Amboseli National Park

Size: 390 sq. km. Best time to visit: April – May

Amboseli is a popular destination and prime location from which to view and photograph Mt. Kilimanjaro. Directly on the Tanzanian border, the park lies near the road from Arusha to Nairobi. The park’s clean and constant water supply is maintained by melting snow and ice at the peak of Kilimanjaro that filters through hundreds of feet of volcanic rock. The ubiquitous dust is actually volcanic ash that remains from the eruptions of Kilimanjaro thousands of years ago.

Amboseli is one of the best places to view elephant, which congregate in large numbers and whose bulls sport some of the longest tusks in all of Kenya. Other wildlife includes lions, leopards, impala, dikdik, giraffe, wildebeest and many others. Bird life also abounds and bird enthusiasts will be happy to espy pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Martial Eagles and Pygmy Falcons.

A curious attraction at Amboseli is the lake bed during the dry season, upon which visitors will be sure they see herds of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles; in reality these images are far away horizons projected as hovering mirages.

Did you know?

“Amboseli” means “salty dust” in the Masai language. Amboseli and the surrounding lands have been important to the Masai tribe for centuries. Today the Kenyan government works with the local Masai elders to develop eco-friendly tourism that will benefit local people.

Accommodation

Amboseli Serena Lodge

Situated in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli Serena Lodge features natural architecture and beautifully-kept grounds. 96 rooms in separate cottages all offer private bathroom facilities and a unique African decor. The Lodge also features a lighted waterhole and salt lick.

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Masai Mara National Reserve

Size: 1510 sq. km. Best time to visit: July-Sept. (migration); Anytime

The Masai Mara is one of the finest wildlife reserves in Kenya. It is the ecological continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south and provides a home for millions of Wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra at the northernmost point of the great migration.

At this time of the year the abundance and concentration of life is overwhelming as the grazers fill the plains and the predators come to share in the time of plenty.

Fantastic arrays of large mammals and over 450 species of birds can be observed in the Reserve year-round. From the peacefully grazing zebra, to the nervous gazelle and cantankerous hippopotamus and rhino, the Masai Mara offers wildlife for all temperaments. Roan antelope, bat-eared foxes and topi are among the less common animals that can be seen in the Masai Mara.

Accommodation

Mara Safari Club

Located in the Ol-Choro Oiroua Conservation Area on the edge of the Masai Mara National Park, the club offers 50 luxury tents that feature electricity, four-poster beds, private verandahs with views and complete bathroom facilities. Activities include nature walks, Maasai dancing and talks on ecology and local culture.

Mara Serena Lodge

Set in an ideal place to watch the great migration, the Mara Serena Lodge is constructed like a traditional African village. The lodge offers accommodations in 74 individual luxury cabins overlooking the plains.

Governor’s Camps

Four camps in the Masai Mara feature luxury tents in the classic style (link), each tent has its own en-suite bathroom with constant hot and cold running water and flushing toilets. Lighting is by gas, kerosene lantern and candlelight.

Siana Springs Tented Camp

The peaceful atmosphere and 38 charming luxury tents set among the trees offer a beautiful setting in which to relax after a long game drive.

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

45 luxury tents with en-suite facilities and twin beds and several thatched cabins are available at this tented camp on the banks of the Mara River. Views of the plains are excellent and game-viewing is prime.

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Aberdares National Park

Size: 676 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

The Aberdares National Park takes its name from the majestic mountain range that runs through it, stretching due north from Nairobi. The park also protects a tract of forested land known as the Salient, which stretches to the east of the range; it is in this area that the famous Ark and Treetops Lodges are located.

The forested Salient is the best place to see animals and provides a home for elephant, rhinoceros, warthog, giant forest hog, dikdik, bongo, several types of monkey and cats such as lions, leopards and serval. The park is also home to many brilliantly coloured birds and insects. Although not as rich in large animal life, the Aberdare mountain range offers dream-like vistas, deep valleys and towering peaks.

Aberdares National Park is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of night time wildlife thanks to the Ark, which is a game lodge built over a waterhole and salt lick that have been lit up to allow guests to witness the secret night time activities of the African bush.

Accommodation

Aberdare Country Club

The Country Club features 46 luxury rooms/cottages, many of which offer views of the Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, or the wide-open plains below. Horse-back riding, swimming, golf, and tennis are all available on the grounds.

The Ark

Overlooking a lighted waterhole in the heart of the Aberdares National Park, the Ark offers unique opportunities to observe African wildlife at night. 60 luxury rooms with (small) bathrooms and showers are available complete with buzzers to announce the arrival of big game in the night.

