Parks & Game Reserves in Kenya

MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE:
Kenya’s premier wildlife park is Masai Mara National Reserve. The park was originally established in 1948 as a wildlife sanctuary and covered only 520 sq km of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. In 1961 the area was extended to the east to cover 1,821 km and converted to a Game Reserve to protect wildlife from hunters.

The park is named after the Maasai people and their description of the area when looked at from afar. In Maa, (the Maasai language), Mara means spotted - which perfectly describes the circles formed by trees, scrub, savannah and the cloud shadows that float across the land. The Masai Mara National Reserve lies in the Great Rift Valley. The rift through the valley is a fault line that is about 3,500 miles (5600 km) long, and extends from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and ending in Mozambique.

The valley is wide and is enclosed by a towering escarpment. Most of the game viewing occurs on the valley floor. Masai Mara is made up of hilly grassland which is fed by plentiful rain, especially during the wet months between November and June. The areas bordering the Mara River are forested and are home to hundreds of bird species. Masai Mara is also famous for its exceptional population of big cats and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeest from the Serengeti every July to October.

The park lies about 270 km from Nairobi and the journey to Masai Mara takes 4 to 5 hours by road. One can also catch a 45-minute flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. They have two daily scheduled flights which land in one of the three airstrips - Keekorok, Olkiombo or Musiara.

Masai Mara has the highest concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five - elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Other animals that an adventure-lover can see in this amazing park are; cheetah, zebra, antelope, wildebeest, oribis, hyena, giraffe, warthog, gazelle, hartebeest, hippo, topi, and baboon. Crocodiles are seen regularly in the Mara River. The park has the largest concentration of African lions, including the rarer black-mane lions. For avid bird watchers birdlife is as plentiful as wildlife. The Mara is home to over 400 different bird species which include large birds like the secretary bird, crowned crane, long-crested eagles, vultures, hornbills, and marabou storks.

TSAVO WEST & EAST:
The park lies in the Southern part of the country and covering an area of approximately 21,000sq.Km. The park is bisected by the Nairobi - Mombasa Rail and road Link. The East comprising of vast plains of scrubland is the most un spoilt due to its general inaccessibility. With the Aruba & Mutanda rocks being the only natural attractions of the area. Tsavo west is easily accessible with good roads and its environment is well watered with volcanic soil supporting a vast quantity & diversity of plants & animal life. The main attractions are mzima springs, a favourite haunt for hippo & crocodile. There are many tourist attractions at Tsavo West National Park, including bird watching safaris to see the red-skinned elephants, boating and hiking in the hills. This park covers 7065 km

AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK:
Amboseli National Park is 260 km from Nairobi. It’s one of the oldest parks in Kenya, located near the Kenya/Tanzania border, at the foot of Africa’s highest snow-capped mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. The park is a popular safari destination because of its rich wildlife population and excellent bird watching. Over 400 bird species live here, including crakes, and a variety of water birds like pelicans and kingfishers.

Amboseli was declared a National Reserve in 1968 and became a National Park in 1974. The park covers 392 square kilometers with a varied topography of acacia woodlands, swamps, rocky thorn bushes and plains. The park is renowned for its huge herds of African elephants which number more than 900. Amboseli is home to wild animals which include: wildebeest, lion, zebra, monkey, jackals, antelopes, leopard, cheetah, warthog, nocturnal porcupine, buffalo and giraffe.

The Amboseli territory belongs to the land of the Maasai, a legendary tribe of nomadic warriors and herdsmen. The Maasai community is well-known for maintaining their traditions and culture. The Maasai still live in the reserve surrounding the park, grazing their herds on the plains and moving their households to search for the best pastures.

The park provides the traveler with plentiful memories because it offers some of the best game-viewing opportunities in Kenya. Amboseli has sparse vegetation due to long dry seasons, providing open vistas for spotting animals. The climate in this region is dry and hot, even though it is sitting in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. The temperature varies slightly throughout the year. The best time to visit this park is in January, February and June, although there are animals all year long.

ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK:
This high altitude National Park was created to protect the slopes and moorlands of the Aberdare Mountains. The park has an area of 767 square kilometers covering the higher areas of the Aberdare Mountain Range of central Kenya. The altitude ranges from 1,892 meters (6500 feet) to 4001 meters (13,00 feet) above the sea level. Aberdare National Park is located 180 km from Nairobi. This park’s topography is quite diverse with deep ravines that cut through the forested eastern and western slopes. Animals that can be seen in this park include: the black rhino (A main feature in this park), baboon, leopard, black and white Colobus monkey, and Sykes monkey. There are also rare sightings of lions, the golden cats and the bongo. Elands, spotted and Melanistic serval cats can be found higher up in the moorlands. Travelers can also enjoy picnics, trout fishing in the rivers and camping in the moorlands. For the bird lovers bird viewing is rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in this park which include: hawks, sunbirds, goshawks, eagles and plovers.

