Traveling to any of the Kenyan National Parks by Range Rover can be an arduous trip. The paved roads are in desperate need of repair and the center line is merely a suggestion. A two-lane road can easily accommodate three or four lanes of traffic! A majority of the roads are gravel, pot-hole laden and are often muddy with huge ruts. Be sure to pack your Motrin as your muscles will get a real workout on this journey. And remember, a journey through Kenya takes strength, determination and sometimes nerves of steel.
While in Kenya we visited mostly wide open savannahs; therefore, viewing game was much easier than game viewing in South Africa. Kenya is also home to many cats – leopards, cheetahs and lions. Rhinos, both white and black, are also plentiful.
The Giraffe Center
One of our first stops in Nairobi was The Giraffe Center. This is a conservation organization that protects the environment and the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. In 1979, there were only about 130 of these giraffe in the wild. Today, with the conservation and breeding program the country now has 300 Rothschild Giraffe. It’s a slow process, but their efforts are making a difference for these beautiful animals.
After you pay your entrance fee, you receive a cup filled with molasses pellets that you can feed to the giraffes. You climb up to the feeding platform, put a couple pellets in your hand and wait for a giraffe to come along and take your treat. Don’t worry, it won’t take long as they love to eat. Watch out – if you aren’t paying attention, you might get a gentle headbutt to remind you that they are hungry.
Samburu National Park
We stayed at Ashnil Bush Camp along the Uaso river in the Samburu National Park. This spectacular 60-square-mile reserve is known for its unique wildlife, rarely found in other Kenyan parks.
Here we saw cheetah, oryx, leopards, elephants and many species of birds. One of the highlights was arriving on the scene shortly after a mother cheetah killed an antelope. She and her four cubs were enjoying the spoils of her kill.
One afternoon we were blessed to have a large bull elephant feeding on the acacia trees very close (within 5 feet). One of our traveling companions even fed the elephant with fruits from the tree. Our guide was very excited because you can never get this close to a bull elephant in the wild. Maybe we should have stepped away but he wasn’t stressed and we were just so excited to have this safe close encounter.
We also had a huge downpour during the night that filled the almost dry riverbed. The river was rising so quickly during the night that the water sounded like it was exploding as it was rapidly filling. Yes, we were up several times during the night as this camp can flood.
Our second National Park to visit in Kenya was Aberdare National Park. During the long drive from Samburu we stopped for lunch at the Trout Tree Restaurant, built in an enormous fig tree below Mount Kenya. They raise their trout in large ponds and then dip them out and haul them up into the tree once you order your lunch. After lunch we were treated to a viewing of the local troup of colobus monkies. They were quite entertaining to watch.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is best known for its pink flamingos, white rhino, lion, and leopard. There are over 450 species of birds recorded at certain times of year. Lake Nakuru is also one of the best places in Kenya to see black and white rhino.
Our safari drive through Lake Nakuru was not a disappointment. Just a few minutes into the park we saw our first white rhino. This was followed by many bird sightings, cape buffalo in and around the waters edge, hundreds of greater and lesser flamingos, American pelicans and lions.
The highlight of this park was seeing 13 white rhinos. We saw mothers, babies and groups of rhinos. When your guides are excited, you know it’s a great day.
Aberdare National Park
We traveled to the heart of Aberdare National Park where we arrived at The Ark, home to Kenya’s iconic tree lodge. The Ark was designed with many decks that overlook a watering hole and salt lick. This area attracts a large amount of wildlife day and night. Of course, you can view the watering hole from the balconies or from a ground level bunker. Being eye to eye with the animals was amazing and a small civet thought it was going to visit us in the bunker. Surprise to him and us when he hopped up on our viewing ledge!
There are also elevated walkways that put you into the canopy of the trees that surround The Ark. As the sun begins to set, the birds come home to roost and the nocturnal animals wake up and start moving. There is so much to see during this time of the day.
Masai Mara National Reserve
The “Big Five” are plentiful in the spectacular Masai Mara. The “Big 5” consists of lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino but that list could be tailored to also include antelopes, gazelles, hippos and hundreds of varieties of bird life. During our time on safari in the Masai Mara, we witnessed the “Big Five” plus many more amazing birds and mammals. This area is vast and there are very few large trees to get in your way of viewing. It is truly a spectacular place to visit.
Overview of Kenya
While we had a truly amazing adventure in Kenya, we both discussed that it is probably a country that will not be on our list for a return adventure. The sights are truly amazing but the roads were rough and the drivers were just crazy – very uncivilized road system. Kenya was also a country that we continually felt like we were looking over our shoulders all of the time. Never unsafe, but never really comfortable.
However, it is truly worth the adventure to see what Kenya has to offer and our suggestion would be to use an organized tour group. We would never recommend anyone do a DIY trip to Kenya, specifically due to driving conditions.
If you would like to see more pictures of our trip, click
here to see Kenya – Just the Pics.