Africa Safari Holidays: First-Timers’ Guide to Kenya

While wildlife documentaries are fun to watch, they pale in comparison to the real deal. An African safari holiday is an unforgettable magical experience. Although Africa is teeming with wildlife, some countries have named themselves the best safari destinations. Kenya is one such country and perhaps the best place for your first safari holiday. More than 2 million tourists visited this magical East African country in 2018. Here is a complete first timers’ guide to Kenya.

Locations and Attractions

Buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos, commonly known as the big five, are the main attractions in an African safari. Kenya is home to twenty-three national parks and game reserves. There is no shortage of places to see these majestic animals up-close. Visit any of the top parks, and you are guaranteed of spotting at least one of the big five.

However, if you are looking for the most excellent show in the world, then the Masai Mara National Park is the place to be. The annual migration of Masai Mara animals is breathtaking. It happens every year between July and November. Millions of animals, including zebras, wildebeests, cross the Mara River into Kenya. Other Masai Mara animals you can expect to see include:

  • Gazelles
  • Hippos
  • Cheetahs
  • Black rhino
  • Baboons
  • Giraffes
  • Ostriches

While the Mara is a hotspot, you can still see most of these animals in other parks, such as the Amboseli, Samburu and Nairobi National Parks.

Where to Find Accommodations

A good night rest is essential after a long day in the wild. Fortunately, there is no shortage of accommodation in Kenya. If you prefer to stay in the wild, then mobile camps are the best place for you. Nothing compares to a night under the African sky, surrounded with melodies from the wildlife.

However, if you are more comfortable indoors, there are numerous luxurious lodges in all the parks. This is a convenient way to lodge as the accommodation costs are often included in the tour packages. While tour companies will often suggest particular lodges, you need to do your research. Less crowded and remote lodges often give a more intimate animal watching experience. For those that enjoy interacting with the people, then perhaps staying in the capital is more your speed. You can have your pick of the many five star hotels in the city.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit depends on the primary purpose of your visit. If you want to witness the wildebeest migration, then you will have a narrow window. In particular, the crossing of the Mara river happens between late July and early August. If you miss this chance, you will have another opportunity during the final weeks of October, and it can extend into the first few weeks of November.

If you are more interested in witnessing the hunt, you need to visit during the green season. It presents the best opportunity to witness a live hunt on the savannah plains.The other factor to consider when planning your safari is the weather. The country experiences long rains between April and early June. Most tour companies close during this period. A shorter rainy season is experienced in November and December. The dry season is between December and March; it is the best time to view wildlife since the animals congregate around the few remaining water points.

How to Get Around

Visitors arrive in Kenya through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) located in the country’s capital, Nairobi. Once in the country, you can take domestic flights to your destination from the Wilson Airport, which is also in the capital. If you choose to stay in Nairobi, then the best way to get around is by road. Tour packages usually include a tour van that transports you to the National parks.

Expect the journey from Nairobi to the Mara to take about five hours by road. The tour vans usually carry around eight people. Most visitors prefer hiring the services of a professional tour guide. In addition to navigation, they can help you get the best food, avoid crowds, and connect with other travelers for a more unforgettable experience.

Bottom Line

Going on a safari for the first time can be intimidating. You will need a great deal of research and preparation to ensure everything goes smoothly. The more prepared you are, the less likely things will go wrong. With every aspect of the holiday sorted, you will be free to enjoy your safari.

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