Kenya’s Great Wilderness:
Most visitors to Kenya want to experience the country’s world famous wildlife. But there are many different ways to experience the Kenyan wilderness.
Whether you want to drive by a pride of lions in a four wheel drive, walk through herds of plains game, watch a herd of elephants from the comfortable veranda of a safari lodge, track game on horseback or search for rare birds in a thick rainforest, the possibilities are endless.
Kenya’s wilderness areas are famous worldwide. The name Kenya has become synonymous with the great wilds of Africa but they represent far more than you would ever expect, protecting and showcasing a broad range of habitats and species.
They are complex ecologies that depend on the conservation of diverse natural resources and systems. The Parks, Sanctuaries and Conservation areas co-exist with and depend on the communities that surround them, and work together to protect the future.
From the depths of a coral reef to alpine mountains, from one of the world’s most endangered owls to a herd of wildebeest more than a million strong, the wilderness of Kenya is a wonder to behold.
Maasai Mara, Kenya:
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve is widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve. The Mara comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. Contiguous with the plains of the Serengeti, the Mara is home to a breath taking array of life. The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, and Topi. The Acacia forests abound with Bird life and Monkeys. Elephants and Buffalo wallow in the wide Musiara Swamp. The Mara and Talek rivers are brimming with Hippos and Crocodiles.
Maasai Mara, Wildebeest Migration
Each year the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti. From July to October, the promise of rain and fresh life giving grass in the north brings more than 1.3 million Wildebeest together into a single massive herd. They pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of life that stretches from horizon to horizon. At the Mara River they mass together on the banks before finally plunging forward through the raging waters, creating a frenzy as they fight against swift currents and waiting crocodiles. The wildebeest bring new life to the Mara, not just through their cycle of regeneration of the grasslands, but for the predators who follow the herds. The Mara has been called the Kingdom of Lions and these regal and powerful hunters dominate these grasslands. Cheetah are also a common sight in the Mara, as are Hyena and smaller predators such as Jackals. The Mara is an awesome natural wonder, a place where Maasai warriors share the plains with hunting lions, a place of mighty herds and timeless cycles of life, death and regeneration.
How to get to Maasai Mara
Maasai Mara can be reached both by Road and Air. Nairobi to Maasai Mara by Road is 5 Hr 30 Min and by flight 45 min to 1 hr. There are both schedule flight and charters from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Maasai Mara.
What to Do in Maasai Mara:
Wildlife Safari / Game Drive: The Maasai Mara Game Reserve is widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve. The prime interest for most visitors to this area, obviously, is to see wildlife. The sheer volume and variety of the Mara will certainly not disappoint. A safari through the Mara lets the visitor experience several different habitats in a single day. On the wide open grasslands you can travel through huge herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, and Topi. The attendant predators are a continual presence among the herds. Around the waters of the Musiara Swamp elephants can be found seeking refuge from the heat. The best time to see game in the Mara is early morning and late afternoon. In the midday heat, most animals generally retreat to the cool of thick undergrowth and become invisible. The most common means of Game viewing here is in customized vehicles. These vehicles usually have open roofs or sides and are ideal for photography. There are a series of maintained roads throughout the reserve. Some safari companies offer all day game drives, stopping for a riverside picnic in the midday heat.
Walking Safari: Walking in the Reserve itself is strictly controlled and must be arranged through your lodge, camp or Safari operator. Outside the Reserve however, there are many options for hiking and walking, especially in the attractive Loita Hills. These Hills are home to many Maasai and also attract a range of wildlife. They cover 78 square miles of forested valleys and highland plains, up to 6560 feet. The best way to explore these hills is with a local Maasai guide, who will not only guide you safely, but also introduce you to the important Maasai beliefs and legends about this area.
Horse Riding: Horseback Safaris are now being offered in areas outside the main reserve. These safaris are a unique way of viewing game that allows you to move at ease through herds of plains game. The safaris cover a great deal of country and are best suited for experienced riders.
