Located at the heart of East Africa, Kenya is one of the most famous countries on the continent for good reason. With so many things to do in Kenya, it offers an incredible wealth of attractions and an excellent tourist infrastructure which allows for easy access to different regions. English is common throughout which also makes things a little more simple. While local transport leaves a lot to be desired, car rental is affordable and organized tours are common.
Nairobi, the capital, is a major hub for flights so it is likely you will arrive here without any hassle. Once you do, taking a taxi straight to your accommodation is also easily done in Arrivals. Starting in Nairobi, this travel itinerary will cover most of the main attractions and best things to do in Kenya before finishing on the white sands of Mombasa. If you wish to continue your East African adventure, you can then head north into Ethiopia.
Things to Do in Kenya: Day 1 & 2 – Nairobi
Nairobi may not sound like the most appealing place in the world but much of this unsavory reputation is unwarranted. The city is actually a lot safer than you might think. Yes, the township of Kibera has high crime rates, and as an urban area, it is quite overpopulated. For tourists, however, most of these issues remain out of sight.
In fact, most visitors are surprised by the friendly nature of locals and what seems like a very welcoming destination. Furthermore, there are many things to do in Nairobi which makes it worthy of at least one full day. The attractions are within easy reach of each other meaning you can pretty much see everything, should this be your aim.
David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is one of the most successful conservation programs in Africa. Established by the ex warden of Tsavo National Park, David Sheldrick, the trust was set up to rescue and then raise orphaned elephants.
Watching the keepers interact with these baby elephants is truly a heartwarming experience. The guides are incredible when it comes to explaining the history of each animal. At $10 entrance fee, it is one of the most value-driven things to do in Nairobi.
Although the nearby Giraffe Manor is more famous than the organization itself, the Giraffe Sanctuary is close behind the elephant orphanage in terms of success. The nearby manor is famous for the opportunity to dine with giraffes as they poke their necks in the window at breakfast each morning.
Featuring up to ten giraffes at one time, the Giraffe Sanctuary is a great place to learn about this beautiful creature. Visitors can also assist with taking care of the animals. At the top of a staircase, you can feed these giraffes some pellets and every hour, there is an educational talk which is free of charge.
Other Attractions in Nairobi
It is possible to take a tour of the townships in Nairobi or even a self drive safari in Nairobi National Park. Yet, the Karen Blixen museum is arguably the most interesting attraction aside from the two conservation efforts above. Once home to the famous writer and author of “Out of Africa”, the museum is a great insight into what it was like to live in Africa during colonial times. The option to enjoy afternoon tea here should be irresistible to most tourists.
Day 3, 4 & 5 – Maasai Mara
Incredibly, the Maasai Mara is almost the same size as the country of Ireland. It is also one of the most famous National Parks in the world. “The Big Five”(Cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos) roam these lands so you can expect ample wildlife as well as an encounter with the Maasai people.
Recently welcomed back to the region by the government, the Maasai Tribe own the grazing rights to this region. In fact, they share the land with these animals, many of them dangerous, which leads to inevitable conflict on occasion. On your way into the Mara, it is possible to take a tour of a local village to learn more about their traditions. While this can feel slightly touristy, the opportunity should not be missed.
That being said, the true highlight is always the animals. With a wide range of accommodations to choose from, the experience is different in every case. Take for example the Sarova Lodge and Aruba Camp. Both of these accommodation are in the Mara but the first is protected by electric fences, while animals are known to roam inside Aruba Camp. Either way, the choice is yours.
As for the game drive, nothing is ever guaranteed on safari but the population of wildlife is very healthy in the Maasai Mara. This means that you will probably get to see most of what you had in mind. After taking such a long and bumpy journey into the region, staying for two nights is an absolute minimum to enjoy the experience.
