Kenya Safari Holidays: Ultimate Safari Travel Guide

kenya safari holidays

Kenya at a Glance

Be prepared: Kenya safari holidays will blow your mind!

Savannas and bush teeming with wildlife; snow-capped craggy mountains; tribal villages exploding with a riot of color, dance, and singing; thorny acacia and mystical baobab trees silhouetted against a periwinkle sky; freshwater lakes and coral reefs. Kenya is a microcosm of all of East Africa. One thing is for certain: your Kenya safari holidays will be like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.

Unlike most people, I can’t say that a safari was on my bucket list. But after setting foot in my first camp, I quickly changed my mind.

Despite seeing lots of wildlife, big cats, migration in movies, magazines, and online, nothing comes close to witnessing in person the instincts and movements of animals, lumbering, crouching, leaping, strutting and swaying – sometimes just a dozen feet away. It was unlike anything I’d experienced to-date, and unmatched in terms of awe-inspiring wonder.

Quick Info

  • Area: 224,081 mi²
  • Population: 52.2 million
  • Religion: Christian (83%) Islam (15%)
  • Capital: Nairobi
  • Oldest City: Mombasa
  • Electricity: 240 V, 50 Hz. square pin, English standard plugs; Americans need an adapter/converter.
  • WiFi: only in the common areas in the camps

Entry Requirements

kenya safari holidays

Kenyan reticulated giraffe feeding from an Acacia tree.

Naturally, you need a passport. Make sure that it is valid for at least six months prior to your arrival and it also must contain a minimum of two blank pages for stamps. It’s easy to overlook this requirement, but I can tell you first-hand, Africa is a stickler on this. Earlier in the year, I was on a cruise from the Seychelles à Madagascar à Reunion à Mauritius. When I left home, I had three blank pages. However, because there were so many ports in Madagascar, they stamped the heck out of my passport and I did not have a single blank page left when I tried to leave Mauritius. They detained me for a short time but were able to get a special transport allowance only because I was going home.

Americans need a visa to enter Kenya. This can be obtained at the original point of entry, or you can obtain an e-visa online to save time. A single entry visa costs $50 per person.

A Yellow Fever immunization is required if you will be traveling from Kenya to Tanzania or South Africa. An official (yellow) card should be kept with your passport and presented along with your visa.

While not required, the Center for Disease Control suggests that you consider getting a prophylactic prescription for malaria. My go-to for malaria prevention is always Malarone because there are no side effects for me. Dosage begins two days before you enter the country and continues for one week after you return.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you are up to date on immunizations for Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, and meningitis.

Currency

The currency used is the Kenyan Shilling; however, US Dollars are widely accepted and can be used in most places, including the Maasai and Samburu markets. There aren’t many ATMs in Kenya – most are in or near the hotels in major cities, and certainly none on at the safari camps. We brought an adequate supply of US cash which was accepted everywhere, and we never had to exchange money at all while in Kenya.  I had an eye-popping wad of cash, but in reality, it consisted of mostly a lot of ones, fives, and tens. I used it all and came home with just one $20 bill in my wallet.

At the time of this writing, the exchange rate was approximately 1 USD = 100 KES, which made it very easy to calculate in our heads.

Is Kenya Safe?

Be advised of a “Do Not Travel To” advisory to some of the eastern sections of the country near the Kenya/Somali border due to terrorist activity of the Al Shabaab group.

However, the majority of the country, including the capital Nairobi, is safe for tourists.

Kenya is one of the greatest wildlife-watching destinations in the world, home to the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo). Ensuring the safety of tourists in wildlife conservancies, reserves and national parks is of high priority to the Kenyan government. Safari-seeking tourists really don’t visit eastern Kenya at all; in fact, the game reserves are located in the middle of the country and on the opposite side of the country, along Kenya’s western border with Tanzania.

The travel advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State does caution against the risk of crime in some neighborhoods in Nairobi. We did not ever feel in danger in Nairobi and took the same common-sense safety precautions as we would in any large urban city.

Please note that the political situation changes daily, so please check government travel warnings for the most up-to-date information before booking your Kenyan adventure.

As far as theft, all the camps we stayed at had a safe in the room.

Click here for the 10 best tips to stay safe on safari.

