Game Parks and Private Conservation Areas
Kenya has over 50 national parks and many more private game reserves and concessions. Below you will find an outline of the kind of wildlife you can expect to see in some of the most important game parks and conservancies.
(images courtesy C&P)
Masaii Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara is Kenya's richest game reserve: 1600 square kilometres of savannah plains bordering Tanzania and the Serengeti, home to an abundance of wildlife from the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) to hundreds of species of birds. The Mara is also famous for the Great Wildebeest Migration, arguably the world's greatest wildlife spectacle as 1.5 million animals migrate between July and October every year in search of fresh grazing in the Maasai Mara. If you’re there in July you might be lucky enough to witness the unfolding drama as the animals mass at the banks of the fast-flowing Mara River, plunging into the muddy water at the mercy of crocodiles, lions and the flooding river itself. The Mara is also well known as the home of lions, leopards and cheetahs featured in the BBC's "Big Cat" Diary. You can even stay at the camp where the BBC film crew is based.
For details of safaris featuring the Maasai Mara click here.
Laikipia District, Northern Kenya
Laikipia District is a vast plateau to the north west of snow-capped Mount Kenya, straddling the equator at the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. It spans an area of over 9,500km², and forms part of the 25,000km² Ewaso ecosystem. The Laikipia plains stretch from the Great Rift Valley to magnificent escarpments which descend into the Northern Frontier District. These plains are physically diverse and scenically spectacular, covered by open grasslands, basalt hills, lonely kopjes and dense cedar forests, fed by the Ewaso Nyiro and Ewaso Narok rivers.
The so-called "Ewaso ecosystem" is larger than all of Kenya's protected areas except Tsavo. Wildlife population densities in the Laikipia region now rank second to the internationally renowned Maasai Mara ecosystem, whilst the diversity of large mammals is higher than in any other part of Kenya. Laikipia and the Ewaso ecosystem is home to the second largest population of elephant in Kenya (6,000+) and Laikipia hosts the highest populations of endangered species in the country. Laikipia supports Africa’s only expanding population of wild dog and significant numbers of other large predators. Laikipia is not a protected area, and its wildlife is entirely sustained by private and communal landowners.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli is famous for its big game - elephants, lions and cheetahs are the main attractions - and for its great scenery beauty. Amboseli embodies five main wildlife habitats, plus a generally dry lake-bed - Lake Amboseli. These are open plains; extensive stands of yellow-barked acacia woodland; rocky, lava strewn thorn-bush country; swamps and marshes; and at the western end of the reserve, above Namanga, the massif of Ol Doinyo Orok rising to over 2,760m (8.300ft) and still for the most part zoologically unexplored.
The landscape is dominated by the glistening majestic snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro immediately to the south.
For details of safaris in Amboseli click here.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo-East is one of Kenya's oldest and largest National Parks: covering approx. 40 per cent of the total area of all Kenya's National Parks (about the size of Wales!). Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast make it a popular safari destination. It is accredited as one of the world's leading biodiversity strongholds, bushy grassland and open plains alternate with semi-arid acacia scrub and woodlands. Green swathes cross the park where the river banks give raise to lush vegetation. North of Galana is a true wilderness. Camel safaris are available in this arid landscape.
Game includes: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk and zebra and Hunter's Hartebeest can be seen with its lyre-shaped horns. Home to some of the largest herds in Kenya, the elephants glow red after dust baths, blowing the vivid red dust through their trunks over their bodies.
Featured camps include Satao Camp and the stunning Galdessa Camp. Please email us for more details.
Tsavo West National Parks
Tsavo West is where, in 1900, the notorious "Man Eaters of Tsavo" lions preyed on the railway linesman building the great Uganda Railway in 1900. The carriage from which they pulled a traveller is on display in Nairobi Railway Museum. The Hollywood film "The Ghost and the Darkness" starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas is based on this story.
