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  • Photograph of Saddle-billed Stork

    A fabulous Saddle-billed Stork photographed in the Masai Mara by Steve Garvie.

    KENYA

    Best Wildlife in Kenya

    Mammals
    Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Elephant, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, White (reintroduced) and Black Rhinoceroses, Spotted and Striped Hyaenas, Burchell's and Grevy's Zebras, Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk, Blue Wildebeest, African Buffalo, (Eastern) Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, Olive and Yellow Baboons, Bat-eared Fox, African Wild Cat, Spring Hare, Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew, Common Genet, Bushbaby (Greater Galago), Eland, Lesser and Greater Kudus, Waterbuck, Topi, Hartebeest, Impala, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, Sitatunga, Klipspringer and Yellow-winged Bat. Also a chance of Caracal, Serval, Aardvark, Aardwolf, Sable, Giant Forest Hog and Crested Porcupine, and an outside chance of Dugong and Ground Pangolin.

    Photograph of Martial Eagle

    Martial Eagle, one of the numerous impressive raptors in Kenya, by Marie-France Grenouillet.

    Birds

    Endemics
    Williams's Lark, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Hinde’s Babbler, Aberdare Cisticola and Clarke's Weaver. Additionally, Tana River Cisticola is virtually unknown in the field and some taxonomists also treat Taita Thrush, Taita Apalis and Taita White-eye as full species, while others even think the white-eye on Mount Kulal, an extinct volcano east of Lake Turkana, is a full species (rather than Montane or Yellow).

    Other Specialities
    Vulturine Guineafowl, Mountain Buzzard, Jackson's and Red-winged Francolins, Crab Plover, Somali Courser, Sooty Gull, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Fischer's, Hartlaub’s and White-crested Turacos, Sokoke Scops Owl, Northern White-faced Owl, Red-chested Owlet, White-headed Mousebird, Blue-headed and Somali Bee-eaters, Hemprich’s and Jackson's Hornbills, Mombasa Woodpecker, Friedmann's and Pink-breasted Larks, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark, Golden, Malindi and Sokoke Pipits, Pangani Longclaw, Northern Pied Babbler, Little Rock Thrush, Kakamega Greenbul, Black-collared and Chestnut-throated Apalises, White-browed Crombec, Turner's Eremomela, Banded Parisoma, Red-throated Tit, Forest, Pale and Pygmy Batises, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Long-tailed and Taita Fiscals, Black-fronted and Red-naped Bushshrikes, Grey-crested Helmetshrike (watch out for hybrids with White-crested Helmetshrike), Montane Oriole, Abbott's, Bristle-crowned, Fischer's, Golden-breasted, Hildebrandt's, Sharpe's, Slender-billed and Stuhlmann's Starlings, Amani, Golden-winged, Hunter’s, Northern Double-collared, Orange-tufted, Red-chested, Scarlet-tufted Malachite and Tacazze Sunbirds, Golden Palm, Northern Brown-throated, Northern Masked, Jackson’s Golden-backed and Taveta Golden Weavers, Red-headed Bluebill, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Jackson's Widowbird, and Steel-blue and Straw-tailed Whydahs. Also a chance of African Green (Olive) Ibis, Striped Flufftail and Karamoja Apalis.

    Others
    Common (and Somali) Ostriches, Black and Goliath Herons, Saddle-billed Stork, Hamerkop, Lesser and Greater Flamingos (numbers usually peak in Nov-Dec when 1-2 million have been present at Lake Bogoria alone), Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, African Darter, African Spoonbill, White Stork (mostly Nov-Mar), over 50 raptors including vultures, African Fish Eagle, African Crowned, Martial and Verreaux's Eagles, Bateleur, Pygmy Falcon and Secretary Bird, Black Crake, bustards including Kori, Grey Crowned Crane, many shorebirds including Spotted Thick-knee, Blacksmith and Chestnut-banded Plovers, (Pied) Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, African Jacana, Heuglin's and Temminck's Coursers, and Madagascar Pratincole (mostly May-Aug), sandgrouse, pigeons and doves, Fischer's and Yellow-collared Lovebirds (both introduced), Orange-bellied Parrot, Great Blue and Ross's Turacos, owls including Verreaux's Eagle Owl, mousebirds, Narina Trogon, kingfishers including Giant, bee-eaters including (Northern) Carmine and Madagascar (mostly Apr-Sep), Lilac-breasted Roller, Hoopoe, woodhoopoes, hornbills, Southern Ground Hornbill, barbets including Double-toothed and Red-and-yellow, honeyguides, batises, wattle-eyes, Chestnut-fronted, Retz's and White-crested Helmetshrikes, Grey-headed, Sulphur-breasted and Four-coloured Bushshrikes, Black-headed and Papyrus Gonoleks, shrikes, African Paradise Flycatcher, greenbuls, larks, apalises including Black-throated, flycatchers, robin-chats, White-starred and White-throated (mostly Nov-Mar) Robins, scrub-robins, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, starlings including Superb, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, over 20 sunbirds, Rosy-breasted and Yellow-throated Longclaws, Golden-breasted Bunting, Oriole Finch, weavers, widowbirds, bishops, waxbills and whydahs. Also a chance of Rufous-bellied Heron, White-spotted Flufftail, African Finfoot, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Grey Parrot, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill, Green-headed Oriole and Silverbird.

