​Wildlife & Animals – Kenya

Anthony Ham
Expert
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Kenya offers excellent wildlife viewing, with the Big Five regularly seen on safari. The Masai Mara National Reserve is best known for hosting the great migration between July or August and October. It’s also one of the best places in Africa to see big cats. White rhinos are easily seen at Lake Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks, and elephants are common in many places, especially Amboseli National Park. Lakes Bogoria and Nakuru, and the lakes of Amboseli, attract flamingos.

Abundant
Common
Occasional
Rare
None
ElephantAbundant
GiraffeAbundant
HippoAbundant
BuffaloAbundant
ZebraAbundant
WildebeestAbundant
White RhinoOccasional
LionCommon
LeopardOccasional
CheetahOccasional
HyenaCommon
Wild DogVery Rare

Wildebeest Migration

The wildebeest migration ranks among Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles. About 2.5 million hoofed mammals (mainly wildebeest and zebra, but also Thomson’s gazelle) move throughout the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. They’re usually present in Kenya sometime between July or August and October. The crossing of the Mara River is the highlight of the migration, although seeing the vast herds filling the savannah to the horizon is to witness nature’s abundance on an unimaginable scale.

Wildlife Highlights

Samburu National Reserve and Meru National Park in the north are home to interesting dry-country species. These include the odd-looking, long-necked gerenuk, while Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe are beautiful variants to more common species found elsewhere in Kenya. Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks have the rare fringe-eared oryx, and Laikipia Plateau is also good for northern specials, as well as for both black rhino and white rhino.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

Kenya offers outstanding wildlife viewing throughout the year, but the ultimate time is the Dry season (June to October). This corresponds partly with the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara. The exact timing varies, but the herds are usually present in Kenya from July or August to October, when the animals begin moving back into Tanzania. These months are also high season for tourism. November to April is generally best for birding with migratory species present.

Wildlife Rating

Recommended Wildlife Books

  • Stuarts’ Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa
    Useful field guide to larger mammals; app available.

    Chris Stuart and Mathilde Stuart
  • The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals (book and app)
    Comprehensive guide aimed at serious wildlife enthusiasts.

    Jonathan Kingdon
  • The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals
    Mammal behavior is the main focus of this fascinating guide.

    Richard D. Estes
  • East African Wildlife
    One-volume guide to easily seen mammals, birds and reptiles.

    Philip Briggs
  • Field Guide to East African Reptiles
    Definitive guide to the region’s chameleons, snakes and more.

    Stephen Spawls et al.

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