traveller, packing for any trip is an overwhelming experience.
Travelling to Kenya requires you to pack the right clothes taking into account weather patterns, comfort, local culture, and a lot more. For an exciting and comfortable Kenya safari, we recommended that your packing list include suitable clothing for safaris, casual but comfortable shoes, hats, sun protection, tablet/laptop, and insect repellants.
And with the safari adventures being every photographer’s dream, a camera, and binoculars are a must! Lastly, don’t forget up-to-date travel and medical documents, airline tickets, credit cards, and insurance papers.
Apps that Help During a Safari in Kenya
Like packing the right items for your safari trip, having the necessary apps installed on your smartphone provides a smooth travel experience. As a smart traveller, we recommend that you download and install these apps before your trip to Kenya.
Google Translate is an essential app if you are travelling somewhere you don’t speak the local language. The app translates 103 languages, 59 of which can be translated offline. To use it, you only need to type in words you need to translate, choose a target language, and that’s it.
The most spoken language in Kenya is Swahili which is predominantly spoken in East African countries, Congo, and Rwanda. The Google Translate App helps you beat the language barrier by allowing you to translate languages including English to Swahili, Hindi to Swahili, Spanish to Swahili, Italian to Swahili and more. The app also features a phrasebook that allows you to start and save translated words and phrases for future references.
Make sure to download and install this language translator before travelling to Kenya. Alternatively, hire a multi-lingual safari guide, one who speaks both Swahili and your native language.
To find and book unique and essential accommodations during your travels, Airbnb is the go-to app. Once you enter your travel date and destination details, the app allows you to filter results based on available apartments, type, cost, amenities, and more.
If you come across an accommodation you like, you can book it through the app directly.Airbnb covers more than 30,000 cities, which means interesting and quick accommodation choices for any adventurous traveler.
To avoid money loss due to high exchange rates, a currency exchange app comes in handy. One of the best-performing currency exchange apps is the XECurrency, a free app designed for Android and iOS platforms.
XECurrency provides live global currencies exchange rates with rates refreshed every minute. So when you’re out and about, the app will help you make quick currency conversions as well as monitor exchange rates.
If you are planning your first trip to Kenya, there’s no doubt you’ll be in for a treat. Kenya is the heart of African safaris featuring an extensive wildlife gallery, exceptional historical cultures, world-class beaches, and more. Visit masaimarasafari.in or ajkenyasafaris.com to learn more about planning a safari trip to Kenya.