Balloon Safaris: For a truly unique perspective on this spectacular wilderness, dawn Balloon safaris, carried out daily from several lodges, can be booked through most Safari companies. This incredible once in a lifetime experience offers the visitor a fantastic view of the great plains of the Mara, and the chance to drift unobtrusively over the great herds below.
Visit to Maasai Village: Visiting a traditional Maasai village is frequently included in a safari package to the Maasai Mara. This is an experience where you may learn something about the Maasai & their culture.
Where to Stay: Maasai Mara has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. There are very basic campsites where you can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild, well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, small private camps for your exclusive use and much, much, more.
Amboseli National Park- a land of giants
Amboseli is a land of giants. This is a place of wide dry plains, where the horizons stretch into the furthest distance and become one with the sky. Amboseli is renowned for its elephant populations and large herds, including some impressively tusked bulls are drawn to a series of large, lush swamplands.
How to get to Amboseli:
Amboseli is a 4 hour drive from Nairobi. The nearest town is Namanga, on the Kenya / Tanzania border.
What to Do in Amoboseli:
Wildlife Safari / Game Drive: A wildlife safari into Amboseli lets the visitor enter the majestic realm of the Elephant. This beautiful park consists of wide open plains crowned by the snow capped peak of Kilimanjaro. The most obvious resident are the large elephant herds, and they are impossible to miss. Elephants are a continual presence throughout the park, and this provides plenty of opportunities to observe and learn from a wide variety of their social behavior. With a well trained guide, it is easy to understand and follow the social hierarchy of each herd, and their constant social interaction.
There is a lot more to see in Amboseli other than Elephants. The forests and swamplands are well worth exploring, and the wetland areas and stands of acacia are rich birding country. The open plains attract plenty of wildlife including zebra, wildebeest, and impala. Cheetah are often seen here, either hunting on the plains or at rest in the undergrowth.
Where to Stay: Amboseli has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. There are very basic campsites where you can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild, well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, small private camps for your exclusive use and much, much, more.
Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks:
The twin National Parks of Tsavo East and West together form one of Africa’s largest wilderness reserves. This single National Park is larger than the island of Jamaica. Tsavo as a whole consists of 10 million acres of pure wilderness, incorporating savannah, ranges and hills, acacia and montane forest, and an extensive river system. The vast plains of Tsavo are crossed by the main Nairobi-Mombasa railroad. This historic railway was, in 1899, the scene of one of Africa’s greatest Adventure stories.
How to get to Tsavo: The Tsavo Parks are bisected by the main Nairobi- Mombasa Highway. The most central town for access to the parks is Voi, although the smaller town of Mtito Andei is the headquarters of Tsavo West. Driving time from Nairobi to Tsavo is between 4 to 5 Hrs. Both parks have well established internal roads and tracks.
What to Do in Tsavo:
Wildlife Safari / Game Drive: Tsavo’s massive area and wide range of landscapes make this an ideal place for a varied wildlife safari. The sheer space and freedom of Tsavo lets you really explore and feel at one with this awesome wilderness. The open plains are the best place to see the large herds of game. The region is well known for its herds of “Red Elephants”, their skins stained by rich ochre dust. The plains are also ideal for finding Lion, Eland, Impala, Kudu and possibly Rhinoceros. In the forested hills, large herds of Buffalo and Giraffe are often found. The forests of Tsavo are ideal for birding, with a fantastic range of species recorded including a variety of weavers, hornbills, sunbirds, rollers, and raptors.
Water sources are always a lure for game, and the Aruba Dam is a popular watering hole. Many of Tsavo’s camps and lodges are situated beside waterholes that attract a procession of wildlife from the surrounding plains. In many of these lodges, there is spectacular game viewing available from the balconies and restaurants.
One should not miss the Mzima Springs, where the plentiful supply of fresh water has created a verdant oasis. the springs attract plenty of game, and there is an underwater observatory that gives the visitor a unique glimpse into an underwater world dominated by the presence of large pods of hippopotamus.
