Why go on a custom luxury safari to Kenya?
Kenya is home to the original safari. It’s where African safari was born, and to this day remains the ultimate destination for unparalleled game viewing—the country is home to an astounding number of different species—around 25,000. Of course, you’ll find Africa’s ‘Big Five’ throughout the country, but those are just a handful of the unique animals found here.
From the forests along the coastline of the Indian Ocean to the lush grasslands and sprawling savanna, Kenya is full of opportunities for cultural interactions with indigenous tribes, exceptional wildlife experiences, and unique activities. A safari in Kenya offers a tremendous diversity of both landscapes and animals.
What is a safari in Kenya like?
A safari in Kenya is the holy grail of African safari—there’s truly nothing that compares. Every year, the open and grassy plains of the Maasai Mara are host to one of the most sought-after experiences in Africa and greatest wildlife spectacles on earth—The Great Migration of 1.4 million wildebeest and thousands of zebra and gazelle.
On Kenya’s border with Tanzania, you’ll find Amboseli’s stunning views of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro and an incredible concentration of elephants.
In the north of the country, the arid landscapes of Samburu are home to several wildlife species rarely found elsewhere in Kenya—including Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx. The colorful Samburu people who live here can guide you on a bushwalk through a wildlife reserve.
Just outside the capital, Nairobi, in the Langata suburb is the storied Giraffe Manor where you can have the most unforgettable breakfast in the world in a historic manor accompanied by a herd of endangered Rothschild giraffes who often peek their heads in.
Conservation is central to Kenya’s tourism industry and is of great importance throughout the country for the economy. The work of local communities and families with historic ties to the land ensures the continuity and success of Africa’s wildlife conservation initiatives. From the rhino breeding programs in Lewa to the elephant research at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and predator programs, there is a groundswell of support for the precious resources of this fascinating country. We also offer immersive, conservation-focused safaris where you can monitor and track wildlife—like this elephant conservation safari.
- What Kenya offers
- How to create a custom, luxury safari to Kenya
- Our recommended Kenya safari
- Our favorite areas for Kenya safari
- Where to stay on a Kenya safari
- When is the best time to visit Kenya on safari
- Activities and ways to experience Kenya
- Wildlife you will you see on a safari in Kenya
- Is Kenya safe for tourists?
What Kenya offers:
- Kenya is perfect for travelers looking for unparalleled wildlife experiences, opportunities for authentic cultural interactions with local indigenous communities, and lots of activities. Many travelers visit two to four different regions within Kenya before retreating to the beaches of the coast on the Indian Ocean in Mombasa.
- Couples, honeymooners, families, small groups, and solo adventurers can all find the perfect accommodation be it in a classic tented camp, a quirky family-owned lodge, a rustic wildlife tracking camp, an exclusive-use house, or a top-of-the-line luxury suite.
- Many camps and lodges across Kenya are hosted by their owners, many of whom are from families who have lived on the land for generations. If you enjoy warm, home-hosted hospitality, Kenya is a great choice.
How to create a custom, luxury safari to Kenya
Crafting your custom Kenya safari is what we are best in the world at. We take care of every single detail so that you can immerse yourself in the wonder of Kenya—from the magic of watching the sunrise during your morning game drive with exquisite light over the savannah to going on a bushwalk with the Maasai or Samburu people, or witnessing nature in all its glory as hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, amongst other wildlife, thunder across the plains during The Great Migration. Whatever vision you have in your mind of an African safari, you’ll find it in Kenya and we’re here to make sure it comes to life.
Give our trustworthy team of experts a call and tell us about the trip you’re dreaming of taking—we’re passionate about making that dream a reality. We’re here to listen to what you’re interested in, and from there craft a personalized and extraordinary trip of a lifetime in Kenya.
Everything we create at Extraordinary Journeys is custom—you won’t find anything ordinary about an adventure planned with us. Simply put, we travel differently, and we’re the best in the world at creating one-of-a-kind luxury and life-changing travel experiences through phone calls and sharing with our experts. Plus, our support doesn’t stop once your trip is booked—we have exceptional service with a hands-on approach, with a designated client liaison, on-the-ground concierge, and a line that’s open 24/7 throughout your entire stay.
Our expert-recommended Kenya safari
We usually recommend spending eight to 10 days in Kenya—check out all our recommended Kenya safari itineraries here for some inspiration.
