May 28, 2021
Kenya – Frequently Asked Questions

When you start planning a safari to Kenya, or other wildlife havens, you’ll have a lot of questions to ask such as if you want to go birdwatching, which Kenyan park or destination should you head to or what months should you visit to see the annual wildebeest migration? Your tour operator will be able to answer your questions regarding the safari, but you can get a head start here with our list of frequently asked questions by safari visitors to solve your queries and make things easier as you plan your adventure.

1. When is the best time to travel to Kenya?

Apart from March, April, and May, which are the long rains, Kenya can be considered a year-round safari destination. The dry season in Kenya (January and February, June to October) offers visitors the best wildlife viewing experience, when the bush is drier so it’s easier to spot animals as they congregate at water sources The wildebeest migration can be observed in the Masai Mara National Reserve from August to October, after which they began their journey back to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In general, September to April is the ideal time to visit Kenya for an optimal birding experience, with November and December the best time for migratory birds.

Although these are the perfect timings for wildlife viewing, the best time to visit individual parks might differ slightly based on the climate and season in the regions.

  • Meru National Park: June to September
  • Buffalo Spring National Park: June to October, December to March
  • Lake Nakuru: June to March
  • Amboseli National Park: June to October, January to February
  • Masai Mara National Park: July to October

Generally, the most popular time to visit Kenya is during the dry season, which means the parks are often more crowded and prices higher at this time. On the other hand, the wet season and shoulder seasons are less crowded and more affordable so are well worth considering.

For more information about the best time to travel to Kenya (for safari activities, visiting the coastline and mountain climbing), check out our best time to visit Kenya guide.

2. When is the great wildebeest migration?

The great wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania is the largest annual migration of around 1.5 million wildebeest and thousands of zebras, antelopes, gazelle, impala and eland. The migration is a result of dwindling grazing, making the animals move to greener pastures following the rainfall pattern. This large-scale migration is fraught with dangerous river crossings where predators lie in wait.

The migration continues year-round as the animals travel in a circular route from Tanzania to Kenya and back again. The rains in April and May get the herds of wildebeest on the move in the Serengeti on their journey towards the Masai Mara, Kenya. Once they have reached Kenya, they graze in the Mara from roughly mid-July to October. In a few months, the vegetation is exhausted and the animals start their journey back to the Serengeti and the cycle repeats.

Check out our Great Migration Timeline to see how the wildebeest migration progresses over the months.

Further Reading:

The Ultimate Guide to Africa’s Great Wildebeest Migration

3. Is Kenya a family-friendly safari destination?

Kenya is an ideal family safari destination with many of the safari lodges entertaining kids with safari activities which are tailored towards children and families. Imagine your children spellbound watching the great wildebeest migration or Masaai guides teaching them to track animals, enriching their memories of the safari holiday.

4. How safe is it to travel in Kenya?

Compared to some other African countries, Kenya has a low crime rate. As a visitor to a foreign country, it is up to you to be cautious.

  • Avoid travelling alone at night
  • Avoid visiting isolated roads and places
  • Keep your valuables locked in a hotel safe
  • On game drives, always follow your guide’s advice

Kenya is a safe place to visit on a wildlife safari which has been arranged by a reputable tour company. It offers beautiful scenery, impressive wildlife, fascinating culture and generous and welcoming locals. For more information, refer to our travel safety guide for Kenya.

5. What should I wear and take on safari in Kenya?

For safari holidays, it’s always best to pack as lightly as possible for easy travelling between safari accommodation.

  • Pack comfortable casual clothes which are easy to wash. Laundry is often included at safari lodges and camps.
  • For game drives, wear muted colours such as khaki, beige and stone so you blend into the environment.
  • Take into consideration the timings of game drives. Most of the game drives either begin in the early morning or in the late afternoon going into the evening. During the cooler months the weather is cold at this time of the day, so you need to pack warm clothes, such as a wind-proof jacket, fleece jacket, beanie, scarf, and gloves.
  • At other times you’ll need protection against the heat as well as mosquitoes. So don’t forget sunscreen and sun hats and pack light weight long-sleeved shirts and long trousers to cover up.
  • Also pack a swimsuit for your stay as many safari lodges have a swimming pool.
  • In addition, you’ll require walking shoes or comfortable footwear for safari.

This covers basic items of clothing you need to carry on a Kenyan safari. Refer to this safari guide to learn what else you need to pack.