Walking Safari: Some lodges and camps in both Parks organize game walks and hikes. The wide open plains of Tsavo are ideal for game viewing on foot. Expert guides lead these walks, giving guests a fascinating insight into the Tsavo region, and a personal introduction to the local wildlife. A privately escorted foot safari is the best way to really experience the African bush at its best. Walking through the wilds let you explore the wild at its most pure and visceral.
Bird Watching:This vast area is excellent Birding country, popular with specialist birding safaris. Notable species recorded include the rare Basra Reed Warbler, Friedmann’s Lark, Ostrich, Blue Quail, Violet Wood hoopoe, Martial and Crowned Eagle.
White Water Rafting: One of the wildest ways to explore Tsavo is by raft, on the waters of the Athi River. Three day rafting expeditions set out from the town of Kibwezi (a three hour drive from Nairobi). The river winds its way through Tsavo, and the 82 km rafting trip is the perfect combination of game viewing and white water adventure. The river is rich in birdlife, and rafters will encounter plenty of crocodiles and hippo along the way. Scenic drifts along clear stretches of water are interspersed with excellent white water action, through Class II-IV rapids of up to 6km in length. Nights are spent camped out on sandbanks, sleeping under the stars by the warmth of a campfire.
Where to Stay: Tsavo East and West both have a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. There are very basic campsites where you can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild, well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, small private camps for your exclusive use and much, much, more.
Laikipia Conservancy: This spectacular region is considered the gateway to Kenya’s wild Northern frontier country. Wild and sparsely populated, much of Laikipia is covered by large privately owned ranches. On most ranches cattle share the land with free ranging wildlife. In recent years this wildlife has become a valuable asset, with many ranches now establishing guest houses, home stays and private camps within their boundaries. This has proven a great success, and many ranches now rely on a thriving tourist trade. Importantly, community ranches have also formed. Centered around the original Laikipia National Reserve, this area has become a sanctuary for Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, and a wealth of plains game, including many endemic Northern species. Laikipia has become a focus for many conservation efforts, and some ranches have become breeding sanctuaries for Rhinoceros. Visiting a private ranch in this region is an ideal way of exploring the Kenyan wilderness while getting off the well beaten paths of the National Parks. The real attraction of Laikipia is a wonderful sense of freedom. The emphasis here is on personal services, backed up by excellent local knowledge and guiding. As a personal guest, you will have the chance to set your own schedules, explore at your own pace, and discover the wild in your own way.
How to get to Laikipia: This region is very well connected to Nairobi by Road and Air.Many ranches and sanctuaries have their own airstrips, which can be used by charter aircraft. Most ranches will arrange to transfer guests directly by air or road from Nairobi or any other destination, as part of their service. Laikipia is accessible by road from Nanyuki, Baringo, Eldoret or Isiolo.
What to Do in Laikipia:
Wildlife Safari / Game Drive: The space, seclusion and privacy of these game sanctuaries give you the total unrestricted freedom to explore and enjoy the wilderness. Many of these ranches incorporate a range of varied habitats and as a result, an equally diverse range of species can be found. Most of these contiguous properties allow migratory herds to move unobstructed from one ranch to the next. This has resulted in large, healthy populations of game. Laikipia’s ranches specialize in offering a diverse range of game viewing opportunities, including game drives night game drives, guided walking, bird walks, camel and horseback game viewing, and more.
Chimpanzee Sanctuary: Ol Pejeta, a refuge for Chimpanzees rescued from the pet and bush meat trade has been established.
Horse Riding: Some Laikipia ranches have stables with horses for use or hire by guests. Guided rides through the ranch can be arranged. For an experienced rider, this is an exhilarating way of observing game up close.
Fishing: At many ranches, fishing is possible, either in local rivers or well stocked dams. Tackle and fishing guides are usually provided.
