Top 20 things to do in Kenya on a safari and beach holiday
Kenya is packed with amazing sights to see, wildlife, cultures and history - check out our top 20 things to see and do.
01 Mar 2021
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Kenya really is the land of plenty and seems to have it all when it comes to safaris, beach breaks and culture. With the game rich plains of the Masai Mara, foothills of Mount Kenya and the turquoise waters of the coast these diverse habitats provide the perfect holiday destinations for families, couples and single travellers alike with activities to keep everyone entertained.
Whether you are planning a Kenya safari or a beach break, here are some of our top things to do…of course there are many more but here is a little inspiration.
1. Watch the Great Migration
The Great Migration can be seen between July and October in Kenya. The Great Migration happens when the plains game, of which the majority are wildebeest head north through the Serengeti in Tanzania and into the Masai Mara on their hunt for green, fresh pastures. You may have seen iconic photos of thousands of wildebeest crossing the Mara River, however, they are accompanied by zebra, Grants gazelle, Thompsons gazelle, eland and impala. Although we can give a rough indication of the best time to experience this spectacle, it is driven by rainfall so varies from year to year. For more details take a look at the Great Wildebeest Migration: When, When and Why.
2. Safari in the Masai Mara
Home to the previously mentioned Great Migration, the iconic Masai Mara is a must for any Kenya itinerary. You could easily make this your only stop and go away with incredible game viewing experiences in stunning accommodation.
Covering over 1,500 square km the Masai Mara National Park has some of the most abundant wildlife in Africa and is a mecca for wildlife photographers, naturalists and animal lovers. What makes the Masai Mara special is not just the diversity of wildlife such as lion, leopard, cheetah hyena, elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, giraffe but it is also the abundance and density of these animals. A favourite camp of ours in the Masai Mara is Governors Camp – a traditional tented camp that gives you a wonderful classic safari experience.
As the Masai Mara is a hugely popular destination, in peak months it can become busy. A wonderful option is to stay in a private conservancy in the Mara which has a limited number of camps and vehicles within ensuring you get a more private game viewing experience. There are no fences between the private conservancies and the national parks so animals can wander freely, but only vehicles from properties in the conservancy are allowed in. Favourites of ours are Saruni Mara and Ol Seki, both of which provide a luxurious stay and exceptional guiding.
3. Sunrise safari hot air balloon
Without a doubt, floating over the Masai Mara National Park is one of those once in a lifetime experiences, which if you have the chance you should make sure snap it up.
The majority of balloon trips start near the Governors Camp inside the Park, however this can be organised and reached from a number of the surrounding camps.
For anyone who has not been in a hot air balloon before, your adrenaline will start pumping as you rise early in the morning when it’s still dark and see the roaring burners lighting up the balloon as it begins to rise. Once everyone is settled into the balloon the pilot will slowly lift off. Other than the odd blast from the burners to keep the balloons height, you will drift silently over the plains watching the sunrise in a truly magical experience and one that is especially popular to include in a Kenya honeymoon.
If you think it couldn’t get any better, the experience is finished off with a champagne breakfast right in the middle of the plains.
The flamingos at Lake Nakuru are a must for any keen birder. When this soda lake is full of flamingos, it looks pink from the sheer number of them and is a spectacle to behold. Whilst the numbers vary from year to year depending on the water depth, at its height there can be 1-2 million birds here. Other birds you are likely see include white pelican and a myriad of other woodland and water birds. The park is also home to plenty of game with the chance to see rhino and leopards.
Our favourite place to stay here is the beautiful and peaceful Loldia House which allows you to combine Lake Nakuru with Lake Navashia and the Great Rift Valley.
5. Track rhino
Sitting in the shadow of Mount Kenya, Lewa Conservancy is a popular destination, especially for the chance to see and track rhino. With 10% of Kenya’s black rhino population and a high number of white rhinos it almost guarantees the opportunity to spend time with these iconic animals. Conservation began in 1983 and since then the rhino population has grown from 15 to 169 today. You can even visit the Conservancy offices to learn about the ongoing work of the dedicated team, meet the anti-poaching bloodhounds and help bottle feed orphaned baby rhinos. Our favourite place to stay in Lewa is the gorgeous Lewa Wilderness where you can also enjoy horseback and walking safaris.