Treetops

Built as a two-room treehouse in 1932, the Treetops is now a unique 50-room lodge overlooking two waterholes where copious wildlife can be observed and photographed at close range. Accommodations include suites with private bathroom facilities and private twin or double rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

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Mount Kenya National Park

Size: 700 sq. km. Best time to visit: Jan.-Feb., July-Oct.

Mt. Kenya National Park has got it all… from icy glaciers to bamboo forest. The mountain can be climbed by trekkers of many different skill levels and always offers breath-taking views.

Wildlife at Mt. Kenya is diverse and includes many of the safari favorites including black rhino, leopard, Black and White Colobus and Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, buffalo, elephant, baboon, waterbuck, giant forest hog, genet cat, and hyena. Because of the ever-changing altitude, the plant life in the park is varied as well; among park plants grow the striking Giant groundsel and Lobelia. Habitats like mountain forest, bamboo forest, high-altitude heath and moorland all support a variety of animals and birds.

Another attraction associated with Mt. Kenya is the equator, which runs across the mountain’s slopes. There are many places to pay a visit to the equatorial boundary and snap a few pictures straddling the hemispheres.

Did You Know?

According to the Kikuyu, Mt. Kenya is the home of the supreme being, Ngai. The Kikuyu word for the mountain is Kere Nyaga, meaning Mountain of Brightness.

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Accommodation

Mount Kenya Safari Club

Elegant cottages, manicured lawns and decorative ponds provide a backdrop for the jet-setting crowd that frequents the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. With 114 luxury-class villas, cottages and suites and unparalleled gourmet dining, the club is sure to satisfy the most discerning guests.

Sweetwaters Tented Camp

Located outside of Mt. Kenya National Park, in a private 24,000 acre game reserve, Sweetwaters offers spectacular views of Mt. Kenya. En-suite luxury tents under thatched roofs ensure a pleasant stay while photographing the animals that come drink at the floodlit waterhole ensure an exciting one.

Lewa Downs

On the northern slopes of Mt. Kenya lies Lewa Downs, one of Kenya’s original colonial ranches and home to the Craig family. Wilderness Trails, the Craig’s safari operation, caters for 12 guests in comfortable cottages. Horse-back riding, nature walks and night game drives are all available.

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Nairobi National Park

Size: 117 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

The park is home to black rhino, buffalo, eland, Maasai giraffe, plain’s zebra, wildebeest, coke’s hartebeest, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthog, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal civet and genet.

Over 400 species of birds have been recorded as well. The park is unfenced to the south and migratory animals move in and out according to the seasons. The park serves as a sanctuary for black rhino, which provides a certain opportunity of seeing the rhino in its natural habitat. Over 50 rhino have been moved to the park from areas where they were endangered by poaching.

Nairobi Animal Orphanage

At the main gate of the park, the Nairobi Animal Orphanage provides a safe home and upbringing for baby animals orphaned by poachers or other disasters. The orphanage only allows viewing for an hour a day while the animals are being fed. These orphans are not zoo animals; once they have matured, the babies will be reintroduced into the wild.

Karen Blixen Museum

Made famous by her autobiographical Out of Africa – also an academy award winning film – Karen Blixen‘s stay in colonial Kenya was a constant adventure. Her love of the country and its people is now world-famous and her house, which has been made into a museum, can be visited on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor (link), a rambling stone residence built in 1932, has become a haven for the endangered Rothschild giraffe. The giraffes roam about the grounds freely (along with a few resident warthogs) and guests at the manor can feed them through the windows and doors of the building. Adjacent to the manor is the giraffe sanctuary, where anyone is welcome to pat, feed and even kiss the giraffes!
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Accommodation

Giraffe Manor

Guests at Giraffe Manor (link)can pet and feed the Rothschild giraffes that wander freely about the grounds. These giraffes are part of the adjacent giraffe sanctuary (on Giraffe Manor grounds) but are by no means the only reason to stay at the Manor. The resident owners of the rambling stone manor, Jock and Bryony, will welcome you as their guests and you’ll enjoy the finest cuisine and most comfortable lodgings in their home. The location is just a few miles outside of downtown Nairobi.

Ngong House

A truly unique and luxurious lodging, Ngong House is located on the land once cultivated by Karen Blixen. Guests stay in one of five wooden houses raised on stilts with views of the misty Ngong Hills and the surrounding countryside. Gourmet cuisine may be served in the main dining room or under the trees in the open air. There is also a further bedroom within the original house.

Grand Regency

A brand new, elegant Western-style hotel in the city centre, the Grand Regency is a favourite among heads of state and other important visitors to the city. An all-weather pool, conference rooms and exquisite cuisine ensure that no Western comforts will be missed during your stay.