    Photograph of Pygmy Kingfisher

    A stunning photograph of a stunning Pygmy Kingfsher by Martin Goodey.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Nile Crocodile, Whale Shark (mostly Nov-Jan) and many coral reef fish including angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, groupers and wrasses.

    Invertebrates
    Nearly a thousand species of butterfly.

    Other Natural Wonders of Kenya

    Masai Mara-Serengeti The ultimate African plains, covering about 25,000 sq km (9650 sq miles), of which about 1500 sq km (580 sq miles) are in the Masai Mara in Kenya.

    Kilimanjaro The 'mountain that glitters', the translation from Swahili to English, is the highest peak in Africa, rising imposingly over 4600 m (15,000 ft) from the surrounding plains to 5892 m (19,330 ft) above sea level. This huge inactive volcano covers an area of about 100 km (60 miles) by 65 km (40 miles) and dominates the landscape over a huge area. Massive, isolated and snow-capped it looks especially awesome from Amboseli NP in Kenya.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Kenya

    Best Times for Wildlife in Kenya

    The best time to visit in search of mammals is from June to November. The Blue Wildebeest migration depends on the rains but the largest gathering of ungulates (hoofed mammals) in the world takes place in the Serengeti in Northern Tanzania during the wet season which usually lasts from November to May. There are usually one to two million large mammals, mostly wildebeest, in the southeast Serengeti by January and they stay until April, usually calving in February-March when they attract numerous predators. In May-June there is a general movement of animals northwest through the central Serengeti, a time when herds of wildebeest up to 40 km (25 miles) long have been seen from the air. They are heading west toward Lake Victoria and north to the Masai Mara, and about half a million wildebeest as well as numerous Burchell's Zebras and Thomson's Gazelles usually reach the Mara and Talek Rivers in June and July (though sometimes as late as August when they may move back and forth across the Mara several times). Then, at several places along these rivers, they may be seen struggling across, desperately trying to avoid the crocodiles. The wildebeest, zebras and gazelles which make it usually remain in the Mara until October-November when they begin their return to the Serengeti.

    Birding is so good almost any time of the year is worth considering but the peak times are April and November. April is usually the start of the main wet season (which usually lasts until July), a time when many resident birds nest and are therefore at their most active and attractive, whereas November is usually the start of the short wet season (which usually lasts until December), a time when many other resident birds nest, many migrant species are present and flamingo numbers usually peak.

    Recommended Books etc. for Kenya

    Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by T Stevenson and J Fanshawe. Helm, due 2017 (Second Edition).

    Field Guide to the Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by D Pearson et al. Helm, 2005.

    Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by I Sinclair and P Ryan. C Struik, 2011 (Second Edition).

    The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2015 (Second Revised Edition).

    The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2016 (Second Edition).

    Bradt Travel Guides: East African Wildlife by P Briggs. Bradt, 2015 (Second Edition).

    Watching Wildlife: East Africa by M D Firestone et al. Lonely Planet, 2009 (Second Edition).


    Apps etc.

    The Kingdon Guide to African Mammals.

    Audubon African Wildlife.

    eGuide to Birds of East Africa.

    Where to watch birds in Africa by N Wheatley. Helm, 1995.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in Africa? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Kenya

    Many trip reports, some for Kenya, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Kenya. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Kenya' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Kenya

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Kenya

    Some Organized Tours to Kenya

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Kenya include the following.