When I originally pictured Kenya prior to travelling there, I imagined what I’d see would be images like the movies and online, being vast open savanna plains of grasslands and sparse acacia trees. And what do you know this was exactly how the landscape is, and even better!
It’s not all about the eye candy of the natural landscape and wonders when exploring Africa, once you’re there in person you add all the elements.
The dry heat against your skin, the sounds of wild animals in nearby surroundings, and the smell of fresh flora, all combined make the experience truly magical.
I was blown away with the wildlife I experienced in Kenya, especially compared to South Africa which I’d witnessed a few years prior. During my two week journey throughout a small distance of Kenya, I sighted all the big five and so much more than I was ever expecting to see.
I was fortunate to explore five parks during my visit to Kenya, with the main purpose to to see wildlife in their natural environments. These are some of the places I visited, which can be recommended.
Amboseli National Park
Located in southern Kenya, Amboseli is approximately 390 square kilometres, with the main landscape being savanna and grassland plains.
This park is the perfect location for all lovers of elephants, as it’s well known for its large herds of the large land mammals. It also offers stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania, withe the snow-capped mountain providing the perfect backdrop for gorgeous photos.
Along with elephants, the wildlife is plentiful, with zebras, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, lions, gazelle, impala, baboons, and an array of bird species.
We were fortunate to see a prides of lions on an afternoon game drive, as well as just spotting two rare cats beings serval and caracals, although very brief and very hard to see through the grass.
So whether you’re after gorgeous landscapes or wildlife, Amboseli ticks both boxes.
Aberdare National Park
Approximately 760 square kilometre in size, this park is located in the central highlands of Kenya, and in contrast with Amboseli National Park, has a cooler climate and has a mountainous terrain covered in thick tropical forest.
The first animal sighting inside the park was the colobus monkey, with its extremely long black and white tail, located high up in the tree tops.
You’ll see a vast range of wildlife in the park being elephant, buffalo, warthog, zebra, and leopard to name a few.
We encountered wild buffalo about 50 metres away from us when stopped to eat our morning tea, thankfully they kept their distance as we ate our food in peace. There is also a small waterfall inside the park, which was a nice change of scenery to the grasslands of the savannah.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Although not a National Park, the 360 square kilometre non-for-profit conservation area is located on the equator at the foothills of Mount Kenya.
The sanctuary is home to the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa, and in recent years was home to the last remaining male Northern White rhino in the world before it died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Seeing Rhino is the main attraction to the sanctuary, however you’ll come across other animals such as big cats of lions, and we had an up close sighting of a mother Cheetah and her cub, which was pretty special.
I experienced by first hunt in the wild here, with a lion giving chase to two warthogs. Although the chase was unsuccessful for the lions perspective, from the warthogs perspective it was successful as they lived to see another day!
Solio Game Reserve
Solio is a privately owned 70 square kilometre reserve, mainly aimed towards rhino sanctuary and breeding centre. You’ll have a sense of being the only visitor in Solio, as you’re not surrounded by other safari vehicles.
The Reserve offers beautiful scenery with grasslands of Rhino and views of neighbouring Mount Kenya.
Like most conservation parks in Kenya, although the park is focused on Rhino, the park is home to other wildlife as well of lion, water bucks, zebra, giraffe and large species of birds.
I was fortunate to witness lions mating in Solio, apparently this only occurs once every two years, so a rare experience to witness, and thankful to be there on that particularly day.
Samburu National Reserve
Located in south east corner of the Rift Valley, the 165 square kilometre arid reserve features Kenya’s biggest river the Ewaso Nyiro running 700 kilometres in length.
The Reserve offers arid and semi arid terrain, so wildlife make the most of the passing river on regular occasions to quench their thirst. Settling in at accommodation along the river bank n Samburu, provides the perfect location for wildlife spotting regardless of the time of day or even night.
Big cats are common to see in the reserve of leopards, lions and cheetahs, whilst home to elephants, wild dogs, giraffe, zebra, kudu, guinea foul, baboons and over 450 species of birds.
I experienced the ultimate leopard in the tree sighting in Samburu, a sight I’ll never forget. Simply heaven!
There are more regions and national parks in Kenya to explore wildlife, of which I aim to venture to in the coming years, yet these parks and reserves were a good start. I don’t believe you’ll disappointed exploring wildlife in any region within Kenya, even if you have high expectations. Yet remember you’re dealing with wild animals so nothing is guaranteed!