We want your trip to be extraordinary, so we must be extraordinary at what we offer.
Our experience, knowledge, service, value, access, planning, and enthusiasm set us apart.
Our favorite areas for Kenya safari:
- Rarely the Maasai Mara isn’t included in a Kenya itinerary—it is second to none in Africa for game-viewing.
- We love including the Laikipia area, particularly the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in itineraries to give you the chance to get out of your game vehicle (if you’re feeling adventurous) and out into the bush on a horse, camel, or on foot.
- There are great opportunities for different kinds of cultural interactions throughout Kenya, particularly in Samburu, Laikipia, and the Maasai Mara.
- A night or two in Nairobi offers a chance to see a bit of the city and get up close and personal with giraffes and elephants while shaking off the jet lag.
How much should I budget for a safari to Kenya?
So, how much does a Kenya safari cost? Planning a Kenyan safari is truly an extraordinary trip of a lifetime, and as you dream and plan, a lot of factors play into the cost including location, time of year, mode of transport (fly-in or private guide and driver), priorities, and level of comfort required.
Budget itineraries can start as low as $400 per person per night, but this is the bottom of the range for mass-market tourism and we don’t recommend or sell these trips. None of our itineraries cost less than $500 per night as we choose places that offer exceptional service, personalized attention, and authentic, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Kenya: Where luxury and private safaris are the best option
Upmarket, exclusive properties cost between $700-$1,800 per person per night during peak season. For the best experience, we do not advocate going below $500 per person per night for a Kenya safari. We always recommend staying in the private conservancies if your budget allows for it. The private conservancies offer a better safari experience away from the crowds and allow you to drive off-road, go on walks, or head out for a spot-lit night drive, while at the same time, putting your tourism dollars back into the local communities.
We were really very pleased with the entire trip and our experience with Extraordinary Journeys. We’re all seasoned travelers so we’re able to plan on the fly and take things in stride, but we remarked a few times while in Africa that it was so nice to have had the benefit of not only your expertise in planning and communications, especially with travel during Covid. The details – such as the…
Our trip was beyond amazing. Thank you ever so much! I could not have imagined how wonderful and privileged it would be to experience the local culture – while my main goal was to see the gorillas and other wildlife up close, being introduced to the resilient and proud people of Uganda and Kenya was extra icing on a delicious cake! Overall, world-class experience. It was the gift of a lifetime.”
AMAAAAAAAAAAAAZING trip of a lifetime! THANKS TO YOU we had the most fun, wild, adventurous, lovely, crazy, insane vacation ever! The perfect adventure for our 5 crazy boys, the holidays and big birthday celebrations (21st and 82nd), that in itself is amazing… not to mention the COVID tests by the Mara River with 50 hippos playing! -Amee Scott and Family (December 2020)
Where to stay on a Kenya safari
Accommodation in Kenya varies greatly from the storied Giraffe Manor just outside of Nairobi (the perfect place to start your Kenya safari before heading off to camps, luxury tented suites, or remote wildlife tracking camps). When we say there’s something for everyone in Kenya—we mean it when it comes to accommodation budget and style.
For travel to the Maasai Mara, we advocate staying in one of several private concessions or group conservancies that border the park. These private conservancies have more rules about protecting wildlife (including no more than five vehicles near an animal) and you’ll likely see a maximum of three other vehicles at a time versus the main reserve where you will see a multitude. Conservancies also help generate revenue for the local communities. In addition, they can offer bush walks, night drives, and off-road driving—activities not allowed in places such as the main Mara Reserve.
Our favorite private concessions are Mara North, Olare Orok and Naboisho. Mara Plains Camp is a stunning classic tented camp in the private Olare Orok Conservancy—one of the most luxurious in the region with sweeping views across the plains and river. Kicheche Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy is a place for serious game lovers, geared towards photographers and those looking for a pure wildlife experience. Salas Camp is extremely private in a remote region of the Mara and is nestled on the banks of the Sand River looking into Tanzania’s Serengeti. Richards River Camp is an intimate and airy setting—classy yet comfortable—set along the Ntiakntiak River which brings a constant stream of game.
