Consistently voted as one of the top safari destinations in the world, Kenya boasts outstanding game reserves, budget and luxurious lodging options, friendly people, and unique culture. Here, you get to explore the open wilderness in safari vehicles with licensed safari guides, get introduced to local culture by visiting local families’ homes in rural villages, be acquainted with one of the most densely populated wildlife region in the world, among others. This 10-day suggested itinerary is for those who are short on time, but still want to get a good taste of what Kenya has to offer.
Things to consider before traveling to Kenya:
Currency Exchange – The Kenyan shilling (KES) is the official currency of Kenya. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels. If you have cash on hand like USD, please note that the banks in Kenya accept dollar bills printed before year 2000 but are given lower exchange rates (compared to dollar bills printed after 2000). ATMs are aplenty within all main towns throughout the country, where money can be withdrawn using MasterCard or Visa. Before you use the ATM, always observe your surroundings. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, cancel your transaction right away and leave immediately.
Recommended vaccinations – If you are arriving from a yellow-fever endemic area, you are required to get vaccinations four to six weeks prior to your arrival in Kenya and a proof of yellow fever vaccination needs to be presented. Hepatitis B vaccines are required for children 0 to 12 years old who have not yet completed series of vaccinations during infancy. Anti-Malaria prescription medicine is highly advised if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Vaccines for Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Rabies are also recommended.
Security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Kenya. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Avoid all travels to the the Kenya–Somalia border and the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi. Although most visits in the nature reserves and safari are trouble free, remain vigilant because violent crimes do occur targeting foreign tourists. If you are renting out a car and driving on your own, always keep the car locked and don’t leave valuables. Do not stop for any hitch hiker or person in trouble on the open road.
Safety during a safari – When visiting parks or nature reserves, observe regulations as wild animals can pose risks. Most wild animals avoid people, but they may attack if they feel threatened. While on a vehicle during a game drive, keep the windows up and do not get off the car, except at designated “hides.” If you are camping out in the open, make sure not to walk around at night, especially at places where wildlife is present. Make sure to close your tent or have something inside it covering you as wild animals like Hyenas tend to look for leftover food in safari camps.
Self-drive safari tour vs guided safari tour – If you love spontaneous and independent travel then a self-drive safari tour is for you. You can arrange your itinerary based on your budget, schedule and preference. You have the maximum flexibility as you travel on your own at your own pace. Group tours, however, are recommended to first-time travelers to Africa. When you join a small group tour, you get to enjoy the safari and everything else without having to worry about your food, gas, route, etc. Tours have professional safari guides that know the best place and the best times for wildlife sightings.
Where to stay – Kenya has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. Find a hotel or hostel with good reviews and book well in advance. There are plenty of safari camps and lodges to choose from in the heart of the protected natural reserve where you can practically see the wildlife from your bedroom window. In Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, you can easily guesthouses and budget hostels near the entertainment districts. There are also plenty of boutique and luxury hotels in the city and in the suburbs.
Detailed itinerary: 10 days in Kenya for beginners
Day 1 and 2: Aberdare National Park
Today starts your adventure in Kenya! Spend the first two days in the Aberdare National Park, a popular destination among topography enthusiasts. The park is located about 100 miles north of Nairobi and 13 miles southwest of Nanyuki. The drive from Nairobi takes about three hours. You can also fly to the park (Nanyuki airstrip) with Airkenya or Safarilink. One-way tickets start at about 140 USD.
Check into your chosen accommodation where you will be staying for two nights. Treetops Lodge , Aberdare Country Club and Ark Lodge (a lodge built in the shape of Noah’s ark) are three accommodation options in the park with fantastic TripAdvisor reviews. Get settled and spend the morning in your hotel to rest a little. Then, set out to see the high altitude national park and its wildlife.
The park is relatively small compared to its neighboring national parks, but because of its difficult terrain we suggest hiring one of the local guides to ensure your safety. Located to the west of Mount Kenya, Aberdare offers indigenous forest, beautiful peaks, vast moorland, and excellent game viewing in the morning and at night over the watering hole. Go in the open savanna in the early mornings because predators are out hunting and there is a bigger possibility of sighting African elephants, bongo antelope, lions, rhinos, and many more.
