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The Best Destinations for a Safari from Nairobi

The Best Destinations for a Safari from Nairobi. Kenya’s national parks are among some of the most famous and renowned safari destinations in the world. But, with so many iconic wildlife parks to choose from, how do you decide which to visit?

What is the best time of the year to take safaris from Nairobi?

The best time to take safaris from Nairobi would be the dry months (January-March and June-October) since most of the inland roads aren’t tarmacked. The rainy season can be muddy and wet, and some game parks are often closed due to flooding. Also, you can see the wild animals lazing and grazing out in the open plains.

The best time to see lions would be at night as they come out to hunt. Most of them live and hunt in prides, so have your tour guide take you to the best spots for a fantastic view.

While there are plentiful activities for both day and night sightseeing, some favorite activities for your Kenya safari from Nairobi include:

Wildlife Viewing: The best time to go on a safari from Nairobi is from June to October. Visit The Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Parks to see the BIG FIVE, elegant giraffes and imposing herds of elephants majestically walking through the plains. The vegetation is a little dry at this time of year, and animals flock around water sources, making it easier for a perfect game view.

Calving season: January and February have a lot of new baby animals, so you can catch a glimpse of this beautiful scenery with young ones hovering around their mothers playfully.

Low season: To avoid huge tourist crowds in the game parks, the best time to visit would be between March to May and October to November. You get to enjoy vast plains with the animals sauntering or resting in plain sight as there is very little human activity in the parks.

What you need to pack for a Safari from Nairobi

Packing for your trip depends on what time of the year you plan to visit for a Safari from Nairobi Kenya. It’s advisable to be prepared for various weather conditions and outdoor activities. Here are some essential items to pack for your trip in the wilderness:

  • Clothing: Pack lightweight, long-sleeved (protects you from the sun, dust and insects) clothing in neutral colors such as khaki, brown, or green to camouflage you with the surroundings. Pack comfy light boots, socks, and a light jacket for cooler mornings and evenings.
  • Insect Repellent containing DEET: for mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Backpack: A lightweight bag for carrying water, snacks, and extra clothing.
  • Binoculars: Recommended to see wildlife from a distance.
  • Cash and Documents: Carry your passport at all times, visas, and some cash for park entrance fees and tipping.
  • Camera: You’ll want to capture the wildlife and scenery.
  • Sun Protection: The sun is intense on most days, so carry a pair of sunglasses, a wide hat, and sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Personal Items: A first aid tool kit, medications, toiletries, and personal items.
  • Power Bank: electricity may be limited or unavailable in some areas.

Here are the The Best Destinations for a Safari from Nairobi

Nairobi National Park

A short drive out of Nairobi’s central business district is the Nairobi National Park. Wide open grass plains and backdrop of the city scrapers, scattered acacia bush play host to a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered black rhino, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and diverse birdlife with over 400 species recorded. Visitors can enjoy the park’s picnic sites, three campsites and the walking trails for hikers. 

Lake Nakuru National Park

Located in the Great Rift Valley, just a three-hour drive from Nairobi, Nakuru is a shallow, saltwater lake boasting an abundance of wildlife and spectacular landscapes.

The lake, which sits 1,754m above sea level, became a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990 and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011.

It is most famous for its vast flamingo population, which can be seen year-round, sometimes in such large numbers that the lake appears pink!

Sadly, since 2012, heavy flooding has severely impacted the flamingos’ breeding and feeding grounds, really reducing the numbers that live here. However, there have been some promising signs of numbers increasing again recently, so we do hope this will continue.

But even with flamingos not as abundant as they once were, there’s so much other wildlife to see in this reserve that it remains a top 5 Kenya national park in our eyes!

Indeed, Lake Nakuru National Park is actually one of the best places in Kenya to see rhinos in the wild – a rare and special occurrence. Both white and black rhinos live here and the park was declared a Rhino sanctuary in 1983.

Amboseli National Park

The Amboseli National Park is about 230 kilometers from Nairobi, close to the Tanzanian border. The park is famous for its magnificent elephant herds and the stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa; a variety of wildlife, including the “Big Five” species –  African elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards (elusive, rarely seen but can be spotted in the early morning or late afternoon). Others include the endangered Rothschild’s giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, and wildebeest, mostly seen near water sources. Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, the Amboseli National Parks is one of Kenya’s most popular parks. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning “salty dust”, and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands with sulphur springs, the savannah and woodlands.  They can also visit the local Maasai community who live around the park and experience their authentic culture.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve is located in south west Kenya and is a vast scenic expanse of gently rolling African savannah plains measuring 1510 square kilometers in area and bordering the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south. Masai Mara is a unique wildlife conservation haven famous for its spectacular natural diversity of wildlife and is the premier Kenya Safari location in East Africa, offering visitors numerous reasons to visit this animal paradise. Large numbers of Lions, Cheetah, Elephant, Rhino, African Buffalo, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Zebra and many more animals are found in the park in their natural habitat, unconfined and free to roam the vast Kenyan wilderness stretching for miles on end.

It is no surprise that tourists from the world over travel here to experience a Masai Mara Safari tour, more so as the reserve has been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Regarding the origin of the name, the word ‘Masai’ comes from the Maasai tribe, nomadic inhabitants of the area and the word ‘Mara’ is their word for ‘spotted’, referring to the ubiquitous flat topped acacia trees, shrubs and bushes that dot the landscape across most of the reserve.

Hell’s Gate National Park

The striking scenery at Hell’s Gate National Park is as powerful as its name suggests!

With towering cliffs, dramatic gorges, and rock towers, not to mention plumes of geothermal steam rising from the scenery, this place has to be seen to be believed!

There’s no question that this top Kenya national park is worth visiting for the spectacular scenery alone, but there’s another factor that makes Hell’s Gate totally unique too.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is located about 240 kilometers from Nairobi, at the base of Mount Kenya. The conservancy is home to the endangered white (2) and black rhinos, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, and other wildlife. The world-renowned Wildlife Conservancy offers scenic savannah grasslands and clumps of fever trees, which shade the numerous animals in this park. Plenty of rhinos, aggressive elephants, (may exhibit anger when agitated); lions, buffalos, leopards, and cheetahs can also be seen in the reserve. Lewa has some of the best cozy safari lodges, and an air of complete exclusiveness.

Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary

This is a unique sanctuary that protects the endangered rhinos in East Africa. It is located in Nanyuki, about 210 kilometers from Nairobi. It is the largest safety haven for endangered white and black rhinos in East Africa. You can watch black rhinos, and other integrated animals such as lions, elephants, buffalos, chimpanzees and many more animals in their natural habitat. The Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to protect and care for endangered white rhinos. Currently, they have two white rhinos under 24-hour guard and a heard of black rhinos which are constantly in danger of poaching hence the need to protect them.

Enjoy your Kenya safari from Nairobi with a drive to the famous Ol Pejeta Sanctuary where you get a perfect view of Mt Kenya in the open distance. You also get a spectacular view of vast coffee and tea plantations as you drive through the highlands of Central Kenya towards Nanyuki.

The Giraffe Centre

This unique center is located in Langata, Nairobi, about 12 miles from the main city. It is devoted to the conservation of the threatened Rothschild’s giraffe. Visitors interact and feed the giraffes from the main dining area. Most tour operators’ offer guided tours to the center as part of a larger itinerary of your Nairobi Safari Tour. If you are already in Nairobi, you can hire an uber and driver to the giraffe center. In most cases, cars such as Nissan note, Mazda Axela, Honda fit, and Toyota Vitz are used for uber in Nairobi.