One more important note:

DO NOT EMBARK ON KENYA SAFARI HOLIDAYS WITHOUT TRAVEL AND/OR EVACUATION INSURANCE. You never know what can happen – of this I have first-hand knowledge as I was involved in a horrendous car crash in South Africa in 2014.

Photography

kenya safari holidays

You’ll have to decide whether your smartphone is good enough or if you want to bring your big, heavy SLR camera and zoom lens. There are pros and cons to both. One thing to consider is that the commuter planes are very strict on weight limit and camera equipment could take up to half of that.

I solved this problem by taking my Samsung phone (takes excellent photos) and my Canon mirrorless 35 mm camera that is smaller and lighter than my Nikon SLR. The mirrorless zoom is much less, but in my entire time in the bush, the animals came so close that, except for one occasion, I did not need a more powerful zoom. On that one particular occasion, I just used binoculars and lived in the moment, and did not stress about it at all.

Culture

kenya safari holidays

Samburu tribe performing the traditional high jump dance.

Kenya is a fusion of multiple traditions, with no single prominent culture that identifies it. Ethnicities include Swahili on the coast, Bantu in the central and western regions, and Nilotic in the northwest. They struggle to maintain their traditions as more and more of modern culture and technology squeeze them out.

Most well-known is the Maasai culture, and Samburu – a subculture of the Maasai, but they occupy a relatively small part of Kenya’s population. The Maasai tribes are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and exquisite hand-beaded jewelry.

Poaching

poaching in kenya

The horrible act of poaching was once widely accepted.

In the past, exotic wild animals like the rhino, elephant, lion, and giraffe were killed by poachers for no good reason. Tusks from elephants (made into jewelry, utensils, religious icons, and trinkets) and horns from rhinos (believed to cure impotence, cancer, and hangovers – even though they’re the same keratin as human fingernails with no health-giving properties whatsoever) were removed – sometimes while the animal was alive, causing considerable pain as they are attached to the skull. Majestic lions and beloved giraffes, zebras, and antelope were killed merely so that their skins could become trophy rugs and their heads hung over fireplaces. Sport hunting is now considered reprehensible by most people.

The threat of extinction is a real issue for many animal populations. There are currently only 1,000 black rhinos in Kenya and 34,000 elephants. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, 70% of illegal ivory ends up in China, where it sells for up to $1,000 per pound.

This appalling practice has come under fire in recent years, and the poaching has been banned in most African countries. The current law in Kenya makes it illegal to kill endangered animals in the country. In addition, the 2013 Wildlife Conservation Act also carries a life sentence or $200,000 fine against illegal poachers.

We were also told during our game drives that there is a death penalty in place for those caught poaching, and in fact, shoot-to-kill is permitted. I have not been able to verify this controversial punishment, and it appears as though it was a miscommunication.

Thankfully, poaching has seen a huge decline since the near extinction of the 1970s and 1980s; whether it’s from the fear of penalties, an increase of conservation efforts, patrolling of armed rangers, or from the involvement of the safari camps with the local communities is unclear. Most likely a combination of all of these.

Language

swahili language

Friendly Samburu woman.

Swahili and (British) English are the official language of Kenya, although ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues and dialects within their own communities.

Here are some basic Swahili words that it would be beneficial to learn before visiting.

  • Hello – jambo
  • Thank you – asante
  • Welcome – karibu
  • Slow – polepole
  • Okay – sawa
  • How much? – pesa ngapi
  • There are no troubles – hakuna matata
  • Toilet – choo
  • Goodnight = lala salama
  • I’d like = nataka

Tipping

kenya safari holidays

Stopping for the daily “Sundowner” cocktail with George in Loisaba Wildlife Conservancy.

Tipping is of course not mandatory, but is traditional, and believe me, you will want to.  Your game drive guides should be at the top of your list, well-deservedly.

Our camp gave us the following guidelines. We usually went to the top range, except for our guides – we gave more to them.

$5-$10 per client per day for:

  • Staff (leave in the staff tip box located in the reception area)
  • Drivers
  • Guides

Most lodges are unable to convert cash, so ensure you carry enough to cover your planned tipping.

