Elephant set against a snow-capped Kilimanjaro
On safari in spectacular parks
Kenya’s most popular national park is the Masai Mara, Swahili for ‘vast plain’. Gazelles and zebras run alongside the car and your chances of spotting the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard) are high. Giraffes stick out their long necks from behind the acacia trees. Bring your binoculars to the Masai Mara to observe many unique bird species, such as the Cape robin-chat, the kingfisher and the hornbill. Birders love visiting Amboseli National Park, home to around 400 different species of birds. In addition to birds, you may also encounter many elephant herds here. The late afternoon sunlight and the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro mountain in the background provide a postcard worthy picture. Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s largest park and actually divided into 2 parks. The east and west each feature their own unique landscape: the east has beautiful rapids where animals come to quench their thirst, while the west offers a volcanic landscape that attracts enthusiastic mountain climbers and where hippos emerge at the water surface.
The Great Migration
One of the most impressive events in Kenya, and perhaps in the entire animal kingdom, is the Great Migration. Thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya, looking for fresh grass. The exact period of migration varies each year. It remains a mystery why the leaders of the wildebeest herds choose to begin the mass migration at a specific time. Visitors can never be certain of the exact timing of the spectacular animal migration, so keep your fingers crossed. But those who have seen it agree that is an unforgettable event. Millions of animals thunder across the plains towards the Masai Mara. Seemingly endless herds of wildebeest are followed by predators such as lions and leopards which regard the migration as a big feast. Crossing the Mara River is a tough ordeal for the wildebeest and zebras. The current is strong and large hungry Nile crocodiles lie in wait as the animals swim across. The exciting crossing results in deafening bellowing and mooing. This struggle has been depicted in many nature documentaries. The weaker animals that have become injured and still manage to swim to shore will often get killed. They are an easy prey for hyenas and other predators on the prowl. This is a very popular time of year, so book early to reserve a guide who can take you to the best spots to observe this sensational sight. The migration usually begins in late July and the herds return to the Serengeti in November. So your best chance to watch the animals move between the two parks is in August and September.
On land, in the water and in the air
Luxury lodges, tent camps and independent lodging; there are various ways to spend the night in or near the wildlife parks. You will find unique and basic safaris practically everywhere. Amboseli National Park offers various tours such as a guided hike, and part of the proceeds are donated to schools for the Masai. Some visitors prefer to admire the parks from a small plane or hot air balloon. In Tsavo National Park you can observe the hippos from a special underwater area. Another great activity is a night safari; it is quite exciting to see the sparkling eyes in the dark!