In Samburu, we love the rustic and casual Elephant Watch Camp, owned by the same family—the Douglas-Hamiltons—who spearheaded the Save the Elephants Project. For a more upscale safari experience, we recommend Sasaab, a luxury tented camp on a hillside in the Samburu National Reserve with Moroccan-style rooms and private plunge pools. The unique Saruni Rhino Camp is a remote camp in partnership with the Sera Community Conservancy in northern Kenya with a stellar rhino tracking experience. You trek on foot and have an opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with one of Africa’s most iconic animals—the reason to come and stay.
In Amboseli, you can’t beat a stay at Ol Donyo Lodge—Kenya’s first Relais & Chateaux property, whose suites have private plunge pools and views of Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s situated on the Maasai-owned Mbirikani Group Ranch, meaning that it generates revenue for the local community and helps to preserve a key migration corridor for animals between Amboseli and Tsavo. Tortilis Camp is a great option that sits on the edge of the national park with unbeatable views of Mount Kilimanjaro.
In Laikipia and Lewa, the family-owned Borana Lodge sits on a working ranch that offers gorgeous stone-thatched cottages that overlook a local watering hole and rolling green hills—a very family-friendly destination with lots of activities. Sirikoi is the most luxurious property in the region set in lush gardens with various accommodation types and excellent game viewing. Ol Malo Lodge & House is a treasure of a property that’s owned and run by the Francombes, a multi-generational Kenyan family. Soak in the infinity pool with views out over the dramatic hills and valleys of the Laikipia plateau. Family-owned Lewa Wilderness Lodge is a great option for families in a beautiful hilly setting in the Lewa Wilderness Conservancy.
In Meru National Park, Elsa’s Kopje is an award-winning private safari lodge within the national park that has played an important role in promoting conservation and tourism in a park that was once plagued by poaching. Now known as one of the best places for rhino viewing in Kenya, the main lodge is one of our favorites, and the open-fronted luxury cottages are fun and private.
The Matthew’s Mountain Range—also known as Kenya’s Northern Frontier—is a mountain forest that is a stronghold for a wide range of species with natural rock pools, crystal clear mountain streams, prehistoric cycad palms. Sarara Camp is a comfortable and intimate camp with luxury tents on the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust. The main attraction of staying here is the opportunity for cultural interactions with the Samburu people, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who are close cousins to the Maasai.
Tsavo National Park—about halfway between Kenya and Mombasa—is nearly 8,500 square miles making it the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. It’s known for having the highest population of elephants in Kenya and is home to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s holding centers where adolescent elephants are slowly reintroduced into the wild. Kipalo Hills is a beautiful and remote safari camp with 12 tented suites situated on the edge of Tsavo West National Park in the 12,000-acre private Mbulia Conservancy.
Looking for more information on where to stay in Kenya? Check out this story on properties where culture is king in Kenya.
When is the best time to visit Kenya on safari
Classic peak season for a Kenya safari is July through September when The Great Migration is most likely to happen in the Maasai Mara. Game-viewing during this time is sure to be great, but it is also the most crowded time of year in the national park, especially in August. As a result, we love the less crowded months of May-June and October-February when you have great weather and great game-viewing combined with fewer people and lower prices.
That said, Kenya is viable almost year-round as a destination particularly because of all the activities available in addition to game-viewing. Some camps are closed in March, April, and May due to the long rains, however, these days with our changing climate the weather is far from predictable.
What is the climate like in Kenya?
Throughout the year the climate in Kenya is generally temperate and sunny despite its location directly on the equator. The warmest months are between December and March, and the coolest months are between June and August—but seasonal temperature variations are minimal. Kenya’s daytime temperatures average between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F. It’s hard to generalize because the climate in Kenya is as varied as its topography—ranging from arid savannah to the coastline along the tropical Indian Ocean, to snow-capped mountains. There are three types of climates throughout the country:
Kenya’s shoulder seasons—from May to June and October to February—are our favorite times to travel.
The North and East Lowlands: Northern Kenya has year-round hot and dry weather. There’s very limited rainfall here and there can be multiple months without any rain. April is the rainiest month. The temperature varies greatly from day to night and ranges from 20°C/68°F to 40°C/104°F year-round.
The West and Southwest Highlands: In Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo, the climate is temperate and subtropical where there are many mountains and plateaus. Temperatures are generally pretty mild and warm.