Day 3 and 4: Samburu National Reserve
On day 3, after having a filling breakfast, head up north for the impressive Samburu National Reserve. The opportunity for incredible photographs is endless, so frequent stops are recommended for visitors to enjoy Samburu and its wildlife. Saruni Samburu, Samburu Intrepids Luxury Tented Camp and Sasaab Lodge are some of the top-rates safari lodges inside the national reserve. There are actually plenty of lodges to choose from which are primarily located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River.
Although you can’t expect to see all the Big Five of Africa, it is virtually assured that you will see Samburu’s Special Five – the Reticulated Giraffe, the Gerenuk, the Maasai Ostrich (Somali ostrich), Grevy’s zebra, and the Beisa Oryx. Samburu National Reserve is also famous among nature enthusiasts and bird photographers because it is home to about 350 species of birds like Dusky nightjar and the Donaldson’ Smith nightjar, White-headed moosebird, Somali bee-eater, Golden pipit, among others.
A semi-desert national reserve located in Rift Valley Province of Northern Kenya, Samburu is also home to the Samburu Tribe, the cousins of the Maasai Tribe from Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. You may visit the local Samburu villages where you can interact with the Samburu Tribe and learn about their customs. While at the village, you can buy art crafts and other souvenirs created by the Samburu, which will surely help their community.
Day 5 and 6: Lake Nakuru National Park
After your early morning game drive, leave Samburu National Reserve for the amazing Lake Nakuru National Park, located in Central Kenya in the Nakuru district of the Rift Valley Province. The national park is just a stone’s throw from Nakuru Town and is one of Kenya’s premium national parks. There are several safari lodges in the heart of the protected national park where you can practically experience Lake Nakuru itself, its surrounding ridges and abundant wildlife from your bedroom window. Consider the following places to stay at: Maili Saba Camp – Nakuru, Flamingo Hill Tented Camp and Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge.
The area surrounding the lake is blessed with abundant wildlife and distinct vegetation. It is also one of the best places in Kenya to watch large flocks of Lesser Pink Flamingos, the smallest species of flamingo. As you go around the lake, you can spot a white rhino or a dozen of them having out together. Lions, leopards, hippos, zebras and Rothschild giraffes can also be found here. There is abundance of wildlife in the park that you will surely lose count of what’s been spotted.
Day 7 and 8: Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Undoubtedly one of the best travel experiences in Kenya is a visit to Maasai Mara Game Reserve, one of the best-known nature reserves in the country and the whole of Africa. With four main types of terrain (the Ngama Hills to the east, Oloololo to the west, the Mara Triangle, and the Central Plains) Maasai Mara has a deserved reputation for a staggering concentration of African wildlife. It is one of the best places in the world to spot lions, rhinos, leopards, elephants and buffalo.
Where to stay in Maasai Mara Game Reserve:
Just like in other safari destinations, you can do early morning and night game drives, and walking safari. Game drives are also conducted by experienced and qualified game rangers and trackers who will share the secrets of the wilderness. It is best to go in the open savanna in the early mornings because predators are out hunting and there is a bigger possibility of sighting the famed big five.
Day 9 and 10: Nairobi
After your early morning game drive, leave Masai Mara Game Reserve for Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. Check in to your preferred hotel, before having an afternoon to take in some of the tourists attractions. Nairobi’s metropolitan area is full of things to see and experience – all within easy walking distance. You may also visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program.
Where to stay in Nairobi:
Day 10 marks the end of your adventure in Kenya. Start early in the morning in order to be transferred to the airport in time for your International Flight from Nairobi. If you have extra money to splurge, continue your Kenyan safari at Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, and Amboseli National Park.
Have you been to Kenya? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Three giraffes on Kilimanjaro mountain background in Kenya, Africa (Volodymyr Burdiak / Shutterstock.com)