The best things to see in Kenya

The best things to see in Kenya

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16 February

It’s time to answer the call of the wild! Most visitors to Kenya have only one thing on their mind: safari. There’s a good reason for that — this East African country is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife roaming free. Get ready to tick dozens of animals off your checklist because you’re bound to see more creatures than you’ve ever dreamed of. While you’re in Kenya, it’s also worth exploring the country’s thriving cities and rich, vibrant cultural heritage. Ready to go? Let’s take a peek at the best things to see in Kenya.

Marvel at the Great Migration in the Masai Mara

This country is blessed with great weather all year round. However, if you’re looking for the best time to go to Kenya, it’s hard to beat the months between July and October. During this time, enormous herds of animals migrate from Tanzania in search of fresh grasslands — and when we say enormous, we mean it. Each year, the travellers include around 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebras and 200,000 gazelles. These animals are moving on an epic scale.

The Great Migration isn’t just limited to these peaceful herbivores. Large numbers of animals are moving, and that means dinnertime for Kenya’s carnivores. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and crocodiles are all on the prowl during these months, picking off the weaker members of the herds. It’s been called the greatest show on earth, which is why a safari during this time has to be high on the list of the best things to do in Kenya.

Red and yellow hot-air balloon over zebra field.

Admire the elephants in Amboseli

Amboseli is one of the country’s smaller game reserves, but we reckon that it’s still one of the best things to see in Kenya. Why? If you’re into photography, this park offers the best natural backdrop of all: it has perfect views of Mount Kilimanjaro, with its white snow cap making a dramatic contrast with the sunbaked plains below.

Amboseli is best known as a sanctuary for elephants. There are over a thousand elephants roaming the park, so if you’re looking to spot the world’s largest land mammal, this is the place to go.

Herd of elephants on the brown grass field under blue skies and white clouds during the day.

See the Big Five in Tsavo National Park

Safari visitors all dream of spotting Africa’s Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. You’ll find them all — and many more creatures — in Tsavo National Park. This sprawling park is known for offering a more authentic safari experience. It’s not one of the most popular Kenya tourist attractions, as it’s a little bit off the beaten track. That makes it ideal for travellers who want to marvel at wild animals without selfie-crazy photobombers showing up to ruin the view.

Tsavo National Park is also located less than 100 km from the coast, so it’s an ideal pit stop if you’re planning a road trip. Yes, Kenya has some great beaches — and spoiler alert: we’ll be talking about them a little later in this article!

Three lions sitting on rock formations during the day.

See unusual wildlife and game in Samburu

You’ve heard of the Big Five, so now it’s time to discover the Samburu Special Five. This arid game reserve, in the north of the country, is the place to go if you want to see animals that you can’t spot anywhere else. The Special Five include Grevy’s zebra, East African oryx, gerenuk, Somali ostrich and reticulated giraffe. These include some of the most unusual antelopes in Africa. That makes it ideal for travellers who want to marvel at wild animals without would-be influencers showing up to ruin the view.

Even better, you can also explore the local Samburu culture. The locals here still follow ancient traditions, which include eating a diet that’s mostly made up of just milk and blood. Don’t worry, though. Visitors to the park are not expected to dine on this unusual lunch menu!

People in traditional orange and yellow dress walking on the brown sand during the day.

Check out the crocs in Lake Turkana

We really could fill this entire list with nothing but game reserves in Kenya! We’ll be getting to other things soon, but first, we just have to mention Central Island National Park. This eerie volcanic island juts out of the surrounding lake and has three smaller lakes set inside — that’s a logic puzzle we can’t quite solve! No matter how hot it gets, don’t be tempted to go for a dip. Why? Because this park is home to the world’s largest Nile crocodile colony.

This reserve is one of Kenya’s most rustic and unspoiled parks. The black sand beaches and towering volcanoes give you a dramatic, thrilling area to explore. There’s even a campsite where you can spend the night. Be warned, this park is only for the bravest visitors. As well as all those hungry crocodiles, it houses three active volcanoes. Lake Turkana is most definitely not for the faint of heart!

See where it all began at the Great Rift Valley

The mighty Great Rift Valley is one of the few geographical sights that astronauts can see from space, but we still think it’s far better to get up close and personal with this wonder! This geological marvel is where the earliest human fossils were found, suggesting that all of our ancestors once lived here in East Africa.

As the name suggests, the Great Rift Valley is pretty big and home to some of the best things to see in Kenya. There are wildlife parks inside, including a rhino sanctuary, where you can see one of Africa’s most elusive beasts. If you’re tired of sitting back and watching animals, the Great Rift Valley is also a great spot to get active. The thrillingly named Hell’s Gate National Park has some out-of-this-world scenery. Here, you can go rock climbing, trek along dusty paths or rent a bike to explore. The landscape here is said to have been the inspiration for the Disney classic, The Lion King — can you spot Pride Rock?

A view of a mountain range with clouds in the sky.

Check out the fun of downtown Nairobi

Every year, thousands of people visit Kenya without paying any attention to the country’s capital. Even if your attention is drawn to the animals in the game reserves, it’s still worth checking out Nairobi, the biggest city in East Africa. You might just be pleasantly surprised! This is a thriving, modern city with some of the best nightlife you’ll find anywhere on the continent.

Some of the sights worth exploring in Nairobi include the Utamaduni Shops, where you can buy handmade, local crafts to support Kenyan artisans. There’s also the Karen Blixen Museum, dedicated to the author of the classic novel Out of Africa. For a meal that you’ll never forget, stop at the Carnivore Restaurant, where fresh game is always on the menu. Vegans might want to give this one a miss!

City skyline under a white sky during the day.