Another great option for Rhino tracking is Sera Conservancy in norther Kenya. Our discovering conservation safari includes a stay at Saruni Rhino which offers the possibility to get up close and personal with these critically endangered animals on foot, as well as the chance to visit Lewa and the Masai Mara.
If you get the opportunity, a walking safari adds a completely new dimension to any trip. Often referred to as ‘bush walks’, they are a great way to get out of the vehicle and stretch your legs during a trip which is often filled with little exercise and lots of incredible food.
First time safari goes may shake at the thought of walking around the bush without the protection of a vehicle, however this is very safe and the guides are armed and well trained. The walks themselves tend to be aimed at seeing the smaller things which are usually missed in a vehicle and learning about survival and culture, rather than trying to get as close as possible to predators and elephants.
Walking safaris are prohibited in Kenya’s national parks and reserves, so if walking is an activity you want to make the most of then there are a number of private conservancies that can offer incredible walking safaris.
Have a look at our Laikipia Safari for some walking inspiration.
If you are looking for a gentle and relaxing way to experience Kenya’s wildlife, then a horseback safari is difficult to beat. Many of the animals such a zebra and giraffe do not see horses as a threat, so this is a great way to get up close and personal with nature without disturbing their natural behaviour. Like walking safaris, horseback safaris are also restricted to private ranches and conservancies, as they are not allowed in national parks and reserves – Lewa and Borana are great place to experience this. Both experienced riders and beginners can be catered for and the expert guides will mould the activity around your requirements.
Lewa Wilderness is an exclusive lodge here that offers horseback riding straight from the camp, perfect for a Kenya luxury safari. All the horses are ex-polo so are impeccably trained and horse riding safaris do not need to be pre-booked so you can decide once there, all included within the camps cost.
8. Breakfast with a giraffe
Whilst not technically a safari activity as it takes place in Nairobi at the famous Giraffe Manor, it is on many safari goers bucket lists so we have included here. Giraffe Manor is home to a resident herd of Rothschild giraffe who are known to put their heads in through the windows to be fed at breakfast, or perhaps even from your bedroom. The experience of eating your pancakes whilst feeding a giraffe its breakfast is completely unique and one that delights adults and children alike!
Due to its popularity, Giraffe Manor needs to be booked 18-24 months in advance!
9. Camp under the stars
Sleeping out under a mosquito net in the wild, staring up at the skies with a bush fire to keep you warm is one of the purest safari experiences available. Our favourite place to do this is El Karama in Laikipia. This family friendly lodge offers the chance for families to safely sleep out under the stars in tents strung between trees and to wake up in the mornings to the smell of wood smoke, hot coffee and freshly baked cinnamon buns – the perfect inclusion on a Kenya family holiday.
10. Bush breakfasts and sundowner drinks
A highlight for many safari goers is the chance to experience bush breakfasts or sundowner drinks. Typically, you’ll be raised from your bed at sunrise to get out on safari whilst the game is still active. After a couple of hours on safari, you will stop for a bush breakfast where you can enjoy everything from bacon and eggs to granola, sat out watching hippo and crocodiles across a river, or zebras frolicking in a field.
In the evenings, you can enjoy drinks of a cold beer or G&T whilst the sunset and you watch game going about its daily life – we’ve found these sundowners are unbeatable!
11. Experience a camel safari
Camels might not the first thing which jump to mind when you think of a safari, but sitting on top of a camel, as you watch giraffe nibbling on an acacia tree or elephants interacting with their families is a magical experience.
Both Laikipia and Lewa are great places to try and camel safari. Take a look at this 7 day Kenya safari which incorporates Laikipia and the Masai Mara. From £3,599pp.
