Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, embarking on a mission to find the famous Big 5 is often the highlight of a trip to the wilds of Africa. From the thrill of tracking elusive leopards and black rhino to the sheer splendour of gazing upon herds of bathing elephants and watching grumpy Cape buffalo seeing off a pride of hungry lions, there’s nothing quite like an African safari.
Kenya is one of the best destinations to spot the Big Five, and the experienced guides and world class game reserves make for a holiday of a lifetime.
Masai Mara National Reserve
There are no prizes for guessing that the Masai Mara is the most popular safari destination in Kenya. With its abundant wildlife, iconic savannah views and of course the annual wildebeest migration, the Masai Mara deserves to be at the top of every visitor list.
Proudly situated in the Rift Valley in south west Kenya, the Masai Mara is home to the Big 5 as well as large families of hippos, hyena, and topi. The list goes on. There are no fences in the Mara which allows the animals to roam free and makes for exciting safaris.
The far-reaching views across the open savannah make it easy to spot the big cats. You might see them resting in the shade of a lone tree or out stalking the millions of wildebeest and zebra that arrive with the migration between July and October.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the enormous scale of the migration is by air. This is a perfect location for hot air balloon flights, and an excellent excuse to drink champagne far earlier than is normally socially acceptable. What’s not to love?
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli is another popular park, and the place to go for those picture postcard views of elephants trundling across the plains with the magnificent back drop of a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. Don’t forget your camera! Home to over 50 animal species, Amboseli is known as the ‘Land of the Giants’ thanks to the large herds of elephants who roam the sun-baked savannah. It’s quite a rare spectacle, especially if you’re lucky enough to encounter some of the famous large tuskers.
These unobstructed views allow for superb game viewing, and there’s a good chance of seeing lions, leopards and even cheetahs. It’s great for bird watching too with over 400 species to keep an eye out for.
Tsavo National Parks
Tsavo has come a long way since the infamous man-eating lions of 1898. Today, Tsavo East and Tsavo West are vast, wild and perfectly safe for safaris! It’s not always easy to spot the Big 5 here, but they are there, and the difficultly just makes it even more exciting. The fun of safaris is in the anticipation as much as the sighting. Those who persevere will be rewarded with rhino, leopards, buffalo and yes, lions.
Tsavo West is also a popular place to watch elephants sand bathing in the red dust, rolling about and creating quite a spectacle. You’ll also find hippos bathing here too (although this time in water!) and well as the ever-present crocodiles lurking in the shallows.
Lake Nakuru National Park
It’s not often you get to see black and white rhinos against a backdrop of pink flamingos, but here at Lake Nakuru it’s a common sight. The lake is famous for its enormous flamingo flocks who enjoy the shallow alkaline waters, and there are often more than a million of the birds nesting there. That’s a lot of pink!
Whilst it doesn’t feel as wild or untamed as many of the other game reserves and parks in Kenya, Lake Nakuru is good for year-round visits, and the chances of spotting giraffe, lion, hippo, warthog and ostrich are high.
The Lewa Conservancy is a private wildlife reserve which was established to protect the endangered black rhino and also the rare Grevy’s zebra. There are now over 60 mammal species so visitors can enjoy a well-rounded safari experience here. As well as vehicle safaris and bush walks, it’s also a fabulous location to indulge in a bit of wildlife viewing with a difference – by horse or even camel. As well as discovering gazelles, lions and leopards, there are also reticulated giraffes, Beisa oryx and the huge eland living here at Lewa.
As the day heats up many of these animals gather at the swamp areas to drink, and this is where you’ll come across large herds of elephants, sometimes over a hundred at the same time.