The Norfolk

One of the original colonial hotels, the Norfolk has been visited by many a famous historical figure. Luxuriously decorated and beautifully maintained, the hotel offers all the modern amenities of a world-class hotel in an historical setting right in the heart of Nairobi.

The New Stanley

Like the Norfolk, the New Stanley (link) is one of Nairobi’s original hotels that has been maintained impeccably and now offers all the modern amenities as well as a charming atmosphere and ideal location.

Nairobi Serena

Another of the finest hotels in Nairobi, this is the flagship of Serena hotels. With colour TVs in every room, a beautiful pool area, lush gardens, and international cuisine the Serena Nairobi is definitely a luxury accommodation.

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Tsavo National Park

Size: 20,800 sq. km. Best time to visit: July-Sept.

The mammoth Tsavo National park is actually comprised of two parks: Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Tsavo West is more accessible and less arid and therefore enjoys more popularity. There are only two rivers in this vast area and drought has been a problem for the Tsavo ecosystems.

Tsavo West

Thousands of elephant and many rhinoceros inhabit the park as well as many lions – although none have proved worthy of their ancestors “man-eating” reputation. Other predators include cheetah, leopard, serval, hyena and caracal. The oasis of Mzima is a natural wonder that attracts wildlife of every variety. Clear, cool waters feed the pool from underground streams; these springs also provide Mombasa with most of its water supply. Not far from the springs, the lights of Ngulia Lodge attract thousands of migrant birds that are captured, ringed and released. Truly a birder’s delight.

Tsavo East

Only a small part of the larger east park is open to human intrusion, the rest remains an absolutely wild and undisturbed home for many African animals. In the areas where tourism is permitted one may view sunbathing crocodiles, one of the worlds longest (extinct) lava flows, and beautiful falls.

The number of elephant and Rhino killed by poachers in the Tsavo area – a number that reached into the thousands just 15 years ago – has been reduced to 0 in recent years.

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Accommodation

Ol Donyo Wuas

Ol Donyo Wuas (Maasai for “spotted hill”) (link) is comprised of a main building and 6 cottages – 3 of which are double units suitable for families – all with open fireplace, verandah with panoramic views, electricity and private bathroom with toilets and heated showers. Nature walks, cave walks and horse-back riding are just a sample of the available activities.

Ziwani Tented Camp

Located in view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, between the famous Amboseli game reserve and Tsavo West Game Park, Ziwani can accommodate up to 40 guests in private tents under thatched roofs. Each tent includes bathroom facilities and a private verandah.

Salt Lick Hilton Safari Lodge

Built on stilts overlooking a waterhole, the lodge features 96 guest rooms and an opportunity to view many different animals as they come to drink. Camel rides and regional entertainment can be arranged.

Taita Hills Safari Lodge

Located in the Taita Hills at the edge of Tsavo National Park, this lodge has 60 guest rooms and two suites with private bathroom and shower and panoramic views of the hotel’s own wildlife sanctuary. The lodge also offers swimming, mini-golf and camel riding.

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Lamu Island

The exotic island of Lamu will take you back to the 19th century with its narrowly winding streets, colourful bazaars and black-veiled women. The island is one of the earliest Arab settlements on the African Coast and is rich in Arab history that comes to life in the many ruins that dot the landscape.

There are no automobiles on the island, and no proper roads. You can get around on the Arab dhows (a type of sailboat) or on foot since the island only measures about a mile and a half across.

The beaches are pristine and the diving is very good; however, the religion of the island is overwhelmingly Muslim and very devout and visitors are expected to respect local customs. Visitors are expected to refrain from wearing beach attire while out and about and women should take care to cover at least their shoulders and knees.

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Accommodation

Kipungani Bay

Located on the Island, 15 private beach cottages or ‘grass villas’ are situated right on the beach complete with private bathroom facilities and verandahs. The cottages are constructed of traditional local palm matting and blend beautifully into the surroundings.

Takaungu House

Located on the Kenyan coast south of Lamu in the Swahili Arab village of Takaungu, the house offers a two-room family cottage with private bathroom facilities and one room in the main house, also with private facilities (link). Sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming are all available.

Blue Safari Club

On the small island of Manda, near Lamu Island, the Blue Safari Club is an exclusive, tropical paradise accessible only by boat. Accommodations are in individual private thatched cabins along the beach. This is the ideal place to relax in tranquil surroundings.

Shela Beach House

On the sea front in Shela Village on the timeless island of Lamu, the antique, charming Beach House stands at the edge of the sand dunes (link). It is large and cool with one triple and four double ensuite bedrooms.

Kiwayu

Located on the Kenyan mainland about 30 miles north of Lamu Island, this little “village” accommodates guests in 18 private thatched cabins (link). Secluded accommodations are available at the exclusive banda on Kiwayu Island, directly opposite.