Helicopter Safaris: Those with larger travel budgets who wish to cover plenty of ground on their safari, charter helicopters are available. A helicopter is a perfect way to access remote areas quickly and easily, without need for landing strips or clearances. Some of the ranches in Laikipia can arrange ‘heli-camping’ in which a helicopter is used to transport guests to remote destinations where a luxury camp awaits.
Camel Safaris: Camel Safaris are becoming an increasingly popular way to explore the ranches of Laikipia. The camel is perfectly adapted to this landscape and is widely used throughout Northern Kenya. Many camel safaris either carry all camping equipment and supplies with them, or use vehicle back up to set up camp ahead of your arrival at a prearranged spot. Gifted local guides, for whom a camel train through the wilderness is a way of life, will accompany you and introduce you to the bush and the local wildlife. This is a once in a lifetime experience, walking through the bush with only the sounds of the wild and the soft tinkling of the camel bells, you will find yourself travelling at a relaxed pace, moving through the wild in tune with the rhythms of nature.
Where to Stay: The ranches and sanctuaries offer an interesting range of accommodation to suit all individual tastes and interests. These range from special private camps, guesthouses, home stays and luxury tented camps.
Samburu, Shaba & Buffalo Springs: The Ewaso Nyiro river flows through three great northern reserves, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. The waters of this great river draw wildlife in great numbers to its banks, creating an oasis of green. The verdant riverine forest is a stark contrast to the arid thorn studded plains. Samburu is visited by large herds of Elephants, drawn by the promise of water. In the dry season, the elephants use their tusks to dig deep into the dry river beds, unearthing precious water. These waterholes then become a focal point for other game. The Samburu region is the best place to find several endemic Northern species, including Gerenuk, the Reticulated Giraffe, and Grevy’s Zebra. The forests along the river banks are home to many birds, including local species such as the Palm Nut Vulture and the Vinaceous Dove. These forests are also home to many Leopards, often seen at dusk.
How to get to Samburu, Shaba & Buffalo Springs: Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba are all accessible by road via Isiolo and Archers Post. Driving time from Nairobi is approximately 6 hours. There are airstrips in both Samburu and Buffalo Springs, with daily scheduled flights from Nairobi. Private charters can also use these strips. Accessing the Reserves is difficult without private transport.
What to Do:
Wildlife Safari / Game Drive:The surrounding riverine forests are good birding country, and in the late afternoon also excellent leopard territory. Several individual leopards are commonly seen in trees around the river each day. When the rains bring water back to the Ewaso N’giro, the river becomes a desert oasis of life. Large herds of Reticulated Giraffe, buffalo and Impala all gather on the banks to drink. Elephant herds often wade across the river, stopping to wallow and bathe in the shallows. There are plenty of crocodiles here, and large specimens can be seen sunning themselves on sandbanks. The heavy traffic of game around the riverbanks means that Lion are commonly seen hunting here. The plains and surrounding hills are also well worth exploring, and are the best place to find gerenuk, Grevy’s Zebra and cheetah. The rocky slopes of the Kopjes and hills are good country for Kudu and are home to several prides of lion.
Most of the lodges and camps here are situated on the river bank, and there is good game viewing from these properties.
White Water Rafting: One of Kenya’s best adventure safaris is a rafting expedition along the Ewaso N’giro river. The trip can last between three and eight days, depending on water levels and accessibility. Full equipment and expert guides are provided for this ultimate adventure. The river winds its way through spectacular white water, with up to 30 kms of nonstop Class II, III and IV rapids, and seperate stretches of demanding Class V water.
Trekking: Some lodges and camps organize game walks and hikes. There are definite hiking possibilities in areas around the reserves, but local guides would be advisable. The best options for walking are the nearby private sanctuaries, where skilled Samburu guides can give you a personal introduction to the area.
Camel Safaris: Samburu is camel country, and an ideal place for a camel safari. Many of the lodges and camps within the reserves have camels for guided rides and trips.