The park is easy to reach, located off the main Nairobi-Mombasa road. It offers tremendous views with diverse habitats ranging from mountains, river forest, plains, lakes and wooded grassland. Its plains border with Tanzania. Game includes: leopard, cheetah, buffalo, black rhino, elephant, giraffe, lesser kudu, waterbuck, eland, gerenuk, impala, zebra, lion, plains game, crocodile and small mammals including mongoose, hyrax, dik dik and the nocturnal porcupine.
Our selected camp in Tsavo West is Finch Hattons Camp. Please email us for more details.
Samburu National Reserve
Offers unique vistas of rounded, rugged hills and undulating plains. The mix of wood and grassland with riverine forest and swamp home to a wide variety of animal and birdlife, Buffalo Springs records over 365 species of bird. Game viewing and visibility is excellent: Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy's Zebra, elephant, oryx, Somali Ostrich, hippo, crocodile, gerenuk, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.
For details of the Samburu Intrepids Camp click here.
For details of Triangular-flying safari featuring Samburu, click here.
Nairobi National Park
Kenya's oldest animal sanctuary, a glorious stretch or savannah set against the dramatic skyline of Nairobi. Nairobi is the only city in the world which neighbours a natural game protection area, harbouring over 100 species of mammals. Although it is a seasonal park, most of the game, such as lion, leopard, cheetah, impala, coke's hartebeest(kongoni), eland, Thomson's and Grant gazelle, Maasai giraffe, hippo and buffalo, including the indigenous Black Rhino, live in the protection of the park all year round. Herds of plains zebra, wildebeest and eland enter the park during the great migration in July and August to enjoy the rich grazing until the next rains come.
Nairobi Park is the site of ex-President Daniel Arap Moi's dramatic ivory bonfire, when in 1989 he torched 10 tons of ivory worth Kshs. 60 million, in a bid to eliminate the mass slaughter of Africa's elephants for their tusks.
There is no accommodation in the park but the City Centre is only a 30 minute drive.
For details of hotels in Nairobi click here.
Selenkay Conservation AreaThe Selenkay Conservation Area lies a few miles north of Amboseli National Park and is an important dispersal area and rangeland for wildlife migrating out of Amboseli. In May 1997, a Kenyan organisation called Porini Ecotourism agreed with the local Maasai community to set aside the area for a reserve for wildlife so that the habitat could be protected and wildlife conserved. The community are receiving a rent for the lease of the area by Porini Ecotourism plus an entry fee for each tourist visitor. All roads have been constructed using local labour so that the members of the community gain employment from the Conservation area. In addition to the road maintenance team, Game Scouts have been employed to carry out patrols to see that the wildlife is protected.
Selenkay Conservation Area is well off the beaten track and has not been visited by tourists until now. It lies in the heart of Maasailand and the animals are truly wild and not yet used to the presence of vehicles. The numbers of tourist visitors are being limited to a maximum of eight per day to retain the wild and unspoilt nature of the area and to minimise the impact on the environment. Within the conservation area the following animals have been seen recently: elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, Thompson's and Grant's gazelles, gerenuk, impala, oryx, lesser kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, striped hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox, Caracal, African wild cat, serval cat, genet cat, honey badger, mongoose and ostrich. Birdlife is prolific, especially birds of prey.
For details of Porini Camp in the Selenkay Conservation Area click here.
Sweetwaters Game Reserve
Sweetwaters Game Reserve, 2.5 hours drive from Nairobi is home to all the big five game, and has the highest ratio of game-to-area of any park or reserve in Kenya. Mount Kenya, to the East of the reserve, forms a magnificent back-drop. Sweetwaters is also home to a 'tame' rhino affectionately known as "Morani" (Masai for "young warrior") as well as a chimpanzee sanctuary - home to rescued and orphaned chimpanzees from West Africa, brought to Sweetwaters for rehabilitation in an environment safe from poachers. The Chimp sanctuary is funded by Lonhro Hotels and is supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Jane Goodall Institute - entry is free (as is the boat ride along the river to see the second colony of chimps) but visitors are asked to make a donation. Camel safaris, night game drives, cultural visits and bush walks can all be arranged from Sweetwaters Tented Camp.