Although Aberdare is close to the equator, the altitude governs the climate. It’s cooler than the lower plains and coastal areas and very misty and rainy year round. Great game viewing in this park is offers a unique experience.

Nairobi National Park:

Nairobi National Park is one of the oldest National Parks in Kenya. The park was established in 1946. It’s smaller compared to many of other Kenya parks but do not underestimate it because it’s unique and wonderful. The park covers 117 km, and it consists of typical, original, Kenyan landscape such us plains, forests, steep gorges and lush vegetation along the banks of Embakasi River. Nairobi is the only city in the world which borders a natural game protection area harboring more than 100 species of mammals, a short 7 km from the city center. The savannah eco-system provides food, shelter and water for many diverse animals. The park is best known for its important black rhino sanctuary. This is the best place to see these endangered animals in their native environment. There are no elephants in this national park but the rest Big Five can be seen: lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard. Other frequently-seen animals include eland, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest.

To the south of the park is the Athi-kapiti Plains and the Kitengela Migration and Dispersal Area, where herbivores gather during the rains and are found in high concentration in the dry season.

SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE:
Samburu National Reserve is a rugged and semi-desert area located in Samburu district in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Both animal and birdlife abound. It’s approximately 104 km in size and is roughly 350 km north of Nairobi. This unfenced savannah derives its name from the Samburu people of Kenya who have lived in the area for many years. The reserve was one of the two areas in which conservationists George and JoyAdamson raised Elsa, the lioness of the bestselling book and the award-winning movie, Born Free. Samburu is also a home of Kamunyak, a lioness famous for adopting an Oryx calf. This reserve is unique, very peaceful and has many birds and animals, attracted by the Uaso Nyiro River that runs through its arid and semi-arid lands. The topography includes acacia, riverine forest, thorn trees and grassland vegetation. A traveler can encounter all the three big cats - lion, cheetah and leopard - as well as buffalo, hippos and elephants. Other mammals seen in this park include: Grant gazelle, gerenuk, warthogs, dikdik, impala, waterbuck, rhino, and the beautiful reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra, both unique to this area. There are over 350 bird species which include: yellow-billed hornbill, vultures, kingfishers, bee-eaters, Somali ostrich, sunbirds and secretary birds. The reserve is also famous for its large elephant population. The endangered pancake tortoise can be found in this reserve.

The forests along the riverbank are good for awakening the spirit of adventure in a traveler. The park’s vegetation is a combination of arid plains and dense woodland along the riverbanks of Ewaso Nyiro River. The arid and semi-arid environment means hot days and cool nights. Average high temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius, (86 Fahrenheit). Most of the rain falls between March and May and short rains fall from November through December.

LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK:
This small but amazing national park was established to protect the huge colonies of flamingoes and the endangered species of white rhino and Rothschild giraffe. The lake also offers a peaceful sanctuary to large numbers of native African animals like waterbuck, warthogs, impala, buffalo, endangered black rhino, and eland. There is also a large herd of hippos in the northern part of the lake, making one’s game viewing varied and unforgettable.

Lake Baringo
Located in the Great Rift Valley, with a semi arid climate, thus place is a haven of peace in harsh and rugged but scenic surrounding. Hippos & crocodiles are plentiful. This area has abundant birdlife with over 400 species having been reported. Bird watching is done on foot or by boat. Other leisure activities include visiting the local people village, fishing & many water sports.

Lake Naivasha
100Km away from Nairobi, the lake is a recreation centre for the Nairobi city dwellers. Activities including water sports, boating & fishing. The lakeside is used for growing high quality flowers & other horticultural products for export. The lake is a bird watchers paradise as over 300 species have been sighted. The bird life is more generous from October to March but the African fish, Eagle, whose hunting skills remain as an attraction for the lake visitors, takes pride of the lake.

Aberdare National Park
The Aberdares are an isolated Volcanic range that firms the Eastern wall of the Rift Valley running approximately 100km north-south between Nairobi and Thompson falls. The vegetation is mountain rain forest, moorlands & thick bamboo forest & sub alpine plants. The park has numerous streams and rivers that cascade into beautiful waterfalls. This is home to the elephant buffalo, lion, rhino, leopard, eland, bushbucks, colobus and sykes monkeys.

Mount Kenya National Park
Mount Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano dominating the landscape of the Kenyan highlands. East of the rift Valley Mr. Kenya lies 140km North-East of the Mountain has two main peaks - Batian (5200m) & Nelion (5188m). The mountain slopes are cloaked in forest, central peaks to rock ice & snow. This is an important water catchment area, supplying the tana & Northern Ewaso Nyiro System.