Over the years Kenya has promoted itself enthusiastically as a mass market, affordable destination and this has had a detrimental impact on the quality of the wildlife experience, with extremely high tourist numbers in the most popular and accessible national parks.
Away from the busy southern circuit there are less visited parks and some very special camps and lodges, particularly in the northern region, and this is where we recommend; concentrating on the camps and lodges that place strong emphasis on the quality of guiding and as far as possible the wilderness experience.
For us the highlights of Kenya are the wonderful mountainous scenery, the exposure to the cultures of the Samburu and Maasai, experiencing animals that don’t occur in Southern Africa such as the gerenuk, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles, along with plenty of new sub-species of animals you don’t see in Southern Africa, including the reticulated and Maasai giraffes, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa and fringe-eared oryx amongst others. Kenya also has the most amazing birdlife.
The pace on safari in Kenya isn’t quite as strenuous as that in Southern Africa and can be a whole lot more relaxing. Activities are often far more varied than just game drives and depending on your location may include horse riding, rafting, camel rides, mountain biking, walking and village visits. The quality of guiding can be an issue in Kenya, so we either recommend a private guide or to focus on those camps and lodges where guiding is known to be reliably good.
Of course the biggest draw for safari enthusiasts is the annual migration in the Mara and the dramatic river crossings. A word of warning that the numbers of tourists can be rather prolific at this time and for those of us used to the exclusivity of countries like Botswana, it can be something of a shock. An amazing spectacle all the same.
Kenya is a good choice for someone looking to combine a less intense safari experience than normal (with the exception of the Mara which can be very intense!) with some time on the beach. It is a very good family destination and ideal for a more general “safari holiday”. Kenya is also great for those on a tight budget, with a myriad of options enabling enjoyment of a safari experience that might otherwise remain out of reach – the rather infamous white minibus and overland truck being a very common sight in Kenya. This is something that we won’t book ourselves as the quality of the experience and the standard of guiding is too important.