6. What languages are spoken in Kenya?

Kenya’s diversity has resulted in a multilingual population with a total of 68 spoken languages. Its two official languages are English and Swahili. The Bantu language, Swahili, is spoken more often than English, which was inherited during colonial rule. Although the locals communicate in their respective local languages, they often choose to speak either English or Swahili. Other languages spoken by the majority of the Kenyan population are Kikuyu – a Bantu language, Dhouluo – a Nilotic language, and Kamba – another Bantu language.

7. What currency is used in Kenya?

Kenya’s official currency is the Kenyan Shilling, which is accepted throughout the country. Foreign currencies such as US Dollars, Pound Sterling and Euros are also accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops as well as credit cards, but not all shops accept this form of payment. If you want to convert your currency to Kenyan shillings use banks, Forex at the airport or ATMs.

To make things a little simpler, we have shared a quick currency conversions (2021):

Currency Kenyan Shillings
1 Pound Sterling 148.72
1 Euro 128.72
1 United States Dollar 106.85
1 Canadian Dollar 87.26
1 Australian Dollar 82.84
1 Japanese Yen 0.98

8. How much money should I carry on my Kenyan safari?

Safari packages are usually prepaid which often includes vehicle transfers, accommodation and activities. Some safaris also include domestic flights. In Kenya, you’ll need money at hand to tip the accommodation staff and guides. Sometimes there are drinks and optional activities to pay for plus you might want to purchase souvenirs to bring home or drinks from the local shops. Some shops may accept credit cards, but not all do so it’s advisable to have around some cash for additional expenses and tips.

9. Do I require a visa to travel to Kenya?

It depends primarily on your citizenship. Visitors from certain countries do not require a visa to travel to Kenya. Refer to the list of visa-exempt countries to find out whether you need a visa to visit Kenya and if so you can apply for an eVisa on the official visa portal. Everyone travelling to Kenya needs a passport with two blank pages and at least 6-months validity. For more details refer to our Kenya travel guide.

10. What about mosquito nets and repellent?

Malaria is a risk in Kenya and you should take precautions by using mosquito repellent and nets both of which will be provided at the safari accommodations. It’s also worth bringing some of your own mosquito repellant plus remember to pack long-sleeve shirts and long trousers. At home talk to your medical practioner before you leave about what malaria prophylactics to take whilst on safari.

11. How safe is the water and food in Kenya?

Food is a huge part of the safari experience – you need hearty meals when you’ve been out on game drives – so should be of a good to high standard depending on your accommodation. You should avoid drinking tap water in Kenya and drink from the bottled water provided by your accommodation and guides.

12. How to make an emergency call in Kenya?

To reach emergency services in Kenya, dial one of the three numbers: 999, 112, 911. Once connected, you can ask for the required service.

13. Where are Kenya’s best birding spots?

  • Arabuko Sokoke Forest:The Arabuko Sokoke Forest covers a mere 6-kilometer square area on the coast of Kenya, north of Mombasa. Compared to other major Kenyan birding destinations, Arabuko is smaller but large enough to house around 230 bird species. Some of the species found in the forest are African pygmy kingfisher, Amani sunbird, bush-shrike, dark-backed weaver, east-coast akalat, Fischer’s turaco, little yellow flycatcher, Mombasa woodpecker, red-tailed ant-thrush, Sokoke scops owl, and southern-banded snake-eagle.
  • Kakamega Forest National Reserve: Kenya’s only tropical rainforest, Kakamega, is swarming with birds. The game reserve is home to over 450 bird species including African blue flycatcher, banded prinia, Cassin’s honeybird, dusky tit, eastern olive sunbird, grey parrot, great blue turaco, joyful greenbul, and western banded snake eagle.
  • Kinangop Plateau: Wedged between the Kenyan Rift Valley and Aberdare range, the Kinangop Plateau gets its name from the Kinangop mountain. Kinangop is known for sightings of Aberdare cisticola, Hunter’s cisticola, Levaillant’s cisticola, wing-snapping cisticola, long-tailed widowbird, and sharpe’s longclaw.
  • Lake Baringo: One of the two Kenyan Rift Valley’s freshwater lakes, Lake Baringo is quite well-known for its abundant birdlife. The lake is known to inhabit more than 470 bird species as well as some of the most endangered species such as basra reed warbler, Egyptian vulture, hooded vulture, Madagascar pond-heron, and Ruppell’s griffon.
  • Lake Naivasha National Park: A birding hotspot, Lake Naivasha National Park, is located along the shores of Lake Naivasha, which is the other Kenyan Rift Valley’s freshwater lake. It is home to more than 300 bird species, such as African skimmer, black-tailed godwit, gray crowned-crane, great snipe, lesser flamingo, maccoa duck, and sooty falcon.
  • Masai Mara National Reserve: Kenya’s premier safari destination, Maasai Mara National Reserve, is also a bird-watcher’s paradise. It has more than 500 bird species, including some vulnerable species, such as greater spotted eagle, imperial eagle, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, secretarybird, white-headed vulture, and woolly-necked stork.
  • Nairobi National Park: In its peak bird-watching season from November to April, Nairobi National Park is teeming with more than 500 bird species. There are around 16 old-world flycatcher species, 13 swallow species, and more than 30 birds of prey.
  • Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve: Samburu National Reserve and the Buffalo Springs National Reserve are separated by the river Ewaso Nyiro. Combined, Buffalo Springs and Samburu have more than 390 species of birds. Visitors will have frequent sightings of D’Arnaud’s barbet, golden pipit, nightjars, Somali bee-eater, Somali ostrich, rosy-patched bush-shrike, and white-headed mousebirds.