When to Go

Kenya’s inland climate is mostly arid with a great deal of sunshine. Summer clothes are worn most of the year although it can get quite cool at night and early in the morning in the higher elevations.

The “long rains” season occurs from March through June and the “short rains” from October to November/December. The heaviest rain is usually during the afternoons and evenings. The temperature remains high throughout these months of tropical rain. The hottest period is February – March, and the coolest is July – August.

The tsetse flies and mosquitos can be quite a nuisance at various times of the year. We were there in October and did not see a single mosquito or tsetse fly.

Brief History

Kenya has a long and complicated history and it would be too lengthy to list here. But here are some important dates and events.

Kenya has seen human habitation since the beginning of the Lower Paleolithic age, with European and Arab presence in Mombasa dating to the Early Modern period.

  • 1498 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached Mombasa, opening the Portuguese to trade with the Far East directly by sea.
  • 1593 –the construction of Fort Jesus in Mombasa to solidify Portuguese stronghold
  • 1807–1856 – Under Omani sultan Seyyid Said, Arab, the Shirazi and coastal African cultures produced an Islamic Swahili people trading in a variety of commodities, including slaves
  • 1846 – The first Christian mission was founded by German Dr. Johann Ludwig Krapf
  • 1914–1918 – Kenya became a military base for the British in the First World War
  • 1939–1945 –Kenya became an important British military base for successful campaigns against Italy In the Second World War
  • 1952 -1956 –Mau Mau Uprising, an armed local movement directed against the colonial government and the European settlers
  • 1895 – The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate
  • 1957 – The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place increasing the people’s agitation for Jomo Kenyatta’s release from detention
  • 1964 – The independent Republic of Kenya was formed; Kenyatta was released to become Kenya’s first Prime Minister
  • 1963 to 1978 – Jomo Kenyatta served as Prime Minister
  • 1978 – 2002 – Kenyatta was succeeded by Daniel Arap Moi, who ruled until 2002
  • After the turn of the century, Kenya has experienced complex political unrest.

Festivals and Holidays

  • New Year’s Day 1st January
  • Good Friday As per the Gregorian calendar
  • Easter Monday As per the Gregorian calendar
  • Labor Day 1st May
  • Madaraka Day 1st June
  • Mashujaa Day 20th October
  • Jamhuri (Independence) Day 12th December
  • Christmas Day 25th December
  • Boxing Day 26th December

Lamu Cultural Festival

    • Three days long
    • Annual
    • Takes place in November

Lake Turkana Festival

    • Three days long
    • Annual
    • Takes place in May or June

Rift Valley Music Festival

    • Two days long
    • Annual
    • Takes place in late August

Maralal Camel Derby

    • Three days long
    • Annual
    • Takes place in mid-August

Maulidi Festival

    • Four days long
    • Annual
    • Takes place in the third month of the Muslim calendar

Safari Camp Transportation

There are several ways to get to the safari camps. First, you’ll probably arrive in Nairobi’s large, modern Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. From there, you will get to your camp either by a tiny commuter plane out of the smaller Wilson Airport or be driven by jeep/car. Take note, Wilson Airport is highly unorganized and chaos reigns. Don’t expect the same TSA precautions as in the US because they are practically nonexistent. The phrase “fly by the seat of your pants” very literally comes to mind.

Transportation between camps is again either via a small plane or by jeep. While the jeep drive may be uncomfortable because the roads are not in great condition, we would not trade in our 5-hour bumpy drive between Lewa and Loisiba where we got a fascinating peek into what “real” life is like in the Kenyan villages and frenetic markets along the way.

One important thing to be aware of….. the small commuter planes have very strict weight limits for baggage. You’re only allowed soft baggage with a combined weight total of 33 lbs. If you go over the limit, you may be able to get away with paying a fee, but if the plane is already at its weight limit, you might have to wait until there’s a plane with space available. So buy a luggage-weighing device and make sure you comply – you don’t want to miss any part of your trip because you had a delay.

Safari Animals

Kenya has attracted explorers for centuries, and even more so after the release of the movie Out of Africa depicting the life of Karen Blixen in Nairobi. Renowned for its savannas, rugged mountains, and vivid Maasai culture, it’s the safari animals that add the sense of adventure to one of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations.