Accommodation: Sweetwaters Tented Camp; Ol Pejeta. Email us for details.
Mount Kenya National Park
AT 5,199m high, Mt. Kenya is East Africa's second highest mountain. It offers easy or challenging ascents with superb scenic beauty.
Part of the mountain's fascination is the variation in flora, including Giant Groundsel and Lobelia, and fauna as the altitude changes. The lower slopes are covered with dry upland forest, the true montaine forest begins at 2,000m is mainly cedar and podo. At 2,500m begins a dense belt of bamboo forest which merges into the upperforest of smaller trees, interspersed with glades. In this area the trees are festooned with high altitude lichen.
These forest belts are host to many different animals and plants with at least 11 unique species. Game to view includes: Black and White Colobus and Sykes Monkeys, bushbuck, Rock and rock Hyrax, Greater galago, white tailed, buffalo, elephant and lower down Olive Baboon, waterbuck, Black Rhino, black fronted duikers, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena. More elusive is the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope.
Park Fees: US$15.
Shimba Hills National Park
Shimba Hills national park, 192 sq. km rolling hills and rainforest, 30 km South of Mombasa, a short 45min drive from Diani Beach. The Shimba Hills hold one of the largest areas of coastal rain forest in East Africa and gives you the opportunity to spot Buffalo, Sable Antelope (only found in Shimba Hills), Elephant, Maasai giraffes, Lion, civet / serval & genet cat and even Leopard. Spend the night in the onsite lodge and see the animals as they come to the floodlit waterhole in the evenings.
Extreme Safari can arrange day excursions from Diani Beach as well as overnight stays at Mukurumuji Tented Camp, located in the Sable Valley Private Game Reserve. Options included a visit to the Mwalugange Elephant Sanctuary, bush walks including a visit to Sheldrick's Waterfall and nature walks in the forest. A variety of other guided walks can be arranged included a walk with a cultural emphasis through the neighbouring farmland, with visits to schools, villages and local homesteads, allowing visitors a priveleged insight into life in rural Kenya.
Accommodation: Mukurumuji Tented Camp.
Park Fees: $23 for Shimba Hills NP
Aberdare National Park
The Aberdare National Park is part of the Aberdare Mountain Range, a fascinating region of Kenya, south west of Mount Kenya. According to traditional Kikuyu folklore they are one of the homes of Ngai (God).
Mountain ranges and peaks soar to around 12,900ft (3,930m) giving way to deep V-shaped valleys with streams and rivers cascading over spectacular waterfalls, this area is a must for landscape lovers. From its vital catchment area the Aberdare Rainforest feeds the entire local and Nairobi water supply. Above the forest is a belt of bamboo, a favourite haunt of the Bongo, a rare and elusive forest antelope. At 10,000ft (3,000m), the bamboo gives way to moorland, home to eland, spotted and melanistic serval cats. Other features are the giant alpine varieties of lobelia, groundsel and heather.
Ideal for walking, picnics, camping and trout fishing in the rivers, the moorlands are reminiscent of the European highlands.
In the forest are red Duiker, suni, Bushbuck - some of the old males are nearly black - Elephant, Buffalo, Giant Forest Hog, Rhino, Leopard - all black examples have been recorded - and colobus monkey.
Accommodation: Treetops, the Ark, the Outspan Hotel, Aberdare Country Club, Mountain Lodge.
Park Fees: $30 adults, $10 for children
Note: Extreme Safari supports the preservation of the Aberdare Range through its work with the Rhino Ark.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The national park surrounds the shallow alkaline lake, world famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth. The salt lake and algae which inhabit it attract millions of greater and lesser flamingo - so many in fact that when viewed from the top of escarpment, the lake looks pink. Situated in a chain of lakes which runs up the Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru National Park is also home to a strengthening population of Rhino (both black and white), Rothschild giraffes, waterbuck and their predators, lions and also leopard. This is one of the few parks where the elusive leopard are regularly spotted.
Park Fees: $30 per adult per day, $10 for kids.