Explore Kenyan wildlife, landscape, and native culture in this 10-day itinerary. You’ll start with views of the Great Rift Valley en-route to safaris in Lake Nakuru National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve, and have the chance to tour a Maasai village and market. From there, visit Hell’s Gate and Amboseli National Parks, see Mt. Longonot on a day trip, and photograph elephants at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Highlights

  • Spot the "Big Five" on safari, including lions, leopards, and rhinos.
  • Enjoy spectacular views of the Great Rift Valley
  • Meet the local Maasai people and experience their culture firsthand
  • Witness elephants at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport Nairobi
Day 2 Nairobi to Lake Nakuru National Park Nakuru
Day 3 Nakuru to Maasai Mara National Reserve Maasai Mara
Day 4 Maasai Mara National Reserve Maasai Mara
Day 5 Maasai Mara National Reserve to Naivasha Naivasha
Day 6 Hell’s Gate National Park day trip Naivasha
Day 7 Naivasha to Mt. Longonot day trip Naivasha
Day 8 Naivasha to Amboseli National Park Amboseli Park
Day 9 Amboseli National Park Amboseli Park
Day 10 Amboseli National Park to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport

Nairobi city
Nairobi city

Welcome to Kenya! The word which you will undoubtedly come across as you plan your trip to East Africa is safari, the Swahili word meaning journey, and originally from the Arabic safar with the same meaning. While a safari used to refer to pioneers hunting wild animals for trophy, after the hunting safari was banned guns were replaced with cameras. Today’s safari is usually a journey to observe and photograph wildlife in their natural habitat, as well as hiking and sightseeing areas like national reserves, So get your hiking boots and your camera ready!

Kenya should be at the top of the list for adventurers who want a different travel experience. Kenya boasts good weather throughout the year, over 40 wildlife parks and reserves, over 2 million wildebeest crossing from the Serengeti to Masai Mara from June to August, 43 unique local tribes each with their own language and culture, many prehistorical sites to explore, the 3,700 mile Great Rift Valley running from north to south, and to crown it all, over 248 miles of white sand beaches at the coast.

Day 2: Nairobi to Lake Nakuru National Park

Rhinos in Lake Nakuru
Rhinos in Lake Nakuru

Your adventure starts when you leave Nairobi after an early breakfast. Though your next destination is just a little over 93 miles away, leaving early will give you a chance to stop along the way at the Great Rift Valley viewpoint for excellent views of the Great Rift Valley, a series of contiguous geographic trenches approximately 3,700 miles in total length that runs from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon (Asia) to Mozambique (southeastern Africa), dotted with lakes and mountains.

You will arrive at a hotel in Nakuru in time for lunch. Your afternoon will be spent on your first “safari” as you drive inside Lake Nakuru National Park to play a game of peek-a-boo with the local wildlife. Nothing is guaranteed here, but be ready for mother nature to surprise you with wildlife and bird sightings. Always be ready with your camera to capture whatever adventure awaits.

Day 3: Nakuru to Maasai Mara National Reserve

Visit a Massai Village

Today’s roads will be rough and bumpy with dust, so make sure your cameras are well-packed and covered as head out after another early breakfast. The drive will take five to six hours depending on the location of your next hotel. 

Maasai Mara National Reserve is the region’s number one park and always tops the list for travelers visiting Kenya. The name derives from the landscape and comes from Maasai people, the word mara meaning "'spotted with shrubs." With 583 square miles to explore and both the Mara and Talek Rivers carving into the landscape, this extension of Serengeti also boasts a huge concentration of different wildlife and birds. Remember, patience pays off, and you might want to spend a few more days here to fully experience the wide variety of flora and fauna the reserve has to offer.

Optionally, you can spend the afternoon in a Maasai village. Meet the Morans, the young Maasai men trained as soldiers to protect the Maasai communities. Though they no longer practice this rite of passage, they used to have to kill a lion to graduate from boys to men.

A welcome dance performed by Maasai men and women will welcome you to their village. A guide will take you around, explaining in detail the way the Maasai live, as well as their beliefs and traditions. You will see demonstrations of how the Masai build fires using sticks and animal dung.

