As we headed out of lodge, all eyes were peeled on the bush to see who would spot the first animal and we had only travelled a few hundred metres when I thought I saw movement. Quickly beckoning our driver to stop, a magnificent lion emerged from the bush and walked slowly in front of our vehicle without a care in the world, meanwhile our bodies were pumping with adrenaline!
I had travelled to Kenya in search of the ‘Big Five’ (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard), and I wasn’t disappointed. However, it is important to know that you will need to travel to different parks to see a variety of species. For example, who knew there are different species of giraffe and zebra, let alone the fact that they, and other species are only found in certain parks. Let's delve deeper into this:
At just 500sqm (compared to the Serengeti’s 12,000sqm), the Maasai Mara is an ideal national park for your safari as the concentration of wildlife is high. If you happen to be there during the peak of the migration, you will also see several thousand wildebeest! It is worth noting that not all wildebeest, zebra and antelope ‘migrate’. Wildlife here includes: The Big Five, Maasai Giraffe (distinguished by jagged, irregularly shaped brown patches on their hide, which extend all the way down to their hooves), Plains zebra (with its broad black and white stripes wrapping around its whole body), Black Rhino, Spotted hyena, serval and cheetah.
Lake Nakuru, a soda lake, is home to four of the big five (no elephant) and its sanctuary supports a large population of the endangered white rhino. However, it's perhaps best known for its thousands of flamingos nesting along the shores and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park was originally gazetted as a bird sanctuary in the 1960’s and is now surrounded by an electric fence to protect the rhinos, and so all animals remain within the park year-round. The endangered Rothschild Giraffe have no markings on their lower legs and were named after Lionel Walter, the 2nd Baron Rothschild. Other wildlife at Lake Nakuru includes Waterbuck, Colobus monkeys, impala, and hyena.
Image credit: Emily Fraser
Together with the neighbouring Samburu and Buffalo Springs, Shaba is in Kenya's Northern Frontier Province, a rugged and little visited region. The region is best known for the rare Samburu Five - Gerenuk, the Reticulated giraffe (with its rich orange-brown patches defined by a network of striking white lines, which continue the entire length of their legs), the Somali ostrich, the Grevy's zebra (with its large, rounded ears and white belly), and the Beisa oryx. Wildlife here includes The Big Five, striped hyena, lesser kudu, and eland.
Image credit: Kenn OB
Formed by volcanic activity, Lake Naivasha is freshwater lake that is famous for its large populations of over 1,500 hippos. Joy Adamson, the author of Born Free, lived on the shores of the lake in the mid-1960. Along with over 400 bird species, Maasai giraffe, Grant’s zebra (sub-species of the Plains zebra), impala, and waterbuck can also be sighted in the immediate vicinity.
Located in southern Kenya and covering 151 square miles of land, Amboseli National Park has perfect views of the snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro. It is known for its large number of elephants, with some herds numbering up to 100. Wildlife here includes the Big Five, Spotted hyena, banded mongoose, Kirk's Dik Dik, Maasai giraffe and the Hyrax, which although it resembles rodents, their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees!
It's clear that the incredible Kenya has so much to offer. From the heart-pounding encounter with a majestic lion to discovering the hidden gems of different parks, Kenya offers a tapestry of experiences. Uncover Kenya's stunning national parks and reserves on one of our Kenya Small Group Tours.
Image credit: Wendy Ronksley (unless otherwise stated)