Rock Climbing: The impressively stark massif of Ol Olokwe, 30 kms north of Samburu Reserve, has some excellent climbing routes, summiting at 1.853 meters Ropes and Equipment, and a guide with some good local knowledge is advisable.
Bird Watching: This area is very popular with birders, and specialist birding safaris. Samburu and Buffalo Springs have over 380 recorded species, with similar numbers in Shaba. Notable species recorded include arid endemics such as Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow Weaver, Shining Sunbird and the Bristle Crowned Starling, many Vulturine Guinea fowl, several Hornbill species, Somali Ostrich and rare species such as the Taita Falcon, migratory Kestrels and William’s Lark.
Where to Stay: Samburu and Buffalo Springs both have a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. There are very basic campsites where you can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild, well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, and small private camps for your exclusive use.
Meru National Park: Meru is an explorer’s paradise. The least visited of Kenya’s larger parks and reserves, this remote region is a lush green Eden. From the park’s southern boundary, seemingly endless series of streams branch out from the Tana River bringing life to the land. Meru’s thick forests, tall grass and stands of Doum Palm are surrounded by rolling hills and stark Kopjes. This is the wild country where the world famous lioness Elsa, of Born Free fame, was returned to the wild in the 1950’s.
How to get to Meru: There are scheduled flights to Meru. Road access to Meru is via Meru town, a three hour drive from Nairobi. Closer to the Park gates is the small village of Maua.
What to Do: Wildlife Safari – The thick jungle of vegetation in Meru makes game viewing both challenging and rewarding. A wildlife safari through Meru involves tracking and locating game through a range of habitats. The Hills and Kopjes make good game spotting outposts, and getting up high is the best way to scan the horizons for herds of game. Lions are known to also take advantage of this opportunity, and can be seen hunting on these slopes for buffalo or Oryx. The waters of the Tana river and its many streams always attract plenty of wildlife. The thick riverine forests are the best places to locate game, and are excellent birding country. Large numbers of Reticulated Giraffe, Impala, Lesser Kudu and Eland can be found around these water sources.
Where to Stay: Meru has a choice of basic campsites with small bandas (huts) for hire. The park also has two lodges offering well appointed accommodation.
Q and A for Module 2
- The Mara comprises of __________________ sq miles of open plains
- Musiara Swamp is located in
- Maasai Mara
- Maasai Mara can be reached by schedule flight from
- Wilson Airport Nairobi
- Nairobi International Airport
- Both a and b is true
- The nearest Town to Amboseli National Park is
- Loita Hills is attractive for
- Walking Safari
- Home to many Maasai
- All above
- Which national park is famous for lioness Elsa, of Born Free.
- Meru National Park
- Laipikia Conservancy
- Tsavo East
- Tsavo West
- Name the famous twin national park of Kenya
- Maasai & Mara
- Naivasha & Nakuru
- Tsavo East and Tsavo West
- North Coast and South Coast
- The Tsavo Parks are bisected by the
- Nairobi- Mombasa Highway
- Tana River
- Mara River
- None of the above
- Land of giants is term used to describe
- Kakamega Forest
- Shimba Hills National Park
- Mount Kenya
- Amboseli National Park
- Herds of Red Elephants can be found at
- Meru National Park
- Tsavo National park
- Maasai Mara Where you can visit a Chimpanzee Sanctuary
- Nairobi National Park
- Mount Kenya National Park
- Ol Pejeta
- None of the above
- Mzima Springs is located in
- Meru National Park
- Laipikia Conservancy
- Samburu National Park
- None of the above
- Which region is the gateway to Kenya’s wild Northern frontier country
- Maasai Mara
- In Laikipia region one can experience
- Helicopter Safaris
- Night Game Drive
- All above
- Where you can see Northern species, including Gerenuk, the Reticulated Giraffe, and Grevy’s Zebra
- Maasai Mara
- Hell Gate National Park
- Meru National Park