Day 6 & 7 – Nakuru (Lake Nakura National Park)
Lake Nakura was once known as the breeding place for thousands of pink flamingos. Today, it is still populated with many animals in spite of the fact that the flamingos have immigrated. You will find lion and leopard in the park but the reason for visiting is that this by far is the best opportunity to spot black rhino. The park is fenced but at the same time, it is stunning. The lake views from Baboon Cliff are nothing short of breathtaking.
There are many hotels in the town of Nakuru which was once the capital of Kenya. However, the best places to stay are either the cottages at Kembu Camp or the very cheerful Punda Millias Camp just outside of the town.
Days 8, 9 & 10 – Lake Naivasha (Hells Gate & Crater Lake National Park)
The highest concentration of birds is just one reason Naivasha is so popular. With a seemingly endless lineup of lakeside resorts, the accommodation is always impressive, from Fishermans Camp and Carnelly’s to Crayfish and Marina Camp.
While here, you can take adventure tours to remote places in the region such as Eburru Forest. However, the best things to visit in Naivasha are undoubtedly Hells Gate National Park and Crater Lake National Park. Elsamere and nearby Mount Longonot also offer another way to enjoy time next to the lake.
Hells Gate National Park
An interesting fact about Hells Gate National Park is that many scenes from the movie Tomb Raider were filmed here. The nature of the canyon is truly majestic! Did you know that this park was also the inspiration for Pride Rock in “the Lion King”? Interestingly, Hells Gate is the only National Park through which you can ride a bicycle. This allows you to get up closer to the wildlife as it takes them much longer to hear the sound of a bicycle rather than a vehicle.
Crater Lake National Park
On the western end of Lake Naivasha, Crater Lake is indeed a beautiful body of water inside a crater. Yet, this is not the real attraction! Surrounded by animals and consisting of some beautiful flora, the park comes to life on a game walk which again, allows you to get right up close to the animals. While there are hyena and even leopard in the park , this is a perfectly safe thing to do in the company of a professional guide.
George and Joy Adamson were world famous in the 1970’s. Having written the book “Born Free” Joy was even invited to meet the Queen of England but the story in itself is just as fascinating. After shooting a lioness in Tsavo National Park, George Adamson found some lion cubs in the bush. He took them home to Joy, who decided to raise one of the cubs on their property. Today you can visit their lakeside home and enjoy afternoon tea as monkeys swing from the trees above.
It may look like Everest from the ground but the hike to Mount Longonot Crater takes just over two hours. You can opt for a guided walk if you wish but the trail is well marked and animals are quite scarce around the mountain. Reaching the top of this crater is truly an unforgettable moment as panoramic views span across the Kenyan landscape and the immense crater opens up down below. Consisting of just an entry fee, this is also a relatively cheap thing to do in Naivasha.
Days 11, 12 & 13 – Mombasa
After spending time on the move, spotting game and adventuring in National Parks, it is time to relax. The white sandy coastline of Kenya is perfect for that. Central Mombasa is also quite a nice and historic place to explore for a day. Undoubtedly, the best way to spend time here, is next to Diani Beach.
Whether you opt for a cheap hostel, luxury lodge or something in between, the sands are like white powder and entirely free to enjoy. The restaurants here feature world class food at low prices, and the bars are lively should you want to party in between. Just keep in mind that Diani Beach is popular for good reason. Without prior reservations, it can be difficult to find somewhere decent to stay.
Having made the journey all the way out to Mombasa, it makes sense to stay here as long as possible. Three days, however, should be a good amount of time to sample what this area has to offer.
Day 14 – Travel to Ethiopia for More Adventures
A great distance lies between Kenya and Ethiopia. This can be seen in two ways, either as a very long time on the road or an adventure through stunning wilderness. Expect bumpy rides, packed buses and cramped conditions but with the right attitude, you can also expect a memorable part of the journey. Alternatively, there are always flights from Nairobi to Addis Ababa or connections from Mombasa if you decide to travel directly from the coast by air. The choice of how you get there is entirely yours.
If you would like to continue exploring East Africa further, check out the Two Weeks in Ethiopia Itinerary. This would be a logical continuation of your African adventures!
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