The Coast: In Mombasa, Lamu, and Lindi along the coast the climate is tropical, hot, and wet. It’s humid with temperatures that remain hot throughout the year. The tropical climate also means annual rainfall is higher here. The rainiest months are April and May, and January and February are generally the driest.
Seasonal variations in Kenya are distinguished by the duration of rainfall rather than by changes in temperature. There are two major influences on Kenya’s climate: the monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean—which determine the onset of the two rainy seasons, and the altitude.
Dry Season: June-October
Temperatures average around 23°C/73°F at higher altitudes, such as the Maasai Mara, and 28°C/82°F at lower altitudes and in coastal areas. Though the skies are generally clear and sunny, this is the coolest time of year—so don’t forget to pack a jacket for those early morning game drives.
Wet Season: November-May
Temperatures average around 24°C/75°F and 27°C/81°F at higher altitudes, and 30°C/86°F at lower altitudes. Mornings are still cool—so you’ll still want to have that jacket packed for early starts.
Activities and Ways to experience Kenya
Combine visiting the Maasai Mara with an area that has lots of activities such as Laikipia where you can participate in camelback safaris, horse riding, quad biking, tubing, bi-planes, walking safaris
Game drives are the hallmark of a Kenya safari experience because they’re the best way to cover the most ground and see the most wildlife. Kenya will check that box for every visitor, but it’s also the country where you can let loose a little and create memories outside of the vehicle.
The Lewa/Laikipia area is a hub of fun activities, from bi-plane flights and helicopter excursions to camel and horseback riding, fly fishing, biking, quad biking, tubing on the river, game walks, and canopy walks, but it’s not the only region where these things are possible.
In addition to flying or driving between regions, multi-day walking safaris are a fantastic option for active travelers. Take a helicopter to fish in the snow-fed streams on Mt. Kenya, enjoy afternoon tea with giraffes, bike through the tea plantations of Tigoni, or head out on a game census to contribute toward conservation efforts.
Culturally, Kenya offers some of the most interesting and authentic experiences that can be had on safari, with numerous opportunities to interact with and learn from members of Kenya’s 40+ tribes, including the semi-pastoral groups such as the Maasai and Samburu.
Wildlife you will you see on safari in Kenya
Kenya has a wealth of animals and is home to some of the best game viewing and highest wildlife concentrations in Africa. You will see the Big Five in addition to numerous grazing species, big cats, wild dogs and stunning birdlife.
Between August and October, you have an excellent chance of witnessing The Great Migration in the Maasai Mara. If you combine areas like Samburu or Laikipia with the Mara you will also have opportunities to see animals only found north of the equator, such as the rare Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe.
Rhino—both black and white—are found in Kenya’s parks. Reserves such as Solio, Lewa, and Ol Pejeta are well known for their rhino conservation work, ensuring you will see these endangered species.
You’ll also see elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, lion, hyena, jackal, antelope, warthog, baboon, monkey, hippopotamus, vervet monkey, and Colobus monkey amongst others.
Secrets and tips from our Kenya experts
- Head to Samburu for authentic cultural interactions and experiences with the semi-nomadic tribes, close relatives of the Maasai.
- Kenya’s shoulder seasons—from May to June and October to February—are our favorite times to travel.
Facts about safari in Kenya:
- Kenya safari goes way back—the country has been attracting adventurers and explorers since the 14th century.
- There are 68 languages spoken throughout Kenya, and the main language is Swahili.
- Hunting is illegal in Kenya—in 1977, Kenya banned trophy hunting.
- There are around 25,000 different species of wildlife found in Kenya.
- Kenya has the second-highest mountain in Africa (after Mount Kilimanjaro) with Mount Kenya standing tall at 5,199 meters.
How to get to Kenya:
The main airport in Kenya is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), located nine miles (15km) southeast of Nairobi.
There are frequent direct flights to Kenya via numerous major airlines. The national airline is Kenya Airways, and other airlines that fly directly into Nairobi are British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines.
Kenya Airways has a non-stop route from New York’s JFK airport to Nairobi. Otherwise, the fastest route from most North American destinations is with two non-stop flights, first to a European hub such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Paris, and from there to Nairobi. Alternatively, flying via a Middle Eastern hub such as Dubai is another option.
Generally, flights to Kenya are the most expensive between early July and late October, and then again between mid-December and mid-January.
Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), located six miles (nine kilometers) west of Mombasa which is used mostly for flights to Zanzibar, as well as domestic and charter flights.
