Kenya is not a country where you’ll ever find yourself short of exciting activities. From horseback safaris in the Mara and encounters with the last northern white rhinos, to snorkelling through the gin-clear waters of the coast, there’s truly something for everyone. But with so many adventures to be had, how can you possibly decide which to include in your trip? Well, we’re here to help and have rounded up some of our favourite things to do in Kenya so you can start building your very own dream getaway.
Meet the last Big Tuskers of Amboseli
There’s no better place to begin than with Kenya’s magnificent and famed Big Tuskers of Amboseli. We’re not sure if there’s a more spectacular site to view wildlife anywhere in the world and watching these majestic elephants as they graze on the green grass of Amboseli in front of the unbelievable backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro is certainly a ‘pinch me’ moment! Amboseli and neighbouring Chyulu Hills are some of the lushest landscapes you’ll find in Kenya so it’s no wonder they draw these famous pachyderms to their green pastures. Big Tuskers are so named (you might have guessed it) for the enormous tusks they sport and some grow to more than 1.5 metres in length! With Africa’s sad history of poaching, it’s a rare sight to see these older elephants and that just makes spotting them all the more special. It’s not just elephant you’ll see here either and you can also expect black rhino, buffalo, an array of big cats, spotted hyena, giraffe, zebra and a whole host of other safari must-sees.
There are some beautiful spots to stay in the area and there’s something for every budget. We love Ol Donyo, Tortilis Camp and Elephant Gorge Camp, so have a go at adding them into one of our trips! All the highlights all in one does exactly what it says on the tin, whisking you from the wildlife-rich Laikipia, to the famous, sweeping plains of the Masai Mara, onto beautiful Amboseli before ending with a little R+R at beachy Msambweni. If you want to tick of a host of ‘must-see before you die’ destinations then our Gorillas & game parks trip will be just the ticket, combining those Kenyan wonders with bucket-trip worthy gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Learn from indigenous tribes
This fascinating country is well-known for its incredibly rich culture and we think one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things to do in Kenya is to learn more about its diverse tribes and indigenous people. In the remote mountains of northern Kenya, in Matthew’s Range to be precise, you’ll find the colourfully decorated, semi-nomadic people of the Samburu tribe. The 1200 families of the tribe are fiercely traditional and live in much the same way that they always have, farming goat, cattle and camel that are essential to both their survival and way of life. Fiercely proud of their culture, the Samburu tribe are very welcoming to visitors and are happy to invite them into their homes and to witness their ceremonies. The rugged landscape in the area is also exciting to explore, especially for those really looking to get off the beaten track and away from the crowds. Traverse the mountains on horse or camel, or hike the slopes in search of elephant, oryx, zebra and giraffe; it’s really a landscape like no other.
Being so remote, the choice of accommodation is much smaller than somewhere like the Mara but this region absolutely promotes quality over quantity! Saruni Rhino Camp offers a rhino tracking experience like no other, Sasaab brings elegance with its luxe Moroccan-themed interiors, and guests at Elephant Bedroom Camp enjoy peace, tranquility and wonderful animal sightings on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Focus on the area in detail with our Wilds of Northern Kenya trip or pair Samburu with the wildlife wonder that is Laikipia with our Conservation & Culture trip.
Take to the saddle in the Masai Mara
The Masai Mara often gets a bad rep for being overcrowded and offering overpacked tours (you’ll never find those at Timbuktu!), so why not try something different and try a horseback safari on the famous plains? Taking to the bush on horseback is like nothing else – picture yourself galloping alongside herds of giraffe, sneaking up on lion without the tell-tale hum of the Land Rover, and, from July to October, join the thousands of wildebeest as they storm across the Mara River on their annual migration. Enjoy anything from a one-hour to one-day horseback riding experience, or really immerse yourself with Mara Riding Safaris epic seven day horseriding and camping adventure. This really is the back-to-nature Mara experience you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ll notice there’s barely a Kenya trip on our site that doesn’t work with the Mara – and for good reason! It might get busy, but that’s only because it really is a wildlife wonderland of note. As a result, it’s possible to add a horse riding adventure to almost any of our Kenya trips – why not pair the popular Mara with the less explored Samburu and Meru regions with our Kenya’s Road Less Travelled trip? We’ve mentioned the Samburu above, but Meru National Park, with its excellent lion and rhino sightings, shouldn’t be forgotten either. Or mix traditional safari spottings with magical Madagascar’s more unusual beasts with this trip.
