For many visitors to Kenya, going on safari is a must. The East African country is home to some of the most recognizable and fascinating animals in the world, from elephants and giraffes to lions and cheetahs.
It is every wildlife lover’s dream to witness the Great Migration of wildebeest across the plains or see a leopard in its natural habitat. Kenya is one of the few countries where this is a possibility.
In order to make this dream a reality, foreign nationals traveling to Kenya must have the correct documents to enter the country and the essentials for the safari itself.
This quick guide has all the information you need, including the best time of year to go to Kenya on safari, visa information, and safety tips.
What Is the Best Safari in Kenya?
Kenya has a number of national parks and reserves where visitors can go on safari. Most of them are home to the most iconic African animals, including elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebras, and giraffes.
Some of the most-visited Kenyan national parks and reserves are:
The Maasai Mara is without a doubt the most famous area to see wildlife in Kenya. It is located along Kenya’s southern border, after which it joins with the Serengeti in Tanzania to form one massive protected ecosystem.
Safaris in the Maasai Mara offer visitors the chance to see the big 5 African game species:
- Cape buffaloes
The Mara is also a place to witness one of the biggest events in the natural world — the Great Migration, often described as “the Holy Grail” of safari events.
In August, this dramatic event sees hundreds of wildebeest, antelope, and zebra enter Kenya from the Serengeti, crossing crocodile-infested rivers and avoiding predators in their journey to fresh grazing grounds.
Essentials for a Kenya Safari
The first thing any traveler needs to go on safari in Kenya is the correct documentation to enter the country. This includes:
- A passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the visit
- A Kenyan travel eVisa or consular visa (if applicable)
Kenya permits nationals of certain countries to enter visa-free for up to 90 days. Conversely, visitors from a small number of countries are obliged to attend an interview at a Kenyan embassy in order to obtain a traditional visa.
The majority of travelers are eligible to obtain the Kenyan visa through the online application. The application is quick and simple and can be done from the comfort of the traveler’s home, avoiding the need to stand in line at an embassy.
Check all the requirements to obtain a Kenyan eVisa to see if you are eligible.
Aside from the paperwork, essentials for a Kenya safari include:
- Loose, comfortable clothes
- A long-sleeved shirt (to protect against insect bites)
- A fleece and/or light jacket
- Comfortable trainers or sports sandals
- A hat with a brim or peak (to protect from the sun)
- A scarf or shawl
- Plenty of water
- Mosquito spray
- Travel adaptor
- A camera with a zoom lens
- First aid kit
- Sufficient funds to pay for food, drink, souvenirs, etc.
Learn more about essential items tourists should pack for Kenya.
What Is the Best Time to Go on Safari in Kenya?
The question of when to go to Kenya on safari depends on each traveler’s priorities with regards to the weather and what they want to see.
Kenya lies on the equator and does not experience spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Instead, it has a cycle of dry and wet seasons, while the temperature remains fairly high all year round. The seasons in Kenya are as follows:
- January to February = short dry season
- March to May = long wet season
- June to October = long dry season
- November to December = short wet season
Most travelers prefer to go in the dry seasons.
The peak time for tourists tends to be from June to October, during the long dry season, so visitors who want to avoid crowds may prefer to come between November and February when there are fewer people.
The short rainy season tends to be quiet and animals are easy to spot on the bare landscape, coming after the drought of the long dry season. Large elephant herds return to the Maasai Mara at this time, as do birds flying south for the winter.
The long rainy season from March to May often has relentless downpours, which visitors may prefer to avoid.
The big draw of coming in August is the Great Migration. Vast herds of wildebeest and zebra make their yearly pilgrimage from neighboring Tanzania to Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve.
From September to November, the herds graze on the Mara plains, making this a good time to see them and the predators that follow them.
Is It Safe to Go to Kenya on Safari?
It is generally safe to go on safari in Kenya as long as you go with an experienced tour company or guide. The country’s national parks and reserves, particularly the Maasai Mara, welcome thousands of visitors each year and safety for tourists in Kenya is a high priority.
Important guidelines to stay safe while on safari in Kenya include the following:
- Always stay in the vehicle unless told to get out by the guide
- Follow the guide’s instructions
- Keep your voice low and do not shout, as this can startle animals
- Beware of baboons and other monkeys — they often do not fear humans and will steal food and belongings from unsuspecting tourists, becoming aggressive if stopped
Following these rules, a safari in Kenya should be a perfectly safe and unforgettable experience.
Travelers who are eligible for the Kenya eVisa should make sure they apply for one in good time to ensure their trip goes smoothly.