Besides discovering what the secret to a happy life is according to the Kenyans we also visited the best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya. To be honest, Kenya has some of the best beaches in the world so we also treated ourselves to some beach time at Diani Beach near Mombasa. We have visited Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru and the mesmerizing Masai Mara.
Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
No self-drive but an organized safari
We had been on a Safari before during our road trip along the Garden Route in South Africa. The Addo Elephant Park was our first safari ever and we were so excited! It’s is a park that is perfect for self-drives and there is an abundance of animals. Especially elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, and antelopes are all around. Unfortunately spotting the big 5 is impossible in this park.
For Kenya, we choose a safari organized by Natural Tours and Safaris and we must say that we are glad we did. Roads in Kenya are not the best in the world and a cool four-wheel drive Landrover Jeep is needed both in and outside the parks. Our guide Daniël proved to be a master wildlife spotter and expert. He is also a walking encyclopedia, or should we say walking Google these days, and taught us everything about history and traditions of this majestic country. We booked the package with stays at Sopa Lodges. Not the cheapest option but they have amazing hideaways in the midst of these beautiful parks.
Natural tours and safaris jeep – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
The first park on our jealous making schedule is Amboseli National Park. It is a pretty small park at around 400 km² but with an elephant population of over 1500. This is one of the highest concentrations of elephants of all of the African national parks. It is relatively flat but with a lot of water and packed with animals. We have seen numerous elephants, giraffes, and zebras. We were lucky spotting some young lionesses and hippo families from a distance.
Our favorite activity in this park was watching giraffes and elephants bathing in the swamps.
The zebras were grazing nearby and their stripes create a hypnotizing pattern that makes you want to watch them all day
Please, please can we stay here for one more minute … or two … or three … or all day long!!
It is not the best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya because they just don’t have all the animals but it is a park you must not miss.
Highlights Amboseli – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
Imagine yourself drinking a Tusker on the terrace just before you go to bed and suddenly a 1500 kilo hippo walks up the stairs from the lake to have some dinner in the garden. That is what happens every night at the Elsamere Conservation Centre & Lodge on the shores of Lake Naivasha. And if that is not enough almost every night some zebra’s wake you up fighting over their midnight snack 5 meters from your bed. And while having breakfast in the garden don’t let the giraffes or one of the Colobus monkeys grab your perfectly poached egg.
Lake Naivasha is where dreams come true
It is not a park where you drive around with a Jeep. You need a boat to take you on to the silver-blue water. At first glance, the lakes may look boring but don’t let the look of it fool you. Within minutes you see groups of hippos all around you and so close that you can almost touch them. In the trees around the lake, there are many fish eagles ready to take off for their breakfast. And if that is not enough, take a look at the shores. Wow! Zebra’s, giraffes, buffaloes and thousands of pelicans!
Highlights Lake Naivasha – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
The third park to visit is Lake Nakuru, a park that plays host to a fantastic variety of game and good sightings are virtually guaranteed. Lake Nakuru is close to Nairobi and relatively compact. It has a vast lake at its heart drawing a massive quantity of birdlife. What Lake Nakuru has that the other major parks don’t have is flamingos. The shoreline is often thick with pink flamingos and pelicans fishing the shallows. Lake Nakuru is one of the best places to see Rhino in Kenya and giraffe, buffaloes, zebras, and antelope are all easy to spot.
Giraffes are in all the parks we visited but in Lake Nakuru, we could almost touch these noble and elegant creations.
We were mesmerized by their shape, so elegant, beautiful
The only major wildlife exceptions in the park are crocodiles and elephants, so you cannot tick the box of all the big 5 just visiting this park. We were lucky to see two young lions waiting for their mother in the shade of a desolated tree to bring in a fresh kill of zebra.
Highlights Lake Nakuru – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
This place is heaven. Have you seen the lion king?! This is where they shot the movie. If you are looking for one of the best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya this is it. The chance of encountering the big 5 is one hundred percent plus. The landscape and views take your breath away again and again and again.
The Masai Mara showcases large families of elephants, lions, hippos, and buffalo among other abundant wildlife. When we visited the park in October the incredible annual wildebeest migration, this amazing spectacle where millions of wildebeest and zebra move in search of fresh pasture had already taken place so there were so many animals in the park we couldn’t choose where to look first.
We were grateful to be able to see the big 5 plus some additional gifts of nature including crocodiles, hippos, cheetas and a very rare Serval Cat.
Our favorite park in Kenya
Please be aware that the drive to Masai Mara is not an easy one, to say the least. 70 km over an extremely bumpy dirt road will shake you up more than Taylor Swifts song. They are building a decent road but During our visit in October 2017 it was not ready yet.
Highlights Masai Mara – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya
Visiting a Masai Mara Village
Some say it is a scam others say it is a must do. For us, a visit to Kenya without visiting a Masai Mara village and talking to some tribe members wasn’t complete. The village we visited is a few kilometers from the Masai Mara National Park. We paid around USD 20 per person for a welcome dance and a short guided tour through the village. The village we visited is a real village where one tribe actually lives.
One of the sons of the head of the tribe showed us around and answered all of our questions. We stayed for around 30 minutes but could have stayed longer if we wanted. For us it was nice to hear about their culture, traditions, and dreams in life, but it is hard to say if it is a must do for everyone.
Highlights Masai village visit – Best national parks for spotting the big 5 in Kenya