Check the Center for Disease Control for the latest travel advisories and information related to COVID-19 travel in Kenya. Another great resource is the U.S. Embassy in Kenya for COVID-19 information.
What’s the current time in Kenya?
Kenya observes East Africa Time (EAT) all year, which is seven hours ahead of Eastern Time (EST). Daylight savings time has never been used in Kenya, so the clocks never change.
Is Kenya safe for tourists?
We think Kenya is generally a very safe place to visit. It has a well-established tourism industry—being the birthplace of the African Safari—and visitors to the country are well taken care of. The people we work with and operators we partner with are highly focused on your safety and comfort.
Some areas of Kenya can be considered dangerous due to the ever-changing and unstable political situation, areas of poverty, and border issues with some neighboring countries. There are some issues with crime in major cities. That said, the main attractions and areas we include in our Extraordinary Journeys itineraries are very safe.
Kenya has taken a wide range of steps to ensure that traveling both to and within Kenya is a safe experience for both domestic and international travelers. Kenya was awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council “Safe Travel” stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in recognition of their adoption of the global health and hygiene standardized protocols. It is the perfect place to explore while taking comfort in knowing that safety protocols are being followed with great scrutiny.
Things are ever-changing, so make sure you always double-check requirements before departing on your safari and your government’s travel advice for the latest information. Our team will do our best to give you the most up-to-date safety and security information. The Center for Disease Control and travel advisories on Kenya from the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is another great resource.
Tips for staying safe in Kenya:
While on safari:
Follow your guides, drivers, and lodge staff’s instructions while on safari. Keep your distance from wild animals and only leave the safari, or self-guided vehicle when it’s designated safe to do so.
In the city:
Just like anywhere in the world, cities can be hotspots for crime. Mostly petty crimes like pickpocketing and street scammers. Some areas of Nairobi and Mombasa should be avoided unless you’re on a guided activity. When you’re in the city, seek advice from your hotel before heading out. Don’t wear valuables or flashy jewelry, don’t display camera equipment, and only take the money you need with you. And in general, don’t walk after dark—take a taxi instead.
For female travelers:
Generally, Kenya is a very safe place for female travelers. Locals are respectful, although catcalling and harassment can occur on occasion. Stay smart, don’t walk around alone at night in the city or if you’re on the coast don’t walk on empty beaches. In general, use common sense.
For LGBTQ+ travelers:
Kenya has some pretty harsh anti-gay laws, which include the criminalization of homosexuality. Homophobia is common in Kenya, so in general, discretion is the safest option and public displays of affection for LGBTQ+ travelers are not advised. While the law is not supportive, if you avoid public displays of affection you should have no problems.
General health tips:
Avoid drinking tap water. Get a prescription for malaria pills, and pack lots of sunscreen and insect repellent.
In terms of COVID-19:
As travel restrictions continue to shift and change, please refer to The Center for Disease Control and travel advisories on Kenya from the U.S. Department of State for COVID-19 requirements. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is another great resource.
Currently, it’s mandatory for all passengers arriving in Kenya to fill in the Travelers Health Surveillance Form, which must be completed online before disembarking and passengers will receive a QR code to display to the Port Health Official to proceed to immigration.
What else should I know before planning a safari in Kenya?
- Kenya: Travel Warnings
Travel warnings and occasional bad publicity will always be a reality for Kenya, which may be more than some travelers want to handle. That said, no incidents of violence in Kenya have targeted tourist areas and properties in and around the national parks, which are very remote with few people around. Our team at Extraordinary Journeys personally would all travel to Kenya in a heartbeat, but another destination such as Tanzania or Botswana might be a better fit if you want to avoid any worry.
- Kenya: Not for Budget Travelers
Travelers with very low budgets should avoid a Kenya safari. There is a quite substantial mass tourism market in Kenya, which means if you cannot afford to be in the private conservancies, or in exclusive camps, you could find yourself being part of the mini-bus craziness during peak season, which will make for an unpleasant experience.
- Kenya: Luxury & Private Safaris
Many of the camps and lodges are family or staff-hosted. Sitting around a communal dinner table and socializing around a campfire is part of the experience. If you are looking for a private experience you may need to look further south for a safari destination—South Africa might be more appropriate. Part of Kenya’s charm is sitting and chatting with the people who have lived and worked the land for generations, hearing their stories and taking in their views on life.
