Kenya Destinations / Kenya National Parks
Kenya, popularly known as “Magical Kenya” is one of the best tourism destinations in the East Africa region. The country derives this name from its diversity of tourist attractions. The historical home of the East African safari, a land of sweeping savannah grasslands inhabited by charismatic mega-fauna, including Big Cats, the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino) and just about everything in between.
Elsewhere, landscapes here stir the soul with deserts in the north, dense forests in the west, Rift Valley lakes in the center and tropical coast out in the east. For those interested in safari, it is an experienced safari industry ready to show you a seemingly endless parade of wildlife against one of the most beautiful backdrops in Africa.
The main tourist attractions are photo safaris through the 60 National Parks and Game Reserves. Other attractions include the wildebeest migration at the Masaai Mara, which is considered to be the 7th wonder of the world; the ‘Big Five’ that is the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant, the historical sites such as mosques, and colonial-era forts at Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu; renowned scenery such as the white-capped Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley; tea plantations at Kericho; coffee plantations at Thika; a splendid view of Mount Kilimanjaro across the border into Tanzania; and the beaches along the Swahili Coast, in the Indian Ocean. Tourists, the largest number being from Germany and the United Kingdom, are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and the game reserves, notably, the expansive East and Tsavo West National Park, 20,808 square kilometers (8,034 sq mi) to the southeast.
The culture of Kenya consists of multiple traditions. Kenya has no single prominent culture that identifies it. It instead consists of the various cultures of the country’s different communities. Notable populations include the Swahili on the coast, several other Bantu communities in the central and western regions, and Nilotic communities in the northwest. The Maasai culture is outstanding and well known to tourism, despite constituting a relatively small part of Kenya’s population. The Maasais are renowned for their elaborate upper-body adornment and jewelry.
With over 1,100 recorded species, Kenya is one of Africa’s best birding destinations. In Africa, this number of species is only exceeded by the much larger and inaccessible Democratic Republic of Congo. A fair number of endemic and near-endemic species can easily be seen on any birding trip. These birds are especially sought-after as they only occur within the country or marginally beyond. The European migrants are present from September to April.
The wildebeest migration is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles. At least two million ungulates – mainly wildebeest, but also zebra and gazelle – move throughout the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The crossing of the Mara River is the absolute highlight of the migration.
Samburu and Meru in the north are home to some interesting localized dry-country species. The odd-looking gerenuk is often seen standing on its hind legs feeding on dry bushes. The Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe are beautiful variants to the more common species found throughout the region. Tsavo is home to the rare fringe-eared oryx.
Best Time for Wildlife Viewing
Kenya offers quality wildlife viewing throughout the year, but the ultimate time is in the Dry season from June to October. This corresponds with the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara. The exact timing depends on rainfall, but it’s typically in August September when the wildebeest migration reaches the northern Serengeti, and they begin to cross into the Masai Mara. In October they make their move back into Tanzania. These months are high season for tourism. The parks are much quieter in the low season, and prices are more competitive as well.