Kenya is regarded as one of the world’s most pristine African safari destinations. Home to some of the best – if not the best – parks, conservancies and game reserves in Africa, people travel to Kenya from all around the globe to experience one of the most unique African adventures. Kenya is known for its unspoiled and varied landscapes, remarkable conservation initiatives, high concentration of game, exceptional sightings, and a sensational diversity of wildlife. From the renowned African Big 5 to wildlife species that can only be found in this part of the world, it’s no surprise Kenya has been dubbed one of Africa’s top wildlife and safari destinations.
Boasting and endless variety of things to do and experience, here are the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya.
#1 Masai Mara National Reserve
The world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s most remarkable reserves and safari destinations as well as the country’s most sought-after tourist attraction. The Masai Mara is a northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti, and is the site of the annual Great Wildebeest Migration which takes place from late July through to early October during which millions of wildebeest and thousands of zebra migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania. The Masai Mara’s Great Migration is regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles and natural wonders to witness first-hand. By far the most anticipated part of this journey is the dramatic Mara River crossings that occur between July and September as the animals enter Kenya.
Along with millions of wildebeest and huge herds of zebra, antelopes and other grazers, this jaw-dropping spectacle is a magnet for predators. There is no better place to witness lion, leopard, and cheetah in double-quick time, helped by the open terrain and the cats’ ease around vehicles. The Masai Mara National Reserve is therefore one of the best places in Africa for big cat sightings.
#2 Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya. Located close to the Tanzania border at the northern base of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is renowned for being the best place in Africa to get up-close to one of Africa’s largest members of the Big 5, elephants.
While Amboseli is considered relatively small, especially when compared to some of Kenya’s other reserves and parks such as the famous Masai Mara National Park, it remains a long-standing highlight of Kenya’s safari circuit. Well known for its high density of elephants, the Amboseli National Park forms the unfenced core of an 8,000 km2 ecosystem that includes large tracts of Maasai community land both in Kenya and across the border in Tanzania.
#3 Mount Kenya and Aberdares Mountains
Rising to 5,199m / 17,057ft high, Mount Kenya is the largest mountain in Kenya and the second tallest in Africa, topped only by the famous Kilimanjaro. Linked to the more westerly 3,999m Aberdare Range by an elevated grassy saddle, these two massifs represent extremes of geological antiquity. Both Mount Kenya and the Aberdares are protected within a national park. The two mountains collectively support most of the country’s surviving Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine moorland and share many ecological affinities. These two iconic Kenyan attractions are host to an exceptional diversity of fauna, as well as all the beloved members of the African Big 5, alongside more localised forest species such as Sykes monkey, black‑and‑white colobus, Harvey’s red duiker, mountain antelope, and giant forest hogs.
Mount Kenya is essentially an extinct stratovolcano that erupted into existence approximately three million years ago when the East African Rift (part of the Great Rift Valley) opened up. Today Mount Kenya’s upper slopes are dominated by glaciers and rugged snowy peaks, and its lower slopes are covered in African rosewood trees and stunning forests of bamboo. The mountain runoff also provides water to millions of people in and around the area. Mount Kenya is therefore not only one of the top tourist attractions in Kenya, but one of the most beautiful places to visit too.
Keen travellers and avid adventurers eagerly hoping to summit Mount Kenya can either hike to Point Lenana, one of the three peaks, by taking the world’s highest via ferrata route, or opt to climb Batian Peak, the highest point on the mountain – however, this route requires skill and experience of technical climbing.
#4 Samburu National Reserve
Located in northern Kenya, Samburu National Reserve is regarded as one of the best wildlife and safari destinations in the country. Due to the Uaso Nyiro River that runs through it and the mixture of forest and grassland vegetation, Samburu National Reserve is known to attract a prolific and vast diversity of wildlife and birdlife. Within the reserve you’ll encounter lion, cheetah, leopard, elephants, buffalo, hippos, and countless other wildlife species, as well as over 450 species of birds. If you’re lucky, you may be fortunate enough to spot some of Kenya and Samburu National Park’s rare and remarkable sub-species such as the Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, East African oryx, packs of endangered wild dogs, and the gerenuk (long-necked antelope). Not to mention large numbers of Nile crocodile that call the Uaso Nyiro River their home.
This region of Kenya is also home to the Samburu people, distinctive tribes people famed for their many strands of brightly colored beaded jewellery.
#5 Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is not only one of Kenya’s top tourist attractions to see and destinations to visit, but a true bird lover’s paradise. It is home to a vast number of bird species, most notably huge flocks of flamingos, with more than a million pink flamingos flocking to the shores of Lake Nakuru. Often called the greatest bird spectacle on earth, the flamingos are undoubtedly one of Kenya’s top attractions. Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes, and the vast diversity of birds are attracted to the high levels of algae in the water. In addition to millions of flamingos, the beautiful African fish eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, pelicans, cormorants, the Goliath heron and hammerkops can frequently be spotted around the lake.
Along with Lake Nakuru’s prolific birdlife, Lake Nakuru National Park is known for its incredible sightings of white and black rhinos, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, giraffes, zebra, hippos, ostriches, and other wildlife species throughout the park.
#6 Tsavo National Park
Tsavo National Park is divided into Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Together, Tsavo’s two national parks make up the largest national park and protected wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Located approximately10 hours’ drive from Nairobi, Tsavo National Park is more remote than Kenya’s other safari parks. This makes Tsavo perfect for those looking to experience a slightly off-the-beaten-track African safari adventure.