Originating in South Sudan the Masai migrated along the Nile Valley into Kenya and Tanzania in the 15th Century. Traditionally semi-nomadic, today their lives are more static residing in small settlements. You will struggle not to come across the Masai people on your safari, their incredible knowledge of the bush makes them brilliant guides and trackers given their history growing up in the bush.
The Masai culture has become an attraction to Kenya as much as the wildlife and there are a number of ways to interact with the people and visit their villages during your holiday (organised through your operator or camp). Remember to always greet them by shaking hand with the right as the left is considered rude.
13. See massive herds of elephants
Amboseli National Reserve is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close and gives you a chance to really appreciate their family dynamics, and to watch them interacting with each other. If you’ve seen the iconic images of elephants wandering across the plains with the incredible snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, they were most likely taken here in Amboseli.
As well as elephants galore, Amboseli is home to the Big Five, as well as plenty of grazing animals such as giraffe, impala, eland, waterbuck, gazelle, and more than 600 species of birds.
14. Take part in the Lewa Marathon
When thinking of a holiday, I agree, a marathon is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, for anyone who has a passion for Africa, its wildlife and its people, the Lewa Marathon can be a hugely rewarding trip and a great excuse to visit (like you need one).
Highly regarded in the running community as one of the world top ten “must do” marathons. First held at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in 2000 with 180 participants and now hosts over 1,400 runners. We are able to organise this for you, as well as flights, transfers and accommodation either side.
Diani Beach is located an hour south of Mombasa and easily accessible from Nairobi. Its calm turquoise seas, white sand beaches and lush green coastline make for the perfect relaxing beach get away. There are a number of villages, activities and excursions to go on, however, after a long safari Diani Beach is the perfect place to have a lay in, chill and unwind after your safari.
If you are sporty and love the ocean then kite surfing at Diani Beach is for you. Diani is the number one beach in Africa for kite surfing with miles of crystal-clear lagoons paired with consistent reliable winds. The shallow sea and soft wide beach ensure this is the perfect place for beginners and experienced kite surfers alike and the lovely turquoise water is a bonus.
17. Scuba dive/snorkel in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean has some of the finest marine and diverse marine life going. The warm water along this coastline brings in a huge abundance of marine life which is protected by a number of marine parks.
Diving on the Kenyan coast can be experienced all year round, however visibility can reduce between July and August, with October through to March being optimum. With a number of shallow reefs that are home to a variety of fish species, turtles and rays this is the ideal spot to both dive and snorkel depending what you are most comfortable with.
Our Kenya Wildlife and White Sands trip is a good template to work off for the perfect safari/beach itinerary.
Dating back to the 14th Century, Lamu is one of the oldest towns in East Africa and considered one of the most beautiful. This old town is characterised by narrow streets and old stone buildings with a mixture of Persian and European cultures. Lamu used to be an old trading post which you can certainly feel as you wander around. Walking around the backstreets immersing yourself in the mix of cultures stopping in cafes and maybe picking up some spices or seafood is a great way to spend the day.
Peponi Hotel is our favourite place to stay near Lamu. Fifty years on and it is still run by the original family giving it plenty of personality and charm. Stay in a room overlooking the sea with a private veranda – heaven.
19. Sunset Dhows
This is one of those picture post card scenes and very iconic of the Kenyan coastline. There are a number of dhow excursion options that will take you on a gentle, relaxing sail. Some will take you out to the more remote islands where you can explore the sandy beaches and snorkel over the shallower reefs, a great way to explore the archipelago. You can also sail across the harbour and up the Takwa River, with a spot of fishing along the way followed by a barbeque on the beach at Manda island.
20. Visit Fort Jesus, Mombasa
Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century Fort Jesus in Mombasa is a must visit for anyone passing through. Just wandering round this incredible site soaking up the history and culture is a great way to break up the day as well as learn about Kenya’s rich history.
Whatever your interests are we will be able to put together a trip around your needs and requirements, making sure you make the most of the experiences and activities on offer. The rich culture and friendly people in Kenya make it impossible not to want to return, so do not worry if your trip is not long enough do everything, as we’re sure it won’t be your last. Call us today on 01768 603 715 to start planning your holiday.