Kenya

On the surface, Kenya is one of the most accessible and quintessential safari experiences of the African continent. Nairobi’s bustling streets present an ideal, even luxurious destination from which to commence your African vacation. With the Maasai Mara only a day’s drive or brief flight away, and Nairobi, Naivasha and Nakuru National Parks easy day excursions, Kenya may appear to have everything you could wish for within reach of the international airport; and indeed it does – yet Kenya also has so much more to offer.

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activities & experiences

If the common perception of a safari experience is all that you wish for, you will find it in Kenya. Exquisite cultural craft markets, rolling plains, the expanse of the Great Rift Valley and convenient access to game drives and spectacular wildlife await. Yet Kenya also has incredible white-sand beaches, rugged ranges, hostile deserts and vast saline lakes only habitable by vibrant swathes of flamingo. You can visit Kenya and see all you wish to see, but to discover Kenya is to experience landscapes, snow-capped mountains and wildlife beyond your wildest imagination.

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The iconic Maasai Mara lies a little over five hours’ drive west of the international airport at Nairobi, or a brief light aircraft journey. A tented safari on the renowned Mara presents the opportunity for incredible wildlife watching, including elephant, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, gazelle and several big cats.

On Kenya’s East coast you will find Mombasa, itself a modern city, but offering spectacular coastal excursions to the north and south. Though both Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Natron lie predominantly in Kenya’s southern neighbour of Tanzania, they are still accessible from within Kenya’s borders. Stunning views of the mountain’s snowy peak and the northern tip of the salty lake, home only to bright flamboyances of flamingo, can be gained from Amboseli National Park. 

  • Experience the quintessential safari camp on the Maasai Mara
  • Take a horseback excursion across the Ngorongoro highlands
  • Venture to Kenya’s hostile northern reaches by helicopter to take in surreal landscapes and the breathtaking Lake Turkana
  • Hike through the magnificent landscapes and snowy peaks of Mount Kenya
  • Experience the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo
  • Witness the Great Migration, as two million animals journey south
  • Wander amongst the wildlife on Crescent Island at the heart of Lake Naivasha
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destinations

Kenya is a country of surprises. While the Mara is one of its greatest drawcards, its stunning coastline is not to be missed. Likewise, its diversity of lakes offer everything from wallowing hippos and basking crocodiles to uninhabitably-salty shallow-water lakes where flamingo filter-feed upon the plankton that gives them their distinctive color. Africa is not a continent where one might imagine snow, but Africa’s second highest peak, Mount Kenya, is crowned with a gleaming white glacier.

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  • The Maasai Mara. Whether you choose to experience it from the back of a horse, the basket of a balloon or upon your own two feet, the magnificent Mara is simply unmissable. Home to an abundance of nature, it also hosts a large portion of the monumental annual migration of two million wildebeest and zebra, and the predators in land and water that gorge upon this walking banquet. Hosting all of this natural spectacle are the beautiful Maasai people, their warmth, hospitality and colorful traditional dress belying their historically intimidating reputation.
  • Nairobi Day Trips. Though you retain the sense of being in reserves, rather than the great wild expanse, Nairobi, Naivasha and Nakuru National Parks are well worth visiting if you plan to spend a few days in the nation’s capital. Leopard, hippos, monkeys, black rhinoceros and the adorable Thomson’s gazelle are just a handful of the many creatures you will find in these self-drive or guided parks. The Nairobi Giraffe Center is a wonderful excursion for younger travelers, a sanctuary established to breed, rehabilitate and protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe – no relation! 
  • Amboseli National Park. Though this vast national park is named for the traditional name of Empusel – the Maa word for ‘salty, dusty place’ – Amboseli is far from exclusively salty or dusty. Home to an abundance of elephant, Amboseli features lush, sparsely wooded grasslands as well as the more arid regions for which it is named. It also benefits from the landscapes of neighboring Tanzania, with Mount Kilimanjaro rising majestically on the horizon and the northernmost tip of Lake Natron.
  • Tsavo National Park. Divided into two separated parks, the East and the West, Tsavo is simply vast – Kenya’s largest reserve at over 13,500mi² (22,000km²) and one of the world’s largest game sanctuaries. Less frequented, partly due to its prodigious scale, Amboseli is a wonderful choice if searching for a little more seclusion. The nearby Chyulu Hills – affectionately dubbed the ‘green hills of Africa’ – are also a nature lover’s paradise, abundant with wildlife and stunning landscapes to roam. The Chyulu Hills were also the setting for much of the 1985 film Out of Africa, used in place of the historically-correct Ngong Hills.
  • The Lamu Archipelago. If coastal respite is needed on your safari, Lamu and its neighboring islands are highly recommended. Set in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, Lamu is one of the founding settlements of the Kenya’s indigenous Swahili people. The combination of medieval architecture, vibrant culture, tropical beaches and divine cuisine make the Lamu Archipelago equally as fascinating as it is alluring.

accommodations

One of the beauties of accommodation in Kenya is its evocative connection to the past. Colonial lodges match tented camps in a fusion of luxuriously rustic venues that could have you questioning the decade or even the century in which you find yourself. Underlying this is an acute contemporary professionalism presenting a sublime yet subtle decadence in every venue.

