The home of safari, Kenya boasts a sublime landscape, fascinating cultures and tribes, rare wildlife, and some of the best camps in Africa.
Kenya has some of the best camps in Africa
Whereas South Africa is known for its luxury lodges, Kenya is recognised for having some of the most beautiful remote camps in Africa. This is the classic, original tented camp experience, so in terms of authenticity, there’s no better place to go on safari. Many camps play up the historic element with colonial styling and 1920s-esque design.
Many of the camps of Kenya are still run by the families that founded them generations ago, such as the Roberts family, who now have camps and lodges all over Kenya.
The fact that this is the original modern safari destination means that the tourist infrastructure is excellent, having been constantly adapted since the 1920s.
Many camp locations often offer a truly isolated experience: that’s why we recommend them to honeymooners.
The Big Five – and more
The Maasai Mara is one of the best places – if not the best place – in Africa for spotting big cats, such as lions and cheetahs.
The wildebeest migration, known as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, also takes place in this national park, which straddles the Kenya-Tanzania border (becoming Serengeti National Park on the other side of the Mara River).
You can see elephants in Samburu; there’s Africa’s best rhino viewing at Solio Ranch in Laikpia; and of course, Elsa, lioness star of Born Free, lived in Meru (where her grave is now located).
In short, the wildlife in Kenya is rich, varied and easy to spot, and, together with Tanzania, it’s one of the best places for ticking off the Big Five: something that makes it a great destination for safari virgins, as much as connoisseurs.
It’s not just the main safari stars that are seen throughout Kenya, but some really rare and special species, too. The odd-looking gerenuk, found in Samburu, is noted for its ability to stand on its hind legs, which is useful for reaching low-hanging branches. Grevy’s zebra is an endangered species and is distinguished from other zebras by its thinner stripes. A third rare sub-species is the reticulated giraffe, which is found in the north of Kenya.
Diverse and beautiful terrain
Where Kenya really marks itself out from other African safari destinations is in its landscape: Kenya is a truly breathtaking country.
Kenya’s terrain ranges from stunning Indian Ocean beaches to humid mangrove forests and from arid desert to alpine woodlands.
On the western border, Lake Victoria is the source of the River Nile and the world’s second largest freshwater lake.
The snow-capped Mount Kenya is the second tallest peak in Africa (losing out on the top spot to Kilimanjaro, just across the border in Tanzania) at 5,199 metres.
The Great Rift Valley is 3,700 miles long (around 6,000 kilometres) and runs from Syria right the way down to Mozambique. Nestled into the valley, the Kenyan lake system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected for its diverse wildlife, beauty and endangered species. The lakes are the world’s most important foraging ground for the lesser flamingo and a crucial nesting and breeding site for the great white pelicans.
Although there are plenty of national parks and reserves in Kenya, most of the camps Jacada Travel use are in private conservancies.
The benefit of this is the freedom you’ll have on safari: guides can drive off-road, you can go out after dark, and there are guided bush walks – all of which result in amazing wildlife sightings that you’d miss out on in national parks, particularly when it comes to nocturnal animals.
There are also strict rules on how many vehicles are allowed around one animal sighting at a time: the maximum is usually two or three, which means you’ll get better game viewings and the animals feel less harassed.
Kenya offers visitors to the country the type of cultural experience that is hard, if not impossible, to find elsewhere in Africa.
Maasai guides mean that you’ll be exposed to a traditional and ancient understanding of the land, gaining a cultural insight as well as the expert knowledge you’d get with any of our local guides.
Other nomadic groups include the Samburu and Turkana tribes, but there are more than forty ethnic groups in Kenya, making for a country immensely rich in unique cultures.
One of the reasons that Kenya is such a melting pot of languages, people and cultures is because of its long history and colonial past. Some of the most ancient remains of human settlements have been found in Kenya; Arabs began settling along the coastal areas of Kenya as far back as 600 AD; British colonial rule began in the late 19th century; and Kenya became an independent country in 1963.
Safari began as hunting trips for wealthy Americans and Europeans keen to take home the Big Five for their trophy rooms. Now, of course, cameras are the only pieces of equipment you’ll need, and – gradually – trophy hunting is being crushed out, with many former hunters turning to guiding, and conservation laws being more strongly enforced. Ivory hunting is illegal.
The British influence in Kenya is largely why there’s so much western literature – both fictional and non-fictional – set in the country, such as The Constant Gardener, the film of which was also shot in Kenya.
A firm film favourite
It’s hard to think of an African country more filmed than Kenya. The BBC’s Big Cat Diary has been filmed in the Maasai Mara, but there are so many more immortalisations of Kenya on the silver screen: Out of Africa and Born Free being two of the most notable examples, and both based on autobiographical books.
Whether it’s the landscape, the cultures, the history, or the wildlife, Kenya constantly proves itself to be an outstanding choice for travel and safari, which is why we continue to visit nearly a hundred years after the first safaris.