There is no other travel experience like seeing animals in their wild, natural habitat.  As you venture out into the reserves, national parks, and/or conservancies in a 4×4 jeep with a knowledgeable (most are licensed) guide, it is startling how close some of the animals will come to your vehicle, seemingly unbothered by nearby humans.

Click here to see the types of wildlife you can expect to see in Kenya.

Best Safari Parks and Camps

safari camps

When planning your safari, most people choose to spit their time at multiple camps, staying for two or three days in each camp. The camps usually two game drives, one very early in the morning right after sunrise, and another in the late afternoon through sunset. This coincides with the times when the animals are most active.

While there are a number of parks and accommodations of all levels and budgets to choose from, we wholeheartedly recommend these below which are part of the Elewana Collection. Each camp has its own distinct personality with wonderful staff and your own personal butler. They provide special surprises such as a full-cooked breakfast in the bush while on the game drive, and a traditional “sundowner” – a stop in the savanna where your guide turns into your bartender, concocting your favorite cocktail as you all watch the sun slip into the horizon.

During the afternoon there is free time to relax, take a dip in the pool, walk or bike around the camp, or do whatever you choose. The dinners in the evenings are fabulous – the chefs even turned themselves inside out to make sure they accommodated my ketogenic and allergy-ridden diet. I savored every delicious meal.

During daylight hours, you are free to walk around and explore the camp, but after dark, there is an armed ranger to escort you to and from dinner, you know, just in case.  This rule is non-negotiable.

The camps have nearly invisible fencing surrounding the large perimeter to keep larger animals out. Even though they generally do not consider humans as food, I liked having that security.

Another perk is that there is a same-day laundry service – a big help since the luggage restrictions are so tight that you’ll need to reuse some of your clothes which can easily get dusty and/or dirty during the game drives.

The one thing that stands out at the Elewana camps is the guides. You’d be hard-pressed to find more knowledgeable and friendly guides anywhere in the world. They have a vast knowledge of all the flora and fauna on the reserves. They can even identify particular animals as if they are old friends.  They track behavior, finding where the wild things hang out at different times of the day. If you request to see a certain animal (and we did), they can usually find it.

The Elewana camps are considered to be the cream of the crop, and my experience was incredible, well beyond my expectations – which is saying a lot for an experienced (and sometimes jaded) traveler like me. They may cost more than some of the other more rudimentary camps, but if you have to save up just a bit longer, you won’t regret it.

While it may sound cliché to call my Kenyan safari adventure “magical,” that’s exactly what it was. I want the same for you.

1 Meru National Park

Meru National Park

Lions in Meru National Park

About 200 miles from Nairobi, Meru National Park straddles the equator and is crisscrossed by thirteen rivers. The diverse topography is stunning, from the open plains of the savanna, to bush and woodlands, to inland hills and the slopes of the Nyambeni Mountain Range on the horizon.

The Park – particular Elsa’s Kopje, the startlingly gorgeous glamping resort with romantic treehouse-type individual lodges perched over the savanna – is world-renowned as the place where Joy Adamson raised her lion cub, Elsa, the subject of the subsequent book and movie, “Born Free.”

Elsa's Kopje

Magical 2-story treehouse room overlooking the savanna at Elsa’s Kopje.

You can see the Big Five here (an old hunting term used to categorize the five species that were the hardest to kill on foot – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) as well as giraffes, zebras, antelope, impala, dik-dik (Africa’s smallest antelope), hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthogs, and numerous birdlife.

One of the biggest thrills was hearing the lions in the nearby savanna roaring and chuffing at night, very close but below our tent. While armed rangers patrol the area, the threat is low. Predators will not try to get into your tent. The human scent is not recognized as a food source for them, and not worth the effort it would take to breach the camp which is dimly lit with solar-powered lights. Lions are lazy and will always opt to steal a kill away from other animals rather than take down their own prey.

Having said that, the guests are instructed to never walk around the camp in the dark. Honestly, there is no reason to…Elsa’s treehouses are magnificent 2-story affairs with the lower floor dedicated as a spacious bathroom with double vanities, separate area for toilet, and walk-in rainforest shower.