Kenya safari packing list
Alongside a great sense of adventure, common sense, and an open mind, there are a few things we think are essential for you to pack in your (small) suitcase before heading on your Kenya safari…
The luggage allowance on most small flights in all of Africa is usually limited to a maximum of 15kg (33lbs), and usually includes your hand luggage, so packing light (just the essentials) is key. We recommend a soft-sided bag since they are light and easier to pack into small planes and safari vehicles. Note that most lodges and camps provide a same-day laundry service for your clothes.
- Light, neutral-colored clothing. Think khaki, beige, olive green, and tan, since they don’t stand out and they hide dirt (no camouflage though)
- Breathable long-sleeved shirts for natural sun and insect protection (linen is great)
- A light skirt or dress for nicer dinners
- Jeans or safari-style pants for evenings and chilly days
- A light jacket for those early morning game drives
- A comfortable sweater for nights around the fire or cool mornings
- Swimsuit since most camps have swimming pools
- Comfortable sandals for around camp
- Sturdy walking shoes for walking safaris and hikes
- Camera equipment—goes without saying on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure like this
- Binoculars so you don’t miss a single thing
- Headlamp or flashlight will come in super handy on those early mornings and late-night walks to and from your room, African nights are dark
- A journal, you don’t want to forget any of those special details!
- Sunscreen because nobody wants a sunburn on safari
- Hat/Sunglasses, that African sun can be very strong!
- Moisturizer is super helpful in dry climates
- Face masks and hand sanitizer, because COVID-19 is still prevalent
- Prescription medication and preventative medications: for diarrhea, headaches, heartburn, bug bites, and indigestion, plus things like eye drops, insect repellent, and sore throat lozenges.
Events in Kenya to plan your safari around
Kenyans know how to celebrate, and the nation is full of beautiful celebrations throughout the year. Many national and regional events are celebrated in connection to religion, historical events, culture, and African arts—some you might even want to plan your trip around to attend.
New Years Day: Nationwide | January 1
Kenya is full of events to welcome the New Year with music, parties, church services, and celebrations across the nation. Nairobi has the biggest event with performances and fireworks displays. Mombasa is known for its big beach parties with live music and DJs.
Nairobi Restaurant Week: Nairobi | Varies January/February
For 10 days throughout January and February, Nairobi’s best restaurants offer special menus with several courses at highly discounted prices. It’s a great time to try delicious meals from freshly sourced ingredients from Kenya’s farms and ranches, rivers and oceans. Sometimes different companies partner with the restaurants to offer free drinks and cocktails. It’s the perfect time for foodie travelers to come and sample local and international cuisine. In the meantime, check out some of the best restaurants in Nairobi.
Nairobi International Jazz Festival: Nairobi | Varies
This is the biggest celebration of Jazz in Kenya, and usually happens in February but the dates vary. Kenya’s best jazz artists come together to create a truly unforgettable experience in the heart of the city. Note: Tickets usually sell out very fast.
East African Arts Festival: Nairobi | Varies
Every March Nairobi hosts this three-day event hosted by the Kenyan National Museum showcasing African art, music, theatre, music, fashion, literature, architecture, sculpture and traditional crafts. If you’re looking for an event that packs in culture, this is it.
Easter: Nationwide | Varies
Easter is a big deal in Kenya—you’ll see processions through the streets on Good Friday, with reenactments of the Stations of the Cross, as well as church services on Sunday. The beaches in Mombasa are typically busy with locals during Easter weekend, and the markets are in full swing. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays.
Rhino Charge: Laikipia Plateau | Varies May/June
This annual four-wheel, off-road endurance car event put on by the Rhino Ark Trust who are dedicated to protecting Kenya’s rhinos takes place in the Laikipia Plateau. The course goes across the country for around 124 miles (200km) through rugged terrain, boulders, and dense bush. In recent years the event has helped fund an ongoing project to fence Aberdare National Park to help protect the area from poaching.
Labor Day: Nationwide | May 1
On Labor Day, Kenyan workers celebrate the gains the working class has achieved. There are often organized demonstrations, protests for further rights, and parades in the streets to request changes including higher salaries and better working conditions.
