Kenya Vacation | What to Know Before Booking a Safari

September 21, 2021

A trip to Kenya, Africa, is a great way to experience the vast landscapes of the savannah and the bustle of the city at the same time. A Kenya vacation gives an eye-opening look at how nature and humanity can coincide. There are many national parks and reserves to experience an authentic African safari. One national park is even in the middle of the capital city of Nairobi.

There is a lot of planning that goes into taking a vacation in Kenya. Before a trip, you need to have a good idea of what you need to prepare. Not knowing about things like visas, vaccinations, and transport in the city can deter you from booking your dream safari holiday. Kenya is well-known for its safaris so it can be difficult to narrow down which tour to take.

It may seem like an immense task now, but don’t worry. Here is everything you need to know before booking your Kenya holiday.

zebras on kenya safari

Booking a Kenya Trip

Before you book your trip to Kenya, it’s good to know a few things about the country to be prepared for your holiday tour.

Best Time to Visit Kenya

The best time to visit Kenya depends on what you want to see on your trip. Wet season welcomes newborn animals to the bush and it is off-season. During the dry season, parks are usually filled with crowds eager to spot some animals.

There are two dry seasons in Kenya. The first dry season is between December to March and the second is between June to October. During the second dry season, it’s time for the popular Great migration. These animals migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara in Kenya. The migration time depends on the rainfall but is at its peak in August. Safari visitors and prices are also at their peak around this time of the year.

Preparing for Your Vacation to Kenya

Getting a single entry visa to Kenya is an uncomplicated process. Visa-free countries can usually stay in Kenya for up to 90 days. 41 countries don’t need a visa to enter Kenya with most of them being African, Pacific, and Caribbean countries. E-visa’s or visas on arrival are available for most countries.

Before getting your visa you might need to get a few vaccination shots. These shots are a standard requirement for all tourists. Some required vaccines include:

  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Meningitis
  • Malaria
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria
  • Yellow fever

Note: European and North American tourists don’t need to take the yellow fever vaccination.

jeep on kenya safari

Getting Around in Kenya

If you’re flying to Kenya you’ll generally enter through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. It is Kenya’s biggest international airport. Public transport like busses and trains will help you move from the airport to the city center. Some vacation or safari packages factor shuttle costs and airport pickups into their prices.

If you want to drive yourself, you can rent a car. Renting a car is a great option if you’re planning on visiting more than one park and want to drive to your own accommodation. The cost of hiring a car depends on the make of the car and how long you plan on driving it.

What to Pack

Good safari clothes are comfortable and keep you protected from heavy rains and sun. The best things to wear on safari in Kenya are clothes with neutral and muted colors. Khakis, greens, and browns blend in well with the bush.

It is good for first time travelers to know that in 2017 Kenyan government banned the use of plastic bags. Tourists cannot pack any plastic bags in their airline luggage when visiting Kenya. Any plastic bags, ziplock, or duty-free bags bought outside of Kenya will be confiscated.

In 2024 Kenyan government also banned single-use plastics from protected areas.

giraffe in nairobi national park

Where can You Go on a Safari in Kenya?

Each Kenyan safari park has its own special appeal that makes its tour experiences so unique.

Kenya Vacation Packages

Kenya travel packages make vacationing in Kenya easy. Your itinerary is already set up for you and most include shuttles, accommodation, and meals in the pricing.

Nairobi National Park

This park is the only wildlife park in Kenya so close to a city center. It sits about 7 miles away from the city center of Nairobi. It is also the closest park to the Jomo Kenyatta airport. A short 10 min drive will have you at the doorstep of Nairobi National Park.

It is the perfect park for a day safari tour to see a blend of the city and nature. There are many safari animals to view against the city backdrop like the critically endangered black rhino. The park has a small indigenous forest.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai Mara is the most well-known park in Kenya and rightfully so. It is the best place to see the Great Migration. During this must-see event, millions of gazelle, zebras, and wildebeests travel from Kenya to the Tanzanian Serengeti.

It is a bit of a journey from the capital city Nairobi. Local airlines offer 40-minute flights to the park. Alternatively, you can take a five-hour road trip by car.

hot air balloon over great migration kenya

Tsavo National Park

Tsavo National Park has the largest protected wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. It’s home to a lot of large mammals like hippos, lions, wildebeest, and the peculiar red elephants. Tsavo is the only place in the world to have red elephants. These elephants are normal African elephants that appear red because of the red-colored volcanic soil they play and bathe in. Tsavo also has the recognizable Baobab trees and Doum Palms only found in the eastern region of Kenya.

There are many roads and airstrips that can take you to the park. A spectacular 3-day tour really is the best way to experience this magical park. If you’re planning on driving there it will take about six hours to drive there from Nairobi. Flights are much faster and only take about one-and-a-half hours.

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park is most well known for its 58 herds of elephants conserved by the Amboseli Elephant Trust. Besides elephants, four of the Big Five are present in the park and many other safari animals. Because the park sits so close to Tanzania’s border, it has a wonderful panoramic view of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The easiest way to reach Amboseli National Park is by flying there and landing at Amboseli Airport. After landing there, it’s just a ten-minute drive to the park gates.

elephant calf in amboseli national park kenya vaction

Lake Nakuru National Park

You’ve probably seen the lake before, crowded with thousands of flamingos. Lake Nakuru attracts large flocks of various birds with more than 500 different bird species recorded. The best time to visit the park for birdwatching is from November to April. The park also has most safari animals including the white and critically endangered black rhino.

A full-day trip to Lake Nakuru National Park is a perfect way to spend the day. Lake Nakuru is only about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Nairobi. This gives you more than enough time to break out your binoculars and bird-watch for hours in the park.

Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu Game reserve has its own ‘Samburu Special 5’ with animals indigenous to Northern Kenya. The special group consists of the Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and lesser kudu. It is also one of the few places in Kenya where you can take a camel trek through a 3-day Samburu luxury safari.

Arriving at Samburu Game reserve requires a six-hour drive or a one-and-a-half-hour flight to one of the many airstrips in Samburu.

beisa oryx on samburu safari

A Different Kind of Safari

Apart from the many safaris Kenya offers, there are also other activities to partake in. Beach tours and cultural tours are becoming more popular.

Maasai cultural tour

The Maasai people are indigenous to Kenya and are often time tour guides on safaris. On a Maasai Cultural Tour, you’ll learn about the Maasai culture and spend time with the locals. Spend a whole day interacting and take a hike of Mount Kilimanjaro while you’re there.

Beach Trip

Kenya is well-known for its many safaris, but it is also a coastal country. Mombasa has many coastal safari options for the more laid-back tourist. Diani Beach is close to Mombasa and only takes a seven-minute ferry ride. A four-day Diani Beach package offers an underwater safari experience through snorkeling and dolphin sightings.

kids on mombasa beach kenya

Which Kenya Holiday Packages are You Taking?

In Kenya, safari tours are the main appeal to many tourists. Planning isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it is manageable. Once you’ve crossed the small hurdle of all the documents needed for your all-inclusive Kenya holiday the fun can start.

Luckily, booking Kenya tours have become so much easier with this guide on what to expect. Rest assured that you now know everything you need before and during your Kenya vacation. No more excuses for not booking that dream trip you have been craving.

Finally, you can kick back and relax on your holiday and realize that it was definitely worth all the effort.

Planning another trip after your Kenya vacation? Have a look at more all-inclusive safari tours in Africa.

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