2 Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Camel safari at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

Formed in 1995, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy which covers 62,000 acres of savannah and the Ngare Ndare Forest, was established to protect the endangered black rhino and endangered Grevy’s zebra. Lewa hosts over 12% of Kenya’s black rhinoceros as well as the largest single population of Grevy’s zebras in the world (approximately 350).

Conservancies are tracts of land that are owned by indigenous communities but rented by eco-tourism companies and operated as private game reserves. Lewa works hand-in-hand with the local community to provide economic stability, conservation of wildlife, and an education program to help develop schools.

Lewa takes the poaching threat seriously. Their security operation includes a well-trained, armed and unarmed, and highly motivated ranger force, as well as tracker dogs and aerial surveillance. They work closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), local government agencies and community conservancies affiliated with the Northern Rangelands.

One of the things that I loved about Lewa is that because they are a conservancy, they aren’t governed by the same regulation as the national parks; as such, they offer a lot of activities in addition to the game drives. Guests can go on a bushwalk with a guide where they venture out into the savanna to study the flora, look at animal droppings, etc. The guides keep the guests away from dangerous wildlife. There are also visits to local tribal villages, night safaris, and horseback riding, and safaris on camels. We did the camel safari and loved it!

Lewa tented camp

Lewa tented camp with veranda overlooking the bush.

Featuring large tented bedrooms with verandahs that open to panoramic views of the savanna and en-suite bathrooms, Lewa Safari Camp offers authentic comfort for its visitors; cozy log fires in the sitting room are perfect for relaxing after a day of game drives. This unique glamping experience offers privileged access to 65,000 acres of private protected wilderness.

You may be interested to know that on October 2010, Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton while on holiday in Kenya at Lewa Safari Camp. That’s how special it is.

3 Loisaba Wildlife Conservancy

Loisaba Wildlife Conservancy

Up close and personal with elephants in Loisaba Conservancy.

Loisaba is a 57,000-acre wildlife conservancy located in Laikipia, Northern Kenya, whose mission is to conserve the wildlife habitat, support anti-poaching efforts, provide low-impact ecotourism, create jobs for local employment, develop schools and healthcare clinics, and serve as an anchor for local Samburu communities.

It was officially founded in December 2014 when The Nature Conservancy and Space for Giants facilitated the transfer of ownership of the property and operating companies to the Loisaba Community Trust.

Loisaba sits on the western edge of one of Kenya’s most important corridors which facilitates the movement of the country’s second-largest population of elephants. Keeping this land and the adjoining 15-million acres of community lands intact and functioning for wildlife, livestock, and northern Kenya’s pastoralist tribes is achieved by working with community conservancies.

Loisaba fuses tourism with community development and wildlife conservation. If desired, your guide will bring you to a small Samburu village. While at the village, you have opportunities to learn about the customs and traditions of the Samburu from the tribe chief or head male warrior, participate in dancing customs with the women, observe the warrior “high jump” ritual, interact with the sometimes shy children, and purchase their beautiful hand-beaded crafts. There is a symbiotic relationship with the conservancy, whereby the tribes assist with the anti-poaching efforts.

kenya safari holidays

Infinity pool at Loisaba tented camp.

Set within the reserve, the Loisaba Lodge is perched on the edge of a ridge with unobstructed views across Laikipia’s mottled landscape all the way to Mt. Kenya. All luxurious tents and main areas enjoy a breathtaking vantage point over an expansive panorama. I especially liked my private infinity pool overlooking the savanna.

Activities include horse-riding, camel-trekking, guided bush walks, fishing, mountain biking, cultural visits to Samburu villages and visits to the anti-poaching sniffer dogs.

Loisaba starbeds

Loisaba Starbeds open-air huts are amazing!

If you’ve ever wanted to sleep under the stars (and I suggest that you do!), you’ll get an unforgettable opportunity at Loisaba Star Beds. Guests can spend the night in private huts with a deck overlooking the savanna.  At night, their mosquito net-covered bed is rolled out into the open air (or taken inside if the weather turns). The deck overlooks the savanna, including a watering hole where you can experience the sights and sounds of passing game. It is an experience like no other!

4 Maasai Mara National Reserve

kenya safari holidays

Leopard spotting in Maasai Mara National Reserve

Perhaps the most well-known of all African game park experiences is the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It’s the place of the greatest year-round migration on earth, when nearly two million wildebeest, plus zebras and antelopes migrate chasing after the rains in Tanzania and Kenya, with predators following in their wake looking for an easy meal.