Extending over 21,812 km2, Tsavo National Park boasts a vast diversity of landscapes to explore as Tsavo West and Tsavo East are quite different in character. Tsavo West is known for its spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape, jagged black outcrops, solidified lava flows and tangled acacia woodlands overshadowed by Kilimanjaro on the southwest horizon. The larger and less developed Tsavo East has more open savannah than its western counterpart. The red-earth plains of Tsavo East also have stronger affiliations with the semi-arid badlands of northern Kenya, despite being alleviated by the presence of the perennial Galana River.
Being the largest conservation area and protected wildlife sanctuaries in Kenya, Tsavo National Park protects significant populations of wildlife and the African Big 5. Both parks boast an unrestricted wilderness atmosphere that will appeal to both first-time and repeat safari-goers. Tsavo National Park is home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife and birdlife. From all the members of the renowned Big 5, elephants, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo, to incredible sightings of giraffe, cheetah, serval cat species, oryx, gazelle, antelope, stripped hyena, impala, and over 500 species of birds – Tsavo will definitely not disappoint.
The sight of elephants spraying the blue waters of the Galana River on themselves is one Tsavo National Park highlight you’ll cherish forever. Tsavo East is also home to two iconic trees, the baobab and the doum palm.
#7 Hell’s Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park is undoubtedly one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya. Once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley, Hell’s Gate National Park is a tiny park named after a narrow break in the cliffs. Regarded as one of Kenya’s hidden gems, Hell’s Gate National Park is known for its steep cliffs, dramatic scenery, gorges, and basalt columns.
While it may be one of Kenya’s smaller national parks, it is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including lion, leopards, cheetahs and so much more. Besides Hell’s Gate National Park’s vast scenery, landscapes, and wildlife, it is unique among Kenya’s wildlife parks and safari destinations as you are allowed to walk or cycle through the park without a guide present – This gives you the opportunity to tick a thrilling adventure off your African safari bucket-list.
#8 Rift Valley Lakes
Kenya’s Rift Valley is located northwest of Nairobi. It boasts sheer basaltic cliffs, and a classic East African landscape of open savannah, studded with jagged volcanic outcrops and surrounded with beautiful lakes.
The Rift Valley and its surrounding lakes (Rift Valley Lakes) are world-renowned for its vast and prolific birdlife. The most sought-after attraction and main attention-grabber for birding enthusiasts from across the world are undoubtedly the million-strong flocks of flamingos that frequently amass at saline lakes Nakuru and Bogoria. In addition to the lakes of Nakuru and Bogoria, the freshwater lakes of Naivasha and Baringo are not only two of the most beautiful lakes and must-visit spots for sensational bird sightings, but top contenders for the title and accolade of ‘top general birding hotspot outside the national park system’.
While large mammals are less abundant in Kenya’s Rift Valley than the likes of larger national parks such as the Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park, it still offers visitors incredible wildlife sightings. In addition to marvelling at the millions of magnificent flamingos that frequently amass at Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru, Lake Nakuru National Park is regarded as one of the best places and safari destinations in East Africa to find both black and white rhino.
To top it off, Hell’s Gate National Park, Crescent Island, and Green Crater Lake Sanctuary offers visitors, and avid safari and wildlife lovers the exciting opportunity to see large wildlife species on foot in their natural habitat.
#9 Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is regarded as one of the attractions in Kenya. Located a mere 10 minutes’ drive from the center of Nairobi, Nairobi National Park is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s most accessible and popular national parks to visit, with only a fence separating the park’s prolific wildlife from the metropolis. Despite being relatively smaller than some of Kenya’s other sought-after and sizeable national parks, Nairobi National Park boasts a vast and varied wildlife population, promising spectacular wildlife sightings and encounters.
To add some extra anticipation and excitement to your Nairobi National Park wildlife experience, thousands of migrating wildebeest and zebra can be seen gathering in the park during the dry season. The Nairobi National Park is also one of Kenya’s most successful rhino sanctuaries.
#10 Laikipia Plateau & Conservancy
Once dominated by livestock ranches in the colonial era, the immense Laikipia Plateau has since been transformed into one of East Africa’s finest and most exclusive wildlife destinations. Overseen by the non-profit Laikipia Wildlife Foundation, the several dozen private and community-owned sanctuaries of the vast Laikipia Plateau now function as Kenya’s second largest wildlife sanctuary and conservancy, encompassing 9,500km2 in total, after Tsavo National Park.
In addition to its exclusivity, remarkable conservation status and size, the Laikipia Plateau is home to an incredibly diverse wildlife population. As the plateau is transitional to the central highlands and northern deserts, it provides an important stronghold for wildlife rarities such as the endangered African wild dog, Grevy’s zebra, and black rhino. It also supports various dry-country wildlife species such as the greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, and Beisa oryx, along with substantial populations of leopard, lion, and cheetah.
There are a number of extraordinary sanctuaries and conservancies located within Laikipia Plateau. Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a Big Five conservancy found in the foothills of Mount Kenya, is one of the prime sanctuaries of Laikipia Plateau. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is renowned for its exceptional conservation initiatives. Its highlights include the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa; a population of southern white rhino; a refuge for the last two northern white rhinos left in the world (Ol Pejeta Conservancy is where the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died in 2018; the last females of the sub-species still live at Ol Pejeta and are protected around the clock). The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary can also be found in the Laikipia Conservancy.
The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary houses orphaned and abandoned chimpanzees as well as chimpanzees rescued from the black market.
Visiting Laikipia Plateau and its incredible sanctuaries and conservancies, especially Ol Pejeta Conservancy, is not only one of the top 10 things to do in Kenya, as well as one of Kenya’s top attractions, but a great destination to learn more about the relationship between people and wildlife and the various challenges faced in the conservation industry.
Visitors and wildlife lovers will also have the opportunity to enjoy a range of exciting experiences such as lion tracking, exhilarating bush walks, and thrilling night drives and safaris.