Madaraka Day: Nationwide | June 1
On this public holiday, Kenya commemorates the anniversary of the day autonomy was gained from the United States. On 1 June 1963, Jomo Kenyatta became the first prime minister. In big cities, there are parades, music, and traditional dancing. Maderaka is the Swahili word for power.
Safari Rally: Nairobi | Varies
The Safari Rally is known as one of the toughest races in the world. Organized by the FIA, the race covers 3,000 km, through scenic sites, unforgiving terrain, and dangerous obstacles including Kenyan wildlife over four or five days. Originally it was known as the East African Coronation Rally in 1953 as a motoring event to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England who was on holiday in Kenya one year earlier when she learnt of the death of her father, King George VI.
The Lewa Safari Marathon: Lewa | Varies
This event should be near the top of any runner’s bucket list. Whether you run competitively or are driven by your personal running goals, the Lewa Safari Marathon is an opportunity to do good, and feel good. Participants can visit local schools and communities benefited by the funds raised by this race. With options to participate in either a full or half marathon, winding through an amazing wildlife conservancy, participants feel one with nature as they run alongside Africa’s most notable wildlife.
The Great Migration: Maasai Mara | Dates vary around the end of July
Every year the plains of East Africa—Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti—are home to one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles, the migration of 1.4 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle, tracked by Africa’s great predators. The Great Migration typically takes place from mid-July through to the end of August, then slows down by mid-September. One of the best places to take in this spectacle is watching the herds of wildebeest cross the crocodile-infested Mara River which they reach between early July and mid-August, depending on the weather and rainfall. Mobile camps are available to follow the herds as they move, and permanent camps can also make a great home base. These are some of the best camps to watch The Great Migration from.
Maralal Camel Derby: Maralal | August or September
The annual Camel Derby andFestival festival is held in the small town of Maralal, Northern Kenya, and has been since 1990. The camel racing event takes place over several days through the desert. Visitors come from all over the world to take part and watch. Camels are available for hire and it’s open to armatures too with a shorter race assisted by handlers. The serious race is a 26-mile (42km) race that circles the town and local riders wear their traditional dress.
Celebration of the Sacrifice (aka Eid an Adha): Nationwide
This Muslim religious festival is celebrated to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son as a sign of obedience to God and how God then gave Abraham a lamb to sacrifice instead. During this time a live lamb is usually killed. It’s one of the biggest Islamic festivals and is celebrated across the country in Muslim communities.
Huduma Day: October 10
This National holiday is observed in commemoration of former president Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. Until 2020, this holiday was called Moi Day but was changed at the request of the former president for it to be a day of service and volunteerism.
Mashujaa Day: October 20
Formerly known as Kenyatta Day, now celebrated as Mashujaa Day, or Heros Day. It’s a public holiday to collectively honour all those who contributed towards the struggle for Kenya’s independence or those who positively contributed towards post-independence Kenya.
Mombasa Carnival: Mombasa | Month of November
November in Mombasa is a huge celebration of Kenyan culture as well as international cultures that have left imprints on Mombasa. Organized by the ministry of tourism, artists, dancers, musicians, and tribal people take part in concerts, parades, and celebrations that is one of the largest annual events in Kenya. It’s a unique opportunity to see showcases of different tribal identities and cultures from across the nation as street stalls offer cuisine and crafts from all over.
Jamhuri Day: Nationwide | December 12
Jamhuri means ‘republic’ in Swahili and this day celebrates both the day Kenya gained independence from Britain on December 12, 1963, as well as Kenya becoming a republic one year later in 1964. The double celebration is marked by dancing, parades, and speeches. Many towns host cultural performances, fireworks shows, and families get together for meals.
Christmas: Nationwide | December 25
Christmas is a public holiday in Kenya as a vast majority are Christian. Events this time of year are mostly religious, featuring church services, carolling, and nativity reenactment performances. Kenyan homes and churches are decorated with balloons, flowers, and green leaves, and in larger towns shops and restaurants are sometimes covered in fake snow.
Utamaduni Day: Nationwide | December 26
Formerly known as Boxing Day, this is a public holiday that has been recently changed to be a day that’s set aside to mark and celebrate the country’s rich cultural diversity and heritage. It’s a day for Kenyans to be proud of their culture and share different activities that bring about togetherness.
Check out some more opportunities to experience art and culture in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, and some of our favourite things to do in the capital on our blog.