It’s famous because you are virtually guaranteed sightings of the high concentration of the Big Five, including the big cats – lions, leopards, and cheetahs, as well as other wildlife. There’s also the sought-after dramatic Mara River crossings that occur during the “Great Migration” between July and October as various types of animals enter the Maasai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The best way to watch the breathtaking natural wonder is from a hot-air balloon.

But along with fame comes crowds. It’s sometimes hard to feel like you’re in the wild when there are so many safari jeeps in your sightline.

Situated on a secluded and picturesque site, Sand River Masai Mara replicates the romantic heyday of safaris in the late 1920s. Decor and furnishings of the tents mirror this period perfectly, reminiscent of Hollywood movies that paid homage to a classic era of African adventure.

Located in the Mara North Conservancy, in the heart of the Maasai Mara ecosystem, Elephant Pepper Camp is the perfect base from which to explore the wonders of the Mara. The camp’s remote location allows the stars to shine bright at night, undimmed by harsh lighting. At night, guests can fall asleep to the sounds of wildlife but within the safe and comfy glamping experience.

5 Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park

Elephant in Amboseli National Park with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.

Located in the far south of Kenya, close to the Tanzanian border with views of the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro – the world’s highest free-standing mountain – Amboseli National Park is one of the most popular safari destinations in Kenya. If you want to see elephants with huge tusks, this is the place for you. In fact, the park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants, often with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. I can tell you unequivocally that getting close to one of these humongous lumbering beasts in the wild is one of the most exhilarating experiences while on safari.

You can also see lions, cheetahs, the endangered African wild dogs, buffalos, giraffes, and 600 different species of birds.

There are opportunities to visit Maasai villages for cultural interactions with the Maasai people, who continue to live as they have done for thousands of years.

Tortilis Camp, the first eco-lodges of its size, is named after the flat-topped, umbrella thorn tree, the Acacia. Located in a private conservancy bordering the national park, game drives, bushwalks, sundowners and bush meals take place both inside the national park and in the conservancy, where guests enjoy exclusivity.

Other Things to Do

Nairobi

Nairobi Kenya

View of Nairobi.

Most likely, you will fly in and out of Nairobi. Don’t neglect to set aside a couple of days to explore Kenya’s capital.

Unless you’re not going on a safari elsewhere in Kenya, you’ll probably opt out of visiting Nairobi National Park right next to the city. If Nairobi is your only chance for a safari, do visit the park. It’s small but has a varied population of wildlife, a bit odd to see with skyscrapers juxtaposed in the background.

kenya safari holidays

A sloppy kiss at Nairobi’s Giraffe Center!

But even if you have or are going on a safari, don’t miss the Giraffe Center. The center is part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife of Nairobi, established to protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe, found only in the grasslands of East Africa. Once down to only 130, there are now over 300 gorgeous Rothschild giraffes safe and breeding well in various Kenyan national parks. Nothing beats a selfie or sloppy kiss from one of the rehabilitated Rothschild’s giraffes!

Out of Africa fans will love the Karen Blixen Museum (it’s located in the author’s own home at the foot of the Ngong Hills), and near the Talisman restaurant where I tried Taliban chicken wings. Hint: just try dipping the wings in a very tiny bit of sauce. I love spicy food, but any more than that would have been a medical disaster!

Also within the Karen Blixen estate is another worthwhile experience – the Kazuri Bead Factory. Meaning “small and beautiful,” Kazuri provides employment for roughly 400 disadvantaged single mothers in Nairobi. Gorgeous, hand-made, hand-painted jewelry and pottery are produced, each one unique and reflecting the culture of Kenya. I confess that I loved the jewelry and mission so much that I bought 15 pairs of earrings, for me and for gifts!

maasai market

All sorts of great things to buy at the Maasai market.

The Maasai market is a must-do. It changes location every day, so you’ll have to do some research to know where to find it. The hand-beaded jewelry is exquisite. Be prepared to bargain for what you want!

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Click here to compare prices of hotels in Nairobi.

Diani Beach

Diani Beach Kenya

Camels walking on Diani Beach.

