Taking a safari in the Kenyan jungle is an agenda that tops many people’s bucket lists. Kenya is a land of plenty. From the pearl white sandy beaches, the turquoise aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, the breath taking migratory herds found in the savannah, the dense eerie tropical rainforests, the prehistoric archaic historical sites and the variety of culture provide enough adventure for any safari.
Being on the equator, Kenya is an ideal destination to take a safari given that the weather is always conducive throughout the year. The natural world and the unchanged ecosystem are a sure attraction for visitors.
Coming to Kenya for a safari may leave a tourist spoilt for choice because of the abundance of areas and places to tour. For this reason, there are a number of safaris optimized towards seeing certain areas.
What does a Safari to Kenya offer?
Kenya’s extraordinarily varied topology provides the range of habitats needed to support equally varied wildlife. The country is home to more than 100 species of mammals, more than 1,000 species of birds, and an incredible diversity of reptiles, insects and amphibians.
All the famous Big five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino are found here. Having attained notoriety during the hunting era for being the most prestigious trophies, the Big Five have retained their popularity into today’s photographic safaris.
However, the diversity of mammal species in Kenya goes far beyond these. Carnivores found here include cheetah, wild cat, caracal, serval, hyena, civet, genet, jackal and fox. Primates include vervet monkey, blue monkey, sykes monkey, colobus monkey and bushbaby. Plains game includes wildebeest, hartebeest, zebra, giraffe, Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, bushbuck, waterbuck, eland, impala, reedbuck and dlkdik.
Kenya has a high number of endemic species, as well as species found only in one speciﬁc location. Some national parks and reserves are the last remaining habitat of a particular species, such as the roan antelope in Ruma National Park, the sitatunga in Saiwa Swamp National Park and the Sable antelope in Shimba Hills National Reserve.
There are high numbers of endangered species. The current list of critically endangered species includes black rhino, hirola, Tana River red colobus, Cosen’s gerbil and Macow‘s shrew. A number of sanctuaries have been established around the country to protect these species.
Many of Kenya’s vast variety of birds are indigenous to speciﬁc regions of the country. Highland forest and moorlands such as Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon and the Aberdare National Park attract green ibis, Hartlaub‘s turaco, mountane oriole, alpine chat, Sharpe’s longclaw and mountain buzzard. Savannah bush such as the Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks attracts ostrich, white-bellied go away bird, green wood hoopoe, Taita ﬁscal, buff – crested bustard and martial eagle. Savannah grasslands such as the Maasai Mara National Reserve species include gabon nightiar, lilac~breasted roller, Livingstone’s turaco, blue flycatcher and Pel’s ﬁshing owl.
Alkaline lakes attract such large numbers of lesser flamingo that their water appears pink. Freshwater lakes have a wider diversity, with white pelican, long tailed cormorant, goliath heron, squacco heron, African spoonbill, fish eagle and malachite kingfishers being but a few of the species found here.
Lowland forest attracts some vew localised birds, including cuckoo hawk, red-tailed ant thrush and amani sunbird. Desert and semi desert, particularly in the area of Lake Turkana, attracts the hardy fox kestrel, Abyssinian roller and Somali ﬁscal.
Kenya has a remarkable number of endemic or near endemic species, such as Clarke’s weaver, fOJﬂd only in the Arabuko Sokoke Forest near Watamu and Hinde’s pied babbler, found only in Kianyaga near Embu. Some birds even take their names from the regions of Kenya in which they are found, such as the grey-chested illadopsis, or Kakamega poliothorax, found only in Kakamega.
ln addition to all the resident species, an estimated 6,000 migratory birds make the journey to Kenya each year during the winter in Europe.
The marine parks along Kenya’s coast are home to a large array of marine species. Coral gardens, fringing reefs, mudflats, mangroves, sea grass and sea weed are all found here, and eacn provides habitat speciﬁc to certain species including dolphins, fish, crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish and jellyfish. Rare and vulnerable species include the dugong, humpback whale and sperm whale.
What types of safaris are there in Kenya? There are a number of safaris offered in Kenya. These safaris include:
- Cultural Safari- perhaps what sets Kenya apart is her single, strong and unique identity that is based on a rich and diverse culture. Kenya is a land if beginnings and endings. It is home to the early man. Its strategic location made it ideal for traders and adventurers alike whose influence on the local’s lives on to-date. Kenya’s Cultural diversity is further underscored by her 43 tribes spread throughout the country but united by a common bond, the bond of being proudly Kenyan.
- Balloon Safari- the noiseless airborne vehicle is the perfect safari vehicle. It glides over the land without disturbing the game below. People are in a position to see the game below with minimal interference. In addition, the height of the balloons can be altered from a high to a low altitude to allow a better view of the game on the ground.
- Beach safari- the exotic hotels tucked away in the slow paced costal area with the gentle sea breeze setting the mood. The white sandy beaches and the exotic azure waters make the Kenya coast another popular safari destination.
- Wildlife Safari- what would a safari be without the game? The thrill of watching animals in their natural shelter is what makes a safari great. The experience at the apogee of a safari is getting to watch the big five out in the wild.
What do you pack for a safari? Given the luggage restriction and in the unlikely event of luggage loss, one needs to be mindful of what they pack for their safari.
- Safari clothing- with the clothing, caution has to be taken when it comes to the colors. The colors have to be neutral to the environment and colors that do not get dirty very fast. In addition, such colors as blue should be avoided as they attract tsetse flies. People are advised to go for comfortable, non- synthetic and fitting clothes. Khaki and stone materials of clothing are preferred. The season and consequently the weather have to be taken into account packing light and warm clothing when appropriate.
- Safari Hat- the sun may be very harsh during the safari. For this reason, you need to cover yourself from the harsh sun’s rays. You need a safari hat that is perspirant absorbent on the inside and water proof on the outside.
- Safari shoes- the safari shoes are an important consideration especially if you are going to do a lot of walking on the safari. While walking, the safari boots are an excellent option. Two pairs of safari boots are ideal just to be on the safe side. For a safari that does not involve a lot of walking, light and comfortable shoes such as sandals are best.
- Safari equipment - ideal safari equipment include:
- A camera
- A compass
- A torch/flashlight and a couple of batteries
- Pen knife
- Locks for your luggage.
- Water proof matches/ lighter
- Zip lock/ plastic bags to protect the equipment against water while canoeing or while raining.
Some items such as mosquito nets and toiletries are provided by the hotels. A safari is a once in a life time experience. Planning a safari right and getting all the items right guarantees a safari that is out of this world.