Explore an underwater world in Msambweni
Moving from the bush to the beach now with the delightfully remote fishing village of Msambweni. If you’re looking for a beachside escape far from the madding crowd then Msambweni Beach is for you. There are no flashy hotels or overcrowded tanning spots here, and instead this delightful destination is filled with chic eco-lodges, unspoiled beaches and delicious, freshly caught seafood. If you ever find yourself tiring of lazing on the sandy beaches (we really wouldn’t blame you if you never tired of that!), then you can hop aboard a traditional dhow boat and head out to the pristine Kisite Marine Park, Kenya’s largest reef. Spend the day snorkelling the gin clear waters and exploring the underwater home of the myriad brightly coloured tropical fish. If you’re lucky you might even receive your very own sailing escort in the form of friendly local dolphins who are very interested in new visitors!
We love The Ocean Spa Lodge for its chic white interiors and delectable food, and Mbuyu Beach Bungalows for the ultimate pared-back beachside living – if you want to get far away from modern technology, this is definitely your spot! Msambweni isn’t the only waterside delight that Kenya has to offer, and Diani and Lamu are also worthy jewels in Kenya’s beach crown and both offer slightly different experiences, although both lay claim to being some of Africa’s best beaches! If you fancy a mixing a bit of wildlife into your beach break then our Classic Kenya Bush and Beach trip will be just the ticket.
Come face to face with endangered species at Ol Pejeta
Laikipia is already an awe inspiring place and this not-for-profit conservancy is its beating heart. Home to rare and endangered species, Ol Pejeta set a benchmark for animal conservation and is now the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa, as well as being home to the world’s last two remaining northern white rhino. A visit here will bring you close to these beautiful creatures and help you understand the plight they face in modern-day Africa. You’ll also have a chance to spot other rare creatures living in the sanctuary such as Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, wild dogs, oryx, as well as the famous Big Five. It is also home to Kenya’s only chimpanzees, rescued from the black market. It really is the place for those interested in seeing something a touch different and a must for anyone who wants to learn more about conservation and the fantastic beasts Ol Pejeta is working to save.
We love Ol Pejeta Bush Camp and Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages for accommodation that places you right in the heart of the action. You can add the conservancy into a few of our itineraries (or even build your own trip around it with the trip designer), and we love the Conservation, Cats and Walking Safaris in Kenya trip for a blend of incredible wildlife (Ol Pejeta, Lewa Downs and Masai Mara) before ending with a bit of downtime in balmy Lamu. You could even make your trip a rare species extravaganza, and throw some mountain gorillas into the mix with our Journey through the DRC & Northern Kenya.
Summit the majestic Mount Kenya
Sitting 500km north of Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya might not be as famous as her sister mountain but she’s still an excellent climb. Africa’s second tallest mountain (standing at 5199m to Kilimanjaro’s 5895m) has become something of a favourite with novice and experienced climbers alike. Whilst she might sit 696m lower than the famous mountain, she more than makes up for it with her outstanding beauty. A climb to the top of Mount Kenya will afford unrivalled views across the foothills, access to rarely explored mountain lakes and a host of abundant wildlife, flora and fauna. You also won’t experience the same crowds you might expect to find on Kilimanjaro, which is always a plus in our books.
We think you’re best off easing yourself into this epic adventure with a few days spent in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, gathering your energy as you enjoy a couple of game drives and all the wildlife on offer. Then, it’s onto the three-day hike up the epic peak, before you come back to earth with a tour of the great Masai Mara before. Finally (and deservedly!), rest those weary feet on the beaches of Diani. The perfect mix of high octane adventure, wildlife and blissful relaxation, a winning combo if you ask us!