Maybe your intrigue with an African adventure started way back with the dramatic opening of “The Lion King,” or maybe it began after you saw photos of the majestic elephants in global publications like National Geographic. No matter where your inspiration originated, taking trips to Kenya is the way to fulfill your dreams of wilderness and wildlife. Whether trekking across the highs and lows of the landscape on a Kenya safari or immersing in the uniquely, traditional lifestyles of the Maasai, Samburu, Turkana, Swahili, or Kikuyu communities, the warmth of the sunrise over the stunning savannahs will welcome you each day to an unforgettable experience.
From dynamic and overwhelming cities to life-changing and serene natural parks, the things to do in Kenya are unstoppable. Named after the second-tallest mountain on the continent, Mt. Kenya, the country is essentially synonymous with adventure. Now the tough part — how to plan adventures in Kenya that takes you to all of its peaks, valleys, and savannahs!
The capital of Nairobi and oldest city of Mombasa are adventures in themselves, full of diverse populations and vibrant histories at the crossroads of African and Arab cultures. While it’s wise to be wary in these bustling urban centers, starting Kenyan trips with a stay or volunteer program here will provide an understanding of modern Kenya and a fascinating contrast to your voyages into the less (human) populated regions in the countryside beyond.
For those whose passions lie in the outdoors and with animals that they can now see outside of the zoo, there is no better place for adventure than the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Known for the Great Migration of animals to and from Tanzania’s Serengeti, this protected area is the prime place for a Kenya safari alongside zebras, gazelles, wildebeest, and hippos. At the center of conservation efforts, this national park and its surreal surroundings that stretch as far as the eye can see will welcome you to engage with local efforts to preserve the savannah and its inhabitants.
Farther east along the border, trips to Kenya are incomplete without visiting Amboseli National Park, which offers a different look at Kenyan wildlife with its protection of expansive elephant herds. Against the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Maasai people have lived here for centuries alongside other wildlife, like lions and cheetahs. An adventure further inland will lead you to the smaller city of Nakuru and the surrounding Great Rift Valley. Here you’ll take a journey beneath hundreds of protected bird species and alongside a sea of pink flamingos amidst the beauty of the protected nearby lake.
Adventure Travel in Kenya
As a foreigner traveling in Kenya, the entire country is your playground for adventure, excitement, and exploration of the unknown. With a diverse topography, Kenya’s climate ranges from the tropics of the Equator to temperate and desert zones along the borders. While variation in the weather won’t make or break your trip, for wildlife sightings, plan your African adventure from June to October.
Nature tours and eco tours dominate the adventure travel scene in Kenya due to the thrilling opportunity to get up close and personal with the majestic beasts of the pride. While most tours start or end in Nairobi, you’ll quickly get out into the open spaces you crave on your African safari adventure. Look for programs that meet your expectations for hiking and trekking versus spending time in a jeep or van to transport to different game-viewing points around Kenya’s large and spread out National Parks.
If you prefer more hands-on adventures, plenty of programs will capture your energy and enthusiasm to dedicate towards the conservation, medical, and educational efforts happening in Kenya. Located in various villages, wildlife preserves, and the heart of Kenya’s cities, you’ll be thrilled by the opportunity to see the culture and climate of change and development taking place around the country.
Another way to become one with the wild in Kenya is to take advantage of its vast landscape to stare up at the infinite stars while camping. With the sounds of nature and thousands of years of evolution surrounding you, you’ll feel both part of something immensely big and like an impossibly small spec, all at the same time.
Costs & Affordability
Deriving from its latest period of colonization by the British, the Kenyan currency is the shilling. If you’re coming from the U.S. or EU, you’ll get quite far with KSh. When it comes to accommodation, souvenirs, and food, Kenya is a very friendly destination for budget adventurers who seek to explore without breaking the benki, or bank. The trick to keeping your costs low on an adventure in Kenya comes when you venture outside of the cities to access the natural wonders of the country. If you’re wondering what the best things to do in Kenya are, signing up for an adventure travel program — even if it’ll cost you a bit more — tops the list.
Unfortunately, the costs to enter and pay for transportation to and from Kenya’s most famous national park attractions can be the steepest costs of your trip. If a Kenya safari is a central part of your itinerary, look for programs that include transportation and accommodation to surpass logistical concerns and rising prices as the country’s tourism industry grows. Also, beware of the single supplement fee charged for solo travelers by some programs and local African safari adventure providers. However, don’t fear; with some research and fundraising, trips to Kenya will be as breezy as the wind whipping across the savannah.
Accommodation & Visas
There are a host of options when it comes to affordable accommodations on Kenya tours. Backpackers, or hostels, are abundant around the national parks and in the cities. Sleeping in the parks requires an additional fee, so you’ll likely rely on a matatu minibus, public bus, private, or program transport to get back to your homebase. Depending on the depths of your adventurous spirit, choose a program that arranges accommodation in more rustic campsites or slightly more upscale eco-lodges. Before you head out for a day of game viewing or a long bus ride, be sure to use available toilets and bring along toilet paper to avoid the pits or hagglers at gas station tops.
You can’t experience all the *musts* for things to do in Kenya without a visa; the process can be handled online using the eVisa system. Independent travelers are required to pay the fee of $50 for single entry and $100 for multiple entry in US dollars. The system requires applicants to upload a passport photo and authorities may require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccine prior to entry. While adventure travel program providers may not cover the visa fee and process in Kenya, they are likely to advise on the process and ensure you have all necessary materials prior to joining the group. For questions, contact the closest Kenyan Embassy using the GoAbroad Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Culture shock. Especially if this is your first trip to Africa, some aspects of your adventures in Kenyan culture might initially get your goat — potentially even the large amount of goat meat in Kenyan cuisine. From the country’s stark gap in wealth to the sharp differences between the loud, congested city and quiet, isolating nature, Kenya is a country of contrasts. Even if only there for a short time, you’ll be forced to reflect on your place between the extremes. Within a few days though, the adrenaline of adventure will allow you to adjust by getting in touch with your laid-back side and immersing into African time and all the excitement of this remarkable country and continent.
Adventure of a Lifetime. It’s likely that your decision to look at adventure travel programs in Kenya was inspired by a desire to experience something EPIC. If so, you’re in the right place, and Kenya is known for being a life-changing destination. WPrepare for your eyes to be opened and to consider some pretty existential questions as you witness the alliance of humanity, the animal kingdom, and some of the most beautiful, protected nature on our planet.
Adventure travel in Kenya is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and be a part of the amazing story of our species. As you connect with people and animals from this friendly and curious country, you’ll soon find yourself singing the “Circle of Life” with a new meaning. Start making your plans to see the world anew by planning to travel Kenya!