14. What are Kenya’s major attractions?

  • Amboseli National Park
  • Buffalo Springs National Reserve
  • Central Island National Park
  • Chyulu Hills National Park
  • Lake Nakuru National Park
  • Masai Mara National Park
  • Meru National Park
  • Mount Kenya National Park
  • Samburu National Reserve
  • Tsavo East National Park
  • Tsavo West National Park

15. What is the appeal of Hell’s Gate National Park?

Hell’s Gate National Park is more of a scenic safari destination with its picturesque sandstone cliffs and impressive volcanic outcrops. It has several dormant volcanoes, which enhance the beauty of the steep-sided valley. Apart from the beautiful vistas, the park offers a variety of activities such as mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing. The park has a low concentration of predatory species such as the black-backed jackal, cheetah, leopard, and spotted hyena. It allows visitors to partake in unguided walking and cycling in some areas of the park. It may not be an ideal location for big five viewing, but Hell’s Gate National Park offers frequent sightings of plain animals such as buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, Coke’s hartebeest, giraffe, Grant’s gazelle, impala and olive baboons.

16. What wildlife can be seen in the Masai Mara National Reserve?

Located in the southwest region of Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of Africa’s most spectacular ecosystems. It is home to around 450 animal species, including the renowned big five, as well as over 500 bird species. We have shared some of the animals and birds found in the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Animals:

  • African Buffalo
  • Bat-Eared fox
  • Black-backed Jackal
  • Black Rhino
  • Cheetah
  • Eland
  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Impala
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Reedbuck
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Thomson’s Gazelle
  • Topi

Birds:

  • African finfoot
  • Ayres’s hawk eagle
  • Cinnamon-breasted bunting
  • Denham’s bustard
  • Grey-crested helmet-shrike
  • Hildebrandt’s starling
  • Lazy cisticola
  • Ostrich
  • Ross’s turaco
  • Rosy-throated longclaw
  • Saddle-billed stork
  • Schalow’s turaco
  • Southern ground hornbill
  • Swahili sparrow
  • Tabora cisticola
  • Temminck’s courser

17. What wildlife can be seen in Lake Nakuru National Park?

Lake Nakuru is an alkaline lake located south of Nakuru in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Its alkaline nature facilitates the growth of algae, which attracts a large number of flamingos, the crowning glory of the Lake Nakuru National Park. Listed below are a few of the wildlife and bird species observed at Lake Nakuru National Park.

Animals:

  • African Buffalo
  • Colobus Monkey
  • Burchell’s Zebra
  • Elephant
  • Rothschild’s Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Hyena
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Olive Baboon
  • Rhinoceros (Black and White )
  • Thomson’s Gazelle
  • Vervet Monkey
  • Waterbuck
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra

Birds:

  • Abyssinian thrush
  • Arrow-marked babbler
  • Black-tailed godwit
  • Brimstone canary
  • Crab-plover
  • Eastern imperial eagle
  • European roller
  • Grey-headed woodpecker
  • Great snipe
  • Greater spotted eagle
  • Hildebrandt’s starling
  • Kenya rufous sparrow
  • Lappet-faced vulture
  • Lesser flamingo
  • Long-tailed widowbird
  • Northern puffback
  • Pallid harrier
  • Rufous-throated wryneck
  • Schalow’s wheatear
  • Shining sunbird
  • Sooty falcon
  • Speke’s weaver
  • Western reef heron
  • White-headed vulture

About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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