Join animal conservation efforts in Nairobi

The Kenyan people are determined to protect their beautiful wildlife, even in the face of adversity. Even in the capital city, you’ll find some of the best wildlife-related things to see in Kenya! Start with a visit to the Giraffe Centre. You’ll see plenty of giraffes roaming the savannah elsewhere in the country, but this remarkable breeding centre is dedicated to the rare Rothschild’s giraffe. It’s been going strong since the 1970s. Visitors today can feed giraffes from a viewing platform, experiencing the excitement of getting super close to these gentle giants.

Another place that’s high on our list of Nairobi’s what-to-see places is Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage. Despite the name, you’ll find more than just elephants here. This orphanage is also a nursery for baby rhinos. The goal here is to raise these animals to adulthood and then release them back into the wild. You can watch the staff feeding the baby animals and learn more about them. If you’d like, you can even sponsor a young rhino or elephant. You’ll get regular updates as the animal grows up and eventually leaves the sanctuary.

Three elephants walking on the grass field during the day.

Take an epic cross-country train journey

The train from Nairobi to Mombasa was once a sluggish overnight sleeper, nicknamed the Lunatic Express. If that doesn’t sound like it deserves a spot on your list of Kenya sightseeing activities, then don’t worry! It has been completely overhauled in the last decade, and now there’s a sleek, modern train that takes four and a half hours to travel between Kenya’s two largest cities.

This isn’t the kind of luxury train journey you’ll find elsewhere, but if you splash out on first-class tickets, you’ll have a nice buffet car. Even in economy class, the seats are comfortable, and a snack cart will pass up and down the aisles. Try to snag a window seat, as the views from the train are one of the highlights. You’ll be passing through the Kenyan wilderness, so the chances of spotting wildlife are high.

Two antelopes standing on a dirt road under a bridge.

Take a walk through the Old Town of Mombasa

Nairobi is a thrilling modern city, but Mombasa also earns its place on our list of the best things to see in Kenya. For centuries, this historic port city was a trade hub where Africans, Europeans and Arabs came together. Even in the 21st century, it still has a unique, magical vibe that makes it well worth seeing.

When strolling around, you’ll notice that some of the most interesting buildings in Mombasa Old Town date back to the turn of the 20th century, including the Old Post Office and the Africa Hotel. You might want to wander alone through the streets, but hiring a guide will help you appreciate more about these historic tourist sites in Kenya.

Although Kenya is mostly Christian, Mombasa has a significant Muslim population. Many local women will be fully veiled, although visitors are not required to cover up. Still, we recommend leaving the booty shorts and muscle shirts at home while you explore this traditional city.

Beach line under grey sky.

Hit the waves at Nyali Beach

While you’re in Mombasa, make sure to go to the beach! When most visitors think about Kenya and what to see, they tend to focus on the country’s inland marvels. They’re missing out. There are also some amazing beaches with top-quality surfing, and Nyali Beach is top of the list.

Even if you’re not a surfer, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself here. Just chill out on the pristine sands and admire the views of the ocean, or take a dip in the crystal clear waters. You might well feel like you’re on some Caribbean island rather than in East Africa! Don’t forget your camera, because you’ll want to show all your friends proof of this wonderful beach, which is one of the best things to see in Kenya.

The sun is setting over the ocean with palm trees.

Immerse yourself in history at Fort Jesus Museum

Here’s our final entry for Mombasa. If you’re a history buff, then it’s well worth paying a visit to the Fort Jesus Museum. This fort was built by the Portuguese between 1593 and 1596. It was originally designed to guard Mombasa’s valuable port, but if we’re honest, it didn’t do a great job. It was captured in 1631 and changed hands numerous times over the centuries. At various times, the fort was occupied by the Portuguese, the Arabs and the British. Now, it finally belongs to the Kenyan government!

A trip to Fort Jesus Museum will help you learn more about Kenya’s unique, remarkable history. The valuable port of Mombasa has been captured so many times through the centuries, and as you explore the fort, you’ll learn all about it. It’s also just a very interesting building, with its old, sturdy walls and turrets. No wonder it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A football pitch behind a fence with an ocean view.

Go for a dive in the Indian Ocean

Kenya is full of surprises. Did you know that it offers some world-class scuba diving? Yep, the waters here are just as full of life as the land, so the Indian Ocean is one of the best things to see in Kenya. If you want to explore under the sea, then visit between August and March, as the seas are calmer and you’ll have better visibility.

The best place to go diving in Kenya is the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park. It’s known as the Home of the Dolphins, but you can also spot sea turtles and even whales! Not a diver? Fear not, as you can also strap on your snorkel and stay close to the surface.

Dolphin jumping into ocean water during the day.

Watch the sunset from a dhow boat

In centuries gone by, you would have seen thousands of dhows sailing the waters between Kenya and the Arabian Peninsula. These traditional Arabian sailboats have all but disappeared, but you’ll still find them in the area around Lamu Island.

A few companies offer dhow tours, taking you between tiny islands and letting you admire the views across the Indian Ocean. Go late in the day for a spectacular sunset you’ll never forget!

Relax on the beach at Diani

Tired after all your safari fun? There’s only one thing for relaxation! Head to Diani, in the south of the country. This is where you’ll find great beaches and even better watersports. Try your hand at kitesurfing, snorkelling and stand-up paddleboarding, or just sit back in a sunlounger and admire some photos of your Kenyan adventures if you’re feeling tired. Order yourself your favourite cocktail — you deserve it!

A sandy beach with chairs and thatched huts.

Non that you know all the best things to see in Kenya, why not join us for this 10-day odyssey across Kenya? You’ll see some of the country’s most beautiful animals and epic landscapes. We’re ready to explore this majestic corner of East Africa — are you coming with us?

If you love this wonderful continent, also read our article on What to see in South Africa!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team