Kenya has its own stunning tropical beach to rival that of offshore Zanzibar. Resting on the Indian Ocean, Diani Beach, about 20 miles south of Mombasa, Diani is a picturesque paradise of shimmering turquoise water and palm-lined beach.

At Diani, you can laze on the white sand beach and listen to the turquoise waves lap the shore, snorkel with whale sharks, take a sunset dhow boat cruise, or take a nature walk in the nearby forests.

Click here to compare prices of hotels at Diani Beach.

Mt. Kenya Trek

Mt. Kenya

Craggy peaks of Mt. Kenya.

At 17,057ft high, the largest mountain in Kenya is also the second-highest in Africa after Kilimanjaro across the border in Tanzania; Mt. Kenya is considered a more challenging climb than Kilimanjaro.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mt. Kenya is a beautiful sight to behold: rugged peaks and snowy glaciers along the upper with the lower slopes blanketed in forests of bamboo, African rosewood, and mossy moorland.

Experienced hikers can undertake the high altitude, difficult, and technically-challenging climb. There are three peaks: Batian (17,057 ft.), Nelion (17,021 ft.) and Point Lenana (16,355 ft.). The mountain is part of the Mount Kenya National Park, which means that there are animal viewing opportunities along the way. The best time to climb is during dry months of January- February, or July to October when the trails are more passable.

Mombasa

Mombasa

The Mombasa Tusks arching over Moi Avenue. Photo Credit Sandro Senn

Mombasa is a coastal city of Kenya along the Indian Ocean. It is the country’s oldest and second-largest city. In addition to Diani Beach (above), there’s a lot to explore in this somewhat chaotic city. UNESCO World Heritage Site Fort Jesus, constructed by the Portuguese between 1593 and 1596, stands sentry at the Old Port harbor. The partly-damaged fort is a fine example of a 16th-century Renaissance military installation.

Near Fort Jesus is the historic Old Town. Once an important stop along the Silk Route, the narrow streets and ornate wooden doors reflect the influences of Arabic, Asian, African, and European cultures. Stroll by the variety of boutique shops selling spices, perfumes, antiques, and assorted souvenirs.

And of course, you can’t miss the ultimate Mombasa Instagram op at “the Mombasa Tusks.” Located on Moi Avenue, the towering aluminum elephant tusks, commissioned in 1956 in commemoration of Princess Margaret’s visit, arch over the avenue.

Click here to compare prices of hotels in Mombasa.
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Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru

The famous pink flamingos of Lake Nakuru.

Lake Nakuru one of the Rift Valley lakes, is a very shallow lake in central Kenya. The lake’s abundance of algae attracts vast quantities of greater and lesser flamingos, sometimes more than one million at once. Flamingoes come to mate, raise their young and feed on the algae. Often called the greatest bird spectacle on earth, the flamingos are one of Kenya’s top attractions. Pelicans, cormorants, eagles, and herons are also seen around the lake.

Click here to compare prices of hotels in Nakuru.

What to Pack

Below are a few important items to bring for your Kenya safari holidays, but click here for a comprehensive list of EVERYTHING you need to take on safari (and what you can leave at home).

Insect Repellent

Malaria is known to be a big risk in Kenya as well as the dread tsetse flies. Wear long sleeves and pants at night and pack at least 30% DEET repellent. I prefer the wipes over sprays. Sprays are too strong, extremely greasy, and more difficult to get through some security checks as the bottles are larger than 3 ounces.

Safari Hat

The sun beats down pretty hot on the savanna. You’ll need a good hat…why not get a cute one, too?

Buffs

I didn’t even know what these were until someone recommended them. They were so handy! I used them as headbands to give a bit of style; to completely cover my hair in windy jeep rides to avoid horrific tangles; to cover my ears during cold game drives at night; over my nose and mouth when we drove through smelly animal “graveyards.”

Headlamp

The lights in the tented camps are very dim at night, enough to see your way to the bathroom, but not bright enough to read.

Books/Movies About Kenya

Out of Africa

Born Free

Heat of the Sun

The Ghost and the Darkness

The Lion King

Lonely Planet Guide Kenya Travel Guide

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Kenya Safari Holidays: Complete Safari Guide Pin for safari

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.

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