Next, you will be invited into their homes to be shown how a full Maasai family lives. At the end of the guided tour, you will go to their market where you will have a chance to buy some gift items and curios made by them in their village. While in the village you are allowed to take as many pictures as you want.

Day 4: Maasai Mara National Reserve

Male lion feasting in Masai mara.
Male lion feasting in Maasai mara

Another early start will be best, as the many kilometers of roads inside the reserve are unpaved and natural (and bumpy!), and when it rains they are washed away. Wildlife is most active in the early and late hours of the day. Lucky travelers might even witness the hunt during these hours, a lion hunting and killing a wildebeest or a cheetah chasing and knocking down a Thomson’s gazelle. You don’t want to miss anything, so pack your lunch and plenty of drinking water for a full day of adventure.

Day 5: Maasai Mara National to Naivasha

Masai Giraffe at crater lake conserverncy.
Maasai Giraffe at Crater Lake Camp Conservancy

This will be a more relaxing day, so you can leave after breakfast to drive the five to six hours to your next destination, taking two or three stops along the way for sightseeing before arriving in Naivasha in time for lunch. After days of criss-crossing the country on tough and dusty roads, this will be your afternoon to relax and edit your photos.

Day 6: Hell’s Gate National Park day trip

Zebras in Hell's Gate Park
Zebras in Hell's Gate National Park

After breakfast, a 30-minute drive will bring you to Hell’s Gate National Park, a peaceful park with the less-dangerous wildlife Africa is known for, including giraffes, zebras, warthogs, gazelles, and others. It is best to carry your lunch and plenty of drinking water as you walk, bicycle, or drive the almost five miles to the gorge, with another one-hour walk at the gorge. On the way back to your accommodations, visit a naturally-heated swimming pool.

Day 7: Naivasha to Mt. Longonot day trip

Aerial photo of Mt. Longonot
Mt. Longonot crater

After sitting in the car for days, this will be your day to stretch your legs and burn some calories. You will need to depart a bit earlier for your 90-minute drive so you can start hiking before it becomes too hot. Mt. Longonot is a stratovolcano located at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley which last erupted in the 1860s. Its name is derived from the Maasai word Oloonong'ot, meaning "steep ridges" and while it's not that high, it offers a great view. 

If you make it all the way to the top, you will be at 9,108 feet in elevation. Wear good hiking boots and bring sunglasses and plenty of drinking water as the hike might take two to three hours. You will return to your camp late afternoon.

Day 8: Naivasha to Amboseli National Park.

Elephants in Amboseli at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro
 Amboseli at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro

No African trip of a lifetime could be complete without getting to the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As the highest mountain in Africa and nicknamed "the rooftop of Africa,” Mt. Kilimanjaro stands at 19,341 feet in elevation. If it’s clear, you will have a great view and gorgeous photo ops of elephants at the bottom. The story goes that the mountain was located in Kenya, but it was given to the governor of Tanzania as a birthday present by Queen Elizabeth. The saying is that while she gave away the mountain, she left the view in Kenya.

You'll arrive at one of the camps or hotels in the late afternoon, stopping for lunch along the way. After walking and hiking for the last two days, you can take the afternoon to rest. It's normally drier with good weather on this side of the country, so swimming at the pool or editing your photos would be a good downtime idea.

Day 9: Amboseli National Park

Flocks of flamingos in Amboseli park.
On safari in Amboseli park

Leave after breakfast with your picnic lunch and plenty of drinking water. The Amboseli National Park, established in 1974, is about 150 square miles. Wildlife concentrates in the Amboseli swamps which are wet throughout the year. Here you will be on a wildlife photography expedition inside the park, which is well-known for its large number of elephant herds and flocks of flamingos that have migrated here making it even more beautiful. Take a scenic picnic lunch in the park before a bit more driving to get back to your camp/ hotel.

Day 10: Amboseli National Park to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport

great view of part of the adventure.
Gnu antelope in Amboseli National Park

Leaving early in the morning after breakfast will be ideal. You will catch lunch at one of the hotels in Nairobi. Your international flight will leave in the evening, with most of the international flights being with British Airways or KLM.

Map

Map of Big Five Kenya Safari: Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Naivasha - 10 Days
Map of Big Five Kenya Safari: Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Naivasha - 10 Days