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The Mara is well worth an extended stay, such is the abundance of wildlife and experiences on offer. How you seek shelter is as disparate as Kenya’s landscapes. Enjoy a spectacularly private villa for up to 12 people, complete with its own 25-meter pool and views that can’t be matched. Indulge your adventurous spirit with a night or two under canvas, several venues presenting the minimalism of camping, yet with every comfort considered.

Immerse yourself in the verdant rolling Chyulu Hills in a traditionally-constructed lodge with all the trimmings of a five-star hotel. This region presents eclectic opportunities in the heart of Maasai country with the changing landscapes home to a proliferation of wildlife.

For the wildlife enthusiasts, particularly those in favor of a photographic safari, almost any destination is sure to serve equally as advantageous, though some of the smaller camps, particularly along the banks of the Mara river, allow you a voyeuristic view upon untouched nature from the comfort of your own room.

Romance flourishes in the less traveled Laikipia region to Kenya’s north, while opulence abounds on the coast, infused with a multitude of cultural African and Middle-Eastern influences echoing throughout the former spice trade route. Luxury hotels perch graceful atop the coastal hillside, the pure blue waters of the Indian Ocean stretching to infinity from every window.

Cottars Safaris

KENYA ESSENTIALS

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BEST TIME: Jul – Sep coincides with the Great Migration, Christmas is calving season

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CLIMATE: LOW: 50-75ºF (10-23ºC) Jul – Sep / HIGH: 54-82ºF (12-28ºC) Dec – Mar

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SEASONS: DRY: Jun – Oct / WET: Nov – May (Mar-May is peak wet season)

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BEST FOR: Safari first-timers, families, photographers, wildlife enthusiasts

Though Kenya is easily accessible and a wonderful destination for your first safari, to truly make the most of all the country has to offer it is well worth discussing a complete itinerary with your travel designer.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN KENYA?

We advise spending at least a week in Kenya to take advantage of the myriad opportunities available from bush to beach and mountain to valley.

To truly immerse yourself in this wonderful nation, it is highly worthwhile spending at least a long weekend each in one or two of the many more remote camps and lodges available.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

It is advisable not to visit between March and May, being the height of the wet season with the rains somewhat relentless. The remainder of the wetter months usually only present brief showers of little concern. Temperatures remain comparatively consistent throughout the year.

Kenya is recognized as one of the very best destinations for game viewing. That being the case, you will be in the primed destination to witness many of Africa’s most iconic animals. Two times in particular are worth noting: the Great Migration – taking place between July and September – and November to January to enjoy the cute and cuddly newborns gambolling across the plains.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM ACCOMMODATION IN KENYA?

Kenya offers some of Africa’s premier accommodation options within the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, but also in some more remote areas. You can easily day-trip from your hotel for some thoroughly enjoyable, though less immersive, experiences. Kenya has a highly respected culinary reputation and you will not be disappointed. Fine dining can be found in many of the more populous areas, while camps and lodges boast exceptionally talented chefs to cater to any palate, with Western dishes, world cuisine and local specialities all on offer.  Kenya is one of the most tourist-appropriate destinations in Africa and as such is well equipped for visitors throughout every aspect of your journey.

OTHER DETAILS:

Visas are not required for most visitors, but inoculations may be recommended. We suggest you contact your travel designer or a travel medicine specialist for advice.

Swahili is the national language of Kenya and you may well recognize some now-famous phrases, such as the Lion King song ‘Hakuna Matata’, which really does mean ‘no worries’ (or more directly translated, ‘no troubles’). That said, English is widely spoken. If you plan to shop at any markets, a few courteous words of Swahili (such as jambo ndugu rafiki, or ‘hello good friend’) will save you a few shillings – the national currency.

Kenyan shillings may not be taken from the country, so budget well or donate your remaining currency to charity or offer as tip.


WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing. 

- Amy Lundberg

We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome! 

- Betsy Robertson

Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.

- Dawn Jacobs

It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.

- George Kowalski

My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.

- Jackie Smith

Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding. 

Jamie Scarlett

On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.

Joe Moravec

Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted! 

Kim Mather

Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.

Lisa Anderson

It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.

Mary & Rob Johannigman (& family)